Stories published April 1998
reviewed by Mark R. Kelly
Stephen Baxter, ''The Twelfth Album'' (Interzone April 1998)
Baxter sets his story on an alternate history Titanic drydocked as a floating hotel in Liverpool. (Maybe the magazine's cover should have played up the Titanic connection!) Two men come across an LP of what seems to be the Beatles' 12th album, ''God'', which never existed in their universe, full of songs they recognize from solo versions done after the break-up. Something different from Baxter; it doesn't involve the space program.
Nicholas Waller, ''The Travel Agent'' (Interzone April 1998)
The Tourist Enforcement Agency's task is to see that Americans stay home and not spend billions of dollars overseas. So it plays up isolated incidents to make foreign countries look bad, and exposes historical artifacts as frauds. And if that doesn't work, it'll bomb Machu Picchu. A funny and disturbing piece that slides easily between farce and paranoia.
Michael Swanwick, ''Mother Grasshopper'' (F&SF Apr 1998, first published in the author's 1997 collection A Geography of Unknown Lands)
Surreal tale set on a giant grasshopper that's been colonized by settlers from Earth. A 'magician' comes to town and recruits the narrator on a mission to spread disease and death among a population where death has been made illegal. Counterpointing the parable is the setting, which Swanwick gives a hard SF rationale, considering varying gravity, quake zones, and how long it would take to ascend the antenna to reach the starport at the top.
Michael Blumlein, ''Revenge'' (F&SF Apr 1998)
Elegantly told tale about Luis, a man at the funeral of his infant daughter Maria Elena who sees his daughter's image appear and accuse the doctor of causing her death. Luis becomes a patient of the same doctor and finds his life changing in every way. Provocative and complex, the story goes in directions different than a simple revenge plot would suggest, while Luis learns something about the roles of women and men in the world.
Richard Bowes, ''So Many Miles to the Heart of a Child'' (F&SF Apr 1998)
The latest in a series of stories about Kevin Grierson, a gay New York City man who's haunted most of his life by a 'shadow' or 'double', a duplicate of himself that is both his dark side and his protector. Now as Kevin faces the challenge of a rebellious 14-year-old, the visiting son of an old college friend, he considers the purchase of a carousel of suspect origin for his antique shop. Bowes' characters are complex and have a gritty, sometimes sordid realism that reflects an urban experience seldom seen in genre SF or fantasy.
Norman Spinrad, ''The Year of the Mouse'' (Asimov's Apr 1998)
Disney's latest animated film is ''The Long March''. China threatens economic sanctions, and Disney employs high technology to insure its film reaches the Chinese people. Funny and wickedly plausible.
Nancy Kress, ''Steamship Soldier on the Information Front'' (Asimov's Apr 1998)
About an investor in high technology whose schedule is so frenzied he has trouble scheduling a romantic interlude with his wife. He visits a company where bio-robots exhibit a capacity for learning, until they mysteriously stop, as if refusing to play the game anymore. Kress avoids the usual angles on runaway technology and proposes instead a way the trend might culminate and give way to something new.