Stories published May 1998
reviewed by Mark R. Kelly
Paul J. McAuley, ''The Secret of My Success'' (Interzone May 1998)
An up-and-coming novelist murders his best friend in the first scene and then explains why: a high powered agent, a highbrow party, and a designer drug that may be a treatment for immortality. No big original ideas here, but the story dazzles through sheer craft.
Thomas M. Disch, ''The First Annual Performance Art Festival at the Slaughter Rock Battlefield'' (Interzone May 1998)
A crafty impresario and a former rock musician come to an upstate New York historical park to stage a performance art festival for a busload of critics from the city. Not SF except in the loosest sociological sense, it's nevertheless a vicious, funny satire of art and artists in a media-saturated society.
Stephen Dedman, ''A Single Shadow'' (Interzone May 1998)
An Australian teacher living in Tokyo learns about the Japanese legend of rikombyo, a ghost-sickness or doppelganger created by unrequited love. The translation of the ancient legend to modern urban Japan is particularly effective.
Bruce Sterling, ''Maneki Neko'' (F&SF May 1998)
In the culture of near-future Tokyo, everyone exchanges small gifts all the time, and the network computers remember everything. As Tsuyoshi Shimizu goes about his business, he responds to prompts on his pokkecon [a PDA or small personal computer] to perform small favors for people he doesn't know, inadvertantly becoming involved with a clueless American prosecutor who thinks information criminals are after her. A delightful extrapolation of how the internet might transform society -- and an update of the hoary SF cliche about computers running the world.
Paul Di Filippo, ''Plumage from Pegasus: Next Big Thing'' (F&SF May 1998)
Presented as Di Filippo's occasional Plumage from Pegasus column, this is a review of a fictional biography about a reclusive writer who grows up on an isolated Vermont farm. With no direct experience of the outer world, he develops a cult following with books of weirdly off-kilter 'imaginary realism'.
Mark S. Geston, ''The Allies'' (F&SF May 1998)
Novelette in which humans escape invading aliens by launching gigantic interstellar ships. When the last surviving ship is unable to find another habitable planet, it returns to an Eden-like Earth and discovers the true allies of mankind. The mythic mood of the opening isn't sustained -- the story degenerates into talk talk talk -- but the first half is marvelous.
Terry Bisson, ''Get Me to the Church on Time'' (Asimov's May 1998)
A new story about would-be lawyer Irving and his physics pal Wilson Wu. Irving and his fiancee are in New York City when Wilson raises an alarm from the forests of Quetzelcan about a discrepancy in the buttefly effect. If Wilson can't resolve it, he won't be able to make Irving's wedding at the end of the week. A hilarious, playful, inventive tale about private universes (complete with equations), New York City, old TV sets, and lots more. Remember this one at awards time next year.
Michael Kandel, ''Wading River Dogs and More'' (Asimov's May 1998)
Marty Bogarty works in a pet shop in the town of Wading River, near a facility where scientists try to communicate with a visiting alien creature. Marty has a low IQ, and when one of the scientists meets him, he recruits for the project. An affecting story told in Marty's voice, it avoids shallow characterizations either of humans or of the alien.
Michael Swanwick, ''Wild Minds'' (Asimov's May 1998)
First line: ''I met her at a businesspersons' orgy in London.'' Swanwick describes a one-night stand in near-future Glasgow, at a time when 'neural mediators' give some people control of their emotions and character. The story is sophisticated in its consideration of current speculation about the mind and brain, though traditionally conservative in its conclusion about the value of the unknown and mysterious.
Stephen Goldin, ''The Sword Unswayed'' (Analog May 1998)
Entertaining murder mystery involve human cookbook writers and an alien race with a taboo against eating in public. Another great opening line: ''The attack by the mad alien robot surprised everyone at the cookbook writers' award banquet.'' Flavored with Shakespearan allusions, the story portrays an alien mob-rule court system and contrasts human 'political correctness' with alien standards of conduct.
Stephen Baxter, ''Saddle Point: Roughneck'' (Science Fiction Age May 1998)
A new chapter in Baxter's future history in which humans negotiate with alien Prions for access to interstellar gateways. This story is set after Earth has been frozen over and the Japanese have colonized the Moon. Wheeler-dealer Frank J. Paulis, freshly returned from a 300 year trip with the Prion, first promotes a scheme to bombard the Moon with comets, then to mine its interior for volatiles. Hard SF with characters and situations that echo Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.