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stories from








Stories published July 1998
reviewed by Mark R. Kelly


Interzone July 1998
(issue profile)

Stephen Baxter, ''The Barrier''
In this Baxter story the astronauts are old geezers and they're on their way to Proxima II. They lose contact with Earth, having apparently passed through some barrier surrounding the solar system. Meanwhile the astronauts reflect on the social consequences back home of immortality, brought about by treatment of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that control the number of times cell division takes place. The two themes are metaphorical; there's enough interesting material here for two or three good stories.

Jean-Claude Dunyach, ''Unravelling the Thead''
A curator at the Musem of Civilization reveals the secrets of a valuable 8th century Kurdish carpet: the way the changes in the patterns of tiny knots in the carpet's threads, or weft, reveal the life of its weaver. The fantastic is revealed in the simple magic of an ancient art.

Michael Iwoleit, ''Takeover''
A dense, technical description of the life of a future human entity, one of millions grown in a vast matrix with genetic codes for nanomachines and metallic exoskeletons. The entity is sent aboard a bioprobe on a mission to a primitive world, where it fulfills its evolutionary destiny. The story's message about the utility of intelligence is bleak, but itís well-informed about both the micro and macro aspects of evolution.

(Tue 15 Sep 98)

Harvey Jacobs, ''Goobers'' (F&SF July 1998)
Nestor Frick, faithful moviegoer (who plays a game with his favorite movie candy), is frustrated by a big guy with obnoxious hair who blocks Nestor's view of important new releases. It wrecks Nestor's social life and career; keeping up with and being able to talk to people about movies is a crucial aspect of contemporary life.

Richard Chwedyk, ''Auteur Theory'' (F&SF July 1998)
A retired film director gets a tape from a pirate video dealer of a film the director wishes he had made but never did. Where did the tape come from and what should he do with it? The mystery involves conventional SFnal devices, but the interest is in musings about how films get made, how no two people seeing a movie (or making it) perceive it quite the same way.

Paul Di Filippo, ''Plumage from Pegasus: Escapist Velocity'' (F&SF July 1998)
An essayist in 2159 bemoans filmmakers' neglect of relevant contemporary material -- the interstellar battle between the Aldebaran and Ophiuchian polities; the invasion of Webb IX by the Gaseous Horde -- in favor of escapist nonsense like The Executioner's Song, The Kindness of Women, and The Horse Whisperer. Di Filippo's wordplay is at times overly cute (film directors Robert Kismetkiss, Ray Hairyhouse, and Ron Wardhow), but the essay's upside down joke is delightful.

(Fri 10 Jul 98)

Kage Baker, ''The Literary Agent'' (Asimov's July 1998)
A time traveler finds Robert Louis Stevenson ill on a hillside in 1879 and offers him a deal to develop a treatment for the traveler's photoplay company. The traveler's bosses in the future provide instant feedback on Stevenson's ideas -- they want to change them! Baker perfectly captures the cheerfully arrogant hypocrisy of Hollywood agents and producers.

R. Garcia y Robertson, ''Starfall'' (Asimov's July 1998)
Widescreen space adventure with an offhand intelligence surpassing anything put out by Hollywood. In a star system about to be torn apart by the tidal effects of a passing giant white star, a traveler named Tiffany Panic gains passage to a remote habitat called Floreal. She and her pilot are hijacked by space pirates, battle Bugs and SuperChimps, and negotiate with the curious society of Floreal, where men's and women's affairs are totally separate. One shudders to speculate which parts of the story would disappear in the film version; the lesbianism for sure!

Ian R. MacLeod, ''Nevermore'' (Asimov's July 1998)
An introspective story about a painter in a future when virtual reality is so sophisticated and pervasive that it's just called 'reality'. Gustav's wife has died and become, via recording, a 'ghost' in VR reality, able to resume their relationship, if he wants it. MacLeod's subtle, passionate story parallels Robert Silverberg's canonical ''Born with the Dead'' from 1974, with the contemporary VR twist that offers new insights into the meaning and purpose of art.

Leslie What, ''Say Woof'' (Asimov's July 1998)
Olivia takes a job as a temporary pet, wearing a body-suit to play dog for a wealthy old lady in a luxury condo. She's content, for a while. A charming, offbeat tale suggests why people need people, or pets.

(Fri 10 Jul 98)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ''Coolhunting'' (SF Age July 1998)
Steffie is a 'coolhunter', spotting innovations in fashion or behavior, covertly videotaping them, and selling the tapes to clients able to exploit new ideas as trends. Her life is disrupted by news that her sister KD is dying -- KD, victim of a trend from several decades before, medically arrested at a child's physical age. The complexity of themes, emotional and sociological, make this one of Rusch's most rewarding stories in years.

Paul Di Filippo, ''Jack Neck and the Worrybird'' (SF Age July 1998)
A story inspired by the garish art of Chris Mars, who in turn illustrates it. Jack Neck is a retiree assaulted by a huge bird that attaches itself to his shoulder and utters ''Never again, but not yet!''. Readable as a parable about future society's inability to solve human ills, the story's principal effect is its language, which outdoes Di Filippo's typical wordplay: Ribofunk spiced with Lewis Carroll, Anthony Burgess, and Edgar Allen Poe.

(Fri 10 Jul 98)

© 1998 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.