Fran Wilde is an author, programmer, and technology consultant who has worked as a science and engineering writer, a university professor, a sailing instructor, a game developer, and a jeweler’s assistant. Fran’s first novel, Bone Arrow, is forthcoming from Tor in 2015. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies (forthcoming), Nature, and The Impossible Futures anthology, while nonfiction interviews and roundtables writers have appeared under the banner “Cooking the Books” at Tor.com, Strange Horizons, the SFWA blog, and at franwilde.wordpress.com. You can also find Fran on twitter (as @Fran_Wilde), tumblr, and facebook.
By Fran Wilde
Diana Rios swore she’d put the next stung brigger who entered her garrison med tent out of their misery with her bare hands.
“What possessed you to put a live wasp in your mouth, Jersey?” she asked, before tearing an antihistamine pen cap off with her teeth.
“Ith wath a beth! Ow!”- From “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” by Fran Wilde, Asimov’s April/May 2014.
John DeNardo invited me to talk to SF Signal readers about the sensor wasps that appear in my Asimov’s April/May 2014 short story “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” and I’m delighted to do so.
SF writers spend a lot of time thinking about where technology is headed. In particular, we try to stay far, far ahead of where technology might be headed. It’s part of the job description. Personally, I find it a lot of fun. But it isn’t an easy sort of fun. Tech moves faster every day.
In a former life as an engineering and science writer, I learned that one way to get a jump on technology and where it could evolve is to look at the problems that technology is currently creating for itself and for its users — the holes it digs for itself, simply by virtue of its own headwind.
I’m totally getting to the wasps. Bear with me.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: This week’s Short Fiction Friday features a review of the December 2013 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
BRIEF SUMMARY: Aliens visiting Earth, teenage rivalry, lingerie sales, frightening creatures on other worlds, frog deformities, discrimination…a wide variety of subject matter and style exists in 2013’s final issue.
PROS: Similar themes are examined in dissimilar fashion in a couple of the stories, offering much to provoke thought/discussion; one short selection showcases sfnal humor done well; the cover story provides the opportunity for Western readers to experience science fiction from a different culture; nonfiction offerings are engaging.
CONS: One novelette and one short story are slow-moving and overly long for the story being told, diminishing their effectiveness.
BOTTOM LINE: Science fiction comes in many forms, as this selection of stories proves. The trope of aliens visiting Earth is examined in two very different stories, one humorous and one quite serious and the theme of intra-species discrimination is also present in two of the stories and while they couldn’t be more different in tone, both offer interesting commentary on existing problems. Overall the December issue is a fine way to end the year. Two great stories, a few good and two that ultimately do not deliver opened by the kind of passionate editorial one expects from Sheila Williams and the educational article written by Robert Silverberg make this one worth picking up.
PROS: Interesting comparison between classic and contemporary short sci-fright fiction; satisfying glimpses into two authors’ ongoing literary worlds; solid pacing; good examples to whet the appetite to buy the publications in which the stories are featured.
CONS: Three of the four reviewed stories undoubtedly have a greater impact if the reader is familiar with other stories written in those worlds.
BOTTOM LINE: Seasonally-appropriate science fiction tales from capable authors that work well within their word-count restraints and satisfy the reader looking for science fiction with an eerie edge.
Given that Halloween is not too far away I thought I would spend the next few Fridays featuring science fiction/fantasy shorts of the thrilling variety. For this week’s selections I chose two stories from the recently released Baen collection In Space No One Can Hear You Scream and two from the October/November 2013 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
Come visit Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine at booth #119 at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, September 22, from 10 am – 6 pm!
Raffles, subscription promotions, author signings, and free issues will be ongoing and available throughout the day.
Asimov’s readers’-award-winner Robert Reed will be signing issues containing his novella “Murder Born” from 11 am – 12 pm, and one of Asimov’s favorites, Tom Purdom, will be signing his latest story from 2 – 3 pm. Representing Analog will be long-time contributing artist John Allemand, who will be signing his two new pieces from 12 – 1 pm. Popular Ellery Queen author Hilary Davidson is signing her latest story from 3 – 4 pm.
REVIEW SUMMARY: The latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction contains one novella, two novelettes, and two short stories as well as poems, book reviews, a guest editorial and Robert Silverberg’s latest “Reflections”
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The June 2013 issue of Asimov’s is what every fan of short fiction hopes to find: a beautiful cover housing a handful of well-written, interesting and emotionally satisfying stories showcasing the strength of the medium.
PROS: Each story functions well within the parameters of its length; endings that satisfy and don’t leave the reader feeling cheated; characters that draw the reader in; wide variety of story type and setting.
CONS: Fans wishing for “science” in their “science fiction” may find little to excite their interest in the four shorter works.
BOTTOM LINE: This issue of Asimov’s is a study in genre-defying contrasts: aliens that come to Earth not to invade, but to negotiate for help; would-be assassins with well-reasoned morality concerns; the beauty to be found in a life filled with tragedy. My high expectations for authors Robert Reed and Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, long-time favorites, were mostly met and three new-to-me authors offered up equally effective stories. This was one issue of Asimov’s that was hard to put down, leading me to read it in one very enjoyable sitting. It is on shelves now and worth owning for the cover image alone.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Humans and aliens in settings reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs and a police procedural that evolves into a discussion of string theory and Egyptian mythology are offered up in the three reviewed novelettes included in the April/May 2013 double issue of Asimov’s.
PROS: Greater story length allows for richer character studies and strong world-building; jungle settings in two of the novelettes provide a heady nostalgia for fans of fiction by Edgar Rice Burroughs; last story in the magazine is a tension-filled story that ends the issue on a high note.
CONS: One novelette disappoints after a strong, creative mystery ends with thinly-disguised scientific info-dumping and esoteric theorizing; the better stories end with the feeling that a sequel is in the works rather than being entirely self-contained.
BOTTOM LINE: I’ve never been fond of the Asimov’s double issues and the reasoning is faulty at best: I think the roughly 100 page format of the standard issue is just perfect, offering up the right amount of story to keep the reader from feeling overwhelmed. There is truth to the idea that there can be too much of a good thing. And while I realize I could simply read half of it one month and half the next, it does not ever work out that logically. That being said, there was a preponderance of really good storytelling in this issue and if future double issues continue that trend I might find myself looking forward to their twice-a-year arrival. The novelettes were particularly enjoyable, even when they did not fully deliver, because the length allows the author to build a more firm foundation for the story they are trying to tell.
Individual story reviews follow…
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