The Waiting Room: The Pedia’s Story by James Gunn, Asmov’s Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018

I’ve become accustomed to Mr. Gunn’s stories. They’re heavy on explanation, which is to say, much exposition, but this is not to say they are always dull. On the contrary, I’ve enjoyed most of his stories to a moderate degree, not falling head over heels for them, but often ending each with a feeling that I was glad to have read it, even if I wasn’t blown away.

This story continues a long series for Mr. Gunn in Asimov’s pages. The most amazing aspect of this story, this series, is that the author is 94 years old and will turn 95 this year. That he is still writing and still publishing and still using words in meaningful ways is really wonderful. That might not be delicate, but my grandmother died last year at 93, and it wasn’t pretty. Context is everything. I believe that.

Anyway, this story. Like all the parts of this series I’ve read this piece is about how a character comes to the planet Terminus. It is mostly a summary of Pedia, a biological computer fitted in the back of a young man’s brain. A pedia is what a computer is called in this world when it becomes an encyclopedia that humans can use to know a staggering amount of facts. This pedia, on the other hand–Pedia–has something that could be taken as sentients. It is along for the ride in this young man, and this story is about how it came to be there and how and why it is interesting to go on an exploration for the Transcendental Machine (which is what Gunn has written a novel about). All in all, this isn’t my favorite part of this series thus far, as there isn’t really a plot–it’s only 2 pages, but the other stories I’ve read from this series have certainly peaked my interest enough to keep turning to these pages when I see James Gunn in the table of contents. (C-)


The Beast from Below by William Ledbetter, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

F&SF has a long history of adventure stories. Most genre mags include at least one in each issue because they are just pure fun. There’s little ambiguity and there’s no doubt of what happened at the end. Their escapist and there’s nothing wrong with escapist literature.

In this story we learn that an adventure can happen in your back yard, all you need is some serious radiactive material, like found near the test site of the 1950s bomb tests.

The narrator of this story is a likable sheriff in a small midwest town. Something has happened to a family on the outskirts and he’s been called in to check it out. The mayor is also there. She’s a small lady in her middle years with a pixie cut that the sheriff has the hots for. Oh, he makes an awkward move, but nothing is resolved.

The house of the family who has dissapeared is in shambles and there’s a big tunnel going into the ground–and it looks as though it’s been dug by a large animal. See where the adventure comes in? While the narrator wants to keep people safe, which likely means killing the poor giant monster, the mayor wants to capture it and use it as a tourist attraction. I won’t give away what happens, but the very ending has a nice little twist that feels earned, that’s for sure.

This is a solid piece, though brings nothing peticularly knew to the genre. (C)

Love Songs for the Very Awful by Robert Reed, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

Robert Reed is a stalwart of the SF mag scene. He’s been around for ages and he’s still producing top tier stuff. Relevant stuff. Socially responsible stuff–in my opinion. This piece is probably the most memorable I’ve read from Reed. The little author blurb before the piece also introduced me to his Great Ship series, the newest of which is The Memory of Sky, which I am now interested in as well.

This piece has a couple central characters in which technology plays a great part. One of the characters is a bioengineer at a lab and the other is one of her subjects. The subject just happens to be a harmless sociopath, which most sociopaths are. He only cares about himself, but he is, by and large harmless if self absorbed and an asshole. The study he’s a part of maps his brain and reads his thoughts and so the bioengineer enters into a relationship with this man knowing full well he’s a sociopath. It’s a super intersting premise. One that calls into question the Machiavelian ways in which people work that are not nessesarily harmful to others. I like this idea because, I really think that Machiavellian philosophies can be applied to everyday life for the befit of pretty much everyone involved. Is it untruthful? Perhaps, in a sense, but if everyone feels better about the situation, then is it really wrong?

That’s what this piece is a about and I really liked it. (B)