While over at Boskone the other weekend, I resolved to not buy much from the convention market, and I was able to hold myself to that. I made a single purchase: Technology Review’s 1st Science Fiction magazine: TRSF. I bought it because I’d heard good things: Ken Liu in particular, was a draw, and the full lineup of authors is a particularly strong one: Cory Doctorow, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Bear, Ma Boyong, Tobias Buckell, Pat Cadigan, Paul DiFilippo, Gwyneth Jones, Geoffrey Landis, Ken Liu, Ken MacLeod and Vandana Singh.
What I bought stunned me. Almost every story was gold: brilliant narratives that dripped with ideas, and each and every one sucked me right in while I rode back and forth to the convention on the T.
Cory Doctorow’s story The Brave Little Toaster, depicting smart appliances was unexpectedly funny and relevant, while Indra’s Web, by Vandana Singh was facinating. Lonely Islands (Tobias Bucknell), Private Space (Geoffrey A. Landis), Gods of the Forge (Elizabeth Bears) and The Flame is Roses, The Smoke is Briars (Gwyneth Jones) all hooked me from the get go, and made me think about the world around me in a lot of ways.
But then there were the stories that are still stuck in my head, ones that I’ve read a couple of times already: Real Artists, by Ken Liu, where a video student finds out just where the intersection between film art and business lie; Complete Sentence, by Joe Halderman, that takes a really frightening look at the mind and the punishment for crimes could lead (this one reminded me a little of Inception); The Mark Twain Robots, by Ma Boyong, which was a nice, modern take on Asimov’s Three Laws; Pat Cardigan’s Cody, involving data storage and biometrics; The Surface of Last Scattering, by Ken MacLeod, which was heartbreaking in more ways than one; and Specter-Bombing the Beer Goggles, by Paul Di Filippo, a nice look at apps and virtual reality (fit nicely with the book that I was reading at the time, David Louis Edelman’s Infoquake).
The key thing with each book is the uniform quality of each of the stories: while published by Technology Review, none of these stories are necessarily about the cool technology that’s available to the characters, but about how the characters have been impacted by the technology that surrounds them. In addition to that, it’s not a book that’s bound by the borders of the United States, and there’s a real international flair in both the stories and the authors, which lends the book a certain credence as well. Each story is excellently realized when it comes to the worlds around them. Frighteningly, in most cases, the scenarios are very plausible, if not around the corner from the present day.
The entire issue is well worth the time to purchase and read through. This is one of those rare collections that’s proven it’s worth ten times over, and I absolutely can’t wait to pick up the next issue. If you’re a science fiction fan, you owe it to yourself to give this a read.