We’re in the time between the awarding of the Nebula award and the Hugo award, the SF genre’s two major records of distinction. This year, most of the nominated short fiction is available on the World Wide Web for all the potential voters to read, which I hope will increase both the readership of short fiction as well as the number of votes cast in those categories. This is the first year that I’ve had the opportunity to read the nominated stories–mainly because I have been getting the Year’s Best collections recently, rather than reading the magazines–and, I have to admit, it is kind of fun to be able to discuss some of these stories while they are hot in people’s minds. For the next installment or two, I expect to cover these stories.

  • James Patrick Kelly, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”–A sentimental story of a dysfuuctioual family finally beginning to understand each other. The SF element is the makeup of the family–septigenarian father cared for by a self-aware robot made to look like his 4 year old daughter, now aged 47. The story is well done, but it did not seem to present anything new in its concept or plot. I sometimes admire stories that show that people are people no matter the time or background, but this just did not grab me.
  • Allen Steele, “Where Angels Fear to Tread”–A time-travel adventure story from Steele. I like the parts of it–the alternate world with a cabinet level X-Files investigatory group, the details of the Hindenburg disaster–but the sum does not sit quite so well with me. It feels like only an episode in a larger story (maybe a novel called Lost in Time?) and maybe Steele plans a future fix-up. A final annoyance was the title, implied by the non-time-traveller character, who says to himself, “Fools rush in…” after meeting the travellers. For one, from his viewpoint, he does not know why the travellers have visited his time, and his comment implies a criticism that might be made by the reader but is a poor example of “tell” when stated by a character.
  • Mike Resnick, “The 43 Antarean Dynasties”–I really liked this little story by Resnick, although as a world traveller I winced at many of the sequences. But then, is that not the mark of a good story, that it gets you to think about yourself and how the world perceives you? Resnick’s concept here is so simple–instead of a annoying American in Botswana, you have annoying human on the Planet Antarea. He makes it resonate through the use of exaggeration and generalization. Worth re-reading.

[Finished April 1998]


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