19 December 2009

Reading Asimov's Science Fiction (Dec. 2009), Part IV

[Part IPart II; Part III]

6. Benjamin Crowell, "A Large Bucket, and Accidental Godlike Mastery of Spacetime" (pg. 66-79) *** 1/2
Read 17 Dec. 2009. Smart, humourous, witty, focussed, sly. Hints of homage to Douglas Adams. A climax and an ending that neatly balance the expected and the slightly ambiguous. This is a fine, fine story, starting with the title and not slowing down until the last word; I wonder if it will appear in some "Best of 2009" collections next year. One thing that Crowell does especially well is maintain what I'll call a consistency of tone, of voice: the writing has energy, confidence, purpose, intelligence, keeping the narration neatly poised between Horatian satire and a kind of honest, wry appraisal of why humanity has all the necessary skills to forge a unity among various alien peoples in spite of itself. Sidibé's simple desire to help a fellow diplomat on board the "GalCiv" spaceship leads her, innocently, to form an intricate network of trading goods and favours, which leads to the importance of the bucket -- not to mention some of the aliens in her "cohort" aboard the spaceship suspecting that she's ultimately after "Complete galactic domination" (74). In the end, this is what she achieves, just not quite in the way we (or she) would expect, for in just going about the daily business of the trade network and wishing for a 15-minute nap between appointments, she cultivates co-operation among all her fellow GalCiv diplomats. "'I was only -- you can't -- I don't really know what I'm doing. They didn't vote for me or anything'" (79): her reward? Why, the godlike mastery of spacetime, of course, bestowed by, well ... perhaps by God himself/herself/itself. In the end, the story is positive, optimistic: humanity as the connector of the Milky Way's races and nations, despite its intentions to the contrary. Sly, indeed.

7. Mike Resnick, "The Bride of Frankenstein"

8. Brian Stableford, "Some Like it Hot"

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