27 January 2010

Reading Asimov's Science Fiction (Jan. 2010), Part I

I continue with my project of reading Asimov's Science Fiction to learn what kind of story gets accepted in one of SF&F's top markets. The Dec. 2009 issue was, I thought, fairly decent overall, but lacking at least one story of true excellence/brilliance. I'm intrigued to see what the Jan. 2010 issue holds in store for me.

1. Geoffrey A. Landis, "Marya and the Pirate" (pg. 14-31) ** 1/2
Read 26 Jan. 2010. Something of a space opera, this one, featuring a seemingly vulnerable young woman alone on a spaceship with a valuable cargo and the titular pirate who wants that valuable cargo but who has a healthy sense of compassion and honour. Landis sketches in effectively a setting with an interplanetary economy that has left some (mining) colonies bankrupt, desperate, and engaged in illegal activities such as stealing necessities such as water -- the mission of Domingo Bonaventura, our pirate. Landis also establishes and maintains a steady tension in the relationship between Domingo and his captive, May Hamilton (a.k.a. Marya Hayes): sexual tension, as well as the possibility of the need for violence on Domingo's part ("trust" is something of moving target between Domingo and May). The plotting is sharp, with good momentum, especially in the latter stages of the story as Domingo and May face nearly certain death in a spaceship careening toward Earth's atmosphere with little chance to change course. Also, Landis saves a few surprises and revelations for the end that deepen both characters. However, it's those surprises and new layers to the characters that I feel make for the true story . . . and Marya the character who has the most intriguing choices to make and conflicts to resolve, as well as the background I most want to know about (just how did she end up on a ship by herself with a cargo of valuable water? why would she want to "get in contact with a pirate" [42] later on, besides romance?). I realize that I am asking Landis to write a different story. Yet I feel like there was an opportunity missed here, like I read the prologue to the real story -- although this reaction can also be seen as a testament to the world and characters Landis offers in the story, for I do want more of both.

2. Felicity Shoulders, "Conditional Love" (pg. 32-43)

3. Steve Rasnic Tem, "A Letter from the Emperor" (pg. 44-52)

4. Chris Roberson, "Wonder House" (pg. 53-59)

5. Robert Reed, "The Good Hand" (pg. 60-75)

6. Carol Emshwiller, "Wilds" (pg. 76-82)

7. Allen M. Steele, "The Jekyll Island Horror" (pg. 84-100)

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