by Richard Chwedyk
Richard Chwedyk sold his first story in 1990, won a Nebula in 2002, and has been active in the field for the past thirty-two years.
In previous columns, I’ve said a lot already about my love for short fiction. I don’t need to repeat myself, but I will (as Joseph Epstein wrote, “A teacher is someone who can never say anything once.”), though in keeping with the subject, I’ll be brief.
Short fiction represents the heartbeat of these forms we love, science fiction and fantasy. It’s not tied down to narrative and stylistic structures publishers believe are compulsory for “saleable” prose. Any subject, any style can be explored with the single proviso that it be interesting.
Even the novels discussed here demonstrate the craft and vision received by working in short forms. Big things may not always come in small packages, but the odds are pretty good that size doesn’t always matter.
The Year’s Best Fantasy, Volume One
edited by Paula Guran
This volume represents something that we’ve needed for a long time. It was 2009 when the last David G. Hartwell/Kathryn Cramer-edited Year’s Best Fantasy volume came out, and Pyr should be applauded not merely for putting out this volume, but for choosing Paula Guran as its editor. She has wide-ranging tastes and a keen eye for significant work in a field that has grown so large so swiftly. And she has done so in a perfectly manageable format. The book comes in at a comparatively slim 439 pages. Like the Hartwell/Cramer anthologies, it provides a comprehensible overview without overwhelming the reader.
The Best of James Van Pelt
by James Van Pelt
If you’re a constant reader of magazines, as I am, print or online, James Van Pelt is one of those names you encounter with frequency, and in a good way, because no matter what else may be in that issue’s contents you are assured of at least one good story, well told.
For that very reason we tend to take him for granted. And we shouldn’t.
Wergen: The Alien Love War
by Mercurio D. Rivera
As well as Rivera knows his Wergens, he knows his humans even better. That doesn’t sound like high praise, but it is. Many SF writers who work out alien cultures down to minutiae often have a blind spot for human complexity. Or perhaps they have transferred that complexity into their aliens. Rivera conveys our complex and often contradictory nature with honesty and integrity. This is what science fiction can do at its best, and what Rivera does on every page of this extraordinary volume.
by Sheila Finch
Sheila Finch’s short fiction has always been literate and fascinating. She finds new ways of looking at old SF concepts where she doesn’t invent a few concepts of her own. One of the things I have most appreciated about her Xenolinguistics stories is she makes the struggle to communicate, and to comprehend what’s communicated, into captivating SF.
1812: The Rivers of War
by Eric Flint
This book arrived a few weeks before I heard of the sad passing of its author. I usually don’t review works by Eric Flint because—what’s there to say? He was fine author of consistent quality. Probably one of the two or three authors most responsible for the popularity of alternative history fiction. If you like that kind of work, you knew of him already. He never let his readers down.
A City in the North
by Marta Randall
Let us now praise Marta Randall.
The 1970s by any estimation was a tumultuous era, and preconceptions at every level were being challenged. The setting and characters of A City in the North may not resemble any aspect of that era, but they echo it. The implicit questioning of established norms haunts every page. Nothing here is entirely as it seems.
The Jigsaw Assasin
by Catherine Asaro
I shouldn’t have to mention a new Catherina Asaro novel because Catherine Asaro fans know where to find her books and know how to get them. But I hadn’t read a Major Bhaajan novel in some time, and I’ve grown fond of her tough, no-nonsense P.I., and all the gritty nuances of Undercity, though the story here is set in Selei City. A series of murders, assassination attempts, plots and foreboding intrigues that could be red herrings or the key to the whole McGonigle—you’ve got it all here. Science fiction or hard-boiled noir decked out in space opera greasepaint? Hey, a physicist can’t help being a physicist, even when she’s writing highly suspenseful SF thrillers.
by Alan Smale
I recognized Smale from his shorter fiction (and of that, his early fantasy stories), so I thought I’d dip into it to see what he was doing. The dip kept me reading through the night, to the last page.
This is a highly inventive, brilliantly conceived alternative history where the Apollo program wasn’t shelved after 1972. The U.S. has space stations and bases on the Moon’s surface, and the Soviet Union is still around, making trouble as the story begins in 1979. Smale, whose “day job” is a NASA astronomer, has worked out all the details and hardware with mind-boggling plausibility. All his characters act, feel, and sound real. First-rate hard SF.
by David Drake
You might not think a melding of Arthurian legend and science fiction could be successfully executed, but this is David Drake, and he pulls it off splendidly (with a little help from Orlando Furioso). He keeps things moving and does so with an economy of language that is in itself a kind of magic, bringing it all in at 246 pages. He’s done it before but, arguably, not as well.
Copyright © 2022 by Richard Chwedyk.
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