Sunday, January 1, 2006

2006: The Year in Shorts

(Reposted from a previous blog.)

As I did for the past two years, I'll be following a variant on the program that SF Signal did. First, I don't differentiate between stories of various lengths (one story = one entry). Second, I'll be reading a lot of short non-fiction as well and will count these various collected articles as individual entries. (Note: For this year, when I start reading a short story collection, I'll list the title and author of the book and list the titles of the stories or essays. As I read them, the titles will be italicized. There will be a link to the individual review present, but there might be a delay between the time I start reading a collection and when I feel I am ready to start reviewing the installments in a collection. The short story count will be updated as I complete stories, to give a hopefully accurate count of my goal of at least 365 stories!)

On to the count and the entries!

Short story count (as of December 31, 2006): 705 (61 entries were from paper or electronic magazines). Goal for the year: Minimum of 365 entries, hoping for 600+.

Individual Short Stories and Short Story Collections (Master List)

Isaac Asimov: Black Friar of the Flame (1 story).

Isaac Asimov (editor): The Hugo Winners (Volumes 1 and 2) (9 stories so far, project sidetracked in 2007, started again in 2008).

Gregory Benford: A variety of short stories from single and multi-author collections (43 stories).

Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski (editing, introduction, notes): Skylife: Space Habitats in Story and Science (Collection completed, 16 stories read).

Alfred Bester: Virtual Unrealities (2 stories so far).

Ben Bova: Tales of the Grand Tour (completed reading collection, 14 stories total).

Leigh Brackett: Martian Quest: The Early Brackett (9 stories so far).

Ray Bradbury: The October Country (Collection completed, 20 stories read).

Bertrand R. Brinley: The Mad Scientists' Club and The New Adventures of The Mad Scientists' Club (14 stories read, both collections completed).

Michael A. Burstein: Paying It Forward (1 story).

"Don A. Stuart" (John W. Campbell, Jr.): A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories (19 stories and essays, collection completed).

Sir Arthur C. Clarke: The Sentinel (1 story).

Jack Dann: Da Vinci Rising (1 story).

Gordon R. Dickson: Dickson! (2 stories so far).

Paul Di Filippo: A Year in Linear City (1 story).

Gardner Dozois: The Year's Best Science Fiction, Twenty-Third Annual Collection (6 stories so far).

David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers, Volume One (23 stories, collection complete).

David Drake, Eric Flint and Jim Baen (editors): The World Turned Upside Down (30 stories, collection completed).

Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett): The Collected Jorkens, Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 (completed reading Volume 1 and 2, Volume 3 for 2007; 104 stories total).

George Alec Effinger: Schrodinger's Kitten (1 story).

Greg Egan: The Planck Dive (1 story).

S. Foster: Vintage Smog (1 story).

David G. Hartwell (editor): The Science Fiction Century, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (2 stories so far).

David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (editors): Year's Best SF 10 (1 story so far). Year's Best SF 11 (32 stories, collection completed).

Douglas R. Hofstadter: Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern (An Interlocked Collection of Literary, Scientific, and Artistic Studies) (36 essays, collection completed).

Robert E. Howard: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (29 stories, collection completed).

Nancy Kress: Out of All Them Bright Stars (counts as 1 entry).

Geoffrey Landis: Falling on to MarsImpact Parameter. (Counts as two stories.)

Alan Lightman: Dance for Two (7 essays so far).

Howard Philips Lovecraft: Tales (59 stories of widely varying length; collection completed; other recently published reprints read for items missing from this collection, hence the total of stories read that is larger than the contents of this book).

James Lyn: Magnetic Sheep (1 story).

Barry N. Malzberg: A Galaxy Called Rome (1 story).

Sam Moskowitz: One by our first historian (25 entries, collection complete).

Larry Niven: The Draco Tavern (completed reading collection, 28 stories total).

Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr (editors): Endless Frontiers, Volume IV: Life Among the Asteroids (11 stories so far).

Terry Pratchett: The Color of Magic (4 stories, collection completed).

Chet Raymo: The Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage (3 essays so far).

Alastair Reynolds: A Spy in EuropaSpirey and the Queen (2 stories).

Robert Silverberg: Gilgamesh in the Outback. Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another (2 stories).

Ian Stewart: Letters to a Young Mathematician (14 essays so far).

Charles Stross: Accelerando (9 stories, collection completed.) A Colder War (1 story).

Rick N. Tumlinson and Erin R. Medlicott (editors): Return to the Moon (4 essays so far).

A.E. van Vogt: Voyage of the Space Beagle (completed reading collection, 4 stories total). Transfinite: The Essential A.E. van Vogt (6 stories so far).

Vernor Vinge: Various stories, two collections and a novel (7 stories).

T.K.F. Weisskopf: Cosmic Tales: Adventures in Sol System (completed reading collection, 13 stories total).

Gene Wolfe: The Castle of the Otter (13 essays, collection complete).

Donald A. Wollheim: The 1972 Annual World's Best SF (8 stories so far).

Magazine Short Stories 2006 (Master List)

In general, I'm probably not going to review every single story I read in each issue. If what I've read so far is any indication, I generally find memorable stuff at the "second level" (book collections). So, I'll only mention the best or worst stories.

The best magazine story I've read so far in the collection of Analog'sAsimov's and F&SF's that have been piling up next to the bed was from 1993, a very short story called Jake's Gift by Bud Sparhawk (Analog, September 1993). It isn't even science fiction, so I wonder how it ended up in Analog. On the other could say the same of several installments of Spider Robinson's Callahan's stories, and they ended up in Analog. And there are similarities: like the Callahan's stories, Jake's Gift is a character study, not a technology or gadget study. There is some "technology" in the tale, but it is minor stuff. It mostly is a nice little tale of a couple opposite characters and how they get to work with each other.

Looking at Sparhawk's website (link now lost), it looks like this tale is a solitary effort. Most of his work seems to fall into one of two sets of series. I'm going to have to look for these books; if the fine characterizations that shine in this tale make it into the other tales, they will be tales well worth reading. (On the plus side, it looks like I'll be able to buy an electronic version of Jake's Tale, which is a good thing, as that 1993 issue of Analog is crumbling already!)

Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact: September 1993 (edited by Stanley Schmidt)

Made up of: Course Changes (Jerry Oltion); Small Victories (Linda Nagata): With Time Comes Concord (Duncan Lunan); The Hypersonic Skyhook (Robert M. Zubrin); The Plot to Save Hitler (W.R. Thompson); Generational Conflict (Daniel Hatch); Jake's Gift (Bud Sparhawk); Probability Zero: A Glance Backward (Ian Randal Strock)

The best story in this issue was Bud Sparhawk's Jake's Gift and it isn't even vaguely science fiction. Duncan Lunan's With Time Comes Concord was a pretty good mystery (but John Varley did it first, and better, with either version of his tale Air Raid/Millennium). I've enjoyed Jerry Oltion's other works, Course Changes was adequate but seemed to end abruptly. Part of a planned longer work, perhaps?

Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact: October 1993 (edited by Stanley Schmidt)

Made up of: Darwin's Children (Grey Rollins); The Carhart Shale (Grant Callin); On Tour with Gyez (W.R. Thompson); Working Molecules: Progress Toward Nanotechnology (Richard Terra); Dedication (Jerry Oltion); To Bring Down the Steel (Doug Beason); Probability Zero: De Gustibus (Robert J. Howe).

Grant Callin: The Carhart Shale. I started reading the September 1993 issue and noticed a "In Times to Come" notice that this story was part of a series where Callin was exploring all the planets of the Solar System based on what we've learned from probes like Viking. That's among one of my favorite sub-genres of SF, so I put down that issue and picked up this issue. Other than the opening and ending narrative (which takes place past the time of the story, and was somewhat weak and awkward), it was a nice little story of the discovery of fossils on Mars. Alas, Callin seems to have only really contributed a brief run of short stories as well as a novel.

Asimov's Science Fiction: June 2003 (edited by Gardner Dozois)

Made up of: The Conquest of Space (Robert Silverberg, non fiction); The Bellman (John Varley); Dead Worlds (Jack Sillingstead); Nimby and the Dimension Hoppers (Cory Doctorow); Bernardo's House (James Patrick Kelly); Morlock Chili (Lawrence Person); The Bird of Paradise (Daniel Abraham and Susan Fry); Listen to Me (David Marusek); The Path of the Transgressor (Tom Purdom).

The best tales in here were the Varley, Person and Silverberg entries. Varley's tale is one of his stories of Anna-Louie Bach, a detective on the Moon. Varley pushes the envelope in many of his stories, does female character's better than most female writers, and in this one pushes us a bit on the boundaries of taste (in more ways than one). You can also find this one in his recent collection, The John Varley Reader (which is not a complete collection of stories, alas). The Silverberg entry is a good non-fiction piece about what is wrong with our space program. And the Person story is an amusing tale of aliens at an American institution, the outdoor chili cookoff.

Fantasy & Science Fiction (March 2006): The Revivalist (Albert E. Cowdrey); Shambhala (Alex Irvine); The True History of the Picky Princess (John Morressy); From the Mouths of Babes (Trent Hergenrader); The Capacity to Appear Mindless (Mike Shultz); Czesko (Ef Deal); Intolerance (Robert Reed).

Jim Baen's Universe, Volume 1, Number 1 (edited by Eric Flint).

Made up of: Jim Baen: October 22, 1943-June 28, 2006 (David Drake); Chilling (Alan Dean Foster); Bow Shock (Gregory Benford); Pimpf (Charles Stross); What Would Sam Spade Do? (Jo Walton); Brieanna's Constant (Eric Witchey); Bob's Yeti Problem (Lawrence Person); Slanted Jack (Mark Van Name); Candy-Blossom (Dave Freer); The Darkness (David Drake); Back to the Moon (Travis Taylor, non-fiction); Gods and Monsters in Hollywood (Gregory Benford, non-fiction); The Cold Blacksmith (Elizabeth Bear); Poga (John Barnes); Build-a-Bear (Gene Wolfe); The Opposite of Pomegranates (Marissa Lingen); 'Ware the Sleeper (Julie Czerneda); The Thief of Stones (Sarah Zettel); The Light of Other Days (Bob Shaw); The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut (Mark Twain); The Ancient Ones (David Brin, serial); Travails with Momma (John Ringo, serial); Fish Story, Episode 1 (Andrew Dennis, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, serial); Fancy Farmer (Pamela Uphoff); The Puzzle of the Pergrinating Coach (George Phillies); Astromonkeys! (Tony Frazier); Giving It 14 Percent (Ani Fox); Local Boy Makes Good (Ray Tabler).

Good grief, look at that! Three serials! Stories by five new authors! Heavy hitters from Baen's book line. Classic tales! Non-fiction. Wow.

The first three issues of this electronic magazine (that list of contents is only the first issue, folks!) are on my PDA. Alas, my downtime at work has decreased, so I've only been able to dip into them so far.

The best new story, so far, in this issue is Gregory Benford's Bow Shock. Benford, to me, is best known for two types of stories. There are his grand space operas, the Galactic Center tales (plus a few others not in the series, but on the same grand scale). Then there are a series of excellent books that are similar in that they usually deal with scientists who have to deal with the bureaucracy while exploring the boundaries of science. These are books such as TimescapeEaterCosm and others. Bow Shock falls into this second category. It is darn excellent, both in terms of being a hard SF story, but also in terms of its depiction of academic life and character development. I really hope that Benford can spin a novel out of this one. It is one of the best stories I've read this year.

Update! We have another contender: David Drake's The Darkness is also an excellent read (see below).

Alan Dean Foster: Chilling: Set in Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series, this was a pretty minor addition to that canon. Nice to visit Tran-Ky-Ky again, but I would have preferred something of more substance or length.

Charles Stross: Pimpf: From what a friend has told me, this is part of a longer series. Alas, that being so, it did not do much for me other than make me want to hunt down the series. It also appears that the friend in question has been Tuckerized in this story.

Jo Walton: What Would Sam Spade Do?: Some interesting background here (cloning blood allegedly from Jesus) and some possibly interesting backstory. However, the story did not do much to develop it (a case where the story is too short for the universe it depicts!).

Eric Witchey: Brieanna's Constant: A physicist tries to alter a force of nature. Throw in some hot chicks, lingerie and coffee and you have one hoot of a story involving a dash of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle with a splash of Schrodinger's Cat.

Lawrence Person: Bob's Yeti Problem: Poor Bob. All he wanted to do was to spend some time in the woods working on a follow-up to his Academy Award-nominated screenplay. Then Yeti (you could tell they were Yeti instead of Bigfeet because they had a silver pelt) started falling from the sky.

Mark Van Name: Slanted Jack: An interesting story involving shady dealings, psi powers, nanotechnology, AI's, FTL and more. This story has quite a lot of background detail and Van Name does a good job of working enough into it so that you get the information you need, get a feel for the universe, but don't feel overwhelmed. I hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but I'd like to see more tales about the two main characters. In this case, it looks like my wish has been answered! I have Cosmic Tales: Adventures in the Far Future (and hope to finish it by the end of the year) and I'll definately pick up the other anthology mentioned when it becomes available.

Dave Freer: Candy-Blossom: Not all that impressed with this one. It was kind of amusing to dig through the language used, but there was not much to the plot. A nice change from some of the other tales, but...

David Drake: The Darkness: A tale set in Drake's long-running Hammer's Slammers series. An excellent tale of a new lieutenant who is assigned to a platoon that then gets assigned to a very chancy situation. This might be the best tale that Drake has written, either in the Hammer's Slammers series or out of it.

Elizabeth Bear: The Cold BlacksmithJohn Barnes: PogaGene Wolfe: Build-a-BearMarissa Lingen: The Opposite of PomegranatesJulie Czerneda: 'Ware the SleeperThe Sarah Zettel: Thief of Stones.

I hate to say it, but this batch of stories in the eMagazine under the Fantasy section just goes to show you how disinterested I am in most fantasy. Would you believe the only one that made an impression on me was the Gene Wolfe contribution? Perhaps it is the level of writing ability, but I have a feeling that this parade has just passed me by!

David Brin: The Ancient Ones (Part 1): A multi-part serial that pokes fun at Star Trek much in the same way that Galaxy Quest did. Ends on a real cliffhanger, so I'll look forward to seeing where Brin takes us next!

John Ringo: Travails with Momma: I'm giving this one a "maybe". It has the potential of being interesting, especially for younger readers.

Andrew Dennis, Eric Flint and Dave Freer: Fish Story, Episode 1: It's a story about a bunch of drunks. It's a humorous story. Humorous stories about drunks should get to the point a heck of a lot sooner than a multi-part serial. Pass. (And I do like what Eric Flint and Dave Freer have done in other works!)

Pamela Uphoff: Fancy Farmer: An entry by a new author. Brief, but had some good points. Will look for more of her stuff.

George Phillies: The Puzzle of the Pergrinating Coach: Another new author effort. Sort of Sherlock Holmes in flavor, set after the invasion of Earth by Mars (as told by H.G. Wells). Amusing little tale.

Tony Frazier: Astromonkeys!: Another new author effort. Pass.

Ani Fox: Giving It 14 Percent: Another new author effort. A pretty good tale, involving mythology and quantum physics. I'll look for more from this author.

Ray Tabler: Local Boy Makes Good: Another new author effort. Potential for a long-running series here. Good effort.

Classic Stories:

Bob Shaw: The Light of Other Days: Both of these deserve the moniker "classic", but I feel that Shaw's contribution deserves it more. Of all the bright motes that shone during the "New Wave" this is one of the stories that has stuck with me ever since I first read it. There is one "gizmo" in the story, the rest is about the development of the three characters. The ending is a tear-jerker, but it works.

Mark Twain: The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut: A pretty amusing tale, told as if it really happened to the author. His conscience, his "little voice" becomes visible and the narrator probes what it is that the conscience wants and does. It is told in a narrative style, and done so well that you can hear Twain doing it live.


Travis Taylor: Back to the Moon: While I like "Doc" Taylor's fiction and non-fiction, this one was pretty outdated by the time it was published. I hope that he comes back with more non-fiction, and I hope he starts writing about some of the far out physics and engineering that he has worked on. That I'd rather see!

Gregory Benford: Gods and Monsters in Hollywood: Benford talks about his experiences in Hollywood. Amusing but scary that these people are in charge.

Jim Baen: Why Die?: Given that Jim Baen died around the time of the publication of this issue of the magazine, it is a pretty sad column.

Eric Flint: June 2006: Flint is the editor in chief of the effort, so this is his editorial column. Some excellent stuff here as to why Baen Books is doing this and paying top rates for short stories, even for new writers. After all, where are the novelists of tomorrow going to come from if they don't practice their craft in the short story market?

Eric Flint: A Matter of Principle: Flint has also been the power behind Baen's Webscription eBook effort. In addition to doing nifty things such as releasing DRM-free works and even free (as in no cost) works to encourage sales, he has done a number of columns posted to the site (see the entries marked Prime Palaver). This column appears to be a continuations of the themes he has working on for the past few years about DRM, onerous copyright laws and the like. As a bonus, he includes transcripts of two speeches before Parliment that show we've had this debate before (and as such, I'm adding two entries to my count, due to the length of the speeches).

Mark L. Van Name: Upload Your Life Now: Van Name talks about how improvements in storage ability are making it easier and easier to capture more and more of the elements of your life (pictures, written materials, etc.). Some may find this helpful, but there are questions regarding privacy as well. A thoughtful piece.

Michael Hart: The History of Power from the Gutenberg Revolution to the Computer Revolution: Hart discusses the implications of Gutenberg (the person) and Gutenberg (the project) in this excellent piece that shows just how far electronic publishing might move our society. Lots of good stuff here and I look forward to the next installment.

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