Review: Asimov’s, January/February 2019

January/February 2019


Original Fiction:

  • “How Sere Looked for a Pair of Boots” by Alexander Jablokov (science fiction novella)
  • “Credit to My Nation” by Sandra McDonald (fantasy short story)
  • “Written in Mud” by William F. Wu (science fictional short story)
  • “All the Difference” by Leah Cypess (science fictional short story)
  • “Ventiforms” by Sean Monaghan (science fiction novelette)
  • “The Gorgon” by Jay O’Connell (science fictional short story)
  • “Salting the Mine” by Peter Wood (science fiction short story)
  • “Taking Icarus Home” by Suzanne Palmer (science fiction novelette)
  • “Neom” by Lavie Tidhar (science fiction short story)
  • “The Esteemed” by Robert Reed (science fiction novella)

Almost half of the titles in this issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction are not, or are only loosely, science fiction. Frankly, this is also the least inspired issue of Asimov’s I can recall having read.

Credit” is set in the Caribbean, deals with a person of indeterminate gender facing discrimination, and ends with a magic wish-fulfillment. “Mud” aims to be a post-apocalyptic cli-fi comedy set on the shores of Kansas with talking fish nearby. “Difference” is yet another story which uses a magic multiverse machine to ask relationship questions, in this case, ostensibly, of whether the protagonist married the right husband. “Gorgon” has a morally problematic HR guy deal with a “uniquely irreplaceable” employee which requires dealing with issues of time and deus ex AI. It was also fairly familiar but more interesting than the others of this group.

Esteemed” is not much different from both “Difference” and “Gorgon” and seems too much like the recent “DENALI” from the same author and the same magazine as well as what I understand Robert Silverberg’s The Masks of Time to be like, though I haven’t read that to know for sure. A time traveler is introduced to the world by President Ford and turns out to be inextricably bound up with a group of “Esteemed,” particularly including one family. Various real-world and science-fictional crises involving nuclear proliferation, global warming, genetic engineering, and AI are confronted but figuring out the temporal messiah may be the biggest issue of all. Considering its length, it read fairly quickly but its narrative approach of looking at people as though they were objects seen from a great distance unsurprisingly created a disengaging effect.

Salting” is not much different from “Mud” in terms of failed humor. In this attempt at an Andy Griffith Show in Space, Otis is played by an alien and Andy is played by a lesbian. Andy’s folks have been abandoned by a corporation which returns to place them and the natives under their thumbs after a long time away but both develop a halfway red herring plan of resistance which ends by fiat.

Noem” is three pages of dull infodump about an artificial city in the Arabian desert followed by two pages about the protagonist’s visit with her senile mother after the senseless destruction of a chatbot “friend.” The depiction of that was effective.

Ventiforms” is one of at least a couple of stories in series, dealing tangentially with another of Shilinka Switalla’s great artworks but really focused on Taile Aronsen, who is looking for her son. He’s become rather… involved… in his work assisting Switalla. This feels like a story that is simultaneously overlong and yet missing its opening, is one of several stories recently which have an insufficiently prepped presentation of characters overloaded with emotion and, like “Salting,” “Credit,” and others, ends too easily.

Boots” is another in series. Sere functions as a sort of private detective trying to figure out the strange behavior and imprisonment of her sister’s boyfriend which leads her to uncover a complicated plot between the complex mix of species living on her world. It mostly deals with many of those aliens doing many disgusting things and with footgear fashion. Some may enjoy this tale’s color and activity.

Finally, “Icarus” has a Good Samaritan find a lost kid who’s nearly burned up in a pod after falling in with some odd folks whose idea of a good time is flying close to the sun. This has two severe problems: it’s inexplicably told in second person and it has the protagonist behaving in ways that seem to lack good sense without sufficient motivation before providing more grounds for this through character backstory after the fact. Still, this was evocative and otherwise effective and, if I were going to make any of these the cover story, I’d agree that this one would be it.


Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals have been announced, they have been combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. (The only one not yet integrated is the BASFF, which will likely be announced late in the year.) Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(There will often be information after the story’s place of publication. In the case of stories with multiple selections, the initials of the last names of the editors or editing team who selected it will be present. If a story has “read,” “HM,” “Rec,” or “YB” after it, it indicates that I’ve read it and, if so, whether it got an honorable mention or a recommendation when I reviewed it, or was a recommendation which made my virtual Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories). Stories in the last three categories are in bold font.)

You may also be interested in the previous posts in this series which cover 2017 stories and 2016 stories.

This 2018 edition is in remembrance of Gardner Dozois.

Latest change (see Changelog/Credits below for details): 2019-05-10.

Three Annuals

  • “Intervention”, Kelly Robson (Infinity’s End) C/H/S

Two Annuals

One Annual

The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF: Volume 5, Afsharirad, ed.

  • A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds“, James Beamon (Lightspeed) [YB]
  • Love in the Time of Interstellar War“, Brendan DuBois (
  • “Going Dark”, Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
  • Homunculus“, Stephen Lawson (
  • “Broken Wings”, William Ledbetter (F&SF) [HM]
  • Thirty-Three Percent Joe“, Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • “The Erkennen Job”, Chris Pourteau (Bridge Across the Stars)
  • “Not Made for Us”, Christopher Ruocchio (Star Destroyers)
  • “Once on the Blue Moon”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Infinity’s End)
  • “Scrapyard Ship”, Felix R. Savage (Bridge Across the Stars)
  • “Crash-Site”, Brian Trent (F&SF) [HM]
  • “Hate in the Darkness”, Michael Z. Williamson (Star Destroyers)

The Best Science Fiction of the Year – Volume 4, Clarke, ed.

  • Domestic Violence“, Madeline Ashby (Slate) [HM]
  • “Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling”, L.X. Beckett (F&SF) [read]
  • “Quantifying Trust”, John Chu (Mother of Invention)
  • “Among the Water Buffaloes, a Tiger’s Steps”, Aliette de Bodard (Mechanical Animals)
  • Traces of Us“, Vanessa Fogg (GigaNotoSaurus)
  • The Anchorite Wakes“, R.S.A. Garcia (Clarkesworld) [read]
  • Heavy Lifting“, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny)
  • “Prophet of the Roads”, Naomi Kritzer (Infinity’s End)
  • “Entropy War”, Yoon Ha Lee (2001: An Odyssey in Words)
  • Byzantine Empathy“, Ken Liu (Twelve Tomorrows)
  • “Ten Landscapes of Nili Fossae”, Ian McDonald (2001: An Odyssey in Words)
  • “Singles’ Day”, Samantha Murray (Interzone)
  • Theories of Flight“, Linda Nagata (Asimov’s) [read]
  • Lions and Gazelles“, Hannu Rajaniemi (Slate) [HM]
  • “An Equation of State”, Robert Reed (F&SF) [read]
  • “Different Seas”, Alastair Reynolds (Twelve Tomorrows)
  • “Hard Mary”, Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed) [HM]
  • “Requiem”, Vandana Singh (Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories)
  • Lab B-15“, Nick Wolven (Analog) [read]
  • All the Time We’ve Left to Spend“, Alyssa Wong (Robots vs. Fairies)

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eleven, Datlow, ed.

  • “Girls Without Their Faces On”, Laird Barron (Ashes and Entropy)
  • “I Remember Nothing”, Anne Billson (We Were Strangers)
  • “Haunt”, Siobhan Carroll (The Devil and the Deep)
  • Red Rain“, Adam-Troy Castro (Nightmare) [read]
  • “Painted Wolves”, Ray Cluley (In Dog We Trust)
  • “A Brief Moment of Rage”, Bill Davidson (Endless Apocalypse)
  • Milkteeth“, Kristi DeMeester (Shimmer)
  • “Golden Sun”, Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt (Chiral Mad 4)
  • “Thin Cold Hands”, Gemma Files (LampLight)
  • “No Exit”, Orrin Grey (Lost Highways)
  • You Know How the Story Goes“, Thomas Olde Heuvelt ( [read]
  • “Back Along the Old Track”, Sam Hicks (The Fiends in the Furrows)
  • “You Are Released”, Joe Hill (Flight or Fright)
  • “Sleep”, Carly Holmes (Figurehead)
  • “Haak”, John Langan (New Fears 2)
  • “I Love You Mary-Grace”, Amelia Mangan (In Dog We Trust)
  • “Monkeys on the Beach”, Ralph Robert Moore (Tales from The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2)
  • “White Mare”, Thana Niveau (The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories)
  • “Thumbsucker”, Robert Shearman (New Fears 2)
  • “A Tiny Mirror”, Eloise C. C. Shepherd (Supernatural Tales)
  • “Shit Happens”, Michael Marshall Smith (The Devil and the Deep)
  • “Masks”, Peter Sutton (The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors)
  • “The Jaws of Ouroboros”, Steve Toase (The Fiends in the Furrows)
  • “Split Chain Stitch”, Steve Toase (Mystery Weekly)

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019, Guran, ed.

  • “Down Where Sound Comes Blunt”, G. V. Anderson (F&SF) [read]
  • “Hainted”, Ashley Blooms (F&SF) [YB]
  • The Empyrean Light” Gregory Norman Bossert (Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity)
  • “Raining Street” by J. S. Breukelaar (Black Static)
  • The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark ( Publishing)
  • Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate“, Anya Johanna DeNiro (Shimmer)
  • “Big Dark Hole”, Jeffrey Ford (Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity)
  • And Yet“, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny) [read]
  • “Second to the Left, and Straight On”, Jim C. Hines (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “He Sings of Salt and Wormwood”, Brian Hodge (The Devil and the Deep)
  • “Just Another Love Song” Kat Howard (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “Four Revelations from the Rusalka Ball”, Cassandra Khaw (The Underwater Ballroom Society)
  • Rust and Bone“, Mary Robinette Kowal (Shimmer)
  • The Thing About Ghost Stories“, Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny) [YB]
  • “A Man Walking His Dog” Tim Lebbon (Phantoms)
  • “Honey” Valya Dudycz Lupescu (A World of Horror)
  • Big Mother“, Anya Ow (Strange Horizons) [read]
  • “Fish Hooks”, Kit Power (New Fears 2)
  • “The Governor”, Tim Powers (The Book of Magic)
  • True Crime“, M. Rickert (Nightmare) [read]
  • Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone“, Eden Royce (Strange Horizons)
  • “Tom Is in The Attic”, Robert Shearman (Phantoms)
  • “When We Fall, We Forget”, Angela Slatter, (Phantoms)
  • “In This Twilight”, Simon Strantzas (Nothing Is Everything)
  • The Crow Knight“, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) [read]
  • “Thanatrauma”, Steve Rasnic Tem (New Fears 2)
  • “Sick Cats in Small Places”, Kaaron Warren (A World of Horror)
  • “Blood and Smoke, Vinegar and Ashes”, D.P. Watt (The Silent Garden, Vol. 1)
  • The Pine Arch Collection“, Michael Wehunt (The Dark)
  • In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same“, A. C. Wise (The Dark)
  • Asphalt, River, Mother, Child“, Isabel Yap (Strange Horizons) [read]
  • Music for the Underworld“, E. Lily Yu (Terraform) [read]

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2019, Horton, ed.

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume Thirteen, Strahan, ed.