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Asimov’s Science Fiction September/October 2017 - Vol. 41 Nos. 9 & 01 - (Whole Numbers 500 & 501)
Edited by Sheila Williams
Cover Artist: Cynthia Sheppard
Review by Sam Tomaino
Asimov Magazine (print/digital)  ISBN/ITEM#: 1065-2698
Date: 29 August 2017

Links: Asimov's Science Fiction / How to Purchase / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

The September/October 2017 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has stories by Sarah Pinsker, Michael Swanwick, R. Garcia y Robertson, Suzanne Palmer, Sandra McDonald, Carrie Vaughan, James Gunn, Harry Turtledove, Dennis E. Staples, William Preston, Allen M. Steele, Tim McDaniel, and Kit Reed, along with the usual poetry and columns.

The September/October 2017 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has a lot of very good stories including one Hugo-worthy.

The fiction begins with the novelette "Wind Will Rove" by Sarah Pinsker. -+- Rosie Clay is of the third generation on a generational ship, her grandmother was one of the originals who started on the voyage. Rosie Clay is in her 50s, teaches history, and regularly plays her grandmother's old fiddle with other traditionalists. One important song is from 1974, called "Wind Will Rise". One of her students does not want to learn history and wants the past ignored. How can she best deal with this rebellion? A beautiful, poignant tale.

"Riding the Blue Line with Jack Kerouac" by Sandra McDonald -+- Our narrator is a motorman with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in what appears to be the late 70s to early 80s. He and his friends have more than the usual paying customers, ghosts like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, and Jack Kerouac whom our narrator actually talks to. Jack proves to be an inspiration. Very good especially the end!

"Universe Box" by Michael Swanwick -+- Another story this month, from one of the best. Howard Pendleton is going to ask his girlfriend, Mimi, to marry him on Valentine's Day in the most boring, conventional way possible. Mimi anticipates this and is going to dump him. But someone calling himself "Uncle Paulie" arrives at Howard's door and turns his life inside out. He is a traveler from the stars and has pulled off a tremendous heist. This all starts a wild romp of a story which was loads of fun to read. Swanwick is a devotee of that most original writer R.A. Lafferty and R.A.L. would have got a kick out of this story! This will be on my Hugo Shortlist for Best Novelette next year!

"Dead Men in Central City" by Carrie Vaughan -+- Ricardo must shoot his horse when it breaks two legs and he winds up in the nearby boom mining town of Central City, Colorado. In a bar there, he meets a man who coughs a lot and is dealing faro--one Doctor John Holliday. Ricardo gets a room that shields him from the sun because he is actually a 350-year-old vampire but he only takes as much blood as he needs. Holliday knows what he is but they wind up with some mutual respect for each other. Great little tale!

"Arriving at Terminal: Xi's Story" by James Gunn -+- This story, we are told, derives from Gunn's Transcendental Trilogy. In it, we get the story of Xi and his planet Xifora, a rough world where the motto is "eat or be eaten". This qualifies him for a special assignment being part of the team to investigate the Transcendental Machine for Xifora's benefit. Interesting study of a planetary culture.

"The Ganymede Gambit: Jan's Story" by James Gunn -+- Another story from Gunn's Transcendental Trilogy. A man named Jak has used his sperm to create nine clones, Jan and his siblings. He has assigned them the terraforming of Ganymede. This has resulted in the death of six of the siblings, which the other three resent. Now, Jak, too wants them, to investigate the Transcendental Machine for Earth's benefit. But they have been changed in an important way on Ganymede. Another good story that might make you want to read Gunn's trilogy.

"Zigeuner" by Harry Turtledove -+- Hauptsturmfürher Joseph Stieglitz, an SS Officer, is in western Hungary in the Autumn of 1944. The German army is being pushed back by the Russians. Will they be fighting in Germany soon? Nonetheless, they are ordered to round up a group of Zigeuner nearby. The group has probably lived in Hungary for centuries but kept their ways and language with their dark eyes and their traveling wagons. They will be transported to a camp in Poland for what Stieglitz does not want to think about. A hint of the alternate history comes from what is mentioned of the Führer's war experience but how alternate comes at the end and I won't spoil that. Another great job by Turtledove.

"The Fourth Hill" by Dennis E. Staples -+- Callum Roy is a boy of the Ojibwe tribe and had learned something of his heritage. So when he meets a small man, he believes the man is Memegwesi, a "hairy-faced bank-dwelling dwarf spirit". But can he help Callum's grandfather? Well-told.

"The Cabinet" by William Preston -+- Max is one of the town clerks in Hostenwall and looks forward to the annual jahrmarket, a kind of carnival, that he loved as a child. A mysterious man who calls his trade "somnambulism" gets a permit but only after some trouble and a bribe to the head clerk. At the jahrmarket, Max sees what the man is displaying, a sleeper named Cesare who rests in a coffin. In the introduction, Preston acknowledges that the story's source is a movie he presents to his film students. But the story focuses on Max, adding a dimension to one of my favorite movies.

"An Incident in the Literary Life of Nathan Arkwright" by Allen M. Steele -+- The introduction tells us that this is an untold story related to his novel Arkwright, part of which appeared in Asimov's. The character of Nathan Arkwright was introduced in the July 2014 issue which began with his death. He had been a famous science fiction writer, "creator of the Galaxy Patrol" and 'one of the "Big Four" sci-fi writers of the 20th Century" (with Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke). It tells the story of why Arkwright stopped going to conventions in 1975. At a convention in Nashville, he meets two polite, devoted fans named Peter and Barbara Shepard. They invite him to dinner and take him for a long drive. They urge him to keep writing his Galaxy Patrol series for a bit longer. But things take a scary turn. Great to have a look at a character I'd only seen a little of in that first story!

"Squamous and Eldritch Get a Yard Sale Bargain" by Tim McDaniel -+- Squamous, rare book dealer, fails to get an ancient tome with pentagrams on it at a yard sale. A woman buys it for two dollars because she thinks her niece who plays Dungeons and Dragons might like it. So he calls in his partner, Eldritch. I won't give it away but the end is quite funny and will please everyone who does not like to see a book disrespected.

"Grand Theft Spacecraft" by R. Garcia y Robertson -+- Starting out in orbit around Europa, Vole, Jute Knight-Deacon and pastor of Jesus Christ Christian, gets involved in opposing an invasion of Space Vikings. Also involved are a fugitive princess, a precocious eight-year-old, Mongol Marines, and a host of other interesting characters. Good to have Robertson back after a long absence.

"Disturbance in the Produce Aisle" by Kit Reed -+- Dick Cavanaugh has had an argument with his wife Douthea and goes into the Stop and Shop to find food and roses to make up for it. But the Devil is there to tempt him with many forms. There are also ghosts of the dead. A wild, wonderful story. The sort we have come to expect of Kit Reed.

The issue concludes with another novelette, "Books of the Risen Sea" by Suzanne Palmer. -+- After an event just called the Wave, the town where Caer (actually born Carolyn) grew up was mostly flooded. He is holed up in the library trying to save books. He is estranged from his father who will not have anything to do with him. He keeps an easy peace with his sister--her husband and friends, not so much. In the midst of more flooding, he rescues a robot who starts to help. Raiders come, menacing the rest of the town and Caer, his sister, and the robot do what they can. Good story!

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