“The history of poly-V”, John Ingold A smart story about a new drug that does … something … to the memory. Our narrator is one of the scientists who invented the drug; like many scientists, though, he’s given up something on the social side to make his invention take off. Now the new drug lets him go back and revisit the decisisons he made. Ingold takes an inherently surreal premise, and presents it as realistically as possible.
“Dance of the Kawkaroons”, Mercurio D. Rivera A story about boorish, exploitative, and ignorant humans exploiting a fragile alien ecosystem and its beautiful, mysterious, harmless, and highly-valuable fauna gets turned on its head when … well, I’d better not say, but Rivera may have been reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire when he thought this one up. A solid story.
“Chimbwi”, Jim Hawkins What if global warming shook the foundations of the world, and sub-saharan Africa came out on top after all? That’s the premise of Hawkins’ story about a refugee English physicist trying to find a place in the Zambian research institute that controls the “solar fusion” technology that made it happen. The white-guy-survives-the-native-manhood-ritual plotline might be a little cliched, but the world background makes the story worthwhile.
“Flying in the face of God”, Nina Allan A very thoughtful story, with echoes of Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah”. Space travellers must take a treatment that radically alters their physiology, and especially their sexuality, putting them out of touch with the rest of humanity. Anita Schleif, a documentary filmmaker, is stuck in a love triangle that’s being dissolved as its apex, future astronaut Rachel Alvin, goes through her treatments. A strong story wrapped around strong themes is never a bad thing.
“Johnny’s new job”, Chris Beckett A short morality tale with shades of 1984 and Farenheit 451. Johnny is just another cheering fan to the regular public ridicule and execution of social workers whose small mistakes have devastating consequences, until … well, I’ll bet you can guess. There’s a fairly important point to the story, and although its not delivered with extreme subtlety its still worth reading.
“The glare and the glow”, Steve Rasnic Tem A short bit of wit, turning on the narrator’s obsession with cliches, wrapped around a more serious, but even shorter, story about mysterious lightbulbs that illuminate more than just the space around them.