The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories
Edited by Allan Kaster; Read by Tom Dheere, Nancy Linari, and Henrietta Meire 9.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Lately I’ve been craving good Hard Science Fiction tales. You know the kind… Stories in which the science plays a significant role in the plot. Stories in which the “science” in “science fiction” is more than just a setting.
My craving was satisfied by this terrific audio anthology edited by Allan Kaster and read by Tom Dheere, Nancy Linari, and Henrietta Meire. These stories, taken from those published in 2016 in various venues, use your imagination to ask real questions about our universe. The narrators are quite good, confidently throwing science around like they know what these characters are talking about.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be looking forward to next year’s anthology. This is my kind of science fiction.
Seven Birthdays by Ken Liu
Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee by Alastair Reynolds
Number Nine Moon by Alex Irvine
Chasing Ivory by Ted Kosmatka
Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was by Paul McAuley
Of the Beast in the Belly by C.W. Johnson
RedKing by Craig DeLancey
Vortex by Gregory Benford
The Visitor from Taured by Ian R. MacLeod
The Seventh Gamer by Gwyneth Jones
Fieldwork by Shariann Lewitt
For those that like quick story synopses, here is Infinivox’s description of the anthology: An unabridged audio collection spotlighting the “best of the best” hard science fiction stories published in 2016 by current and emerging masters of the genre, edited by Allan Kaster. In “Vortex,” by Gregory Benford, astronauts find a once thriving microbial lifeform that carpets the caves of Mars dying off. A code monkey tracks down the vain creator of a pernicious software virus that people jack cerebrally in “RedKing,” by Craig DeLancey. In “Number Nine Moon,” by Alex Irvine, illicit scavengers on Mars are on a rescue mission to save themselves after one of their team members dies. A young girl’s thirst for vengeance becomes a struggle for survival when she is swallowed by a gigantic sea creature on an alien planet in “Of the Beast in the Belly,” by C.W. Johnson. In “The Seventh Gamer,” by Gwyneth Jones, a writer immerses herself into a MMORPG community to search for characters being played by real aliens from other worlds. A woman armed with a rifle stalks a herd of cloned wooly mammoths in British Columbia in “Chasing Ivory,” by Ted Kosmatka. In “Fieldwork,” by Shariann Lewitt, a volcanologist struggles with her research on Europa where both her mother and grandmother suffered dire consequences. A daughter pays homage to her mother with mega-engineering projects to deal with climate change over eons in “Seven Birthdays,” by Ken Liu. In “The Visitor from Taured,” by Ian R. MacLeod, a cosmologist in the near future is obsessed with proving his theory of multiverses. The citizens of a small town on a “Jackaroo” planet object to a corporation placing a radio telescope near local alien artifacts in “Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was,” by Paul McAuley. And finally, in “Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee,” by Alastair Reynolds, a graduate student defends her dissertation on a solar anomaly that threatens humanity.
My favorite stories in the collection were Ken Liu’s “Seven Birthdays” and “The Visitor from Taured” by Ian R. MacLeod. I enjoyed all of the stories, though.
Talked about on today’s show:
1967, expanded from Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday, what the hell’s going on, illuminating things, more direct, Wayne is pretty damn proud of himself, the difference between the two, crossover, the entropy is the same, applying shaving cream and whiskers, cleaner and cleaner clothes, some of the same logical problems as Superman‘s Bizzaro world, exactly the opposite, taking it to the logical conclusion, one of the fun things about it, what is passed over, the Hobart Phase, with participation, DC Comics, Superman spinoffs, Supergirl going through Superman’s baby photos, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Us Do Opposite Of All Earthly Things, the first issue of Action Comics, square wheels, is superman supposed to be smart?, how the economy works, don’t try to make it work logically, the ending, weird senses, LSD grenades, embryonic robots, what’s that mean?, let it happen to you, is there some overarching metaphor we’re missing?, every time it fell into plot, the graveyard, Jesus and Lazarus, breathing tubes, certain skills, everything’s reversed, Officer Tinbane, Ray Roberts, Robert Raymond, you shouldn’t try to prove the existence of God, does that have anything to do with this character?, searching out in a desperate attempt, question-answer, Centurion Longinus, a shocking death, Hermes is a psychopomop, a small business, the abortion, when does the soul enter the corpse, sperm shooting out of eggs, what is he actually saying right here?, hilarious passing references, soghum through the anus, throwing up whole foods, spirit soghum, a small bamboo Korean flute, time-bombs of hilarity, the substance and the style, the philosophical ramifications, random man, find a nearby womb, falling in love with a baby, Philip K. Dick’s twin sister, Colorado, Bishop James Pike, one of PKD’s marriages, falling in love with her sister, agonizing over sin, taking advantage, is that a crime?, Nancy Hackett, In search Of (hosted by Leonard Nimoy), dead in the desert, mind going a million miles a minute, having trouble deciding who he loves and doesn’t love, super-liberal, pro-gay, pro-black, the four parts of the USA, 10,000 politically motivated bombings, heaven isn’t real, secular saints, Copernicus, counseling Philip K. Dick, everybody’s consenting here, things are rough, her own psychological issues, she’s tiny and he’s huge, daughter sized and aged, treating kids like adults, things probably shouldn’t be happening in that park, what are we to make of the robots?, either pearls before swine or pigfood before jewelers, coming away from it without getting inside his head, not previously an aficionado, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, seeing the religious aspect as being interesting, the key to unlocking, Anarch Peak, highest point and without, a black Jesus figure coming back from the dead, two oblique angles, our John The Baptist character, attacking not from the front door, the Trojan horse method, coincidence?, 400 shows, a combination of subconscious and coincidence, Reading, Short And Deep, When Time Turned by Ethel Watts Mumford, kind of Science Fiction, living his life backwards from the point of his wife’s death, the dome of his skull expanded, from a female point of view, experiencing things in reverse, people remember what happened in the future, physical and mental knowledge is being destroyed, the swabble, the patent office, sucking the ink out of the page, never approaching it ion the normal everyday way, the fact that a robot is secretly and immorally implanting microscopic sperm sized robots, these librarians have stuff backing them up, the librarians are the bad guys, if you reverse everything, how does this work?, what does it mean?, robots are ambiguous, are they a distraction?, espionage, putting it on his left arm as an armband, a counter acting agent (operating in reverse [forward] time), if you know the past why don’t you act differently, Arrival and The Story Of Your Life, the ash of memory, mmmm coffee, reverse sewer trucks?, don’t think about this for too long, what’s in these sorgum pipes and where did you get it?, Red Dwarf, Season 3 Episode 1, Backwards, he’s literally taking a shit, the economy, taking its science fiction seriously but playing for comedy, money is something you want to get rid of, becoming impoverished is everyone’s goal, what is the equivalent of counter-fitting?, the money loses value, hyperinflation, the first review on Goodreads is written backwards, insight, the factions, they never believed the passage from Corinthians, death where is thy sting?, it might just be Philip K. Dick’s critique of how history has treated the Christ story, profound and doesn’t make any sense, ruminate and disgorge (don’t digest), he’s exploring but not landing on any square, that’s Pike’s thing too, harrowing hell, Sebastian Hermes, specially attuned, another Jesus figure?, always has to turn it into a small business, every chapter starts with a quote, inverted quotes?, Saint Thomas Aquinas, what the Hobart event was, almost a weapon, the FMN doesn’t have the Hobart Phase, Mars doesn’t have it either, like radiation from a Russian Hobart bomb, we need to escape this place it’s why you had the abortion, this Orange County, everybody’s playing this real estate game, the effects they see in the world are other people, the robot comes to the office, treat me as this other person, my future is your yesterday, another reading (at least), chimeras through the hold thing, you can call me Carl, Carl Jr, Karl Jung, Uditi -> U-Die -> You Die -> U as in U-Turn, Jung’s collective unconscious, the group mind, a death cult is a life cult, positive racism, the Roman Church, Pentecostals, Baptists, an excoriation against people who think they have all the answers, the TRUTH, contradictory to each other, the People’s Topical Library, why are they so scared to go to the library, destruction of books, he who destroys knowledge controls knowledge, conflicted loyalties, the black hats, Niehls, Lance Arbuthnaut, inventors, Edison types, technology, minus money, arbeit-naught? = doesn’t work, hit by meteors, hit by anti-matter?, from the macro point of view, is Earth orbiting in the wrong direction, going backwards and forwards in time, inconsistencies, does geology work in reverse, an undestroyed building, before the Anarch is brought back to life, a big convention, a special waiver, this is what happens when you take LSD, PKD wrote almost nothing about this book, we need annotations, the embryonic robots snuck into a filing cabinets, payoff, somehow reversed mirrored later on with the human sex, unpregnant herself, the process still exists, are the robots also effected by reverse time?, you can’t really see the connection between them, Kryten, the manuscript is called HOW I MADE MY OWN SWABBLE OUT OF CONVENTIONAL HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS IN MY BASEMENT DURING MY SPARE TIME vs. HOW I DISASSEMBLED MY SWABBLE INTO ORDINARY HOUSEHOLD OBJECTS IN MY BASEMENT DURING MY SPARE TIME, Thomas Alva Edison, maybe it didn’t all gel, or maybe it gelled well, how most people rated it, fun, really ambitious, plot machinations, once the paper for the swabble is eradicated time reverses again, stuck in an infinite loop, Saint Paul will be resurrected in 2,000 years, Jesse thinks Philip K. Dick had the dream at the end of this book, what roles do dreams play, you’re a crank!, Lister comes out of the Starbug, a sore back, Nodnol, you come up with your theory and then you test your theory, Bulgarian bicycles, reverse bar fight, sucking the pain out of his face, punching his tooth back in, the YouTube of Backwards [played backwards], backwards English, switching to reverse, flowing in reverse, totally confusing, you’re driving on the wrong side of the road backwards and backwards in time, our entire experience with reality seem to be one direction, deja vu, no wonder we’re confused, that makes sense, more about this in his next books, The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer, Valis, Ubik, more of what he’s playing with, John Dryden, Peter S. Beagle,
To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
stories and collections, Dan Simmons, an ur text, hey baby we gotta have sex now cuze we can’t when we’re dead, Philip K. Dick using it, Meatloaf’s Paradise By The Dashboard Light, How I Rose From The Dead My Spare Time And So Can You, A Maze Of Death.
The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 6
Edited by Allan Kaster; Narrated by Tom Dheere and Nancy Linari
16 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publication Date: December 2016
Themes: / Science Fiction / Novellas / The Moon / Time / Clones / Starships /
The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 6, edited by Allan Kaster, is an audio anthology containing five science fiction novellas from 2015. It’s a diverse, entertaining, and thought-provoking collection, and very well narrated!
Inhuman Garbage by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I’ve enjoyed Rusch’s Disappeared series since the first novella was published (The Retrieval Artist, 2000). I haven’t the time to keep up with all the novels Rusch has written in the series since but every one I have read has been excellent, including this short one. In a warehouse in a city on the Moon in Rusch’s robust future world, a body has been discovered in a recycling crate. Detective Noelle DeRicci is called in on the case. The story is a perfect blend of SF and mystery fiction.
What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear by Bao Shu (translated by Ken Liu)
This was an interesting thought experiment. We humans live our lives in a linear fashion, cause preceding effect after effect after effect. The story attempts to portray people living linearly, but in reverse. We see history passing backwards as characters live their lives. Interesting.
The New Mother by Eugene Fischer
Imagine a disease with an effect that allows women to reproduce without men. Offspring are clones, since the genetic material has only one source. Men are no longer part of the process. The idea of men becoming extinct brings past stories to mind, like James Tiptree Jr’s “The Screwfly Solution”. The New Mother is a story that leaves the listener with a lot to think about.
Gypsy by Carter Scholz
I was fascinated by this story about a group of people that decide to take it upon themselves to build a ship, get aboard, and launch to Alpha Centauri. The story is told by various characters who wake up from their long sleeps to do various tasks. How did such a group pull this off? And how far can the group get? Well-written, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard
There is a lot going on in this novella, the longest in the collection. A rich and interesting culture. Mindships, where minds are installed in and control ships. Uploaded minds of previous emperors that serve as advisors to the current emperor. Terrific. Just a beautiful story.
In the Embers
A Great Northern Audio Theatre Production
Written, Directed, and Produced by Brian Price and Jerry Stearns
[AUDIO DRAMA] – 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
Themes: / Audio Drama / time / archaeology / jazz / quantum physics /
A song, a pressed flower, and the sound of two girl’s voices recovered from a burned wooden beam by using a laser to read its charred surface like the grooves of an old 78rpm record. These are the clues that archaeologist, Digger Morgan, discovers while working on a routine Maryland plantation dig. Who were the girls? When was the fire? The answers all lead to 1920s jazz pioneer, Kit Jeffers, whose voice mysteriously appears on Digger’s computer, and whose existence remains haunted by a singular tragic event.
The first sounds offered by this wonderful work of audio drama are the broken haunting voices of two people trying to escape a barn fire. I can hear them as I type this. The voices were impressed on charred barn beams until archaeologist Digger Morgan discovered a way to read them with a laser. Hearing those voices was a powerful moment for me, a moment in which I not only felt the emotion of two people trapped in a fire, but also in which I considered the possibility of strong emotion leaving an imprint on our surroundings.
“In the Embers” doesn’t shy away from considering the implications either. In fact, this fine work of science fiction goes even further. How large an imprint could one leave? And could emotion somehow be transmitted through time? What would be the effect?
The story is excellent, the music is excellent, the audio quality is excellent, and so are the actors. Robin Miles as Kit Jeffers was particularly outstanding. From the riveting opening to the emotional closing scene, this is a drama that goes in the permanent collection. I’ll be listening to this again, no question.
The SFFaudio Podcast #280 – Völsungasaga translated by Eiríkr Magnússon and William Morris; read by Corpang (of LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the saga (4 hours) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
anonymous, 1000 AD, Beowulf, Germanic myth collection, Volsung Dynasty, quick character changes, irrational logic, biblical similarities, Sigurd, echoes of myths, family relationships in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Tales of Dragons, a hodgepodge of influences, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, dramatic events, wolves, half-historical and half-saga storytelling, origin from Homeric Myths, odes, cyclical time, less Christian influences than other written sagas, a source or influences on stories and also influenced by earlier sagas, Vikings on History Channel, moral lessons to be awesome, unconsciousness of glorious kings with immoral actions, The Old Testament, hierarchy of power, jealousy of wealth and power, Medieval Japan, neighbor relationships, attitudes toward prophesy and fate, stoicism and acceptance, Odin Mythology, simple naming of characters, absence of fear of death, reincarnation, female equality, werewolves, Roman Mythology, frequent raiding, laws protecting wolves, wolves as outlaws, Caligula, power creates rules, Christian epics with Christian rule system, power of sacrifice, irrational idea of original sin, The New Testament subverting the idea of superiority, master morality and the slave morality, a lot of similarity to Beowulf, a source for education and entertainment, reason for being dramatic, 13th century literature, history in a very vague and incorrect way, more atrocity earlier in the saga, parallel between fantasy and real life, Story of Attila, transmission of knowledge, Haida Gwaii’s similarity to Vikings, We are really here for the gold!, names of dwarfs, broken names, obsession of money creates craziness, atrocity and craziness as history, story created before medieval nobility, morality as generosity, guest morality, Richard Wagner, being near Vikings is dangerous, endurance of pain as superior, no laughs and mild jokes in Volsunga saga, disrespect is bad, burial traditions create conflict, William Morris, the absence of slaves in Tolkien Fiction, free society.
The penultimate review in the story-a-day 7th Anniversary Fun Run!
By L. Ron Hubbard; Read by a Full Cast
Approx 50 mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Galaxy Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Farming / Economics / Politics / Time / Trading / Vegetables /
Eben Smith is frustrated with government, who has offered (ordered?) to pay him to plow under his crops. But, these crops are “tangibles”, as Eben says, and it don’t make no sense to him. So he piles up the vegetables in his wagon, and heads off to find a buyer, leaving his wife to worry about him causing trouble with the government.
A day or so later, he arrives at The Crossroads. Four roads meet there; one concrete, one full of boulders, not passable except on foot. Another was made of metal. That leaves his own, a dirt road with a double row of ruts made by wagon wheels. Eben, not sure where to go from there, stops and waits for “someone with information”.
Eben has visitors, of course, and is a shrewd trader. Each visitor has his own quirks, and his own things he finds valuable. Eben sees things no farmer from the 1940’s has ever seen.
The story has a good quality. It’s very enjoyable pulp fiction, originally published in Unknown Fantasy Fiction in February 1941. It reminds me a bit of Clifford D. Simak, who, 17 years later, wrote “The Big Front Yard”. Eben has the same sort of can-do attitude as the main character in that story. Just as interesting are Eben’s distrust and criticism of the US government. Not much has changed in the last 70 years.
This CD is one of many in a series of L. Ron Hubbard stories published by Galaxy Press. It was extremely well done. There’s a main narrator, behind which are sound effects. Other actors perform the dialogue. Birds chirping set the roadside scene at high noon, and none of the effect are overpowering. Most of Eben’s visitors speak English, but one of them doesn’t. The spoken language was very well done, too. I become convinced after listening to this, the excellent Warhammer titles from The Black Library, and the great stuff coming from Graphic Audio, that it is not this type of audiobook I dislike. If it’s done well, it’s good stuff. It’s just so easy to do terribly.
With a pair of headphones, this was a very enjoyable listen.