Fast Forward 1 by Lou Anders

(2007-01-29)

 

Published by Pyr
ISBN 1-59102-486-6
February 2007
407 Pages

 

Lou Anders has made his presence felt in the genre through some well-received anthologies and most recently as the Editorial Director of Pyr.  Anders returns to his anthological roots with Fast Forward 1, his first anthology with Pyr, and with it he leaves as much of a mark on the publisher with a singular book as he has with Pyr’s publishing program. He introduces the anthology with a great essay, which amounts to a mission statement for science fiction.  While Lou may intend this as his mission statement for Pyr, it works just as well for the genre as a whole. Lou argues that SF is something of an ongoing dialogue, which allows us to “make sense of the changing world.” It is posted here

 

Justina Robson’s The Girl Hero’s Mirror Says She’s Not the One picks up not long after her novel, Mappa Mundi.  Robson’s story, like the novel to which it is linked, has a running thread of identity.  With Robson’s tale, the identity is something others can override. While this story does connect with Mappa Mundi, foreknowledge of the book is not necessary to fully enjoy this story, or to grasp its power.

 

The third entry, Small Offerings by Paolo Baciagalupi, is a powerfully emotional tale of survival and birth.  As in the best science fiction, Baciagalupi offers no easy answers in his tale positing a world where childbirth becomes more difficult and agonizing. 

 

Kage Baker’s Plotters and Shooters is perhaps the most fun entry of the anthology.  It is slightly reminiscent of Orson Scott Card’s seminal Ender’s Game, but Baker takes the story in a somewhat different direction.  While the trappings resonate a great deal with much of the video gaming culture, the theme of adolescent power and power plays resonate in and out of any genre.

 

Matching Baciagalupi’s entry, in terms of emotional impact, is Elizabeth Bear’s The Something-Dreaming Game.  In this story, a young girl believes she communicates with an alien in the minutes just after she passes out due to lack of oxygen. It is a tricky line to straddle for the young girl, as she risks death from auto-asphyxiation, worrying her mother and affecting those around her.  Bear succeeds very well with making each character utterly convincing, something that isn’t always easy to do in the short form.

 

A.M. Dellamonica’s Time of the Snake takes the account of a futuristic war with alien allies down to the street level.  The story is a great glimpse into the head of those who fight on the lines of battle.

 

In The Terror Bard, Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper visit the galaxy thousands of years in the future, where lifespans have extended to millennia, the sun is expanding, and the galaxy is shifting.  The premise was interesting, with a far future that might be fun to revisit.

 

Mary Turzillo’s Pride was a very moving tale of a boy and his pet.  A simple and familiar premise executed with skillfully created characters and a plausible premise.

 

In the anthology’s other collaboration, this between Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, our penchant for spreading our peoples to inhabited places and “fixing” genetic mistakes come together at an intersection where some sort of sacrifice cannot be avoided. At its heart, Solomon’s Choice, is about the human spirit, both in a mother’s love and a doctor’s care and sense of responsibility.

 

Gene Wolfe’s The Hour of the Sheep is typical Wolfe.  That is to say elegantly written, not easily deciphered and begging of multiple readings.  Like his New Sun saga, the tale places itself rather ambiguously, with elements of the past and far future intersecting in a fantastical place.

 

There, are of course, more excellent stories in this volume than those mentioned in this review.  The stories from some of the most recognized (and award-winning) names in the genre round out the volume: Stephen Baxter, Tony Ballantyne, Robert Charles Wilson, Ken MacLeod, Louise Marley, John Meaney, Ian McDonald, George Zebrowski and two poems by Robyn Hitchcock.

 

Though I haven’t read the annual anthologies Anders references in his opening salvo, I do know of the impact they have had on the genre. With Fast Forward 1, Anders has brought together some of the most visionary voices in the genre to postulate on our future, to entertain us with their visions of where our world will be in the proverbial subsequent frames.  The writers are of a varied enough sampling to give something of a state of the genre status, and with the quality of the stories, this state of the genre is good. One of the best things about this anthology is the “1” following Fast Forward, which like the stories contained between the covers, points to something readers of the genre can anticipate every year.

 

© 2007 Rob H. Bedford

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