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Asimov's Science Fiction, November/December 2020

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Search no further for the perfect holiday gift! Asimov’s November/ December 2020 is stuffed with two splendid seasonal tales. Spend “Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria” with Santa as he investigates a disturbing mystery. Sam Schreiber’s clever cover story is his first tale for Asimov’s. We’re thrilled to have a multiple-holiday-spanning new novella from Connie Willis! “Take a Look at the Five and Ten” while unwrapping a complex story about memory, families, and much much more.

Will the reader or Chen Qiufan’s first story for Asimov’s, “Forger Mr. Z,” unravel first? “Return to Glory” with Jack McDevitt’s intriguing homage; “Return to Earth” of the far future with James Gunn; Alaya Dawn Johnson returns to our pages with a deeply perceptive look at “The Mirages”; best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson and long-time Asimov’s pro Rick Wilber give us an exciting story about “The Hind”; while also new to Asimov’s author Kate Maruyama creates a poignant “Footprint”; Zack Be tells us to “Pull it from the Root”; Marissa Lingen considers enigmatic alien visitors and “Grief, as Faithful as my Hound”; and the frozen terror of “The Long Iapeten Night” by Julie Novakova will unsettle even the bravest among us.

The Citadel of the Old Ones may show up in Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: “Finding the Mountains of Madness”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net reveals “What Information Wants”; Paul Di Filippo’s On Books reviews works by Zenna Henderson, James Blaylock, Eoin Colfer, Alistair Reynolds, Neal Asher, and others.

208 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 2020

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About the author

Sheila Williams

231 books55 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Sheila Williams is the editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. She is also the recipient of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short Form.

Sheila grew up in a family of five in western Massachusetts. Her mother had a master's degree in microbiology. Ms. Williams’ interest in science fiction came from her father who read Edgar Rice Burroughs books to her as a child. Later Ms. Williams received a bachelor's degree from Elmira College in Elmira, New York, although she studied at the London School of Economics during her junior year. She received her Master's from Washington University in St. Louis. She is married to David Bruce and has two daughters.

She became interested in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (as it was then titled) while studying philosophy at Washington University. In 1982 she was hired at the magazine, and worked with Isaac Asimov for ten years. While working there, she co-founded the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing (at one time called the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing). In 2004, with the retirement of Gardner Dozois, she became the editor of the magazine.

Along with Gardner Dozois she also edited the "Isaac Asimov's" anthology series. She also co-edited A Woman's Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women (2001) with Connie Willis. Most recently she has edited a retrospective anthology of fiction published by Asimov's: Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology. Booklist called the book "A gem, and a credit to editor Williams."
She has been nominated for 4 Hugo Awards as editor of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

See also Sheila Williams's entry in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,036 reviews511 followers
August 14, 2021
Maybe it’s just me. Or it’s a combo of Covid-19 and the ‘end of the world as we know it’. But I can’t read Connie Willis anymore. She’s just too fucking cheerful.
Profile Image for Jeppe Larsen.
88 reviews3 followers
November 12, 2020
This was a really good issue. A bit lighthearted for the most part. No really bad stories, but likely no award winners either.

The title story “Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria” by Sam Schreiber is a wild crazy story were Santa Claus is the protagonist in a murder mystery at a hotel with infinite rooms. Hard to explain and also pretty confusing, but great fun. 4/5.

“The Mirages” by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a bit more depressing set in a future wrecked by climate change, rising temperatures and disease. The actual plot involving a family tragedy is not the interesting part, but the author creates a very convincing setting for this future. 3/5.

I was a bit sceptical about “The Hind” by Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber because I usually don't like Kevin J. Andersons writing style. While I am not fan of the writing, the story here is not bad. Set on a generation starship our protoganist has to kill another passanger because she is pregnant. That plot takes some drastic turns into something else entirely. 3/5.

“Grief, as Faithful as My Hound” by Marissa Lingen is a first contact story of sorts. UFOs land across the world seemingly at random and weird silent orange blobs starts to follow random people around. The story follows a woman who has recently lost her mother and she must attend to the funeral preparations. The emotional descriptions is very believable and relatable, but the aliens doesn't really add much to the story. 3/5.

“Forger Mr. Z” by Chen Qiufan translated from Chinese is a strange story about a writer who creates a fictional science fiction writer for his stories and then reality and fiction starts to blend for him in weird ways. I found the story to an interesting read, but not really sure if there was any point to it. 2/5.

“Return from the Stars” by James Gunn is told by a robot that has returned to Earth after centuries of preparing a new planet for humans several light years away. However, Earths ecosystem has collapsed and all humans are gone. The robot teams up with some digitally stored human minds, who are placed in robot bodies, and they set up a massive project to restore Earth. Really nicely done. 4/5.

“Footprint” by Kate Maruyama is another story set in a future wrecked by climate change. The story follows a woman who is dying of cancer and she struggles to hell her daughter about it. Her daughter is a brilliant scientist working on saving humanity. It is a heartwarming character study about parenthood and doing the right thing. 4/5.

“Pull it From the Root” by Zack Be provides a pulpy action story about a woman who is fleeing from a gang set out to punish her for some malfunctioned product of sorts. Lots of stuff is happening, but not really my type of story. 2/5.

“The Long Iapetan Night” by Julie Novakova is translated from Czech is set on an expedition to one of Saturns moons, seeking another expedition they lost contact with. This story was a nice mix of hard science fiction and horror. Would love to see more stories from Novakova. 4/5.

“Return to Glory” by Jack McDevitt gives us a story with nostalgic nods to Star Trek. Set in a future that has lost most informations about our time, some old recordings of Star Trek turn up and people are interested in star travel again. Not to be taken too seriously, but good for what it is. 4/5.

I am not sure “Take a Look at the Five and Ten” by Connie Willis can be called science fiction or even speculative fiction at all. It is basically a Christmas love story about a woman whos grandma can't stop talking about the year she worked at a specific whop back in 1960. She meets a researcher who is certain her rambling about that specific Christmas is a symptom of a repressed trauma, so he wants to conduct some experiments and brain scans on her. It is a bit cheesy, it is easy to see where the plot is going and they all live happily ever after. I rather enjoyed it, but a part of me also wished the space for this 20.000 word story would have been used for some proper science fiction. 4/5.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,051 reviews100 followers
March 8, 2021
This is a Christmas (November-December 2020) of Analog magazine. There are two prominent holiday pieces, one by the grandmaster Connie Willis.

The contents:

Where We Came from Is Where We're Going[Asimov's Editorials]essay by Allen Steele [as by Allen M. Steele] what pandemic taught us, plus a history of SF since 19th century. 2*
Finding the Mountains of Madness[Reflections]essay by Robert Silverberg a discussion of Lovecraft short novel and modern knowledge of Antarctica. 3*
After a Year of Solitudepoem by Lora Gray
What Information Wants[On the Net]essay by James Patrick Kelly a discussion of what creative commons and copyleft are. 3*
Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricyclepoem by Steven Withrow
Christmas at the Hilbert Astorianovelette by Sam Schreiber a bearded fat man in red costume, called Nick is hiked by a multi-dimensional hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Someone kills people near the hotel. 3.5*
The Miragesshort story by Alaya Dawn Johnson a child from now divorced parents grows up and migrates to another planet. 2*
The Hindnovelette by Kevin J. Anderson and Rick Wilber a generation ship after a catastrophe is ruled by a council, which allows new birth only if you kill a person from council’s list. A protagonist tries and fails but learns that the ship can be repaired. 2.5*
Grief, as Faithful as My Houndshort story by Marissa Lingen a woman with her mother in hostel in her last days while UFO start landing across the world. One lands in hospice yard and a orange globe starts to follow the woman as her mother dies. An original approach. 4*
Black Box Sonnet #13, 041 My Prosperity IVpoem by Garrison Kammer
Forger Mr. Znovelette by Chen Qiufan a SF writer working in tech support gets a dismissal from an editor and decides to create a fictional Albanian SF writer, who glorifies China in his SF to get published. 5*
Protozoan Pridepoem by Peter Payack
Return from the Starsnovelette by James E. Gunn [as by James Gunn] Robot 101, who terraformed a planet for Earth colonists returns to Earth to find out why no one comes. The planet is flooded and he seeks ways to restore it. 3.5*
Footprintshort story by Kate Maruyama a mother with inoperable cancer (which she hides from her daughter) meets with her daughter (a scientist, who discovered a self-regenerating oxygen source to terraform), who leaves for Mars. A cli-fi. 3*
Let Them Gopoem by Darrell Schweitzer
Pull it from the Rootnovelette by Zack Be a strange world of post-humans, with drug dealers and parasite plans controlling hosts… hasn’t worked for me. 2*
The Long Iapetan Nightnovelette by Julie Novakova a new expedition to one of Saturn satellite. A hundred years ago Earth experienced a couple of calamities and all space programs died, including a mission here. As a new team gets into old colony, something tries to kill them. 3*
Return to Gloryshort story by Jack McDevitt an utopian future and a guy finds a DVD with Star Trek, a long forgotten story. 3*
Next Issue (Asimov's, November-December 2020)essay by uncredited
Take a Look at the Five and Tennovella by Connie Willis I made a review here 3*
On Books (Asimov's, November-December 2020)[On Books]essay by Paul Di Filippo
SF Conventional Calendar (Asimov's, November-December 2020)essay by Erwin S. Strauss
Profile Image for Poetreehugger.
511 reviews12 followers
November 22, 2020
The Hind by Kevin J. Anderson. Engaging characters, colourful setting, enjoyable story line.
Grief, As Faithful As My Hound by Marissa Kingen. Weird! Which is a complement. Original.
Return From the Stars by James Gunn. Far seeing and far reaching, in time, space, and evolving beings.
Pull It From the Root by Zack Be. Rollicking fun to read, with yucky alien life forms, rascally heroes, fast paced action, all in a unique other world.
Take a Look at the Five and Ten by Connie Willis. Christmassy setting, likeable characters, interesting psychological angle, and a romance with a happy ending. What’s not to love?
Profile Image for Sara.
584 reviews55 followers
January 2, 2021
I usually skip a story or two, but not in this one. Superb.
Profile Image for Alex.
40 reviews3 followers
January 22, 2021
I've generally tried to leave out spoilers, but if you do not want any hint of what is in this issue, please don't read my reviews below.

Overall issue rating (as an average of rated stories: 3.7
Favorite story in this issue: This was really hard. I think "Grief, as faithful as my hound" might still be in 1st place but "The Long Iapetan Night" is easily a close second.

"Take a look at the five and ten" 3/5
This is a well-written story that weaves together rom-com-eqsue themes + brain imagery. In your typical love story, the main characters spend a lot of time trying to figure out the puzzle of granny's memory, convinced something traumatic caused it. The ending is heart-warming for sure. However, I did find myself bored at times and kept waiting and wondering "so when is the speculative fiction element going to kick in?"
At the risk of being a spoiler: it never really did, which for me, knocked down the overall score I'd give this story.

"Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria" 4/5
This was a fun story - wacky, a bit outrageous and just a great time.
If you love hard science fiction, this story is expressly not for you - although if you can believe in Santa for just a little bit...you may enjoy it more than you anticipate.
In this story, Santa is a sleuth and a crime fighter, using his jolly powers for good. Or at least he tries to. Santa does, after all, have a darker side.

"The Hind" 3/5
Concept: a generation ship encountered a debris cloud not long after take-off. Due to some critical damage, the ship's maintenance systems are going down and the ship is not being controlled in any way. The main character, while trying to survive, discovers she has the skills and knowledge to help the crew get the ship back online.
The writing is engaging but there were a couple of big elements of the story that really left me underwhelmed:
1. I didn't discover that Kym was pregnant until close to the end of the story. Until that time, I was under the impression that she needed to kill someone in order to be allowed a pregnancy. Finding out that she was already pregnant changed my read of the piece - it made it feel less like she was less a cold-blooded killer and more a desperate mother-to-be. Overall though, Kym's motivations didn't feel as strong, to me, as I would have liked.
2. I found it so hard to believe that Kym wouldn't know all of the people on the ship. If there are less than 1,000 people, I would expect that she would know 3/4 of them on a personal basis and would know of the others on basis of reputation at the very least.
3. I found it hard to believe that no one until Kym thought to seal the bridge and get the ship back online. For that matter, I also found it hard to believe that the only place the crew could access the ship would be the bridge, or that a vulnerable bridge position would be the single point of failure that would cause the entire ship to stop responding.
Overall, an entertaining read though.

"Forger Mr. Z" 4.5/5
This piece is absurdism in the very classical vein of 1984 or writing by Kafka.
The main character is far more broken than he realizes and the state exploits that to try and use him to its own ends.
This is probably one of the best examples of this sub-category of writing that I've seen and it is at a length that is not so long as to be tedious or so short that it is confusing and impenetrable.

"Return from the Stars"
As with other Gunn stories, I will not be reading or rating this one.
His style is, unfortunately, not one that I have enjoyed in the past.

"Pull it from the Root" 2.5/5
The story follows a main character who is on the run from what amounts to unfair accusations against her from what she did in her (former) line of work. Now, she must show her true colors - does she risk her life to help people she hardly even knows? Or does she turn tail and run while she has the chance - proving she really is as bad as her enemies assume?
As expected, she does the former.
The world the characters occupy is interesting but felt largely unexplored.
I also felt steamrolled by the number and strangeness of characters at the start. It was challenging to grapple with what exactly all the different characters were - aliens? Cyborgs? Humans? By the time I got it sorted enough, the story was almost done. What I'm saying is - I felt confused from the start and that's really not how I like stories to make me feel.
The conclusion too, did not really give me everything I would have wanted - it didn't really make for an especially clear payoff to the piece.

"The Long Iapetan Night" 4.5/5
The piece follows two crews that return to a previously colonized moon of Saturn and the mysteries they encounter as they retake the spaces that their forerunners occupied a century earlier.
The piece has a great atmosphere and feels very real despite taking place on a moon I have rarely heard much about.
It also has just the right mix of mystery, danger, and red herrings to keep me guessing and wondering until the end - what is the danger stalking the crews? Will they survive? What connections does it all have to the settlers who came before them?
One of the best stories from the issue for sure.

"The Mirages" 2.5/5
This is a story about a father essentially losing his family in the midst of a bleak future that can best be described as "what will happen if the world keeps going as it is."
For me, the touching, connective aspects of the story were buried under layer upon layer of identity-politics. What I felt was the meat of the story - Lalo's relationship with his daughter, his regrets, the actions he took that led to where the characters ended up - doesn't really get addressed until the last page. Ultimately, the story left me wondering - was I supposed to walk away from this tale thinking this was all Lalo's fault after all? I'm not entirely sure that's the question I was supposed to have left with.

"Grief, as faithful as my hound" 5/5
This story was absolutely fantastic. Maybe it is partly just a case of reading the right thing at the right time, but the story hit me like a freight train.
I loved the fact that in this story, the characters actually discuss whether the alien is a metaphor. To the main character, in light of her mother's death, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters.
The grief of the death and the mystery of the uncommunicative alien, however, are wonderfully paralleled, making this one of the most nuanced explorations of emotion I've recently seen in Asimov's.
In short - this is a fantastic story and well worth the time to read.

"Footprint" 4.5/5
In a sense, this felt like a story within a story - the story of a woman leaving for Mars within the story of her mother remembering all the steps that led up to that moment. More than that, it's a story about life and death and birth - a baby on the way, the mother's cancer diagnosis, and the plight of the earth.
I thought that the story was really well told and only missed out on a 5 because I didn't feel there were any elements to the story that I felt I haven't seen before.
For what it is though, the story is great.

"Return to Glory" 3.5/5
This was a fun story and I like the arc it took.
At the same time, I wasn't totally sure how the "rediscovered" episode spoke to the theme of the story itself. Additionally, maybe it was due to the fact that the story was just so short, but the characters weren't the most vividly memorable.
Profile Image for Shawn Deal.
Author 9 books15 followers
December 20, 2021
A wonderful collection of stories with the hallmark piece being Connie Willis’s newest Christmas story.
Profile Image for Antonio Ippolito.
272 reviews25 followers
December 19, 2020
Il vostro recensore ha una gran voglia di fantascienza tradizionale, che includa scienza, galassie, robot.. se il tutto ha un tocco bizzarro ed eganiano, come nel racconto di apertura “Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria” **** di Sam Schreiber, va benissimo! un folle racconto in uno scenario multidimensionale che piacerebbe a Egan, un Babbo Natale agente secreto riluttante per un’Agenzia galattica, e con un alter ego meno rassicurante.. ma anch’esso molto tradizionale. Divertimento sfrenato e intelligente.
Questo numero non è weird come da tradizione per novembre; è addirittura natalizio, come si è detto; ma la cosa è accettabile, se presentata con la grazia e il brio di “Take a Look at the Five and Ten” **** di Connie Willis. Un racconto che in fondo non ha nulla di fantascientifico, se non in quanto lo è qualunque esplorazione approfondita dell’animo umano: qui la protagonista e il suo fidanzato cercando di disseppellire i fatti, che temono scabrosi, dietro a un ricordo lieto ma ripetuto ossessivamente dalla nonna. Deliziosa commedia psichiatrico-sentimental-natalizia, ne verrebbe fuori un buon film o almeno mediometraggio. Non ho potuto non rileggere però l’affascinante “I met a traveller in an antique land”, capolavoro weird della Willis uscito due anni fa.
Tutt’altro che natalizio “The Mirages” *** di Alaya Dawn Johnson, dove la necessità di fuggire da un Messico devastato dai cambiamenti climatici verso i privilegiati USA ha spinto una coppia al divorzio; lei a trovare un compagno in grado di portare lei e la figlia al sicuro oltre confine, lui che cerca di salvare il rapporto con la figlia. Tra strazianti decisioni e spagnolismi che non si trovano sui vocabolari (guero, chamango), un racconto a tinte forti. Ma meriterebbe anche solo per avermi spinto a indagare cosa fu la cocolitzli.
“The Hind” **** di Kevin J. Anderson e Rick Wilber; Wilber è un autore versatile e brillante, che su ASFM ha già pubblicato da solo una serie di racconti di spionaggio in una società degli anni ucronica, in collaborazione con tal Aiken un bel racconto emotivo, ‘Ithaca’. Qui con Anderson [prolifico autore, nonchè coautore dei seguiti di Dune] ci dà un racconto di fantascienza classica, rivista con occhio moderno: un racconto piacevolissimo, che mette d’accordo tutti; un’atmosfera angosciante, che si riesce a risolvere positivamente. Sulla Hind (ormai ho perso il conto di quante astronavi siano state battezzate come l’ammiraglia di sir Francis Drake quando circumnavigò il globo), astronave generazionale ormai da decenni allo sbando e fuori rotta, i sopravvissuti si barcamenano come possono; un Consiglio dirigente concede le migliori condizioni di vita a chi è disposto a diventare cacciatore di taglie ed eliminare pericolosi ribelli, che minacciano la residua integrità della nave. Una giovane madre decide di accettare questa difficile proposta, pensando al futuro della figlia; ma ha difficoltà a uccidere le persone sulla sua lista, a volte perché non può credere che siano pericolose, altre volte per troppa concorrenza.. ed è meglio così: perché prima di riuscire a fare la sua vittima, avrà diverse rivelazioni sulla vita nell’astronave, che le apriranno gli occhi.
“Forget Mr. Z,” *** di Chen Quifan. ASFM continua ad avere molta attenzione per la narrativa cinese; anche se tradotto, abbiamo qui un racconto di una delle figure-ponte che stanno emergendo tra le due culture. Scritto con l’eleganza e il formalismo che fanno sentire gli schemi di una cultura diversa dalla nostra, ci dà una nuova prospettiva su un paese a noi vicino e forse non abbastanza conosciuto: l’Albania degli anni 70/80, bastione del socialismo reale di osservanza maoista. Una storia piacevole e complessa vista da una prospettiva sorprendente.
“Grief, as Faithful as my Hound” *** di Marissa Lingen è il più weird dei racconti presenti: il lutto di una ragazza per la perdita della madre avviene simultaneamente a un’innocua ma incomprensibile invasione aliena; lei è una delle poche centinaia di persone che sarà seguita notte e giorno da un bislacco extraterrestre simile a un budino alla banana. Metafora dell’elaborazione del lutto al confine tra tragico e umoristico, scritta con sensibilità.
“Footprint” *** di Kate Maruyama è un bel racconto, psicologicamente intenso, anche se fin troppo femminile: seguiamo una donna nei giorni in cui è in visita la figlia, scienziata che ha risolto il problema del riscaldamento globale, grazie all’educazione che lei ha saputo darle tenendo a distanza il padre (separato e comunque ormai defunto da tempo). Scoprirà che non solo la figlia è incinta, ma che la di lei compagna potrà accompagnarla su Marte, nella prima spedizione umana. Emozioni di nonna.
“Pull it from the Root” di Zack Be dimostra che il vostro recensore ha idiosincrasie gravi, ma coerenti: ho smesso di leggere questo racconto dopo 1 pagg, esattamente come un altro racconto di Be apparso l’anno scorso. Stile troppo convoluto e beffardo, o forse semplicemente oltre le mie competenze linguistiche.
Con “Return to Earth”, *** James Gunn mostra di aver preso gusto alla serie di racconti ‘From the Stars’: questo è il terzo episodio, sempre scritto in stile tecno-brillante. Dopo secoli torna sulla Terra un robot mandato a esplorare un pianeta abitabile. Purtroppo l’umanità non riesce ad accogliere il suo messaggio, perché il pianeta è stato catastroficamente sommerso. Le sue risorse sono vaste: riesce a risvegliare due avatar di personaggi dei racconti precedenti, ormai solo memorie in cui è stata salvata la loro personalità: riuscirà questo terzetto assortito di robot a ripristinare una situazione vivibile?
“The Long Iapetan Night” ***** di Julie Novakova, scrittrice ceca che è anche traduttrice verso il ceco e l’inglese, è a mio parere il gioiello di questo numero. Dopo un secolo di collasso economico dovuto a catastrofi ambientali, una serie di spedizioni viene inviata sulle lune di Saturno, anche per capire cosa fosse successo alle colonie ivi abbandonate al momento della catastrofe. Una serie di fatti misteriosi scatena il terrore nelle due spedizioni che hanno occupato le vecchie basi su Giapeto; l’alternanza fra il racconto di una protgonista e il diario di una superstite di cent’anni prima porta a un crescendo di terrore, con un certo orrore cosmico. Tra l’altro l’ambientazione sulla luna Giapeto, scoperta da Cassini, è originale e dettagliata; le particolarità di questo insolito satellite sono ben mostrate, anzi varrebbe la pena leggere qualcosa in proposito prima. Si parla addirittura del minerale ‘regolith’ come nella trilogia marziana di KSR.
“Return to Glory” *** di Jack McDevitt è un piacevole anticlimax: piacerà molto ai fan di Star Trek.
Profile Image for Denise Barney.
322 reviews7 followers
December 23, 2020
I'm always excited when I see Connie Willis's name on the cover, especially in the November/December issue! This year's novella, "Take a Look at the Five and Ten," doesn't have aliens lurking 'neath the Christmas tree, but is a delightful story about memories and family and, sometimes, a little outside help--from relatives and, maybe, from science. I would love to see this story made into a holiday movie! (Hallmark Channel--are you listenin'?) And it didn't hurt that I remember Woolworth's. :)

I have to stop reading the "On Books" column--Paul DiFilippo makes his selections sound irresistable! My TBR (To Be Read) stack is high enough, thank you!

"Christmas At the Hilbert Astoria" takes St. Nick to another dimension. "The Hind" takes place on a generation ship where the protagonist must think outside the box. I read "The Long Iapetann Night" the same time I was reading Good Morning, Midnight and found the two stories strangely complementary. In "Grief, As Faithful As My Hound" aliens come to Earth and choose to follow certain people. No one knows why the aliens choose who they do, but the protagonist is one of the chosen.

There are several poems in this issue. My favorite is "Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle."

All-in-all, a good mix of science fiction and stories-with-science-in-them.
607 reviews3 followers
December 12, 2020
Sam Schreiber has Nick (a jolly bearded fellow) called in to help solve the murder of 47 guests at “Christmas At The Hilbert Astoria” which has ∞ rooms and never any empty ones. But when Nick and his detective sidekick find that there do seem to be empty rooms and the kill count is in billions, things get crazy. The generation ship “The Hind” was holed by meteoroids 50 years ago and now if a baby is born someone must die. To this end the council have a list of people the mothers must kill…but what if the list is not just worthless people? Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber give us an excellent tale! When robot 101 returned from a terraforming mission to a super Earth 40 LY away it finds the Earth drowned. With the aid of two minds in boxes it tries to rid the Earth of the excess water but it will take time and some humans may just have adapted to it. James Gunn’s “Return From The Stars” is a cautionary tale. A century after a global catastrophe caused the abandonment of a mission on Iapetus, a new mission arrives to see what happened on the Saturnian moon. No trace of the crew is found and the current crew members are having all sorts of ‘accidents’ in Julie Novakova’s spooky “The Long Iapetan Night”, while Connie Willis gives us the uplifting tale “Take A Look At The Five And Ten” where a researcher of TFBMs (Traumatic Flashbulb Memories) searches for the trauma that triggered an old woman’s interminable story of one Christmas working at Woolworth’s but gets drawn into her fantasy a bit too much.
Profile Image for Boat Onion.
43 reviews2 followers
December 31, 2020
I really enjoyed this issue.

Grief As Faithful As My Hound / Footprint / Return To Glory / Take A Look at the Five and Ten were standouts. They felt uplifting. A sense of heart and optimism ran concurrently between them that I didnt know I was craving.

Christmas At The Hilbert Astoria was a weird mindf*ck that I couldnt get enough of. Santa and a winged monkey travel through a hotel with infinite rooms, briefly interacting with neutron stars only to uncover a murder plot? Brilliant.

The Hind felt a little underwhelming as it climaxed, but I enjoyed the world-building and political intrigue in the desolate ship enough. I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the family angle, but maybe thats only because the positivity from the aformentioned four was so strong.

Forger Mr Z had a great concept as well but slightly fizzled out toward the end. Again a bit of a trip, reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction to a degree. The dystopian corporate setting juxtaposed with the creative process, though, was a great hook.

Pull It From The Root was fine. Didnt leave much of an impression overall, but the locale as well as bioenhancement-obsessed gang kept my attention.

The Long Iapetan Night and Return were both DNFs for me though. Not because they were awful, but the writing felt dense; I couldnt wrap my head around it. Just a matter of taste at the time.

Nothing in here was bad, the filler was still worthy of a skim, the emotional highs resonate with presence and the worlds all hooked me. This issue was great and I had a good time with it.
Profile Image for David H..
1,968 reviews18 followers
June 27, 2021
Connie Willis is usually a delight to read, and "Take a Look at the Five and Ten" is a great story on its own. But I had an incredibly hard time seeing what the SF/F part of this story is (it's not necessarily a great sign when you're wondering why a magazine is publishing a story in the first place...). As best as I can tell, the only speculative element is That's it. *shrugs* It's a great story, as I said, but it's basically a romantic comedy otherwise.

Among the novelettes, my favorites were Sam Schreiber's "Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria" and Chen Qiufan's "Forger M. Z": the former has Santa and a flying monkey investigating a murder mystery in an infinite hotel, and the latter is a fun piece of metafiction featuring a bored call center worker/writer who makes up a fictional Albanian SF writer to get ahead in his career. Honorable mention to "The Long Iapetan Night" by Julie Novakova. There's something about Gunn's style that really puts me off it, and "Return from the Stars" was a really disappointing example of it.

"Grief, as Faithful as My Hound" by Marissa Lingen practically devastated me, as it follows a woman with a dying mother and followed her as she dealt with her grief, and oh yeah, there's a weird alien blob following her. Jack McDevitt's "Return to Glory" was also quite amusing (and a bit of a love letter to Star Trek fandom). I wanted to like "Footprint" by Maruyama more than I did since it says a lot of great things about parenting, but I honestly just felt a bit offended that while she tried to preserve Eliza's free will, at the end she prevented her from knowing that --it was never made clear to me why Eliza had to go to Mars right then and there.
Profile Image for Anita.
135 reviews1 follower
Currently reading
January 25, 2021
Listened to “Grief, as Faithful as My Hound” by Marissa Lingen.

I really liked this one. Listened to it on Asimov’s Spotlight podcast. I think I can empathize really well with the motions of grief (esp one after losing a parent), and I can totally understand the feeling of an alien attached to you as you go through it. I could resonate with the crushing feeling of the numerous things you need to do, but doing them is almost ritualistic, but also each one a burden of its own and so odd and strange in its own way. So… alien, I suppose.


Didn’t get to read the other stories in this issue yet.
Profile Image for Paul.
253 reviews
November 6, 2020
Ratings for this issue:

A+ (outstanding):

The Hind by Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber
The Long Iapetan Night by Julie Novakova
Take a Look at the Five & Ten by Connie Willis

A (excellent):

Return from the Stars by James Gunn
Return to Glory by Jack McDevitt

B (very good):

Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria by Sam Schreiber
Forger Mr Z by Chen Qiufan
Pull it from the Root by Zack Be

C (average):

The Mirages by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Grief, as Faithful as my Hound by Marissa Lingen

D (poor):

Footprint by Kate Maruyama
Profile Image for Michael Frasca.
263 reviews3 followers
December 1, 2020
Here are my favorite stories from this issue:

- Take a Look at the Five and Ten by Connie Willis.
I’m going to wait until I receive my copy of the Subterranean Press edition before I review this novella.

- Grief, as Faithful as My Hound by Marissa Lingen.
Orange-colored banana-flavored alien anthropologists silently follow around humans to ?? A great story for close reading to understand the grieving process of our patients.

- Footprint by Kate Maruyama.
Building a rocket and parenting a child—you do your best to raise them right. After you set them loose you hope they reach their targets, whether that be happiness or Mars.

- Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria by Sam Schreiber.
The Hilbert Astoria: never full—“Always room for N + 1 more(tm).” Management needs Nick to quickly search all the rooms for a problem that is infinitely more dangerous than bedbugs. Does he have the time/space warping chops to handle it?

- The Hind by Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber.
A crippled generational ship with dwindling resources—if you want a child, you have to trim the dead wood. Just don’t cut too close.

- Forger Mr. Z by Chen Qiufan, (Translated by Andy Dudak)
A story within a story within a story…then the edges start to bleed into each other before the big reveal. An excellent translation of a masterful tale.

- The Long Iapetan Night by Julie Novakova.
A haunted house horror/survival mystery set on a dark, cold and inhospitable moon of Saturn. Croatoa-ish?
April 18, 2021
I took way too long to read this. It's an excellent edition - I love the Christmas-themed stories (Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria, Take a Look at Five and Ten). Pull It from the Root and The Hind are solid sci-fi stories (backwater moon shenanigans and the plight of a failing generational ship). Finally, The Mirages and Grief, as Faithful as my Hound bring some more personal, emotional stories to it.
63 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2021
Best Stories:
Pull it from the Root by Zack Be
Take a Look at the Five & Ten by Connie Willis
The Long Iapetan Night by Julie Novakova

Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria by Sam Schreiber was good, and deserves a special acknowledgement for determining that a dimension-hopping, time travelling sci-fi Santa's natural nemesis would be an evil hunk of coal.
30 reviews1 follower
November 14, 2020
A fun read. A good selection of stories and even a sprinkle of Christmas which was irresistible to engage with.
Profile Image for Brian.
83 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2020
Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria - 4/5
The Mirages - 2/5
The Hind - 3/5
Grief, as Faithful as My Hound - 3/5
Forger Mr. Z - 3/5
Return from the Stars - 2/5
Footprint - 3/5
Pull It From the Root - 1/5
The Long Iapetan Night - 4/5
Return to Glory - 3/5
Take a Look at the Five and Ten - 4/5
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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