A science fiction short story collection. Part of the Women in SF bundle I bought last year.
Publication year: 2012
Page count: 291
The first collection (Near) contains stories set in the near future and the second one (Far) has stories set in the far future. Many of the stories focus on subtle but effective human relationships. The SF element is integral to the story and it can be a living fur coat or superhero powers. The world-building in every story ranges from great to amazing and I really enjoyed most of the stories.
The near future stories range from cyperpunk to superheroes and to just weird. It’s just amazing how easily she can write in several sub genres. Most stories also have more than one layer. The first one is a great example of multiple layers.
The Mermaids Singing, Each to Each: A few decades ago, a genetic scientist changed some willing people into mermaids. But their kids, the natural born mermaids, are savage creatures who attack humans and eat them. Lulu and the crew salvage ships, or parts of them, from earlier times and survive on the money from them. The crew just has to steer clear of the mermaids. Oh and Lulu used to be female but has changed to gender neutral.
Peaches of Immortality: Four people in high school were already cool and hip and they all went to live their own dreams. Or at least that’s what it looked like to Glen who has always been attracted to one of the cool people but never actually dated her. Then some really strange things start to happen.
Close Your Eyes: Amber is a very successful children’s book author. But she has to support her brother Lewis who is terminally ill and his medication costs a fortune. They live together in a shabby house and start to loath each other. Then Lewis finds a new hobby and for while things starts to look better.
Therapy Buddha: Lyle has just turned 40. He’s a data-seller for corporation and while he’s a loner, he’s not too unhappy with his life. But then the Buddha starts to talk. It’s a toy, really, something that tells koans and uses kitchen psychology questions. But somehow it really affects Lyle.
Ms. Liberty gets a Haircut: A superhero story! Ms. Liberty, X, Dr. Arcane, and Kilroy are looking for some new members for their still nameless group.
10 New Metaphors for Cyberspace: Exactly what the title says.
Memories of Moments, Bright as Falling Stars: The protagonist and his girlfriend Grizz find some unused memory chips and use them so that they can get out of the streets and into a better life. But it’s harder than they thought.
RealFur: The protagonist lives with her brother Larry and sister-in-law Libby. One day, Larry buys her and Libby a RealFur, a long, wearable fur which is alive. Larry is often away, working, and Libby gets more and more attached to her RealFur.
Nor Waving, But Drowining: The protagonist’s husband Emilio decides to join PsyKorps. Emilio isn’t a telepath so he’ll have to undergo surgery for an implant which will make him a telepath. His wife Jamie doesn’t understand the choice, especially because a marriage with a telepath always ends in divorce. But Emilio says that their marriage will last.
Vocobox TM: The Vocobox gives a cat an intelligence augmentation and a voicebox but the only thing Dora’s cat ever says is his own name, Raven. Dora’s children are grown and gone and her husband works long hours.
Long Enough and Just So long: Kayne runs a courier ship between Earth, Moon, Mars, and other places. Her favorite place to stay for a longer time is the Moon where her best friend lives. Together they also salvage “junk” which might turn out to be valuable. One day, they see an emancipated sexbot and become interested in him.
Legends of the Gone: Most of the human race has vanished without a trace and those left behind can’t get children anymore. The survivors live as best they can.
Futures: Flash fiction about possible futures.
Kallakak’s Cousins: Kallakak is a merchant on a space station. He’s in danger of losing his small shop and on top of things, his wife’s idiot cousins come to visit, or rather to stay as he quickly realizes.
Amid the Words of War: This is the tale of a small, insect like alien who works in a humanoid whorehouse.
Timesnip: Victoria has been timesnipped; she has been taken from the past and brought to the future. Or rather she was copied in the past: the original still stays in the past. Now, she works for the timesnip company. Her newest assignment takes her to a society which she loathes.
Angry Rose’s Lament: Paul Rutter is a former addict and a company representative. He owns the company along with other former addicts and their future is depended on the next contract. Paul is negotiating a business contract with an alien species which hasn’t made a contract with humans before. There’s a very good reason for that: they’re brain eaters.
Seeking Nothing: Sean grew up on a very old Testament settlement and now he’s gotten a job outside the planet. He’s going to be working with clones, which are labeled subhumans. He has a hobby which has never been accepted at his home: perfume making. However, that’s exactly the skill he requires in his new job. But the people, the real humans, in the new job shun him.
A Querulous Flute of Bone: Ector is an alien who is so obsessed with one thing that it hasn’t even chosen a gender yet. It is looking for objects which are metaphors for certain emotions. It travels widely in search of the artifacts and even has a rival. Then one day, it finds something better than its quest.
Zeppelin Follies: Adelaine writes code for romance novels. She has an unassuming BodySuit with only one enchantment but still a younger woman with a Kali BodySuit takes an interest in her. Adelaine’s boss is also thinking about selling the business to GE (General Emotions) which means that the coding will be outsourced to Mars and Addie will have to look for a new job.
Space Elevator Music: Flash fiction about space age elevator.
Surrogates: Belinda and Barry have just gotten married. Belinda has an Insanity Chip which makes her see things. She loves it but Barry hates it.
Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain: Tikka is a Minor Propagandist working for the Bureau for Tourism on the planet Procelain. She’s supposed to write things which entice humans to visit the planet. But then a human takes interest in her.
Bus Ride to Mars: Djanga is traveling to Mars. On the way, she overhears the stories of some of her fellow travelers.
My favorites were “Ms. Liberty gets a haircut”, “Kallakak’s Cousins”, “Timesnip”, “Angry Rose’s Lament”, “Amid the Words of War”, and “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”. They all have strong world-building and most have non-human main characters. Sometimes I could see the way the story would end but that didn’t bother me.
A great read.