Monday, February 11, 2013

New and Old Asimov Stories

The "new Asimov stories" are ones from Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.  So in one respect, I am reviewing new Asimov's stories.

Title:  Dolly
Author:  Elizabeth Bear
First Publication:  Asimov's Science Fiction, Jan. 2011
Cover:  Tomislav Tikulin

Elizabeth Bear must be a fan of Isaac Asimov’s robot stories.  “Dolly” seems like a modern version of the classic Asimov robot mystery.  Bear’s robots are not as advanced as Asimov’s.  The positronic brain has not been developed.  The main characters, two detectives, are called in to investigate a closed room murder.  Only the victim and his robot companion are in the room.  The robot obviously had to commit the murder.  The question becomes who hacked into the programming to orchestrate the deed.  Or is something else going on…  Bear has captured the spirit of classic science fiction short story telling and combined it with a modern writing style.  After reading this story, I will be looking for more of Bear’s work in the future.

Title:  Brother Swine
Author:  Garret Ashley
First Publication:  Asimov's Science Fiction, Mar. 2013
Cover:  Tomislav Tikulin

The story takes place in a dystopian future.  The big difference, besides the disaster, is that people think that when you die you get reincarnated.  Most of “the returned” become insects, animals, or people.  One is thought to be a tree but it is not confirmed.  The author makes it clear that this is actually happening.  The story is written well enough but has one big problem.  No hint or explanation is given for what causes the people to be reincarnated.  If he had hinted at some cosmic event, alien experiment, or at least something I would have been happier with the story.  Since nothing is given, it comes off as a fantasy story masquerading as science fiction.  The author has obvious skill as a wordsmith but I think the lack of some explanation hurts the story.

Title:  Buy Jupiter!
Author:  Isaac Asimov
First Publication:  Venture SF, May 1958
Cover:  M. S. Dollens

This was a magazine I wished I could have found on the shelf of a bookstore.  The May issue contained stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Edmond Hamilton, Arthur C. Clarke, Algis Budrys, and Gordon R. Dickson.  At this point in his career, Asimov did not get his name on the cover.

"Buy Jupiter!"  is a fun short story about first contact.  What did the aliens really want?  That would ruin the story.  This is one that you have to read for yourself.  

Title:  A Statue for Father
Author:  Isaac Asimov
First Publication:  Satellite SF, Feb. 1959
Cover Artist:  Alex Schomburg

Sometimes inventors do not create what they set out to make.  Sometimes it is even better.  What happens when a father cannot accept that he will be remembered for something else?  You will have to read this Asimov story from 1959 to find out.

As usual, I am recommending another Asimov story.

Title:  Rain, Rain, Go Away
Author:  Isaac Asimov
First Publication:  Fantastic Universe, Sept. 1959
Cover Artist:  Richard Carlson

Another fun Asimov tale about the strange neighbors next door and why they are paranoid about rain.  This would have made a good Twilight Zone episode.

In comparing it to Garret Ashley's "Brother Swine", I found some similarities.  Both are slice of life style stories with no explanation of why the events are happening.  The difference is that Asimov implies that there might be a science fictional explanation.  Maybe I read too much into it but that is the feeling I get from the story.  

A lesser Asimov work that is still very much worth reading.

1 comment:

Carl V. Anderson said...

I like Dolly very much. I remember reading it when that issue came out. As I recollect I liked the entirety of that issue really well.

I just read Brother Swine last night, of all things, and I liked it. It didn't bother me that it did not have a scientific explanation as it felt more like a cultural/folklore story and I thought it worked really well. I can understand that argument though and expect I will find similar feelings about it amongst the SF community.