A reality tv show where it is literally about life and death is not a new idea in science fiction, and this story might not be very original, it still handles the subject in a very believable and engaging way.
The concept introduced here is pretty simple. 1000 people sign up for the event, everybody has to swallow a pill and a random person dies. Proceed to the next round to win more money or quit and keep your winnings. Rinse and repeat. The story is told by one half of a couple who entered together, so we know at least one of them survived, but how it all develops throughout the several months long tv program kept me hooked from start to finish.
It is sort of predictable how things escalates, how they have doubts as the odds gets worse and how they get hooked on the thrill so they can’t stop even though their winnings are already way beyond their initial goal. Even though the story didn’t throw any huge surprises at me – the ending being a slight exception but not huge – the execution from Gerrold is just very well done. I was hooked like it was an actual game show I was watching and everything surrounding it felt very realistic and plausible. I wouldn’t completely rule out such a reality show in some future at least.
This is a pretty short story set in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has killed almost everyone. A woman is strolling through an abandoned supermarket for supplies when she spots a man. Seeing other people alive is a rare event, so her first response is to flee.
However the man overpowers her, captures her and they go back to where she and another woman lives. The man tries to convince them that they shoudl get pregnant with him, so they can repopulate the Earth – and this will be a spoiler for the ending but I honestly don’t think readers will be missing much, but the women manages to kill him. Apparently they have killed several men before in a similar fashion.
It seems like the story at least to a degree tries to mimmick “Houston, Houston, do you read” by James Tiptree, Jr. with a premise of characterizing men as ultimately violent and misogynistic. Where the classic Tiptree story had fully fleshed out characters and handled the topic with plenty of ambiguity and nuances, this story simply turns the caricature of an incel man up to 11 only to kill him off instantly. All rather pointless and without any depth at all to the topic the story wants to deal with.
This debut story published in Galaxy’s Edge is a decent space opera type story about a human mind uploaded into a machine.
The story follow Susan who is working in an environment with lots of radiation and she has been diagnosed with a cancer she cannot afford the cure for. She does has the option of continue to “live” with her mind uploaded to a military robot. To continue her existence she must do well in the war. All her actions are rewarded or penalized with a point system and she will be terminated if her point score goes too low – or buy upgrades with enough points earned. On her very first mission she will need to think outside the box to survive.
I like how the story is straight to the point and just throws the reader and the protagonist right into a tough situation. The downside is that we barely get any character development, so even though it is easy to sympathize with Susans situation, it doesn’t have much weight and I didn’t really cared much what happened to her. It is easy to see the story as an allegory for the healthcare system in the US with its unequal access to proper treatment, and I am fine with stories with a message, but this story only manages to scratch the surface of the rather big science fiction theme on mind upload and getting a second life in an artificial body. Still, it is a decent debut story.
This novella is about genemods which Kress more or less made her writing career on. In this story gene modifications are still in the early stages, but a rogue group have successfully modified babies with a gene that make them more empathic. What I found interesting with this story is the perspective it is told from. Not directly from those involved with the gene modifications, but here from a manager of an actress preparing for her role in a movie about the first kids with this empathic gene. This is what Kress does best with these kind of stories, telling it from a more indirect angle. Following the consequences of new developments in research rather than the actual inventions. As the story goes, the manager and the actress gets more directly involved as things spiral out of control.
Even though the story is well written and the plot flow nicely, I did feel like some parts of the stories were a little constructed. Like the main character is a dwarf and has a broken relationship in the past involving a non-dwarf kid. All this of course makes a nice parallel to the gene modifications that are central to the story, but it is also a bit too neat.
Read in Galaxy’s Edge July & September 2022 Originally published in Asimov’s March 2009 ISFDB Link Rating: 3+