Asimov's Science Fiction, January 2005

Reviewed date: 2004 Nov 14
143 pages
cover art

Something is wrong with science fiction today.

Back in the Golden Age of science fiction, technology was to be the savior of the world. Science would give us unlimited cheap clean energy, rockets ships to open up great new frontiers, and mankind was on the threshhold of eliminating war, strife, and poverty forever. This Golden Age produced the best that science fiction has to offer.

Then the Cold War gripped the world in a vise of nuclear mutually assured destruction. Science fiction turned dark; mankind was uncurably evil, the future was bleak. If nuclear war did not finish off man then certain doom would come by asteroid strike, or by global climate change, or by some other force against which mankind's technology was impotent. This era produced some great stories of tragedy and survival against all odds.

Now where are we? We've survived the Cold War and we've turned the corner: things are getting better--we're no longer threatened with global catastrophe, and modern technology has created a world unimaginable a mere fifty years ago. But science fiction has not returned to the unrestrained optimist of the Golden Age.

The best word to describe science fiction today is jaded. Modern science fiction depicts a jaded world. We have seen the wonders of technology and what have they brought us? Have they opened up new frontiers to explore? Has science given us unlimited energy? Has technology eliminated war and disease? No. It has given us high speed Internet so we can download pornography in the privacy of our own homes instead of sneaking out to the corner drugstore and stealing a copy of Playboy.

No wonder science fiction today is jaded. Today's writers grew up reading the Golden Age stories of how the future held limitless potential and grand new frontiers, and now we're at the future and all it's given us is high speed Internet.

I was born in the wrong decade. Send me back. Send me back to the Golden Age.

  • Novella: Inside Job, by Connie Willis - A skeptic investigates a medium who seems to be possessed by H.L. Mencken.
  • Novelette: Invasion of the Axbeaks, by Phillip C. Jennings - Eight-foot-fall wingless beaked aliens attack the human colony on Mullins' Planet.
  • Novelette: City of Reason, by Matthew Jarpe - Augmented humans fight a war of subterfuge in the Kuiper belt.
  • The Fate of Mice, by Susan Palwick - An IQ-boosted mouse dreams that he was once a horse.
  • Rhinemaidens, by Larry Niven - Nearly caught by mermaids.
  • Water Angel, by Bruce McAllister - Boy accidentally spears and kills a mermaid.

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