Writers of the Future, volume 20

edited by Algis Budrys
Reviewed date: 2006 Apr 16
558 pages
cover art

On the whole I found this collection disappointing. The good stories are Bottomless, The Weapons of the Lord Are Not Carnal, and Sunrunners. (I've come to the conclusion that I'm a sucker for stories about the Moon, so Sunrunners can't help but be good.) The rest of the stories are average at best. I found this quotation from Sunrunners to be interesting: "Standing alone in the corridor, I considered the vagaries of life, friendship and the disadvantages of having an opposite sex."

  • Monkey See, Monkey Deduce, by Jonathan Laden - A scientist modifies chimpanzees to work in parallel, as a super-intelligent group mind. Caps, the Alpha Chimp, is augmented by the brainpower of the 16 chimps in his processing array.
  • Bottomless, by Luc Reid - Anp lives on the cliffs of the Pit, a world that has no bottom and no top. A Sun Thread suspended through the middle gives heat and light.
  • Flotsom, by Bradley P. Beaulieu - The aquatic yeavanni pay their debt to mankind by helping the men fight a sea battle against their enemies--whose ships are protected by the lizard-like salazaar.
  • Kinship, by Jason Stoddard - Alexander is sent to Earth to determine if the humanoid Kin qualify as people, or whether they are animals. The test is whether they have the capacity to mentally access the Grid, a civilization-wide information network that plugs directly into the mind of all humans.
  • In Memory, by Eric James Stone - Kenneth Granley is a human mind uploaded into a computer. His stupendous processing power allows him to live life at high speed, approximately one year of simtime per day of realtime. Everything is fine until he discovers that a large section of his memories--mostly from his pre-uploaded life--are missing.
  • The Key, by Blair MacGregor - Fantasy story. A warrior and a mage are sent through a Door to another world, where they find the Key, a person who will be the ruler of their twelve lost tribes. Once they find the Key, they must protect her from those who seek to influence her in favor of a particular tribe.
  • Cancilleri's Law, by Gabriel F. W. Koch - Dr. Artomo Blaylock awakens a woman who has been in chrono-stasis for two hundred years.
  • Sleep Sweetly, June Carter, by Joy Remy - Junie takes Deep Sleeps while her husband is off in space in the Service.
  • Conversation with a Mechanical Horse, by Floris M. Kleijne - Fantasy. Markus, caught in a Squeeze trap, tells his story to a mechanical donkey while he awaits the arrival of the evil lord Nico.
  • The Weapons of the Lord Are Not Carnal, by Andrew Tisbert - Brother Jon, a monk living on Mars, longs to give up the frailty of fleshly existence after he talks with a cybernetic metal man.
  • Sunrunners, by Matthew Champine - The Lunar Base Corporation runs a virtual fiefdom on the Moon, forcing people into labor contract. Frans Gould, aided by friend Peter Lagger, secretly intends to start a competing Moon base.
  • Shipwoman, by Roxanne Hutton - A race a undersea modified humans finds a damaged submarine and its shipwoman: a relatively unmodified human who cannot easily breathe water as they can.
  • Last Days of the Mahdi, by Tom Pendergrass - A secret agent disguised as a folk healer gains access to the Caliph, whom he must assassinate--but the assassin wonders if the Caliph is truly the Chose One of the house of the Prophet.
  • Asleep in the Forest of the Tall Cats, by Kenneth Brady - Pietor, the first child born on the colony on Mohave, has a dream-connection to the feline spirits that inhabit the planet's mysterious Tall Forest.
  • The Plastic Soul of a Note, by William T. Katz - A gifted pianist suffering from MS undergoes an experimental procedure to copy his mind into an android.

Nonfiction essays:

  • Art, More About, by L. Ron Hubbard - What makes a piece of art good? "Technical expertise adequate to produce an emotional impact."
  • On the Writing of Speculative Fiction, by Robert A. Heinlein - Heinlein tells us the secret of writing, which is that there are only three main story plots: Boy-meets-girl, The Little Tailor, and The Man-who-learned-better.
  • State of the Art, by Vincent Di Fate - A few words on what makes science fiction illustration different from other illustration.
  • False Summits, by Kevin J. Anderson - Every writer or aspiring writer has goals, and beyond each goal is another, bigger goal.

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