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Writers of the Future, Volume XVIII
Algis Budrys
Galaxy Press, 462 pages

Writers of the Future, Volume XVIII
Algis Budrys
Algis Budrys may be the closest thing we have to a true renaissance man. He began his career in the 50s with some of that decade's most memorable SF, including the classics Who? (1958) and Rogue Moon (1960), and his more recent fiction -- novels such as Michaelmas (1977) and Hard Landing (1993) -- has been just as hard hitting. In later years, he devoted much of his energies towards criticism as an influential SF reviewer. In 1993 he launched one of the freshest new science fiction magazines of the nineties, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, a Hugo award-nominee. In 1997, the magazine lived up to its name as Budrys pushed his child out of the nest and took it online, making it one of the first true commercial SF webzines. Budrys was the Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction convention in San Antonio, Texas, LoneStarCon 2.

ISFDB Bibliography
Algis Budrys hints on writing
Algis Budrys Speaks
The Writers of the Future Contest

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

This anthology surprised me with the quality of the stories, though really, based on some of the names on the selection committee -- Greg Benford, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl, et. al. -- no surprise is warranted. I have never read through an anthology that didn't have some unevenness in the story quality, but here the writing talent of those featured is clearly, and consistently, evident.

Some of the stories make use of fairly conventional SF themes: "Rewind" and "Eating, Drinking, Walking" both have a Matrix-like quality about them, with "Rewind" making use of time manipulation, and a soldier who can move backwards in time for short bursts to negate, for instance, getting shot; "Eating, Drinking, Walking" presents a young man whose every need is provided for by "the City," while he reclines on what seems to amount to an ultra-sophisticated water mattress. These stories, while rather traditional, are not painfully so.

"All Winter Long" by Jae Brim is an impressive piece of fantasy that manages to draw on some mythological elements to create its own mythology, and the result is quite strong. The child of the Poet King must journey outside the City of Dreams to confront the Wind King in the Land Beyond, and to try to inherit the power that the dead Poet King still is able to bequeath to her. A "companion" piece to this is "Windseekers," by Nnedi Okorafor, which also borrows what sounds like some very real pieces of tribal mythology to create a story in which two characters are destined either to love or kill one another in a cycle that may or may not have a possible resolution.

The gem of this collection is "The Haunted Seed" by Ray Roberts. Ship 701 travels between star systems, looking for a world to seed, unable to do so because it has become effectively dysfunctional, and haunted by the bits of recorded image the ship has retained of a crew long since dead. I was impressed with the author's ability to build and sustain a genuinely creepy atmosphere here. I don't think a reader will lose sleep over this one, but I do think he or she will be impressed by a modern, technically-manifested haunting, with a ship's computer trying frantically not to succumb to an insanity inspired by utter loneliness.

Copyright © 2003 Stephen M. Davis

Steve Davis is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a long-standing contributor to the SF Site. Currently, when not reviewing, he teaches for Anderson College in South Carolina and for the Kaplan College online program.

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