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Editor's Choice: Short Fiction Reviews
by David A. Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has been reading science fiction and fantasy for forty years. For the past four years he has edited TANGENT: The Only Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Fiction Review Magazine. It was runner-up for the 1997 Hugo Award. The intent of this column is to present reviews of selected short fiction that strike Dave's interest as his reading for Tangent continues. If you would like to read more short fiction reviews, try Tangent as it reviews every original story in all American, Canadian, British, and Australian professional SF & F magazines (as well as many others).

For more of David's opinions, we've put together a table of contents for other Editor's Choice columns.

For information on the contents of an issue or for subscription details, you can try the following sites:
Asimov's Science Fiction
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
On Spec
Cemetery Dance
Tomorrow SF
Current Cover
Science Fiction Age, May 1998
"Downsize, Downtime" Karen Haber
"Saddle Point: Roughneck" Stephen Baxter
"Marooned on the Railroad to Moscow" Eric T. Baker
"Just a Couple of Freelance Strikebreakers"Adam-Troy Castro
"The Hitchhiking Effect" Gene O'Neill
There is one particularly strong story that stands head and shoulders above the others in this issue, and is an obvious...

Editor's Choice:
"Saddle Point: Roughneck" by Stephen Baxter
Subtitled "A Novella in Three Parts," this story takes place on the Moon in the early 24th century. The Earth is a frozen wasteland devoid of humans, save for a rumored few gene-engineered "post-human types" living in the equatorial belt.

Frank Paulis is an entrepreneur, a businessman who has traveled -- via the alien Prion flowerships and several Saddle Point teleport gateways -- into the future and to different points in the cosmos. He now finds himself on a stagnant Moon just ripe for his visionary acumen. And what a grand vision he has! It is one which involves clandestinely diverting a comet into this barren world in order to seed it with the metals and other building blocks necessary for industry, not the least of which means drilling a large shaft into the center of the Moon in search of water (which has been only theorized to this point). But Paulis must play politician and suave fundraiser to get his mammoth, long-term project off the ground, which proves difficult, though ultimately successful.

Along the way, Baxter treats the reader to an insider's visit down the strangely glowing shaft to the center of the Moon, eliciting enough awe and capturing enough of the all too elusive sense-of-wonder for any three stories. We also visit a hermit who has been growing some very strange flowers made from moon-stuff, which also adds to Baxter's vision of a wonderfully strange and exotic universe.

Proving once again that to thoroughly enjoy 'hard' SF one need not know complicated mathematics or physics to appreciate the wonder of the universe and Man's place and struggles in it (though recalling a few of the basic, easily understandable concepts learned in high school only adds to the enjoyment), Baxter's "Saddle Point: Roughneck" joins Michael Swanwick's "The Very Pulse of the Machine" (Asimov's 2/98), "The Planck Dive" by Greg Egan (Asimov's 2/98), and Geoffrey A. Landis' "Approaching Perimelasma" (Asimov's 1/98) as an inspiring example of the best of hard SF.

One final observation that I have been reticent to point out, but which I now feel is apropos: SF Age is poorly proofread, plain and simple. Words are continually omitted, run together, or misspelled in issue after issue and, in at least one instance in this issue, a particular character's name is attributed with the dialogue from another. No magazine is perfect, but with a growing and continuing problem (which it has become for SF Age) which seems only to be getting worse to the point of distraction, something needs to be done. It's too bad, because SF Age has been printing some fine stories the past few years, an increasing number of which are making the awards ballots.

Copyright © 1998 by David A. Truesdale

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