The Short: I recently read “The Good New Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition” (1999, St. Martin’s Griffin”), an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois. My overall rating was 3.79/5, or almost “Great”. The contents fit the title. Recommended, as long as that sounds good to you.
The full Story: We selected “The Good New Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition” (1999, St. Martin’s Griffin”), an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois, for a group read in the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Fiction reading group on Facebook.
It starts with a very good Preface by Dozois, explaining clearly what he was attempting to do with the anthology. Dozois also included author/story introductions, which is a real plus for me.
My overall rating for the 17 stories included was a robust 3.79/5, or just under “Great”. The stories were published originally between 1977 and 1998.
Stories that I had read before that I loved seeing again included:
- “Swarm”, a Shaper/Mechanist novelette by Bruce Sterling from F&SF April 1982, and a classic in my opinion.
- “A Dry, Quiet War”, a novelette by Tony Daniel, from Asimov’s June 1996.
- “Guest of Honor”, a novelette by Robert Reed, released first on cassette by AudioText (Great Science Fiction Stories) 1991.
Stories that were new to me that I loved included:
- “The Return of the Kangaroo Rex”, a Mirabile novelette by Janet Kagan, Asimov’s October 1989.
- “The Way of Cross and Dragon”, a Thousand Worlds novelette by George R. R. Martin, Omni June 1979.
- “Poles Apart”, a Trimus novella by G. David Nordley, Analog December 1992.
- “The Eye of God”, a novelette by Mary Rosenblum, Asimov’s March 1998.
- “The Blind Minotaur”, a short story by Michael Swanwick, Amazing Stories March 1985.
- “The Blabber”, a Zones of Thought novella by Vernor Vinge, from his collection “Threats … and Other Promises”, 1988 Baen.
These stories that were new to me that I loved were the best part of the anthology for me. I had been looking forward to reading Vinge’s “The Blabber” especially, as the start of his writing and thinking about issues, universe and characters that showed up in “A Fire Upon The Deep” and other Zones of Thought works.
There were 8 stories at “Very good”. Nothing I’d obviously omit, but these were not amazing either.
As was commented by others in our group read, “Swarm” was the only obvious classic or widely well remembered story here. I do think Dozois met his goal of an anthology for “the good new stuff: adventure SF in the grand tradition”, but it also limited the anthology in some ways. I enjoyed reading it, and I recommend reading it as long as this kind of SF appeals to you.
It’s also worth noting that Dozois issued an earlier anthology with a similar goal, but with older and perhaps more “classic” work, “Good Old Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition” (1998 St. Martin’s Griffin), with work from 1948 to 1971. I have not read this, but there are certainly many stories in it that I remember fondly. If you liked this, you’ll probably like that one also. There is also an omnibus edition that contains both the “good old stuff” and the “good new stuff”, titled “The Good Stuff” (Science Fiction Book Club 1999).
Detailed Reviews/Comments: Spoilers all over the place!
“Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe“, an Eight Worlds novelette by John Varley, Asimov’s Spring 1977. A good story of a man in a second childhood in a Disney on Pluto, and the end of all that. I’m sure I read this in Varley’s “The Barbie Murders” (1980 Berkeley) collection. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Way of Cross and Dragon“, a Thousand Worlds novelette by George R. R. Martin, Omni June 1979. A great story of a Knight Inquisitor for New Rome, and a heretical order (“The Way of Cross and Dragon”) and the Liars. I think it’s probably best for Martin to not destroy the mystery, but I would have loved to see another story about the Liars. Hugo and Locus winner, Nebula finalist, and reprinted in “The 1980 Annual World’s Best SF“, Arthur W. Saha & Donald A. Wollheim editors, DAW Books, and “Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Ninth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1980 E. P. Dutton. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Swarm“, a Shaper/Mechanist novelette by Bruce Sterling, F&SF April 1982. A great story in the battle between two perhaps posthuman factions, the cyborg Mechanists and the bio/genetically modified Shapers. They both send agents to take advantage of the biological/genetic and other riches of the Swarm, a nominally non-intelligent species. The surviving agent of the Shapers discovers that the Swarm does possess frightening capabilities and intelligence, only manifesting it when needed. The Swarm is a trap, and they plan to use humans as another modified client species. Hugo, Locus and Nebula nominee, and reprinted in “The 1983 Annual World’s Best SF“, Arthur W. Saha & Donald A. Wollheim editors, DAW Books/New American Library of Canada, and “The Best Science Fiction of the Year #12“, Terry Carr editor, 1983 Timescape/Pocket Books. Rated 4/5, or “Great”.
“The Blind Minotaur“, a short story by Michael Swanwick, Amazing Stories March 1985. A great Swanwick story, of a creche bred immortal and his life with his young but possibly immortal daughter. And of being blind. I think this story had some Delany influence. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“The Blabber“, a Zones of Thought novella by Vernor Vinge, from his collection “Threats … and Other Promises“, 1988 Baen. A great story of a young man and the Blabber, and how neither is who they thought they were. Ravna returns, and the tines. I am sure I have read this before but did not remember it; it originally showed up in the Vinge collection noted above. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“The Return of the Kangaroo Rex“, a Mirabile novelette by Janet Kagan, Asimov’s October 1989. This is the second story by Janet Kagan I’ve read; I’ve liked both of them a lot. I need some recommendations for books or stories of hers to read. An Earth colony appears to be isolated, with some knowledge lost. Ingenious biological scientists from Earth inserted extra genes into space that is junk for many colony animal samples. Many breed true, but some express different Earth animal characteristics and may breed into another, probably extinct animal. The kangaroo rex shows up, and a senior, elderly and somewhat curmudgeonly biologist leads the effort to figure out what to do. I loved this story. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Prayers on the Wind“, a novella by Walter Jon Williams, from a Lewis Shiner anthology on nonviolent conflict resolution, “When the Music’s Over“, 1991 Bantam Spectra. Read first in “The Best of Walter Jon Williams” (2021 Subterranean), this is an interesting story of a future reincarnation of the Dalai Lama on a distant planet. The reincarnation is twisted by the Minister/scientist who is in charge of his growth and birth. The reincarnation decides to die to let an untwisted version follow him. The planet is a giant library and information system, for the monks and others. There is a potential conflict with an alien race, with the leader instructing followers not to resist in line with the teachings of Buddha. Nebula finalist, reprinted in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Ninth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1992 St. Martin’s Press. Rated 3.5 first read, I liked this even better the second time; upgraded to 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Missionary’s Child“, a novelette by Maureen F. McHugh, Asimov’s October 1992. This feature an older Janna, who I first met in McHugh’s 1996 “The Cost to be Wise“. She has served as a soldier, but is down and out. We meet her as Jahn, who is hired by a very sketchy merchant who is trying to sell illegal navigation maps. The deal goes bad, and Jahn escapes with the merchant’s niece, who drew the maps from memory. Jahn is injured during the escape. The pair make it back to the girl’s home island, where an unconscious Jahn is revealed to be Janna. A very good story, one perhaps told in more detail in McHugh’s “Mission Child” (1998 Avon Eos), which I need to read. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“Poles Apart“, a Trimus novella by G. David Nordley, Analog December 1992. The only other story by David Nordley I remember reading is his “Into the Miranda Rift.” I would not characterize his writing here as that of an amazing stylist or wordsmith, but I thought the characters well wrought and the plot and world worked for me. Three Galactic, space traveling races have established experimental colonies on a world to see if they can coexist. One aspect of this is primitive areas where minimal technology is allowed. The protagonists are a team of Monitors who ensure the three race Agreement is met. Things go badly when they investigate reports of violations in a primitive area. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
“Guest of Honor“, a novelette by Robert Reed, first appeared as a audio cassette from Audiotext (Great Science Fiction Stories), 1991, and then in F&SF June 1993. Wow. For all that received no award nominations, this is one hell of a story. With it’s inclusion into multiple anthologies by Dozois, he thought this was a great story. Future immortal humans have decided that traveling in outer space is too dangerous. However, they are able to create compilation people, from many “parents”, and send them out exploring. About one half survive to return. The protagonist, Pico, meets her parents before she is disassembled and her mind shared with her parents. She is terrified. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
“Flowering Mandrake“, a novelette by George Turner, from “Alien Shores: An Anthology of Australian Science Fiction“, Peter McNamara & Margaret Winch editors, 1994 Aphelion Publications . A very good story of First Contact, with an intelligent plant based being sent outside the solar system of origin unintentionally in a life craft. 8,000 years later it reaches the Solar System. Unfortunately, it discovers that the natives are a version of it’s racial nemesis, Red Bloods. It commits suicide and causes a lot of death and destruction. Reprinted in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twelfth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1995 St. Martin’s Press. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“Cilia-of-Gold“, an Xeelee novelette by Stephen Baxter, Asimov’s August 1994. Humans are investigating what is wrong with the Sun with a facility in orbit near the sun. The project needs resources, and Mercury is an option. An expedition there discovers a massive five billion year old spaceship too advanced to come from anywhere but outside the Solar System. And another mystery, perhaps related to the crew of the ship. Reprinted in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Twelfth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1995 St. Martin’s Press. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“Gone to Glory“, a novelette by R. Garcia y Robertson, F&SF July 1995. A good off planet adventure story of a missing person, Neanderthals, and skullduggery. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“A Dry, Quiet War“, a novelette by Tony Daniel, Asimov’s June 1996. Checking, I read this a while ago in Gardner Dozois anthology “The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction“, 2005 St. Martin’s Griffin . A phenomenal story of time and universe hoping to fight the battle at the end of time, and a “man” who comes back from that and has to decide whether he will give up his future to save those he loves in the present. Reprinted in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1997 St. Martin’s Griffin Rated 4/5, or “Great”.
“All Tomorrow’s Parties“, a The Book of Confluence short story by Paul J. McAuley, Interzone, #119 May 1997. A far future story, of an immortal and her clones, and a war she did not know about. She was bored, but this fight gives her purpose. Connected to The Book of Confluence in ISFDB, although the connection is not directly obvious to me. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“Escape Route“, a Confederation Universe Stories novella by Peter F. Hamilton, Interzone, #121 July 1997. A very good story of an ill-stared prospecting expedition, where an advanced alien space ship is discovered and the crew’s partners turn out to be terrorist revolutionaries looking for pitchblende instead of gold or other valuable ores. Time travel is involved. Reprinted in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection“, Gardner Dozois editor, 1998 St. Martin’s Griffin. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
“The Eye of God“, a novelette by Mary Rosenblum, Asimov’s March 1998. A great story of humans and an alien race, the Rethe. The Rethe are superior to humans technically and will help humans travel to a few planets only. The Rethe hire a retired empath who is a climber to complete a risky task they are dishonest about. The outcome is difficult for everyone, but also hopeful for humans. I don’t know if Rosenblum wrote any other stories of humans and the Rethe, but I would read them! Reprinted in “Year’s Best SF 4“, David G. Hartwell editor, 1999 HarperPrism. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
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