Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fast Forward 1 Edited by Lou Anders

Lou Anders has a very ambitious goal – to start a new anthology series in the tradition of past landmarks like Damon Knight’s Orbit and Frederik Pohl’s Star SF. I have not read those series, but it’s safe to say that Anders is on the right track with Fast Forward 1. This start to a knew series contains stories by such genre big names as Gene Wolfe, Larry Niven, and Mike Resnick and hot, newer voices such as Kage Baker, Robert Charles Wilson, Justina Robson, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ian McDonald and many more.

In the Introduction: “Welcome to the Future”, he provides another essay in a long tradition of essays lauding the importance and relevance of science fiction to our world. Honestly, it doesn’t say anything really new, but reiterated much of what others have said, however, he does say it well.

Anders speaks to science fiction’s ability to show us something new, to make us think. He goes on to remind us that so many important people behind advances in our society don’t just stand on the shoulders of previous scientists and engineers, but also on the inspiration provided by early science fiction writers. Science fiction is critical thought, it is skepticism, and it is rationalism. In that spirit, I’ll let Anders’ own words from the Introduction speak for themselves.

Here, then, are twenty-one windows on the future, as seen through the imagination of twenty-three different talents. Their collective visions take us from the far future to the day just after tomorrow. In their hands, science fiction is indeed a tool for making sense of a changing world. It’s not the only such tool, but it is an amazingly effective one. Who knew enlightenment could so much fun?
Each of the twenty-one stories accomplishes these goals in some way, each in their own way. “Small Offerings” by Paolo Bacigalupi shows us the poison of our society and its direct affect on the next generation in a dark, highly symbolic story that is so disturbing because we can envision it happening. “Aristotle OS” by Tony Ballantyne provides an equally saddening view of what our world could be, if only just…

Humanity of the far future is visited in “Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker, “Time for the Snake” by A.M. Dellamonica, and “The Terror Bard” by Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper. Humanity of a less distant future is visited in others.

Consequences reign for many – whether it’s the rather obvious consequence of rescuing a genetically derived saber-tooth tiger in “Pride” by Mary A. Turzillo or the less obvious consequences of the world’s greatest swordsman in “The Hour of Sheep” by Gene Wolf.

Consequence’s eternal companion, choice, follows right along. In “Solomon’s Choice” by Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress a doctor is faced with two unacceptable choices – is their a third? Will humanity choose to accept help from an unknown origin in “Settlements” by George Zebrowski, or will simply nuke the perceived enemy?

Elizabeth Bear brings attention to the teen ‘choking’ or ‘pass-out game’ in an interesting combination with quantum computers. Robyn Hitchcock provides two poetic interludes and “Sideways from Now” is beautifully told novella of love lost and telepathy by John Meany.

What science fiction anthology could be complete without satire – it’s no surprise to me that my favorites of the collection would be here. “Jesus Christ, Reanimator” by Ken Macleod relates the story of Christ’s second coming through the eyes of a reporter covering the event all the way to its inevitable conclusion. Anders appropriately chooses to conclude the anthology “Wikiworld” by Paul Di Fillipo. The wonderfully witty prose and plotting allow the anthology to end in a humorously satisfying stalemate.

Short stories are always difficult for me to review, and collections even more so. Certain stories always exceed those around them, and others can be total failures. Anders has done well to avoid the failures, though some are as forgettable as the page number. Of course others still keep me awake at night. Fast Forward 1 is better than most – 7.5/10.

EDIT: A short update post and a link to the Introduction.

2 comments:

Carl V. said...

It is interesting how vastly different in quality some short stories can be in compared to others in a collection. It is especially interesting to note when they are all by the same author. I think the only short story book that I have read recently in which I have enjoyed every story was The Masque of Manana by Robert Schekley but that was a science fiction book club compilation that was done specifically to highlight some of his best stories. Great stuff.

Neth said...

One of the most impressive things about Fast Forward 1 is that there aren't any of those bad stories that you usually find in collections. Sure, some are fairly forgettable (of course I've done a lot to kill brain cells over the years, so I may not be the best judge ;). And some of the stories really stick with you - especially “Small Offerings” by Paolo Bacigalupi.

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