- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Some of the most beloved names in science fiction spin all-new tales of interstellar adventure and wonder
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Robert Charles Wilson
John C. Wright
This solid follow-up anthology to 2007's The New Space Opera includes 19 new stories that show how far space opera has come since its pulp beginnings in the '30s and '40s. These entertaining and provocative tales of interstellar adventure, written by a laundry list of genre heavyweights, range from Mike Resnick's "Catastrophe Baker and a Canticle for Leibowitz," a campy misadventure that follows a larger-than-life freelance hero on his quest to regain a musical theater producer's lost song, to John Meaney's "From the Heart," set in his Nulapeiron universe, which revolves around spy Carl Blackstone and an unlikely-and surprisingly poignant-love story at the galactic core. The impressive diversity of stories reaffirms that soap opera is alive and well, and where some of the genre's most innovative writing is taking place. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The New Space Opera 2
Diving back into the universe (now that the universe is a finished object, boxed and ribboned from bang to bounce), Carlotta calculates ever-finer loci on the frozen ordinates of spacetime until at last she reaches a trailer park outside the town of Commanche Drop, Arizona. Bodiless, no more than a breath of imprecision in the Feynman geography of certain virtual particles, thus powerless to affect the material world, she passes unimpeded through a sheet-aluminum wall and hovers over a mattress on which a young woman sleeps uneasily.
The young woman is her own ancient self, the primordial Carlotta Boudaine, dewed with sweat in the hot night air, her legs caught up in a spindled cotton sheet. The bedroom's small window is cranked open, and in the breezeless distance a coyote wails.
Well, look at me, Carlotta marvels: skinny girl in panties and a halter, sixteen years old—no older than a gnat's breath—taking shallow little sleep-breaths in the moonlit dark. Poor child can't even see her own ghost. Ah, but she will, Carlotta thinks—she must.
The familiar words echo in her mind as she inspects her dreaming body, buried in its tomb of years, eons, kalpas. When it's time to leave, leave. Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.
Her ancient beloved poem. Her perennial mantra. The words, in fact, that saved her life.
She needs to share those words with herself, to make the circle complete. Everything she knows about nature of the physical universe suggests that the task is impossible. Maybe so — but it won't be for lack of trying.
Patiently, slowly, soundlessly, Carlotta begins to speak.
Here's the story of the Fleet, girl, and how I got raptured up into it. It's all about the future—a bigger one than you believe in—so brace yourself.
It has a thousand names and more, but we'll just call it the Fleet. When I first encountered it, the Fleet was scattered from the core of the galaxy all through its spiraled tentacles of suns, and it had been there for millions of years, going about its business, though nobody on this planet knew anything about it. I guess every now and then a Fleet ship must have fallen to Earth, but it would have been indistinguishable from any common meteorite by the time it passed through the atmosphere: a chunk of carbonaceous chondrite smaller than a human fist, from which all evidence of ordered matter had been erased by fire—and such losses, which happened everywhere and often, made no discernible difference to the Fleet as a whole. All Fleet data (that is to say, all mind) was shared, distributed, fractal. Vessels were born and vessels were destroyed, but the Fleet persisted down countless eons, confident of its own immortality.
Oh, I know you don't understand the big words, child! It's not important for you to hear them—not these words—it's only important for me to say them. Why? Because a few billion years ago tomorrow, I carried your ignorance out of this very trailer, carried it down to the Interstate, and hitched west with nothing in my backpack but a bottle of water, a half-dozen Tootsie Rolls, and a wad of twenty-dollar bills stolen out of Dan-O's old ditty bag. That night (tomorrow night: mark it) I slept under an overpass all by myself, woke up cold and hungry long before dawn, and looked up past a concrete arch crusted with bird shit into a sky so thick with falling stars it made me think of a dark skin bee-stung with fire. Some of the Fleet vectored too close to the atmosphere that night, no doubt, but I didn't understand that (any more than you do, girl)—I just thought it was a big flock of shooting stars, pretty but meaningless. And, after a while, I slept some more. And come sunrise, I waited for the morning traffic so I could catch another ride — but the only cars that came by were all weaving or speeding, as if the whole world was driving home from a drunken party.
"They won't stop," a voice behind me said. "Those folks already made their decisions, Carlotta. Whether they want to live or die, I mean. Same decision you have to make."
I whirled around, sick-startled, and that was when I first laid eyes on dear Erasmus.
Let me tell you right off that Erasmus wasn't a human being. Erasmus just then was a knot of shiny metal angles about the size of a microwave oven, hovering in midair, with a pair of eyes like the polished tourmaline they sell at those roadside souvenir shops. He didn't have to look that way—it was some old avatar he used because he figured that it would impress me. But I didn't know that then. I was only surprised, if that's not too mild a word, and too shocked to be truly frightened.
"The world won't last much longer," Erasmus said in a low and mournful voice. "You can stay here, or you can come with me. But choose quick, Carlotta, because the mantle's come unstable and the continents are starting to slip."
I half-believed that I was still asleep and dreaming. I didn't know what that meant, about the mantle, though I guessed he was talking about the end of the world. Some quality of his voice (which reminded me of that actor Morgan Freeman) made me trust him despite how weird and impossible the whole conversation was. Plus, I had a confirming sense that something was going bad somewhere, partly because of the scant traffic (a Toyota zoomed past, clocking speeds it had never been built for, the driver a hunched blur behind the wheel), partly because of the ugly green cloud that just then billowed up over a row of rat-toothed mountains on the horizon. Also the sudden hot breeze. And the smell of distant burning. And the sound of what might have been thunder, or something worse.
"Go with you where?"
"To the stars, Carlotta! But you'll have to leave your body behind."
I didn't like the part about leaving my body behind. But what choice did I have, except the one he'd offered me? Stay or go. Simple as that.
It was a ride—just not the kind I'd been expecting.
There was a tremor in the Earth, like the devil knocking at the soles of my shoes. "Okay," I said, "whatever," as white dust bloomed up from the desert and was taken by the frantic wind.
Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.
Without those words in my head, I swear, girl, I would have died that day. Billions did.
She slows down the passage of time so she can fit this odd but somehow necessary monologue into the space between one or two of the younger Carlotta's breaths. Of course, she has no real voice in which to speak. The past is static, imperturbable in its endless sleep; molecules of air on their fixed trajectories can't be manipulated from the shadowy place where she now exists. Wake up with the dawn, girl, she says, steal the money you'll never spend—it doesn't matter; the important thing is to leave. It's time.
When it's time to leave, leave. Of all the memories she carried out of her earthly life, this is the most vivid: waking to discover a ghostly presence in her darkened room, a white-robed woman giving her the advice she needs at the moment she needs it. Suddenly Carlotta wants to scream the words: When it's time to leave—
But she can't vibrate even a single mote of the ancient air, and the younger Carlotta sleeps on.
Next to the bed is a thrift-shop night table scarred with cigarette burns. On the table is a child's night-light, faded cutouts of SpongeBob SquarePants pasted on the paper shade. Next to that, hidden under a splayed copy of People magazine, is the bottle of barbiturates Carlotta stole from Dan-O's ditty bag this afternoon, the same khaki bag in which (she couldn't help but notice) Dan-O keeps his cash, a change of clothes, a fake driver's license, and a blue steel automatic pistol.
Young Carlotta detects no ghostly presence — nor is her sleep disturbed by the sound of Dan-O's angry voice and her mother's sudden gasp, two rooms away. Apparently, Dan-O is awake and sober. Apparently, Dan-O has discovered the theft. That's a complication.
But Carlotta won't allow herself to be hurried.The New Space Opera 2. Copyright © by Gardner Dozois. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
One of the most acclaimed British writers of her generation, Gwyneth Jones was a cowinner of the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award for work exploring genre issues in science fiction, with her 1991 novel White Queen, and has also won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, with her novel Bold as Love, as well as receiving two World Fantasy Awards—for her story "The Grass Princess" and her collection Seven Tales and a Fable. Her other books include the novels North Wind, Flowerdust, Escape Plans, Divine Endurance, Phoenix Café, Castles Made of Sand, Stone Free, Midnight Lamp, Kairos, Life, Water in the Air, The Influence of Ironwood, The Exhange, Dear Hill, and The Hidden Ones, as well as more than sixteen young adult novels published under the name Ann Halam. Her too-infrequent short fiction has appeared in Interzone, Asimov's Science Fiction, Off Limits, and in other magazines and anthologies, and has been collected in Identifying the Object: A Collection of Short Stories, as well as Seven Tales and a Fable. She is also the author of the critical study Deconstructing the Starships: Science Fiction and Reality. Her most recent book is a new novel, Rainbow Bridge. She lives in Brighton, England, with her husband, her son, and a Burmese cat.
In the vivid and compelling story that follows, she proves that coming to really know your enemy may make your problems harder rather than easier tosolve.
I had reached the station in the depth of Left Speranza's night; I had not slept. Fogged in the confabulation of the transit, I groped through crushing eons to my favorite breakfast kiosk: unsure if the soaring concourse outside Parliament was ceramic and carbon or a metaphor; a cloudy internal warning—
Now what was the message in the mirror? Something pitiless. Some blank-eyed, slow-thinking, long-grinned crocodile—
It was my partner. "Don't do that," I moaned. The internal crocodile shattered, the concourse lost its freight of hyperdetermined meaning, too suddenly for comfort. "Don't you know you should never startle a sleepwalker?"
He grinned; he knew when I'd arrived, and the state I was likely to be in. I hadn't met Pelé Leonidas Iza Quinatoa in the flesh before, but we'd worked together, we liked each other. "Ayayay, so good you can't bear to lose it?"
"Of course not. Only innocent, beautiful souls have sweet dreams."
He touched my cheek: collecting a teardrop. I hadn't realized I was crying. "You should use the dreamtime, Debra. There must be some game you want to play."
"I've tried, it's worse. If I don't take my punishment, I'm sick for days."
The intimacy of his gesture (skin on skin) was an invitation and a promise; it made me smile. We walked into the Parliament Building together, buoyant in the knocked-down gravity that I love although I know it's bad for you.
In the Foyer, we met the rest of the company, identified by the Diaspora Parliament's latest adventure in biometrics, the aura tag. To our vision, the KiAn Working Party was striated orange/yellow, nice cheerful implications, nothing too deep. The pervasive systems were seeing a lot more, but that didn't bother Pelé or me; we had no secrets from Speranza.
The KiAn problem had been a matter of concern since their world had been "discovered" by a Balas/Shet prospector, and joined the minuscule roster of populated planets linked by instantaneous transit. Questions had been raised then, over the grave social imbalance: the tiny international ruling caste, the exploited masses. But neither the Ki nor the An would accept arbitration (why the hell should they?). The noninterference lobby is the weakest faction in the Chamber, quarantine-until-they're-civilized was not considered an option. Inevitably, around thirty local years after first contact, the Ki had risen against their overlords, as often in the past. Inevitably, this time they had modern weapons. They had not succeeded in wiping out the An, but they had pretty much rendered the shared planet uninhabitable.
We were here to negotiate a rescue package. We'd done the damage, we had to fix it, that was the DP's line. The Ki and the An no doubt had their own ideas as to what was going on: they were new to the Interstellar Diaspora, not to politics.
But they were here, at least; so that seemed hopeful.
The Ki Federation delegates were unremarkable. There were five of them, they conformed to the "sentient biped" bodyplan that unites the diaspora. Three were wearing Balas business suits in shades of brown, two were in gray military uniform. The young coleaders of the An were better dressed, and one of the two, in particular, was much better looking. Whatever you believe about the origins of the "diaspora" (Strong theory, Weak theory, something between) it's strange how many measures of beauty are common to us all. He was tall, past two meters: he had large eyes, a mane of rich brown head-hair, an open, strong-boned face, poreless bronze skin, and a glorious smile. He would be my charge. His coleader, the subordinate partner, slight and small, almost as dowdy as the Ki, would be Pelé's.
They were codenamed Baal and Tiamaat, the names I will use in this account. The designations Ki and An are also codenames.
We moved off to a briefing room. Joset Moricherri, one of the Blue Permanent Secretaries, made introductory remarks. A Green Belt Colonel, Shamaz Haa'agaan, gave a talk on station security. A slightly less high-ranking DP administrator got down to basics: standard time conventions, shopping allowances, access to the elevators, restricted areas, housekeeping . . . Those who hadn't provided their own breakfast raided the culturally neutral trolley. I sipped my Mocha/Colombian, took my carbs in the form of a crisp cherry-jam tartine; and let the day's agenda wash over me, as I reviewed what I knew about Baal and Tiamaat's relationship.
They were not related by blood, except in the sense that the An gene pool was very restricted: showing . . .The New Space Opera. Copyright © by Gardner Dozois. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted October 13, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted January 20, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 26, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted December 14, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted August 25, 2011
No text was provided for this review.