Bruce Sterling confesses in his fourth collection of stories: "I'm a science fiction writer. This is a golden opportunity to get up to most any mischief imaginable." And that's exactly what he does in Visionary in Residence, a compilation of 13 bite-sized speculative literary gems.
Noteworthy selections include "Code," in which a programming geek inherits a load of LSD from his recently deceased Deadhead boss and, in the process of deciding what to do with the hallucinogenic bounty, uncovers the secrets of "decoding" the opposite sex; and "The Growthing," a brilliant work of architectural fiction set in a Texas energy refinery where the lines between biotechnology and structural design are practically nonexistent. A firefly named Vinnie and his jumping spider pal discuss life and love in "Luciferase," a lighthearted look at the nature of relationships -- like Sex and the City meets A Bug's Life, except in this story Carrie Bradshaw injects her lovers with venom and then laps up their vital fluids. A whiskey-swilling plumber and the underage daughter of an Iranian mullah become romantically involved in "In Paradise," an unlikely love story about how technology (cell phones with real-time language translators) can bring people together -- for better or for worse.
Like Sterling's other short story collections (Globalhead, A Good Old-Fashioned Future, et al.), this one is as thematically diverse as it is wildly provocative. Brimming with sardonic social commentary and razor-sharp wit, the aptly titled Visionary in Residence is, well, a simply sterling collection. Paul Goat Allen