Year's Best SF 3by David G. Hartwell
Like its two distinguished processors, Year's Best SF 3 is a cybercopia of astonishing stories from familiar favorites and rising stars, all calculated to blow your mind, scorch your, senses,/em>
Enjoy today's most awesome and innovative science fiction, chosen by acclaimed editor David G. Hartwell from the best short fiction published over the last year.
Like its two distinguished processors, Year's Best SF 3 is a cybercopia of astonishing stories from familiar favorites and rising stars, all calculated to blow your mind, scorch your, senses, erase your inhibitions, and reinitialize your intelligence.
With stories from:
Gregory Benford, Terry Bisson, Greg Egan, William Gibson, Nancy Kress, Robert Silverberg, Gene Wolfe and more...
Read an Excerpt
Kamala Shastri came back to this world as she had left it naked. She tottered out of the assembler, trying to balance in Tuulen Station's delicate gravity. I caught her and bundled her into a robe with one motion, then eased her onto the float. Three years on another planet had transformed Kamala. She was leaner, more muscular. Her fingernails were now a couple of centimeters long and there were four parallel scars incised on her left cheek, perhaps some Gendian's idea of beautification. But what struck me most was the darting strangeness in her eyes. This place, so familiar to me, seemed almost to shock her. It was as if she doubted the walls and was skeptical of air. She had learned to think like an alien.
"Welcome back." The float's whisper rose to a whoosh as I walked it down the hallway.
She swallowed hard and I thought she might cry. Three years ago, she would have. Lots of migrators are devastated when they come out of the assembler; it's because there is no transition. A few seconds ago Kamala was on Gend, fourth planet of the star we call epsilon Leo, and now she was here in lunar orbit. She was almost home; her life's great adventure was over.
"Matthew?" she said.
"Michael." I couldn't help but be pleased that she rememberd me. After all, she had changed my life.
I've guided maybe three hundred migrations comings and goings since I first came to Tuulen to study the dinos. Kamala Shastri's is the only quantum scan I've ever pirated. I doubt that the dinos care; I suspect this is a trespass they occasionally allow themselves. I know more about her at least, as she was three years ago than I know about myself. When the dinos sent her to Gend, she massed 50,391.72 grams and her red cell count was 4.81 million per mm'. She could play the nagasvaram, a kind of bamboo flute. Her father came from Thana, near Bombay, and her favorite flavor of chewyfrute was watermelon and she'd had five lovers and when she was eleven she had wanted to be a gymnast but instead she had become a biomaterials engineer who at age twenty-nine had volunteered to go to the stars to learn how to grow artificial eyes. It took her two years to go through migrator training; she knew she could have backed out at any time, right up until the moment Silloin translated her into a superluminal signal. She understood what it meant to balance the equation.
I first met her on June 22, 2069. She shuttled over from Lunex's L1 port and came through our airlock at promptly 10:15, a small, roundish woman with black hair parted in the middle and drawn tight against her skull. They had darkened her skin against epsilon Leo's UV; it was the deep blue-black of twilight. She was wearing a striped clingy and velcro slippers to help her get around for the short time she'd be navigating our .2 micrograv.
"Welcome to Tuulen Station." I smiled and offered my hand. "My name is Michael." We shook. "I'm supposed to be a sapientologist but I also moonlight as the local guide."
"Guide?" She nodded distractedly. "Okay." She peered past me, as if expecting someone else.
"Oh, don't worry," I said, "the dinos are in their cages."
Her eyes got wide as she let her hand slip from mine. "You call the Hanen dinos?"
"Why not?" I laughed. "They call us babies. The weeps, among other things."
She shook her bead in amazement. People who've never met a dino tended to romanticize them: the wise and noble reptiles who had mastered superluminal physics and introduced Earth to the wonders of galactic civilization. I doubt Kamala had ever seen a dino play poker or gobble down a screaming rabbit. And she had never argued with Linna, who still wasn't convinced that humans were psychologically ready to go to the stars.
"Have you eaten?" I gestured down the corridor toward the reception rooms.
"Yes ... I mean, no." She didn't move. "I am not hungry."
"Let me guess. You're too nervous to eat. You're too nervous to talk, even. You wish I'd just shut up, pop you into the marble, and beam you out. Let's just get this part the hell over with, eh?"
"I don't mind the conversation, actually."
"There you go. Well, Kamala, it is my solemn duty to advise you that there are no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Gend. And no chicken vindaloo. What's my name again?"
"See, you're not that nervous. Not one taco, or a single slice of eggplant pizza. This is your last chance to eat like a human."
"Okay." She did not actually smile-she was too busy being brave-but a corner of her mouth twitched. "Actually, I would not mind a cup of tea."
"Now, tea they've got." She let me guide her toward reception room D; her slippers snicked at the velcro carpet. "Of course, they brew it from lawn clippings."
"The Gendians don't keep lawns. They live underground. "
"Refresh my memory." I kept my hand on her shoulder; beneath the clingy, her muscles were rigid. "Are they the ferrets or the things with the orange bumps?"
"They look nothing like ferrets."
We popped through the door bubble into reception D, a compact rectangular space with a scatter of low, unthreatening furniture. There was a kitchen station at one end, a closet with a vacuum toilet at the other. The ceiling was blue sky; the long wall showed a live view of the Charles River and the Boston skyline, baking in the late June sun. Kamala had just finished her doctorate at MIT.
I opaqued the door. She perched on the...
Meet the Author
David G. Hartwell is a senior editor of Tor/Forge Books. His doctorate is in Comparative Medieval Literature. He is the proprietor of Dragon Press, publisher and bookseller, which publishes The New York Review of Science Fiction, and the president of David G. Hartwell, Inc. He is the author of Age of Wonders and the editor of many anthologies, including The Dark Descent, The World Treasury of Science Fiction, The Hard SF Renaissance, The Space Opera Renaissance, and a number of Christmas anthologies, among others. Recently he co-edited his fifteenth annual paperback volume of Year's Best SF, and co-edited the ninth Year's Best Fantasy. John Updike, reviewing The World Treasury of Science Fiction in The New Yorker, characterized him as a "loving expert." He is on the board of the IAFA, is co-chairman of the board of the World Fantasy Convention, and an administrator of the Philip K. Dick Award. He has won the Eaton Award, the World Fantasy Award, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award forty times to date, winning as Best Editor in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
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Our first "Girl's Day" without Blythe sucked.<p>Nobody is afraid to admit it.<p>We all sat in silence most of the time.<p>"So, has anybody got anything new and exciting to talk about? Someone, just tell me something I don't know."<p>"Zoe, seriously? Blythe is in the hospital, concussed and quite possible severely injured, and you're asking us what's going on in our lives?"<p>Even though Zoe is behind me, braiding my hair, I can tell she's smiling knowingly.<p>"I know that tone, Pepper," she says, "you're trying to hide something, aren't you?"<p>I shake my head and turn my face before anyone can see the blush on my cheeks.<p>"Come on, Pepper," Minka screeches, "please!"<p>I swallow back before standing up, getting a cup of water, and sitting down on the window seat.<p>"Okay, so maybe I have a boyfriend," I admit, sipping and smirking as they all react.<p>"Who is it, Pepper?" Penny Ling asks, kind of shocking us all.<p>"Well, let's just say we all know him," I venture, "he's the last person you would imagine me dating, because he's the sanest of us all, and he always needs answers..."<p>"Cyril McFlip?!" Minka guesses.<p>"Try Cyril's alter ego," I respond.<p>Everyone gasps as they realize who I'm talking about.<p>"Oh. My. Goodness!" Zoe squeals excitedly, her interest piqued, "you. And Russell. Dating?!"<p>I nod and everybody's eyes go wide.<p>Though it is weird and hard without Blythe, I am kind of glad that I could have a "me" moment with three of my friends.<p>~-~<p>My breaths come short and shallow as I run into a dark, narrow alleyway.<p>"Pepper."<p>Russell's voice calls my name softly as I enter the alley and my eyes adjust, enough for me to see his form hidden among the shadows. I run to the comfort of his arms, away from whatever had chased me here.<p>"Pepper, what is the matter?" a familiar voice asks from behind me.<p>I cannot place this voice, at least not at this moment, but it is extremely familiar to me. I can tell that Russell, too, recognizes this voice, because his grip on me tightens a bit.<p>"Captain," Russell addresses the voice coldly.<p>Of course. It's Captain Cuddles. The polecat that I had liked and, as it turns out, liked me back. The reason I gave up on any "love life."<p>"Russell," the captain replies.<p>I then realize that something is different. Not just the fact that the captain, too, is a human, but something different about ME.<p>When I look down, I realize that I have grown a little. Not in height. And I'm not fat, per se.<p>But... no. This can't be.<p>"What is the matter, Pepper? Why do you run away from me?"<p>I glare at him and, without thinking, say "you know why, Captain."<p>Russell is shocked at the venom in my voice as I say this, but most shocked about what I'm admitting to.<p>"You mean... it's true? You're actually..."<p>"Yes, and it's because of him!"<p>"I swear, I never touched you," Captain replies.<p>"If you didn't, who did?"<p>"Only you know. Because only you can decide."<p>~-~<p>I wake up, drenched in sweat and breathing deep and hard.<p>No.<p>There is no way, no how that was anything more than a dream.<p>The captain was gone, and Russell wouldn't ever even let him that close to me even if he was back.<p>I needed to set this dream aside, focus on reality.<p>As I start to sit up in order to get off of the bed, I see that there's a mess everywhere. My shirt's buttons are off-kilter.<p>Strange.<p>I decide to test the truth of the rest of the dream.<p>And I am only met with the word "positive."