Flash review: Bears Discover Fire by Terry Bisson

Bears Discover Fire is one of the most decorated science fiction short stories.  It has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Sturgeon awards, among others, and has been nominated for even more.  It is a wonderful bittersweet piece of writing, which may or may not be science fiction at all.  In my case, I read it late at night, and it left behind a warm, fuzzy feeling that returns whenever I think of this story.

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Hugos 2021 – Short Stories

The finalists for this year’s short story Hugo Award were a pleasant surprise.  A full half of them were actually science fiction, but I enjoyed the rest just as much.  The quality of the writing was consistently high, which caused some difficulties in ranking my ballot.  This year, I will be voting for all six stories, in the order presented below.

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Flash review: A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny was a master wordsmith, and Rose is one of his early masterpieces.  It is so skillfully written that one doesn’t even notice that it is more akin to a Greek tragedy than to science fiction.  And one doesn’t mind that even when it becomes apparent.  Rose is a tale of hubris and hope, wrapped in a language that is rarely matched.

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Flash Review: The Little Black Bag by Cyril M. Kornbluth

This highly amusing and cynical short story hits all the right buttons.  It contains a future that may be funny for some and terrifying for others.  It has a highly emotional redemption arc.  And a crime and punishment element so exquisitely fulfilling that I can hardly think of a better ending to a story.

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Flash review: Scanners Live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith

Before Alastair Reynolds and the Ultras, before the mind-numbing and soul-crushing emptiness of deep space travel, there was Smith and his Scanners.  This is one of the first stories that combine Lovecraftian horror with space travel.  It uses very vivid imagery without too much exposition, adds concepts like body modification and its effects on human psychology, and it makes the reader to work hard to get all the nuances included in the text.  The story fizzles out at the end, but the worldbuilding will stay with the reader for a long time.

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Flash Review: Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon

A few years ago, I got to meet George R. R. Martin at a convention.  My “meeting” was absolutely forgettable for him.  I was one of hundreds of people queuing to get his autograph.  Still, I was one of the few people not dressed as characters from his A Song of Ice and Fire series or waving around one of those books.  Other than “I’m so honored to meet you” and “Thank you”, I told him only one thing: that his Sandkings was my favorite science fiction short story.  Subjectively, I wasn’t lying, but on an objective level, Microcosmic God, which popularized the idea of a pocket universe and inspired Sandkings and countless other works, is superior.

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Flash review: A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum

87 years ago, a remarkably modern short story was published in Weird Stories.  Although sometimes overshadowed by the works of Olaf Stapledon, which were published at around the same time frame, this work has been immensely influential to science fiction, in particular through its novel approach to wrorldbuilding and alien-human relations.  Some may consider the language and structure a bit dated, but I’ve had fun reading the story even today.

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Book Review: The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

Scalzi’s second published science fiction novel already features his signature humor and themes, which would permeate many of his more mature works.  Even though it lacks polish and changes directions rather unexpectedly, it is still a fun short read for a series of dreary winter afternoons.

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Book review: The Luna Missile Crisis by Jaime Castle and Rhett C. Bruno

Imagine a situation where the first manned space flight crashes into an alien spaceship nobody knew was there.  Follow this up with a nuclear strike gone wrong. Top it up with a reconciliation with the aliens who decided to stay, and you have an interesting premise that can be further expanded into an exploration of social and technological changes, political intrigue on a global scale, and a personal redemption arc.  All this is crammed into this alternate history novel, but as much as I tried to enjoy it, the book left me indifferent.

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Mini review: Berlin Is Never Berlin by Marko Kloos

In all honesty, the Wild Cards universe is not my favorite urban fantasy setting.  It is a distant second to Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles, but it does have its charm.  The different writers add variety, and in particular the early books displayed superb character development.  I abandoned the series a long time ago, though, and only picked up this novelette due to its author.  Marko Kloos writes some of my favorite contemporary military science fiction, with very relatable characters, and I was wondering how he’d do in a setting with extra-human beings.

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