Award-winning editor/anthologist Hartwell rounds up a sparkling selection of science-fiction stories from 2012.
Standouts: Gregory Benford’s “The Sigma Structure Symphony,” about a future where CETI’s problem is no longer detecting alien signals, but interpreting them; Yoon Ha Lee's "The Battle of Candle Arc," a splendid space-warfare yarn; Gwyneth Jones’ “Bricks, Sticks, Straw,” in which virtual personalities become cut off from their human primaries; and Aliette de Bodard’s “Two Sisters in Exile,” covering the wrenching death of an intelligent spaceship. All four cry out to be expanded into novels and perhaps will be. Not far behind are Paul Cornell’s unusual and thoughtful time-travel variant; Linda Nagata’s chilling look at a future where it may be a crime not to die; Sean McMullen’s charming Napoleonic steampunk yarn; and Eleanor Arnason’s clever and subtle “Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery,” wherein an alien who understands human literature investigates a mystery—no prizes for guessing what the inspiration is. Elsewhere, Megan Lindholm looks at the future of smart cars; Robert Reed ponders smart guns, artificial intelligence and war; a young female investigator enters an ultralibertarian future. Also here: AIs as human therapists; a tidally locked planet with alien life; artificial reality; future medicine; humor from Lewis Shiner (a PC’s revenge), Catherine Shaffer (an ex-CIA operative joins a literary society and gets more than she bargained for) and C.S. Freidman (virtual reality); Andy Duncan stomps on the traditional advice not to write about UFOs; Ken Liu extrapolates humanity into the far future; Paul McAuley observes Antarctica as the ice retreats; plus precognition, satire, physics, ecological collapse, the nature of marriage on Mercury (it’s stranger than one might think) and more.
Almost uniformly excellent—but then when was an anthology from Hartwell ever less?