Posts Tagged ‘free in print’

“Triceratops Summer”, by Michael Swanwick

January 14, 2018 Leave a comment

“Triceratops Summer” is a story about some dinosaurs blocking the road, some vacations that weren’t taken, some time that doesn’t matter, and some physics in the background.  Largely a piece about how time feels in a given situation, rather than deeply plot driven.

Non-Spoiler Summary

A herd of triceratops show up on an early summer day, and our viewpoint characters are stuck in the traffic they generate.  Shortly, a man from the Applied Physics lab nearby show up, and tell them where the “trikes” come from.  The rest of the story is how everyone lives with the dinosaurs for the rest of the summer.

Why should you read it?

“Triceratops Summer” is a meditation on what one does with one’s days, and whether it’s more fulfilling to leave one’s home or just enjoy the events of a normal life.  After re-reading it to write this post, I’m reminded of how little actually happens in this story–it’s almost more about not doing things than doing them–and how good the images of sitting on the back porch feeding cabbage to dinosaurs just feels.

Where to find “Triceratops Summer”

This story is available freely on Baen’s site, in text.


“Rocket Surgery”, by Effie Seiberg

January 7, 2018 Leave a comment

“Rocket Surgery” is a story about smart bombs, when they get really smart, and start asking philosophical questions.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Teeny is a bomb with AI.  Something like a neural net.  He has to be trained to do his missions… but what happens when he starts generalizing from what’s assigned to what’s really good?  And what happens when he asks about what happens after his missions–remember, he’s a bomb.  For him, there is no after.

Why should you read it?

“Rocket Surgery” is a sad and funny piece about a bomb’s college education.  It’s the story of what happens when you make the bomb smart enough that it starts asking questions, what happens when a weapon becomes a warrior. . . becomes a philosopher.  The story has a refrain of “Did I do good?”  Teeny resolves all of these issues, all at once, and pretty well. . . for a bomb.

Where to find “Rocket Surgery”

This story is available freely on Escape Pod’s site, both in text and audio.

“The Fort Moxie Branch”, by Jack McDevitt

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is a 1988 science fiction short story by Jack McDevitt.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1989.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is the story of a discouraged writer who sees a nearby house… changing.  He goes to visit and find out what happens, and it’s been turned into the Fort Moxie branch of the John of Singletary Library.  And the librarian has a very interesting offer for him….

Why should you read it?

Because it’s so full of hope.  For struggle.  For humanity.  Because the librarian makes perfectly good points that are still infuriating.

The writer is being invited to have some of his work included in the Library.  It’s a library of lost works, of books that didn’t fit their times, so they didn’t sell, or couldn’t be released, or something.  And it’s a story full of hope.

Where to find “The Fort Moxie Branch”

This story is available online from the publisher, Baen Books.

“Maneki Neko”, by Bruce Sterling

“Maneki Neko” is a 1998 science fiction short story by Bruce Sterling.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1999.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Maneki Neko” is the story of a man who does what his phone tells him to do, the trouble he gets in, and how it gets him out.  Because his phone is connecting him to a series of other people who are all trying to do small acts for each other, to help each other out.  With computer co-ordination.

Why should you read it?

The Internet is supposedly built to route information around damage, so that the information arrives regardless of the existence of a particular node or link.  “Maneki Neko” is the story of a network of computers and humans, using themselves to route luck, good fortune, and kindness around damage to that network.  In this case, the damage comes from a law enforcement official, who doesn’t believe that people would help each other, and assumes there must be something criminal going on.

The story is thought-provoking, funny, and a little bit slapstick.  All in all, a very good quick read.

Where to find “Maneki Neko”.

This story is available at Lightspeed.

“A Walk in the Sun”, by Geoffrey A. Landis

“A Walk in the Sun” is a 1991 science fiction short story by Hal Clement.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1992.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“A Walk in the Sun” is the story of an astronaut who was supposed to get just close enough to the moon to see it. . . and then crashed.  And how she survives.

Why should you read it?

This is some good hard science fiction.  The limits placed on this character are non-negotiable.  She’s crashed on the moon.  She’s got food to eat.  She’s got a working space suit, that can recycle her air as long as she has power.  She’s got photovoltaic “wings” on her suit to generate power.  Rescue is coming in thirty days.

Now all she needs to do is stay in the light.  All the time.  For the next thirty days.

She can walk faster than the moon rotates.  On day one, anyway.

How long can she keep it up?  Long enough?

Where to find “A Walk in the Sun”.

The story is available online courtesy of Asimov’s.

“Think Like A Dinosaur”, by James Patrick Kelly

February 28, 2013 2 comments

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is a 1995 science fiction novelette by James Patrick Kelly.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1996, and won.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is the story of a man who is helping a woman through the difficult process of teleporting to the stars, and the conflict between his humanity and the . . . dinosaurity of the aliens who actually control this gateway to the universe.  And they haven’t decided it we should have it yet, because we don’t think like them.

Why should you read it?

The old Campbell chestnut: “Write me an alien who thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”  What if the price for humanity joining aliens in the stars. . . is thinking like them?  What do we give up by changing ourselves to match the way they think?  Would it be an individual decision?  An offer that can be accepted by one person alone?  Or would it be forced on the unwary by others?  And what’s left of the core of humanity inside a person once they’ve looked at this change?

This is an amazingly good story that I am hampered in recommending because I can’t answer any of these questions for you.  If you can, read it.  I have rated over a thousand stories in my database; this got the thirteenth 10 out of 10.

Where to find “Think Like a Dinosaur”

There is no free online version. [UPDATE: there is!  It’s at Mike Resnick’s new Galaxy’s Edge!]  The story can be found in several anthologies.  There is an audio version available online, which I have not listened to.

“Four Short Novels”, by Joe Haldeman

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

“Four Short Novels” is a 2003 science fiction short story by Joe Haldeman.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 2004.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Four Short Novels” is four pieces, condensed in the J.G. Ballard style, talking about immortality in four different futures.  What if love made you immortal?  What if money did?  What if immortality led to a desire to return to childhood?  What if if led to a desire to not be?

Why should you read it?

Haldeman is one of my favorite authors; I reread some of his works, including The Forever War, every few years.  “Four Short Novels” isn’t one of these works.  It is consistently amusing, but not something that yields wisdom on repeated examination.  Fortunately, it only takes fifteen minutes to read, so I can recommend that you spend the time unreservedly.

Where to find “Four Short Novels”

The story was recently reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine, which still has it available online.