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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 30th Anniversary Anthology, edited by Sheila Williams

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"Air Raid" by John Varley (writing as Herb Boehm)
"The Time of the Burning" by Robert Silverberg
"Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler
"Dinner in Audoghast" by Bruce Sterling
"Robot Dreams" by Isaac Asimov
"Glacier" by Kim Stanley Robinson
"Cibola" by Connie Willis
"The Happy Man" by Jonathan Lethem
"Over There" by Mike Resnick
"Ether, OR" by Ursula K. Le Guin
"Flying Lessons" by Kelly Link
"Itsy Bitsy Spider" by James Patrick Kelly
"Ancient Engines" by Michael Swanwick
"Lobsters" by Charles Stross
"Only Partly Here" by Lucius Shepard
"The Children of Time" by Stephen Baxter
"Eight Episodes" by Robert Reed

Asimov’s Science Fiction
magazine is the current title, but with its first issue in Spring of 1977, and as a then quarterly publication, the original title was Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. The words “Isaac” and “Magazine” were dropped and the title became Asimov’s Science Fiction with the November, 1992, issue. We also note in passing that this issue was a tribute issue to Isaac Asimov, who had died earlier that year. Though designated in the upper right hand corner of the original Michael Whelan cover as the November issue (featuring a proud Asimov standing above a cloaked and saddened robot, head bowed, sitting at his feet), it was in fact a whopping double issue of 320 pages (Vol. 16, Nos. 12 & 13, whole numbers 192 & 193). The issue opened with touching, sad, heartfelt, sometimes personally revealing tributes and memoriams from Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp, Catherine Crook de Camp, Frederik Pohl, Poul Anderson, Karen Anderson, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Ben Bova, Carl Sagan, Martin H. Greenberg, Connie Willis, Jane Yolen, Norman Spinrad, Joel Davis, Shawna McCarthy, Stan Schmidt, Sheila Williams, Stanley Asimov (Isaac’s brother), and Janet Asimov. The most touching of them all, and we must admit painfully throat-catching as we held back tears, was the final entry by Isaac Asimov himself. It was titled, appropriately, The Last Word, and was an excerpt from the last of his books he saw published before his death, when he knew he was nearing the end (Asimov Laughs Again, HarperCollins, 1992). It contained only five short paragraphs and much of it directed to his wife of many years, Janet. We can’t reprint it all, of course, but these few lines should suffice:

“I’m afraid that my life has just about run its course and I don’t really expect to live much longer.” And a few lines later, “So please don’t worry about me, or feel bad. Instead I only hope that this book has brought you a few laughs.”

Editor Gardner Dozois was responsible (with great input and  invaluable assistance from Sheila Williams) for this classic 1992 Isaac Asimov Tribute Issue.

2007 marks the 30th anniversary of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It is being appropriately celebrated with the trade paperback book publication of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology (edited and with an introduction by Sheila Williams), featuring a “representative sampling” of stories selected by Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams (long time Managing Editor [1982-1998], and then Executive Editor [1998-2004]), with the “wise counsel” of managing editor Brian Bieniowski.

With thirty years of outstanding, award-winning material from which to choose, and given the usual caveats of space and length, Williams’s selections must have been agonizing. Therefore, and as one might  expect, most of the seventeen selections are short stories, with only a few short novelettes completing the book. One story comes from the 1970’s, five from the 1980’s, seven from the 1990’s, and four from the 2000’s, suggesting that the decade of the 1990’s was perhaps the magazine’s strongest to date, though the first decade of the 21st century is not yet over.

So what can one say about a thirty-year retrospective collection from a magazine that has won more Hugo and Nebula awards for its fiction than any other magazine in science fiction history? One can but mention some of the stellar names and stories it has seen within its pages over the years, and hope that the reader will buy this book given the magazine’s consistently high record of performance, and its well-deserved regard in the field.

But for now, how can we forget John Varley’s “Air Raid” (1977)? Or Michael Swanwick’s “Ancient Engines” (1999)? What about Connie Willis’s “Cibola” (1990), Charles Stross’s amazing “Lobsters” (2001), or the late Octavia Butler’s Hugo-winning short story “Speech Sounds” (1983)? Or what to say about Asimov’s own “Robot Dreams” from 1986, another in his long-running series of robot stories, this time where a 'bot tries to convince Dr. Susan Calvin that it should free all of the robots, but with deadly results? What to say about wonderful stories by Bruce Sterling, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Reed, Robert Silverberg, Lucius Shepard, James Patrick Kelly, Mike Resnick, and the others represented here? Better the praise should come from you, after you’ve read the stories yourself.

The good folk at Tachyon Publications have done a fine job producing this handsome book, and are to be commended, as is editor Sheila Williams for her introductory remarks, where the history of the magazine and its various editors are recalled, as well as when a few of its authors first saw print in the magazine, and when some of its classic stories first appeared.

We think it would prove a fitting capstone to this 30th year honoring of Asimov’s Science Fiction if the 20 In Memoriam’s published in the original “Isaac Asimov Tribute Issue” were reprinted in its December, 2007, issue—a grand bit of closure to this year of celebration. Just as the Anniversary book takes a retrospective look at some of its representative fiction, so would the magazine itself fondly recall those who remembered its founder upon his death. It would enlighten another generation of readers to the magazine’s namesake as told by those who worked with, loved, and knew him well. We are aware that monthly magazine schedules work anywhere from four to six months in advance. We are also aware that last minute changes of varying import and urgency have been made quite close to a magazine going to press. There is, therefore, plenty of time to incorporate this humble suggestion. It could be done.

Editor Sheila Williams would then be solely responsible for this classic 2007 “Isaac Asimov Tribute Issue,” much as her predecessor was given credit for that first, 15 years ago. Either way, I am sure the October/November issue of the magazine will be a very special Isaac Asimov Tribute Issue, and will surely become a collector's item.

Publisher: Tachyon Publications (July 2007)
Price: $10.17
Trade paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 1892391473