Acclaimed editor and anthologist David G. Hartwell is back with the sixth annual collection of the year's most impressive, thought-provoking, and just plain great science fiction.
Year's Best SF 6 includes contributions from the greatest stars of the field as well as remarkable newcomers -- galaxies and into unexplored territory deep within your own soul.
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June 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Year's Best SF 6 by David G. Hartwell
PAUL J. MCAULEY
Paul McAuley is a British writer who often writes hard SF, one of the group (along with Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, and others) responsible for the hard SF/space opera renaissance of the 1990s. His first novel, 400 Billion Stars, was co-winner of the Philip K. Dick Award in 1988. He has since published a number of SF novels, of which Fairyland (1994) won the Arthur C. Clarke and the John W. Campbell Awards for best novel and Pasquale's Angel (1994) won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History fiction. He has two collections of short fiction, The King of the Hill and Other Stories (1991) and The Invisible Country (1996). A year ago he completed a trilogy of SF novels, The Book of Confluence ( Child of the River, 1997; Ancients of Days, 1998; Shrine of Stars, 1999). His Web site is www.omegacom.demon.co.uk.
"Reef" is an excellent hard SF story from the ambitious (and mostly reprint) anthology, Skylife, edited by Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski (about visions of life in space and on other planets, which reprints some wonderful SF art too). This story is an instant classic of hard SF. It is dense with wonderful technological and scientific images, but also fast paced and sufficiently rounded in characterization that the unlikely heroine, Margaret Henderson Wu, a scientist to the core, will be remembered by many readers for a long time. It is interesting to compare it to Stephen Baxter's "Sheena 5," later in this book, in terms of scope and imagery.
Margaret Henderson Wu was riding a proxy by telepresence deep inside Tigris Rift when Dzu Sho summoned her. The others in her crew had given up one by one and only she was left, descending slowly between rosy, smoothly rippled cliffs scarcely a hundred meters apart. These were pavements of the commonest vacuum organism, mosaics made of hundreds of different strains of the same species. Here and there bright red whips stuck out from the pavement; a commensal species which deposited iron sulphate crystals within its integument.
The pavement seemed to stretch endlessly below her. No probe or proxy had yet reached the bottom, still more than thirty kilometers away. Microscopic flecks of sulfur-iron complexes, sloughed cells, and excreted globules of carbon compounds and other volatiles made a kind of smog or snow, and the vacuum organisms deposited nodes and intricate lattices of reduced metals that, by some trick of superconductivity, produced a broad-band electromagnetic resonance that pulsed like a giant's slow heartbeat.