Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge
by Lou Anders
Cover Artist: John Picacio
Review by Colleen Cahill
Prometheus Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1591024862
Date: February, 2007 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Anthologies these days seem all to be based around a theme, but the old standard collection of science fiction stories is still out there. In his introduction to Fast Forward 1, editor Lou Anders makes it clear that this is an "unthemed" collection of original material, a bow to Damon Knight's Orbit series and Frederick Pohl's Star SF anthologies. Like his inspiration sources, Fast Forward 1 is full of cutting edge works by authors who are having a major impact on science fiction today.
All of the twenty-one stories in this anthology are definitely science fiction. From Robert Charles Wilson's complex "YFL-500", which looks at an artist who steals another person's dream to make his name, to Paul Di Filippo's intriguing and amusing look a world where socially, economically and even politically, wiki's rule, this is a collection that could never be called fantasy or even speculative fiction. That is not to say, however, that these are predictable tales. "Small Offerings" by Paolo Bacigalupi looks at a future where people are so full of chemicals that few normal children are born, while Tony Ballantyne's "Aristotle OS" explores the cost of a new computer operating system that uses a total different philosophy, one that seems like a good thing until it starts creating its own reality. The unexpected often appears, such as in Mary A. Turzillo's "Pride" where a young man rescues a lab animal that turns out to be a saber-tooth tiger, or the attempted recovery of a musicologist who seems to have become lost while time traveling in the era of Johannes Brahms in "P Dolce" by Louise Marley. Stories of all sorts are here, including complex human relationships, as in Kage Baker's "Plotters and Shooters", set on a space gun platform where a new recruit plots to overthrow a ridged class system, and works of humor, as in "A Smaller Government" by Pamela Sargent where an unknown force shrinks the White House and the Capital to the size of doll houses.
Even the size and form of the contributions vary: John Meaney's "Sideways from Now" is a novella of one man struggling with the death of his wife, a partner not only in marriage, but also through quantum physics and Robyn Hitchcock presents two poems, "They Came from the Future" and "I Caught Intelligence". Some of the works are from rising stars, as with "The Something-Dreaming Game" by Elizabeth Bear, a disturbing tale of one child's attempt to reach an alien world through asphyxiation. Longtime writers are also represented, including Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress' story of an alien race threaten by the memories of a horrific event and how humanity might be able to right this wrong in "Solomon's Choice". One of science fiction's most widely admired authors, Gene Wolfe, presents us with "The Hour of the Sheep" as the greatest swordsman alive tries to write a book, a task that leads him to strange places and the rescue of a beautiful woman.
This collection has a bit of something for everyone. Anders has gathered a truly outstanding set of science fiction, all with images and worlds that are new, different and exciting. It is safe to say that Fast Forward I, hopefully the first in several such books, is a worthy successor to the Knight and Pohl series and a book every science fiction fan will want in their collection.