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Future Science Fiction Digest #1

Future Science Fiction Digest Issue 1

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Science fiction magazine featuring stories from across the globe. In this issue we have original fiction and translations from China, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Italy, and the United States. Fiction contents:"The Rule of Three" by Lawrence M. Schoen, "SisiMumu" by Walter Dinjos, "The Emperor of Death" by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, "One Bad Unit" by Steve Kopka, "The Substance of Ideas" by Clelia Farris, "In All Possible Futures" by Dantzel Cherry, "Perfection" by Mike Resnick, "Wordfall" by Liang Ling. Also included is an interview with Hollywood showrunners Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina, an essay about the role of empire in SF storytelling, and a profile of Marina and Sergey Dyachenko by their translator and friend Julia Meitov Hersey. Includes 65,000 words of fiction and articles.

226 pages, Kindle Edition

First published December 11, 2018

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About the author

Alex Shvartsman

151 books129 followers
Alex Shvartsman is a writer, editor, and translator from Brooklyn, NY. He's the author of The Middling Affliction (2022) and Eridani's Crown (2019) fantasy novels. Kakistocracy, a sequel to The Middling Affliction, is forthcoming in 2023.

Over 120 of his stories have been published in Analog, Nature, Strange Horizons, and many other venues. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction and was a two-time finalist (2015 and 2017) for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction.

His collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and his steampunk humor novella H. G. Wells, Secret Agent were published in 2015. His second collection, The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories followed in 2018.

Alex is the editor of over a dozen anthologies, including the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F.

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
March 4, 2019
2.5 stars for this 2018 Nebula award nominated novelette, free to read online here at Future Science Fiction Digest. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

The narrator, an employee of the U.S. state department, is passed a message from his Miao (Hmong) grandmother, who lives in a small, mountainous village in China: “a funny-looking fellow fell from the sky in a giant pearl and was teaching the village’s children odd things.” No one outside of the village is aware of the alien visitor. Alarmed, he rushes across the world to his grandmother’s village to find out what is happening and whether his grandmother is in danger. Less understandably, he fails to tell anyone at the state department where he’s going and what he’s heard.

Once he gets to the village and recuperates from his jet lag and a major bout of food poisoning, he meets the alien, named Foom. Foom is literally unable to see clearly anyone who is immersed in modern technology, whether it be carrying a cell phone, eating processed food, or wearing store-bought clothing. Foom calls these things “unlife,” and requires the narrator to put aside all these artificial trappings of technology and modern society in order to learn from him. Most especially, the narrator learns that he must respect the Rule of Three: you must be no more than three people removed from the one who originally made the food, clothing, method of transportation or anything else.
“Three is the limit. Pass the thing I made on to a fourth person and it can no longer detect me. The connection is broken. Unlife rushes in to fill the void. As a result it cannot be easily perceived. It is dark, inert.”

I swallowed. “You’re describing virtually all manufactured goods. Everywhere.”
The primitive Chinese village Foom is visiting was one of the few places on earth where he could perceive humans. All technologically advanced societies are dark to him.

The Rule of Three is a back-to-nature screed, with a bit of a bite to it. This story was inspired by the author’s trip to Guizhou Province, sponsored by the Future Administration Affairs and a poverty abatement program run by the Wanda Group. I found it rather long-winded and preachy, but readable. And while I appreciate that technology has many dangers, I think it brings countless benefits as well (most modern medicines and treatments would, of course, violate the Rule of Three; food might be manageable, but clothing and transportation would be near impossible).

I can’t say that I found the Rule of Three ― either the credo or the novelette ― particularly compelling or convincing.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
837 reviews68 followers
May 2, 2019
In The Rule of Three, an alien traveling in a pearl lands in rural China where he catches the attention of the locals. When the narrator of the story hears from his mother about the strange visitor in the village (which happens to be where his grandmother lives), he travels back to China to check it out.

The base concept is interesting but the Rule of Three is borderline Luddite. While I appreciate that the author enjoyed getting to travel to a rural province in China and learn ancient techniques, I had difficulty swallowing the idea of anything not made by hand as "dark, unlife." Too preachy and too oblivious of the advantages we've gained from technology for me. Not all technology advances are good but we don't exactly need to return to pre-industrialization either.

Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,685 reviews347 followers
April 24, 2019
An alien has landed in Guizhou Province, among the Miao people of China. It seems friendly, but has plans that humanity won't like....
2019 Nebula nominee for best novelette. Good storytelling, even if the back-to-nature stuff is a bit much. Worth reading, and I've seen worse stories win the Nebula. Weak 4 stars. It is science fiction. Online at http://future-sf.com/fiction/the-rule...
Profile Image for Savannah.
14 reviews2 followers
April 9, 2019
Another alien somehow at a MCU-Thanos-level of dumbass freshman philosophy major? they must be stopped.

It's absolutely bonkers how stupid and unsympathetic everyone in this story is, especially when compared to how they're immediately trusted and treated as enlightened beyond imagining. There's also some serious cultural tourism happening here that, combined with what can only be an extremely American liberal worldview that's once hippy and unflinchingly individualistic, gives this story absolutely no point of view beyond that of a Whole Foods ad for ginseng.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,143 followers
February 22, 2019
Rating and review only for "The Rule of Three" by Lawrence M. Schoen

It is a highly interesting first contact story with obvious environmental message.

"If I make a thing, I am one and the thing is full of the life that I gave it. If I pass that thing to you, you are two, and the thing still feels its connection to me and so retains that life. If you give the thing to another, that person is three. The thing still holds the link to me, my life still resonates within it. The distance does not matter, but the number does. Three is the limit. Pass the thing I made on to a fourth person and it can no longer detect me. The connection is broken. Unlife rushes in to fill the void. As a result it cannot be easily perceived. It is dark, inert.”

Yep, it want to show the bad side of manufactured goods. There were some interesting dialogues, which somehow feels familiar especially if you are used to the philosophical discourse of environmental protection, sustainability, carbon footprints and whatnots.

Yet, the story also raises a questionable plot point: if a State Department employee was officially sent to investigate an alien in rural China, when he failed to provide any update or communicate for months, wouldn't the government send a team there to find out why? Especially since they know about the alien? Unless somehow the alien erased his existence somehow or other subterfuge. It was not clear in the story and it really bugged me.
Profile Image for Eamonn Murphy.
Author 38 books8 followers
June 22, 2020
Future Science Fiction Digest’ is a new quarterly magazine featuring translations of international Science Fiction. It’s an oddity of the genre that the subject matter ranges across the universe but most of the well-known works come from the English-speaking world. The rest of planet Earth likes Science Fiction, too, and even writes good examples of it. There have been a few good anthologies of international SF but a whole magazine devoted to it is a welcome addition to the field. This first issue has fiction from China, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Italy and the United States.

It opens well with ‘The Rule Of Three’ by Lawrence M. Schoen, a first contact story. The alien doesn’t land on the White House lawn and say, ‘Take me to your leader’ (he must have seen twitter) but instead visits a remote Chinese mountain village populated by the Miao, an ethnic minority who live a simple life. A super-powered cross between Valentine Michael Smith (created by Heinlein circa 1960) and Henry David Thoreau (created by Mr and Mrs Thoreau circa 1816) he has some interesting ideas and the plot twists nicely along the way. Very enjoyable.

‘Sisi Mumu’ by Walter Dinjos postulates a future in which the elites live in space and the rest have dug into the Earth to avoid radiation sickness, mostly without success. However, the lower orders do have some useful skills, particularly mining and are taken to other planets to do the dirty work. One such is Nukosisi which has only one life-form, a gigantic tree. An interesting concept and a real human story of grief and adventure are beautifully combined in this fiction from a Nigerian author.

That Valentine Michael Smith fellow came to mind again in ‘The Emperor Of Death’, not because of the stranger’s original philosophy but for the circumstances of his birth. A team of highly talented married couples went on a space mission and he was born out there. When the ship returned, he was the only one left alive. A psychologist is sent to interview him after a number of odd events when the prodigy goes to school. This is well-written and disturbing. Authors Marina and Sergey Dyachenko are profiled afterwards by their translator Julia Meitov. She reveals that they produce literary stories where the ending is usually left unresolved like this one. That sometimes works but the masses and I prefer a bit of catharsis in our conclusions. Good story, even so.

Old hand Mike Resnick provides the issue with ‘Perfection.’ Zeph Is 6’ 2”’ perfectly proportioned, speaks eleven languages, knows fourteen computer languages and can lift four hundred pounds. He’s an android owned by billionaire Ephram Callahan. Fat and smelly, Ephram is the richest, most powerful man on the planet and decides he should have the perfect woman, the best in the world by which, he means the most beautiful. Brains and character are irrelevant. Zeph is tasked with finding her. This was highly amusing.

‘Wordfall’ by Liang Ling, translated by Nathan Faries and Zhao Li, is classic SF about a spaceship stranded on another world that meets strange aliens. The humans need to recharge their hydrogen tanks to get away. The frozen aliens stand stock still on the frozen landscape and get pelted with hot rocks. What a life! The ship’s captain has relationship difficulties with his teenage daughter and, with the help of a clever toy she owns, it all comes together nicely.

The above were my favourites but the also-rans were good too. ‘One Bad Unit’ by Steve Kopka is about Clutch, a man who works in nanotechnology, particularly security. The various applications that might be possible in fashion and cosmetics add interesting dressing to this boy meets girl story and there are some nice touches of humour.

‘The Substance Of Ideas’ is about two young people at a Kibbutz on another planet who discover a drug they can sell to the local townspeople. The original Italian prose of Clelia Farris is translated by Rachel Cordasco and has a pleasant lilt. I was reminded of Primo Levi and wondered if all Italian writing is so lovely in translation.

‘In All Possible Futures’ by Dantzel Cherry is about a man of one hundred and twenty years getting to the end of his life and being cared for by a pal, an AI that has protected him for years via clever use of prediction.

‘Future Science Fiction Digest’ has non-fiction, too. As well as the aforementioned profile of the Dyachenkos, there’s an interview with Javier Grillo-Marxvach and Jose Melina, TV writers and producers with a long list of credits that includes ‘Firefly’, ‘SeaQuest’ and ‘Agent Carter’. If you want to make money writing, kids, get into television.

The most interesting journalism is ‘A Vaccine For The Virus Of Empire’, a well-written and researched article by Phoebe Barton that I highly recommend even though I disagree with her. Phoebe protests the large presence of imperialism in SF books and films. She blames it on the Anglo-centric nature of the genre with its roots in the late British Empire and the American Empire of the 20th century. f you don’t think America has an empire read Vidal and Chomsky. Alas, empires are the norm for humanity, not a new phenomenon. From the Persian and Roman through to the Russian, Ottoman and British, it could be argued that history is the history of empires. I did a module on it as part of my degree. Science Fiction that assumes we will continue in the same vein is probably correct, no matter how beastly that is for good people. The best we can hope for is nice empires like Star Trek’s Federation.

This is a terrific first issue, highly recommended, and I hope it broadens the public taste and gets more people reading international Science Fiction.

Eamonn Murphy
Profile Image for james wells.
69 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2019
There is an interesting way to make french bread. I was a baker in the past, you see, and we used this machine to both flatten and create french bread, and regular bread of course. You take a peice of dough, weight it (1lb 40z) and throw it in the machine. The machine would flatten the bread to a normal length, and then roll the bread edge on so that you got a perfect piece of bread out the other end. Slap it on the tray, and off to the proofing box. Oh sure, some bread had a smidgen of bread on one side, or the lip of the bread was stretched a bit here or there, but more or less, everything was exactly the same.

I guess, what I am trying to say rather poorly is if you exert enough force on anything, either it be hate or french bread, everything comes out looking the same.
Profile Image for David H..
2,070 reviews19 followers
June 27, 2021
The official first issue of Future SF Digest has a lot to speak for it! My favorite stories were Walter Dinjos's heartfelt and oppressive "SisiMumu," the Dyachenkos' creepy "The Emperor of Death," Steve Kopka's hilarious nano dating story "One Bad Unit," and Liang Ling's creative "Wordfall." I especially enjoyed Phoebe Barton's essay about the idea of empire in SF and Joshua Sky's interview with TV writers/producers Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Jose Molina.

(EDIT: Upon opening up Issue 2, I read editor Alex Shvartsman's remarks about Dinjos's sudden death in December 2018; he was 34. I really liked "SisiMumu" and this is upsetting.)

I did enjoy Schoen's "The Rule of Three," though I'm not sure how I feel about the concept of unlife in this story. I'm also very confused by the presence of Mike Resnick's somewhat amusing but outdated "Perfection." It would not have been out of place in a magazine from like 40 years ago, but in 2018?
Profile Image for Allen Herring.
312 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2019
Future Tripping

Some very interesting, inspired, and ingenious ideas and stories collected in this little digest. I'll be looking for longer pieces of some of these writers.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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