Future Boston

And the Future Boston series concludes with a look at its core work.

Raw Feed (1995): Future Boston: The History of a City 1990-2100, ed. David Alexander Smith, 1994.Future Boston

’Boston Will Sink Claims MIT Prof’”, David Alexander Smith — Fake Time article from 1923 predicting Boston, built on a filled in caldera, will sink.

Seeing the Edge”, David Alexander Smith — Basically a mainstream story with a bit of foreshadowing about Boston sinking. The “edge” of the title refers to two things: the edge of the area sinking and the edge of impoverishment as protagonist Jerry runs out of money while caring for his absent landlady’s kid. (It’s hinted she was a prostitute that was murdered.) It’s not only an ode to a city that will die but the story of Jerry drawing closer to child Travis and accepting responsibility for him and entering a new life, crossing an “edge between what he had thought he wanted to be and what he was.”  Kind of a nice, touching mainstream story.

Nomads”, Alexander Jablokov — A subtle mainstream story by Jablokov. I liked the crazy nomad character Rum, a self-proclaimed “nomad” and urban, homeless bum who looks on his lot not as privation but the price of freedom, a point worth considering. His apocalyptic ramblings of a coming urban and social collapse foreshadows Boston’s sinking and make him a sort of barbarian heralding, if not hastening, the collapse of civilization. I suppose the point is that protagonist Caius Fitzpatrick learns not to see permanency in life – be it in relationships or structures. Both are subject to complex failures. Continue reading

In the Cube

The Future Boston series continues.

Raw Feed (1994): In the Cube, David Alexander Smith, 1993.In the Cube

Another excellent installment in the shared universe of Future Boston, the same series that produced Alexander Jablokov’s  “The Place of No Shadows” and the pretty good “The Egg” (expanded as Slow Lightning) by Steven Popkes.

Like both those stories, the stars of this novel are the setting of Boston circa 2081 (the other stories are set in other times) and the very well done aliens. (Here Smith credits Sarah W. R. Smith with helping keeping the Phneri truly alien. I don’t know if she helped with the aliens in the other stories).

Boston is sinking into the sea and is an interstellar port. Most of Boston is in an arcology – the Cube of the title – heavily infused and dependent on alien biotechnology, most of it supplied by the never-seen, sinister Targive (mentioned in other stories including another Jablokov story where they take center stage). The Targives do alterations of minds for the price of performing their own choice of mental and/or physical alterations.

Here the main alien race covered is the Phneri. At first they seem like cute, anthropomorphic beavers with strange speech (they have trouble with verb tenses) patterns and superb imitative talents. One Phneri, Akktri, is the alien partner of private detective Beverly O’Meara. Continue reading

Slow Lightning & “The Longest Voyage”

The look at the Future Boston shared world series looks at the expansion of Steven Popkes’ “The Egg” and, since it was the other half of this “dos-a-dos”, a Poul Anderson story — which has nothing to do with Boston.

Raw Feed (1992): Slow Lightning, Steven Popkes, “The Longest Voyage” by Poul Anderson/Slow Lightning by Steven Popkes, 1991.TORDOB30

The first part of this short novel was Popkes novella “The Egg” which I’d read before and liked. The rest of the story wasn’t as good though it did fill in some details of this universe.

Structurally the story is very interesting.

It’s three episodes (the first being “The Egg”) which could stand alone. However, the episodes are set chronologically out of sequence, and characters from the preceding ones often show up as minor characters in the next one.

In “The Egg”, orphaned Ira Bloom and alien nanny Gray are the main characters.

In the second story, Ira’s parents are the main characters and the tale of Gray’s discovery is told. The story ironically ends happily though the reader knows both of Ira’s parents will soon be killed in a labor dispute.

The last story tells how Ira’s aunt and mother became orphans. Continue reading

“The Egg”

The Alexander Jablokov series takes a sidestep into the shared world of Future Boston, a series he worked in. So, I’m going to cover several works in that universe.

Raw Feed (1989): “The Egg“, Steven Popkes, 1989The Ring of Memory

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this rather bland titled story by an author I’ve never heard of.

However, I enjoyed it, especially the alien sapient Gray and the centaur Bishop, a very strange, cannibalistic alien of equal parts savage voracity and refinement.

I would have liked to know more of Gray’s history. Is he a biological construct?

I also would have liked to know if the ghosts of Ira’s parents had a clearer explanation: real ghosts, telepathic projects of Gray, or Ira’s fantasies? Perhaps I’m too stuck in my fantasy/sf pigeonholes.

Many elements of this story were pretty standard: union strife, Sara Monahan’s obsession with her long gone husband (I spent most of the story wishing she’d snap out of her habitual distrust), Ira’s anger at Gray and his parents, Jack’s vandalization, and the temporary spurning of Sam. These may be verities of the human conditions but they’re also cliches, even if well done as here, in the storyteller’s catalog. It’s a dilemma: realistic situations depicted over and over again or more original, bizarre, less realistic psychocharacter drama?

Still, I liked this story more than I thought and did enjoy it.

 

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