Wednesday, January 4, 2017

To Shape the Dark, edited by Athena Andreadis

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(Hard SF) An anthology focusing on women scientists who pursue science not-as-usual and who are not subject to the "snooze-inducing conflict of work vs family." (116,503 words; Time: 6h:28m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"To Shape the Dark," edited by Athena Andreadis, published on by .

Women Scientists at Work

The anthology does a great job of showing women in leading scientific roles doing original research. All the stories honor the commitment not to make the main conflict be work vs. family. Where most of them fall down is failing to replace that with an exciting conflict. Either the heroine isn't trying to do anything special and just goes with the flow of events or else the story ends without much of anything having happened. 

As a result, of the fifteen stories in this anthology, we only recommended one of them, as compared to the average of three you'd expect. The writing itself is fine; on the low end, we recommended against five, which is average for us.


The Age of Discovery, by C.W. Johnson, takes us to a big corporate lab that's trying to build devices that use the Casimir effect to travel faster than light. Edith bubbles over with her own ideas, and persists in running her own experiments on company time with company equipment but without company permission.

Other Reviews: Search Web,

5 & 4 Stories: 1;  Estimated Time: 23m (7K words)
Recommended By Stories: 6;  Estimated Time: 2h:40m (48K words)
Total Stories: 15;  Estimated Time: 6h:28m (117K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

The Age of Discovery by C.W. Johnson  Time: 23m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Hard SF) Edith’s lab wants to improve the Casimir pump enough to use it for space travel, but Edith can’t help running her own experiments even without permission.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4

Rating: 3 -> Average

Carnivores of Can't-Go-Home by Constance Cooper  Time: 27m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(SF Mystery) A professor and her student investigating carnivorous plants on a colony world find the bones of a teenager inside one of the plants.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:4
Crossing the Midday Gate by Aliette de Bodard  Time: 24m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Space Opera) Dan Linh returns from twenty-years exile to head up her old lab again. She’s a scientist, not a politician; can she really make it work?
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:4
Fieldwork by Shariann Lewitt  Time: 33m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Hard SF) Anna’s grandmother died on Europa, and her mother was traumatized for life, but she’s determined to go there and finish the work they started.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:5
Firstborn, Lastborn by Melissa Scott  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Far-Future SF) Irtholin visits her friend Anketil to tell her that a long-lost starship has been found, and to try to interest her in helping salvage it.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:5
From the Depths by Kristin Landon  Time: 32m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Colony Planet SF) Rinna is going to study one of the vast grass mats that’s the closest thing to dry land on Ta’aroa. Her teenage daughter wants to come along, but there’s a big storm brewing.
Recursive Ice by Terry Boren  Time: 30m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(SF Mystery) Bret doesn’t know how she wound up in Munich nor why she has fragmentary memories of murders on the moon.
The Pegasus Project by Jack McDevitt  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Far-Future SF) In fifteen thousand years, humanity has never found evidence for alien life, but Ronda gets tasked with checking out a possible transmission.
The Seventh Gamer by Gwyneth Jones  Time: 33m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Virtual Reality SF) Chloe wants to write an article about gamers in a massive virtual-reality world who believe that some of the NPCs are actually being played by creatures from other planets.
Two Become One by Kiini Ibura Salaam  Time: 34m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(High Fantasy) Ketah, an apprentice in Meherenmet’s lab, struggles to be a good student, even though the work can be rather gruesome.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Building for Shah Jehan by Anil Menon  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(SF) Kavi and Velli just need to finish their architectural model and then they can get their degrees.
Chlorophyll is Thicker than Water by M. Fenn  Time: 29m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Near-Future SF) Retired scientists Susan and Hina are trying to make plants “think” in real time. Kim intends to steal their research. The plants have their own ideas.
Ward 7 by Susan Lanigan  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Brain Enhancement) Vera’s do-it-yourself brain experiments have greatly enhanced her sense of smell. Now she’s desperate to undo it.

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

Of Wind and Fire by Vandana Singh  Time: 36m (Novelette)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Scientific Fantasy) The villages fall slowly down the face of the mountain, trading with the people on the ledges as they go, but is there a bottom, or does it just go down forever?
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [1]  Recommended By: GDozois:4
Sensorium by Jacqueline Koyanagi  Time: 13m (ShortStory)  IssueTo Shape the Dark 2016
(Alien Communication) The Tagli came to planet Ila ten years ago, but communication with humans has been very difficult. To fix that, Yora is going to try to bond with one.

Rating: Not Rated

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