Nick Wood – January 2009

The 3rd Best of South African Science Fiction collection is now out and can be ordered through the Science Fiction Club of South Africa, who may also have overseas contacts to channel foreign currency for those not resident in South Africa. It's a mixed and interesting collection of stories culled from Probe and SFSA's annual Nova short story competition. The writing is by South African authors, hence the title of the collection, as the stories don't all carry a South African scene or setting.

Picks of the bunch for me were Marianne Case's There are still places, an engaging gender take on issues in a miner community on a foreign planet. Another stand out piece for me was Bernie Ackerman's Do robot farts smell of brimstone? - a clever detective story with an AI as the detective. Finally, W.G. Lipsett's Of course it'll burn is a poignant Close Encounter variation in a Karoo setting. Incidentally, Lipsett won the SFSA Nova short story competition fairly consistently in the 1970s and early 1980s with good locally flavoured science fiction stories.

What was intriguing overall about the collection was the relatively light South African seasoning in most of the stories - a curiosity given they were selected from offerings between 1986 and 1993, which in real time represented a massive political shift in South African history and society.

A novel which makes no bones about it's political leanings and engagement is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother - I've written a review of this which I hope to post soon - so if you want a story that is smart and engages with the cusp of electronic development in a near-future U.S.A., this may well be for you. (The book is also aimed at a YA audience and again, raising political issues with this generation is in my opinion to be much applauded!)

I'm writing this early in 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa, and have just been given an sf novel set in a future Cape Town, written by Lauren Beukes called Moxyland.
It looks very promising and I will report back on it here. For those of you who are in a New Year - may it be a good one! To those of you who are not on a Christian calendar, may the rest of your year be good. Happy reading and/or writing.

Nick Wood - Jan 2009.