I follow the priests into the Temple of Asimov. Hooded grey robes hide their faces and bodies; I can’t tell what sex they are, or whether they’re actually human. They lead me to a reading room and motion for me to sit at an antique writing desk. One of them, wearing white gloves, uses both hands to place a copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine in front of me. I flip it open and begin to read.
Empty by Robert Reed This story was (deliberately, I think) vague at the beginning, so I couldn’t tell if it took place after a human vs. human war, an alien invasion, or a robot uprising. Later, it explains that all humans are dead, and the characters are all robots and/or AIs — Robots and/or AIs who have far too human-sounding conversations with each other for the rest of the story. This finally ends when one of the robots/AIs kills all the others.
Of Apricots and Dying by Amanda Forrest The story of a Pakistani family’s relationships. There are a couple of conversational references to “off-screen” sci-fi technologies which never appear in or impact the story. If you took a copy of Moby-Dick or War and Peace and inserted the words “robot maid” somewhere, it wouldn’t make the book science fiction.
We Jump Down into the Dark by M. Bennardo The last surviving gorillas live in a space station habitat because Africa is too dangerous for them. There’s a disaster on the station, and a rescue crew heads there to save the human crew, and maybe the gorillas. When the rescuers arrive, they find that one of the biologists (conveniently the ex-wife or girlfriend or something of one of the rescuers) didn’t dart the large male gorilla with enough drugs, so it ran into the artificial jungle, followed by the lady. The rescuer sends the rest of the people and gorillas off on a ship, then follows the lady into the jungle. He finds her after she’s given the gorilla a lethal injection (a mercy kill since they can’t carry the finally-drugged gorilla back to an airlock). The two humans walk to an escape pod.
The story wasn’t as annoying as the others in this magazine, but it failed to live up to its potential. It could have been a modern version of The Cold Equations. What if the escape pod can only hold two, and the lady has to decide whether to take the gorilla (the last male of its species) or her ex-whatever. She could say the man is just one member of a thriving species. He could say the gorillas are doomed anyway with only one male. He could appeal to their past relationship. She could hate him, and think saving him is the right thing to do, but wonder if she could get away with saving the gorilla instead. Any of this works best if she’s already in the pod with the gorilla, looking at two buttons labeled “launch” and “open door”. Sadly, instead of any of this, we get two people walking to an escape pod.
Riding the Waves of Leviathan by Garrett Ashley There is a sea monster in this story, but it only exists to depress the economy of a fishing town. That could have been accomplished by government regulators, Taiwanese fish pirates, or any of a dozen other things. The story actually focuses on a young man’s relationship with his father.
Bidding War by Rich Larson A girl broke up with a guy, and he’d like to get back with her. There is some near-future technology, but nothing spectacular, and nothing to make this truly a science fiction story.
Come-From-Aways by Julian Smith UFO wreckage washes up near a small coastal town. The story is mostly about a guy getting his girlfriend pregnant or some other thing I didn’t care about. The UFO wreckage could have been WWII wreckage or plastic products from China or anything else without impacting the story.
What in the name of Asimov are these priests up to? This isn’t great science fiction — most of it isn’t science fiction at all. I open one of the desk’s drawers and pull out a revolver. I roll out the cylinder to check that it’s loaded, then flip it back into place. I open another drawer and arm myself with a second revolver — at least the Space Gideons are still doing their job. A revolver in each hand, I head for the center of the temple. These false priests dishonor the name of Asimov; they must die.