Blurb: At its best, science fiction presents us not just with a vision of the future, but with more understanding of ourselves and how to get to that future. It presents us with ways to think about relationships and people. And this time, it's about the shapes of relationships.
In these eight stories, we run the gamut. Whether a shipboard fantasy about a captain that turns into more or the new fiancé meeting the former spouse, people remain people, with loves and confusion.
Sometimes the love lies very close to jealousy and hatred, as in "Bodies!" Sometimes, it grows out of an unpleasant necessity, such as "Similar Species" and "Expectations." Occasionally, it is the mother of creativity and invention, as in "Tether," or just food for a species that feeds on emotions, from "A Very Emotional Scene." And sometimes, it can leave people wondering if it was real or not, as it does in "Wide Awake."
Love and sex are two very powerful drives and in these futures, they propel us far beyond our own world.
Excerpt, from "Expectations" by Sian Hart:
The Engineer took off at a run, headed for the stairs. “Come on, come on, no labyrinths, no labyrinths,” he prayed to the digital gods as he ran, laying down traps and slides.
The digital gods must have had a good day, because he found the staircase fairly easily. Up in the Great Hall of the castle, it looked like nothing so much as a medieval marketplace. Numerous ordinary avatars ordered things from booths that represented TelgaCorp’s varied interests.
Cori slowed his run to a stroll. He wouldn’t find what he needed here, but he could blend in with the other shoppers until he found a way to access it. He rewrote himself, adding a shiny facade that would make him look like the other shoppers. He lifted several nice things for himself, low risk and high reward. Corp data was always choice, and he could use more in his personal accounts. He’d pay Durak half and again his purchase price.
With a smirk, he slipped behind the curtains and into an alcove, cutting through the wall to head into the rooms that the customers didn’t see, the rooms with the digital servers.
“Checkmate,” he whispered. The Engineer wasted no time. Plugging into the servers, he set a packet of worms activated through a Goldberg code, and quickly wrote the payroll directive in with a rush.
He added back pay for a thousand other employees, making sure that even if it were traced to a hack, it wouldn’t be Durak who took the fall. With that, he disconnected and sauntered out, planning to leave by the path he’d laid in on his entrance.
A rank of armored knights had encircled the alcove in the few seconds he had worked, silent as they could only be in cyberspace. Several of them blocked him, and others held halberds on him. A small man with thinning red hair and a goatee, wearing an appropriate tunic and a large chain of office, stood behind the first-rank knights.
The Engineer hated sell-outs who went over to the corps instead of running for their own gain. The fussy little man cleared his throat as Cori pulled bits of code nestled in his wild hair and pockets.
“By order of TelgaCorp, I hereby place you under arrest for trespassing, data piracy and icebreaking. You will be required to work off the damage you have done. Should you resist, you will be flatlined, your location traced and your body sold for its component elements.”
A smile spread over the Engineer’s face, hidden behind the gadgets and goggles he wore. He set off his deadman’s switch and finished the code he’d been putting together in a hurry. “You pissant little yellow bastard. I haven’t even begun to do damage.” He held up a finger. “Watch this.”
With that, he aimed the newly-assembled gun program at his feet and fired, falling down a level into their security. He hit the floor with a groan and a scrabble, and started to run for his life, setting off the traps in the servers.
“That is not a period weapon!” the pompous little man yelled after him.