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evtews^L Nebula Awards Showcase 2000 Gregory Benford, Editor A Harvest Original (Harcourt, Inc.), 2000, 286 pp., $14 Let's put the science back in science fiction. If there's a theme to the essays included in this year's Nebula collection , that's it. While Gregory Benford's introductory essay acknowledges that today's SF writers are much less interested in predicting the future than their predecessors, the bulk of Benford's essay isn't praise for these new "conceptual gardeners " but nostalgia for the era when SF writers were "the bards of science." Not surprisingly, much of the other editorial commentary Benford has chosen to include reeks of the same "those-were-the-good-old-days" attitude . But the fiction itself is, for the most part, fresh and interesting. Jane Yolen's Lost Girls, Best Novelette winner , is a rewrite of Peter Pan in which Darla, whose mother is a union lawyer, organizes the Wendy's into a strike. Yolen's hip, funny piece is a great argument for the contributions fantasy writers can make to the genre. Sheila Finch's Reading the Bones, Best NoveUa winner, isn't as entirely successful. Finch's exploration of linguistics and gender works when she's dealing with the aUen Freh, but her human characters are, well, flat. The winning short story, Bruce HoUand Rogers' "Thirteen Ways to Water," is another war story in a genre glutted with them, but it's not just another war story. Neither is Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace, the Nebula Award-winning novel excerpted in this year's showcase . This long-awaited sequel to his 1975 The Forever War gives us a platoon of "soldierboys" operated via remote by a platoon of ten real soldiers , men and women, hot-synched to each other for nine days at a time in virtual reaUty "cages." The narrator teUs us, "Some people caU the feeling godlike . . . since in fuU combat jack we are this one creature with twenty arms and legs, with ten brains, with five vaginas and five penises." Even in the brief excerpt reprinted in the Showcase, Haldeman's sensitivity to both the trauma and the comradeship of war emerges. In addition to the winners in each category, Benford chose three finalists for inclusion: Mark J. McGarry's wild 176 · The Missouri Review "The Mercy Gate" is adventurous both in style and plot. Geoffrey A. Landis' "Winter Fire" is also a worthy selection, but Walter Jon Williams' "Lethe" is my favorite of the collection . Benford comments about "Lethe" that WiUiams' story caught his attention "because its discussion of cloning particularly goes far beyond the clichéd discourse of mainstream thinking, and indeed, rings changes upon even advanced ideas that have been depicted in the SF Uterature for decades." In "Lethe," cloning has become commonplace. Everyone is stored digitally and reconstructed by nanotechnology as necessary. As WiUiams tells us, "He Uved in a world where no one died, and nothing was ever lost . . . Physical immortality was cheap and easy. . . ." And yet, the story begins after Davout's partner, Katrin, has died. "Lethe" is an involving read and a good blend of "old" and "new" SF as weU. It has enough hard science to satisfy traditionalists like Benford, enough Uterary flair to appeal to a wider audience and a thoughtful approach to one of those big questions : What does it mean to be human? (MB) Men in the OffHours by Anne Carson Knopf, 2000, 166 pp., $24 In her new book, Men in the Off Hours, poet and classicist Anne Carson addresses, in prose and in poetry, the ways we attempt to define and organize reaUty. "Essay on What I Think About Most," a poem on the nature of metaphor, decribes poetry as "the willful creation of error,/the deliberate break and complication of mistakes out of which may arise/ unexpectedness." Carson clearly prizes the unexpected, and in this book she repeatedly mines it to prove that black and white are never as interesting as the vast gray area between them. Men in the Off Hours is Carson's sixth book. In the previous five, she earned a reputation for sensual, fantastic language and tongue-in-cheek musings...


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