Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Many of my favorite writers contributed stories to this anthology after they visited with Microsoft about cutting edge technology and speculation about the future. Some stories deal with translation and conversation, suggested by advancements in Skype, including “Hello, Hello” by Seanan McGuire and “Another Word for World” by Ann Leckie. Several deal with machine intelligence and especially deep learning, including “Machine Learning” by Nancy Kress, “Looking for Gordo” by Robert Sawyer, and “The Tell” by David Brin. The graphic art of “A Cop’s Eye” by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal pairs a cop with an AI to help a runaway. Greg Bear gets quantum weird with “The Machine Starts.” Many of these stories also had healthy dollops of VR/AR technology, and “Riding with the Duke” by Jack McDevitt especially foregrounds this technology.
The writing is top-notch in all of these stories, though I think there is sometimes a sense of constraint that is hard to describe; that is, these stories are not necessarily examples of the writers’ best work and they might have been constrained by time or topic, since this is a project focused on the work at one corporation. However, all the stories are at least very good, and some of them are spectacular. Personally, I was caught up in the incredible craft on display, especially from McGuire, Bear, Kress, and Leckie.
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