June 13, 2015

Loving Working, Power Grid, Asimov's 1979 (Part 3)


Loving Working
by Naomi Shihab Nye

"We clean to give space for Art."
Micaela Miranda, Freedom Theatre, Palestine

Work was a shining refuge when wind sank its tooth
into my mind. Everything we love is going away,
drifting – but you could sweep this stretch of floor,
this patio or porch, gather white stones in a bucket,
rake the patch for future planting, mop the counter
with a rag. Lovely wet gray rag, squeeze it hard
it does so much. Clear the yard of blowing bits of plastic.
The glory in the doing. The breath of the doing.
Sometimes the simplest move kept fear from
fragmenting into no energy at all, or sorrow from
multiplying, or sorrow from being the only person
living in the house.

*

If something like Ticket to Ride has lost its shine or you want to up the complexity a wee bit and still have an approachable, thoughtful, and fun time, Power Grid should fulfill that quota.  This was the balance I needed as I suffered the humiliation of learning Terra Mystica.  

The basic outline: Enter a city, connect it to your power gird, provide electricity, and profit.  The money earned is used to buy a variety of resources to power specific types of power plants (which power your power grid - circle of life complete).  

And that is a very basic outline.  This is a standard that ends up on a lot favorites lists and best of all, your Friendly Local Game Shop probably has a copy right now.  Easy to throw down and pack up, CJ and I leisurely get through a play in under two hours.  Several Power Grid maps and additions do exist; The Robots expansion offers a competitive 'artificial intelligence' adding a welcome dimension for our two-player games, and rotating in an extra map or two helps keep the game fresh.  

*

Tanith Lee passed away in May of this year, shortly after I finished reading her short story The Thaw in Asimov’s June 1979 magazine; it is obvious a true talent has been lost.  The rest of the issue does not waver from the standard set.  Michael Bishop’s Storming the Bijou, Mon Amour is another strong entry exploring a culture who spend their lives watching movies.  The consequences of looking away (or for a way out) are extreme, but one person makes the attempt to find out who/what is behind their eternal projections.  Another solid piece comes from Paul David Novitski and Tony Sarowitz with their story, Illusions.  A identity-twisting yarn with a Truman Show-esque feel to it, excellent pacing in a story that takes a good chunk of this issue.


... And Settle Down with a Good Book sneaks in on a few pages in the middle of July’s collection of stories.  Dian Girard’s protagonist will expend a great deal of energies and efforts to enjoy the comforts of a titillating tome.  Joseph Kosiewska follows it with The Quintessence of Galahad Sypher; a haunting story of clones searching for what sets each an individual apart from the other and the lengths one is willing to go through to define themselves.

The August issue presents C.O.D. by Jonathan Milos, aptly described in its introduction as “a small tale on the perils of hasty assumptions, overlong access times, and really ancient ancestors”, it is a light and delightful few pages. A longer story by John M. Ford immediately follows the aforementioned one and is equally fulfilling.  Stone Crucible slides us into the end of a small battle in the midst of a large war, two unlikely allies become traveling companions relying on each other to hopefully make it home.

Regrettably, the stories in the September issue did not really hit home with me, though Asimov's editorial on the vocabulary of science fiction and Milton Rothman's article "On the Fundamental Mystery of Physics" were interesting, it was difficult picking a few stories to highlight.  

Having finished out 1979, I already know October fairs the same.  November and December however, offer quite the selection.  Stay tuned.