It's not often I manage to (a) get a copy of something I'm published in around the same time it comes out or (b) actually read it before I post about it. Just for once, both of those things are true of new publisher Digital Science Fiction's first issue, suitably titled First Contact. Thanks to the miracle of kindle and the slightly less miraculous fact that I was itching to read something on my Kindle - which, despite my fondness for the thing, has been sitting unused for about three months now - I'm completely on the ball with this one.
So, First Contact ... my first e-book in three months, and lo and behold, it was a good'un. So much so that my lazy plan to namecheck my favourite three stories is scuppered, because I can't actually pick that few. In the end, there were five tales that really stood out for me.
Ed Greenwood's Biting a Dead Man’s Hand was the first to hit home, by being an unremittingly fun and charming ride with a wicked, rather mad twist of an ending. Ken Liu's The Caretaker built nicely and ended beautifully, handling a number of tricky topics with poise and sensitivity. Edward J. Knight's Roanoke, Nevada reminded me of The Andromeda Strain, in a good way, and was another story that went after big issues with a scalpel rather than a sledge hammer. Heading even further in that direction, Kenneth Schneyer's The Tortoise Parliament was a great bit of slow-burn fiction that took the risk of setting up its subject in real detail before bringing it all crashing down. Lastly, Curtis James McConnell's Pop Quiz was the perfect close-out story, a well-told joke with a a brilliantly silly punchline.
Criticisms? Well, it's completely hypocritical given that my entry, Black Sun, is as much horror as anything, but it would have nice to see maybe a couple more hard sci-fi stories in the mix - the bulk of what's presented here falls under the banner of what I'd call social science fiction. Other than that, I'd struggle to find much at fault. Which, considering this is a first issue, is certainly a good sign.
First Contact is (or imminently will be) available in any number of formats from various different places. Rather than me list them all, here's the link to the Digital Science Fiction website again.