Well, I signed up for a short story workshop, coming this September 2008.
The pre-work for the workshop is to read all the Asimov's magazines for this year. Alas, it has taken me three weeks to get through seven magazines. Not my usual reading speed since since I devour books like Twilight in one evening. But that's fantasy, and I'm very comfortable with fantasy. Science Fiction on the other hand . . .
The first story in the January 2008 issue, "The Perfect Wave" by Rudy Rucker and Marc Laidlaw is absolutely brilliant--setting, voice, characterization, all wonderful. I'm smart enough to know that, but the perfect wave drowned me. For the life of me I don't understand it. Some kids get on virtual surfboards and change the world. Don't know how. Some sciency stuff. Clearly I spent too much time in college studying Beowulf and not enough time studying science. Physics 101 just doesn't cut it. I could tell right then that it would take me a concerted effort to make my way from January all the way through July.
I'm glad to say that bit by bit I've come to understand the stories and articles better. You might be glad to know that I pretty much understood all of the stories in the July issue. I particularly enjoyed "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson and "Thought Experiments: When the Whole World Looked Up" by Kristine Kathryn Rush.
My other favorite stories were "Galaxy Blues" by Allen M. Steele, "The Room of Lost Souls" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and "The Egg Man" by Mary Rosenblum.
"Galaxy Blues" is about a guy named Jules Truffaut who ends up taking on a black hole. Can't tell you if he survives or not, because I wouldn't want to ruin the story for anyone who hasn't already read it.
"The Room of Lost Souls" is a sequel to Kris's December 2005 Readers' Award winning novella, "Diving Into the Wreck." The story is about a woman who works with teams of space divers to find and explore/recover wrecked space ships much like undersea divers do sunken shipwrecks here on earth. In "The Room of Lost Souls" she must face the most ancient dangerous wreck of all, the wreck that killed her mother and she alone survived.
"The Egg Man" is the story of, Zipakna, a Mexican aid worker helping poor unfortunate Americans. That thought just makes me smile. But Zipakna has good reason to go into the dangerous American desert. His wife vanished out there, and he hopes his efforts will someday bring him in contact with her once again.
So, despite the slow difficulty of the read for me and often feeling completely non-intelligent, I'd say it's been a great assignment. I've sure learned a lot.
Of course the next assignment is to write a science fiction story. It's been a loooot of years since I've done that, and of course science has changed so much since I was in school, no doubt about it after reading all those magazines. I admit to feeling a bit (okay a lot) intimidated. But I have a deadline. The story must be done and sent off by the end of next week. And deadlines have a wonderful way of forcing my creativity into action. I still don't have a clue what I'm going to write. But when I sit down to work on it Monday morning, I'm sure something will pop out.