Saturday, January 12, 2013

Future Games, ed. Paula Guran

Who could have predicted that state of sports 200 years ago?  Many of the sports we love today didn't even exist, or existed only in some other form.  Some games seem eternal (chess), while others are introduced every year.  It's fun to see how games and sports are portrayed in movies and TV, and it's fun to read more detailed exposition in this anthology, Future Games, edited by Paula Guran.  Like any anthology, there were some stories here I enjoyed, some not as much.  Some authors were familiar, some I've never heard of (which probably says more about me than about the authors).  Guran has gathered an entertaining, eclectic group of stories here, with enough good reading to satisfy any sports sci-fi fan.

These stories are culled primarily from sci-fi magazines like Analog and Amazing Stories.  Some are as old as the 1960s, some published in the last few years.  Without listing all of them, I will just highlight some of the more memorable stories.

In "Will the Chill," John Shirley introduces a game in which the players control the orbits and direction of planets, smashing them together while the universe watches.

If you have not read Orson Scott Card's classic Ender's Game, you can read the short story here on which that novel was based.

Similarly, Cory Doctorow's "Anda's Game" gives a preview of the worker's rebellion in his novel For the Win.

Before George R.R. Martin wrote about games of thrones, he was writing about the game of football, specifically what would happen when members of an alien race living on earth field a football team in the local youth football league.

In "Breakaway," George Alec Effinger explores what might happen if a hockey rink were measures in miles across the surface of an ice planet, rather than on the small rink we know.

In Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff's "Distance," aliens finally make first contact, through the universal language of -- baseball!

And in "Unsportsmanlike Conduct," Scott Westerfield uses baseball to bring together a team of scientists with an indigenous race on the planet Tau.

Finally, Walter Moudy describes what it might look like if nations agree to settle their differences in an arena, rather than at their borders or on the battlefields.

I particularly like the recurring theme in these stories of sport bringing people together.  I've never had first contact with another race or species, but in my limited experiences in traveling to foreign countries, I have found that sports and games bridge language and cultural barriers beautifully.  Like any anthology, some of the stories will be great and memorable, some you might want to skip over.  There are enough clever ideas and good storytelling in this collection to keep you reading, and who knows, maybe some clever person in the future will bring some of these games to reality.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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