Jack Dann &
Gardner Dozois, editors,
Future Sports
(Ace, 2002)

Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois have edited many anthologies together, the latest of which is a compilation of science fiction sports stories. Too strange of a combination, you say? Many readers may think this before they delve into the great variation of stories gathered in Future Sports; after finishing, I think any reader will be pleasantly surprised.

Many different sports are highlighted here, from sumo wrestling to sailing, and the topics of the stories don't revolve only around sports. Rather, many of the authors have used their sport of choice as the springboard for deeper narratives. "Winning" by Ian McDonald is the perfect example of this technique. As Hammadi trains his body for the Pan-Olympics, his mind and soul are on a parallel track of introspection. Can he win these games without losing too much of himself?

Another of my favorites is "Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars," a familiar-feeling baseball yarn set in an almost unfamiliar environment by Kim Stanley Robinson. Most readers know Robinson for his phenomenal Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars, and reading another Mars tale from him is a bit of a treat. Picture baseball, Martian style. The diamond is much larger than what we see here on Earth -- so huge, in fact, that it takes up all of the the visible land, right to the horizon. Arthur is the one American on the field, and he is in baseball bliss. When Gregor, the unlikely Martian pitcher, hits Arthur with a "wild" pitch, Arthur waves away his apologies and explains that it was the first curveball on Mars. Robinson's narrative has a comfortable, conversational feel to it that fits this hometown tale perfectly.

Imagine a sumo match between the 180-kilo Ground Sloth and the 90-kilo Killer Kudzu. Poor Kudzu would be a sumo snack, right? Not in the wild imagination of Howard Waldrop, who brings us "Man-Mountain Gentian," which showcases a sport where wit can definitely out-do weight. These wrestlers can defeat each other with their minds, as we see at the beginning of this tale when the wee Killer Kudzu defeats the vegetarian Ground Sloth with a surprise in the ring, but without a touch.

I've only given you a tidbit of what has been gathered together in this anthology. Tales of sailing, boxing and basketball with a sci-fi tweak are also offered up to the reader by some of the greatest science fiction writers we know, including Arthur C. Clarke. The futuristic twists infused into these stories can grab the attention of sports fans, players and non-enthusiasts alike. This anthology stands, in my opinion, as a prime example of how flexible a genre science fiction remains.

- Rambles
written by Carie Morrison
published 12 April 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.