“Beggars in Spain”

In the 1930s, it was still possible to read every piece of published science fiction.  It hasn’t been that way in a long, long time.  You could read science fiction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and still not keep up with it all.  There is always new stuff coming out, for instance, added to the collection of published works.  Every now and then, I wonder, when will I discover the next new thing that will blow me away?  But I forget that you can’t read everything that’s been published, and that the next "new" thing, may be something that has existed for some time.

The sixth story in The Hard SF Renaissance is Nancy Kress’s "Beggars In Spain".  I read this story tonight, and I was blown away by it.  I couldn’t put it down, which explains why I am up at 11:30 on a "school" night.  It is no wonder the story won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.  It was simply incredible, and certainly one of the best pieces of short science fiction that I have come across.

The story reminded me in many ways of an amalgamation of Isaac Asimov’s "The Bicentennial Man" and A. E. Van Vogt’s Slan.  Thinking it through, it may be the best novella I have ever read.

I love when this happens:  discovering a gem like this, something that I probably should have read a long time ago, but never got around to it.  Reading all 960 pages of The Hard SF Renaissance will be worth it for that one story.  It just goes to show how valuable anthologies like these can be; and it certainly makes me more conscious of that value going forward.

But I’ve just got to say, that even if you are not a fan of science fiction, you should find yourself a copy of "Beggars In Spain" (the novella; I can’t yet speak for the novel) and read it.  It will be time very well spent.


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