The Starry Rift ed by Jonathan Strahan.
Viking/Penguin Group: NY, 2008.

The Starry Rift has 16 futuristic short stories by acclaimed authors. It's marketed to young adults, but could easily have been for adults as well. The protagonists are almost all teens. The worlds and situations fit adult experiences also. The writing is excellent and compelling. Though I like some better than others, all of the stories are good and varied. Note: I had to change my Favorites of 2008 to include it at the last minute, because I just finished it, and it is great. With the wide ranging themes, it would be impossible to go into much detail, so here is a blurb for each.

Ass-Hat Magic Spider is about traveling through space to a colony. What of your life would you be willing to leave behind to meet weight requirements?

Cheats is set at a resort centered around virtual outdoor activities and the possibility of "cheating" the map to move through space and time.

Orange is a story told through Q & A with only the answers being recorded. The subject is an inquiry into an encounter with aliens.

The Surfer has more than one theme. The surfer had been abducted by aliens and started a cult in Costa Rica after returning to Earth. Supposedly the aliens are coming back. Dorn's father kidnaps him to go to this community, and there are complications due to rampant global viruses

Repair Kit is a space travel story with a time twist. The crew of the Flying Pig are forced to take off on schedule despite not having backup for a crucial part of the craft. The vehicle has a Department of Last Resort for times when the Engineering Department can't solve the problem. The unthinkable happens, and the unbelievable saves the craft and crew.

The Dismantled Invention of Fate is one of the more complicated stories. An ancient astronaut, traveling to all possible places, lives for a time with a peace-loving community, becomes restive and brings his wife away with him only to have her die. What is striking about it is that in his wandering the astronaut meets others who are connected with his fate.

In Anda's Game girls get caught up in computer gaming. They are paid to accomplish violent missions. Turns out they are terminating other children, working in factory-like conditions, who lose their pay when they are killed in the game. A side theme is the diabetes the protagonist is developing from lack of exercise.

Eelie in Sundiver Day wants to clone her brother who died during military service. She has the knowledge and ability, but can she be convinced it isn't a good idea? Mostly the story deals with Eelie's grappling with the loss.

In The Dust Assassin two warring families in India fight for economic control of the region. A coop kills off both families, except a daughter of one and a son of the other. The girl's caretakers help to arrange a marriage between them to unite the families and end the violence. Told from youngest childhood that she is a weapon, she trains to be one. Once convinced the battling is over, she discovers the meaning of her father's words.

The Star Surgeon's Apprentice features a boy who signs on a space craft to avoid capture and punishment at home. He is assigned to the ship's cyborg surgeon. All of the crew are cyborgs, and pirate battles are a common occurrence for them.

An Honest Day's Work describes an industry similar to whaling, but with a sci fi creature. It deals with the community surrounding the industry and the life of the workers.

In Lost Continent, Ali's brother has been taken as a slave to fight in the region's current war. His father tries to negotiate a release and is killed. Ali's uncle sells him to a time traveler to send him to a safer place. They travel forward in time to a place where guards are trying to stem the flow of time travelers.

In Incomers, three teenage boys looking for excitement are convinced a man is a spy and propose to prove it. It takes place on a colonized moon of Saturn. The boys are from Earth. Their parents are part of the colonization, and reactions to life in the colony are explored.

Post-Ironic Stress Syndrome portrays a different idea of warfare. Two opponents virtually battle, and they represent opposing forces which sustain defeats parallel to their blows.

Infestation reminds me of the popular show Smallville. Hunters are called in to deal with the infestation. Vampires are the hunted and are explained as aliens. Volunteers of varying levels come for the hunt. One is known for his expertise and has odd characteristics.

Pinocchio deals with child celebrity status, the allure of the fans, and the lightning speed changes of the computerized critiquing communities. The protagonist is a trendsetter. He has ups and downs with his personna changes. He can stay on top with the right marketing. But is it more important to retain popularity or actually live a life?

related-science fiction, short stories, future, Scott Westerfeld, Ann Halam, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Stephen Baxter, Jeffrey Ford, Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Ian McDonald, Alastair Reynolds, Margo Lanagan, Greg Egan, Paul McAuley, Tricia Sullivan, Garth Nix, Walter Jon Williams

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