DONALD WOLLHEIM, Editor, with Arthur W. Saha – The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF. Daw #783, paperback original; 1st printing, June 1989. Cover art by Jim Burns.

   #1. DAVID BRIN “The Giving Plague.” Short story. Interzone, Spring 1988. Also reprinted in Full Spectrum 2, edited by Lou Aronica et al. (Doubleday, hardcover, 1989). First collected in Otherness (Bantam, paperback, 1994). Nominated for a Hugo (2nd place).

   I may have missed one, but I believe that David Brin has won three Hugos and one Nebula award. The complete list of his nominations and other wins fills two or three pages of my computer screen on the ISFDb website. And yet, and I’m not sure why, this is the first work of his I’ve ever read, long or short.

   I read most of the science fiction magazines in the 60 and 70s, but by the time the 80s came along, I kept buying them, but I just wasn’t reading them any more. The same was true for novels — not only Brin’s — and even more so. I don’t think I’ll ever catch up on all the novels, but by taking my “Best of” anthologies out of storage and making my way through them, my hope is that I can finally read what was considered the Best at the time.

   I found “The Giving Plague” to be a strange one. It’s filled with to the top with scientific information that since it deals primarily with viruses and the way they spread, most of the diagrams and other details went way over my head, zip zip zip. But not only does Brin know his science, he also has the ability to explain it at a high enough level that it all makes sense to the reader, or seems to.

   And enough so that when he hypotheses a new kind of virus, one that’s called ALAS for short (Acquired Lavish Altruism Syndrome) and which propagates itself through blood transfusions by making people enjoy giving, it goes down awfully easily. This is what I think you’d agree is a Brand New Idea, and the story Brin builds from here is an awfully good one, well told.

   I don’t think I’ll be reading any of Brin’s novels right away — I’m too far behind for any hope of that — but his shorter work? Yes, indeed. I was impressed by this one.


Note:   In the same way that I’ve been working my way through Lester del Rey’s 1972 Best of the Year anthology, I thought I’d do a parallel investigation of what Donald Wollheim thought were the best stories of 1989, and see what a difference 17 years make. So far one thing sticks out, a minor one and maybe only important to me, but I’m a lot less familiar with the authors, sometimes even their names.