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.

   #6. KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH “Skin Deep.” Short story. First published in Amazing Stories, January 1988. First collected in Stories for an Enchanted Afternoon (Golden Gryphon Press, hardcover, 2001).

   Although she seems to have slowed down somewhat over the last couple of years, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been one of the most prolific science fiction and fantasy writers over the past 20 years, producing dozens if not over a hundred novels and short stories over that period of time. Not only that, but she was the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between July 1991 and May 1997.

   She wrote “Skin Deep” long before any of this, however. It was only her third published story, way back in 1988, and it’s a good one. It’s both a subtle and yet very perceptive story about a young man whose lineage is native to a planet that colonists from Earth have landed and are slowly taking over, as colonists from Earth always have a tendency to do, even though they are the “aliens” on the planet.

   He can pass for human for a time, but when that time is up, which happens regularly after a period of so many years, he must leave where he’s been living and go into hiding, perhaps to find others such as himself. This time, however, the adopted daughter of the family he’s been staying with is about to undergo the same Change in her life as well: note the title of the story. Should he go, or should he stay and help her?

   This is a solidly built story, both structured and told well. A future for this young author was easy to see.


Previously from the Wollheim anthology: IAN WATSON “The Flies of Memory.”