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“This is a story about a ray-gun. The ray-gun will not be explained except to say, ‘It shoots rays.’”

As you can see, this is one of those stories where the title is entirely accurate.

It’s about a boy in the real world who one day finds a ray-gun, and how it changes the rest of his life. Much of the story’s time is spent on love and his pursuits thereof (handily fulfilling the other half of the title), but other areas aren’t neglected. I really like how one of his first thoughts is to remember Spider-Man’s “With great power comes great responsibility” line, and know that he’s found a ray-gun he needs to become worthy of using it. And the story handles well the frustration of having a secret and not being able to tell anyone, and not expecting to be able to tell anyone for the rest of his life. Charming.

The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner

Availability: Free online, print

Word count: 7,000

Awards: Sturgeon Award, first place. Nominated for a Hugo Award. Nominated for a Nebula Award. #1 in Asimov’s Reader’s Poll.

First published: Asimov’s, Feb 2008

Where to find it: Free online here.

The Year’s Best SF: 26th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois, 2009, St Martin’s Griffin

The Year’s Best SF and Fantasy 2009, edited by Rich Horton, Prime Books (available as e-book from Weightless Books here.)

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