A few days ago SF Signal (www.sfsignal.com) asked me, as part of its Mind Meld round-up of author responses, for my definition of science fiction. I gave it, and later went to the website to read everybody else's definitions. Very enlightening, especially in view of my recent reading of Robert Reed's story "Roxie" in last year's ASIMOV'S, which Gardner Dozois had placed on his list (on the ASIMOV'S Forum) of his favorite stories the magazine published last year.
"Roxie" is a very nice story -- affecting, believable, interesting, and well-written. It features two intertwining threads: the unnamed narrator's long relationship with his dog, Roxie, from puppyhood to nearly death, and an asteroid that may or may not hit Earth a few years from the end of story time. The asteroid gets closer, the dog gets older, the narrator deals with the usual human problems of age and time. I liked the whole thing a lot. But when the story ends, the asteroid has not hit, it's not certain it will hit, and no one is doing much to stop it. The story is all mood, which is fine with me -- but is it even remotely SF?
Now, I am not one that requires aliens, robots, clones, or gee-whiz tech to call a story SF. Nor do I require resolution, or even much of what is conventionally considered "plot." But I do wonder if what is there shouldn't have some speculative element in it, some changes to reality as we know it (see Mind Meld, above). If that's in Roxie, I didn't see it. No, we don't have a killer asteroid on the way toward Earth (that we know of), but the one in "Roxie" is still a long way off, with decent odds of not hitting at all, and that we have all the time.
So -- is "Roxie" SF? And does it matter?