The best piece of writing advice I ever got came from Gene Wolfe, fairly early in my career. He said, "Have a short story feature two situations, and then let them solve each other." I thought of this advice while I was reading Paolo Bacigalupi's story in FAST FORWARD 2, "The Gambler."
Once I got past the image in my head of Kenny Rogers, I was really impressed with this story (which Gardner Dozois signaled out as among the best in the anthology). The story works on many levels. It also illustrates Gene's advice perfectly. Ong, the protagonist, has two "situations;" one is his concern and longing for his parents, who disappeared during the "black hole" of no information that Laos has become after a bloody revolution. Ong, now in America, is a reporter for a news conglomerate, and his second "situation" is that his ratings are low. He writes thoughtful, "depressing" articles about minor government corruption and minor environmental disturbances such as the extinction of an obscure butterfly. Almost no one reads these articles. Bacigalupi works his plot so that these situations impact upon and, ultimately, "solve" each other.
What's lovely about this story is that even though the high-tech tracking of media hits ("the malestrom") is completely believable and savagely frenetic, the characters (with one exception) are refreshingly low-key. Even the captain who arrested Ong's father in Laos is not a stock villain but a sad, believable man. Ong himself has a quiet tenacity that is the opposite of James-Bond heroism, yet he is a hero nonetheless.
Anyone wanting to write SF would do well to study this story's construction, pace, and deft characterization.