Reading Around in Old SF Magazines

DeltaV

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The cause of the time-travel was intriguing. Leinster had obviously got hold of the idea that time was a 4th dimension, and so when it was affected by an earthquake or similar event, it was shifted, not up, down, left or right, but back. Simple as that! The science in such an old story is always going to be dated and off-kilter but if you accept the premise, the scientific incongruences didn't compound further, and it was internally consistent.

Good observation.

This is a touchstone in my SF reading. I can take a fundamental idea or background that is a little out there, and enjoy the story as long is it is internally consistent. On the other hand, once I start noticing contradictions, even in little things, my interest in a story starts to drop off in a real hurry.
 

DeltaV

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February 1978

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A new serial starts. The Outcasts of Heaven Belt by Joan D. Vinge. The planet Morningside sends a spaceship to another colony in the Heaven system, hoping to find mineral resources to bring home. Instead they find a system shattered by war.

The first novelette is The Serpent's Death by Vonda McIntyre. Snake the Healer is grieving for Grass. However duty calls when she is taken to care for a woman who was thrown from her horse.

The second novelette is Call Him Moses by George R.R. Martin. Haviland Tuf, master of the bio warship The Ark, is accused of aiding a religious fanatic to take over a planet. Tuf decides to investigate. Discussed below.


Haviland Tuf is enjoying a quiet meal in a restaurant when he is assaulted by Jaime Kreen. Kreen accuses Tuf of being a criminal. Unfortunately for Kreen, Tuf is a very large man, and Kreen quickly ends up both disabled and in jail. To Kreen's surprise, Tuf bails him out and pays his fines ... and under planetary law, Kreen is now Tuf's indentured servant.

Taking him onboard the bio warship Ark, Tuf questions Kreen, paying him a small amount for each question answered. The sum to be deducted from the amount Kreen owes Tuf (who is a meticulous bookkeeper). Tuf learns that a prophet called Moses used some plagues to take complete control of the planet Charity, where Kreen was a civil administrator. Charity had been colonized by two waves of settlers. The first advocated a simple life close to nature with no technology. The second wave, much later, built the City of Hope and had no qualms about using all the advantages that modern science provided.

This proved to be a thorn in the side of the "Holy Altruists". Once in control, Moses banned all technology and forced the population of the City of Hope to revert to a more simpler time. A much more simpler ... and harder ... time. Kreen escaped just before the space port was closed. Kreen blames Tuf for the takeover as Tuf is the only one alive to have mastery of genetic manipulation, and thus must have helped Moses with his 'plagues' (knowledge of genetic manipulation and cloning was lost centuries ago when the Federal Empire collapsed; Tuf acquired these skills after finding the lost bio warship Ark).

Tuf decides to investigate and sets course for Charity. During the trip, Kreen works to pay off his debt, but also incurs charges that increase his debt. The only ones on board the immense space ship are Tuf, Kreen and Tuf's cat, Dax (which has some level of telepathic ability). Tuf manages to convince Kreen that he had nothing to do with the so-called plagues that Moses inflicted on the City of Hope.

Upon arrival, Tuf sends Kreen down to the planet to find other former rulers of the City of Hope. Kreen returns with three. Tuf learns more about the six plagues that Moses used: water into blood, frogs, lice, flies, locusts and darkness. Curiously, all of the plagues only affected the City. Tuf negotiates a price to free the City of Hope: forty thousand credits and a statue in the main square.

Then, using his tech, Tuf speaks to Moses from a pillar of fire, demanding that Moses 'let His people go'. He tells Moses exactly what Moses did to coerce the people of the City, and then threatens Moses that unless he frees the people of the City of Hope, Moses and his followers will suffer the consequences.

Moses of course ignores Tuf. Tuf returns to his ship, and begans to unleash the creations of the bio warship upon the "Holy Altruists". First, he changes the water everywhere to blood (using a microorganism). He then appears to Moses in a pillar of fire to demand that Moses free the people. Moses again refuses. Next were frogs ... that bite (Scarnish bloodfrogs). That is enough for Moses' followers. The citizens of the City of Hope carefully pick their way past the bloodfrogs and return to the City.

Moses is then brought aboard the ship and Tuf shows him all that he could have done. Nine plagues. There would have been no need of the tenth as everyone would have been dead by then. Comprehending the power that Tuf could wield, Moses' resolve breaks. Both he and Kreen are sternly warned to make no reprisals on one another, for one day the Ark will return and if Tuf learns that they have disobeyed, he will send the plagues upon the planet and end all life.



I realized that, at some point in time, I've read the story when Tuf finds the Arc. Checking it out on Wikipedia confirms it. These stories are described as "a darkly comic meditation on environmentalism and absolute power."

There are three short stories: Follower by Orson Scott Card, Quinera 3 by Kevin O'Donnell, jr and Update: The Lord's Prayer by Kennedy P. Maize.
Science Fact by John Gribbin discusses how organic molecules floating in space may have seeded life.

Issue Notes:

A lot going on in this issue. Good stuff. Really liked the first story of The Outcasts of Heaven Belt.

There is a special feature, The Next Century of Science Fiction, written by Jack Williamson. A short autobiography of Williamson, followed by his thoughts on the future of SF. He writes something interesting: "Here is one of my central concerns about the future of science fiction. The expansion of knowledge tends to erase "the sense of wonder."" He had previously mentioned how the increased knowledge of Venus and Mars had affected the types of stories written about them, and how "the growth of knowledge had pushed science fiction off the Earth and out of the solar system".

Well, maybe not quite that far. But I wonder, for example, what impact the exoplanet surveys will have on SF (especially the "harder" SF stories) when they show that habitable planets are going to be few and far between. Perhaps very far between.

The Serpent's Death follows up on Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand which was recently published in the July-August 2020 issue of Analog as a 90th year reprint.

The Reference Library this month is by Spider Robinson. Looking ahead, it appears that he and Lester Del Rey share the critics chair this year in Analog. Good short introduction by Robinson on reviewing SF. And he admits that he does not always understand the books he reads (I am relieved to hear that!) He gives some examples: Joanna Russ' novel We Who Are About To, Algis Budrys' book Michaelmas and Kampus by James E. Gunn.

What about the ads? There's one from Metagaming featuring Wizard, Rivets, Warp War, Melee, Chitin 1 and Ogre. Another for Strategy & Tactics from SPI. Wow, there is a company from the past. Edmund Scientific has an advert for telescopes. And the back cover has a suggestion for Music to Read SF By...The Biolog is on Jack Williamson this month... And Brass Tacks finishes with a classic response by Bova. Challenged by a reader for his previous criticism of "Space Wars", Bova corrects the writer about the name of the film then carries on saying that "I still think the film is little more than an expensive comic strip. Its only relation to science fiction is to degrade our genre in the eyes of the public". So there.


P.S. I had thought that I would take longer to read these magazines. Maybe one a week. After one week, I'm already up to June. Gosh, what a contrast to 1988. There were several issues that year that were a real slog to finish.
 

dask

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I was reading a lot of Analogs during the 70s, know I read this one but don’t remember too much about it except really enjoying Spider Robinson‘s book reviews and following him when he went over to Galaxy. Don’t have any memories about strongly disliking anything I read in Analog during that time.
 

Bick

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I had thought that I would take longer to read these magazines. Maybe one a week. After one week, I'm already up to June. Gosh, what a contrast to 1988. There were several issues that year that were a real slog to finish.
I think the 1970's was the sweet spot for Analog - and Bova perhaps its best editor, accordingly. The '80's were very 'cool', at least so we thought at the time, but my impression is that a 'typical' '80's story holds up less well than a typical '70s story.
 

Vince W

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Okay, here's my reading exploration of Analog from 1983, selecting one story or novella from each issue:

View attachment 72424


March 1983
Robert Silverberg - The Election
I really liked this story, as expected, coming as it does from my favourite living SF writer. In the long list of Silverbob's award winning short stories, this one doesn't feature, but it's more considered, insightful and nuanced than either of the previous stories I've read in this 'reading challenge'. One might call it literary. Twenty years after a nuclear war, civilisation is recovering, living basically in a semi-feudal style. One such town, run undemocratically by a local autocrat, is visited by an official announcing an upcoming federal election. The autocrat rejects the proposal for US-wide democracy, with interesting arguments about what progress may really mean, and whether it's the right time for central government or not. Very good.
Life has been very hectic of late and I've only had time on lunch breaks to read March 1983 but I've finally finished. It was an interesting issue with the general theme being one of culture shock between alien species and our own.

The first story, The Napoleon Crime by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson, was one I had very high hopes for. The alien species, the Hoka, take on aspects of human culture they find appealing and mimic it in their everyday lives. This ranges from fictional novels to actual human history. They are species of cosplayers that, due to outside influence, are taking the Napoleonic Wars too far and are on the verge of very real conflict. The human governor of the Hoka, Alex Jones, and another alien, Brob, return to the Hoka homeworld to prevent the coming war.

There are elements of this story I liked well enough, and given the authors the story is spritely and engaging, but there was something unbelievable about aliens being so fascinated with humans as to adopt our culture so fully that was hard to come to terms with. Still, it's part detective story, part action, and part alt-history, so it's not all bad. I think this is a story completists would read, but otherwise can be let go.

Next is The Election. Bick has already covered this. I thought this was a remarkably poignant story given the current state of the world.

Quiddites by Ray Brown follows. In the future humans are governed by The Alcalade, a computer A.I. that runs things in a rather pedantic manner. Fifty-four year old physicist Sterling is still a student trying to earn his PhD in physics, but since it requires a new idea and there are no new ideas in physics, Sterling is passed by much younger students earning doctorates in the social sciences. The story revolves around Sterling trying to convince the Alcalade that he has come up with a new idea that should earn him a doctorate. Suffice to say things don't go exactly to plan for Sterling.

I would classify this story as an academic farce. If you have any experience in higher learning from any angle you will appreciate many of the elements of the story but otherwise it's not one I'd recommend quickly. It plods along to its end without bringing out any emotional reaction.

New York Versus The Great Apes by Richard K. Lyon is a very short story that offers an interesting take on how we view intelligence and how any system can be manipulated all to a groaningly humorous end. A good story.

Jerry Oltion gives us The Sense of Discovery. Aliens have landed on Earth and they are friendly. Scott Morgan is backpacking in the Bighorn mountains when he comes across the Keesh visitors. Striking up a conversation with the Keesh they end up spending time together as they hike and camp. The story was short enough that I finished it, but it didn't leave any lasting impression. I had to look up the story again to remember much about it.

The last story was The Hand of Friendship by Rob Chilson. On the Trill homeworld, a human has been illegally advancing Trill technology in the hopes of using the Trill to dominate human space. Police officer Sylivio Keynon, with the aid of Trill Bunundigh, must convince the Trills to allow Keynon to arrest the human. Most of the story involves describing how different the Trill are and how they view things differently than other species. It's kind of dull really, until we get to the last few pages when some real action occurs. Those pages clipped along quite well but did little to make up for the first three-quarters of the story.

If Friendship had been edited down to half its length I think it could have been a quite good story, but instead it's a slog to get to the point where something actually happened. Not something I would wish anyone to waste their time with.

On to April.
 

DeltaV

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March 1978

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The serial The Outcasts of Heaven Belt continues with part two of three. Joan D. Vinge.

Novelettes:

Moontrack by George W. Olney. Hostile aliens have established a base on the moon, and the 1st Battalion of the 72nd Infantry is sent to clean them out. Discussed below.

The Broken Dome by Vonda N. McIntyre. Snake the Healer learns that there is a source of the alien snake species that is called Grass. However they are controlled by a mysterious man known only as North, who is hostile to the healers.

Aliens have established a moon base, destroyed a number of satellites and a Mars probe, and are now threatening Earth. An initial assault by Rangers was virtually wiped out, showing that the aliens have mastered the fine points of light infantry tactics. A mechanized infantry force is quickly trained and dispatched to the human moon base for a major attack on the aliens. Nuclear powered heavy lunar transport vehicles (HLTVs) are converted and upgraded with weapons and armor to provide the main armored punch. The story also briefly follows several of the men and junior officers over the course of their training: Lt Robert Bary whose wife is eight months pregnant with their first child…Private Samuels who keeps trying to go AWOL…and a couple of others.

Training continues after the battalion arrives at Moonbase. Four days after arriving, the aliens destroy an incoming shuttle; no more shuttles can now either arrive or depart. Moonbase is cut off from Earth. Fortunately, all of their supplies and munitions have already arrived, and final assault preparations begin. The alien base is in a crater, and the battalion will attack in three columns from three different directions. The battalion mortar sections will lay down an initial barrage. Although the alien base has some sort of energy shield, it is hoped that the barrage will keep their heads down and raise enough dust to conceal the attack. After the initial barrage, the Direct Fire Platoon will also open fire on the alien base, in an attempt to overload the shield.

The order comes to mount up and tension grows as the HLTVs trundle to their initial attack positions. At H-1 min 30 seconds the mortars began to fire. At H 0 the three columns roll over the crater’s edge and barrel towards the base.

The story then cuts to the duty officer of the Yedza station who originally thinks the initial mortar barrage is a meteor cluster hitting the station’s shields. However as the detonations continue he realizes that the base is under attack. Through a gap in the dust he spots one of the HLTV’s bursting into view and heading straight for the center of the station. He sounds the alarm.

The initial counterfire of the Yedza is slow and scattered, allowing the battalion to cut the distance quickly. As they get closer, however, casualties and damaged HLTV’s start to increase. The Yedza duty officer, though, has a dilemma. He cannot have the heavy weapons fire while the shield is up. He makes a crucial decision, and orders the shield down. At that precise moment, a direct fire unit launches a missile which scores a hit on the control room, destroying it and killing the duty officer and all of the staff. Over the next few minutes missiles and laser fire blow the Yedza defenses apart. One HLTV smashes into the base. The ground assault begins, room to room combat. Even Private Samuels leads a charge, taking out a heavy battery. Soon the attack is over, and the Yedza have all been killed.

The story both begins and finishes with a quote from the future, from the Lecture of Khan Ordvin. Ordvin ends the last quote noting that the Yedza could not adapt to human war tactics and are now all extinct.



First real military SF of 1978 (or even of 1988 for that matter). The front cover shows the brigade’s attack on the Yedza station, although I have no idea what the two glowing balls are in front of the HLTV. And the brigade attacked in three columns, not the one long one depicted. As well, the introductory illustration of the Yedza base does not match up with the description of the story. These discrepancies between stories and illustrations is something that I have occasionally noted in both 1978 and 1988. It makes one wonder if the artists actually read the story they are going to illustrate.

The story itself is pretty generic military SF. It appears the Yedza, although skilled in light arms warfare, do not have a clue about mechanized combat. And it is odd that a) the Yedza can pick off satellites in orbit but apparently allow nearly all of the attack force shuttles to land on the moon and b) did not seem to realize that there was a human moonbase just a hop, skip and a jump away. It is also strange that the humans on the moon apparently did not notice an alien station being built until it started attacking them.

This story would make a good Microgame similar to GEV or Titan Strike!.

Two short stories this month: Too Much at Steak by Gary D. Douglass and To Keep and Bear Arms by Larry Matthews.

The Science Fact discusses nuclear waste disposal in space. And there is a crossword puzzle in this issue! Partially completed by the original owner of this issue (I imagine). I filled in a few more but got stuck at 52 Across "Motto of the Lunar Rebels (from the Moon is a Harsh Mistress)". Do you know what the answer is?

Issue Notes.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some illustrations in this issue by Janel Aulisio. She was a regular graphics artist in Analog 1988 as well...there is an ad for a magazine revealing the story behind making Star Wars…the editorial announces the launch of Analog Books (which I have never heard of)…readers are also invited to buy prints of the covers of Analog…this month’s Biolog is on Joan D. Vinge…Lester Del Rey is back as The Reference Library critic. He reveals that Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle received $250,000 for the paperback rights to Lucifer’s Hammer, which was a serious chunk of change in 1978. Apparently the publisher paid that amount as Lucifer’s Hammer was not considered SF but general fiction…there is an advert here for Notes to a Science Fiction Writer by Ben Bova and quotes him saying “in story after story I see the same basic mistakes being made, the same fundamentals of story-telling being ignored … simply because the writer has forgotten … or never knew … the basic principles of story-telling.” I wonder if he has examples from Analog submissions?
 

Don

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ANLGMAR66.jpg


"10:00 A.M." by Alexander B. Malec recently came to my attention. The short story appears in analog's March 1966 issue. It opens with this vignette:

One thing that psychologists agree on
is that the less the time-lapse between crime and
punishment, the more effective it becomes in conveying
the message DON'T DO THAT!

Flying cars are all over the place in a future where eugenics plays a role. The total elapsed time between crime and punishment in this police procedural is only one hour.
 

BigBadBob141

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TANSTAAFL=There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!
If memory serves me correct, enjoyed The Moon etc a lot.
 

Bick

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I've been reading other things, so it went a bit quiet from me on my read through Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine from 1986.
I had previously reviewed the stories with the highest reputation up to June 1986, so here are my thoughts for the next few months

Asimov's July 1986
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R. A. Lafferty - Something Rich and Strange
This was typical Lafferty - i.e. entirely untypical of anyone else on the planet. A man with enormous buck-teeth is contacted by aliens from Alpha Centuari, who use his teeth to communicate, as they are perfect receptors. His fiancé requests he get rid of them before she'll marry him, but then has them implanted into her own mouth instead. It is strange, funny, and delightful as only Lafferty can be.

Robert Silverberg - Gilgamesh in the Outback
Silverberg's novella won the Hugo Award, and was nominated for everything else (Locus, Nebula, Asimov's Readers' poll, etc.) and then subsequently was anthologised widely, so it has a very high reputation. As a tale, it is entertaining and inventive, but not especially ground-breaking. Like Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld books, Silverberg here imagines a world in which everyone who has ever lived exists and cannot permanently die, and he has fun imagining historically-famous people interact. In Farmer's case, he imagined Sir Richard Burton and Mark Twain on an alien river-world, whereas Silverberg places his characters in the afterlife in hell, and the main protagonists are the ancient Sumerian king Gilgamesh, and two fellows he meets while hunting in hell's outback: Robert E. Howard (who describes the outback of hell as being 'just like Texas'), and H. P. Lovecraft. The three enter into a deal of sorts with Prester John, and later meet Ernest Hemingway. Its very entertaining and well written, but is a little too close to Riverworld to be more than a pastiche of that series.

Video Star by Walter Jon Williams 'should' have also been read, as it has been anthologised, but try as I might I just couldn't get in to it. Perhaps the style or story has dated, and I usually enjoy Walter Jon Williams, so no blame on him, but I stalled in my reading through this year of Asimov's at this point, so I decided to skip it.

Asimov's August 1986
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Orson Scott Card - Hatrack River
The novelette Hatrack River is notable because its the first story that introduces Alvin Maker to the world. Alvin Maker would eventually become a large novel series from Card, and this story - an alternate history tale set in Ohio in 1805 - sees him born as Alvin Miller, the seventh son of a seventh son. There are mild allusion here to Card's Mormon beliefs, though they are not overwhelming. It's a nice enough tale, in which a little girl with second sight helps Alvin's family as they cross a swollen river into town. Its a weird tale, perhaps, or fantasy, but it's not really science fiction.

Tim Sullivan - Stop-Motion
This was pretty entertaining, telling the tale of a young man who's hobby is stop-motion filming, especially of dinosaurs in B-movies. He makes models, a diorama, makes a short film and shows it to a local film producer. Things don't go to plan however. It's not bad as short stories go, as it's pretty well written, but I would classify it as a weird tale, perhaps, or fantasy; it's not really science fiction. See a trend here?

Lucius Shepard's tale Aymara in this issue achieved award nominations but I'm afraid its three strikes and you're out from me Lucius. I've never read a Shepard story I really liked (they tend to be long, rather slow, and not actually science-fiction), so I'm passing on this story too. Usually I'd give it a go, but I've been burnt too many times by Lucius Shepard. On to September instead, which looks like it might be better, and may even have some decent SF in it.
 
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Bick

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And continuing...

Asimov's September 1986
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George R. R. Martin - The Glass Flower

A cyborg arrives at a distant planet at the edge of the Thousand Worlds, to take part in the mind games. The mind-games are held in the obsidian castle of the mind-lord (or pain-lord), a woman nearly 200 years' old who currently has the body of a young girl. When taking part ion the mind game, one has the opportunity, if you 'win' of taking the body of the person or alien you defeat. It's quite an engaging tale, and Martin always writes well, but it is notoriously difficult to write scenes of imaginative thought and psychic tussles in a way that draws the reader full into the story - due doubtless, to the lack of a frame of reference for the reader to lock on to. This novelette therefore has that weakness, and its not quite up to Martin's best short fiction that I've read from the 1970's. It is SF though! I was beginning to think Dozois wasn't going to publish any more SF this year.

Nancy Kress - Down Behind Cuba Lake
I almost always enjoy Nancy Kress' work, and this was no exception, as she writes very well. A woman is driving across New York state late at night to 'have it out' with her erstwhile lover who has clearly just broken with her to stay with his wife. The woman get's lost en route and finds it hard to escape the back-roads around 'Cuba Lake'. It's quite immersive and nicely told, but it's hard not to notice that, despite its publication in a science-fiction magazine, Dozois yet again published a story her that is not really science fiction. I guess it's a weird tale, like so much of what one finds in Asimov's.

Kim Stanley Robinson - Escape from Kathmandu
Robinson's novella is a blast. A member of a zoological expedition in Nepal stumbles across a yeti, and quickly realises that if the wider world finds out about it, it will all be over for yetis. Unfortunately, the yeti is also spotted by another member of the group who later returns with a well-funded capitalist to capture the beast and take it back to civilisation. The more ethical zoologist engages the help of some friends who, when they realise the yeti is being held temporarily in a hotel in Kathmandu, engineer a bold escape plan for the beast. Part commentary on how to treat endangered species, part travel guide to Nepal and Kathmandu, and part heist caper, this novella is great fun. I guess in all consistency, I should note that its hardly SF. The speculation here is that yetis may be real (fair enough), but outside of that there is no speculative or SF element to the story at all - it could appear in any non-genre magazine. That said, it's a bright and entertaining read, and recommended. Indeed, it's probably the best story in this issue of Asimov's.

As well as the stories read this month, both the editorial by Asimov and the essay on books, by Norman Spinrad were interesting. The Spinrad essay Critical Thinking was particularly worth reading, as he completely panned a certain SF novel (The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer, by Carol Hill), and then went on to discuss how it could have been published at all, and subsequently reviewed positively by other reviewers, and whether publishers, editors and reviewers are sufficiently honest.

Asimov's October 1986
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I must admit I started on this issue with some degree of foreboding. The kind of SF I enjoy most and look for in a SF magazine is hard SF, or at least SF where the science-fiction is clear, not marginal. Given the lineup in October '86, I did wonder how much of it I would enjoy. Kate Wilhelm and Connie Willis - neither famous for their hard SF and who's work I've not enjoyed much the past - both had long stories published, and it looked like I might have to grit my teeth to get through them...

Kate Wilhelm - The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky
This was actually quite an enjoyable read, at least until it petered out at the end. It won the Nebula Award for best novelette in 1987, and was certainly well written. An isolated man - who lived in the middle of nowhere on the central plains for America - dies, and two descendants travel to his hard-to-find house to collect possessions one last time. The deceased had formed a cult in the depression of the '30's, and his actions and their ramifications had longstanding effects on the family. The antique player piano at the house seems to provide a link to the past, and provides a spooky fantastical element to the tale. It was quite a good novelette, as its Nebula Award demonstrates. From that description, does it sound like science-fiction though? The answer is no. There is zero SF on offer here. I kept thinking some sort of speculative fiction aspect would arrive, but it never did. It's maybe a ghost story, or what we now call 'slipstream', but as SF it's hard to rate it very highly. By-the-by, the title is interesting - it adds a luster of mystery and a suggestion of SF that is disingenuous; nobody 'fell into the sky', except in a very obtuse metaphorical sense.

Isaac Asimov - The Mind's Construction
This was one of Asimov's Azazel short fantasy stories, and was pretty light fare, with not a lot to get excited about. As it was Asimov it was naturally a very readable and quick diversion, but the story itself was slightly dodgy and sexist when read through the lens of our current world's awareness of such things. This could be skipped (perhaps the only time I've ever said that about Asimov's work), especially as it's not really SF, it's one of Asimov's weaker fantasy stories.

Connie Willis - Spice Pogrom
Okay, reading this was an undertaking I nearly completely skipped on several counts: I've not had good experiences with Willis' work before, she tends to write stories that I consider to be only marginally-speculative, and it looked long, given those misgivings; indeed its a 70-page novella. It was nominated for the Hugo Award, however, and seemed to involve alien first contact, so I decided to give it a probationary 10 pages with an open mind and then decide whether to keep with it. After about 8 pages I determined it wasn't for me; its meant to be humorous but it really isn't funny, and a 'funny' tale that isn't is a dreadful trudge over the course of 70 pages. Given the start didn't grab me, and the concept of aliens with hard to pronounce names and an overly cramped space station wasn't very interesting, this was a DNF.

In short, this was one of the least inviting issues of Asimov's I read from this year, containing little SF to recommend. The Kate Wilhelm story was good per se, and would be well placed in a non-genre collection of modern quality short stories, along with a change of title.

I'm hoping Asimov's ends the year well in the remaining few issues - so far, Dozois has published far too much that I don't consider to be SF, and so far this 'exercise' has confirmed for me that Asimov's (at least in the mid-80's) was very 'soft' in its SF, and Analog was by far the better magazine, in the sense of meeting my wishes. (As it happens, I think I just disagree with Dozois on SF generally - I don't care much for his anthologies either - far too many stories in his Year's Best series were weak efforts to my mind, or not actually SF).
 
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DeltaV

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I'm hoping Asimov's ends the year well in the remaining few issues - so far, Dozois has published far too much that I don't consider to be SF, and so far this 'exercise' has confirmed for me that Asimov's (at least in the mid-80's) was very 'soft' in its SF, and Analog was by far the better magazine, in the sense of meeting my wishes. (As it happens, I think I just disagree with Dozois on SF generally - I don't care much for his anthologies either - far too many stories in his Year's Best series were weak efforts to my mind, or not actually SF).

I couldn't agree more. I've borrowed quite a few of Dozois' The Years Best Of Science Fiction anthologies over the years from the local library, and I've always found that there were a lot of stories that were borderline SF. Although I must also say that I was less than impressed with some of Stan Schmidt's choices in 1988 Analog.

Bick's reviews of 1986 Asimov and my reading of 1988 Analog have got me wondering about the nature of SF during the 1980's. It is a decade that I am quite unfamiliar with...I've read and enjoyed Brian Aldiss' Heliconia trilogy, and liked Simmon's Hyperion (1989), but aside from those novels, I've read very little from those years.
 

DeltaV

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April 1978

April 2021.jpg



The serial The Outcasts of Heaven Belt finishes with part three of three. Joan D. Vinge.

Novelettes:

Shipwright by Donald Kingsbury. A spaceship engineer seeks funding for an advanced engine design. A backwards planet steps forward with the cash. Then things get complicated as two completely different societies clash. Discussed below.

Happy Head by Orson Scott Card. In the near future, people have information and memory recall devices called pre-brains implanted in their heads. Special investigator Juster Benson looks into a murder at the company that invented the pre-brains, Happy Head. In the course of his investigation, he learns something that will affect all of humanity.

Jotar Plaek is a graduate engineer on the planet Lager. Forbidden to marry by their order, they are available for the sexual pleasure of any woman, married or single, so that their genes might be passed on to the next generation. Eight percent of all children born on Lager were fathered by engineers, even though they only make up zero point one percent of the population (there are no female engineers). The husbands are responsible to raise these children as if they were their own (Plaek has three siblings, one of whom was also fathered by an engineer).

Plaek is brilliant, and has been trying for several years to find funding for an advanced space drive using the Kalmakovian field. One night, while on the town, he crosses paths with an offworlder. Although she rejects his rather crude advances, Plaek is smitten by her. He finds out that her name is Misubisi Kasumi, and that she is the linguist for a trade mission from the far-off planet Akira. Star ship technology is at the top of their trade list, and Plaek strikes a deal with the Akirans to build them his drive. Plaek and Kasumi become lovers, but things are not going well on the development side. Things cost far more than Plaek had calculated (Ha! Par for the course for any new engineering project!). Soon, all the money is gone. Several members of the trade commission commit suicide, including Kasumi’s father. Plaek runs away from both the project and Kasumi. Years go by.

One day there is a knock at the door. Kasumi presents, with bitterness, her daughter to the father who abandoned her. After a tumultuous conversation, Kasumi leaves. Plaek knows that Akira has neither the level of technology nor the knowledge to build his starship, let alone the industrial base that it would need. After a long night, he realizes that he still cares for Kasumi. And he is happy to have finally met one of his offspring. He decides to go to Akira. And he has a plan. But will the Akirans accept it?

FTL is achieved by time speeding up in tandem with the speed of the space ship. To an observer, the ship is going faster than light. But not to those onboard. Crew and passengers spend the trip in rooms inside of special fields, so that time is slowed. Outside of the field, although time appears to be passing normally, a person would age and die in several months of “real” time.

Plaek’s plan is for a number of the Akiran’s to stay in ‘fast time’. Many generations will pass during the time of the return trip to Akira. And in that time, they will be able to develop the science and technology needed for his space ship. The Akirans accept. Kasumi tells Plaek that she too will go in ‘fast time’, ‘to die in repentance for failing to carry out her mission’. But Plaek knows that she chose this exotic way to commit suicide because she had not forgiven him. He only sees her once more while on the trip when they stop at another colony. Kasumi is now an old woman. They spend one last night together. The ship then leaves for Akira. Although the trip only takes seven years in real time, a thousand years pass in ‘fast time’.

Under the continual guidance and direction of those in ‘slow time’, scientific advances are made and new technologies developed. When the ship finally arrives at Akira, all is ready to begin construction on Plaek’s starship.

The story then jumps ahead in time, to the commissioning of a prototype starship based on Plaek's design. Plaek is married to Kasumi’s great-granddaughter times three and attends the grand ceremony for the launching. In five generations the shipwrights of Akira will be able to finally build one that completely meets his design. Plaek will be dead but he does not care. The story finishes with him hugging each of his Misubisi people.

There are three short-stories this month: The Near-Zero Crime Rate on JJ Avenue by Wilson Tucker, Publish and Perish by Paul Nahin, and The Runners by Bob Buckley.

In Science Fact, Russel E Adams jr looks at various patents that claim to convert energy into motion without reaction. He builds three of them with erector sets, and proves that they don’t work. I wonder why the filers of these patents didn’t do something as simple as that to check their theories.


I quite liked The Outcasts of Heaven Belt. I see that Vinge wrote a sequel in 1980, Legacy.

Nice hard SF story that does not neglect the characters. There were a couple of minor plot inconsistencies, and I'm not sure that the spaceship as described could travel 3 LY in in the time that the story implies. But overall this is the type of story I want when I get a copy of Analog.


Issue Notes

SPI has an ad for their Starforce Trilogy: StarForce, StarSoldier and Outreach. Ah yes. Complicated sophisticated SF games that no one would bother playing today (I have a copy of Starforce which I picked up on eBay a few years ago to check out the 3D movement; I also got Winchell Chung’s updated map which is pretty accurate to 20LY out). This issue also has a few ads for some … unusual … subjects: Close encounters with UFOs, Velikovsky’s theories, Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions – To Establish Future UFO Bases (yes, you read that right). I’m surprised Analog accepted these ads seeing that Analog has “always been a magazine for hard realism”. Of more interest to SF fans is an ad for The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction, and the launch of Starblaze Editions by Polly and Kelly Freas (featuring both SF stories and their art work; looking at this on Wikipedia, it appeared to have lasted about 10 years)…Biolog looks at author Donald Kingsbury…Lester Del Rey is back in The Reference Library with a critical look at “style”. I’m enjoying the longer introductions of both Del Rey and Robinson. Del Rey pans Tanith Lee’s book Companions of the Road as ‘not worth buying’…now, let’s conclude with a letter in Brass Tacks whose writer questions if there is any use for a home computer: “Except for calculating L-5 colony configurations, which is not a daily occupation of the home owner, a home computer is totally unnecessary … Face it – the so-called usefulness is just an excuse for the hobby. The home computer is the model railroad of the future – nothing more.” Well, gosh. And as a rail fan and model railroader, I’m not sure what to make of that last comment.
 

Bick

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This issue also has a few ads for some … unusual … subjects: Close encounters with UFOs, Velikovsky’s theories, Secret Nazi Polar Expeditions – To Establish Future UFO Bases (yes, you read that right). I’m surprised Analog accepted these ads seeing that Analog has “always been a magazine for hard realism”.
Yes, I've always noticed that ad-wise they have taken what they can get and were not picky. A few years back (such as 2012-2016 which I can easily check as they are on a shelf behind me) there was always a few full page ads of very poor looking self-published novels gracing the magazine. These days (and I just checked the current issue) there are NO ads in the magazine. I think that tells you how little reach Analog now has if no-one is wanting to advertise in it. I don't suppose that bodes well. They were much healthier when they did publish dodgy ads of nazi polar expeditions and crappy looking self-pub books.
 

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April 1978
I quite liked The Outcasts of Heaven Belt. I see that Vinge wrote a sequel in 1980, Legacy.

Nice hard SF story that does not neglect the characters. There were a couple of minor plot inconsistencies, and I'm not sure that the spaceship as described could travel 3 LY in in the time that the story implies. But overall this is the type of story I want when I get a copy of Analog.
Yes, and I enjoyed Joan Vinge's earlier Heaven's Belt novella, Media Man, which appeared in October 1976 Analog. Her writing style appeals a lot, and she writes real SF.
 

DeltaV

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I think that tells you how little reach Analog now has if no-one is wanting to advertise in it.

The publishing and promotion of Analog over the last 40 years seems odd at best. Looking at the stats, in 1983 the circulation was 110,000, dropping down to 83 000 in 1990. This in spite of the greater presence of SF in media which I would have thought would have led to, at least, stable numbers. Did Analog move away from its roots in those years and turn off some of the subscriber base? (my readings in 1988 make me wonder). In any case, you can't blame the Internet back then.

Then from 1990 onwards the numbers kept dwindling away. Now, I realize that all print magazines have suffered over the last couple of decades. But it doesn't seem like Analog is putting up much of a fight compared to other magazines that I am subscribed to. Just to give one example, there aren't even any forums at the Analog website where people can discuss hard SF stories in general, and Analog ones in particular. That omission just seems very strange. Maybe they're worried about negative feedback?

And the lack of ads is puzzling. Jeepers, if a publisher put an ad or two in every issue for a solid SF novel, in tune with the Analog philosophy, I'd probably bite.

Then look at gaming. Back in the 1970's - 1980's there were ads in every issue for games. Today, an ad for Terraforming Mars would be a perfect fit for Analog readers. Or at least bring back the gaming column.

Anyway, I'm sure brighter people than myself have looked at this and perhaps there are good reasons why none of that flies.
 

DeltaV

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The readers poll for 1977 appeared in the April 1978 issue of Analog.

Analog 1977 Reader Poll.JPG
 

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