Reading Around in Old SF Magazines

Bick

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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.
Interesting analysis and I think you're right. I'm also not sure your last statement is true.
 

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

View attachment 77343
The GRRM winning novella After the Festival was a slightly abridged version of what would be published as his novel The Dying of the Light.

Here's a question for all: when was the last serial published in Analog? Serials used to be published regularly that were then released as (often) famous books. This now rarely seems to occur. The last one I definitely recall was Karl Schroeder's Lockstep in 2014. The novel is not especially well known, however. So, second question, when was the last famous novel serialised in Analog? (A bit subjective, I realise).
 
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DeltaV

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when was the last serial published in Analog

Hmmm. Without looking, I'm going to say "The Quantum Magician" in 2018. Ok, I went and looked. It was published in 2018.

Bit of an odd story. It features humans that have been heavily modified by genetic manipulation into almost completely different species.
 

DeltaV

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May 1978

IMG_5685.JPG



There are three novelettes in this issue:

The Nuptial Flight of Warbirds by Algis Budrys. A futuristic television producer takes reality to a new level with his world war one aerial combat TV series. But what can he do as an encore?

Mikal's Songbird by Orson Scott Card. Ansset sings for the galactic emperor Mikal. Kidnapped for several months then released, Ansset finds himself at the center of a conspiracy to seize the throne.

Renewal by Bill Johns. A scientist seeks to recreate a mammoth from a frozen carcass found in Siberia. However his money comes from a large corporation with its own agenda. Discussed further below.

University Researcher Lucien Nighswander makes a funding deal with Harrison MacDonald, the ruthless president of Tristar Oil, to genetically recreate a mammoth. Nighswander gets the money he needs, and Tristar gets good publicity. Tristar digs a mammoth body out of the ice and carefully ships it to the University where it is placed into the medical center´s cold storage room. Unfortunately, the paperwork and required reports that are part and parcel of Nighswander´s job prevent him from participating in the critical cell sampling and analysis. The lab work is done by his graduate students.

One day MacDonald pays a surprise visit to Nighswander to see how the project is moving along. MacDonald sees on the wall two articles reporting that Nighswander had been under consideration for a Nobel prize in both 1954 and in 1967. MacDonald is quick to point out that if the mammoth genetic project is a success, Nighswander might very well be in the running for a Nobel again.

As the days go by, Nighswander´s time is almost exclusively taken up by paperwork. Fortunately, both the graduate students and members of the biology faculty are able to keep the project moving ahead. However Nighswander has a uncomfortable meeting with his daughter who is a lawyer and involved in legal actions against Tristar. She warns him about MacDonald and encourages her father to cut ties with Tristar. Nighswander, of course, refuses, claiming that all is under control. That control is seriously shaken a few days later when a Tristar publicity team shows up and heats up the refrigeration room with their lights and cameras. Trying to stop the filming, Nighswander and a graduate student are physically removed from the room in spite of their protests. Nighswander then kills the power to the room, and has the publicity team arrested, fortunately before any damage is done to the mammoth carcass.

In exchange for dropping all charges and in compensation for the damage caused, MacDonald endows a chair in genetics at the University. He now has the full cooperation of the chancellor who then pressures Nighswander to cooperate. Which he does.

Work continues apace and a zygote created completely from mammoth cells is implanted in the uterus of a female elephant. A few weeks later, the head of Tristar´s ecology department, Tom Stockton, comes calling. Stockton is very enthusiastic about genetic manipulation ... and the business that it could bring to Tristar. Although not in agreement, Nighswander doesn´t challenge Stockton on his ideas.

As the day of the birth draws nearer, the Tristar publicity and marketing machine goes into full gear, much to Nighswander´s displeasure. However, unread clauses in his funding contract bind him tightly to Tristar, and Nighswander finds he has to dance according to their tune. And MacDonald dangles the Nobel prize to ensure full cooperation.

The baby mammoth is born, healthy and strong, and is named ... Renewal.

During a celebratory dinner, MacDonald reveals that Tristar is starting a genetic development corporation, and he wants Nighswander to lead it. Mammoths for beef in cold climate. Genetically modified chimps and gorillas for farming. To counter Nighswander´s objections, MacDonald reminds him that if Tristar doesn't do these things, someone else a lot less scrupulous will. Nighswander says that 'he's afraid that they are going to open a Pandora's Box, and that he does not know if they can control what gets out'. MacDonald replies that the 'Box is already open and only Nighswander can control what gets out'. Nighswander agrees to the deal.



I found this story a little long for the points that it was trying to make. Although the comments about genetic engineering and Pandora's Box are even more applicable today than in 1978. The background of poor Nighswander being swamped in paperwork, and grad students doing 99% of the work (while he gets all of the credit), is apparently not far from reality, unfortunately, at least in some academic circles. Interesting that this story was written some twelve years before Jurassic Park which brought the idea of 'resurrecting' prehistoric animals to the popular media and into public consciousness.

The short stories this month are:

The Satyr by Stephen Robinett, University Medical versus Diplococcus Pneumoniae by Dennis Cox and Fixed Price War by Charles Sheffield.


This was the first issue of 1978 where I struggled to finish a couple of the stories.

Back in February Spider Robinson admitted that he does not always understand the books that he reads, and one of the books he mentioned was Algis Budrys' book Michaelmas. Well, I gotta say that I wasn't sure I understood everything that was going on in Budry's novelette The Nuptial Flight of Warbirds. The lines between reality and the television show were blurry. I did not understand what the deal was with the monkeys that appear to be editing scenes in the show, while apparently on an airborne aircraft carrier. Very odd. And as a side note, the character Michaelmas shows up briefly in this novel.

As well, I found The Satyr creepy. A genetics researcher has created a satyr out of Greek mythology. The satyr, as in mythology, is obsessed by sensual pleasure, resulting in a couple of unpleasant scenes bordering on rape. Although this plays true to the mythical nature of a satyr, I am questioning whether this type of story really belongs in Analog.

So after the heights of The Outcasts of Heaven Belt, this issues crashes forward into Analog 1988 fare...

Fortunately Charles Sheffield reduces the misery with a story (Fixed Price War) on how wars are subcontracted out by the defense department. There is an interesting twist as one of the contractors inserts made-up battle footage in media reports to not only save on costs, but to reduce the carnage.

Issue Notes
Del Rey books has an ad celebrating its first anniversary...the editorial looks at the results of the reader's poll. It comments that "Analog's readers demand stories that have meat on their bones - strong characters, new and surprising situations, powerful problems that can only be solved by the interplay of human intellect and emotion."... SPI's Starforce has a full page ad this month...there is also an ad for The Splinter of the Mind's Eye by Alan Dean Foster. Written well before The Empire Strikes Back, is this not the novel that some say should have been made into the second film?...Science Fact is on fusion power coming soon to a power plant you! (the "soon" part sure hasn't changed in 40 years)...the Calendar of Upcoming Events lists Kubla Khan Sex (???) 5-7 May, in Nashville, Tennessee (of all places)...Biolog features Algis Budrys...Lester Del Rey has some insightful comments on story length. He notes that the standard length for a novel for years was a scant 160 pages. My, how times have changed.
 

Bick

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Nice review Delta.

I agree it’s interesting that Renewal was written 12 years before Jurassic Park - I wonder if Crichton read it?

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was indeed written as a possible sequel. Lucas asked Foster to write a treatment with fewer characters and only one main location to keep down possible production costs. It was to be the cheaper sequel if Star Wars was not commercially successful (which Lucas considered likely). As it happened, he got a much bigger budget, which meant he could afford to get Harrison Ford back and switched to the bigger film we ended up seeing. Foster didn’t mind at all - Splinter was the only way to enjoy more Star Wars for over 2 years and he did pretty well from it by all accounts.
 

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Concluding my reading of Asimov's Science Fiction in 1986:

Asimov's - November 1986
nov.jpg


Frederik Pohl - Iriadeska's Martians
Frederik Pohl is of course a major name in SF, ever since his classic collaborative work with C. M. Kornbluth in the 1950's. This novelette doesn't do his reputation any favours, however. A PR consultant goes to the South-East Asian country of Iriadeska to help with a government coup. The connection to Martians is very weak - the Iriadeskan's affinity to Martians derives from their likeness to manatees, which are found in the country's waters. The story is daft, not very inventive, and never delivers anything in the plot regarding the Martians themselves, which one expects. It's a poor story, truth be told.

Jack McDevitt - Voice in the Dark
Huzzah! A decent science fiction story! McDevitt's novella is, I think, an extract from his 1986 first novel The Hercules Text, which I have not read. The signal from a distant pulsar suddenly stops, and then returns, but with gaps that fit mathematical sequences, providing proof of extraterrestrial intelligence. But when the messages become more complex, information is transmitted that could threaten our survival, given humankinds proclivity to self-destruct. What should those who received the information do with it? The story explores whether all information should be shared (just 'because'), and whether we are capable of surviving increasing technological advances as a race. The implications of the story are profound and frightening. This is a very, very good SF novella - one of the best hard SF novella's I've read, and will join the short list of stories I advise new readers seek out. It wasn't even nominated for either the Hugo or Nebula Awards, but it should have won both.

(I skipped the Lucius Shepard, on the basis that life's too short).

Asimov's - December 1986
dec.jpg


Ian Watson - Windows

This was a really neat idea, from British SF writer Watson, in which self-replicating windows (discovered on Mars) start as a single window, through which other worlds can be seen, and then over a short period of time become three windows in a triangular arrangement. It is discovered that if the right circumstances arise, someone in the 'triad' of windows can transport to the other worlds. However, while its a neat set-up, and had a lot potential, it doesn't ultimately deliver - rather than finishing, this story stops. It would have been much better if Watson had extended it to a novella.

Nancy Kress - Phone Repairs
In this tale, a man who's is going through a break-up with his wife gets misplaced phone calls from a switched line. He discovers that the other party who's getting his calls, and who's calls he is receiving, do not yet life in the address they say they live at. It's quite an intriguing idea, nicely carried off by Kress, and the reader sympathises with the characters who are going trough a marriage break-up. I'm not sure if it's SF or not, though, as the phone problem is never explained and has no clear explanation, which makes it more of a weird fantasy tale.


Asimov's - Mid-December 1986
mid-dec.jpg


Isaac Asimov - Robot Dreams

Asimov returned to his Robot stories, starring Susan Calvin, his famous robopsychologist, for the first time in over 10 years with this story. It's rather short and quite a nice addition to the overall development of the robots and their laws, but if you were not familiar with the stories it would feel rather insignificant I think. As a standalone story, it's simply 'okay', rather than something quite special. It's hard not to conclude that the awards the story garnered (Hugo, Locus, Asimov's Readers' Poll) stemmed from Asimov's reputation at this stage, rather then the story itself. McDevitt's story mentioned above was that author's first major publication, and preceded all his novels. Did that influence the fact that it didn't win any awards - it's significantly superior to almost every other story in Asimov's this year, so one has to wonder. However, none of this is Isaac Asimov's fault, and for me, I did enjoy reading a 'robot story' again, even though it was very short.

Harlan Ellison - Laugh Track
Ellison published very little in either Asimov's Science Fiction or its sister magazine, Analog, doubtless because he was a bit too edgy for the general magazine market. I was surprised after reading this that it didn't come with a warning at the start, as there would be prudes out there who would have cancelled their membership when he dropped not only the F-word in this story, but the rather rarer and more colourful C-word. For the less-squeamish among us, we can move on however, and simply consider the story. A young man had an aunt who had a terrific and infectious laugh, and he realises over time that he can often hear her laugh coming though loud and clear on sitcom laugh tracks. It transpires she went to a live recording of a show in 1953 and her laughter was recorded and has been used off tape for decades since. When the man enters the sitcom business himself as a writer on a primetime show himself, he learns much more about the laugh track than he might have imagined. The story is very nicely done, and Ellison carries the reader along with his enthusiastic style. While it's not among the finest of Ellison's stories, that's a pretty high bar, and for this year's Asimov's it rates among the stories I've enjoyed the most.
 

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Overall Comments on Asimov's Science Fiction, 1986

I'll just be honest and say that, while I enjoyed the overall exercise of exploring the stories with the highest reputation from each issue through 1986, the overall feeling is one of disappointment in not only the quality of the stories, but also the fact that many were not science fiction. Now, the magazine clearly says it's science fiction on the cover. It doesn't claim to be a repository for weird or fantasy stories, but it certainly was in 1986. I read 35 stories in my read-through of Asimov's in 1986 and of those 35, I would say that 13 were not even science fiction by any common definition. Dozois' selection of stories clearly doesn't match mine, and he likes his SF very 'soft' indeed. If no SF can be discerned in a story at all, that seems to really hit the spot. What surprised me somewhat was that Asimov put up with this. This is a guy who loved hard SF and famously invented rules for his robots so they could inhabit structured SF stories without transgressions into unexplained fantasy.

If it helped me conclude anything, its that Analog is more my cup of tea. Of the 35 stories I read in Asimov's, I thoroughly enjoyed 8 of them. That's not a high success rate, and I probably won't repeat the exercise of reading much more 1980's Asimov's. Interestingly, the very soft (i.e. not really SF) science fiction that gets published in Asimov's seems to win awards. The magazine picked up many more awards than Analog in the 80's and 90's. And yet, when I look at a stories reputation (based on awards won, awards nominated, frequency of appearance in anthologies, etc.), there is really no correlation between a stories reputation and how good I think it is. I worked out "Reputation Scores" for each story and aligning these to how much I liked the story was illuminating (for method, see my website).

The 6 top stories on the basis of 'reputation score' were:
Isaac Asimov - Robot Dreams [Rep Score 13] - It was 'okay' but nothing special, quite honestly;
Lucius Shepard - R & R [Rep Score 12] - Non-genre/weird. Rather long and slow and I didn't care for it much;
Robert Silverberg - Gilgamesh in the Outback [Rep Score 11] - Fantasy. It was okay, but actually rather derivative and not that interesting;
Orson Scott Card - Hatrack River [Rep Score 11] - Fantasy. It was okay, but nothing to write home about - a so-so fantasy;
Kim Stanley Robinson - Escape from Kathmandu [Rep Score 9] - Slipstream, rather than SF? but I did love it - great story;
Connie Willis - Spice Pogrom [Rep Score 8] - DNF, poor attempt at humour.

On the other hand, the finest SF stories in Asimov's in 1986 were to my mind the following:
Gregory Benford - Of Space-Time and the River [Rep Score 4]
R. A. Lafferty - Junkyard Thoughts [Rep Score 2]
Brian Aldiss - The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica [Rep Score 3]
Bruce Sterling - The Beautiful and the Sublime [Rep Score 2]
Jack McDevitt - Voice in the Dark [Rep Score 3] - The best story of the year, by a country-mile
Harlan Ellison - Laugh Track [Rep Score 4]

So, what do I conclude? If I completely ignore popular opinion, awards and inclusion in Dozois' anthologies when considering what to read I'll be a lot better off, than if I read what I'm 'supposed' to. Which is a promising conclusion to draw, as it supports investigating the more obscure stories - that's where the real gold is.
 

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Overall Comments on Asimov's Science Fiction, 1986
So, what do I conclude? If I completely ignore popular opinion, awards and inclusion in Dozois' anthologies when considering what to read I'll be a lot better off, than if I read what I'm 'supposed' to. Which is a promising conclusion to draw, as it supports investigating the more obscure stories - that's where the real gold is.
This reminds me of my feelings about record albums: to know the true merit of a band you need to go beyond the top 40.
 

DeltaV

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Jack McDevitt - Voice in the Dark [Rep Score 3] - The best story of the year, by a country-mile

I'd love to read this story, but any ideas where I could get it aside from this copy of Asimov's? McDevitts website does not really
have any info on his short stories, and I don't see it on Amazon (or anywhere else).
 

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I'd love to read this story, but any ideas where I could get it aside from this copy of Asimov's? McDevitts website does not really
have any info on his short stories, and I don't see it on Amazon (or anywhere else).
Hi Delta. It's not been republished anywhere else, so not very good of me to suggest you go and read it, perhaps! However, there is an archive where you can download the pdf and read it electronically (or print it out). Be warned it's a big file but you can fine it here, if you scroll down and open the Nov 1986 file. Alternatively, I believe it was part of his novel, The Hercules Text. Somehow, I feel its rounded out nicely as a novella, and don't feel a great need to read the novel, which carries the story on, presumably.
 

DeltaV

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June 1978

IMG_5686.JPG



The three novelettes are:

Backstage Lensman by Randall Garrett. A tongue-in-cheek adventure of Grey Lensman Gimble Ginnison. Flitting about in the ether on board the cruiser Dentless, Ginnison attempts to foil the plans of the malevolent Council of the Meich.

Empty Barrels by Steven McDonald. A refugee in a stolen prototypical space ship claims sanctuary on the planet Snowball. A cruiser appears in orbit, threatening destruction unless both are turned over. However the cruiser captain does not realize that the inhabitants of Snowball have some unusual talents.

Carruther's Last Stand by Dan Henderson. Instantaneous contact with an alien race has been established. However communications with the Yatz are based on insults, requiring the skills of an unusual human ambassador. Discussed below.

Mechanically aided telepathy has been established with the alien Yatz. Two men have already broken down under the pressures of communicating with them. Now Continental Industries, the contractor overseeing the communications, has come to Earth looking for that someone special to carry on the work. That someone being Rit Carruthers, a primitive anthropologist also widely known for his arrogance and for his total disregard for other people (in other words, a right proper SOB). Precisely the characteristics that CI believes they need in their 'ambassador'. Carruthers takes the job.

Although the R-transmissions are extremely hard on his brain, Carruthers begins to make headway. He learns that the alien Yatz is always the same individual. And that communications with the Yatz are based on insults, a 'requirement that is a reflection of their pride, their will and their inability to be humiliated. Only if they believe an Earthman to be their equal will they communicate'. Carruthers already has a head start on being their equal. However even he begins to feel the strain.

One place where the anti-social Carruthers does go in his off hours is the Apollo Bar, where he can bounce ideas off of the bartender Pinter. And one of them is to dress up like an Indian American in his next confrontation with the Yatz. After a few moments of shouting hate and insults, Carruthers notices a slight change in the Yatz...a gesture of approval. Next day Carruthers learns that the Yatz have sent a formula for a new alloy, one that is virtually impervious to heat. CI increases the pressure on Carruthers to learn more about the Yatz ... and their capabilities.

An incident back in the bar makes Carruthers realize that he is perhaps a little too close to the Yatz personality. He blows up at his boss Rushing, only to find out from the bartender that Rushing's wife has just been seriously injured in a flitter accident on Earth. Rushing cannot return to be with her, as he has been ordered to continue monitoring Carruthers. When Carruthers says to Pinter that he was sorry and had he known he would have done things differently, Pinter cuts him off saying that Carruthers would have done the exact same thing. The incident leaves Carruthers shaken.

Thinking about the Yatz, something starts to bother Carruthers about the apparent distance to the Yatz and which star their planet orbits. Learning of his search work in the library, a tech, Abernathy, offers to pitch in and help out. Carruthers is surprised to hear himself accepting. They discover an inconsistency about the data that the Yatz have supplied about their star, and what the astronomical data reveal. Carruthers develops a theory that he will put to the test at the next scheduled communication.

Things don't go to plan, though, and the Yatz appears to take over his mind. And even though the experience almost costs him his sanity, he does learn the one thing he needed to know.

Once he has partially recovered, he explains to his corporate masters that the whole thing is a fraud. The communications are created by a computer, left over in a heavily-shielded complex after a nova destroyed all life on Yatz planet. Why? Possibly due to pride in their achievements or by giving gifts at a price in the recipients honor the Yatz would earn respect. When Carruthers learned the truth, the computer tried to wipe his mind.

At least, that is the story he tells the corporate men.

The reality is that there was indeed an armored reptile in that research complex, a lonely scientist who kept the R-transmissions going. One who has taught some very important lessons to Carruthers. The R-implant is still active in Carruthers' brain. And neither he nor the alien are no longer alone.

An interesting story about an unpleasant man who is gradually changed by his contact with the alien Yatz. It is a little vague about how the R-transmissions were first detected, as a human needs an implant in the brain to receive them. And it is also somewhat unclear how a solitary alien could have lived alone for so many centuries after a disaster. But in spite of a few minor quibbles, a good story with a nice twist at the end.

The short stories are the classic View from a Height by Joan D. Vinge, Starswarmer by Gregory Benford, and The Great Gray Dolphin by Ben Schumacher.

I was rather surprised to see Empty Barrels appear in Analog as the story relies heavily on the psychic powers of the inhabitants of Snowball to defeat the attacking cruiser and resolve the plot. And not simply because it does not line up with Analog´s hard SF philosophy. Was there not some controversy back in the Campbell days about psychic abilities appearing too frequently in Analog/Astounding? Due to Campbell's own interest? Perhaps readers more informed than myself can answer.

The Great Gray Dolphin is the dolphin saga of Odontus (Moby Dick in our world), from when he is orphaned and under the care of dolphins, to the day when he gets his revenge. Imaginative.

Science Fact is fairly lengthy article on catastrophe theory.

Issue Notes

StarWeb has an ad in this issue, and it is still running in 2021. Amazing...Analog has an ad for an Analog Yearbook with a collection of both fact and fiction...Spider Robinson is back in The Reference Library, discussing the role of a book reviewer. He quotes Locus figures that showed more than 1000 SF&F books published in 1977, yet writes about the challenge of finding good books to review. So he is pleased this month to be able to recommend A House in Space (science fact on life in Skylab), Gardner Dozois' first novel Strangers, and James Tiptree Jr's book Up The Walls Of The World...Biolog is on Greg Bentford...Nothing of note in Brass Tacks...another ad on the inside back cover for Analog cover reprints: 9"x12" suitable for framing.



P.S. Two points:

1) I don't know how long the Analog Yearbook was published, but I think that would be a fantastic idea. There have always been a number of annual 'Greatest SF of 19xx' or '20xx' but nothing for SF fans that follow Astounding/Analog "as the bastion of "hard" SF, meaning SF that takes its science seriously" and with "stories that have meat on their bones - strong characters, new and surprising situations, powerful problems that can only be solved by the interplay of human intellect and emotion." A combination of stories, reviews (games, novels, TV, movies, etc) and publishing developments all seen through the eyes of the Analog tradition? I'll buy it.

2) I did not realize that Gardner Dozois wrote fiction. I always thought of Dozois as an editor, and on the fringe of hard SF (based on his story selections for his various collections). Yet Robinson has high praise indeed for his novel Strangers. For example, Robinson states that "few people can construct an alien world, society and milieu better than Gardner". That kinda surprises me because, looking at Wikipedia, Gardner's fiction bibliography does not list a lot of stories from the 1970's.
 

DeltaV

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A Slight Detour in SF Magazines: The Space Gamer

Based on the ad on the inside cover of the June 1978 issue of Analog, I decided to go back in time and have a look at this magazine. A quick read of the Wikipedia article then a couple of hours perusing the Space Gamer Internet Archive.

The 1970's saw the start of much of modern gaming: sophisticated wargame simulations, science fiction and fantasy games, and RPGs of various types.

The Space Gamer was the in-house production of Metagaming Concepts (publisher of various SF micro-games). It included reviews, fiction, game discussions as well as ads. In spite of the simple, almost DIY, look of the early editions, I was quite impressed with some of the detailed illustrations and artwork in the magazine. I was surprised to see Winchell Chung listed as one of the artists (I believe he is behind the wonderful SF site Atomic Rockets). Both his work and that of Paul Jaquays are quite detailed, especially on anything touching Ogre and GEV.

A lot of the fiction was based in the game worlds of Metagaming.

Steve Jackson, one of the main game designers of Metagaming, left Metagaming and formed his own company, Steve Jackson Games. He also took over The Space Gamer as of issue #27 - March-April 1980.

It appears there were soon hard feelings between SJG and Metagaming as well as lawsuits about game rights. Metagaming basically disappeared from The Space Gamer and ended up starting their own short-lived space game magazine Interplay (which seems like a really strange idea, given they had just gotten rid of TSG).

SJG turned The Space Gamer into a monthly magazine, and soon changed its focus to SJG games, fantasy and RPGs. The letters section for the first few issues has quite a few negative comments about the change of direction...and if I was a space gamer in those years, I would agree. If there was one article on a SF game per issue, you would be fortunate. The artwork declined in both quantity and quality, even though Jackson had announced an payment increase "for art by 50% . . . to $1 per column inch, which works out to $30 per page". (Good grief. Those earlier illustrators must have been working for either peanuts or for fun.)

The magazine was full of ads for space games, then soon computer games, and came with a large section on game reviews. Contributors were paid $5 for a capsule review on a game ... a practice which generated a number of rebuttals by the game companies who received negative reviews. While I have my doubts on the quality of a lot of those reviews, they certainly padded the magazine.

There were still works of fiction included, and surprisingly Timothy Zahn contributed a few stories.

But with issue #76 Sept-Oct 1985 (with Space Gamer back being a bi-monthly) SJG throws in the towel and sells the magazine, as it is apparently still a money-loser. And it slowly drifts into oblivion from there (it made it to issue #96 after multiple changes in ownership).

Metagaming itself shut down in 1983. It never really recovered after Steve Jackson left, taking with him legal title to some of Metagaming's best-selling titles (Ogre & GEV).



Comments:

The number of space and fantasy games listed in the magazine is astounding. Thinking of the declining subscription numbers of Analog magazine in the 1980's, I got wondering if SF fans were instead spending their time playing games (or designing them) rather than reading as much SF as they did in previous decades.

When Metagaming sold The Space Gamer, it was selling about 5800 issues at $1.50 each (bimonthly). The publisher claimed that it was a regular money loser for Metagaming (although it must have brought intangible benefits to the company as a sales organ). As well, based on comments in the magazine, it appears that Metagaming's resources were overstretched by the number of games they were trying to publish.

Shortly after SJG bought it, TSG was selling 5100 issues monthly at $2. I didn't see any subscription information in later years.

Thinking of the cross-over possibilities between Metagaming (who is a regular advertiser in Analog at this time) and Analog, I am surprised that the subscription base was so low for TSG. As well, I never saw a single ad for Analog in TSG.

Finally, given that there were already established RPG and fantasy magazines in the 1980's, I'm not sure that SJG's decision to leave the science fiction/space game market was a good one. At least before, the magazine was unique. But whether that would have been enough to have made it an even modest success is anyone's guess now.
 

KGeo777

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Speaking of games, does anyone remember TSR Hobbies Star Frontiers? I still have the modules for that.
And the Indiana Jones they did--they put so much effort into the world building in those games. This was around 1984.

I never played the games, I just liked the material they produced.
 

Bick

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Speaking of games, does anyone remember TSR Hobbies Star Frontiers? I still have the modules for that.
And the Indiana Jones they did--they put so much effort into the world building in those games. This was around 1984.

I never played the games, I just liked the material they produced.
You bet:

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1618041403168.png


I remember the modules and so on as well, but I was more into Games Workshop's Traveler. (I had the Traveler box set and various expansion modules.).
This forum needs a role-playing game thread, if it doesn't already have one, for reason's of nostalgia if nothing else.
 

Vince W

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You bet:

View attachment 77591 View attachment 77592

I remember the modules and so on as well, but I was more into Games Workshop's Traveler. (I had the Traveler box set and various expansion modules.).
This forum needs a role-playing game thread, if it doesn't already have one, for reason's of nostalgia if nothing else.
I was also a Traveller player. I loved the fact that you could die in character creation. It was pretty much a right of passage with that game. I have all the rules and modules on CD roms, but I keep looking at ebay to try and find the box set at a reasonable price.
 

DeltaV

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July 1978

July 2021.JPG



Only two novelettes this month:

To Bring in the Steel by Donald Kingsbury. A hot-shot mining boss wants to bring his young daughter out to his asteroid factory. However the majority of his coworkers refuse his request in a vote. There is a way to get around the results ... if he can find a governess. Discussed below.

Kinsman to Lizards by Jack Williamson. In the far future, genetically modified humans rule as gods over the galaxy, and despise the lowly premen. About to be exiled to a desolate planet, two premen rebel against their overlords. In doing so, they discover unique talents that help them in their quest.


Meddrick Kell is in charge of the smelter ship Pittsburgh, which is refining ore and bringing it to Earth from an asteroid out in the belt. Kell is renowned for his technical troubleshooting skills and is considered to be a billion dollar man by his employer, Ventures Metal, ... and by himself.

Kell learns his ex-wife has died and decides to bring his seven year old daughter Celia to the Pittsburgh. However all non-work decisions must be decided democratically and his request is voted down as his fellow-workers don´t consider him to be father materiel. Kell´s pride is stung and, although inwardly he suspects that their reasons may not be completely wrong, looks for a loophole. He finds one. Celia can come IF he can find a governess. Thinking of revenge as well as his daughter, Kell knows exactly who he wants: Lisa Maria Sorenti. Part-time model, part-time high end escort and full-time socialite, Kell knows that she would do anything for money. His fellow workers wanted a mother for Celia? They'll get one, in spades.

It falls to Ventures Metal executive Roy Stoerm to meet with Sorenti and close the deal. Sorenti is controlled by her manager, Nick, who plots her escapades and arranges her 'dates'. Although fully aware of their one-sided relationship, Sorenti cannot break free even though she dreams of another life.

Stoerm 'hires' Sorenti for twenty-four hours. After lunch, she spends an afternoon with Celia. To her surprise, she finds in Celia a kindred spirit and falls in love with the little girl. Later that evening, Stoerm tells Sorenti that he has had Nick framed and thrown in jail for a month. Once her fury dies down, he makes her an offer. Twenty million dollars a year for the seven year voyage of the Pittsburgh. With one condition: no fooling around with anyone except Kell (Stoerm knows exactly why Kell wants Sorenti and he definitely does not want the Pittsburgh to fall apart). Sorenti, reluctantly, agrees.

On the trip out to the Pittsburgh, Sorenti realizes that, compared to the other women on the Pittsburgh, she knows absolutely nothing practical. Sorenti has pretended to be a ceramics artist, buying 'her' works from an obscure shop in Arizona. But in reality she only has the cultivated charm that she has worked with for fifteen years. Will it be enough?

It turns out the answer is ... yes. After arriving at the Pittsburgh, Sorenti and Celia continue to get along very well with one another, although the relationship with Kell is rocky. He learns that Sorenti is a "ceramics artist" and sets her up in her own shop. After her initial failures, Kell insists that she spend the time and make the effort to become a real potter. Which she does. And under Kell's strict guidance, she begins to pick up some of the other skills that an asteroid miner needs to master.

Suddenly there is an emergency. A rogue rock is heading straight for the Pittsburgh and, due to bad circumstances, both of the Pittsburgh's engines are down. Kell goes out on a rocket sled to push the rock away and takes Sorenti with him. He fixes a rocket to the rock to deflect it away from the Pittsburgh, but something goes wrong and the rocket explodes instead of igniting properly. Kell is thrown away from the rock but Sorenti has to finish the job. She uses their sled to finish pushing the rock into a new trajectory. She then grabs Kell and with the remaining fuel heads back to the Pittsburgh, meeting rescue crews on the way.

Although badly injured, Kell will recover. The story ends with Kell realizing that he loves Sorenti. But, although Sorenti also loves Kell, she can't tell him because she is afraid that one day he might leave her, as other men have done in the past.



The title of the story refers to the fact that the Pittsburgh has to make it back to Earth with the 300 million tons of refined ore, and everyone will do what it takes to make that happen.

Although the story starts out with Kell, the protagonist throughout is Sorenti. A master manipulator, she quickly learns how to play Kell like a violin. Sorenti's one setback was when Kell challenged her about her ceramic "skills", which played on her deeper insecurities. However she was able to turn a weakness into a strength and not only master pottery but other skills as well. Not so sure about that being realistic, given her background, but anyway Sorenti is a reasonably well-drawn character. And of course the rogue rock plot point is fabricated to make the two of them realize that they love one another. Oh well.

One small side note: there was another woman eager to go out to the Pittsburgh, a chemist who loved children and was thrilled about space. But she doesn't have the hips and wiggles of Sorenti and thus doesn't make the grade. Too bad. That might have been an even better story. So much of SF seems to revolve around characters that are physically highly attractive. Where are the ordinary looking Joes and Janes?

Multiple short stories in this issue:

What Really Caused the Energy Crisis by Paul J. Nahin, In the Wilderness by Jack L. Chalker, Bounded in a Nutshell, by Charles Sheffield, The Paradigmatic Dragon Slayers by James O. Farlow, Viewpoint Critical by L.E. Modesitt jr, and The Man Who Drove to Work by Arsen Darnay. In the last story, set in the near future, only vice-presidents have the great privilege to work with their hands...

Science Fact discusses multiple ways in which humanity is either changing the Earth's surface now, as well as projects for the future (almost none of which have ever been done).

Issue Notes

The editorial is titled "dark age", and Bova skewers teachers of SF courses that don't know Analog exists. He finishes up discussing the dangers of growing illiteracy...Biolog is on Jack Chalker who wrote the short story In The Wilderness in this issue...in the Reference Library, del Rey discusses a number of well-known authors from the Golden Age of SF and one or two of their novels...In BrassTacks, another writer challenges Bova on his view of Star Wars. Bova remains unmoved.
 

Bick

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I seem to recall much from this issue, Delta, though I’m not sure why. I guess I must have read it as a stand-alone issue a few years back. The Donald Kingsbury story is definitely one I’ve read, and I liked it I think.
 

DeltaV

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August 1978

IMG_5729.JPG



Three novelettes:

Starships in Whose Future? by Sam Nicholson. Bard Laureate Vardos Vayan supports humanity's expansion to the stars in his plays and monologues using reason and intellect. On the other hand, comedy star Penelope Plum uses her acts to discredit space exploration and plays on the emotions to bring people back to Earth. Who will win in the dramatic showdown? Discussed below.

Brother to Demons by Jack Williamson. This is a follow-up story to Kinsman to Lizards (July). By using their psychic powers to teleport themselves to a remote planet, the two premen have frightened the human demigods with their powers. The demigods unleash a monster to track the premen down and destroy them.

Cousins by Bernard Deitchman. Ages ago, men lived in the forest and were afraid of the Longheads who dominated the plains. Until a chance encounter reveals that the Longheads can be killed as easily as a grazer or an ape. A group of hunters sets out to find the village of the Longheads ... to eliminate them once and for all.


Bard Laureate Vaardos Vayan narrowly escapes assassination and is forced to kill his attacker due to the No Fault criminal law. Shortly afterwards a young woman calls on him, and Vayan concludes that she is surreptitiously trying to find out what went wrong with the assassination attempt. In their conversation, the young woman barely hides her contempt for Vayan and he only learns her identity when the police arrive: Penelope Plum the famous comedienne. Famous to everyone except Vayan. That evening, Vayan discusses both the incident and Plum's dislike for him with his manager, George Apfelstein.

Apfelstein notes that Vayan is the "heavy gun defending Star Travel and the drive outward". Was this a clue to Plum's hate? Vayan invites Apfelstein to watch some of Plum's Comedy Follies. Vayan realizes that Plum is as exact a perfectionist as himself, and the productions are faultless. He learns that she spent her childhood on the Proxima circuit with her father ... an old client of Apfelstein ... 16 years performing in his show. Vayan also realizes that Plum is using her comedy to undermine star travel and to force mankind back to Earth. But is that enough reason for Plum to try and have him killed?

Vayan has been contracted to give a performance at the Dhaulagiri space port for the next emigration flight. After reporting to the space port, he finds out that Plum has volunteered for the pre-flight entertainment. At last he thinks he knows what Plum has been up to: she is going to carry on an emotional sabotage of the flight, preying on the fears of the passengers, and she tried to have Vayan killed to prevent him from supplying the antidote. He decides to duel her on the floorboards of the main space port auditorium.

The show starts with a song-and-dance duo, followed by Plum. All of her skits make fun of space travel, and evoke disaster at every turn. Frightened, the audience hardly pays attention to the next act, a gymnast troupe. Finally it is the Bard's turn. However chaos erupts as Plum and her troupe try to disrupt his soliloquy. And someone throws a dagger at Vayan. Fortunately he was wearing body armor. The curtain comes down and Vayan and Apfelstein switch the dagger with a stage prop. Just in time as a police officer comes to check on Vayan, asking about the dagger. When he sees it is a prop, he arrests Plum for inciting a riot ... and under No Fault criminal law the witnesses who screamed are charged as Contributor Inducers. When the policeman shows Plum the knife, Plum goes ballistic and accuses Vayan of setting her up.

Next night there is a repeat of the show. This time Vayan sabotages Plum's act, causing sound problems whenever her troupe makes fun of star travellers. After her act, Plum angrily accuses Vayan of murder, telling him the assailant was only there to scare him, and that he had a fake gun. Vayan realizes that he doesn't know if it was real or not. Once again during his soliloquy Plum tries to stage a disruption, but Vayan shoots her with a fake gun loaded with custard. The crowd goes wild. Vayan then finishes with a rousing song and all join in. The Bard gets a standing ovation, and the audience is raring to leave for space next day.

Vayan goes to Plum's dressing room and offers her access to his apartment. The gun is under the recliner. She can go and see if it was real or not. She accepts and leaves. Next day she calls Vayan. The gun was real. Plum reveals her bitterness over her father's theatrical failures: banished to the Proxima circuit, unable to make it on Earth, eventually dying with his dreams unrealized. She now realizes that some in her troupe have taken her beliefs to extremes, willing to use violence to advance their agenda. Not wanting to be a part of that, Plum plans on going back on the Proxima circuit, travelling back to where she and her father were happy.

Vayan corrects her. Instead of running away, she should use her skills and try a comedy theme that has nothing to do with space. Perhaps one based on the follies of the late twentieth century when buildings had the perfection of paradise and people had the grossness of Neanderthals. He tells her of the large potential for comedy there. And he offers her Apfelstein's services as a manager. The story ends with Plum saying she'll think about it, and Vayan admitting to Apfelstein that he is in love.



I am not sure of the usefulness of the subplot device of No Fault criminal law. Apparently, all share the guilt: victim, perpetrator, witnesses. I guess this is an extension of the No Fault driving insurance used in some jurisdictions. The story is also a foretaste of the present power of influencers. Vayan uses his dramatic skills to encourage the settlement of space, Plum the opposite. All in all, a bit of an odd setting ... and the method of space travel is never made really clear (what is the Proxima circuit?)... but an ok read.

The short stories are I put my Blue Genes On by Orson Scott Card, The Man Who Was Heavily into Revenge by Harlan Ellison, Right of Passage by Jayge Carr and The Water Doctor by Edmundo Hamiltowne.

The Science Fact is Redesigning Man: The Dangerous Experiment. The article looks at the issues surrounding genetic modifications of human beings, concerns that are as valid today as in 1978.


Issue Notes

An announce informs the reader that two Analog stories won Nebula Awards in April of 1978: Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, and The Screwfly Solution by "Raccoona" Sheldon (Alice Sheldon AKA James Tiptree jr). Gateway won best novel...Biolog is on Harlan Ellison...interesting obituary on Leigh Brackett Hamilton. She was apparently one of the first SF authors who emphasized strong characterization. "John Campbell once asked Leigh for a short story. She explained that it was very difficult for her to create the rich background she needed for a story in anything less than 30 000 words. He said "A novelette then?". Her reply was given and accepted without rancor: "Perhaps I will, John, but my characters use their hearts not their slide rules." (Sounds like I need to read some of her stories). Lester del Rey looks at SF encyclopedias in this month's the reference library...all of the letters in Brass Tacks deal with the article on nuclear waste disposal.
 

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