Reading Around in Old SF Magazines

Bick

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The novelette Second Game (reviewed above) was later expanded, interestingly. It's success in the short form led to the authors expanding it for a 1962 novel Cosmic Checkmate, that made up one half of an Ace Double (paired with King of the Fourth Planet, by Robert Moore Williams). The novel version of the story received further revision and expansion in 1981, when it regained it's original title Second Game.

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dask

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Cool! According to my trusty card catalog I actually have that Ace Double somewhere up in the attic. Will have to go rummage around for it sometime.
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JimC

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Cosmic Checkmate cover reminds me of Pattern for Conquest cover.
 

DeltaV

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March 1996

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The serial Higher Education by Charles Sheffield & Jerry Pournelle continues this month. Those that passed the first level of testing are now on a space station in lunar orbit where their education and training continues. Some students, like Rick Luban, make the cut; others don't.

Two novelettes this month:

Out of the Waste Land by W.R. Thompson. Margaret relies on implants to replace her damaged nervous system. She goes on a therapeutic journey in the desert, guided by a man who also uses technology (limb stimulators) after a serious accident. Caught in a sudden storm, Margaret must overcome her past in order to save both herself and her guide.

The Shadow Captain by Pete D. Manison. Cara is the woman of a Star Captain. However, on a recent exploration the captain encountered a strange species with telepathic abilities. One of them, feeling the captain's emotions for Cara, in turn falls in love with her. The alien is now tracking the captain to find Cara and to ... absorb her.

And two short stories:

The Shape of Things to Come by Marianne Dyson. Shape-shifting aliens on the beach

The Hole Truth by Joseph H. Delaney. College professors find a unique use for a revolutionary intelligence/aptitude test.

I recognize two more writers from 1988. W.R. Thompson (who wrote Second Contact (April) which I quite liked) and Joseph H. Delaney.

Science Fact is on the future of computers and discusses nanotechnology.

The Alternate View is on Bose-Einstein Condensate.

Issue Notes

Full-sized ad for The Dig by Alan Dean Foster...another ad urges us to Stop the Horror and ban Dihydrogen Monoxide. It's Not Too Late!!...in the Reference Library, amongst other novels, Tom Easton reviews Pauline Ashwell's novel Project Farcry. Two of her stories were also in the 1986 Analog collection I read; she's been writing for a long time in Analog...nothing notable in Brass Tacks.


Struggled to finish a couple of stories in this issue, and I am finding 1996 a bit of a slog. I'm getting envious of Bick reading those stories from 1958.
 
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DeltaV

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April 1996

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The serial Higher Education by Charles Sheffield & Jerry Pournelle continues this month. The gang is now on its way to final training out in the belt. On the way, their ship is diverted to a serious industrial accident in an ore refinery that has killed and injured a number of workers. The students are called in to help rescue the survivors. And our protagonist, Rick Luban, strikes up a relationship with a fellow student ... with a mysterious background.

Again, two novelettes:

The Copyright Notice Case by Paul Levinson. A forensic scientist investigates the deaths of two researchers, both of whom were studying parts of human DNA that apparently have a coded message.

Big John by Doug Larsen. Unions are almost dead, kept alive by only a few die-hard supporters. An activist travels back in time to the 1880's to document working conditions in the mines, with the hope to re-ignite support in the general public in the union movement.

The short stories are:

Cat, Mouse by Brian Coad. An AI gradually develops the personality of a cat, fixing various issues in cyberspace.

Under Pressure by Sarah Zettel. Artificial symbiotes inside Great Lakes fish have been introduced to break down toxins. With time, however, they begin to have an unexpected negative effect on their hosts.

The Endless Throop by Scott Towner. A series of letters in Analog to and from a "Mr Throop" who may or may not be real.



Science Fact discusses propulsion options to get a probe to the sun's gravity focus.

The Alternate View looks at psychohistory. Readers may remember the two-part series on this subject that appeared back in 1986.

Biolog is on Paul Levinson


Issue Notes

There is a letter in Brass Tacks complaining that a story (The Maltese Elephant, August 1995) was not SF and had no place in Analog. The very next letter praises it as a gem of a story. I have seen this pattern several times in Brass Tacks under the editorship of Stan Schmidt and I find it rather curious. I wonder how many letters Analog was getting from readers, and what the proportion was on letters on stories (which frankly seem to be few and far between based on Brass Tacks), and letters on "factual" articles/editorials. How is it that when a letter appears criticizing a story (for whatever reason), that there is nearly always a counterpoint letter?

While I didn't really care for the story Cat, Mouse, it did make me think of how changing perspectives could affect how a reader views a story written 25 years ago. Back then, the idea of an AI prowling cyberspace to access and change electronic databases must have seemed new and exciting.
 

Bick

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Thanks DeltaV - super interesting reviews as always.
The serial by Sheffield & Pournelle sounds like my cup of tea, from two hard SF writers I like. How does it stack up, relative to other famous works of theirs?
What were the best novelettes from these last two issues you read?
 

DeltaV

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What were the best novelettes from these last two issues you read?

I'll put my comments in a spoiler in case anyone wants to read these stories.


Of the four, I found Big John the most thought provoking. One side of my family was very pro-union so I'm pretty familiar with all the arguments, and I understand the motivations of the protagonist in the story. Yet, like in the story, it is also a movement that has lost its way, due to various reasons (IMO). So for me, although I am generally not a fan of time-travel stories and the related handwavium, I would rank this one first.

The Copyright Notice Case is an odd story. Apparently someone in the distant past has written a message and embedded it in human DNA. Anyone trying to copy this message is killed by a burst of light. Too fanciful for my tastes.

The Shadow Captain was more of a romantic SF story, where the captain, Gregor, must leave his fiancée, Cara, for her own safety and never return. I found the "science" in this story a little too unbelievable to make the threat credible. The alien is apparently able to leave its body on its planet, and pursue Gregor in some "mental" way that is not made real clear. And how would it consume Cara even if it found her? This didn't work for me.

The title of Out of the Waste Land refers more to the protagonist's mental and emotional condition rather than the desert where she is in danger. While I'm not quite convinced that the events of the story would be enough to pull her out of her guilt over her daughter's death, I'll allow it's possible. The two main characters would put this story a close second to Big John.

I'll share some comments on the serial in the May 1996 overview.
 

DeltaV

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May 1996

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The serial Higher Education by Charles Sheffield & Jerry Pournelle finishes. The students are now out in a training facility in the belt, learning how to operate a smelter. And a mission is on the boards, to far off Jupiter where a corporate prospector has hit pay dirt with a strike. But some odd events have the gang feeling uneasy. Is there a criminal in their midst?

This month there is a novella:

Primrose and Thorn by Bud Sparhawk. Primrose is the name of an airborne freighter navigating the winds of Jupiter to deliver cargo to various stations orbiting the upper atmosphere. Thorn is a double-masted barque participating in a race across the skies of Jupiter with a hotshot pilot and a navigator afraid of heights. A massive storm affects the travels of both ships.


And two short stories:

Dirty Snowballs by James Glass. A research vessel exploring a new system is hit by an ice comet. Or, at least, that's what the crew thinks.

The Kubota Effect by G. David Nordley. A gunman sneaks into a supercollider control room to steal the main components, and to kill anyone who gets in his way.

Here are my thoughts on the series Higher Education.

With both Sheffield and Pournelle writing this story, you can be sure the science is pretty hard and you'd be right (no artificial gravity, pulsed fusion drives, etc.). The story moves along well, and there are a few mysterious events scattered throughout the four episodes, hinting at something bigger going on. And, indeed, it is quite the surprise to learn that a student is a corporate spy.

The series starts with the premise that public secondary education is so dismal that Vanguard Mining looks for the delinquents that get kicked out of school. The bright bored kids who turn bad for the thrill are the only ones that have a hope of surviving in the belt ... once they get their rough edges knocked off. The rest, well, they get out of school knowing less and less and find themselves unemployable.

At the end of the series Luban and a few others are offered another job ... to return to Earth, infiltrate the educational system and transform it. Luban refuses but then remembers something that his old teacher said, that the most rewarding jobs are the most difficult. What will he do?

A nice read.


Science Fact asks if commercial space activities will ever get off the ground due to all of the regulatory and legal hurdles.

The Alternate View takes another look at the "real world' and the standard model. At the end, Cramer asks the question "by what process were the Standard Model parameters set to the values that we measure and that produce the life-sustaining "real world" in which we live?" (I don't think that physicists are even close to answering this question even in 2021 ... and its a biggie).


Issue Notes

Biolog features artist George H. Krauter, who was the first to use computer-generated art for the cover of Analog (May 1994)...Tom Easton takes a look at Pamela Sargent's double volume of Women of Wonder and a non-fiction work, Terraforming: Engineering Planetary Environments by Martyn J. Fogg (positive reviews of both)...In Brass Tacks a reader praises Ben Franklin's Spaceship in the Sept 1995 issue. I almost feel compelled to highlight letters discussing stories as there are so few of them!
 

Bick

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Thanks DeltaV - The serial looks quite good, and I see it was indeed published as a book; I was completely unaware of it before you reviewed it.

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DeltaV

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June 1996

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Two novelettes appear in this month's issue.

The Three Labors of Bubba by Bud Webster. Sequel to a story in June 1994. Bubba and his AI buddy Mike befriend an alien and learn that the alien has been banished from his planet. He can only return if a champion wins three challenges back on the homeworld. Bubba accepts.

Wrong-Handed by John Vester. A security guard at an observatory meets, and dates, an alien in human female form ... who has a keen interest in the local real estate.

The short stories are:

The Content of the Character by Doug Larsen. Two blind men become roomies at the care home.

Appointment in Sinai by Ben Bova. People on Earth are able to be with the first expedition to Mars thanks to virtual reality, with consequences both big and small.

Fluffy by Jeffery D. Dooistra. A house cat is genetically modified by a researcher for greater intelligence, and then it escapes. After being found by a boy, the cat lives in the garage ... watching and learning.


Science Fact is by Ben Bova, and looks at the search for extraterrestrial life.

The Alternate View by G. Harry Stine discusses some advances in technology dealing with air conditioning and pollution reduction.

Issue Notes

Not too happy with Tom Easton in The Reference Library. He compares the novel Reclamation by Sarah Zettel to E.C. Tubb's Dumarest novels ... and reveals the end of the latter series. I've slowly made my way up to #27 (good SF pulp stories BTW). I guess spoiler alerts were unknown in 1996...nothing of note in Brass Tacks or elsewhere in this issue.
 

Bick

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Astounding, April 1958

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Eric Frank Russell - Basic Right
Russell was back in the pages of Astounding, following his entertaining story, Brute Farce, in Feb '58. In this novelette, Earth is taken over by the alien 'Raidans' (the green race gracing the magazine's cover, by Kelly Freas). But rather than battle against subjugation, humanity accepts the takeover with complete equanimity. It's a reasonably nifty idea, I guess, but one can't quite imagine humanity presenting such a well coordinated ruse. This was less good than his Feb' story.

Jon Stopa - A Pair of Glasses
Stopa was essentially a fan writer, I understand. Hailing from Chicago, he wrote only a few stories in 1957-58, and another in the '80's. He was more associated with fandom and known for his work supporting WorldCons. This story, set in a dystopian future was quite well written but turned into a philosophical discussion, and wasn't very interesting. DNF.

Christopher Anvil - Revolt!
As with Russell, this issue saw Christopher Anvil back, with a novelette, giving April a not dissimilar lineup to February. This was hugely entertaining, with a battle of wits played out between an planetary development agency, who want to initiate a mining operation post-haste, and the local military commander who wish to take fewer risks on the high gravity planet. Revolt! was actually the first story in Anvil's long-running Federation of Humanity sequence, which has since been collected by Baen Books in two Interstellar Patrol volumes (cover of Vol. 1 below). Anvil wrote these stories between 1958 and 1978 (and with one last story in 1990).

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Poul Anderson - The Man Who Counts (Part 3 of 3)
Anderson's serial concluded this month, and it was a satisfying end to the tale. The world-building was good, and van Rijn carried the show with entertaining bluster and bombast - frustrating and annoying to his fellow characters, but not to the reader, which is a sign of considerable writing skill.

Overall Thoughts
This was perhaps a slightly weaker issue than March, though it was no means bad. The Anderson serial concluded well, but took up a good deal of space, so there was only the three other stories (though two were quite lengthy novelettes). Both of these, the Russell and the Anvil, were entertaining, with the latter probably being the standout story this month. 'An-Lab' results published later in the year agree with me, which also placed the Stopa in last place. There was an interesting letter from Isaac Asimov in Brass Tacks, that critically considered American anti-intellectualism. In book reviews, Schuyler liked the new Andre Norton (Sea Siege) as well as the new Hoka book, Earthman's Burden, by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. He was less complimentary about People Minus X by Raymond Z. Gallun, Hidden World by Stanley A. Coblentz, and particularly disliked Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
 

DeltaV

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July 1996

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Double issue this month

First, there is a new serial. Starplex (part one of four) by Robert J. Sawyer. In the future, an advanced spacial jump gate network has been discovered leading humanity (and uplifted dolphins) into contact with two alien races. Together they build the Starplex, a combination of space ship and research station, to explore the network. On a jump to a new system, the crew of the Starplex discover, not only dark matter, but also a strange star that also transitioned through the jump gate.

Then four novelettes:

Amateurs by Tom Ligon. Fed up with the lack of progress on orbital lift systems, a group of scientists and enthusiasts cobble together from spare parts a SSTO rocket plane, loaded with an experimental fuel named Pan Galactic Gargleblaster.

Partners by Joseph H. Delaney. The Simmons, a farming couple, discover some strange critters wandering in from the back 40, critters that are eating their crops. Local law enforcement pitches in, but gets nervous after two of their men disappear. Finally the mystery is solved with the help of some unusual hunters.

Sam Boone's Appeal to Common Scents by Bud Sparhawk. Sam Boone is an envoy sent to an alien world to resolve a conflict between two species. One of the alien races uses smells to communicate, smells that are extremely repugnant to the human nose.

The Alicia Revolution by Doug Larsen. A sequel to the Alicia Conspiracy which appeared in the March 1993 Analog. A business woman on the run travels to a third-world country to finish the revolution that her father started. She discovers that the GPS computer network is being used to monitor subversives, and comes up with a plan to turn the tables on the government.



And also four shorts:

Snowball by Jeffery D. Kooistra. The sinister cat that was previously in Fluffy (June) leads a group of modified cats to refuge in an church.

Threat of Stars at 912 Main by Alexis Glynn Latner. Alien art thieves on the loose in Houston.

Boneheads by Pauline Ashwell. Miners travel back in the past to obtain a supply of rare metals, and the camp doctor makes an interesting discovery.

Thoracic Park by Don D'Ammassa. A humorous look at an alien "Jurassic Park" where the humans have escaped from their enclosures. Great Scott! They even bred lawyers!



Science Fact is on the science behind the story Amateurs. Discusses the state of rocket research, and the difficulties for small companies to launch experimental designs.

The Analytical Library has the reader's poll results for 1995; I'll post below.

The Alternate View discusses nuclear fuel disposal.

I'll put a spoiler here to discuss a few of the stories:

There have been a few stories like Partners over the years in Analog. Smart and plucky amateurs doing what NASA can't (or won't) do. Interesting article in Science Fact. Partners was based on a true-life story of a group of researchers trying to do what is depicted in the novelette. Unfortunately, after a quick look in the Internet, it appears this group sank out of sight sometime after 2000.

Interestingly the Science Fact article states it is prohibited in the US to launch hobby rockets with liquid fuel, something that I did not know (I dabbled in a bit of model rocketry years ago, but it was all solid fuel boosters).

The Alicia Revolution is another story that, from the viewpoint of 2021, is no longer really SF. Although frankly it might have been borderline even in 1996.

And what is it about killer cat stories in Analog? Wasn't there one recently about a house whose owners kept disappearing after stray cats showed up?

There is a Guest Editorial this month by Poul Anderson; he writes about the future of society and of science fiction...Tom Easton makes an interesting observation in The Reference Library: "many current novels are powerful echoes of others just 10 to 15 years old, not to mention even older (...) Perhaps it is also a sign - no surprise! - of how hard it is to come up with an original story". Yes indeed...Biolog is on artist Jim Burns who did this month's cover...In Brass Tacks there are several letters on stories (gasp!). Several fans wrote in about Bud Sparhawk's Resurrection and David Nordley's Martian Valkyrie.
 

DeltaV

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1995 Analog Readers Poll Results

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Does anybody here recognize and/or recommend any of these stories?
 

DeltaV

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August 1996

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The serial, Starplex (part two of four) by Robert J. Sawyer continues. The crew make surprising discoveries about both the dark matter in the solar system they are exploring, and about a sun that suddenly transitioned through the nearby jump gate.

Back to two novelettes in this issue:

The Ore-Ball Express by Hayford Peirce. A brokerage employee in the asteroid belt must secure a bank account on Earth before a treacherous rival arrives and gains access. And the only way to beat him to Earth is to hitch a ride on an ore shipment.

Galley Slave by Jean Lamb. An adventure in the Man-Kzin wars. The Kzin capture the starship Cormorant and kill the crew, leaving only one person alive to be their slave and to prepare their food. However Dr Marybeth Donet has a plan...

And two short stories:

No Blood on My Hands by Pete D. Manison. A surgeon has begun waking up in the morning after dreaming of operating on soldiers in a war.

Orphans of Eden by Spider Robinson. Spider receives a visitor from the future with an ethical problem, seeking advice.


Science Fact looks at the mixed record of government in the history of technology.

The Alternate View discusses the danger of scientific speculation being disguised as scientific inquiry.

Issue Notes:

Biolog is on author Pete D. Manison...and there are several letters in Brass Tacks discussing recent stories (An Ever-Reddening Glow and Higher Education).


Not much to really comment on in this issue. I have a couple of thoughts on the serial Starplex that I'll jot down after the end.
 

DeltaV

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September 1996

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The serial, Starplex (part three of four) by Robert J. Sawyer continues. A surprise attack on the Starplex causes a unexpected reaction from the dark matter in the system the Starplex is exploring.

The novelettes are:

Something on My Mind by Grey Rollins. A geologist on an alien world becomes the unwitting pawn of one of the local animals.

Beyond the Volcano by Ned Farrar. Conservation and commerce clash on a colony built inside an extinct supervolcano in the Epsilon Indi system.

The short story is The Negative Butterflies by Laurence Janifer. A letter to Stan explains how control of the butterfly effect leads to control of the weather.



Science Fact, in a very odd article, discusses stories from the middle ages about two green children.

The Alternate View looks at the inside of quarks.

The 1995 Nebula Award Winners are listed in this issue:


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Any comments on these stories? I don't recognize any of them.



Issue Notes

Tom Easton in the Reference Library highlights three reference books that may be of interest to SF writers: Aliens and Alien Societies: A Writer's Guide (Stan Schmidt), World-Building: A Writer's Guide (Stephen Gillet) and Proximity Zero: A Writers Guide to the Nearest 200 Stars...Brass Tacks has a couple of letters about the movement to ban Di-Hydrogen Monoxide (March).
 

DeltaV

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October 1996

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The serial, Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer concludes. See spoiler below for notes.

The novella is Symphony in a Minor Key by H.G. Stratmann. A music lover goes back in time to heal Beethoven so he can continue his composing. And, of course, there are unforeseen consequences.

Short Stories:

Unfinished Business by Jerry Oltion. The ghost of a dead engineer returns to save the spaceship from disaster.

State of the Union by Rick Shelley. A university professor is funded by the Mafia to finish his time machine.

The Hammerpond Park Burglary by Ted Reynolds. A burglar attempts to steal the famous Frigart sketch.


Science Fact looks at the pluses and minuses of the 'new' debit cards being issued by banks.

The Alternate View discusses the control of technology and its limits.

I found that the author was trying to do too much in this serial. We have:

1) dark matter is actually composed of Jupiter-sized sentient aliens;
2) the protagonist (and presumably others) gain eternal life in the near future;
3) the future version of the protagonist brings his earlier self forward a few billion years for a chat;
4) subplot of the (married) protagonist going through a mid-life crisis, and flirting with one of his subordinates;
5) stars are being sent back in time to increase the mass of the galaxy;
6) a war breaks out between the three 'allied' worlds.
etc.

And some of the concepts in the serial stray quite a bit away from Analog's philosophy of being the "bastion of "hard" SF, meaning SF that takes its science seriously."

Issue notes

A photo shows Charles Sheffield receiving his reader's award for best fact article at the Nebula Awards from the staff at Analog...Biolog is on Henry G. Stratmann, author of this issue's novella...Tom Easton on The Reference Library reviews Paragons, a writer's guide from the Clarion SF Writers Workshop for those interested in writing SF...Great Scott! Brass Tacks only has letters on stories! What is happening? :) Amongst others, there are a couple of letters critical of the novella The Copyright Notice Case (and I agree with the writers).


Another issue that I found a bit of a slog. I stashed a recent copy of Analog in my backpack during a recent camping trip. Gosh, I know there are a few here at Chrons that believe that Analog has gone downhill over the last few years but I'll take 2021 over 1996 any day. I would have used a 1996 issue to start my fires. My 2021 came back home smelling of smoke but in one piece!
 

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