Reading Around in Old SF Magazines

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
I read this issue (and all of 1986) way back when. As an ardent cyberpunk fan it's one of their best for me. I hope you find the rest of the year more to your taste, Bick.
I'm sure I will enjoy the 'upcoming' issues more, Vince - I think it was just a little unfortunate the Cadigan wasn't to my taste and other stories were not classics, making it a slightly weak start to the 'exploration'. Asimov's editorial and the eulogies to Sturgeon were very illuminating and interesting though. I'm looking forward to February, not put off at all.

How are your 1983 Analogs progressing?

EDIT: By the way, Vince, I have subscribed anew to Analog and Asimov's - I'm going to give their current output another go.
 
Last edited:

Vince W

Towel Champion
Supporter
Joined
Sep 9, 2011
Messages
4,237
I'm sure I will enjoy the 'upcoming' issues more, Vince - I think it was just a little unfortunate the Cadigan wasn't to my taste and other stories were not classics, making it a slightly weak start to the 'exploration'. Asimov's editorial and the eulogies to Sturgeon were very illuminating and interesting though. I'm looking forward to February, not put off at all.

How are your 1983 Analogs progressing?

EDIT: By the way, Vince, I have subscribed anew to Analog and Asimov's - I'm going to give their current output another go.
It's been very busy at the moment so I'm still finishing up February. I will be very interested to hear what you have to say about the current Analog and Asimov's.
 

Vince W

Towel Champion
Supporter
Joined
Sep 9, 2011
Messages
4,237
View attachment 72424

February 1983
Frederik Pohl - Servant of the People
Hugo Award nominee for Best Short Story in 1984. Frederik Pohl started writing short stories with C. M. Kornbluth in 1940 at the start of the 'golden age', of course, and was a giant of the genre, winning 4 Hugo Awards, and 3 Nebula's, edited Galaxy and If for many years, and was named the 12th SF Grand Master by the SFWA in 1993. This is a solid if not great story, telling the story of an aging career politician running for office against a robot competitor. I do like old robot stories (especially Asimov's) but this seemed slightly anachronistic given it was written in the 1980's. It also depends more on the 'twist' at the end than on the actual substance of the story, which perhaps also makes it seem older from a structural perspective.
I 'finished' the February 1983 issue of Analog and it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Again, I did not read the conclusion of the novel serial.

I started with the novella 'Seeking' by David R. Palmer. This story is a sequel to a story Palmer had published in the January 1981 issue of Analog. Set after a virus has wiped out homo sapiens leaving only a handful of homo post hominem alive. The premise is quite on the nose given our current situation in the world. H. p. hominem are super-humans with far greater intellect than anyone else. The main character is Candidia Maria Smith-Foster, an eleven-year-old girl and part of the h. p. hominem subspecies. It's written as diary of Candidia in a very halting and stilted style. It's meant to say that if we were like her we wouldn't need the extra grammar to understand her. Frankly, this wore thin on me very quickly and after several pages of Candidia telling us just how great she and others like her were I gave up. DNF.

Next came the novelette 'Murphy's Planet' by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. On the distant planet of Kaillex-5 some very strange things are occurring. So strange that Jon Lane, a very open and level headed person, is charged with putting a team together to investigate the happenings and come up with an explanation. The rumours of 'miracles' do not sit well with the Advance Exploration Service. Almost as soon as Lane and his team arrive strange things start happening, but Lane takes them in his stride and sets about investigating. His logic is aided by openness of mind to accept what is happening for what they are and not jumping to irrational conclusions, yet is an intuitive leap that puts him on the correct course. The story is abl written and interesting. Lane is almost Sherlockian at times. The story is a first contact type of sorts with a twist. It's a good story but not one I'd ever include in anthology.

Last comes Frederik Pohl's short story 'Servant of the People'. While I do like Pohl in general, I found this one to be merely okay. It felt like an exploration of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from a different angle. I liked the ideas in the story but the ending was far too obvious, though I wonder if I would have had a different reaction had I read it in 1983. Still, Pohl on his worst day writes a capable story.

The stories in this issue were not outstanding for me, but the highlight had to be Tom Easton's review of Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. That had me in stitches.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
'Murphy's Planet' by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. ... It's a good story but not one I'd ever include in anthology.
Sounds decent enough - perhaps the best in this issue then.

Last comes Frederik Pohl's short story 'Servant of the People'. While I do like Pohl in general, I found this one to be merely okay. It felt like an exploration of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from a different angle. I liked the ideas in the story but the ending was far too obvious, though I wonder if I would have had a different reaction had I read it in 1983. Still, Pohl on his worst day writes a capable story.
That's almost exactly how I felt about it, too.

... the highlight had to be Tom Easton's review of Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. That had me in stitches.
I'll have to go back and read this!

This was not a very strong issue it seems - March was perhaps better (I'll be interested to see what you think of the Silverberg), and May onward is where I found the really good stories, I guess.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
I've now read the best (highest reputation) stories in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction from February 1986, so here are my thoughts on three stories from that issue:

1609365003436.png


Gregory Benford - Of Space-Time and the River
This story was nominated for the Locus Award for best novelette, and has been anthologised heavily, including by Terry Carr in his Best SF of the Year 15. It's a very entertaining tale, nicely told with good pacing and characterisation. A US professor of literature travels to Egypt with his wife for a vacation. While his interest is in the antiquities, he also sees the aliens resident there, as Egypt is the only home on Earth to a species of alien visitor. These aliens look like big bugs, they keep to themselves and their reason for showing interest in only Egypt is unknown, except that they too appear to be concerned with preservation of the antiquities. It's not possible to say more without giving the plot away, but the outcome for those living along the Nile is greatly impacted.

Orson Scott Card - Salvage
This novelette has also been anthologised a good deal and was also a Locus nominee, but for me, it was a little less successful than the Benford. This is one of Card's Mormon Sea series of short stories, in which much of Utah (and Salt Lake City itself) is flooded following a nuclear war, with only church spires and skyscrapers now standing above the water of the new lake. A young salvage hunter hears there is gold stocked in the top of the old church in the city and persuades two friends to help him take a boat and diving equipment out to look for it. The scenes of the drowned city and the subsistence life of the post-war survivors is well presented, and the writing is good, but I couldn't forget here that Card is a Mormon himself, and the story is ultimately a bit of a sermon, based on his religious beliefs, and this detracted from it for me.

R. A. Lafferty - Junkyard Thoughts
Lafferty is one of SF's true originals, and this proves the point. His fiction skirts the edges of SF, fantasy and magical realism and he needs his own genre category, really. To summarise the story without spoilers will not be easy: it's about a junkyard owner (Jake Cass) who has a talking, chess playing, dog (Junkyard). A 'police person' (Drumhead Joe Kress) thinks Cass may be related to the elegant criminal J. Palmer Cass, who lives nearby. They meet and talk this through. Is Jake Cass related to J. P. Cass, as the police person wonders, or is he indeed J. P. Cass himself? And is the police person also the same person (his name is very similar), with one character hallucinating the whole thing? This is weird fiction, not SF per se, but that's not a detraction. It's written in a very unique manner, but is nonetheless very readable. I'm not sure what it's about, but I enjoyed it very much. Lafferty offers a few remarks at the start of the story which give you sense of what you're letting yourself in for here: "...all writers should be funny-looking and all stories should be funny... sometimes readers tell me that such a story of mine is not funny at all. 'Wait, wait,' I tell them. 'You're holding it upside down. Now try it.' And sure enough, it is funny if they get ahold of it right."

Overall, I'd say this was a superior issue to January 1986, with three very readable stories.
Onto March 1986 next, which features work from Tanith Lee, John Kessel and Michael Bishop.
 
Last edited:

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, March 1986
The best stories, based on reputation, from that issue:

1609552488195.png


Tanith Lee - Into Gold
This was a fantasy novelette, set in ancient Illyrium (or similar - the exact location isn't mentioned), in which a women with the apparent power to turn anything into gold joins a princedom, at the prince's request. The prince's loyal captain doesn't trust the 'witch' and the ramifications for the city state may be considerable. I'm not sure what I thought of this - the writing style may or may not be Tanith Lee's usual style, but some of the prose was strange and clumsy - for me the style was 'not very good'. But then I've not knowingly read any Tanith Lee I liked much, to be honest, and this fantasy was simply okay. As an aside, it's interesting that the magazine is called Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, as this is clearly fantasy. Asimov's is known to publish fantasy, of course, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's odd they use a magazine title that suggests otherwise.

John Kessel - The Pure Product
As I started this novelette, I realised I'd read it before in a Dozois' anthology. It's not at all bad, telling the tale of destruction and violence brought about by time travelers from the future. It's brightly written and keeps the attention, but the more I think about it afterward, the more I wonder what Kessel's point really was here. The suggestion is that misdirected technological advance will lead to lazy lawlessness, but the plot tells this rather bluntly without exploring the idea as fully as it could have been, and overall, its less convincing than one hope's it will be from half-way in. I think I felt exactly the same way last time I read it. It's a solid enough piece of entertainment though.

Michael Bishop - Close Encounters with the Deity
Okay, not sure what to say about this one. I found it ultimately disappointing, which was a shame as the set-up was great. A badly disabled physics genius solves the general unified theory and has a ship built to take him to a star that's forming planets, 22 light years away. He will hibernate on the way there, and then wake briefly every few thousand years to observe the formation of the planetary system, as a reward for his achievements in theoretical physics. This is all fine, except... he's a devout Roman Catholic and the story doesn't end in an interesting way, but with silly pseudo-scientific mysticism. Not my cup-of tea ultimately.

I'm really enjoying the editorials by Asimov, incidentally. This month's was an absolute hoot - referring to a letter Asimov received "anonymously" from Arthur C. Clarke, in which they were jokingly rude to each other. I may scan the relevant page and post it - its highly enjoyable.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
Okay, here is the end of the editorial from Asimov from March 1986 in the magazine. It's worth a read!
Asimov has been talking about the use of persona, by authors, and whether how he presents himself is real or a projected persona, and he has been suggesting that everything he projects is real and not persona. A letter he says he had recently received presents a counter-argument to one aspect of his self-professed personality:

1609566108549.png


Fantastic!
 

BigBadBob141

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
946
Just thinking back the other night about a British SF magazine that came out either mid or late nineties, I think it had a single word title but I could be wrong, I came across adverts for it prepublishing so took a punt and subscribed for a years worth of issues, not sure if it was bimonthly or quarterly.
It was in a slick ( ie. close to A4 size ) format not Readers Digest sized such as Analog and F&SF is today, the first issue was great, there was a truly brilliant short comedy/horror story by Karl Edward Wagner to start off with, with a really great and funny ending, the second issue was fine with I think a flying saucer on the cover, then the third issue had a cyborg mercenary on the cover from a just published book, it had a title something like "Black Knights......" and then alas there were no more issues.
The founder/editor wrote a letter saying it had been killed off by W.H.Smith's, the majority of issues were sold by them, the first two issues had sold well, but after the printers had delivered the third issue to their distribution warehouse instead of going out to all their shops it had just sat there for months before being pulped.
Which effectively bankrupted the magazine as I think Smith's only paid for issues sold off their shelves, great pity, somebody really dropped the ball badly on that one.
Never got the rest of my money back, not that I was too bothered, would have preferred more issues, I think the editor was selling off his book collection to raise funds, I think I even bought a few, but alas no more magazine, don't know if he tried to sue Smith's or not.
Does any one out there in the big, bad universe know which magazine I mean, and does any one have any of the issues including the what must be rare third issue?
 

BigBadBob141

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
946
That's the fella, absolutely spot on, a great pity the mag died such an early death, it looked very promising!
Thanks Bick, this is very helpful.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, April 1986
The best stories, based on reputation, from that issue:

1611519716168.png


As well as some highly-rated stories, this issue also boasts an essay on warfare in SF, written by Joe Haldeman (Viewpoint: Science fiction and War). This was very interesting and enjoyable to read.

Walter Jon Williams - Panzerboy
This novelette (Williams' third published story) is set in a dystopian future, where orbital military might controls the world, and the US is split between factions. The panzerboy of the title must get his rocket-powered ground vehicle across the dangerous Mid-Western states to deliver antibiotic to the eastern coast. On the way he is attacked by , and meets some young people who teach him humility. It's not bad, and is exciting in places, but it's not really top drawer either.

Kim Stanley Robinson - Down and Out in the Year 2000
Most famous for his Mars trilogy of novels written in the early 1990's, Robinson began publishing short fiction as far back as 1976. This short story was voted the 3rd best in the year 1986 by readers of Asimov's. It's not bad, being a well-written tale portraying a dystopian future Washington DC, through the eyes of one down-and-out for a day. It doesn't really go anywhere though and is short on plot.

Lucius Shepard - R & R
This novella has a significant reputation, as it won both the Nebula and Locus awards for best novella in 1986, as well as being nominated for the Hugo, and has been collected in several major anthologies. That's a lot to live up to. It's not dissimilar to the same author's war story, Salvador, from a few year's earlier, which seemed to be set in a similar fictitious Central American conflict. This is a long novella - 70 pages or so - and it really did drag for me. I expect it won its awards because its serious, intense and insightful about the horrors of war. It has some passages with good pace, and characterisation is fine, but it's patchy and inconsistent, has a meandering plot, and is overly long; I struggled to get through it and it was not especially enjoyable. I felt much the same way about the earlier Salvador, I recall. Neither story are SF - perhaps they are magical realism - and I'll perhaps avoid Shepard in future; despite his reputation, I'm not sure his work's for me.

So, overall, not the best issue for me, and one that took me a long time to get through. Hopefully things will pick up again in May 1986...
 

Grognardsw

Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2021
Messages
18
Location
Boston, Mass., USA
Bick this is a great thread. I recently joined up here and favor the classic SF more than contemporary stuff. I recently finished the Aug. 1957 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, which had a piece by Calvin Knox. That’s a pseudonym for Robert Silverberg, one of my favorite authors. One of the regular columns in that magazine is a fandom report by Bob Madle, a first fan from the 30’s (whose impressively still alive the last time I checked four months ago.). In more recent times he was a book dealer and 15 years ago i bought a bound collection of Galaxy for the decade 1950. I often dip into these. So many great stories, many that became classic novels... Fahrenheit 451, Merchants of Venus, The Stars My Destination, all those great Sheckley satires. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of the older posts in this thread and chipping in when the sense of wonder moves me.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
Bick this is a great thread. I recently joined up here and favor the classic SF more than contemporary stuff. I recently finished the Aug. 1957 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, which had a piece by Calvin Knox. That’s a pseudonym for Robert Silverberg, one of my favorite authors. One of the regular columns in that magazine is a fandom report by Bob Madle, a first fan from the 30’s (whose impressively still alive the last time I checked four months ago.). In more recent times he was a book dealer and 15 years ago i bought a bound collection of Galaxy for the decade 1950. I often dip into these. So many great stories, many that became classic novels... Fahrenheit 451, Merchants of Venus, The Stars My Destination, all those great Sheckley satires. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of the older posts in this thread and chipping in when the sense of wonder moves me.
Good to e-meet you Grognardsw - welcome to the forum. Thanks for your nice comments, I think we probably share some thoughts on older SF.
That SF Quarterly looks fun. I see it contained plenty of artwork by Ed Emshwiller as well as a short story by his wife Carol. The Silverberg is a pretty early one for him (En Route to Earth) - back when he was writing heaps of fluff for money (but it was generally good fluff!).

1611542612180.png
 

Grognardsw

Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2021
Messages
18
Location
Boston, Mass., USA
Yes that’s the cover, a fun one by Emsh. I read a great bio and art book on him a year ago, Xfinity x 2, that looked at him and his wife Carol. Coincidentally she had a story in this same issue. It didn’t grab me. It was written as an alien fable of sorts. I’ve read some of her later stories that were much better.

The cover painting is for the Knox / Silverberg short story about a passenger rocket stewardess’ experience in dealing with alien passengers. Light entertainment. I collect Bob’s work and have seen him a few times at conventions. One of my favorites.

Richard Wilson’s (a name I’m not familiar with) Locus Focus about a man’s psychic power of persuasion gone wild was entertaining. Bob Madle’s fandom column is a great glimpse into 1950s fandom.
 

DeltaV

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2019
Messages
67
I am enjoying this thread and have decided to toss my hat into the ring: I've laid hands on the complete year of Analog 1988. This is years before I started reading Analog. I will give an overview of each issue, and highlight one story, either the novella or novelette. If given a choice between a "known" writer (at least to me) and one who is not familiar, I'll generally go with the latter.

I don't have the SF knowledge of other posters on this site, nor their literary critical skills. So be aware, this is coming from a "B leaguer"! :giggle: And I do include spoilers so if you don't want to know about the plot, please skip those.

So here goes...

January 1988

There is an ongoing serial in this issue, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, part three of four. Features four-armed genetically-engineered humans, called Quaddies. According to Wikipedia, this series is going back almost to the beginning of her writing career; the novel Shards of Honor came out in 1986.

The first novelette is Strangers, by Poul Anderson. A threatened alien village seeks help from the mysterious "Night Riders", a strange tribe of bipedal furless beings who live in a distant forest. Typical of the stories I associate with Anderson.

The second novelette, The Worlds I Used to Know, by Rick Shelley, is the one I'll comment on. I have not heard of this author and according to the ISFDB, this is one of his earlier stories.

Here is an overview: The eldest son of the protagonist is, in parallel Earth (#1), a ruthless military leader who starts a future war that ends up destroying many, if not all, of the parallel Earths in 1993. Two "time police" are trying to stop him, and enlist the help of the father in an alternate Earth (#2) in 1977. The father, Edward Villiers, recently lost his wife and two of three children. His oldest surviving son (Chick) is the one that, in the alternate Earth (#1), becomes the fanatical political leader. Villiers is sent to another Earth (#3), with a slightly different timeline, where he meets his "wife" (also widowed) and his three "children". The hope is that he may do something in this Earth that will influence the oldest son in Earth #1. He is pretending to be an old friend of the wife's husband. They fall in love. However the oldest daughter also falls in love with Villiers. This makes Villiers determined to leave Earth #3. He summons the time police, renders them unconscious and steals their car (which can travel both through time and between the alternate Earths). He then goes to Earth #2, gets Chick, then both travel to Earth #1, but much earlier (1950's). There he meets a younger version of his wife, gets married and starts a family. At the very end of the 1960's, a radical starts stirring up trouble: his oldest son (Charles Treville) in this alternate Earth. A riot starts, the time police show up and try to assassinate Charles, and to save him Villiers and Chick grab him. They explain what is going on and then travel back in time the car and kill the two time police in the riot. They then shift to Earth #2 in 1978 and leave Charles there, then jump back to Earth #1. The last paragraph of the story takes place in 1993, past the date of the war, and all is well. At least, it seems to be.

Hmmm. Not sure where to begin. I am not a fan of either time-travel stories nor of alternate universes so I guess, at least for me, this story has a couple of strikes against it going in. The whole Earth #3 episode did not make a lot of sense and the scene where the "daughter" expresses her love for Villiers made me cringe. I also don't understand how anything he can do in this alternate Earth #3 would have any effect on Earth #1. Finally there is something else I can't figure out: Earth #1 Charles looks like Villiers younger son (who died in Earth #2), so much so that Charles recognizes both Villiers and Chick at the riot. In this Earth (#1), Villier's grandfather was assassinated by the time police and his grandmother married again, to a Treville. Villiers has already taken the mother out of the equation by marrying her in the 1950's. So the only common ancestor would be the paternal grandmother. Would 1/4 be enough for that close of a resemblance? And would 1/4 be enough for Charles to still turn into a maniacal political leader?

I'll include an interesting comment I saw in another thread:

Part of the craft of writing, stories or screen plays, is to get the reader or viewer engrossed in the plot and character instead of looking for nits to complain about.

(...)

I think if you manage to hook the reader early, the reader will gloss over minor and sometimes significant issues. Fail to hook the reader, and the reader will discover every flaw (and perhaps make up some more).
Heh, heh, I'm good at doing that last bit!

A couple of short stories (Now You See It, by Geoffrey Landis and User Friendly by Alice Laurence, neither remarkable) round out the fiction. I see that John Cramer was writing his The Alternate View even back then.

Generic Issue Notes

$2 US an issue...there is a board game advertised on the inside cover! Star Traders by Steve Jackson Games. I went to Boardgamegeek to read up on it ... speaking of games, there is a column on them. On Gaming. This month it discusses Earth Orbit Station by Electronic Arts, on diskettes... There also seem to be more ads for novels than now...The Reference Library by Tom Easton does not shy away from critical comments on the novels reviewed....The Science Fiction Book Club has a double ad at the end. Of the books listed, I´ve read In Conquest Born, Earth Clan, Legacy of Heriot, Robots and Empire and the Way of the Pilgrim.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,968
Location
Auckland, NZ
Excellent to have onboard on this thread, DeltaV, and thanks for the very interesting post. I’m looking forward to reading more as you ‘work’ through the year.

Incidentally, I love those Steve Jackson game ads and similar ads from the era. Also the book ads. I do the same as you and see what was selling and popular then and compare to what I’ve read and know. Sometimes there’s a book there that has become a little bit forgotten and I make a mental note. Such books are often by the likes of Gordon Dickson or Mack Reynolds.
 

Triceratops

ChrisStevenson
Joined
Nov 1, 2006
Messages
348
Location
Sylvania, Alabama
This thread brings back some fond memories indeed. I remember just starting out and getting the writing bug when I read a short in Twilight Zone magazine, and I believe at that time (1987) is was run by Carol Serling? Anyway, it was right around 1987/88 or so when Amazing Stories picked up two of my very long poems, and I can't even remember the titles correctly. I just remember being very new to the SF game and getting paid a whopping amount for the work. Sadly, Amazing went under and never returned. I do believe it was the oldest commercial SF mag, started in 1926?

1612182948856.png
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
17,326
This thread brings back some fond memories indeed. I remember just starting out and getting the writing bug when I read a short in Twilight Zone magazine, and I believe at that time (1987) is was run by Carol Serling? Anyway, it was right around 1987/88 or so when Amazing Stories picked up two of my very long poems, and I can't even remember the titles correctly. I just remember being very new to the SF game and getting paid a whopping amount for the work. Sadly, Amazing went under and never returned. I do believe it was the oldest commercial SF mag, started in 1926?

View attachment 75382
Founded by Hugo Gernsback
 
Top