Reading Around in Old SF Magazines

dask

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“Paul Revere And The Time Machine“ sounds like one of those must-read-before-you-die type stories.
 

Bick

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This thread brings back some fond memories indeed.... Sadly, Amazing went under and never returned. I do believe it was the oldest commercial SF mag, started in 1926?
It’s not quite true to say Amazing folded and never returned - it did return and has been published as a quarterly or annual magazine in most years. The latest publication was summer 2020 and in theory it’s an electronic quarterly now. It’s fair to say it’s monthly print publication that it enjoyed for 65+ years has stopped though.
 

Triceratops

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Thanks, Bick. I wasn't even aware of that. The last I heard was that they were trying to bring it back but failed. I never checked back with it.
 

Bick

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I just checked - Amazing is available for electronic or print subscription.
See magazine's website.

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DeltaV

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My next Analog post: February 1988

The serial, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, finishes in this issue.

The first novelette is Dry Run, by J Brian Clarke. I picked this one of the three to review below.

The second novelette is Peaches for Mad Molly by Steven Gould. Climbers live on the outside of a 752 story residential tower in the near future, somewhere near Houston. The protagonist decides to find peaches as a birthday gift for one of his neighbors on the 611th floor.

The third novelette is Doc's Legacy by Christopher Anvil. After the death of an eccentric scientist, one of his odd inventions is studied by a former colleague.

Context: In the far future, Humans and Phuili are allies in a war against the xenophobic Silver People. The latter are determined to erase all other life from the galaxy, and even eating anything but synthetic food is detestable in their eyes. The alliance is forced to destroy the Silver People's home system with a nova bomb. However, just before their planet's destruction, the Silver People launched fifty ships to seed new planets. The alliance tracks down one ship, tries and fails to convince the Silver People to surrender. In the fighting, all of the Silver People die except for one mortally injured female who gives birth to six babies. Those babies are raised by a human couple and a Phuili scientist, in the hope that they can be emissaries to the other Silver People ships (this information is gleaned as you read the story).

In the novelette, one of the babies is now a young adult (Emma), and is placed into a second seed ship which was discovered and then modified by the alliance (holographic projectors, hidden observation devices etc.). This ship was put on a direct impact course to a star, but will pass by a planet on its way to a fiery end. The Silver People are awoken from their cryogenic sleep chambers, and Emma attempts to subtly dissuade the crew from exterminating life on the planet before a suicidal death in the star. There is a mutiny amongst the Silver People, the hardliners are killed, and the survivors agree to go down to the planet. They decide not to exterminate all life there, but to rebuild their civilization so that they can, in the future, continue their extermination work elsewhere. And they agree to eat organic food. Small steps.

I thought this story raises a few interesting questions. The alliance feels guilty over the destruction of the Silver People's home planet, and is trying to change the attitude of the remaining Silver People so that all can live at peace in the galaxy. How do you change something as deep-rooted as the fanatical xenophobia of the Silver People? The young adults raised by the alliance appear to have adopted their foster-parents beliefs. But will that last? And how much can the alliance (with the help of Emma and others) shift the belief system of the entire species?

I got the impression reading this story that it was part of a larger series, and I was correct. There is a follow up story later in 1988 in Analog, and there was a novel The Expediter (1990) that pulls together a number of novelettes covering the entire time period, including a previous conflict between Humans and Phuili. On Amazon there are two ratings for this book, a single star and a five star (!). This series of stories appears to be the main contribution of Clarke to science fiction.


There are also three short stories in this issue: Dreamers by Rick Cook, Present Worth by Arlan Andrews, and The Boys from Stormville. As in January, nothing to hold my interest.

Now, I'm not one of those that thinks that if a story doesn't have spaceships, aliens or strange planets, it isn't science fiction (well, I don't think that way at least some of the time). But at least a couple of the stories in this issue stray from what I would consider SF <oh no, DeltaV, don't go there!>. I would call them 'speculative fiction' instead. Let me make my case:

Peaches for Mad Molly is a good story, but the only 'science fiction' aspects, if that, are the height of the tower and the fact that climbers live on the outside. The odd device in Doc's Legacy operates on an unknown scientific principle. Dreamers has a visitor from the future to a SF convention. Present Worth has a time-travelling WW2 military officer who is shocked to learn that in the 1980's Japanese companies apparently dominate the US consumer market. The Boys from Stormville are pilots operating an advanced weather-controlling air ship of some sort.

Anyway, that's just me; most likely my definition of SF is more limited than that of most of the posters here, and I don't want to start any fireworks. I enjoyed reading this a while back in the thread How do you Classify Science Fiction?

I rather like the definition attributed to Damon Knight: Science fiction is what I'm pointing at when I call something science fiction.


On the inside cover is an ad for Star Trek original series videocassettes. Join and you get a cassette every six weeks! Only $24.95 plus $2.45 shipping each!...On Gaming reviews Ogre by Steve Jackson Games. My brother had this game years ago. Tough to stop the Ogre...There is also an ad for GURPS Humanx by Steve Jackson Games, based on the Humanx Commonwealth stories by Alan Dean Foster. Wow, I've never heard of these books, but Wikipedia shows a huge list! Interesting... Again, lots of ads for books... Tom Easton continues his reviews with comments such as "winds up feeling like a string of connected short stories or, worse, anecdotes", "she tries too hard to repeat her success and fails" and "the tale is a severe disappointment"... Finally, there is an ad for Analog Anthologies which I did not know about; apparently there are nine of them. Wonder if they are still around?
 

Bick

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I've been maintaining my slow reading through Asimov's Science Fiction, 1986.

Here is my review of Asimov's from May 1986:

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Isaac Asimov kicks off the issue in his editorial with an obituary letter to Judy-Lynn del Rey. It's rather sad and poignant. The most well known, or regarded stories in the issue are the following:

Connie Willis - Chance
Connie Willis is I think probably an acquired taste, in part perhaps because her SFF is not very sci-fi or fantastic. This story is a case in point. It's nicely written, is actually quite intriguing, and makes one read on to see what is happening, but ultimately it could be published in a non-genre story collection. A woman has moved back to the university town of her alma mater, as her husband has a new job there. He's not that pleasant to her, and she looks back on her life in which she made early mistakes in love and missed her chance at real happiness. Whether she hallucinates seeing her old friends or really sees them in some sort of supernatural way is not clear. It was really rather good in many ways, but my enjoyment was slightly marred by the fact I couldn't really find the SFF I was looking for.

R. A. Lafferty - Inventions Bright and New
Lafferty offers up another little story that screws with your mind and logic. It's based on the concept that new ideas can only be invented in the first 7 seconds of the world, but the world is constantly restarting in a bizarre time loop, so that's okay... sort-of. What I found ironic was that Lafferty was playing in a surreal way with the idea that there is no real originality and no new ideas. Ironic, because in the world of science fiction and fantasy Lafferty is himself one of the very rare authors who actually are original and offer something new. It's a short and surreal piece, but worth admission - Lafferty cannot write a boring story it seems.

Brian Aldiss - The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica
A hard SF story that tells of a military man on Mars, who so wishes to photograph Mons Olympus (originally called Nix Olympica), that he foregoes leave to undertake an adventure to travel across Mars and shoot it, in the tradition and style of Ansell Adams. He co-opts another trooper to go with him - a colleague who is the more nervous of the two to undertake the adventure. I really liked this short story, and it tells a tale of traveling across the Martian surface well. Simple, but effective.

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable issue - I enjoyed all these stories, though with reservations as discussed, for the Connie Willis offering.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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By coincidence, I reviewed this issue about seven years ago:

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine May 1986

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"Chance" by Connie Willis. An unhappy woman seems to have encounters with people and events in her past, and realizes that small choices can have large consequences. This is a subtle story, with frequent changes in narration from present to various times in the past, often within a single paragraph. It can be interpreted as the protagonist's mental breakdown, or as a time fantasy. The fact that the woman keeps getting colder and colder as the story goes on (in the last paragraph: "The back of her hand was covered with ice crystals.") leads me to believe that there may be some implication that this is someone experiencing her past while dying.

"Inventions Bright and New" by R. A. Lafferty. Typically mad Lafferty story. As best as I can tell, some oddly named folks (Anna Thursday-Dawn and John Rain-Tomorrow, to name a couple) on a train when the world is seven seconds old (but we are told the world is always seven seconds old) invent everything from playing cards to the hangman's noose. With Lafferty you just have to go along for the ride.

"For a Place in the Sky" by Richard Paul Russo. In the near future, when things are falling apart and the elite are escaping to space colonies, a South American who did some shadowy work for American agents fights to collect his reward: a place on the space shuttle. This reads kind of like a lighter version of a Lucius Shepard story, although he wouldn't have ended it so suddenly, and would have probably made it a full novella.

"The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" by Brian Aldiss. In a future when Mars is inhabited by the military, two guys set out to get photographs of the planet's giant mountain. Other authors would have made this a "hard" science adventure story, but Aldiss makes it a delicate character study.

"The Shadow on the Doorstep" by James P. Blaylock. Under the influence of reading Jules Verne, the narrator wonders about the mysterious shadow on his doorstep and has memories of three strange aquarium stores he visited at various times in his life. Written in long sentences and long paragraphs, this appears to be a pastiche of Lovecraft (there are tiny hints of the fish-like humanoids found in some of his tales) although it can be read as simply the feverish imaginings of the narrator.

"Collision" by James Tiptree, Jr. One of three deep space novellas by the author, later collected as The Starry Rift. This one involves the possibility of interstellar war between humans and aliens, due to mutual misunderstanding and distrust. The story has a Star Trek feel to it (the humans even have a Federation.)
 

Bick

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Nice review Victoria - your comments are often more nuanced than mine, though my feelings about the Aldiss, for instance, were very similar.
 

Bick

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Your interesting reviews of 1988 Analog deserve more comment, DeltaV, but I've been a bit busy... but I'm enjoying the commentary as you go. I remember the Ogre game :) and I tend to have a similar constricted view of what SF is, too - you'd have even more trouble with Asimov's SF of the time, as Dozois would buy anything faintly speculative and call it SF. I'm not sure I shared tastes with Dozois much, tbh - I've repeatedly had this feeling when reading his anthologies. Half the stuff he loved leaves me cold.
 

DeltaV

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If I had the May 1986 issue of Asimov's in front of me, I would probably only read "The Difficulties Involved in Photographing Nix Olympica" and "Collision". I have picked up the odd copy of Asimov's over the years, and it was exactly that, I would only really like a couple of stories. A lot of the others seem to be pretty dark (Example: Troop 9 by Dale Bailey, Oct-Nov 2014). And why would the novella Chance, although a possibly intriguing plot, be published in a SF magazine? It doesn't seem like a SF context would add anything to the theme of the story.

Ditto with Dozois' annual collections. I have borrowed a few over the years from the library, and there are maybe eight to ten stories in each that I really like. While others I find are rather grim. I read the thirty-fifth collection this past summer, and as an example, The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs by Kelly Jennings, has a lot of good reviews on Goodreads but, gosh, that's not my type of story at all.

BTW, there is a mention of some controversy regarding Dozois' collections in the April 1988 Analog Greg Easton column.
 

Bick

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BTW, there is a mention of some controversy regarding Dozois' collections in the April 1988 Analog Greg Easton column.
Interestingly, if you read the old Asimov editorials in the magazine, some of Isaac's comments seem to be somewhat withering, regards the selection methods employed by the "Chestertonian Dozois". I wouldn't be at all surprised if The Good Doctor felt some of the stories weren't to his taste (though he never says so directly of course).

I'd also submit for the prosecution my own observation regards Dozois' anthology The Best of the Best (which collects the best stories from 20 years of his Year's Best SF series) - at least a third of the stories in it are not science fiction, despite the title, it's a deeply flawed collection.
 
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DeltaV

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Here is the cover for the January 1988 issue; pictured is the alien protagonist of the novella Strangers.

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And on the cover of the February issue is one of the 'Quaddies' from Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold.

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<sorry about the poor quality; I picked these up used>
 

DeltaV

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My third Analog post: March 1988

Analog March 1988.jpg



The novella in this issue is Water Rite, by Ben Bova. In the near future, a Soviet agent infiltrates a mercenary team on its way to destroy a major water project in Libya.

The first novelette is Interference, by Paul Ash. A teenage girl finds out that she has telepathic abilities and is recruited by the Space Services. However, others learn of her abilities and problems follow.

The second novelette is Too Wet to Plow by Elizabeth Moon. Like Lois McMaster Bujold, her writing career was also taking off about this time. I discuss this story below.

In the near future, the Mississippi river has destroyed the works of the Corps of Engineers, and southern Louisiana is now a shallow bay. The Jacobsen family has farmed on the western bank of the Mississippi for generations. Days of heavy rain have again swollen the river and another major flood is on its way. Technology, though, has provided the farmers with a backup plan: the buildings are built to float. The story covers several days as the flood waters rise, the buildings are floated, and chores are still done. All goes well, until a silo gets stuck while being dropped down on a float, and one of the boys, Joey, goes to unjam the winch.... (oh, oh; my safety sense started tingling at that). Sure enough, the cable releases too fast and snags his arm. The father, Abel, has to climb up on the ladder, and get his boy down and safe....which means cutting off what's left of his arm. The family manages to get Joey back into the house in spite of the rain and water (they're now using a boat as the floodwater is so high). Later that evening, Abel has to provide emergency first aid, putting a saline drip into Joey. Finally, a medevac chopper gets out to the farm and Joey is taken away to the nearest trauma centre. Then back to work, doing chores and taking care of the animals.

Farmers have true grit.

Moon has trained as a paramedic and it shows in the description of what Abel has to do for Joey (I had a look at her bio). I wonder too, if growing up in Texas she has family that either farmed or ranched. I have relatives that farm, and I see that same determination in them that the Jacobsen family has in this story. One of them got stomped by a bull a few years ago; he's still dairy farming to this day. The scene when the family is nervously trying to figure out who is going to stick the IV in Joey is well written (I think, like one of the family, I'd be busy doing dishes too!).
I can't recall reading anything by Elizabeth Moon but I do have her Trading in Danger sitting in my 'to read' pile. I think I'll have to move it closer to the top.

I had not planned on making any notes on more than one story, but in the case of Water Rite I cannot resist. If you are a fan of Ben Bova, be warned, I'm a little critical.

The Soviet agent is tasked with assassinating the leader of the mercenaries. However there is no suspense. You just know that he is going to be 'turned'. Plus, he falls in love with the leader's daughter (of course). Then, if one takes away the desalination fusion reactors that are touted as an alternate way of getting water, there are basically no SF elements in this story. Finally, on a technical point, you can't get into a building the way Bova writes it. You see people sneaking around in the duct work all the time in both movies and books, but it ain't nearly that easy.

Frankly, considering that Bova is one of the "big" names in SF, this is a disappointing story. I don't recall reading any of his novels...Wikipedia has a very very long list ... but I see that there is a forum here on SFFChronicles for him; I'll have to poke around there a bit, see what is recommended.

Defensive Only by Timothy Zahn (interesting plot twist at the end), The Collector's Guide by Tobias Grace, and Low Hurdle by J.O. Jeppson comprise the three short stories.

There are 19 ads for novels in this issue of Analog...and again a gaming ad, Car Wars by Steve Jackson Games. Battle it out on the freeways of the future! Like in 2021? Gotta get one of these rigs!...I have also noticed that many of the stories have a second illustration which doesn't feature in Analog now...Tom Easton has high praise for Gregory Benford's novel Great Sky River.
 

Bick

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Thanks for the March '88 Analog review, DeltaV - nice one.

I have read some Elizabeth Moon - I read her 5-book Vatta's War series only a year to two ago, and enjoyed it a good deal. You have the first book by the sound of it - I think you'd like it.

I'm surprised you've not read any novels by Bova. I think you'd like his best stuff. He can be quite variable. Within his Grand Tour novels, I really liked Mars and Jupiter, but enjoyed Saturn a lot less. Mercury was middling - he's a bit mixed perhaps.

Funnily enough, as well as the Moon, I'd have prioritized two stories you didn't comment on - the Timothy Zahn (because his short fiction from this era was consistently very good) and the J.O. Jeppson (out of curiosity, as she was Mrs. Asimov, as I expect you're aware!).

That issue had a great line-up though - line-ups like this don't happen anymore do they?
 

Don

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It's almost time for DeltaV to get around to the April 1988 issue. It's the first issue of 1988 to pique my interest. In it you find an article entitled "Science Fact An Introduction to Psychohistory by Michael F Flynn, Part One of Two. It includes a baker's dozen of charts.

One chart plots Major US Slave Revolts & Race Riots in USA (1800-1975). Sloppy editing aside (note the redundant use of US and USA) the chart predicts the occurrence of a major riot approximately every 45 years. The last riot known at time of publication occurred in 1965, so the next riot occurs in 2010. Although it's few years too early for Black Lives Matters discord, it made a roughly accurate prediction.

Another chart plots Beer Production in the US. It's now retrospectively obvious how beer production climbed as baby boomers reached adulthood.

The article's still being absorbed by me. These are only first impressions.
 

Bick

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I've had a read through Asimov's from June 1986, now. Here are my thoughts on the top stories by reputation:

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Bruce Sterling - The Beautiful and the Sublime
This was an enjoyable and well-written comedy-of-manners, set in the future in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. A group of young modern folk meet to celebrate the birthday of a venerable scientific genius, Hollis. The old man has funded development of an ornithopter, and the younger birthday party attendees use or misuse the technology to gain the upper hand in love in two love triangles. It's a well-conceived story that explores how manners and norms will change, as we move from a society where science and graft is rewarded more than art and relaxation, to the opposite scenario.

Carter Scholz - Galileo Complains
This is a short tale that asks, what would Galileo think of modern ideas and modern astronomy now? In the near future, he has been resurrected using recently acquired technology, and is being interviewed in his Californian apartment. It's a neat, simple, little idea, almost perfectly rendered. Carter Scholz has written a couple of dozen stories, between 1976 and 2017, but this is the first I recall reading.

James Patrick Kelly - The Prisoner of Chillon
This story was voted the year's best novelette in Asimov's for 1986 and was also collected in Dozois' anthology the following year. It begins with well-paced action, before it turns into more of a cyberpunk kind of story. Some stories seem timeless, whereas others wear their place in time very self-consciously. This one falls into the latter camp; it's so 1980's, you can't picture the heroine without large shoulder pads and ankle warmers. It wasn't ultimately to my taste. While the set up was okay, Kelly drops the ball in the ending, which I found unconvincing and weak.

The book reviews at the back of this issue make interesting reading. There's a review of a Pamela Sargent novel (Venus of Dreams) which is reviewed quite positively, except that the reviewer notes at the end of the review, "But the enormous length of the novel (over 500 pages) calls for a heroine with a bit more zip...". This struck me as an interesting perspective for 1983, given that's a common length for novels these days, and because of some discussion we had only yesterday regards the length of an Andre Norton novel, on the 'What Are You Reading' thread.
 

DeltaV

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Good comments and observations.

I haven't been commenting much on the short stories ... frankly, up until this issue, I haven't found them that interesting. But, yes, the Zahn story Defensive Only has been the best so far in 1988. At the end I was "What?" then after a minute it clicked. "Ahhh, I get it!" And, no, I did not know that about Jeppson. And, this is awful, but I read that issue about ten days ago and I can't even remember what her story was about....

I have always tended to lean towards novellas and novelettes in my magazine reading, so, yeah, the observation about so many SF novels today being soooo long is spot on. I've read a lot of the 'classics' multiple times, and enjoy doing so, so it's not the length per se that is the issue. Rather I find that there is so much padding in these long SF novels that I end up skipping pages ... and pages.
 

DeltaV

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April 1988


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The novella is Second Contact by W.R. Thompson. A small republic in Illinois rebuilds civilization after a worldwide collapse instigated by the visit of an alien spaceship. Reviewed below.

The first novelette is Seance, by Rick Cook. A new company can allow clients to speak with the dead. Is it advanced technology, AI, spiritism or a fraud?

The second novelette is Man of the Renaissance, by Michael A. McCollum. After a partial nuclear war and the fragmentation of nations, a doctor is travelling his rounds east of California. He comes across a military force sent north by the emperor of Mexico. What are they up to? And is the good doctor exactly who he seems to be?

A small republic of two million people is rebuilding civilization in what used to be Illinois. However it is surrounded by barbarian tribes, warlords and bandits; the military forces are stretched to the limit, yet expansion is necessary for the continued growth of the republic. One particular warlord, Weyler, has established a cult based on alien worship (the Dark Gods), and is the most dangerous threat. Ah, yes, the aliens. A damaged space craft had landed a few years previously, and its crew proceeded to destroy civilization on Earth. But it was not a military conquest; it was a psychological one (and this is an interesting thread throughout the story). When the aliens left, Earth was in ruins.

The story follows the viewpoint of the secretary of war, Tad Woodman. Shortly after the story begins, another alien ship returns, this time scientists keen to study Earth. At the same time, Weyler and some of his men arrive for 'peace' talks. Details emerge on how the original aliens gradually broke down human society (unintentionally as it turns out; they were an ordinary ship crew simply travelling between two star systems that needed to stop on Earth to make repairs). Many of the humans struggle with their hatred of the aliens, remembering all that was lost. There is a subplot involving alien 'zappers' a self-defense weapon that renders the aggressor immobile in the throes of orgasmic pleasure; many humans became addicted to this during the fall. Finally, Weyler attempts to assassinate the military leader, the mysterious Colonel Washington (who has his own secrets). This leads Woodman (a former soldier) to fight Weyler and beat him in front of his men (Weyler is a former college professor who used psychological manipulation to build his barbarian tribe). Later in a meeting attended by both the aliens, and Weyler and his men, the aliens admit that their own civilization is falling apart and that they are looking for clues to help them prevent complete collapse. Upon hearing that the aliens are not infallible and are definitely not gods, Weyler's men turn on him. At the end, the republic is able to annex Weyler's former territory, and free the many slaves that he had captured over the years; Weyler himself is driven off into the wilderness as a scapegoat.


So far in my reading of Analog 1988, this is the story that I have found the most interesting. Psychological motivations play a large part both in the playing out of the main story itself, and in the previous fall of humanity. In one discussion, one of the alien scientists, Dzhaz questions the humans on the collapse, and it becomes evident that the previous aliens were only a trigger, that the reasons for the fall were already embedded in human society. Dzhaz mentions, amongst other causes, 'superstitions, illogical social and political doctrines taken seriously'. Hmmm. I wonder what Dzhaz would think of things today...

I would have liked to have returned to the 'Republic of Illinois' twenty or thirty years later to see how things moved along, but it does not appear that Thompson wrote any further stories about it. And that is the one disappointment I have about these types of stories: I always wonder how things turned out.

Short Stories

I Ain't No Hero by P.M. Fergusson, and Chicken Little and the Acme Little Giant by Shirley Weinland

As Don mentioned, there is an article on psychohistory (An Introduction to Psychohistory, part 1 of 2). Nineteen pages with lots of graphs and a few math formulas. Can YOU build the Foundation?

Interesting that there are two post-apocalyptic stories in this issue, and I liked both. They are also quite different. For example, In Second Contact, the republic is striving to rebuild a similar civilization to that which was lost. However in Man of the Renaissance, society is exploring an alternate path, a "world of cottage industries and master craftsmen, where each machine is the work of a single individual or a few dozen people at most". The reasons why each previous civilization collapsed are also different; in Second Contact they form an important part of the narrative. I have always enjoyed stories in this subgroup of SF (rebuilding or rediscovering civilization after a catastrophe) whether they take place on Earth, on another planet or even in a multi-generational starship (as an example of the latter, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss).

I recognized Michael McCollum; I have a copy of his Astrogator's Handbook on my shelf (a collection of star maps in a 150 LY cube centered on Sol). I'm going to see if he followed up on his Man of the Renaissance in other novels as I found its 'alternate path' interesting. I have often wondered if our world of mass production, consumerism and never-ending consumption is the only way for civilization to move forward.


Issue Notes
This time the video offer is The Twilight Zone "You'll see Talky Tina menace Telly Savalas in The Living Doll (1963) and William Shatner take the plane ride of his life in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)." ...Steve Jackson Games appears to be a regular advertiser in Analog; two more ads feature Gurps Space (the RPG) and The Awful Green Things from Outer Space (which is a great board game; I have a copy of this)....there is an ad inviting readers to join the National Space Institute (which is still active)...On Gaming discusses interactive videotape games ...in the Reference Library, nothing special is reviewed. However there is a curious allusion to a debate on the annual "Best of" collections, and a comment on the "Dozois debate". ?? Obviously some controversy now lost in the mists of time.
 

DeltaV

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May 1988

May 1988.JPG


The first novelette is Hunting Rights by P.M. Fergusson and G.L. Robson. Animal collectors for a zoo arrive on a planet to pick up specimens. As the cover for this issue shows, things don't go well. And, yes, that is indeed the body of one of the collectors about to be eaten by the alpha predator.

The second novelette is Thing's Ransom by Roger MacBride Allen. A bland bureaucrat quits his job and starts a new career kidnapping people. Using ATMs and a Swiss bank account, it appears impossible to track him down. The story follows the lead investigator.

The third novelette is Fradero Goes Home, by Kevin O'Donnell jr. A man spends fifty years in accelerated time on a remote medical outpost. Returning now as an old man a single day after leaving, Fradero finds that memories are not what they were.

The fourth novelette is Trauma by Eric Vinicoff. A med school reject invents a device to upturn the whole medical establishment. I discuss this story below.


The protagonist, Bill Littlejohn, has a grudge against doctors. Rejected by medical school, he became a medical technologist. He ends up starting a hi-tech company, developing various diagnostic machines. He eventually hits a home run with a machine designed to detect venereal diseases (via their antibodies in the blood stream), the Test-O-Matic, that is sold to bars, etc.. In partnership with Jeanne Ware, the growth and success of the Littlejohn Company appears guaranteed.

The story really starts when Littlejohn develops a very advanced diagnostics and treatment machine (the Auto-Med) that he hopes will revolutionize the medical industry, and also put a lot of doctors out of work. His dislike of doctors is now almost an obsession. This worries his partner (and now romantic interest), Ware. She thinks that they should work with the American Medical Association to get approval, rather than against it. This, of course, does not fly at all with Littlejohn. As Ware believes otherwise, she secretly gains control of the company, buys out Littlejohn and fires him. Littlejohn explodes, slapping Ware and storming out of the office, to disappear in the Pacific on his yacht.

After four years, he returns to San Francisco. Needing treatment for a injury, he looks for a doctor. Oddly, he cannot find physicians listed in the yellow pages, only Health Maintenance Organizations. He goes to an HMO where he is treated by ... an Auto-Med. After a minor procedure, Littlejohn goes to see the attending physician. He learns that doctors are now simple caretakers, legally required to be onsite, but not actually doing anything. Littlejohn realizes that his efforts against the medical industry have succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, but his conversation with the doctor leaves him shaken and now, for the first time, wondering if he has done the right thing. He goes to see Ware ... packing a gun.

In an initially tense meeting, Ware explains that she got the Auto-Med licensed for use under a doctor's supervision, and thus got the support of the AMA. However, by also working with the money interests that control much of the medical industry (the HMOs), she also managed to undercut the influence of the AMA. Auto-Meds are now everywhere. The business has grown tenfold. Littlejohn tosses his gun in the corner and surrenders, acknowledging that his hatred of doctors was more self-hatred for failing to get into med school. Ware offers to sell back his share of the company for one dollar, and after they sign the papers, wallops him with a sock to the jaw. For running away and leaving her. They kiss and make up, and sail off into the sunset on Littlejohn's yacht.

Although this is the story I picked to discuss, it is the novelette that I liked the least (I need some variety in my reviews, no?) Ware, of course, is pictured as the perfect female executive, both in terms of looks and abilities. While Littlejohn, the technical genius, has 'unruly black hair that made him look younger than his thirty-three years'. (Sigh. I used to have unruly brown hair that made me look younger too but, sadly, those days are gone...). I have a hard time understanding how a tech who couldn't get into med school could develop even the Test-O-Matic, but allowing for the plot, I'll pass on that. It was the conclusion that really seemed to jar with the emotions laid out over the length of the story. It was simply too sweet.

It appears that the title of the story relates to the emotional distress that Littlejohn has had for years because of his medical school failure. Even the choice of the protagonist's name is somewhat descriptive. The distress is accentuated by Ware's betrayal. Taking a gun implies some deep-seated feelings of betrayal. Can all of this be resolved by a five minute conversation? Can four years of hate simply evaporate? His change of heart seems too abrupt. It would have been more interesting if he would have said something like 'Sorry, babe. Not interested. Got a sweetie in Tahiti now. You wanted this company? Keep it! Bye!'. Or Ware could have said "Well, well, well, if it isn't the loser that ran away. Wanna see my nice diamond wedding ring?" (well, maybe not. She did know that he was packing a gun...). After all, literature can also explore the effects of spite, bitterness and the desire for revenge. Not every ending has to be like a fairy tale.


The short stories this month include Frame of Reference (Stephen Kraus), Twisters (Paul Hahin), Lure (Harry Turtledove) and Throop's Revenge (Roland Shew). Frame of Reference was the only one to hold my interest (Einstein goes on trial in Louisville, KY, in 1925 and the story is told by the 10 year old niece of the prosecutor).

Hunting Rights is the second story to appear in Analog this year by P.M Fergusson, and apparently his last SF one. His cowriter, G.L. Robson is unknown. Hunting Rights does leave the reader with a slight cliffhanger that I guess will never be resolved. I was curious to see Roger MacBride Allen's story; I have posted elsewhere about his Chronicles of Solace series which I enjoyed. He seems to have given up creative writing, as I don't see anything more recent than 2008 in his ISFDB entry. Fradero Goes Home held my interest as the story explores how memories alter with time.
O´Donnell seems to have been a fairly active writer in the 1970s & 1980s but it's hard to say how many of his works were SF and how many were in other genres.

Issue Notes
The second part to An Introduction to Psychohistory is in this issue, complete with all the references...On Gaming discusses the board game Arkham Horror... There are several different artists doing the illustrations for Analog. This month's Biolog is on one of the illustrators, William R. Warren jr., who did nice work in a couple of this issue's stories, as did Janet Aulisio with two illustrations in Fradero Goes Home. Aulisio also did the cover....Tom Easton in The Reference Library tackles the distinctions between hard SF and soft SF. Ok. I gotta comment on this. "Astounding/Analog has long been renowned as the bastion of "hard" SF, meaning SF that takes its science seriously." Well, Tom, I hoped you sent that phrase to good ol' Stan because there sure are a lot of stories in 1988 Analog that fail that definition. Anyway, there are several interesting reviews in his column this month: Still River (Hal Clement), Legacy of Heorot (Niven & Pournelle) and An Alien Light (Nancy Kress); I've read one of the three and the other two look interesting. He also recommends the graphic novel Saga of the Swamp Thing.
 

DeltaV

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June 1988

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June 1998
Four novelettes this month, including two returning writers from earlier in the year.

Gut Feelings by Elizabeth Moon. A man undergoing a radical biological cure for colon cancer has to flee when the authorities put out a warrant for his arrest.

The Comrade by Poul Anderson. Set in the last days of the Roman empire, a man with an unusual ability crosses paths with a fellow "traveler".

Big Pie in the Sky by W.T. Quick. An insider's account of the political struggles to build a laser launch system. Discussed below.

The Steel Driver by Michael F. Flynn. In approximately 1872, the futuristic Babbage Society is placing bets on technology, and one invention strikes their fancy: the steam-powered drill. But can it compete with one John Henry?


Consort Inc sees a fortune awaiting in the space launch industry, especially with the exploitation of the moon's resources that would go hand-in-hand with a viable launch system. However, palms must be greased, politicians swayed, cajoled and bribed, and the Japanese are proposing an alternate system. The deadline draws near for Congress to approve funding for one or the other. The tale follows Larry Schollander, executive VP of Consort, and the point man in lobbying congress. He finds out that a number of key senators are being swayed...the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry is handing out carrots and waving a couple of sticks. There are doubts, though, that MITI could actually build the launcher on their own and the US, of course, would never consent to be a junior partner in a foreign initiative. Schollander decides to meet with his MITI counterpart, the wily Mitsu Fujiwara.

Consort has offered a fifteen percent share to MITI if Consort wins the funding. However, Japan will not accept second class status. Fujiwara explains that the deal must be fifty-fifty, or nothing. Schollander knows that is not politically feasible. Their meeting ends with nothing resolved. The bribing and pork-barreling continues. MITI starts a PR campaign targeting poor US voters with the slogan "What has the space program ever done for you?" When Schollander learns of this, he says "...a campaign like that-how do you explain that our society has troubles, yes, but the best way to end them is Consort? It's true, but nobody listens. Nobody has ever listened. To get them to understand, you have to sell them intellectually, and you can't sell anything intellectually." He paused. "I wish I could figure out how to do what I do best? "You mean bribe somebody" "You got it. Any ideas?" "

Consort Inc starts a huge counter campaign that helps, but does not look like it is going to be enough. Schollander meets with his president, the tough-as-nails B.J. Titus. Titus has a 20% voting share in Luna Inc, the company created to exploit the moon. He makes a deal with Titus: if the appropriation goes through, Schollander gets 10%. Titus agrees, knowing that if the funding fails, Luna Inc is worth nothing. And then they get a single share of Moon Inc issued to every voter in the US. The message is that one day the stock will be very valuable but only if the moon gets developed and that won't happen unless Consort gets built.

So the pressure builds on Congress. But Schollander's allies in Congress report that the vote is going to be a very close thing. He meets one last time with Fujiwara, offering him 5% in Luna Inc. Fujiwara refuses. Schollander ends the meeting saying that they either go to the moon together or not at all. Next day is the vote. Consort is going to lose. Schollander finds Fujiwara and offers him all of his Luna voting stock. Fujiwara accepts, speaks with "his" senators and Consort wins the funding.

The story ends with scene from the future, when Schollander and Fujiwara are old men and are being interviewed on the huge success of Moon Inc.

Schollander, who is feeling old and tired, having both health issues and stress within his marriage, is an interesting protagonist. He learns that Fujiwara is related to the emperor, and asks him how he views his service to the public. Fujiwara replies that 'they serve Japan and it has nothing to do with money'. Schollander, unlike his boss, realizes how much is at stake for the human race. In his last conversation with Fujiwara, he says that he is 'trading my chance for everybody's chance. We have to do this, Mitsu. Consort is only a side issue. The moon is where the real drama will be played. Twenty percent is a big chunk. If you people end up controlling it, so be it. At least mankind will be there, where it ought to be". Schollender, is in effect, now serving humanity and not money. It is partially this conversation that sways Fujiwara.

The words of Schollander when he states that " you can't sell anything intellectually" rings a bell. Years ago I attended an internal sales conference held by my employer at that time (a pretty large conglomerate). Only about 25% of sales, at most, in pretty much any industry, are 'sold intellectually'; the vast majority are the result of emotional decisions.

Finally, in the closing interview with the reporter, she wants to talk about the effort in developing the launch system and asks "After all, that was the hardest part, wasn't it?" Schollander laughs and then says that "technology is never the hardest part." Amen to that, Brother.

I liked this story. And I agree: the moon is key to everything. We need to be there.

The short stories are Thingummy Hall (Pauline Ashwell), Can You Spare an Elephant? (Paula Robinson), The Circus Horse (Amy Bechtel) <not every story ends as a fairy tale>, and Roadbreakers (Jack Wodhams).

I am sure that I have read a longer elaboration of the story The Comrade somewhere. Interesting that Flynn writes a story about the 'Babbage Society' after writing two articles on psychohistory in recent issues of Analog. I enjoyed the various personalities that show up in Gut Feelings, but I did not think this latest story from Elizabeth Moon was quite as good as Too Wet to Plow. The story behind the arrest warrant is a little far-fetched.

Issue Notes
W.T. Quick also co-wrote a series of SF novels with William Shatner... One of the book ads is for The Annals of the Heechee: 'Just outside the Milky Way lurked the would-be destroyers of the universe (...) now they are venturing out again." I think I've only read the first Heechee book...nice biolog on Elizabeth Moon...there is a fact article written on space tourism. Now in 2021 it is just, barely, getting started. 33 years later...In On Gaming Matthew Costello discusses his mixed success at chess and reviews a chess variant, Sceptre 1027 AD (9 boards of 64 squares with terrain and effect cards)...Tom Easton has praise for Joel Rosenberg's novel Not For Glory as a "welcome rejoinder to the pornography of violence now flooding not just SF, but also other genres of popular literature" <is he referring to the increase of military SF which, IIRC, began to get popular in the 1980's?>


Six Month Mark Comments
The biggest surprise for me personally is the relative paucity of stories that involve space ships, aliens and/ or life on another planet (what some might consider 'foundational' stores of SF). Only 9 stories out of the 38 published meet that criteria. Many are what I would crudely call 'gadget stories', for lack of a more sophisticated (and accurate) description; a device is introduced, often in the near future, and consequences are explored in one way or another....The number of advertisements for novels is quite impressive, especially compared with Analog of today. Plus there are ads for related media that might interest the SF reader (Steve Jackson Games for example)...I like the increased number of illustrations, and quite a few of them are very good; I imagine those got cut over the years to save $$...Tom Easton sure did not shy away from negative reviews.

Inspired by Bick's very interesting thread over in Classic SF listing the writers of Astounding/Analog by decade, I have been reading up on the
writers of the stories so far in 1988. Quite a mixed bag. Some already-established authors, others just starting out (several of whom have since done very well), a few that seem to write in various genres, and finally a few more that really didn't end up doing a lot in SF. There are several that only went on to write a couple more stories (my research is based on the ISFDB and Wikipedia). What I find curious is that there are several that were really active in SF from the late seventies to the late eighties-early nineties ... then basically nothing. Well, maybe they just got tired of the genre, or they weren't getting where they wanted to be. How many SF writers were happy writing magazine stories as an end in itself, and how many saw it as a stepping stone to getting recognition and then getting their novel(s) published?
 

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