Originally posted on 03/04/2011 on cxPulp.com. Read and comment on this article here!
Issue: Volume CXXXI No. 5, 112 Pages
Editor: Stanley Schmidt
AnalogSF.com—Last month we got a politics-heavy issue. This month the theme has shifted to animals!
“Too Easy?” (editorial)
by Stanley Schmidt
The best of Stanley Schmidt’s articles are often food-for-thought pieces… this month being one of them. He spends some time providing examples of ways that technology may have made things too easy. He provides a great example – police using hidden GPS devices to follow the every movement of a suspect. Police have always been able to tail someone out in public without a warrant, but the act of doing that required a large manhour expense, making it difficult and expensive. There was no need to require a warrant, because it was simply impractical to do unless you had a very real suspicion that the tail would prove fruitful. Remote GPS tracking eliminates that expense. As much as a reader might recoil against the idea of such tracking, Schmidt changes the argument by bringing up an identical example that common people would favor… digital piracy. An outstanding opening – and a great way of framing both issues that absolutely demands you reexamine your position on the issues.
“Tower of Worlds” (novella)
by Rajnar Vajra
I really enjoyed this story, despite the somewhat vague setting. The Tower of Worlds appears to be a literal tower located… somewhere. Some of the characters debate the Tower’s location, but ultimately have no answers. The different levels of the tower are almost totally isolated from one another, with each level serving as a home to one intelligent species or another. The plot unfolds on a human level, where the rulers are scheming to launch an invasion of the surrounding levels. In order to do so, they implement a genetic engineering program in an effort to create controllable soldiers that can live and thrive in alien environments. Rejects are usually killed, but as you might expect – a few escape and survive, with the help of a mysterious representative of the “Captains of the Tower.”
There is a lot of potential with this story – it read like something that could be developed into a novel, or series of novels, quite easily. As it is, the story is entertaining and easy to get into. I really enjoyed this one. You can check it out yourself – they’ve posted a good size preview online here.
“To the Outer Solar System and Beyond: Psychological Issues in Deep Space” (essay)
by Nick Kanas, M.D.
Informative, I suppose, but I don’t think Kanas really told us anything that wasn’t already a common sense conclusion. Of course an astronaut cut off from humanity, limited to a very few individuals for social interaction would be in psychological danger. Of course the longer the trip, the more extreme the potential for danger. Of course humans would be hesitant to go into suspended animation, putting their lives in the hands of a computer. Of course there is a danger of eventual revolt in a generational ship. All of the points made in this story have been explored time and time again in fiction. I am really not sure what the point of this article was, other than to provide a comprehensive, common sense list. It does put a later story, The Old Man’s Best in perspective, and perhaps makes that one a little more enjoyable, but outside that there wasn’t much of use here.
“Boumee and the Apes” (short story)
by Ian McHugh
This is the first animal story of the month – well, second, if you count Tower of Worlds. The protagonists are pachyderms of some sort – probably mastadons of some kind. The creatures have an intelligence, and their pack behavior is presented as a highly social system. They are also depicted using tools, and as having a degree of intelligence and self awareness. The story begins when a group of primitive men attack a character with spears – killing him. This leads to an intense debate among the pachyderms as to whether or not the humans (apes) are sentient beings.
I enjoyed this story – but I have to admit, it instantly occured to me why this story was published in a science fiction periodical. Then it hit me – in order for a story to be deemed science fiction, technology has to be a central component. It doesn’t say “advanced” technology, just technology, Without the humans ability to craft a spear, this story would not have any basis. Very creative. Another strong story.
“The Wolf and the Panther Were Lovers” (short story)
by Walter L. Kleine
In another animal story, we follow a card shark as he heads into a western town, attempting to skim a little money off of some unsuspecting gamblers. But he quickly believes that the town is trying to take him for a ride when they introduce him to the most unusual couple he has ever seen – a wolf and a panther who can speak. The story was ultimately pretty clever, but I have to admit that Kleine could have done a better job sucking me into it. I really wasn’t into the gambling motivation – I don’t think it was really needed.
“What I Did On My Summer Vacation” (Probability Zero, flash fiction)
by Jerry Oltion
I am really enjoying this feature. This little story takes place at an “MMORPG Summer Camp” – a kid’s dream. Only it ends up being a Gold Farm Bank. How do the kids react? Good stuff.
“”Goldilocks” Gliese 581G: A Fairlytale?” (The Alternate View, column)
by John G. Cramer
How extra-solar planets are discovered seems to be a common topic in Analog these days – but the discovery of these worlds is so closely tied with the inspiration of so many science fiction stories, this is hardly a surprise. Cramer does something that we don’t do nearly enough anymore – in any area. He went back and re-examined an old story, this one the discovery of the potentially life-supporting Gliese 581G. As you might expect, the news might not be nearly as exciting as we thought. People are generally really interested in the first piece of information released, but rarely maintain interest long enough for the follow-through, where the real truth is found. I am glad Analog and Cramer decided to take another look at this one.
“The Old Man’s Best” (short story)
by Bud Sparhawk
“To the Outer Solar System and Beyond: Psychological Issues in Deep Space” helped strengthen the motivations of these characters, but outside that this story just kind of went through the motions. The two men in this story are working aboard a station orbiting Jupiter. Homesick, they decide to try and replicate one joy from home and brew beer. Illicitly of course. Not a terrible concept – but the conclusion was kind of telegraphed and I was a little bored by the uncreativity of the protagonists. Maybe not a concept that works as the central focus of the story.
“Elipses …” (novelette)
by Ron Collins
I honestly didn’t really get this one. The protagonist sees his neighbor digging holes in his back yard, and thinks they are bodies. Unable to live with the uncertainty – he digs one up himself, discovers some strange electronic equipment, and is discovered and kidnapped as a result. He witnesses some strange things while tied up in the basement (aliens? spies?), and eventually escapes, only to punch out some guy who made a racial slur against Mexicans. Oh yeah, his adopted daughter is Mexican. Yeah, I don’t get that last part either.
I’m not sure where Collins was going with this one. There is potentially something here, but it probably should have been developed a little more.
“Blind Spot” (novelette)
by Bond Elam
In this hard-boiled sci-fi detective story, the PI is hired to track down someone who is holding a memory-altering formula for ransom. The basic premise reminds me of the theme that ‘Adjustment’ movie in theaters now, but there’s enough here to make it an original concept. The story is a decent enough read – I wasn’t blown away, but I wasn’t bored with it either.
The issue was decent – but the quality of the stories fell within extremes. There were very few stories that were just solid – most were outstanding, but there were a couple real stinkers in there to balance things out. I did enjoy the read this month, as I do every month.