(web edition: http://bluejack.com/sff/zin/analog/0304.html )
Once again, due to the fact that I am not tackling the ongoing
serialization, Analog was a little light this month. Light on
quantity, and also light on the kind of fiction that I get into.
I did have a revelation, which I think is largely true for this
issue, and I will continue to hold it in mind to see if it seems
true for future issues as well. The revelation is, Analog is
targetted at a fourteen year old boys, and more particularly,
fourteen year old boys growing up in the late fifties.
I don't usually mention the non-fiction in these reviews,
but Ben Bova's discussion of the probabilities of intelligent
life in the universe is worth a mention. Probably the best
written and most interesting piece in the issue, Bova's
thoughtful argument against intelligent life beyond Earth,
or at least within any reachable distance, is powerful.
The strength lies not only in the arguments by which he
supports his conclusion, but also in the moral imperative
he finds there. It is true, I completely agree with his
argument and have for as long as I can remember, but more
importantly, he makes the case persuasively and eloquently
and with sensitivity to the ironies inherent in not only
the science but the politics of the search for extraterrestrial
Catharine Asaro ~ A Walk in Silence
F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre ~ A Deadly Medley of Smedley
Kyle Kirkland ~ Emma
Mary Soon Lee ~ Coming of Age
Walk in Silence (by Catharine Asaro)
"Walk in Silence" is an appropriate story of communication
with alien intelligences to share an issue with Bova's
refutation of aliens, since the races in question are
all divergent evolution from a human source, set in some
distant future. You see, Mr. Bova? Problem solved. We
can still tell our stories and still keep it consistent
with the probable state of the universe!
In this semi-space opera, Asaro explores the delicate
interaction between two incompatible human derivatives.
The protagonist is Lt. Colonel Jess Fernandez, who
represents humanity as we know it (she is an officer
in the Space Corps of the Allied Worlds of Earth). She
is the captain of a space ship that has been in contact
with the Cepheans, six thousand years divergent from
humanity and no longer of the same species.
I have been doing some reading on the history of the
pulp magazines, and as I started to tackle this story
I had my revelation: "Ah!" I said. "These stories
are targetted at a juvenile audience. These stories
are written for teenagers! Or, more accurately,
these stories are written for teenagers of the late
fifties! That's why, half the time, I just don't
get into them."
Certainly, that was my impression as I started "Walk
in Silence," but evidence to the contrary soon
surfaced in the form of a rather explicit trip to
the gynecologist. You see, what happens here is that
Jess got it on with one of these Cepheans (or, rather,
he took advantage of her while she was drunk, except
she finds herself fond of him, even so). And now she
is -- impossibly -- pregnant.
It was a pretty long story, overall, with lengthy stretches
of explanation on the social and political background
of different peoples and factions. There was some
action, a little intrigue, and some romance, more
or less. I found myself repeatedly frustrated by
the main character, however. Jess just didn't seem
to react in a rational or comprehensible manner to
things that happen. On several occasions during my
reading of the story I had to roll my eyes in exasperation.
"Why doesn't she just..." I would say. The
'romance' between her and the Cephean never rang true
for me either -- Asaro never portrayed the semi-alien
in a manner that gave me any understanding of what a
person might see in him. Do women often fall in love
with one-night-stands who take advantage of extreme
drunkenness to impregate them? And, to my eye, he
didn't seem to get much brighter as the story went
In its favor as science fiction, I will note that
Asaro's explanation of how the preganancy was possible
was satisfying. I should have expected no less, given
Asaro's credentials, but I was afraid it was going to
be some dodgy statistical edge case.
A Deadly Medley of Smedley (by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre)
This is a herculean effort at working puns and jokes
beyond the tolerance of any reasonable reader. Among
my many failings as a reader is a total lack of
appreciation for punnish humor. I think it might have
been a bad Piers Anthony experience. (Back in the
seventies, when I was fourteen.)
In any case, this is either the kind thing you will love
or the kind of thing you won't bother reading. Bluejack,
I am afraid, falls into the latter category. Actually, I
did skim it, and noticed some clever interplay between
quantum physics and linguistic ambiguity, but it wasn't
quite clever enough to get me reading more closely.
(Note, in the e-book edition of this issue, the author's
name was consistently spelled Gwynpaine, which made me
think there was some kind of in-pain pun going on with
the pseudonym, but apparently this was just a typo. There
does appear to be a real live person by this name.)
Emma (by Kyle Kirkland)
Emma lived. Not a particularly special life, but she
was a tough old bird. Then she died. Then she woke up.
This is not a life after death story, though. It is
more of a virtual person story. Kirkland posits that
in the future there is a technology -- prohibitively
expensive, but functional -- that can recreate a
human from the past, if enough information is known
about that person. Kirkland skips past all the obvious
technical, factual, statistical, and philosophical
reasons why this is utterly absurd and demands that
we believe it to be so, because he has other fish to
fry. Personally, I think the obvious questions might
have made a better meal. I mean, we know that however
well recorded people's lives are, actual constructing
a sentient being that has some plausible continuity of
identity with the original is pretty far-fetched, but
what about the gaps? What about the things that we
really couldn't know about the inner life of the
original? Wouldn't that have interesting
ramifications for an attempt to reconstruct the
personality in the future?
In addition to the enormity and the quantity of
problems facing this premise, I also found the
characters themselves to be unconvincing, particularly
the character of the future genius who invents the
technology to 'resuscitate' Emma. He never felt like
anything more than a quick pastiche of the 'busy
corporate executive' charicature with the 'brilliant
young scientist' stereotype. The philosophical idea
that he wanted to explore by bringing Emma back was
that it doesn't matter who you are, it only matters
how others perceive you. He wants Emma to solve some
sort of international dispute which appears to be
leading towards war. This she sort of does, in a
way that is sort of a surprise, and which sort of
supports his premise, but it's hardly the kind of
payoff that makes all those other questions pale
Going back to my "What is Analog," revelation,
this might be a perfectly fine story for a young
adult audience. There are some thought-provoking
ideas here, if you have never encountered them
before. If I was a fourteen year old boy in the
fifties, I think this would have seemed pretty cool.
Coming of Age (by Mary Soon Lee)
In the distant future people will live for hundreds
of years. Whole planets have populations only in
the hundreds or thousands. People skip around from
star to star in personal car-like rocket ships.
In this Jetson's future, Duncan receives an invitation
to the birthday party of a teenage boy, a real teenager
just coming of age. Duncan is a famous race-ship pilot,
and there is going to be a big race in celebration of
the boy's coming of age. Duncan goes.
Now, it's too dangerous to race ships for real, they
race by remote control, but Cary wants to -- intends
to -- race his manually. He's sick of this society
where everything is safe, and everyone lives forever,
and nobody does anything Important.
So, yeah, if I was a fourteen year old boy in the
fifties, this would have seemed pretty cool. Regrettably,
it didn't do much for jaded old bluejack.
bluejack -- on the web with author bios, images, and other fun stuff.
this post does not come from my primary email account; contact me at:
http://www.bluejack.com blunt at bluejack dot com
> REVIEW: Analog - April, 2003 (by bluejack)
> (web edition: http://bluejack.com/sff/zin/analog/0304.html )
> Once again, due to the fact that I am not tackling the ongoing
> serialization, Analog was a little light this month. Light on
> quantity, and also light on the kind of fiction that I get into.
> I did have a revelation, which I think is largely true for this
> issue, and I will continue to hold it in mind to see if it seems
> true for future issues as well. The revelation is, Analog is
> targetted at a fourteen year old boys, and more particularly,
> fourteen year old boys growing up in the late fifties.
> I don't usually mention the non-fiction in these reviews,
I'm not sure why you don't, since that's often the best content, and
sometimes (this month?) about the only thing that's worthwhile.
> bluejack <bl...@bluejack.com> wrote:
> > I don't usually mention the non-fiction in these reviews,
> I'm not sure why you don't, since that's often the best content, and
> sometimes (this month?) about the only thing that's worthwhile.
Well, my main interest is the fiction. I generally try to keep
my focus on that across all the magazines I review.
As for Analog's 'Science Fact' mission, my impression is that a lot of
the 'science' that appears in the magazine lies somewhere between popular
science journalism, which I find to be done much better in Scientific
American, New Scientist and the like, or else it is rather dodgy crank
science which interests me even less. The Bova piece, however, has
direct bearing on the stories that science fiction writers love to
tell, and in particular on the kind of alien contact stories that
Analog loves to publish.
I haven't read this one yet; in spoiler-avoidance, I haven't read
your review yet, either. I do hope that this one is ... er, "less
influenced by romance-novel conventions" than the others of hers
that I have read.
>A Deadly Medley of Smedley (by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre)
What do you get when you de-hoot a Feghoot?
Well, the hard "G" sound softens, and you get just
I like a good (i.e., "horrid") pun well placed, especially when
it blind-sides the unsuspecting reader, but this sort of "how many
lame puns can we cram into each sentence" exercise leaves me cold.
>Emma (by Kyle Kirkland)
What you said about the "tech" in the story. Plus, I couldn't
believe the characterizations ... I feel like this story would
have been eviscerated if it had been submitted to my writers'
group. The "future genius guy" seemed, to my thinking, badly
>Coming of Age (by Mary Soon Lee)
> So, yeah, if I was a fourteen year old boy in the
> fifties, this would have seemed pretty cool. Regrettably,
> it didn't do much for jaded old bluejack.
Pretty much.... I didn't quite see the point in it. So, why
*would* Mario Andretti accept an invitation to race go-carts
at some teenager he's never heard of's 18'th birthday party?
So far, a rather disappointing issue. I'm hoping for better from
Asaro's story, and from the serial, once I have the May issue.
The only meaningful memorial, the only one that will really count, will be when there are streets, tunnels, living and working quarters named after each of those astronauts--and those who will yet die in this effort--in permanently occupied stations on the moon, on Mars, in the asteroid belt, and beyond.
-- Bruce F. Webster
Now that I have read it...
Pretty good. Definitely the best story in the issue, with the
possible exception of the serial, which I won't read until I
have the whole thing.
Asaro's story does have a romance as part of the plot, but
it didn't strike me as being "romance-novel-y" in the way
"The Quantum Rose" did. (It's mostly complete in itself,
but it's *got* to be part of a novel. One I'll probably buy
when it hits the bookstores.)
> Asaro's story does have a romance as part of the plot, but
> it didn't strike me as being "romance-novel-y" in the way
> "The Quantum Rose" did. (It's mostly complete in itself,
> but it's *got* to be part of a novel. One I'll probably buy
> when it hits the bookstores.)
Right after I finished it I had those same thoughts about
soap-opera-ishness (there was a particular scene by the fireplace...)
but I thought Asaro presented a well-developed situation
(nicely sketched backstory) and how that circumstance effected an
Got Kittens? :)
Live music in Atlanta http://jolomo.net/atlanta/shows.html