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Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: Analog 1985/12: Some good stuff in this issue, such as an awesome color ad for the Infocom Hitchhiker's Guide game (not pictured because Sumana has the camera) and a two-page spread for Telarium's game adaptations of SF classics.

I got sidetracked talking about the ads, but there are a couple good stories here as well. The best one is "The White Box" by Rom Chilson and Lynette Meserole, which, like Qubit Slip, posits a society dependent on a fictional technology, and then breaks the technology to see what happens. My favorite kind of Analog-compatible story, and highly recommended if you like that kind of puzzle solving.

Spider Robinson's "The Blacksmith's Tale" runs the gamut of overwrought emotions, veering from erotica to shaggy dog story to Silver Surfer fanfic. It was well written but it didn't make me want to run out and grab a bunch of Callahan's story compilations.

Thomas R. Dulksi's "The Case of the Gring's Mill Goblin" would be unremarkable except it's a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Like "House", it takes place in the modern day but the protagonists are obviously Holmes and Watson. I can't deny that that's fun, but it's the only fun part of the story. The story left me with the impression that there's more to what happened than what Holmes and Watson believe happened, but I don't like the story enough to go back and check. Bonus fun: most Holmes pastiches forget about Mycroft Holmes, but not this one.

OK, back to ads. There's a hilarious one for Martin Caidin's Killer Station (Amazon reviewer: "One of the worst science fiction books ever written.") which has the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time tagline "KILLER STATION. IT'S GOING TO GET TO YOU..." I think Caidin may have written the copy for his own ad. Then again, I also suspected him of editing his own Wikipedia article and writing astoturf Amazon reviews of his own books, but that's impossible--he died in 1997.

(Bonus: Caidin earlier wrote The Six Million Dollar Man and the novel Marooned, which became "Marooned", the only film to have won an Oscar and then shown up on MST3K.)

There's also an ad for Heinlein's Job in paperback, which shows off faint-praise blurbs from Isaac Asimov ("Funny, exciting, and thought-provoking.") and Stephen King ("The greatest writer of such fiction in the world.") If someone blurbed one of my books by saying I was "the greatest writer of such fiction" I'd take a step back and say "Wait a minute, have I gone crazy and no one will tell me, like happened to Heinlein?" Such as, for example, if I decided to retell the story of Heinlein's Job as G.O.B.

From the book review column:

A few columns ago, I ingenuously asked whether Tom Robbins might not be the S. Morgenstern who wrote The Silent Gondoliers. Well, now I know the truth... the real man behind Gondoliers is William Goldman.

That's a weird truth not to know because William Goldman wrote a much better-known book ten years earlier--The Princess Bride--which is supposedly an abridgement of a work by S. Morgenstern. The movie wouldn't come out for another couple years, but it seems like something a science fiction magazine's book reviewer should have heard of.

Book review column also includes a sentence I thought I'd never read: "But seriously, with The Secret of Life, [Rudy] Rucker makes a bid to be the J.D. Salinger of the 1980s."

Another interesting tidbit. An earlier issue of Analog ran a G. Harry Stine article called "Astronomical Ghost Towns". I haven't read it but Stine proposed that light pollution and the then-forthcoming Hubble Space Telescope would drive ground-based telescopes out of business. Well, obviously Carl A. Posey, public information officer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, can't have any of that, and writes a sternly-worded letter:

It should be made clear to your readers, for example, that astronomers welcome (and none we know of "fear") the advent of the Space Telescope, which we expect to extend human vision significantly further into time and space. However, there will still be things--high-resolution spectroscopy, for example--that can be done better from large groundbased telescopes.

Stine responds, basically, "bite me". Groundbased telescopes are still around, but I'm gonna call this one for Stine, mainly because Posey spends most of his letter plugging the National New Technology Telescope, which near as I can tell never got funded. (They did eventually build other telescopes on the same site in Hawaii, and it's possible one of those telescopes has a paper trail that originated with the NNTT, but who knows.)

But I can definitely say, from my vantage point in the future, that the reason the astronomical ghost towns didn't happen is that one space telescope, or even ten, isn't gonna satisfy all the world's astronomers. They want as many telescopes as possible. The idea that astronomers are telescope technicians who "fear" that one space telescope will leave them unemployed is ridiculous. (Again, I haven't read the original article, so I don't know what exactly Stine said.)

Generic Analog blurb mania! #1: "Sometimes the line between 'improvising with available resources' and 'asking for help' isn't as clear-cut as you might think!" #2: "The size and shape of a problem depend on the background against which you view it." You could switch those two and no one would notice, even though one is from a Harry Turtledove story about dinosaurs (not as awesome as you'd think) and the other is the Spider Robinson.

Non-generic blurb: "The Box was exactly what medicine has been striving toward from the beginning--or was it? There's one human malady that, by definition, no cure-all can cure...."

In conflict-of-interest news, the classifieds have an ad for "Triveax", a game that's reviewed in the game review column. There's also a classified section called "BARGAINS" that should surely be called "SCAMS", since this is the only item:

FLY FREE WORLDWIDE on Major Airlines. Drive Luxurious cars. Complete details only $5.00 (WORTH THOUSANDS). Joseph McWade, 3D Serpentine Plaza, Clinton, New Jersey 08009

Also this bit of mystery in "MISCELLANEOUS":

If the number 247.032 is of special significance to you, please write to: R. Schuman, RR 2, Winthrop, Iowa 50682.

Probably just wants someone to talk to.

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