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Year-End Cleanup Audio Bonus #1: More Scribbles, More Troubles : Before posting The Trouble With Scribbles I cut out a couple minutes due to the then-active embargo on public discussion of IF Competition entries. Now that the competition is over and Adam's "Earl Grey" has taken 5th place, you can legitimately hear me and Adam compare "Scribblenauts" and "Earl Grey".

[Comments] (1) Today's Pictures: Special "Not A Special Edition" edition: Today's theme is New York walks. From 2009 (in fact, from Friday), I take Sumana to Corona Park, former garbage dump, site of two World's Fairs, now the world's most desolate park. Well, I always seem to go in the winter on major holidays, but it suffers from serious institutional neglect as well. For instance, the city built a fancy new theater building next to the iconic Pavilion and Towers, but they forgot to fix the Pavilion and Towers themselves! They're unsafe and fenced off. I guess you can't tear them down and it's too expensive to rebuild them, so they just stay there, rusting. It's a great park precisely because of its clear history of decline, but I wouldn't complain if the city decided to restore it to its World's Fair glory.

In a busier part of New York, it's a photo record of Sumana and her sister walking down Broadway the entire length of Manhattan, back in 2008. Caution: includes Charles in Charge novelization.

Reviews of Old Science Fction Magazines: Analog 1986/09: Sick of these reviews? I've only got ten magazines left! Which means about another year of this feature. Oh well! Enjoy some low-quality ad photos.

This issue contains Stanley Schmidt's editorial response to the Challenger disaster, as well as letters from readers dealing with the same topic. Schmidt references a Harry Stine column from a 1983 Analog, "The Sky is Going to Fall", which discussed the public's likely reaction to a Shuttle disaster. It's not pretty. I thought I would write about this in some detail but it's too depressing and bloodless to synthesize peoples' raw reactions twenty years afterwards.

Schmidt mentions Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe's backup for the Teacher in Space program, and hopes she'll be headed into space soon. Morgan did eventually fly a Shuttle mission, but not until 2007 and not as part of the Teacher in Space program.

OK, on to the stories. The best one is Vernor Vinge's "The Barbarian Princess", even though it's a story about people who run a science fiction magazine. It doesn't get as metafictional as I'd feared, and it gave the cover artist an excuse to do the kind of cover you never thought you'd see on Analog. Shelley Frier's "Plagiartech" was also very entertaining, but I felt like it wanted me to sympathize with the incredibly unsympathetic protagonist.

Arthur C. Clarke invents steampunk with his fake essay "The Steam-Powered Word Processor: A Forgotten Epic of Victorian Engineering". No kidding. Fully-formed steampunk, complete with Charles Babbage obsession, in 1986.

Halfway through Robert C. Murray's "The Immortal Smythe" I thought to myself: "this story is going to end with a terrible pun." In fact, the story ended with terrible fake science and then a terrible pun. Insult to injury.

Eric Vinicoff's "Haiku for an Asteroid Scout" is a pretty good story and has some original future-tech, but you'll have to fight your way through portmanteau words like "neomarble", "robomech", "holotank", and "pubtrans". (And "maglev", which only became a real word because of repetition in stories like this--I'm glad holotanks aren't practical, or we'd have them too.) The story takes place in Space Feudal Japan, so be prepared to do battle with corporate feudal lords, a restaurant called "Mount Fuji", seppuku, "synthetic ricepaper" (I would have written "paper"), and "the most expensive geisha house in P-Tokyo!" Geisha house?! What happened to love hotels and hookers? Also, the haiku sucked. You know what, screw it! I'm writing my own Space Japan story! With love hotels, and hookers!

Charles R. Pellegrino and James R. Powell write a check they'll never be able to cash with the title of their nonfiction article, "Making Star Trek Real". There a conversation in the letters section about whether Analog nonfiction articles assume too high or too low a level of technical knowledge. This issue's articles split the difference, by explaining really complicated things like K-mesons at the same level of detail used for fairly simple things like the inverse square law.

Elizabeth Moon's "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Nothings" is memorable only for its "notebook-sized computer with a flip-up screen" and some (biological) virus talk that starts out interesting but rapidly descends into implausibility. Harry Turtledove's "Though the Heavens Fall" is a sequel to his earlier, bad "And So To Bed", published eight months earlier, and it's worse than the original. Like a lot of alt-history it tries to be a cute remix of real history, as though history is a game of solitaire where you can play the cards in any order but the game always plays pretty much the same (maybe Turtledove pioneered this technique, I don't know much about alt-history). But it's not cute! I hate it! It doesn't help that "Heavens" is a very predictable story and in terrible taste.

Conflict of interest watch: the game column mentions but does not review the post-apocalyptic RPG Twilight 2000 (not affiliated with Twilight), which advertised heavily in Analog: there's been an ad for T2K in almost every issue I've read. Also, "Plagiartech" author Shelly Frier was Analog's associate editor at the time.

When I write these reviews I get a lot of people asking me "What kind of exposition have you found to be the clumsiest?" Actually, I am lying. No one asks me that. But I do have an answer if anyone ever does ask: the clumsiest exposition is that used to establish the timeframe of the story. Here's some dialogue spoken by the psychiatrist of the eponymous "Immortal Smythe":

Now Dr. Smythe. Surely you don't believe you have been resurrected on three occasions? This may be 2301, but medical science, while considered somewhat above the quackery state, cannot perform the ultimate Lazarus technique and restore the dead to the living.

Man, if my shrink talked like that I'd find another shrink. And here's a bit from "Though the Heavens Fall", which also gives you a picture of the cute history-remixing:

"I don't know," Gillen said judiciously. "When the Conscript Fathers wrote the Articles of Independence after we broke from England in '38, they gave us two censors to keep the power of the executive from growing too strong, as it had in the person of the king."

Oh, was it '38? THIS HAS NO RELEVANCE TO THE STORY

[Comments] (2) Nostalgiathon 2009: Best of Links January-June: Sorry to post so much stuff today, but I realized I'd better start putting up the end-of-year link posts, or else I might have to post some of them next year, which doesn't make any sense. Because I spent so much time on the novel, I've generally got less 2009 stuff than 2008 stuff: fewer new weblogs subscribed to, fewer links gathered, fewer photos taken. So here we go with links (culled from my and Sumana's shared del.icio.us feed) from the first half of 2009.


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