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
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