Analog, October 2009

Michael F. Flynn. Where the Winds Are All Asleep.

An Oirish Bar is the opening setting, with Flynn trying to hide amongst the blarney and the craic a fair amount of scientific discussion around abiogenesis – the origin of life from non-living matter. It being an Irish bar, a story is then told, a tale of scientific exploration and scientific debate, a lengthily told story that includes a major finding, and a death.

After the revelations of the story, the drama and the detailed scientific background, the story ends on an awkward humorous note. As with many Analog stories, you’ve got to engage fully with the science to fully enjoy.

William Gleason. The Hanged Man.

A short macabre horror story, in which a man who left behind a colleague to a fate worse than death, returns to see if this time he can reap the riches the world has to offer.

The story starts with a visit from a strange character, and then pops chronologically back and forth, which is somewhat disorientating, and caused this reader to stop close to the end to retrace the flow of narrative to work out whether the story was still in flashback mode. It wasn’t. (Mind you, Gleason could be taking some Gene Wolfe-esque liberties with narrative timelines).

Carl Frederick. Teddy Bear Boys.

As editor Schmidt points out in the story intro ‘when you get good enough at simulating reality, it can get dangerously hard to tell the difference’, and this rather tips the wink to the reader. A young dude camps out overnight inside the mall to make sure he’s going to be at the front of the queue when a computer game is released. However, the guy he finds himself spending the night with opens his eyes to the possiblity simulations, and the difficulty in working out you’re on the outside looking in, or the inside looking out.

Jerry Oltion. In the Autumn of the Empire.

Darkly humorous short in which an absolute ruler with absolute self-belief will stop at nothing to ensure that what he believes to be so, is so. And this includes the axial tilt of the planet.

Jesse L. Watson. Shallow Copy.

A partner to Frederick’s story. The ethics of creating an AI are considered, through the somewhat unlikely premise of a college student creating the world’s first ever AI, overcoming major obstalces by dint of having his friend, the narrator’s, diary to feed into the AI.

The diary is so detailed that the AI is indistinguishable from the diary-writer, and to be able to come to terms with his status, and not approve of it.

Robert Grossbach. An Idea Whose Time Has Come.

Said idea being that the US of A should have an AI as president. There being AI’s running other countries, and being in charge at a state level, it’s not a particularly original idea. The problems arise when the AI goes offline.

Grossbach pokes fun at politics, and some esteemed figuers in IT whilst profiling ethical issues around AI creation.

Juliette Wade. Cold Words.

The fashion for xeno-linguistic stories has appeared to have faded recently, which is fine by me, as I’m generally left unmoved by them. Wade’s story illustrates one aspects of these stories which irritate, namely the inclusion of language traits on the alien side, with her aliens starting sentences with the likes of ‘bow-wow’, ‘hint-hint’, ‘hark-hark’, ‘sniff-sniff’, which after a little while get to be a bit of an ‘arseache-arseache’. Similarly in the opening sequence the alien has an urgent need for molri, which he sates with urrgai (although, interestingly, the planet has small fowl called grouse).

There’s tension, as the human xenolinguist has recently inadvertently offended the alien leader, and a new xenolinguist arrives but whilst her handling of the alien tongue is textbook perfect, it also jars.

Conclusion.

Standard Analog fayre, with nothing to upset their dedicated readership, including one letter-writer who has finally gotten round to penning a letter to the editor, having been reading it since the 1930s.

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