Stanley Schmidt’s editorial ponders the ‘danger’ inherent in politics when the ideologies of political parties come together. He remembers John W. Campbell’s support for the Presidential Campaign of Governor Wallace in the Sixties on the basis that he was the only candidate with ‘significantly different’ ideas. Call me a lily-livered liberal, but give me consensus politics over racism any day of the week!
I was particularly uncomfortable with this reference to JWC having recently read the following in David Langford’s Ansible #159, October 2000
“SAMUEL R.DELANY, at Readercon, remembered _Analog’s_ editorial policy in the swinging 1960s: `John Campbell rejected _Nova_. He said his audience could not relate to a black central character.’ [BD]”
Schmidt argues further that “fruitful discussions will not come from people who all agree” – not an argument I can support: spend ten minutes watching televised coverage of politicians ‘debating’ issues in parliament and try to spot any trace of “fruitful discussions”!
Schmidt then refers to Campell’s use of thermodynamic theory to rationalise his support for Wallace, and then himself states that “there are such things as facts and evidence”: now there is a scientist positivist speaking! IMHO (and many others) “facts and evidence” are subjective, value-laden, and open to interpretation (and mis-interpretation). I follow the school of thought: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics” (this attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain according to a number of web sites – a perfect example of ‘factual’ information being anything but factual!).
I don’t normally comment on editorials or factual content in my reviews, but felt the above needed saying.
Relic of Chaos. G. David Nordley.
Murder and fraud in space in a detective ‘whodunnit/howdunnit’ story set on a habitat encircling Saturn.
The cast includes:
- Hartigan O’Reilly, Head of Security (supported by his AI butler Dr. Watson)
- Oporto Dimundi, Roman Catholic chaplain
- Jose Zapata (or, more accurately, his mortal, dismembered remains)
- Maria Sanchez (adding the requisite female glamour)
- Colonel Mustard
In addition to these, and other characters throw in a missing, ransomed religious relic of debatable authenticity; the Vatican Archives; and plenty of local colour, and you have a veritable Agatha Christie. I would imagine that this long short story gives afficianados of SF mystery tales exceedingly good VFM, but as I do not count myself among their numbers I have to admit to skipping to the end of the story. The last few pages, detailing the denouement, did not leave me worried that I had missed out through skipping the bulk of the story.
Having indicated that SF mystery stories are not for me, I am happy to point out an exception (prompted by the reference to Ansible above): David Langford’s ‘The Spear of the Sun’, which is SF mystery, is one of the more memorably enjoyable stories I have read in recent years. Doubly curious: this is also Alternate History, which sub-genre leaves ne largely unmoved. But the story is much, much more. Head over to Fictionwise, where you can ‘buy’ an electronic version for only 45cents!
p.s. I was joking about Colonel Mustard – he doesn’t appear in this G. David Nordley story. His alibi was that he was in the Library with Miss Scarlett at the time.
Vibes by Laurence M. Janifer.
Writing funny S.F. is difficult, writing funny S.F. which is both good S.F. and properly funny is even more difficult. Attempting it with hard S.F.: that makes Janifer a man who obviously likes a challenge.
Does it work? Well, it kept my interest almost to the end, when the solution to the scientific problem set up in the story was revealed in some detail (that is to say, too much detail for my liking). The hard SF was of the ‘scientific conundrums for scientists’ end of the spectrum of this sub-genre. I personally prefer the Dr. Seuss solution to microscopic creatures being threatened by humans: everyone shouting “We are here!” and only succeeding when a little boy joins in the chorus. Janifer’s approach is for a clever scientist resolving the problem through the interactions between vacuum, radioactive isotopes, and quantum effects, which may be scientifically more rigorous, but far less heart-warming.
The Nth Step. Jack Williamson.
The second instalment of a story begun in last month’s issue with “Ultimate Earth”. That story set a breakneck pace, throwing clones, nanotech-enhanced humans, post-meteor strike Earth, death-dealing intergalactic viruses and much more into the melting pot.
This story is slightly slower in pace, but throws in millennia-long trips, revealed relationships, love, death and robots which give good massages (?). Careful reading and close attention is required as characters disappear with unnerving regularity – let your mind wander slightly and you will have missed some major plot elements!
There remains a slightly detached feel about the story – almost as if Williamson’s priority was to get the story finished, to get all his ideas onto paper/disk, and not to spend time in going into too much detail. Somewhat in contrast to the other option for authors of his stature: ‘co-authoring’ with a junior writer. The A.C. Clarke model would be a 700+ page novel with the size of the authors names on the cover in inverse proportion to the amount of writing actually done.
Resurrection. James Van Pelt.
Love amongst the cryo-chambers of a spaceship embarked upon a long, long journey to colonise a distant planet. But one of the star-crossed couple develops an aversion to a century long sleep. Can love survive what threatens to be a massive age gap?
Augie. George Zebrowski.
A separated couple have each taken one of their AI’s. Jimmy has Frank, who they ‘raised’ as a butler. The other A.I., the eponymous Augie, was nurtured more as a much-loved child. And much as children suffer emotionally when parents divorce, so Augie is feeling the strain. The repairman suggests a dramatic solution and resolution.
A Singular Clone. Marie Ming.
Invasive surgery appears to be the only option to save a marine alien. And the tool for that operation is a Kingfisher-like alien. Haydn, the human, is torn between the dangers to his two friends.
The premise, that surgery can only be attempted in this way, is a rather weak supposition – surely there would be any number of other ways non-invasive surgery will have developed to treat carcinomas?
In Science Fact, Kyle Kirkland PhD, ponders memory RNA, synapses, memory cloning, neural networks, with the aid of some complicated formulae, diagrams (omitted in the Peanut Press edition).
In Probability Zero, Edward M. Lerner, looks at shady practices in the I.T. market.
A so-so issue. There are no real standouts, as most of the stories cover ground pretty well covered in the past.