Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2001 (Peanut Press edition)

Magic’s Price. Bud Sparhawk.

Jacob lives on his family’s farm. Unlike most, he is fascinated by the strange machines that lie inertly around the countryside.

When magicians arrive in the village, one of whom is a strikingly attractive young woman, he takes the chance to learn from them. The magicians are in fact engineers who are struggling with technology which their society has, due to some unknown event in the past, lost the use of. The extent to which the society now fears the magicians and the old technology, is shown dramatically, and Jacob finds his life changing.

Although not stated, it reads as the first in a series. I for one will be looking out for any subsequent stories.

Wet. J. Brian Clarke

Dun Kahilde arrives at a boarding house, dripping wet, having (literally) brought the bad weather with him. He claims to be the vanguard of a stealth settlement of humanlike aliens who have a preference for inclement weather.

Fellow lodger Harrison Chuff is intrigued, not least due to the fact that rather than being a salesman of the usual kind, he is a government employee specialising in trading with offworlders.

Huff and his supervisor, the redoubtable and larger than life Florenzia Higgins, investigate.

A neat and enjoyable story from a writer new to me.

Creative Destruction. Edward M. Lerner.

The November 2000 Analog featured ‘Dangling Conversations’ in which First Contact is made through radio transmissions. Lerner picks up the story a generation later, when the death of a close friend and a post-dated cryptic message from her puts Justin Matthews on the track of what could be a major conspiracy.

The xenotechnomist has to use all his programming skills to cover his information trail as he uncovers an audacious and highly illegal plot to trade technology.

Perhaps for some just a bit too much detail on the I.T. side, but then again this is Analog whose readers will surely lap it up. One other minor quibble – as in the first story the main character sorts everything out and even comes up with the neat solution: the lab-coated multi-skilled scientist as hero.

The Milk of Human Kindness. Brian Stableford.

A shopping trip to the hypermarket next century, with new parents arguing over whether or not their newborn baby should benefit from the latest genetically enhanced baby milk, which promises to make people less aggressive.

The mother is keen to take advantage of the milk (from rabbits, not cows) – to ensure little Jem is not disadvantaged, and not to resist change.

Stableford gives a detailed observation on how scientific progress is likely to impact on us. No jet boots, space travel, just a lot of decisions, some large, some small, which will create a future which is quite recognisable.

Out of the Fire. Pauline Ashwell.

Mount Tezca, a volcano in the Andes, is about to blow. Young vulcanologist Simon Hardacre is close by, to observe and to photograph.

But he is rather too close for comfort, and his demise makes him attractive to those in the future who are looking for scientists in his field who can be persuaded to join a terraforming project.

One for the Road. David Phalen.

Mike, a regular at Mulgrew’s bar finds himself flirting with a Supreme Being who gently illustrates how we all have a myriad of opportunities to make decisions and choices which can each herald a branching of alternate futures.

Obviously Mike doesn’t read short SF as this is a well-established truism in the genre.

Conclusion.

A nicely balanced issue, with something for everyone (except those wanting wall-to-wall hard SF), and most of it readable and enjoyable.

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