Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact, December 2002

Michael Swanwick. Slow Life.

Standard Analog fayre from an author whom you wouldn’t immediately associate with Analog.

Lizzie O’Brien is part of an expedition on Titan, hamstrung slightly by media fascination and online chats with members of the public back home. Whilst a turbot-cam (and, yes, that is right – a turbot-cam as opposed to a turbo-cam) navigates a methane-ammonia sea, Lizzie takes to the skies in a balloon. And as you might expect, a problem occurs: her harness jams, threating to float her off to a lengthy airborne death. A dream which she had prior to the harness jamming returns, in greater detail. Is she communicating with some form of native intelligence, or is she cracking up under the strain of her imminent demise?

Whilst Lizzie feels herself as being increasingly alone, the intelligence she is communicating with is finding the shock of being not alone as threatening its existence. Lizzie plunges into the sea, to be rescued by turbot-cam.

Jerry Oltion. Witness.

Richard Demmer is 307 and feeling every year of it. He has decided that he has had enough of immortality, and is about to toss himself off the edge of a cliff. His death will free up a ‘birthright’ – the population is static and only by a death can another be born.

His musings are interrupted by Cindy McFadden, who set up the Population Control Bureau, who is similarly about to depart. However, she has not assigned her birth right to anyone, as part of her desire to bring the population level down.

The short story is mostly musing by Demmer and a conversation between the pair, and the underlying background of a world with a rigidly controlled population control system is somewhat implausible. Some 40years since J.G. Ballard’s ‘Billenium’ addressed population explosion in a much more realistic, and emotionally challenging story, you would want stories on this theme to be offering a bit more.

Shane Tourtellotte. Swap-Out.

A timely story, on the basis I’m writing this having just listened to a radio news bulletin reporting a large scale survey which showed that 5hrs+ a day sitting in front of a computer can lead to depression and other problems.

Egan Brock is one of a small number of people who have embraced new technology to the max, implanting into his brain some hi-tech to increase his brainpower. Others merely wire themselves into computers, and others simply use their fingers to type and their eyes to read screens.

Paranoia begins to stalk Brock, who sees a nemesis in one co-worker, about whom he begins to obsess. He is finally driven to extremes.

Stephen L. Burns. Green light, red light.

A hi-tech solution to terrorism presents itself: a scanner which can detect fanaticism (no, really). The two scientists who stumbled on this technology find themselves in the ‘safe-keeping’ of the military, and presenting their scanner to a panel of politicians. The Special Security Project Director in charge of a demonstration to a panel of politicians finds this invention works perfectly in detecting fanatics – too perfectly, in fact, as in going through the scanner himself he triggers an alarm.

Fairly bog-standard Analog fayre – scientific exposition and cardboad characters.

Charles L.Harness. Voices.

A more sensitive story, in which a man struggling to emotionally cope with his wife’s illness finds two children’s toys offer him an insight.

Stephen Baxter. The Hunters of Pangaea.

Baxter takes us back, one again, to prehistoric times. Here he posits raptors with speech and tool-technology hunting a herd of huge, migrating diplodocus.

The descriptions of the diplodocus’ migration is a powerful one, although the raptors are given much too much by way of human characteristics, which rather spoils the story.

John G. Hemry. Generation Gap.

A generation starship is reaching its objective, with the society therein a rigid, conformist society. The planet proves to be be perfect, although challenging to those used to living indoors in a stable environment. Such is the concern of those in power that the decision is take to find another planet.

A significant section of the younger elements of the community decide that the planet is for them, and escape to the planet before the ship leaves for another destination.

Will McCarthy. Garbage Day.

This story resisted several valiant attempts at being read. In a far future in which matter transportation is ubiquitous, some very recognisable teens escape a planetoid on which they have been sent to the equivalent of a summer-camp. Back on Earth they find themselves in Denver, and some backstory is explained, and they get caught, and the story sorta ends, dude.

Conclusion.

A bit of a disappointment, considering the names of Swanwick and Baxter on the cover.

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