Analog October 1975

Analog October 1975

Analog October 1975

1. An Editorial

“Science fiction is always based on verifiable scientific fact. (Good science fiction, that is.)”

Yeah. Okay.

2. Misogyny rampant!

We are in the world of Joseph Green’s “Star Probe,” where an alien object is coming for a near fly-by of the Earth, and one man works against the governments of the world to send a mission to meet up with the interstellar object. Sort of like Ayn Rand, but with rockets instead of trains.

The story is filled with scientific facts a la the editorial, by which I mean scientific verbiage. Science words. IT IS SCIENCE BECAUSE I TOLD YOU IT IS SCIENCE. There are lots of numbers and specifics about thrust and payload and how to get a rocket out into space in time, and how the person who goes won’t, possibly, be coming back. The story is filled with language like this:

“My God!” Jodie said softly. “He’s going to bring his father back by using his son’s brain!”

It sounds like the dialogue from a bad SFF movie, stilted and unrealistic and there purely to clarify the FACTS for the reader. (Man, I’m snarky at the moment–perhaps I shouldn’t write these before having my first cup of coffee.)

Also, the characters aren’t just unrealistic in dialogue. Or maybe not unrealistic, but Green wants us to accept AS THE HERO a man who’ll use his mentally-impaired son as a guinea pig to bring back the brain/personality of his father, and therefore erase his son. Sure, his son is supposed to reemerge after a short time, but the story doesn’t set that up as happening. Who knows? This is only part 1 of 3, so maybe the rest of the parts will combine to form a masterpiece.

Representative quote: “Jodie saw she was about twenty-five, with a somewhat lush figure, just tending toward plumpness. In a few years she would be fat and doughy-looking.”

3. An Idea in Search of a Story

Joe Haldeman’s “Anniversary Project” is a two-fold story. The frame involves a couple taken out of their own time in order to be studied by the humans of the far future who have evolved beyond all of our base desires and needs and, even, leisure activities. The meat of the story is the project of those far future aliens to understand the people of the past.

None of the characters in this story are much more than sketched out. I’m convinced that the couple were brought in, partly, to be reader surrogates. How can we understand these far future beings when, in a very real way, they are beyond our understanding? And so Haldeman shows some of the ways we’d fail to understand in the text itself, the characters trying to make sense of what–in the rest of the story–is told to us in a deliberately distancing fashion.

But, as a reader, I don’t care about those future people. They barely care about their projects or themselves–an almost cold, indifference to the universe being a trait of superior intelligence, apparently. And the two present-day humans are there simply to be shocked and awed.

And to provide the emotional dart of the story: how when they are sent back through time to their own year, a pregnancy causes a moment where the woman lives her entire life in reverse, including the deaths of her husband to suicide and her son to war–before forgetting it all and living her life forward again. Essentially, it’s a cheap trick.

Which is to say that it nearly works because Haldeman is a good writer and, at least, there’s no rampant sexism/racism/ismism embedded in here.

4. There’s a Saloon, but I’m Not Drinking

I need to read the copy of Spider Robinson’s CALLAHAN’S CROSSTIME SALOON which is in the pile of Unpulped novels, because the stories just aren’t cutting it for me. They are elaborate jokes, filled with puns and humor which seems self-referential for the most part, insular within the universe Robinson has created. And maybe if I dive into a collection all at once, I’ll be able to lose myself in it.

As it is, Callahan’s is a bar I go to where I don’t know anyone and none of the regulars are especially friendly to me. Robinson is a wonderful writer. He can draw a character completely in a few sentences, and then he keeps drawing until you feel like you’ve known the person you’re entire life. Callahan’s Saloon is fully realized, too, the details tangible and tactile.

But the stories I’ve read are heavy on the jokes, and I need a character connection in order to feel, well, anything. Even laughter.

SIDENOTE: The illustrations for this story by Vincent di Fate are amazing.

5. What Makes You You

Lord St. David’s story “In the High Court of Justice” is essentially a joke, too. However, the joke turns on a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few years: what makes you the original you.

If, in fact, all of ones cells are replaced every seven years, then are you still the same you after that time has passed? (In fact, parts of the body replace themselves at different rates, and neurons, at least, never die until you do (naturally, at least).) It’s the Ship of Theseus paradox: how much of the ship do you have to replace before it’s no longer the original ship? China Miéville played around with this in his novel KRAKEN, wherein a wizard teleports via home-cooked transporter technology, killing the original body every time he uses this power. Eventually, he’s surrounded by an angry swarm of ghosts of his former selves.

All of that is essentially more interesting than this story, which turns on inheritances and who gets the money of these people who have traveled via a transporter device. The most fascinating part of the story is that it’s written in the form of a ruling on a court case.

Which, frankly, is not enough to save it.

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Analog September 1975

Analog September 1975

Analog September 1975

  1. Stick it in your ear!

The world’s smallest transistor radio.

  1. How to get away with murder!

Editor Ben Bova prints an argument for why the legal system doesn’t account for all the ways one might kill a person, using it as a metaphor against McCarthyism and other such fascist tendencies (where rules twist up with and against and avoid intent).

  1. Space colonialism!

Man, every issue has some story which deals with the Other in a problematic way (the Non-Other is, of course, defined as white-malehood). This issue’s prime specimen is Gordon R. Dickson’s “Pro.”

This story really has little to do with science fiction. It is about men who work for the “company” trying to get backwards, uncivilized planets to the point where they can be effectively exploited. Sure, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that story, but it’s never about the story or the plot–it’s about the way such things are told and the way the biases of the author unfold in the narrative.

In this case, the reader spends 47 pages with a guy bent on helping one aspect of the society (sort of based on vikings, sort of based on the mongols) more successfully invade and destroy settled cities (including destruction of entire populations, sitting by while women are raped and then killed, and introducing slavery) in order to progress the world as a whole towards “civilization.” As you might suspect, this story also has a very static and western-centered view of what constitutes civilization, and also believes that all cultures advance in the same way, through the same stages.

All of that is horrible, but stories about horrible people and events can still be good stories, if well told. Hell, I just read GEEK LOVE and that is a novel full of horrible people, but is entrancing and beautiful and explores/shows so much. But this novel ends with the sympathetic character (sort of) who was working slowly as essentially a missionary, deciding that, yes, the violence was the best way to progress the world, the other guy just did it wrong.

In short, utter trash.

Representative quote: “These people haven’t developed consciences yet, surely.”

  1. Enjoy VR!

Not really about virtual reality, and that’s really the twist at the end of the story (SPOILER!), but more about shattered time and playing around with narrative. Gregory Benford’s “Beyond Grayworld” is about a terraformer whose agreement to help create a new livable planet was based on that planet being open to settlement by all people, so when it gets sold to a mega-corporation, he gets angry and spills the back-dealing to all the galactic news networks.

That’s the story, really. Then he runs to avoid being arrested or killed. That’s it. The story.

But time manipulation and the shattering of events makes the story more complicated, and it’s revealed at the end that the person we’ve been following all along is a recording of the terraformer, not the terraformer himself, and that the authorities have been putting this recording through possible events to try and figure out where the living person has gone. The AI lies. Everyone’s happy. Man, does nothing happen in this story.

I’m also annoyed because the title and the beginning of the story sets it up to be about Grayworld, the terraformed planet, but that’s just a feint.

  1. In the future, all women will be harpies!

In “The Killers” Karl Hansen creates an interesting world that isn’t explored at all. Since I do this in my own writing, I can’t say I blame him for that specifically. Though it does make me wonder how often people feel the same about my stories.

Anyway, we’re in the far future, giant wasps have invaded? appeared on? been genetically-designed to destroy? Earth and they do so by using people to lay their eggs in. Wasps do this all the time to various species, so this itself is nothing new. The growth of wasps to larger than human size and giving them the ability to tunnel through rock is, though.

Anyway, somehow this happened, and somehow intelligent machines have directed human evolution in order to destroy the wasps, turning some people (just women?) into whisper-birds (basically giant hawks?) to search out the wasp nests, and then men (who are unchanged? but also into killing/hunting/whatever) follow them and notify the machines who come empty out the nests.

Anyway, in this story, the man and the whisper-bird have an emotional connection, and the whisper-bird dies in a fire.

Anyway, it’s unclear why humans are used at all when the machines would be much more efficient and are invulnerable to the wasps.

Anyway, it’s a story that has a conclusion.

  1. In the future we will all be apes!

Gordon Eklund’s novelette “The Restoration” involves two old people who hate each other and who live in a colony on the moon being “hormone-gunned” into apes and sent to a war-blasted Earth to see if it can be recolonized.

It’s supposed to be funny, but what it is is generally sexist and racist and not really all that fun.

Summary: There’s a moon colony. World War III destroys civilization on Earth. For the next hundred years, the colony devolves into feuding clans who are also cannibals. All the people involved are generally despicable. At the end of the story, the main female antagonist to our despicable hero apparently suddenly loves him and tries to convince him to stay instead of walking off into the sunset. He nobly ventures off by himself.

It’s tripe. Worse than tripe. People can make a meal out of tripe.

Representative quote: “I slammed a hand over her mouth. The last thing I needed was for her to start acting goofy and female all of a sudden.”

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Analog August 1975

Analog August 1975

Analog August 1975

  1. A Better Life Starts Here

Super 6″ Space Conqueror Hi-Voltage Van de Graaff Generator The Final Optical Illusion! Mystery of Energy and Aging

  1. A Technology Dressed in Words

Jerry Pournelle starts us off with “Consort.” This story is about setting up an independent colony on the Moon, and the political and financial finagling to get it to happen. It’s really not a very good story, and it has no payoff. At the end, I’m left thinking “Who cares?”

However, if you care about technology and that is the main reason you read science fiction, then this might be for you? Even though, even then, the story is more about political maneuvering than technology. Not a surprise, since the disaster epics (like LUCIFER’S HAMMER and GOD’S ANVIL) that Pournelle co-wrote are effective mainly because of the pageant of characters they create and the situations they throw them in.

This story was built off of the cover, meaning the cover art was bought and then the writer found who could write a story around it. An interesting experiment that I’ve tried before and will probably try again, but experiments don’t always pay off. This one does not.

  1. Excuse me, Waiter, there’s some fantasy in my SF!

Joan and Vernor Vinge come up next with “The Peddler’s Apprentice.” This is a wonderful story that is pretty much fantasy. (Now, some people will argue that all fantasy is enfolded in science fiction because in an infinite universe there will be everything we can dream of, including planets where magic works, or seems to work, because it’s just science or psychic powers and blah blah blah they’re wrong.) It takes place in a future world where a single government has taken over (Oh, noes! say the libertarians, who also might have written this story) and a stranger comes to town and ruins everything, letting people live on their own again in a chaotic, unscripted world.

No, really, it’s a good story.

  1. Become a traveling museum piece! See the universe!

Don’t ask me to explain the plot of DOORWAYS IN THE SAND. Zelazny really does seem to be constructing it as he goes along, and he’s such a good and interesting writer that the entire thing holds together when you get to the end and find out our main character has bonded with a long-dormant inorganic alien and will now be toured from planet to planet and his pimp former advisor is setting up illicit interplanetary smuggling rings with a retired alien police officer and Our Man, Mr. Alien Art has a last grand moment with his favorite professor high up on the side of a European building they’ve both climbed.

And that guy who died in the first act, eviscerated? Well, aliens prevented him from dying. And our hero had to reverse himself because the macguffin everyone was looking for was actually in his body, but reversed, so it couldn’t talk to him.

Anyway, if you like Zelazny, you’ll enjoy the book. If you don’t like Zelazny, I can’t help you.

  1. Racist McRacist

So, this fucker Hayford Pierce wrote a story called “Doing well while doing good” which stars, as the main character, a man called Chap Foey Rider, who, as you might guess, is “a plump, middle-aged, Anglo-Chinese merchant of nondescript features.” His sons are named John, Chong, Chan, and Wong. They are great at business, inscrutable, and out to make money at the expense of their loyalty to the U.S. or the Earth as a whole. Whatever. It’s trash. The story, even outside of the racism, is not good, a filler tale about aliens who breathe smog like fine wine and how our main character outsmarts everyone in order to make millions.

But this is the risk on reading a magazine from forty years ago.

Who am I kidding? It’s the risk reading anything right now.

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Analog July 1975

Analog July 1975

Analog July 1975

  1. Live in the world of tomorrow…today!

Test your degree of ESP! New! Kirlian photography kit! A 1-yr. bio-rhythm analysis! Know your alpha from your theta! Day-ahead weather “computer” Electronic sound collector AM radio fits in/on your ear!

  1. Energy problems

Ben Bova’s editorials in the past few Asimov’s from 1975 have been more and more political, and also repeating essentially what we’ve been dealing with in the present world. This month’s deals with energy, and the need for clean power that provides the amount of power we need while not destroying the environment in the process. Bova talks about Magnetohydrodynamics and MHD generators which, frankly, mean little to me. But it makes me think about how much money hasn’t been put into alternative fuel sources, and how the established corporations and their energy monopolies end up deciding how our energy infrastructure evolves rather than what is best either in terms of energy production or the environment.

  1. Not Game of Thrones

“And Seven Times Never Kill Man” is an early story of George R. R. Martin’s, and it’s a great read. A xenophobic and military human cult lands on a planet and slowly begins to take it over from the peaceful indigenous aliens. Eventually, they are caught in the trap of their own warlike greed. Though the description makes it sound like a very simple parable of colonialism, it delves neatly into the inability of understanding the alien, and the risks of anthropomorphizing (and whatever the cultural equivalent of that is).

Strangely, there’s no sexism in this story. It’s been so much a part of my reading these issues from over forty years ago that to reach a story where people are treated equally, or at least there is no literary eye-candy for literary eye-candy’s sake, I’m a little amazed, and a lot relieved.

  1. Think of the Children

Or don’t, really.

“Ageism” by Walter L. Fisher is a joke story, or a story meant to be a joke, or just funny in some way. In it, children are the ones who rule the world. Parents who end up disciplining their child are punished. In this story, parents not owning their children leads to its clearly ultra-logical conclusion, which is that parents have no ability to guide their children at all. Though that guidance here is portrayed as spanking and forcing their children to go to sleep so they’ll be rested enough to go to school in the morning, the punishment for the parents is death.

Ha! Ha! Those liberals with their ideas that children have rights and should be respected! See where that’ll get you!

  1. The Man Who Reversed Himself

Zelazny’s novel “Doorways in the Sand” continues its madness, which involves our main character hearing voices which tell him to use an ancient alien machine to reverse himself, all while being chased by the FBI, alien cops, criminals, as well as everyone else in the world, it seems. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but one of his academic advisors, a professor, left academia in order to be a pimp. This book has no real moral center, but then Zelazny’s books rarely do. Or at least the morality is more about personal responsibility rather than any cultural ideas regarding what’s right or wrong.

  1. Regarding the Current State of Healthcare

Continuing our themes related to the present day, Alan Brennert’s story “All the Charms of Sycorax” deals with a healthcare bill termed “Medical Socialization” which would involve the government in giving everyone a chance to live. The twist is that this chance to live also involved turning people into cyborgs, replacing their broken and worn out parts with machines. Our Senator main character has a metal brain, for God’s sake!

See the fear there in my voice? Anyway, no Medical Socialization for us. By end of the (well-written and relatively entertaining) story, our man the Senator With the Iron Skull has determined that this technology should never be let loose on humanity, because it strips away what makes us human. His aide pulls the plug on him, literally.

  1. Jokey Joke Joke

So this story deals with a mad scientist who builds death-dealing, near-indestructible robots, but can’t get anyone in the U.S. government or industry or entertainment sector to buy them. So he turns instead to a fictional third-world nation and then takes over the world.

I mean, it could be funny. All the jokes are there. It’s just too obvious.

  1. What Makes Us Human

“Down on Banderlog Farm” by Robert Borski is a pretty amazing story, rounding out an issue that contained mostly words I enjoyed reading. This one deals with humanity in a much more realistic way than Brennert’s in that the moral complexities are real and fresh, and the solutions are…well, there are none.

In the near future, half-human half-ape hybrids are raised in countries outside of the U.S. and Europe in order to avoid stricter laws. These hybrids are then harvested for their organs in order to keep the rich alive. In a key and beautiful point of hypocrisy, a Senator who worked to shut down these kinds of farms and keep them from the U.S. is visiting the farm in order to keep himself alive with replacement body parts.

The morality comes in not just in raising beings who, the story makes clear, are at least somewhat above animal intelligence and close to human than many would like to admit, but also in how it is just the rich who can afford this life-saving/extending practice. One of the threads of the novelette is a man who works on the farm staging a kidnapping of one of the banderlogs in order to save his daughter. Though that man dies, the owner of the farm is generous enough to provide the needed organs for his daughter at no cost. How beneficent!

Of course, that does nothing to address the slaughter of intelligent beings or the fact that most of the people in the world will never be able be saved in this way. It’s that twisting together of morality vs. necessity, class vs. ethics, and the way that Borski creates such compelling characters that makes this one of the best reads I’ve had in Analog 1975.

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Unpulped #17: Tongues of the Moon by Philip José Farmer

Tongues of the Moon

Tongues of the Moon (1964)


I couldn’t finish either Poul Anderson’s THE STAR FOX or Robert A. Heinlein’s FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD. Both were terrible: Anderson’s book in the expected ways re: space capitalism, space imperialism, and space sexism, and Heinlein’s in long-established SFF tradition of sexist, authoritarian libertarianism. I only got about ten to twenty pages into each, and so didn’t feel like they’d be worth writing up.


And so I decided to read one of my favorite writers who had a book in the Unpulped box: Philip José Farmer. The book in question is called TONGUES OF THE MOON and I’d never heard of it and there’s perhaps a reason for that.

The reason: It’s not very good.

Compared to most of the Unpulped novels I’ve read so far, it isn’t bad. There isn’t a lot of overt sexism or racism–or there is, but it’s emblematic of characters we are supposed to hate rather than being the seeming default worldview of the author.

The story is this: A thermonuclear war has broken out on Earth destroying all life there, which leaves the colonized moons and planets of the solar system as the only survivors. These colonies were shared, generally, by different competing powers on Earth, but after Earth’s governments are gone, they fight among themselves, eventually devolving into an echo of what happened to Earth–a struggle between the atheist communists which had controlled most of the planet (America included) and the Catholic fascists who held out in South America.

Most of that is somewhat obvious from the brilliantly cartoonish cover. The cover is detailed enough to even include the deep space colony ship which, for some reason, was designed to look like a miniature Earth, and that plays a sort of major role in the first part of the novel.

So what’s holding me back here from loving this book? Maybe it’s that most of the Farmer I love either takes an old idea/character and reworks it (A BARNSTORMER IN OZ, the RIVERWORLD series) or his novels play with a central, unavoidable and fascinating conceit (THE WORLD OF TIERS and DAYWORLD). Farmer is wonderful at creating characters and making them live and breathe in a short amount of time. Of course, most of them are almost Bond clones, not in terms of womanizing or suavity, but in how they manage to get out of scrapes easily, and how there’s really very little doubt they’ll succeed in succeeding.

[Is that a symptom of pulp SF? That the hero always wins out, in the same way that Romance novels are required to have a happily-ever-after? This isn’t true for Philip K. Dick, and I’m sure it’s not true for countless other writers, but maybe for a specific sub-set of pulp novels where the power fantasy of the hero is key?]

The most troubling part of this novel is how the hero, an American Soviet officer named Broward, falls fully in line with the it’s-them-or-us mentality when considering the future of the human race. Earth is dead! The only chance for a future is in the colonies! And the majority of the surviving population is on Mars! And yet Broward goes along with his superior’s plan to get a world-buster bomb from Earth and destroy Mars, even though there are thousands of people living there and only a few hundred, at most, living on the moon.

Not to mention that all of this takes place after he’s seen humanity destroyed by the same hatred of the other and political strife Broward’s helping to keep going after countries and political philosophies have become, in some way, meaningless. So we are to hope for the success of this hero (sorry, “hero”) who is willing to kill thousands even though he knows that might mean the end of the human race entirely?

It’s true that he doesn’t look down on Jews (as his superior does) and doesn’t see making the women still alive baby factories as the proper solution for their future (again, as his superior does). Although, since his argument for the latter is that he doesn’t want to share his lover, it’s hard to see that as fulfilling a belief in the autonomy of women so much as an example of irrational possession of another.

Is this a result of the book being published in 1964? Or is it something underlying Farmer’s writing that I simply haven’t recognized until now? Is it like my reaction to reading Poul Anderson again and finding his beliefs and writing style are nothing like what I remembered?


I don’t think there’s any other Philip José Farmer in the Unpulped collecton. I’m not sure if I’m glad or sad about this. Not having any more means I don’t have to continue confronting one of my literary heroes, one of the first writers where I decided I would collect every one of their books.

And yet, is it good to see someone I respect as a writer fail? Does that mean it’s more likely I can be of equal or better rank someday? (You know, when we’re all ranking writers as though there’s only one standard of good writing, rather than a vast array of writers all expressing their unique voices…) There’s no denying he’s a good writer, and that he engages with ideas in an interesting (rather than reductive) way. Unlike a majority of the books I’ve read for this series, TONGUES OF THE MOON isn’t bad.

It just could’ve been much, much better.

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Analog June 1975

Analog June 1975

Analog June 1975


As expected: Current events are past events and past events are current events. The editorial starts the issue off by talking about Science vs. Faith and how the public confidence in science and experts is being constantly and consistently eroded. Although this isn’t as direct and uncanny a connection to Trump as the Nixon essay (and how much of the country is complicit in empowering Nixon) it highlights one major aspect of Trump’s administration: the favoring of belief over evidence, the cult of personality over reliance on science (and people who know stuff, in general, through long years of study).

I suppose I’m still so much expecting artists who want to sell to also avoid politics that I’m a little shocked with each editorial, where Ben Bova says, “Thank you for coming to my magazine, where we are going to think and disagree and that’s okay, and it’ll especially be okay once you realize you’re wrong.”


I love Roger Zelazny. And if I’ve ever talked to you about influences in my fiction writing, Zelazny is always at the top (along with Philip José Farmer) in terms of writers I first loved and whose DNA is intertwined with mine, even if that’s now mostly something you have to dig for. He’s one of the authors who collect, and so I’ve read most every novel he’s written.

And I’ve read the one serialized in the next three issues of Analog: Doorways in the Sand. I know I’ve read it, because I have the book, and I remember reading it. The problem is, I have no memory of the book except in the most vague sense, and those memories only come back after I’ve read the part I now remember. You’d think aliens disguised as kangaroos and wombats in order to fit in on Earth would be memorable. Apparently not.

This is a novel which is invented on the fly (or is designed to seem that way), where every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, each new chapter begins after that cliffhanger has been resolved, and the meat of each chapter is going back to figure out how exactly the main character survived. It’s a dizzying read in many ways, not just structurally, but also because Zelazny loves throwing philosophy and mystery into his books, so that action is as much dialogue as it is things being done, and often more so.


Barbara Bartholomew’s “Wheel of Fire” involves a man who takes a trip back to the past to live another person’s life for a vacation from his own. If you’ve wanted the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Picard finds himself living an entire other life on an alien planet in a few seconds, that’s sort of what this is like, even if the main character only has a few days in another life: the result is the same. He goes back, learns some lesson, returns. He does nothing, actually, because he’s locked into the other person’s life and actions, so an observer rather than an actor. Well-written enough, but cynical and darkly unsatisfying.


James Gunn’s “Fault” is similarly lacking in action by the main character, making it more of a horror story than an exploration of character or a cautionary tale. There’s a risk of a disastrous Earthquake in San Francisco, and scientists urge evacuation. Evacuation reluctantly occurs, at the behest of the main character, but then when nothing happens, everyone comes back to town, and THEN the earthquake occurs.

Whatever. The story is also filled with casual misogyny. We even start off with the MC sleeping with an underage girl because he’s, I don’t know, bored? He’s married, but “wanted to glory another moment in his masculinity, in his ability to bring an inexperienced girl to passion and repletion.”

Who said that literary fiction had the monopoly on shitty stories about washed-up men sleeping their way to salvation?


“Swiss Movement” by Eric Vinicoff and Marcia Martin takes the idea that the Swiss have, for centuries, trained each of their citizens to be assassins, and that they kill their way through politicians, business leaders, etc. in order to achieve the global politics they want.

Exciting as it sounds? Whatever you might think, no.


This issue ends with “Snowball at Perihelion” by Glen Bever, another romp into the sort of sexist writing which aims to be James Bondian. A courier ship captain becomes the love interest of a space princess who is also a political force and a CEO and manages to save her and a small planetoid and become a hero.

It’s bad. Here’s how it ends.

“Within seconds I had the squirming, protesting girl tucked under one arm while ‘Uncle T. J.’ watched approvingly.

She stopped struggling long before we got back to our suite.”

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Awards Eligibility Post 2017 (or WHEEEEEEE!)

In awesome news I found out about by happy accident, 2017 is my first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (specifically in SFF). And this is because 2017 was the year I had my first professional sale in science fiction and/or fantasy. (Okay, well, just science fiction.)

That first professional sale in science fiction also happens to be my only awards-eligible publication this year. If you’d like to read it, you can do so here:

“The Librarian” at Escape Pod. (Because it’s an Escape Pod story, you can also listen to it if you prefer. The reader there does an amazing job.)

So what this means is that, for this year, I’m eligible for both the Hugos and the Campbell awards, in case anyone out there reading this is able to, and planning on, voting for those.

If not, enjoy the story anyway (it’s one of my favorites) and let me know what you think.

p.s. Here are the eligibility requirements for the Campbell Award  in case you think you might be eligible as well.


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Analog May 1975

Analog May 1975

Analog May 1975

Finally! An Analog from the past (mostly) full of stories I enjoy reading! Both well-written and not laced with sexism/colonialism/racism! It’s a miracle!

First, Political Relevance Alert: This issue opens with a Ben Bova editorial against Nixon and his corruption and how the country must rise up to end the corruption and how did we even get to this state in the first place? Substitute Trump for Nixon and it still makes a great editorial today (and, again, makes me feel like we’ll survive the current regime people have survived such things in the past). I don’t read literature to escape, but if I did, this would be the equivalent of tunneling out of your prison cell to surface in the prison yard.

On to the stories, which are less politically-minded, but still relevant in how they address the way SFF is, and always has been, a political medium.

List Tuttle and George R. R. Martin’s “The Storms of Windhaven” is perhaps the first story I’ve read that fully engages me, and that I enjoyed pretty much without reservation. The story is about a group of messenger-fliers who use solar sails as wings on a stormy planet with islands as the only land mass. The culture is extremely well-realized, but what draws my in is the reality of the characters and their feelings. The main character is a girl who has been flying, but who is soon to lose her wings to her younger brother because of outdated tradition, and her tale is full of sadness, pride, and love, and is so well-done. I’m not surprised the story was expanded into a book years later.

Unlike many of the stories that are overtly sexist or classist, this story is also notable for the depth and care put into its female characters–and for the fact that, in this world, there is no difference between the sexes in terms of jobs or respect or ability. Which is a welcome, welcome change.

Michael Sutch’s “Nascent” is another good, enjoyable story, this one dealing with the creation of intelligent dogs by the military to provide cheap and able troops. Half of the story is told via the POV of the dog Charlie while the other half focuses on the men judging his performance. And the tale is really engaging and well-realized, despite its “fear of the UN World State” scare tactics which posit:

  1. The world is UN controlled, and if a country isn’t able to provide its share to the world economy, then the UN sanctions another country to invade the first to spur both economies onward.
  2. There is a surplus of everything, and so most people don’t have to work in order to live–there aren’t enough “necessary” jobs to go around. One gains citizenship via military service, and those who don’t are looked down upon.

Both are points which are more ill-thought symptoms of a half-baked dystopia than real world-building. But if you ignore those political aspects, Sutch comes up with a well-written story that’s easy to read.

So, I finally found a writer worse that Poul Anderson in terms of sexism. Oh, what a joy it is! Perhaps this is because W. Macfarlane’s story “Country of the Mind” is trotting out the War Between the Sexes as its major conflict, and there are so many established tropes there that anyone who is just using it as window dressing ends up lazily drawing cliche after cliche from the air.

I mean, to just imagine that this was written a year or two before James Tiptree, Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” and be so different in its portrayal of women. This story could’ve been from the thirties or the fifties. And, really, that’s not a fault of the writer (the writing IS the fault of the writer), but of the editor choosing a story that’s just so, so bad in all sorts of ways. Even laying aside the sexism and crappy world-building, the writing is unimaginative and also, at times, simply incomprehensible.

Selections from “Country of the Mind”:

“The woman behind the desk was a different brand of cookie” (pg. 118)

“A freeze-dried witch sat at the center and nodded her head.” (pg. 122)

And there’s more. But I’ll say no more about it.

I haven’t read much Algis Budrys, but his story “A Scraping at the Bones” makes me think I need to read more. It’s a straightforward noir sci-fi detective story where there’s really no mystery. Instead, it’s a character piece about what it means to live in a particular future world where everyone is watched and everything is prescribed by computers, and how one person’s acceptance of that system is undermined. I’ll always take seductive writing of a standard plot over a complex plot with crappy writing (as you’ll know if you read my stories), and this story fits that definition nicely.

Lastly, we have a story from Spider Robinson in his Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon series, “Two Heads are Better than One.” I’ve never read any of Robinson’s work before, and if the rest of his stories are like this I’m not sure if I’m missing much. It’s well-written, and the characters are sketched out instantly with just a few key details. However, this story is just a joke. It’s a very well-dressed joke, but just a joke all the same. One of the Unpulped books is a Spider Robinson, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this in the future. Right now, I’m not looking forward to the reading I’ll have to do in order to say it.

p.s. Just a short note here about how Lester del Rey HATES Samuel R. Delany’s novel Dhalgren. Hates is not perhaps strong enough: del Rey loathes this book. And while I find Dhalgren hard to recommend for everyone, I think the book is fascinating and strange and amazing in so many ways, while del Rey thinks all copies should be unbound and used for toilet paper. It’s fascinating to read such a bile-filled review of something I enjoyed. Also, I learned that apparently the title is a reworking of Grendel, which casts new light on the novel for me.

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Analog April 1975

The health debate from forty years ago!

Analog April 1975

“…listen to your Alpha and Theta brainwaves!” said the Analog ad.

Listening to my brainwaves, I realize that one of the most unexpected things about reading these ancient Analogs from the year before my birth is how much they speak to today. I don’t mean how some of the stories fit into my own reading history (such as the section of Haldeman’s THE FOREVER WAR in its original publication as a serial novella). No, I mean how the politics embedded in the magazines leap out to yell, “Hey, you! This was going on even then! What’s changed? Tell me, man, what has actually changed?”

Because in this issue we have the regular editorial replaced with an essay debate between F. Paul Wilson and Alan E. Nourse (both SFF writers and doctors) about National Health Insurance. And forty years later we are fighting about the same thing, with almost the same talking points. The government should stay out of health care, just like it should’ve stayed out of Vietnam! The purpose of a government is to take care of its citizens, and it will do so whether there is insurance or not, so let’s make sure the government has a system in place to manage health and control costs! Government should stay out of people’s affairs! Government, by definition, IS the affair of the people!

There is no conclusion to the debate, though both lay out their points solidly. Just as there is no real solution to the other facticle in the magazine, that of robot workers replacing their human counterparts. Well, James S. Albus proposes a solution, but doesn’t seem hopeful it’ll take: mainly, that governments should provide standard incomes for their citizens, because the wealth of a government should be, at its base, owned by the citizens that make up the government–and in a situation where labor is divided from capital, how else does one make sense of capital?

To be fair, my understanding of economics is…poor.

Another thing that’s poor: my knowledge of older SFF writers. I assume that if I haven’t heard of a writer (like Wilson or Nourse) then they couldn’t have been that successful or good (even though I know that popularity has nothing innately to do with longevity). But Wilson has written a ton, published bestsellers, and is still writing. Nourse wrote both YA and adult fiction, and one of his books donated its title to Blade Runner.

Those bits are perhaps the most interesting things about this issue. There’s a story by Brenda Pearce called “Crazy Oil” where the twist is not a twist and the only female character is pretty much set decoration. “To Be or Knot to Be” by Alecs Baird is a joke story about aliens who are pieces of rope for whom knot-tying is sex. Oh god is it a waste of space. Thomas Sullivan’s “The Sixth Face” is basically a spy-thriller with Russia/Asia as the antagonists to the West (another sad echo coming down to us today). Its worst sin is the lack of tension.

Then there’s Gregory Benford’s “Doing Lennon” and the last part of Gordon R. Dickson and Harry Harrison’s “Lifeboat.” They are both well-written, which is a plus. But Benford’s story doesn’t really do much with a man from our time freezing himself in order to pretend to be John Lennon in the future (obviously, Lennon hadn’t been killed yet, so this story is not just an alternate future but an alternate future written from an alternate past). But “Lifeboat” has grown on me, even if the first two parts of it seemed lackluster or full of problematic views of society (untreated in any way by the text). What this serial would gain by having it all sewn together into a single book is that the questioning of that society would come sooner, because it’s all here in the last part. Again, not that easy solutions are given to class issues and the inherent disparity between labor and administrators, but that there’s a path drawn to a better, fairer society.

I wonder. I’m doing these write-ups as an exercise in understanding SFF history, and how writing often reflects that history. What do you want as a reader? In-depth evaluations of the stories? More general thoughts (as with this review)? If you have an opinion, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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Even the Grass (The Samizdat experiment poem #2)

It’s true, I’m going to be publishing a few of The Samizdat poems out of order. If you want to always get them in order along with occasional awesome broadsides of the poems designed by Jaime Questell, you can pledge the Patreon here for $1 a poem to support both political poetry and various charities.

As for this poem, it seems to grow more true as time goes on, as the White House becomes the Muddy Gray House, no longer emblematic of a shining city but instead a back room filled with cigar smoke. If the head of a government is insane, how can the body be anything but?

Even the Grass

And soon no one will call Stalin’s government anything but a government of insanity and treason.
~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Even the grass is tearing itself up by the roots.
Even priests drag down prayers from the heavens.
Even our organs are organizing against us. If I remove

my lungs, I remove the need for clean air. This is the logic
I was born for. Some other people were born
but this is not their poem. They have no poems

or need for poems, the insurers tell me. Even the grass
needs taking care of. Even a dull mower gets the job done.
What are we left with? A denuded ground, a desert of dirt

a stiff rain washes into the river. Even the sun
is blind. Steeped in its gloried light, even the grass
stretches up like arms, grasping for as much

as the muscles and tendons will let them take.

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