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.”