- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.