- Stick it in your ear!
The world’s smallest transistor radio.
- 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).
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”