Tuesday, June 19, 2007

September Analog - part 1

Rather disappointing issue, overall.

Best story was the first one, "Some Distant Shore." Mike Christopher (couldn't people in the 27th century have _slightly_ more interesting names?) is part of a human delegation joining with the hive-mind Drodurasel, the symbiontic Cetronen, and the green-skinned, vaguely Klingonish Sobrenians watching a rogue solar system crashing into another one. Each species has mysterious reasons for being there, as is revealed in the story.

Also there is his girlfriend Linna. They're having problems because she is an empath who's getting input overload, and can't stand to be around him or any other sentient being. Plot-wise, this is by far the most interesting part of the story. Who hasn't had a seemingly perfect relationship ripped apart by emotional issues neither of you can overcome? The story makes it clear the girl is doomed from word 1, but the way it plays out is gripping anyway.

As with any Analog story, the atrophysics are tight as a guitar string. Analog is proud of having sci-fi hard enough that you can bounce a quarter off it (except for the "light" scifi; does anyone read that stuff?). But what I'm learning is that to sell a story to Analog you have to know where to be hard and where it doesn't matter so much. How is Linna empathic? Who knows? We're not just talking about sensing your emotions from your face, voice, smells, whatever. She gets it through walls–has to go to a shuttle off the ship to protect herself.

In my experience, this is true of most 'hard' sci-fi. They will practically give you diagrams about how the stardrive works based on the latest discoveries at CERN-then pull something utterly out of their ass, like a character with psychic powers or a computer that becomes sentient 'by accident' and bails everyone out of a situation. If you read my inaugural post you know I'm the last one to complain about plausibility, I just want a good story. But I don't like the attitude that one person's fiction is more 'hard' than everyone else's when it really isn't.

Whoops, off on a tangent. Back to the story, not the most original aliens, but they serve their purpose. Each reveals deep attachments to the solar system being destroyed, attachments they'd even risk their lives for. How likely is it that most other species would breathe the same air as us? Probably not very, but it's useful for plot purposes. Dialog doesn't carry well through breathing portals. I'll probably do the same when I work up to putting aliens in my story.

What else?

Interesting article about RFID's. A slightly funny piece about a 'travel delays' to Pluto due to its reclassification, and another about the ultimate spam-blocker accidentally destroying the universe. You had to be there for that one.

The biggest annoyance by far is "Ginger Ears and Elephant Hair" by Uncle River. (Is his first name Uncle, or is this a gimmick?) This is basically a backstory study for a forthcoming novel called 'Ever Broten.' It all takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, remembering back to the Late Abysmal, i.e. now. It's what Gardner would call an essayist narrator, trying to piece together a pre-'change' catastrophe. Apparently there was a mystical place called the University of The Arkansas that decided to make 'hairy elephants' like the ones that used to exist even before, and so they used 'ginger ears' (gene...what? carriers?) and then...there were lots of hairy elephants everywhere. That's it, that's the whole plot. The rest is just lots of lines like this:

"Well now, we must remember, it was a different world. Were Abysmal ways always madness?"
"Crazy, by the end, and perhaps from the outset, it seems to us."
"Was the Late Abysmal's organization of everything big, and money to organize it by, crazy from the outset?"
"So was the Abysmal world crazy from the outset, or did it become crazy in the face of doom?"

Stop! I get it! Our way of life is insane. I'm the last to argue. But you need to do more than say it a hundred times to make a story. I don't hold it against Uncle River writing this at all. This is how you build your world. I hold it against Analog for publishing it. This story belonged in his notebooks, and maybe, _maybe_ as a prologue or something in his book.

Then there's another "light" piece I didn't read about the invasion of the alien Doublemint Twins on exponential overload or something, and a Black Hole Project story. I have more to say about BHP, but I'm not done reading this installment. I'll get back to it soon.


Denni said...

. How likely is it that most other species would breathe the same air as us? Probably not very, but it's useful for plot purposes.

Not that unlikely either, at least for carbon-based life forms.

One oxygen metabolism gets going, it quickly overtakes less efficient anaerobic pathways, and the atmospheric composition is changed by biological feedback.

Of course that's not to say that there aren't some really weird chemotrophs out there, but we may not be able to make easy contact with them.

My outlook is that the universe is probably 'lousy with algae' (I don't know who said that), but good luck finding any species we can actually communicate with.

Enough of reading your blog for now, I've got to get back to writing ;) But I have it bookmarked.

Matt said...

I just read this exact same story and am trying to find info on the book because...I actually liked it. I definitely hear what you're saying about the repetition thing, though! I was starting to wonder how many times he could re-iterate "Were the Abysmals crazy? Maybe not!"

Other than that I thought it was cool, but then I'm a sucker for most any kind of post-apocalypse / dystopia story. If you are, you should check out Oryx and Crake if you haven't already.