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Editor's Choice: Short Fiction Reviews
by David A. Truesdale

Dave Truesdale has been reading science fiction and fantasy for forty years. For the past four years he has edited TANGENT: The Only Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Fiction Review Magazine. It was runner-up for the 1997 Hugo Award. The intent of this column is to present reviews of selected short fiction that strike Dave's interest as his reading for Tangent continues. If you would like to read more short fiction reviews, try Tangent as it reviews every original story in all American, Canadian, British, and Australian professional SF & F magazines (as well as many others).

For more of David's opinions, we've put together a table of contents for other Editor's Choice columns.

Magazines
For information on the contents of an issue or for subscription details, you can try the following sites:
Asimov's Science Fiction
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
On Spec
Cemetery Dance
Interzone
OMNI
Talebones
Tomorrow SF
Current Cover
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, April 1998
The Children Star (Part One of Four)Joan Slonczewski
"The Coverture Incident" Stephen L. Burns
"The Vigilant Ones" Alexis Glynn Latner
"Shrink Wrapped" David Alexander
Current Cover
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 1998
The Children Star (Part Two of Four)Joan Slonczewski
"The Sword Unswayed" Stephen Goldin
"Yellow and Orange Blues" Amy Bechtel
"The Human Touch" H.G. Stratmann
A quick look at the contents of the above issues and you will see there are only six stories between them, about that of any regular issue of most magazines. This is because, as you will also note, there happens to be a novel serialization in progress, something the original Astounding (retitled Analog in 1960) has been doing for almost all of its sixty-eight year existence. Astounding/Analog has serialized more novels -- and more award-winning novels -- than any other magazine in science fiction history.

So while I regret to report that while I enjoyed the pair of satires, meeting strange and lovable aquatic aliens, and learning one more time the difficulties to be overcome when dealing with another species, I found no stand-out short fiction in either the April or May issues of Analog, the sort to make recommended reading or award lists come the end of the year.

Nevertheless, not to give the possible new reader to Analog a false impression of its quality, and bending my Editor's Choice mandate to point out short fiction this time to include a novel in progress, I offer the following as my...

Editor's Choice:
The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski, (Parts One and Two of Four)
I'll get to this particular story in a bit, but first I'd like to mention that in the time before original SF novels were even published as books by major publishing houses (the very early 50s, not to be too precise about it, and not counting the first of the small press reprint book publishers like Gnome and Fantasy Press), the only place an SF novel could be published first was as a serial in the magazines. That Analog continues to do so with regularity when there is no publishing necessity to do so is something many of us cherish.

In the last four years alone, editor Stanley Schmidt has serialized seven full length novels! They are:
Starmind by Spider & Jeanne Robinson (Aug - Nov 1994)
Hobson's Choice by Robert J. Sawyer (mid-Dec 1994 - Mar 1995, later retitled for book publication as Terminal Experiment which won the prestigious Nebula Award)
Orion Among the Stars by Ben Bova (May - Aug 1995)
Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold (Oct - mid-Dec 1995, one of her highly popular and award-winning Miles Vorkosigan novels)
Higher Education by Charles Sheffield & Jerry Pournelle (Feb - May 1996)
Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer (Jul - Oct 1996, it was a Hugo Award finalist)
O Pioneer! by Frederik Pohl (Oct - Dec 1997)

But lest we forget that this assortment of recent novels is but the tip of a huge iceberg, I can't help but recall just a few of the many other classic novels that Astounding/Analog has published over the years. Just a few that come to mind are:

1934-1935 -- The Mightiest Machine by John W. Campbell, Jr.
One of the earliest broad canvas galaxy-spanning "space opera" adventures, second only to those of "Doc" Smith in popularity.

1935 -- Skylark of Valeron by E.E. "Doc" Smith (and later Lensman novels).
Crude by today's standards, these nevertheless are pulp classics and an awful lot of fun.

1939 -- Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak.
As the title implies, classic large-scale sense of wonder fare. Simak went on to publish a series of stories in Astounding from 1944 thru 1951 which were later pieced together as his Hugo-winning novel City.

1940 -- Slan by A.E. van Vogt (and two later Null-A novels).
Also classics, fostering fan clubs and organizations all over the world.

1947 -- The Legion of Space by Jack Williamson.
Four soldiers save numerous worlds from galactic peril. This was one of a very popular space opera series.

1958 -- Methuselah's Children (orig. 1941, then revised 1958) Robert A. Heinlein.

1959 -- Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson.
One of the best of his legendary Childe Cycle of novels, but more commonly known as his Dorsai series.

1963/64 -- Dune World, and 1965 -- The Prophet of Dune by Frank Herbert.
Both were assembled into the classic, award-winning novel Dune.

But enough. You get the point. It would take a week to list all of the popular or award-winning novels to have appeared in Astounding/Analog over its life-span (its first issue saw print in January 1930).

Instead I leave you with excerpts from the synopses of two of the serials to have appeared in Astounding/Analog. Both are from their second installments. One is from the current, May 1998 issue of Analog, and one is from the February 1957 issue of Astounding. A forty-one year gap! See if you can tell which is which:

1. "On the planet Prokaryon, all living organisms grow in rings. Tire-shaped zooids graze over fields of loopleaves, and flyers with hellicoid propellers fill the forests of arch-trunked singing-trees. As yet, none of these life forms appear intelligent; but the forests and fields are spaced in orderly arrays that imply the existence of 'hidden masters.' "

2. "The twin planets of Home and Rathe, both about the size of Earth, circle a common center in Trojan relationship with a red dwarf star; all three, in turn, revolve around a white star somewhat smaller than Earth's sun, dominated by the brilliant mass of the Canes Venatici star cluster, on whose periphery this solar system is located. Both Home and Rathe are inhabited, and the Rathe-men, whose world is largely desert, have been aware of the existence of Home since prehistoric times."

I won't hold you in suspense. The second quote is from the synopsis of James Blish's novel Get Out of My Sky, from the February 1957 Astounding. The first is from Joan Slonczewski's currently serialized novel The Children Star. It's a captivating read so far, and if it ends up half as good as her marvelous second novel A Door into Ocean (1986), you won't want to miss a single installment of it in Analog. The Children Star's concluding parts are in the June and July issues, so if you haven't already bought them there's always hope they can be found in the dealers room at a science fiction convention. Good luck!

Copyright © 1998 by David A. Truesdale


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