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Amazing Stories, Spring 2000

Amazing Stories, Spring 2000
Amazing Stories
Amazing Stories was the first publication solely dedicated to the science fiction genre. It was founded in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback, who is widely acknowledged as the father of science fiction and is the person for whom the prestigious Hugo Award was named. Wizards of the Coast resurrected the magazine to continue the tradition of publishing science fiction short stories and adding short fiction based on the settings and characters in science fiction film and television. Other features include reviews of science fiction books, film, and electronic games.

Amazing Stories Website
ISFDB Issue Listing
SF Site Review: Amazing Stories, Issue 600
SF Site Review: Amazing Stories, Winter 2000
SF Site Review: Amazing Stories, Summer 1999
SF Site Review: Amazing Stories, Fall 1998

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Amazing Stories' latest issue, for Spring 2000, features the usual mix of a couple of stories by familiar writers, a few by lesser known writers, and exactly two media-related stories. The central gimmick, if you will, of the relaunched Amazing, is this inclusion of media-related stories. Presumably the familiar cover material helps sell the magazine, as does the lure of a story set in the Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever universe. And if the media stories bring new readers for the other writers herein included, that's a positive.

I'll consider this issue's two media-related stories first, then. "Bedside Matters" by Greg Cox is a Star Trek, The Next Generation story. It's a rather short piece featuring Beverly Crusher "training" a new AI hologramatic ship doctor. (I think this is a Voyager reference, though I confess to unfamiliarity with the later incarnations of the Star Trek franchise.) At any rate, an emergency arises concerning an alien ambassador with a medical emergency complicated by a religious taboo. The plot is wholly predictable, and the story seemed little but an excuse to parade a few familiar characters by the reader for a few thousand words. A weak effort. Having read several issues of the new Amazing, I would say that the better stories have been set in gaming universes. This may be because the characters in any given story need not be locked in to TV bibles.

"Hybrid" by Micky Neilson, a StarCraft universe story, is considerably the better of the two media-related pieces. It's a dour, gruesome thing, about a former human woman who has become some sort of evil alien hybrid, and her roots, and her treatment of a captured prisoner. Not a great story, by any means, but it held the interest.

This issue also features two long-time veterans of the SF field. The bigger name is a very big name indeed: Ray Bradbury. His latest story is "The Laurel & Hardy Alpha Centauri Farewell Tour," about recreations of the famous comedians used to keep space travellers and colonists from depression. Sadly, I wasn't impressed. The central idea is unconvincing, to say the least, and the execution is tedious.

I was also disappointed with the contribution from the other veteran, Charles Harness. Harness loves to play games with time paradoxes, and in "A Boost in Time" he tells of a strangely motivated plot to destroy the human race by going back in time and diverting the dinosaur-killer asteroid. (That way, the mammals will never take over, see?) Naturally, things go a bit wrong, and it's easy to see exactly how from the start. This story lacked surprise, and believable characters, and even believable science.

For all Bradbury's well-earned stature, the name that jumped out at me from the table of contents was Robert Reed, based on his recent production. His story here is called "In the Valley of the Giant Quail," which certainly doesn't sound terribly serious. Indeed it's not: the problem is, it's not really funny or terribly inventive either. It's about the relationship between a pair of brothers, the rich genius who does things like invent giant quail, and the more modest narrator. It's done well enough, but I found myself wondering, "What's the point?"

So far I'd have to call this a disappointing issue. Essentially, all the "names," all the "draws," have not contributed anything special. Happily, among the four stories by more obscure writers, there is some stuff of interest. I thought the best story was "Requiem with Interruptions," by G. Scott Huggins. This is another in a very long line of stories, throughout the history of the genre, about humans meeting aliens, with the misunderstanding that results proving fatal. But that theme, old as it is, is still interesting, and indeed important, and Huggins' specific idea is new enough, and his resolution just enough different from the ordinary, to make this story memorable. It tells of a doctor who treats an injured alien in all innocence, not knowing that her treatment is dangerous to the alien, and to herself, and of the alien "priest" who comes finally to understand the humans enough to help both species. (The story is, coincidentally, mildly reminiscent of the Star Trek story in this issue.)

The other three stories aren't quite as good but they all have points of interest. Douglas Lain's "Selling Jesus" goes on a bit too long, but the basic conceit, of a door-to-door Bible salesman with a new product, a VR Jesus, is solid, and the central character is well-depicted. "The Reign of Rainbow Stars" by Christian L. Campbell has a very different central idea, presented in a logical but somewhat off-putting fashion. (The basic idea is that our reliance on orbital satellites and the universal "net" they provide becomes so complete that we become totally shut off from the outside universe.) The plot, however, is not believable, so the story doesn't quite work. And "Reality Slough" by Kent Robinson is a humorous story on the subject of wormholes causing complete disintegration of the fabric of reality. There's a lot of imagination displayed here, but no real coherence, and the humour didn't click for me at all.

Copyright © 2000 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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