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Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 1999

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 1999
The pages of Astounding/Analog have been home to many of science fiction's foremost writers and stories. Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Spider Robinson, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Michael F. Flynn are just a few of the prominent names which have often appeared there. Their stories have also won many Hugo and Nebula Awards, and such classics as Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight first appeared in Analog.

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A review by Ken Newquist

Analog beats the summer doldrums with a July/August edition that will have science fiction fans drooling for more.

The best story of the edition -- and one of the best of 1999 -- is Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion's "The Astronaut From Wyoming." The novella's hero is Alexander Drier, a young man who was born with a rare mutation making him look like one of the fabled "gray aliens." The tabloid press learns of his physical appearance and begins spewing headlines like "Space Baby Speaks First Words at Birth!" and "New Space Boy Shocker: Mirrors Don't Reflect Him." Alexander shrugs off the headlines and decides on the one career that is sure to attract even more attention -- astronaut. Some are shocked by this -- the "Space Boy" wanting to return home would only feed the tabloid horde. But Alexander is serious, and a crippled friend intent on seeing him in orbit soon supports him.

Castro and Oltion craft a gut-wrenching story that takes the negative trends of the 90s and extrapolates them into a dismal future. They expertly capture the tabloid and news feeding frenzies that have dominated the news since O.J. Simpson's murder trials, show how pseudo-science dominates the American mindset, and take a few well aimed shots at political correctness. But while they point out America's present and future foibles, they also introduce us to science-loving heroes any reader can relate to. As Alex and his friends ride the alien hysteria wave all the way to Mars, I found myself laughing aloud, saying "yes!" and "right!" and drawing uneasy stares from my wife.

"Emperor Penguins" by Joseph Manzione is a worthy challenger for the top spot. In it, humanity has made contact with alien race that is like, and yet unlike, ourselves. They provide us with an abundance of technological advancements and in return look not for technology, but culture. The hero of the story -- Renko -- is a divorced lawyer who desperately wants to spend more time with his children, but lost them in the custody battle. He's still coping with this new life when the aliens ask him to try a law case on their home world. It seems that one of the aliens wants custody of his children, an idea that shocks and rocks that world.

The story does law right. Manzione's presentation of the ins and outs of legal systems on both worlds lends a sense of reality to the story -- this is the sort of manoeuvring that would occur if we really did make contact. But the main reason it succeeds is that it takes a central tenet of some sociological theories -- that a more advanced civilization always obliterates the culture of a lesser one -- and sends it spinning.

The rest of the stories in the double-sized edition may not rise to the quite same heights of "Emperor Penguins" and "The Astronaut From Wyoming," but they're still very good. "As Time Goes By" by Amy Bechtel is a nice "day in the life" story about a vet whose client just happens to have a few sea monsters as pets. "Live Bait" takes on equally huge aquatic beasts as Shane Tourtellotte introduces us to thrill-seekers looking to dive through the digestive track of alien creatures.  G. David Nordley's "Beamriders" provides the edition with its dose of science fact. His article looks at different solar-sail-type vehicles that could make the trip through interstellar space.

The July/August Analog is exactly the sort of edition readers will want to take to the beach with them, and it's good enough that they'll spend their vacation kicking themselves if they leave it sitting on the kitchen counter.

Copyright © 1999 Ken Newquist

Kenneth Newquist is a confessed science fiction/fantasy addict living in Easton, Pennsylvania, and working as a webmaster at a small university in New Jersey. He's regular contributor to Science Fiction Weekly and is the editor of the speculative fiction webzine Nuketown.

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