REVIEW: Analog, Jan/Feb 2015 (Part 1)

(NOTE FROM AUTHOR)    While writing my latest Amazing Stories post I realized something. While our fanzine has been knocking it out of the ball park when it comes to book/movie reviews, interviews and writing advice, I’ve noticed very little being written on the topic of science fiction magazines. Although they are little known in the mainstream world, publications such as Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog Science Fiction and Fact make up the backbone of science fiction. Many of the greatest SF/F/H writers of all time have at one point or another published stories in these and other professional genre magazines, of which our Amazing Stories is the older brother of them all. Yearly they contain Hugo and Nebula award-winners and jumpstart the careers of promising new authors. I feel that since we are all trying to bring our magazine back into regular publication—and because, like I said, magazines are one of the most important parts of science fiction and fantasy literature—that they deserve to be recognized in our blog entries. So, with Steve Davidson’s enthusiastic approval, starting with today’s entry I hope to provide Amazing Stories with reviews of the major three science fiction venues listed above. I already have a subscription to Analog and I hope to have subscriptions to Asimov’s and F/SF at the beginning of the year. Every week I get a new issue I will read it and write a review for Amazing Stories on that issue. It will probably be a bit irregular at first, since some issues are double issues and the mail sometimes takes its time getting things to people in Michigan, but as often as I can I hope to have entries up. My first magazine review is on the January/February 2015 special double issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, edited by Trevor Quachri.)

analog 300I ask for your forgiveness in advance. This is only my second review of a magazine, and one of my first reviews of any kind. This is an experiment in writing for me as it is an experiment in reading for you, so I hope I can make the process enjoyable for all of us. I noticed when I was writing my review of the first Asimov’s issue I ever got in the mail that to cover every story, poem, essay and editorial in every edition—especially a double feature such as the latest Analog—is almost impossible. It is completely doable, and maybe someday I will cover every monthly entry in a blog of my own, but for right now I thought it would be best if I just talk about some of the stories and editorials to give readers a taste of what they could expect. Hopefully they will like what they read and will seek out the magazine to buy and read for themselves. And as Dell Magazines offers electronic versions online for only a few dollars, it makes getting your hands on a copy a hundred times easier.

J.T. Sharrah’s novelette “Malnutrition” heads the lot. It is the very first story I have ever read in Analog, and the very first long story I have read in quite some time. The all-too familiar plot has an alien ambassador of sorts (the alien’s language has many terms that do not have Terran equivalents) survive an assassination attempt and sink into a coma during a visit to the Haven. The majority of the story, which is a clever mix of detective story and extraterrestrial table etiquette, has Haven’s mayor (an honest politician—a truly science fictional concept) try to help a doctor save the ambassador’s life while also trying to find out who hired the assassin that wounded one alien and killed his translator. The mayor, Hardesty, is not only an honest man but also very hardworking, interrogating and following up with people that in almost every other piece of crime fiction would be the police’s job. The title comes from one of the quirks of the alien Umabari; to them, eating and defecating are both parts of the same process. To eat in public, to them, is as revolting as going to the bathroom in public. When the ambassador, Kadija, is in his coma the human doctor caring for him feeds him, against the advice of a trader hired my Mayor Hardesty to become Kadija’s new translator. All of these concepts are unique and original, despite following an all too-familiar plotline. There were even one or two places where I actually laughed out loud—another first for a science fiction story I read.

Immediately following this novelette was this issue’s “Science Fact” article, written by legendary former Analog  editor Stanley Schmidt. Entitled “Orbits to Order,” Dr. Schmidt talks about a familiar concept to readers of Analog: orbits. While I cannot even begin to summarize a science article of that kind of magnitude, which was written by a physics doctorate while the writer of this blog is still working on a non-science bachelor’s degree, I can say for certain that Schmidt tries to explain what it would take (theoretically) to induce orbits outside of the boundaries set by Newton’s laws. In spite of the highly mathematical subject matter the famous editor explains things in an easy, almost conversational manner reminiscent of Dr. Asimov. I hope that I am able to experience future articles by him in the pages of his former magazine.

Two short-shorts, “Space Bugs” and “Orion, Rising” both deal with NASA. “Space Bugs,” written by Marianne Dyson, deals with the death and rebirth of the space agency in under one thousand words. God and microbes play an important part in convincing a Congressman to push for NASA’s renewal. “Orion, Rising,” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. begins with a nostalgic reminder of the Apollo program before telling the tale of a very similar, outdated spaceflight to the Moon fifty-five years after the Apollo 11 flight. The ending is familiar but totally unexpected. Both tales move along at a decent pace despite their word counts, moving neither too quickly nor too slowly for the reader. The authors do a good job balancing dialogue and narrative.

This concludes the first half of my review of the January/February 2015 issue of Analog. I hope that in the future I will never have to split reviews up in two pieces like this, but due to the length of double issues and the various story lengths Analog is known for—not to mention the fact that I just got it in the mail TODAY—means that it will require a second blog entry to give this issue proper justice. My posts appear on Amazing Stories every Monday, so if you liked this article be sure to stay tuned next week for the “exciting conclusion.” I will be discussing a complete novella, poem, editorials and several more short stories without lengthy author’s notes explaining what I’m doing and why I am doing it. Stay tuned.

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  1. I’m interested to hear what you have to say about the poetry. I don’t have a subscription to any of the Big 3 Mags and so I regret (just a little) not being able to read the poetry therein. However, given that they never have more than a coue of poems in any one issue, and that there is the perennial complaint that the poetry is used merely as filler, is not sufficient enticement (just for the poetry, mind you). But I’d be interested to know what you make of it and its inclusion.

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