Thursday, November 29, 2018

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November/December 2018

Empress of Starlight • Novelette by G. David Nordley
In a galactic civilization far in the future researchers find that several suns have “disappeared” for millions of years and then reappeared. The scientists postulate that the only possible explanation is a Dyson sphere. A group of them go on an expedition. They find a Dyson sphere, but it is just a “bubble“ which seems to be designed to capture the sun’s output. But there seems to be no one there, everything is run by automatic machines. An ok story, but a bit too long. The drama between characters didn’t somehow feel right or even necessary for the story. ***+
Pandora's Pantry • Novelette by Stephen L. Burns
A cooking show which is kind of a cross between Masterchef and Top Chef is broadcast live. There is a snow storm in the city and two of the contestants can’t make it. There is a frantic search for new competitors, and then an android appears and wants to take part. A nice, fun, and entertaining story. ***+
The Gleaners • Short story by Sarina Dorie
An alien inhabits the body of an old lady who has given very strict restrictions what may be done with the body. But the alien wants to feel a bit of what life on Earth can be – and to live a fuller life than the real owner of the body. A short, but good and finely written story. ****-
Smear Job • Short story by Rich Larson
The story feels like a Black Mirror episode - hell, the exact same technology was a major point in an episode or even a few episodes. A young man has apparently slept with his girlfriend and has gotten caught. As the girl apparently had been underage, he has a choice of a minor adjustment. A nice story, but a bit too short and too similar to Black Mirror. ***
A Measure of Love • Short story by C. Stuart Hardwick
A woman gets an old robot back which was her friend and teacher at an orphanage. The robot grows “beyond its programming” (even to a hard-to-believe degree) and becomes more than a machine. A short and sentimental story. ***-
Learning the Ropes • Short story by Tom Jolly
Habitats on Mars are owned by a monolithic company which prevents all terraforming efforts as that might devalue their holdings. But one woman, whose home is lost to rising sea-levels, has a plan. A pretty good story with a kind, problem-solving approach. ***+
Hubstitute Creature • [The Hub Gates] • Novelette by Christopher L. Bennett
Another story on a hub which connects FTL routes to different destinations. This time the main protagonists change their species (and genders in some cases) to be able to work underground and to find a valuable artifact. New bodies, new hormones, and novel sex organs make everyone very horny, though. The story relies more on comedy than SF. ***
The Light Fantastic • Short story by J. T. Sharrah
An archeologist who was examining a planet's strange and incomprehensible aliens has disappeared. By a hugely unlikely and stupid coincidence, someone finds out what might have happened to him. More of a fantasy than SF, a somewhat irritating story. **½
The Jagged Bones of Sea-Saw Town • Short story by Marissa Lingen
Scientists in Luleå try to recreate caribou after they have disappeared, apparently due to climate warming. (Why caribou, an American species and not reindeer, a European and Swedish species?) They discuss if the town should relocate back and forth with sea levels. Short and pretty stupid story. **½
Sandy • Short story by Bruce McAllister
There are aliens in school buses traveling with humans. An alien girl gets bullied a bit, and the adults are VERY VERY worried, even though one boy helped her. It turns out that there was a good reason to be worried about treating an alien badly. A pretty nice, but short story.***½
Dad's War • Short story by Filip Wiltgren
Brands have taken over and are battling for territory. People adjust and mostly support the brand that currently rules the territory. They can cast votes have some influence on things but voting “incorrectly“ has consequences. A mother quarrels with the father who isn’t as a loyal supporter of current brands as he should be. A pretty good story, but the background and especially the “voting” was left a bit unclear. ***+
Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust • Novelette by Christopher McKitterick
In the far future, members of a sort of ringworld-like civilization, who can control their sun, want to visit the homeworld of their ancestors, Earth. Their world is completely destroyed in an apparently unprovoked attack by extremely powerful Earth forces. All except one ship. The civilization of the “ringworld" was apparently very much based on honor, family, tradition, and duty (and first seems to be in much need of total destruction, if anything). Later, it turns out that the situation wasn’t as black and white as it seemed. The last ship has a mission: revenge. Not bad in spite of some exposition and some pretty iffy science. ***+
The 7 Most Massive Historical Mistakes in Gunmaster of the Carlords • Short story by Eric James Stone
A review of a book set in the very distant future which tells the story that happens at our time. The reviewer points out several severe errors the author has made (like confusing cows and cars) but makes several funny errors of his own. A short and funny story. ***½
The Ascension • Short story by Jerry Oltion
An alien ruler is preparing to eat a smart child who has studied different subjects extensively. The aliens regain the knowledge of persons they eat, and apparently, the eaten one retains something of itself inside the one who consumed it. The ruler interviews the child to find out if he is worthy of eating. It turns out that he is very smart and has some very convincing opinions and facts to tell the ruler. A very good story about a very logical alien race. ****-
Left Turn • Short story by Jay Parks
An office, a sort of innovating political lobbying/advertising group, gets on offer to prevent the success of automated cars by the asphalt lobby. They succeed. A fun little depressing tale. ***
Mixipox Learns to Drive • Novelette by Joyce Schmidt and Stanley Schmidt
Seems to continue an earlier story – apparently the one very confusing one, which itself felt like second or third part of something, which was published a year or two ago. An alien who lives underground working with US government to prevent other aliens (and apparently his own species, too) from destroying the Earth must learn to drive a car to meet another alien. As he doesn’t look very human there are some slight difficulties with that. The story is bit too long, not bad, but vastly better than the first, very confusing part. ***
Body Drift • Short story by Cynthia Ward
A boy meets a girl. But the boy isn’t a boy and girl isn’t a girl. They are something else: non-binary, post-human robot-android-computer constructs who meet briefly in cyberspace. More of a lecture on non-binarity and “humanity” of post-human constructs than a real story. **½

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