Analog September 2016 magazine cover from Goodreads

Magazine Review: Analog September 2016

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2016Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2016 by Trevor Quachri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First time subscriber, first issue of Analog I’ve read, and I loved everything in it!

Fiction

“Progress Report” by Ragnar Vajra follows the protagonist on an alien planet from their first conscience thoughts to increasing awareness and intelligence, as the mystery about how they came to be there and what they are meant to do unfolds. The technology involved in the protagonist’s rapid development is so interesting and it also serves as a unique tool for the writer to fill in backstory and build the world. The characters’ diction is a lot of fun and the diary-like telling over a span of several days is captivating.

“Detroit Hammersmith, Zero-Gravity Toilet Repairman (Retired)” by Suzanne Palmer brings the protagonist out of retirement to investigate failing toilets on a space station. What he finds leads to even bigger mysteries, and a role he wasn’t expecting to play in diplomatic talks being held on the station. This is a really fun story with great characters and aliens and a nice twist that amusingly bugs the hell out of Hammersmith.

“Deep Waters Call Out to What is Deeper Still” by Sarah Frost presents a different mystery: what goes on in the mind of a squid? The protagonist is a scientist and animal mind-whisperer at a facility that hooks up animal like swordfish to their own virtual heavens. The history and ethics of such a zoo aren’t really explored in this story, but the protagonist is a caring soul who goes out of zir way to make the transition for the animals as painless and fruitful as possible. The latest addition to the facility knows something is missing, and the protagonist must find out why the squid is so unhappy. There’s a parallel plot of friendship, perhaps more, that leads to an emotional mind-melding moment.

I see some other reviewers struggled with the pronouns in this piece. I particularly liked how the story is not about the protagonist’s gender identity, and that they simply refer to themselves with their preferred pronouns. I’m looking forward to more gender fluidity in my reading, without gender necessarily being the thrust of the plot. It’s just nice to see people from a variety of backgrounds with various identities participating in thought-provoking science fiction stories.

“Silhouettes” by Dave Creek includes the personal notes and science reports of an 87 year old exoplanet explorer who for reasons to be revealed didn’t bother to participate in rejuvenation technologies back on Earth. He’s alone and studying the reproductive cycles of aliens on planet Keleni, a planet of short days and fierce winds. As details about the exoplanet and its aliens are revealed, so are those about his past. Another great story in an issue full of wonderful world-building.

“Adventures in Family Bonding” by W. Michael Beachy has a breezy title and writing style that belie the really dark places and dystopian future this story eventually reveals. It starts out simple enough: grandma gets a call from her son, wondering if she can babysit her grandson for a week or two. Something’s not quite right about the relationship between mother and son, and things only get worse from there. The last image is terrifying, or maybe gratifying, depending on the reader.

“Dreams of the Rocket Men” by C. Stuart Hardwick recounts the youth of a boy caught up in his elderly neighbor’s interest in rockets, and though the science fiction is light and comes nearer to the end, the fiction leading there is wonderful and heart-breaking in turn. A very heartfelt story.

“Nesting Dolls” by Jacob A. Boyd feels very alien and strange as it follows two boys onboard a generational vessel making its way across the void between the Milky Way and another galaxy. The vessel and its layers are inventive, as are the layers of storytelling. This is a gripping tale, one that is also quite dark and even cruel.

Finally, I almost missed the short poem on page 74, “Paint It Black” by Bruce Boston. In fact, I didn’t miss it, but I didn’t know what it was until I reread the table of contents just now. It’s a very short poem. I would love to learn more about it.

Nonfiction

Trevor Quachri’s opening editorial “Captain America’s Bathroom” merges a little memoir with a survey of comic book superheroes and his maturing understanding of them, especially Captain America. There’s a nice parallel drawn between discrimination against transgender people and Captain America’s origins. Definitely a must-read.

Edward M. Lerner provides a quick primer in the first part of “A Mind of Its Own” about artificial intelligence. This is a good review of concepts we’ve been hearing a lot about in the field lately, and I was thankful for the summary. Looking forward to the second part!

My favorite essay in the issue is “Pluto’s Perplexing Polygons” by Richard A. Lovett. Lots of great details and speculation about processes in Sputnik Planum on Pluto determined from the first close-up images taken by New Horizons last year. There’s a quick summary of the mission, but the bulk of the essay is about models of the processes that form the polygons in Sputnik Planum, and what these models say about the youthfulness of this region. Pluto turned out to be beyond anyone’s expectations, and this essay does a great job capturing that wonder and making me impatient for a Pluto-Charon orbiter!

Don Sakers has a nice list of books to check out in “The Reference Library,” and spends some time surveying how science fiction and religion come together over time in various novels and short stories. It was fun reading about the first novel by Madeline Ashby titled Company Town because I was surprised to realize I knew the plot from a short story by her I read and enjoyed what seems like a long time ago. I’m going to have to check this one out.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), his Micro.blog (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).