Tag Archives: Isaac Asimov

Mag Review: Astounding (April, 1941)

Greetings all

Astounding April, 1941
Astounding April, 1941

This week I’m going to review Astounding, Vol. XXVII, No. 2 (April, 1941). You can find its complete table of contents here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57379.

Unlike last week, where the Spaceway had few recognizable names, this issue is filled with them. John W. Campbell was the editor and if you ever wondered how much Campbell actually did, take a look at his full ISFDB page: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?14.  Wow. He starts this issue off with a short essay pointing out the importance of sea-water sources in the future.

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov in 1944
Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov in 1944

Anyway, there will be a bunch you’ll recognize in this review, starting with the Feature Serial The Stolen Dormouse by L. Sprague de Camp. I probably don’t have to talk about him very much, as well-known as he is, but I do have to put up this picture from when he worked with Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov researching for the Philadelphia Navy Yard in World War II. What an amazing picture, and reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Inklings, though I suspect these three did not have anywhere as comfortable as The Eagle and Child to chat about their writing. On the other hand, they probably got to at least watch the building of the USS New Jersey (BB-62) and the USS Wisconsin (BB-64).

Before even reading the story, though, I had my nose rubbed in one of my weaknesses: taglines. “The Stolen Dormouse: Part One of a new serial concerning a stolen semi-corpse – an engineer in suspended animation touches off a war in a later-day feudalism!” (Astounding, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, p. 9).

You had me at “stolen semi-corpse.”

I really enjoyed the story, especially the way de Camp interwove 1940s business terminology with feudalism. As an SCA ceremonial geek, I found the passage where the hero, Horace Juniper-Hallett is elevated to the rank of businessman delightful. “I hereby present to you the gold-inlaid fountain pen and the brief case that are the insignia of your new status. Guard them with your life” (p. 12).

Getting to wallow in the history of science fiction and fantasy is one of the prime joys of this exercise, but The Stolen Dormouse highlights the greatest drawback. This is Part One of the story. I have no idea when, or even if, I’ll grab the volume with Part Two. At this point, the story ends with, “A snore answered her” (p. 32).

At least I have Reason by Isaac Asimov to console me. This story is a robot story, but before the Three Laws of Robotics, which were originally published in the story Runaround first publish in the Astounding of March, 1942. It involves a robot who refuses to believe that humans invented it or, in fact, that anything exists outside of its mile-diameter solar energy generation station, completely dismissing Gregory Donovan and Mike Powell’s protestations. Despite, QT’s religious obsession with the “Master,” the robot continues to perform his duties at a level far surpassing human abilities. In other words, even though his “reasoning” is based on false assumptions, he retains his ability to do the job so they leave him in place and in fact plan to program all future models in the same way.

What’s fun, of course, is that it’s clear that Asimov is working his way up to the Three Laws. In Runaround Donovan and Powell return, this time with the explicit use of the laws. But that’s another issue, which might be on the shelves behind. I don’t rightly now, though I will do September, 1941 one of these days, which includes Nightfall.

Anyway, next we move on to Theodore Sturgeon’s Microcosmic God.  I love this sentence, “He never opened his mouth without grabbing a stickful of question marks.” (p. 47). The character he’s talking about is a bio-chemist named Kidder who creates a microcosmic race called the Neoterics who are fantastically intelligent. Their life cycle is much faster than humans, meaning that problems that take scientists generations to solve are solved much quicker, as their generations are that much shorter.

Kidder is oblivious of power and money, except when that allows him to expand his laboratory. Of course, not everyone is oblivious and his banker finally decides to kill the golden goose. In the end, the Neoterics create an impenetrable shield for Kidder, another scientist named Johansen, and the Neoterics to live out their lives in peace.

It’s a fantastic story and is included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. Let’s see, three stories in and we have a fun serial, a prequel to the Three Laws of Robotics, and one of the best short stories in science fiction history. Talk about the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Next is Campbell’s column about what’s to come in the May, 1941 issue. The column talks about a story by Anson MacDonald called Solution Unsatisfactory. The story is about what happens if there’s a superweapon and what happens after that. In the story, all the solutions are unsatisfactory, but MacDonald goes through a number of them. “And MacDonald suggests that the weapon will come – and come in about three years. Personally, I’m most desperately afraid he’s absolutely correct. Now, remember this is April, 1941. Missed the prediction by a little more than a year, but is a fascinating question to someone who grew up during the Cold War.

Oh, and Anson MacDonald is one of Heinlein’s pseudonyms.

Anyway, we move on The Scrambler by Harry Walton. This story starts something like Moby Dick, in that a ship is trying to capture a living creature in space to help a man named Storm, who is searching for intelligent alien life. They succeed, though the captain is convinced it happened too easily. However, neither Storm nor the captain believe this could be the one until suddenly they find their personalities scrambled from man to man. They try to do roll call, but the personalities keep switching. Finally, they realize that Storm has actually had his personality switched with Comet the ship cat. The creature was testing the crew, and if they could realize Storm was in Comet’s body, learn from Storm that it was the creature’s doing while he was still a cat, they would all return to their rightful bodies.

So Storm has to endure the entire thing trying to get everyone to listen to him while as a cat. Oh, and it turns out that Comet had had a big night with a cat at the Martian fuel depot and was pregnant. A fun story, not a classic, but well worth reading.

Slacker’s Paradise by Malcolm Jameson is next. Another officer in the US Navy, he was forced out by cancer despite helping improve late World War II-era naval ordinance. He died in 1945 at the age of 53. It’s a damn shame, too, because Slacker’s Paradise is a great story.

Jameson uses his experience in the Navy and his knowledge of naval history to create something that would make a fantastic series of novels. This particular one draws on the surrender of the Austro-Hungarian battleships SMS Zrinyi and SMS Radetsky in 1918. The story is reminiscent of the Lieutenant Leary novels by David Drake. The only problem with Slacker’s Paradise is that it needs to be longer to draw out the tension.

Next is Not the First by A.E. van Vogt. In this story humans first break the light speed barrier, discovering that it shifts their perception of the universe they exist in. In so doing, it propels the ship at many thousands of times the speed of light. As it flies through the universe, their luck runs out and they find themselves sailing directly at a star so they try anything that comes to mind. In the end, they find a way to reverse time and send them back to where they were.

Right when the situation started with no change in the factors and for the “multi-billionth” time, the process begins again. Creepy. I like it.

Astronomer R.S. Richardson gives us our next article, Trepidation. While this is an excellent name for a short story, this is actually an article on trepidation in the astronomical sense.  I found this article confusing because the only theory of trepidation in an astronomical sense has been obsolete for centuries. This trepidation has to do with the speeding up and slowing down of astronomical bodies, as discovered by E.W. Brown. That led to questions of measuring time, including the difference between Universal Time and Terrestrial Time, and fluctuations of mass.

Back to fiction, we get Bird Walk by P. Schuyler Miller. This was an odd story to me. Basically, the birds of Venus include one that can tell when someone is lying, and the hero manipulates the thief of one of the, essentially, Crown Jewels of Venus into being within range.

But the story didn’t work for me. It could have, but I think it might have tried to do too much. The red herrings were too easy and the hints at strange powers by other Venusian animals not dealt with well enough. It could be a good story but much of what was in there was extraneous and the mystery too easily solved.

Next is another odd essay, The Homemade Gun of Jamrud by Willy Ley. It’s only one page about 2.75 inch hand-crafted gun made by a blacksmith in Jamrud. It was apparently more accurate than the official British Army ones. And that’s all there is to this.

Old Mr. Boston Apricot Nectar
Old Mr. Boston Apricot Nectar

The next short story is Mutineers by Karl van Rachen, which is actually a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard. This was a frustrating story for me, maybe because I was tired when I read it. It’s got a lot of moving parts and there’s too much exposition at the start. I got into it some when we got past the exposition into the action, but by that point I had lost my enthusiasm.

Doc Savage
Doc Savage

And it could have been a good story. Multiple mutinies and various different players are right up my alley. The hero wins by good tactics, awareness, and flat out bluffing. There’s a bit of a forced happy ending, which I hate, but it’s not awful. However, I just didn’t get into it.

Another possible reason are the great ads throughout this story. It’s at the end of the issue, so there are more ads and some are just wonderful from my perspective. Old Mr. Boston 70 proof Apricot Nectar as shown above from page 135? Maybe, but you might have me with the Wild Cherry version. There was also this Doc Savage ad on page 147.

But the piece de resistance was this wonderful Harley-Davidson ad. “See the 1941 models with their airplane styling, zooming power, rugged dependability and important mechanical improvements” (p. 145).

The most common advertisements in this issue, by the way, were ads to train you as a radio operator.

Anyway, at the end of Mutineers was an interesting postscript that I assume was written by Hubbard, as it doesn’t have any other name attributed to it. It’s a very short essay entitled Two Plus Two Equals 100. Obviously, it explains the binomial number system and points out that it is useful for “electrical calculating machines.” (p. 154) As someone writing on a fairly up-to-date computer and looking at my cell phone, I enjoyed this quote: “The resultant machine is bulky, but simple and positive in action” (p. 154). You don’t say?

Now we’ve gotten down to Brass Tacks, the letter’s to the editor section of Astounding. Several of this issue’s letters discussed a new rating system put into place by Campbell. In these Slan by Van Vogt gets a lot of approval. There’s also an announcement for the formation of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society, whose monthly meetings were held at the home of Clifford D. Simak, its director.

Another laments that Campbell could not come to the Chicago SF Convention because, “I’d hoped to see you and Doc Smith exchange diverse comment as of yore – remember the days of your glorious feud over the alleged – who did win those battles? – chemical vagaries in ‘Skylark of Space'” (p. 159). That would have indeed been fun to watch.

Then there’s a section of letters relating to hard science. The first discussed some new, higher resolution images from Mars showing conclusively the canals. The next one starts, “From the results the R.A.F. have been obtaining with their electrical enemy-airplane detectors, it looks as though spaceships when, as and if, won’t have to worry about developing meteor-detecting devices” (p. 163-4). Then it goes on to explain in some detail how radar works and how it blunted the Luftwaffe’s attacks in the Battle of Britain. Nothing new to us, but fantastic to see it from someone to whom it was new.

Well, I think that’s it from this issue. Clearly since I’m only two issues in, it’s a little silly to say this was my favorite issue. I’m sure I’ll find others, like perhaps the Astounding with Nightfall when I get to it. However, this was a brilliant example of the SF magazine concept. Great stories, writers who would become legendary, good scientific discussions, and good artwork.

Speaking of which, I suppose I should talk more about the art, but I got too much into the stories. Maybe next time. Speaking of which, I grabbed Fantastic Universe Vol. 3, No. 2 from March 1955. It’s table of contents is here: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89712.


If you have any comments, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Interview: Tom Tinney

This week’s interview is with Tom Tinney. Tinney writes in a broad spectrum of genres and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist for the Best Horror Novel with Blood of Invidia. You’ll see in the interview just how diverse that spectrum is.

Interview: Tom Tinney

What is your quest?

Tom Tinney Portrait
Tom Tinney Portrait

I have two goals. One is to achieve produce a body of work so exciting that my fan following lets me pursue writing full time. My writing is REALLY diverse. I like reading SciFi (Adventure, Space Opera, Cyberpunk, Dystopian, etc) and Fantasy (High and Urban). At the same time, I like writing in all of those sub-genres. Turns out I can switch writing-modes with relative ease.  In the long run, I probably won’t appeal to the genre purists, but I will appeal to others like me that have a variety of genres they like.

The second goal is to keep shepherding my son, and co-author Morgen Batten, along so that his writing career takes off. The purpose of our first book together is to produce enough royalties that He and I get to meet for the first time.

Blood of Invidia Cover
Blood of Invidia Cover

Never met my son? Nope. Not in person. He and I are proof it’s about genetics and not environment. He is me. Same attitude, quick mouth, and smart. He also likes fantasy and SciFi. He’d probably be a biker, like me, if he lived here in the U.S.A. Once we started talking (and texting) we found out about our mutual loves for the genres. Funny side story, and how Jim Butcher played in our relationship building.

Morgen and I were messaging about favorite authors. I tell him that Jim Butcher is excellent, and he needs to check him out.

A few weeks later, he messages me that he LOVES the Butcher books. I get excited and text back about Harry Dresden and Murphy and the urban fantasy angle.

He messages back “Who the hell is Harry? The kid’s name is Tavi and it’s like Roman times with elementals.”

“WTF? What are you reading? I said Jim Butcher. As in Dresden files.”

“I’m reading Jim Butcher. As in Alera Codex. Who’s Dresden?”

After some back and forth, I go buy “Furies of Calderon” and he buys “Storm Front”. We were both right.

He and I both read Feist, Tolkien, and now love Butcher. He talked me into reading Wheel of Time by Jordan. NOBODY gets to gripe about my info dumps after that. My Scifi Influences were Herbert, Asimov, Gibson, Williams, Drake, Niven, and Bradbury. Later on, I came into David Weber, John Ringo, Larry Correia and Nick Coles. All good. All influential.

Soldier 10.0 Cover
Soldier 10.0 Cover

What is your favorite color?

Dialogue. Once you can get that right, the rest just flows. I blow through flowery descriptions. I think authors get to caught up in them. Going for that “Literary award” with every word and sentence. I like a real conversation. One where I feel I am sitting between the characters while they converse. I like to be pulled in. That is how I write my conversations as well.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Self-Published marketing is the toughest thing to do. The writing comes naturally and has improved in a short time-frame. I can now make my own book covers and poster art in 3D modelling programs, so another talent found. The process of formatting and manipulating the technologies that allow me to produce a quality printed or epub book (Along with hiring professionals when I want more polish) is straight ahead, as well. But the marketing takes the most time and creates the largest stumbling blocks. It is also the costliest when a mistake or miscalculation is made. Following trends, or listening to “Gurus and money grabbers” Spew their nonsense has drained a LOT of indie pocketbooks while preying on their dreams. It takes awhile for us, but we learn to ask a LOT of questions and demand empirical evidence of the snake-oil salesmen’s results before we spend a dime.

Resprite Cover
Resprite Cover

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

Brain worms. My talent and the bane of my existence. Once an idea gets planted, the back of my brain grinds on it, twists it, stretches it and flushes out the story possibilities. Then BAM…I start writing. I can scream along for days or weeks (Wrote my first 185,000 word novel in 6 weeks). I have learned NOT to edit while writing. Just freakin’ type. Let it flow. Go back later and tweak. Much later.

I have also learned to avoid conversations with people that start “You write? I have a story idea…” Nope.  My response, as I hold up my hand, “Gotta stop you. I’d suggest you take some time and really hit the keys. Write that bad boy yourself. If it’s a good idea, you should profit from it.”

I’m also really good with the 3D programs (I use Poser11) to create covers. To the point I made an animated book promo. It’s a brilliant release, watching a character you’ve written come to life in 3D, then posing, lighting and rendering a scene from a story or book. Technology in creative tools has come a long way.

Resprite II Cover
Resprite II Cover

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. Come-on…he’s awesome.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Was the Steelers, but being a Veteran, I gave up on NFL.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake. If Pie had frosting, then pie would pull ahead.
  • Lime or Lemon? Neither unless we are making some sort of goofy new organic battery.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacamole. Goes with any chip and meal.
  • Wet or Dry? Dry. I’m a desert rat at heart and I ride motorcycles, so DRY is always better.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Allen Stone (https://youtu.be/2G29lvYkSjY)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Whiskey.  ‘MERICA! Favorite drink is JD and Amaretto. Over Ice. A shot of each. No other fillers. NUM-NUM!
  • Favorite Superhero? Thor. Ever since I was a little kid. Silver-age comics guy. “Have at Theeee!”
  • Steak Temperature?  Medium Rare. Any more well done, you should just eat hamburgers and not embarrass yourself.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Tie. Night Rider and Battlestar.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer. Hotter the better.
  • Favorite Pet?  My Boston Terriers. All of them over time. The best Dogs EVER!
  • Best Game Ever? RPG: D&D. PC: X-Wing Fighter. Console: Assassin’s Creed.
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee. And it it takes you more than three syllables to order it, you should be slapped.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? FantaSci. Deal with it.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

If they made Adult Underoos, would you wear Superhero, Star Wars, or Disney character?

Rob’s Answer: I don’t get to wear more than one? Then I wear Han Solo underwear every day. And before you ask, Han Shot First, dammit!!!

If I can wear a few others, I would go with Robin Hood, still my favorite Disney movie, though you might get me to wear Baloo from the Jungle Book occasionally.

As for Superheros, I really never read a ton of comic books growing up. My favorites of the current Marvel heroes are Groot and Rocket Raccoon. Deadpool is fun, too. I also have to say I really like how they did Captain America. Much stronger character than I remembered, but then I didn’t know much about him to begin with.

Threads Cover
Threads Cover

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Libertycon next year. Riding all over Wisconsin and Illinois on my bike. Online other than that.

Do you have a creator biography?

Who is Tom “PiR8” Tinney? He is the published author of numerous Science Fiction, Flash Fiction, FantaSci and Biker stories. Yes…a Biker-nerd.

His time in the service (USAF), and riding with two-wheeled ne’er-do-wells, has left enough skeletons in his closet to crush a small car. His political slant, biker attitude/lifestyle and previous experience editing a motorcycle magazine, along with homegrown writing skills, have led him to produce and contribute numerous novels, stories and articles into various genres (Science Fiction, FantaSci, Biker, Detective and technical).

Blood of Invidia With Authors
Blood of Invidia With Authors

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not? 

Can Bikers be nerds? Yep. There are a bunch of us. Tattoos, brawls, drinking, and hitting the open road, followed by binge-watching  the Expanse, Lord of the Rings and Marvel Movies (Sorry, DC, you only make good animated movies). My “bucket list” has one line where I DM the largest game of D&D ever held at Sturgis. I kid you not.

Rob’s Note: I’d suggest a game that was less dungeon crawls and more cavalry and centaurs across the steppes 🙂


Thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Rob’s Update: Kairoi

Week of 7-13 May

Greetings all

What’s a kairos? It’s a Greek word meaning a moment of indeterminate time where something significant happens. You can find more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos.

So, what significant things happened this week? Well, I discovered the word kairos and its plural (kairoi). I had been casting around how best to explain the Lore Stream of Magic in my world. I originally started by using the word filament, and explaining the a clikurios (lore magician) manipulated and entwined filaments to serve their purpose.

However, I never liked that word. It never quite fit, plus it was too much like using “tendrils” to describe Love Magic. I want each type of magic in Shijuren to be different, not just in effects but processes.

Anyway, I love the word kairos. I had always envisioned Lore Magic essentially stacking butterfly effects in sequences that create a greater likelihood of a lore magician’s desired result. Tricky, subtle stuff. This type of magic was inspired by a combination of Hari Seldon from Asimov’s Foundation series and Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf, for example, rarely does obvious magic but always seems to be at *the* right place at *the* right time. Hari Seldon, of course, used psychohistory to manipulate outcomes over thousands of years.

Butterfly effects rely on moments, so a filament is simply not the right way to describe them. However, a kairoi sequence works perfect from my perspective. I know I probably use too many odd words, but magic is supposed to include all sorts of words like abracadabra. I just take mine from Greek, Old English, Russian, Hindi, or whatever seems interesting at the moment.

Kairos is just one of the many things I have added to the wiki (www.shijuren.org) over the past week. In fact, all the new people, places, and words used in Where Now the Rider are on the wiki. I have editing to do but it’s not out of the possibility that it goes live next week.

It’s the final steps in the process time.

But wait, there’s more. It’s been a very good week. I’ve started work on a project that I will discuss later, when it’s closer to being done. And there’s a couple of wiki posts where I talk about my writing philosophies.

This weekend I am looking forward to rejoining the Write Pack Radio podcast. We’ll be recording on Sunday and I’ll let everyone know when those episodes are going live. I’ll probably blog discussing that process on Monday.

Oh, and I’ve made progress on a couple of new events to attend. It’s amazing how much of the details here and there I get done when I stay home for a weekend.

Quote of the Week

I love the Foundation series, not simply because it serves a basis for my magic system, but as one of the most intriguing series ever in science fiction. I wish I could have met Asimov. I think he and I would have loved discussing my magic system.

  • “The psychohistoric trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many people must be concerned, or if the number of people be relatively small, enormous time for change must be allowed.”
    ― Isaac Asimov, Foundation

News and Works in Progress

  • Where Now the Rider in final editing stages
  • Brief Is My Flame in initial throw words at the page stage
  • A seeeeekrit project

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is overdue. I had meant to point this one out much earlier. Dorothy Grant has spent a great deal of time helping her husband, Peter Grant, put out both military science fiction and westerns. In February, she published her first. Check it out at: https://www.amazon.com/Dorothy-Grant/e/B06VTKQKD5/ref=ntt_aut_sim_3_2.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works
  • A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
  • The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
  • Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3) Forthcoming 2017
  • I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
  • Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
  • None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org