We continue this series of interviews with another finalist, C.M. DeMott. Many of you will get to meet her at FantaSci. More of you might know her as Morgan Wolfsinger in the SCA, a renowned bard and storyteller.
Why are you here? This includes influences, favorite creators, steps along the way, and dreams down the road.
I am influenced primarily by JRR Tolkein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Rudyard Kipling, Susan Cooper and Rosemary Sutcliff. Also, Peter S. Beagle, Manly Wade Wellman, Neil Gaimon, and Charles DeLint.
I decided to write because stories are a door into a different place. A way to meet new friends and challenges, where you control the outcome. I choose to create because the stories inside me want out.
My goal is to get a series of novels I wrote published.
Describe your great Lab of Creation? This includes where you work, what do you listen to (if anything), things you have to have in your work environment, and stuff you’ve tried that haven’t worked.
I work in my tower. Yes, really. My office is in a tower. I’m surrounded by books, model horses, and my airbrushing stuff.
I usually listen to music, notably Heather Dale, Metallica, Evanescence, Nickleback, Jethro Tull.
I have to have a place where I can’t be easily interrupted.
What are your superpowers? This includes things you like your creations, specific techniques you do well, and some favorite successes.
I want magic, unicorns, dragons, music, and smart characters who can learn from what I throw at them in my creations.
I think I do best with writing poetry and setting a scene.
What are specific techniques you do well? Poetry. Setting a scene.
My biggest successes so far are self-publishing 7 CDs of my own music and getting 2 short stories published.
What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you? This includes challenges you’ve faced that frustrated you, learning experiences, techniques for overcoming creative challenges, things you’d have done differently, and advice for new writers.
My biggest challenge is making time to write.
One of my most productive failures was a really horrible customized model horse. Gave me a better eye for perspective and anatomy.
Whenever I have a slow point, I switch to a more physical activity, like sculpting, or to writing music. Switching to a different character story line also helps.
The biggest thing I’d tell new creators is to keep trying. Analyze what you’re doing that isn’t working, and try to find a way around the road block. For myself, I wish I could go back and pay more attention to grammar and punctuation.
Favorite Muppet? Kermit, of course.
Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? (Ed. Note: I put this here to help us all find cool new things to listen to. She didn’t provide an answer here, so I will point out that she’s got 7 CDs available. Just sayin’)
Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Winter
Favorite Superhero? Dr. Strange
Best Game Ever? Circus Maximus
Favorite 1970s TV show? Dark Shadows
Do You Have Pets? (provide pictures if you want) 3 cats
Favorite Weird Color? Dappled silver black.
Favorite Historical Period? 450-550 CE British Isles.
Steak Temperature? Rare
Favorite Chip Dip? None
Beverage(s) of Choice? Black tea
Tell me again where we can find your stuff?
morganwolfsinger.bandcamp.com (currently working on an 8th CD)
C. M. DeMott is a small animal veterinarian living in southwest Virginia. Since discovering the Society for Creative Anachronism in 1976, she has been writing and performing original ballads based on legend, faery tales, and myths under the name Morgan Wolfsinger.
She currently has seven CDs out, and is working on an eighth. “Choices” in Talons and Talismans II was her first published story. “Fluffers” in The Keen Edge of Valor is her second. You can find her music at morganwolfsinger.bandcamp.com.
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Thanks to Cathy for hanging out, and I can’t wait to hear her play something at FantaSci.
I have to say, I’m really enjoying the new schedule so far. Doing the magazine reviews on Thursday or so meant I was reading the mags in the middle of the week, which is my most productive writing time. Now, they’re a weekend reading treat and writing the review is a nice Monday warmup for my writing.
Anyway, this week I’m reading the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957. This is another cover I wouldn’t mind seeing made into a poster. In general, I love the art in these mags, even though I know it’s usually not transcendent or legendary. It is, however, vibrant. I’m still the guy who was at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg ignoring a da Vinci because there was a table showing a seascape mosaic of lapis, malachite, and other semi-precious stones. Incredibly beautiful.
Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841
Derleth was a prolific writer in general. I didn’t realize until I looked at his Wikipedia entry just how much he’d written. I suspect I’ll have to track down some of his other things now. Anyway, he was a friend and correspondent of HP Lovecraft and continued the Cthulhu stories, despite some criticism from other correspondents of Lovecraft. If you’re a fan, you already know all that, but have you seen the picture of HP Lovecraft when he was about 9?
If you’re a fan, then you’ve also probably seen Seal of the Damned under the title Seal of R’lyeh. The story centers around Marius Phillips, who has always felt the call of the sea, despite his parents, who never let him go east of Ohio.
Then his eccentric uncle Sylvan died, leaving all he had to Marius. This included property in Innsmouth, Massachusetts on the coast of the sea. He finds that his uncle had “interesting” tastes in art and literature. He also finds that his family has been long connected to the Marshes, whose remaining member is the oddly attractive Ada.
He offers her a job as a housekeeper, which she accepts with a bit too much enthusiasm. He discovers her searching the house for something. Rather than confronting her, he too searches for the something, which turns out to be his uncle’s papers, journals, and notes, including “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” It also includes interesting details about an aquatic race. Humans, but ones who can live underwater and build cities like R’lyeh.
The call of the sea that Marius has felt all his life is all the more greater now that he’s at his uncle’s house. His uncle’s notes talk about investigating the sea all around the house, and when he discovers the secret passage his uncle took to reach the ocean he has no choice to explore.
He gets diving equipment and starts exploring, but he’s pulled by that desire to go to the sea far past its oxygen endurance. Just when he’s about to die, Ada swims up without any gear, rips off his helmet, and he discovers that they are descended from the aquatic race.
Now the pull shifts. He now wants to find the hidden city R’lyeh, as does Ada. According to his uncle’s notes, it’s near Ponape, and the two travel there. In the end, they find the lost city and are not seen above the ocean ever again.
I liked this story quite a bit, but it could have been improved. The high-quality building of tension in the early portion of the story sort of faded away into exposition at the end. Once he is saved from drowning, which was 20 pages leading up to that crisis, there are 3-4 pages of them spending weeks in Ponape and eventually disappearing. The story would have been stronger if it ended right after the crisis, leaving him wondering about what to do next, and not so casually glossing over the entire adventure to find the city.
Next is a really good story by Alan E. Nourse called The Native Soil. Side note, I can easily tell what others think about a story simply by looking at it’s ISFDB entry. Good stories are often reprinted, as was the case for both The Seal of the Damned and The Native Soil.
The NativeSoil uses one of those iconic SF pulp tropes. Iconic planet promises something of great value. Humans try to get that something, but for some reason, they’re not as successful as they ought to be. Troubleshooter is brought in, eventually identifies the problem and comes up with an elegant solution.
I love this trope, so I liked this story. We discover the surface of Venus is essentially mud, often many feet deep. There’s a type of that mud, however, that has an antibiotic especially useful for new medicines because it’s not creating resistant strains of diseases.
However, the pharmaceutical company trying to get that particular mud is finding it extremely difficult. There’s no way to do it all without the help of the Venusians, but they seem incredibly stupid. No matter how well things are described to them, they keep making mistakes that destroy equipment and halt production. They’re nice, happy, and try to be helpful, but they just aren’t smart enough.
That’s when the troubleshooter is brought in. At first, he keeps getting caught in the cycle of trying something and having it fail because the Venusians just can’t do their part. However, he also keeps remembering the intelligence test applied to the alien species soon after first contact. This test says they’re plenty intelligent enough, despite appearances.
He realizes they’re intelligent enough to sabotage their harvesting process. The special mud is, essentially, their food source. They eat antibiotics. His elegant solution is to trade penicillin, which isn’t as valuable as a medicine but still easily produced on Earth, for this mud, which the Venusians would harvest themselves to exchange.
I like elegant solutions of that sort.
The next story is The Machine by Robert Sheckley. This is a typical Sheckley story in that it has a good twist at the end, one somehow driven by the foibles of man.
The protagonist, Otto, a valued machinist for years, the kind of stolid employee that at the time would be expected to stay at a company all his life, comes in one day and quits. Not only does he quit, he tells the bosses exactly what he thinks of them, spits on the floor and leaves.
With that bridge burning nicely, he returns home. He is ready to build the “wishing machine” designed by his partner. It’s a machine that will essentially convert any mass, including air, into whatever is asked for. A philosopher’s stone that provides anything, not just gold. The partner told him the day previously that his design was complete, so Otto quits his machinist job to build the machine.
However, the partner wasn’t actually ready for that step. There’s still something wrong, a basic flaw in the design. However, the partner assures Otto he’ll have it ready in a few more months.
Otto’s heard that before, though, and he’s grown impatient. He feels the partner isn’t ever going to say the design is right and, even worse, would want to show other scientists what he’s created. So Otto kills him and makes the machine off the completed blueprints.
After many months of work, selling all he had for food, parts, and tools, then selling the unneeded tools, he manages to make the machine. At the end, he’s exhausted and hungry, but it’s done.
His first request is humble, a loaf of bread. Butter would be nice, but the bread would be just fine. However, the machine puts out pieces of metal, including gold. It’s a nuisance, but with gold he can go get bread… until the machine stops him.
The basic flaw is that it’s what the machine wishes for that matter, not the operator. And the machine wishes to be his sole owner, and last we see, he’s reaching for Otto. As I said, good story. Otto gets what he deserves, and we’re left with some curiosity of the fate of humanity.
Immediately after is a microstory. I have no better idea what to call it that that. It fits in about 2-3 inches at the bottom of the page and is uncredited. It asks one question. If you’re a robot and you must not harm a human, what would you do if you knew you were about to be replaced? Asimov’s first robot story is published in 1939, so this question wasn’t new, but it’s starkly phrased. What would you do?
The next story is A Candle for Katie by Lila Borison. As far as I can tell, this is the only thing she ever published, which is too bad. I found a reference to her in an article by Sam Moskowitz. In it he talks about the first science fiction class ever taught, which started in March of 1954. Moskowitz kept track of his students, and says of her, “Lila Borison, a receptionist who had been reading science fiction for five years and had written for her college newspaper. She was more interested in straight fantasy.” (Sam Moskowitz. “The First College-Level Course in Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 23, no. 3 (1996): 411-22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240549, 417).
A Candle for Katie tells of a harried mom who’s hosting the first birthday party for her daughter Katie. Among the gifts she receives is a candle, notched 21 times, with the instruction to light it each year on her birthday, stopping it at each notch.
A strange gift, perhaps, but I for one would find such a tradition a fun one. So, in the midst of the chaos created by a party that included more kids than expected, it comes time for the cake. The mom adds the candle, but Katie has had enough and it’s time for a nap. The mom takes care of that, then deals with a boy who had gotten a hold of a knife and cut himself, and other disasters.
With a sigh, she goes in to check on Katie and she finds a girl of about 5 or 6, but no sign of Katie. Then, the girl looks up and the mom recognizes her eyes. She had left the candle burning, and it was nearly to the fifth notch.
Cool and creepy, especially since Borison left it hanging right there. We are left to wonder about all the things of what happens next, especially since we never know who sends the candle. Excellent work. I do wish she’d kept writing.
I do also wish the next authors hadn’t kept writing. I’ll admit I glossed over the essay here, which is written by Alexander Mebane, Isabel L. Davis, and Ted Bloecher, the Civilian Saucer Intelligence. For 17 issues, they submitted a list of the various potential UFO sightings they could track down. I suspect I might have enjoyed these essays in 1957 as collections of quirky tidbits, but looking back over 60 years, these mostly bore me. Perfectly appropriate content for the magazine, but these essays didn’t age well.
John Healy, much like Lila Borison, only published the story in this issue. It’s called the Book of Goots, and while it’s not as strong as A Candle for Katie, it is a good story. It’s about a small-time hoodlum who comes across a book that purports to teach someone how to use magic. Not the simple prestidigitation of a showman, mind you, but real magic. Goots doesn’t figure he has much to lose, so he reads it.
About the only thing I know about Healy is in the small blurb ahead of that story, which says he was mind reader and mentalist. Obviously, this is a case of write what you know.
Anyway, Goots is your typical hood, but he’s making enough on the magic gig to essentially be straight. The cops don’t believe it, of course, and Detective O’Flahirty sends Abigail in undercover to find out just what racket Goots is working on.
He suggests she pose as his sister, whose husband has died, to get into one of Goots’s seances. He does this in part, because he’s in love with Abigail, and this makes her slightly closer to him.
But this backfires because Goots really can do magic, and the brother-in-law appears, naked of course, grumpy because he’s in the middle of quality time with an Egyptian girl named Cleo. He tells everyone there that Abigail isn’t his wife and to let me get back to what’s more important to him right now.
In the ensuing kerfluffle, Abigail and Goots eventually discover they’re in love with each other. In the end, they fly off on a flying carpet improvised from a hospital sheet. O’Flahirty, for his part, gets admitted into the asylum as he apparently thinks he’s a cop chasing after said flying carpet.
It’s a cute, whimsical story made all the more fun by Healy’s use of language. It’s filled with the sort of slang we imagine from a 40s-50s hood. It’s too bad this is the only Swami Goots story, because they had a lot of potential.
Backward Turn Backward by Dorothy H. Edgerly is next. She, too, didn’t write much, just two stories that I can find. These star Jeb Enders, a warlock living in Appalachia. His village is essentially all witches and warlocks, living on the mountains for centuries. Enders is a regular troublemaker, one who has been told by their council never to interfere with humans again, never to use his magic on the mountain again.
Now, the future has come in the form of a factory looking to build a plant in the valley beneath them. This would force the entire collection of witches and warlocks living on the mountains around it to move.
This proposal would greatly harm the mountain folk, but Enders can’t simply use magic to drive progress away. He begins by looking at the valley and starts asking why it is why it is. He starts going back in time and finds that it was a lake fed by a large waterfall. Now it’s a creek, with soggy land around it every spring, fed by a small waterfall. He hunts through time to discover that it used to be fed by a spring that got blocked by a boulder, turning the large waterfall into the small one and leaving the lake to go away.
With help to do the magic he isn’t allowed to do, he cleans the dirt around the boulder and then lifts it away from the spring. It begins to run as it did before, and soon the lake with return, meaning the factory has to be elsewhere.
It’s a good story and Jeb’s a fun character. It’s got a bit of Avatar in it, though, with stock factory boss bad guys. It’s definitely got that trope of nature being awesome and civilization being awful. However, while Avatar uses amazing visual effects to distract you from a wretched story, Edgerly writes a good story with a solid puzzle and challenge to overcome faced by characters you want to succeed.
We know the next author, though not by the name of Lee Correy. This was the pen name for G. Harry Stine and his Landing for Midge is the next story. A ship coming to earth has been hit by a microasteroid which has knocked out its landing radar. Not only will they have to have a manual landing, one of the passenger is Midge, a pregnant woman.
Stine was a rocket scientist and this clearly shows. He throws in appropriate technical jargon here and there, but more importantly, the main question to the this story is how free-fall would affect pregnancy and birth?
What a fascinating question to ask three months before Sputnik launched.
Anyway, at first, the landing control people at White Sands try to divert the ship to an orbit, there to await the transport of a new radar, allowing the computers to land the ship properly. Again, this is written before Sputnik launched, yet the bulk of the science in this story still feels right.
The manage to make it to land just before Midge, who is in labor, gives birth. They roll up to the landing spot where emergency personnel are waiting. They rush up to the ship.
First on, of course because of Midge, is the vet.
Cats, you see, are the only other terrestrial creature to take to free fall at all. In fact, many seem to love it. Ship crews definitely love having them along, and let Midge come along because she insisted.
She didn’t need any help, by the way. The vet finds her with three cute, healthy kittens, all born during the landing.
Currently, Chapman’s reputation is ruined because he was supposedly the researcher for a best-selling historical novel on pharoahs that doesn’t get most of the facts correct. The book is written by Eric Stromberg, who is a reclusive genius much like Elon Musk.
When he opens the tomb he finds the second of Khufu’s soul ships. And something else. He rushes back to Stromberg hastily, asking if he’ll write a sequel. Stromberg says he will.
At that point Chapman leaves. He realized then he could never show Stromberg the item he’d found in the sealed tomb. It was a Stromberg Electronics Temporal Traveler, and Stromberg was headed to his death.
We get another pen name next: C. Bird. It’s actually Harlan Ellison and the story is Song of Death. Again, a short, sharp story, this one the cover story.
There is a planet where mermaids live. People would pay a pretty penny if someone could bring a mermaid from the planet back to Earth, but though many had tried, all of them had died. Like the Sirens of the Odyssey, the mermaids can sing a song that lures all to death.
However, this adventurer believes he can see. He’s tried many get-rich-quick schemes before, but he’s sure that this time, this time he’ll get al the money he’ll ever need.
Oddly, he’s right. He manages to land without dying, though the landing wasn’t pleasant. He manages to coax a mermaid close, stun her, fill a hold with water, and bring her back.
He’s tone-deaf and their song doesn’t affect him. Such a Harlan Ellison ending.
Lloyd Arthur Eshbach is next with The Fuzzies. Eshbach, as you may know, was a fairly important person in the early days of SF. He published his first story in 1929. In the 1930s, he was the editor of a couple of magazines, and then in he founded Fantasy Press. The list of authors and books published by it is impressive. However, it went under in 1956, so about a year before this story at a time when he needed money.
Again, another good story. This one involves miners on Ganymede. There are crystals on Ganymede that the Fuzzies desperately want. The Fuzzies are telepathic little balls of fur who can work with humans. However, they can only work with likeable humans. No criminals, none who are violent, nothing like that. They leave humans who stop being likeable by committing suicide.
Which makes the hero, Herb, all the angrier. He and two others had filed conflicting claims on rights to some crystal fields. One had dropped out, saying he was satisfied. Herb and Swain, however, had ended up in a duel. The thing was, Herb realized in the middle of the duel that his gun had been emptied.
Now he was on the chase for Swain to give him what he had coming.
He finds Swain in his portable shelter with the help of his Fuzzy. Swain has no gun, Herb doesn’t feel right shooting him without a gun, so he tells Swain to fight. Swain tries, but immediately passes out. He had a broken leg and would like die without Herb’s help.
Which, of course, Herb does. He brings back Swain to Center City. Along the way, he discovers that Swain hadn’t been the one to remove the ammunition, but rather it had been the other guy in hopes of getting all of his disputed claim.
But Herb brings Swain to the hospital, then files his claim, one of the richest. He actually files a joint claim with both he and Swain. That’s when he finds out Swain had also filed a rich claim. Also joint. Also in both of their names.
In any case, the story was worth my anticipation. Fiddler on Titan is about the first expedition to Titan, Saturn’s “biggest and only habitable satellite” (120). Expedition A includes 14 men and women. They arrive to find out that one of them, Ham, has brought his family fiddle with him in contravention of the rules and ignoring the effects that its weight might have on the trip.
But they made it and find a plain with vegetation and a big lake. The set up as pioneers in sort of a Little House on the Prairie fashion awaiting Expedition B in something like 18 years. Fiddles and music were important to those pioneers, and even more so to these on Titan.
For Titan held alien life, intelligent life, in the form of amorphous blobs who could take just about any shape they wanted and create any tool they needed. Ham played his fiddle and realized that if he played songs that made him think of dancing, they’d dance, or leaving, they’d leave, or working, they’d work. The Titanians and these first humans became allies.
But space is not without dangers, especially human dangers, and a pirate band comes to call. They landed, watched Expedition A, and come to take over. They know that Ham playing the fiddle gets the Titanians to work, but they don’t quite know how. They tell Ham to play, which he does, but instead of a song he’d played before, he plays a war song. The Titanians connect to song and thought and shoot the pirates.
Man, how many good stories are in this issue. The only downer was the UFO essay, and that’s easily skipped over. This is a 9.5 and would have been a 10 with a good essay and one of my favorites.
It even has a fantastic ad on the back cover. It says “Take this Lunar Quiz and win a round-trip reservation to the Moon. Free!” It’s a fantastic ad for the Science Fiction book club.
Greetings all. This week I’m reviewing the Analog of July 1962. The cover story in this is John Brunner’sListen! The Stars! and I love the cover art designed for it. It includes a good essay by John W. Campbell and a work by James H. Schmitz. Side note, I’ve already reviewed the issue immediately after this one. You can find that review here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. This will be especially relevant since Mack Reynolds had a two-part story, with part one in this one and the second over there.
The first article in this episode is What’s Wrong With Science by John W. Campbell. This is a distressing article, as it details things that are currently wrong in the scientific process, which means those problems are at least nearly sixty years in the making. Basically, he says that scientists are hamstrung by the process, which forces them to come up with answers that often fit the existing models that most scientists accept. Given that new research often radically changes or even replaces existing models, this means that such new research isn’t even allowed to be tried, because if it succeeds, it means that all the previous investment was wrong. Now, it’s as if instead of religious reactionaries wanting to execute Galileo, established scientists would execute him.
Sadly, I fear that this problem is even worse now, given examples I have seen.
The cover story Listen! The Stars! by John Brunner was fantastic. We discover a gadget that lets us listen to electromagnetic energy from other stars. In general these noises are not intelligible but there’s enough of a hint of something more, like hearing alien languages, that people keep listening. They’re hoping that they can understand that half-heard word they’re so tantalizingly close to comprehending.
This causes a number of societal issues, because that hope acts much like a drug. Addicts and acolytes, thieves and thespians. Worse, however, are the unexplained disappearances that seemed to be caused by “stardropping,” or eavesdropping on stars.
Dan Cross is a member of the UN Special Agency tasked to discover threats to peace. Basically, they’re trying to prevent the US and Russia from tossing their nukes at each other. The stardropping craze has finally come to their attention and he’s delving through the possibilities.
However, he and his agency are too late. Others have actually comprehended the science within what they find stardropping, science based essentially Einstein’s spooky action at a distance idea. This leads to both teleportation and telekinesis.
In the end, those who have discovered the potential from stardropping have generally unified together across the world. When the crisis happens, they reveal themselves with the intent to start the very war that Cross is tasked to protect. However, with their use of teleportation and telekinesis, they are easily able to distribute the atoms and particles of all the nuclear warheads and biological/chemical agents into the vastnesses of interstellar space.
The hint is that this will free humanity from its parochial differences and chase the stars, which are now within reach from their teleportative abilities.
It’s idealistic message fiction, promising a utopia that seems impossible for humanity. However, it’s also a fantastic story, filled with action and suspense. It’s also got enough hard science that it seems plausible.
Next is their announcement of things to come in the next issue. I won’t relate it here, but instead give you that link to my review again: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579.
Then comes a single page on a scientific discussion of laser development by GE. As is often the case reading these magazines, it’s fascinating to read these sort of discussions. They provide a snapshot, in this case, of the development of lasers 57 years ago. I suspect anyone actually in the field, would find it very interesting.
Next is Junior Achievement by William Lee. I can’t find much about him. It is entirely possible that’s a pseudonym. One of his stories, A Message for Charity, was well-received. It has been republished a number of time and was turned into a Twilight Zone episode. However, very little else was published under this name.
Which is too bad. I rather enjoyed Junior Achievement, especially since at one time I was heavily involved in the organization. However, I didn’t have five geniuses to work with. In this case, they all come up with some new invention and the local science teacher, who is smart but not a genius, cannot quite keep up with them.
The only problem with this story is that it was more a narrative than a story. There wasn’t much of a buildup. No real crisis/climax. Instead, it went off at a rollicking pace of the kids involved making things happen and always succeeding. It was set in a town that had needed to be moved after some unexplained nuclear accident, so there’s some hint of genetic mutation, but not much, and that aspect only seems to be in the story to explain why the teacher is so poor. He has to pay two mortgages, one for the old house that’s in the fallout zone, and one for the new house. It’s an enjoyable story, but leaves you wanting more, like an ephemeral treat.
I was not disappointed. It starts with a scientist getting an alert. Then we discover he’s not just a scientist, but a member of a secret plot against humanity’s Federation involving 1200 people. These people are, in fact, aliens who were experts in genetics. They genetically raised these 1200 to be indistinguishable from humans. That would allow them to come into the Federation and create a bio-weapon that would devastate it, allowing their alien species to take over.
The scientist escapes with his three closest allies. At least, they think they escape. However, the Federation has set an elaborate trap for these 1200. They know them all because those 1200 have only 3 brain wave patterns, and are thus identified. Once captured, the 1200 are subjected to detailed scrutiny, most while they’re unconscious.
At this point, I was disappointed in the story. The initial start, with its evasion and capture, was really good, but immediately after that comes a disembodied voice explaining the plot. A series of exposition that would do Hercule Poirot proud, but in the context of a short story, takes too long.
But every once in a while, exposition can be the story, and this is the case here. Schmitz set us up to create espionage feel fighting the evil government bad guy, but the exposition reveals the truth at the very end.
The alien species was too successful. The beings it genetically created to be humans, were, in fact, human. None of the 1200 are actually going through with the bioweapon plan, instead doing something else that actually benefits humanity. The final line, which is spoken by the supposed government bad guy is fantastic: “You’ve regarded yourselves as human beings, and believed that your place among us. And we can only agree.”
It’s interesting how a really good writer can make something that shouldn’t work actually do so.
This is one of his essays about understanding the brain. There’s a lot in here that I don’t know enough to appreciate. It does talk about some of the imagined possibilities, which are not dissimilar to ideas talked about today. It’s fascinating in it’s own right that 57 years ago people were talking about implanted electrodes to increase communication between brains, tracking health status, and so on. Basically, he’s talking about implants here which even then promised “unexpected marvels and possible horrors.”
I actually skipped the next story Border, Breed Nor Birth by Mack Reynolds. I tried to read it, but I have already read Part II of this story. Worse, I really didn’t like the way the story ends. Again, you can find that in the review here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. It’s hard to connect with characters when you already know your not going to like the story, especially the ending. It was like watching a horror movie, knowing the kids are all going to do stupid stuff that makes it more likely the slasher’s going to get them. I don’t like watching them, either.
Anyway, I’m going to move on to the Analytical Library. I find this fascinating as it’s an attempt to objectively quantify what the readers want. It’s essentially much like a modern Amazon/Goodreads rating system. There’s also a bonus attached of an extra cent per word to the winning author, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
What I learned in this version of the AnalyticalLibrary is that I really need to read the March, 1962 issue. Poul Anderson’sEpilogue beat Randall Garrett’sHis Master’s Voice. I really like His Master’s Voice, so it’ll be fun to see the first version, but it’ll also be fun to read a story the readers thought was better.
And when I review that issue, I’ll talk about a number of interesting side notes involving Garrett and Anderson.
Anyway, next is The Rescuer by Arthur Porges. Porges was a prolific writer and a mathematician. i suspect my dad, who was a prolific reader and a mathematician, loved his stuff. I know I really liked this one. It’s very short, but also very powerful.
The story starts with a description of the greatest machine ever made, requiring multiple city blocks of space, fusion power, and computer power which might seem laughable now, but which was incredible then.
Then two scientists destroy it.
The story then turns to the preliminary hearing discussing the events that led to the destruction. In this, one of the scientists who destroyed the machine explained himself.
The machine was a time machine and one of the technicians involved in it commandeered the machine for his own purposes. However, he left a note, and the scientists, upon reading that note, decided that it was best to destroy the machine safely than allow the technician to succeed.
And this is where it gets thought-provoking. We’ve all wondered about changing the currents of time, but what if it changed so much more?
The technician is going back in time with a modern weapon and ammunition to prevent Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and execution. If Jesus had to die to save humans from their sins and that doesn’t happen, what next? Basically, it asks the question of all of us: Would you save Jesus of Nazareth? What would that do to all of history and to our souls? What a fascinating philosophical question and, as mentioned in the story, the kind of question we all have to answer for ourselves.
The last section, as usual in Analogs, is P. Schuyler Miller’s review section entitled The Reference Library. In this issue, he begins with a scathing discussion of the double-standard applied by publishing companies with respect to writers of SF and “literary” writers who happen to write an SF novel.
He nails something I talk about quite often at conventions. If you’re going to write in another genre you have to have read enough of the genre to understand the existing tropes and methods. In this case, the books in question didn’t get the hard science right, not even close to right. You also have to respect the genre, even if you’re writing a parody of it. Perhaps especially a parody, because if you despise it, your story comes out mean-spirited instead of humorous.
I have to say, this was a darn good issue. It rises in my mind because I didn’t actually read through the Reynolds story, of course, but there’s quite a bit here I’m pleased to have read.
Next week, I’ll read the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957. It has works by August Derleth, Manly Wade Wellman, and Robert Sheckley. Wellman is a familiar name to me not simply because of his speculative fiction, by the way, which I’ll explain next week.
Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841
Thanks for reading. I’m off to finish a short story for James L. Young.
If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: email@example.com.
I’m a little late posting this because I’ve been so busy over the past week, but better late than never.
This was the last Constellation, which is a shame because it was such a nice little con. There weren’t a ton of people there, but the quality of those that were there was impressive. The guests, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Orson Scott Card, David Drake, and Toni Weisskopf were great. The fans at the panels were generally interested and engaged, with some excellent questions. Also, since there weren’t so many people, we were able to interact with most of them multiple times. I love it when I can actually get to know some of the others there.
Most of my programming happened on Saturday, where I basically worked from 11am to 6pm. I love those kinds of schedules, even if they’re tiring.
My first panel was Combat in Science Fiction – Weapons and Strategy. I enjoyed this panel, though it was a little terrifying. To my right was Card. To my left was Drake. Uhhhhh…. Those two, of course, have a lot of great things to say. I managed to get a few good things in myself. One of the things that I think will be true in warfare, no matter in a fantasy universe, the real world, or in a science fiction future, is that logistics will shape how and where battles are fought. Only after I figure out what is scarce or what is required to fight, can I write combat.
After that panel, I had three straight hours at a table to sell my books. I sold a ew, but the better part of this time was spent chatting with Michael Allen, Rich Groller, and Stephanie Osborn. These are all really good authors and I like looking at their solutions to the things we all deal with, like for example the logistics of moving books around. Michael had a neat arrangement that let him move a tall bookcase around. I think, once I get my next woodshop, I can do something like what he did, only purpose built instead of adapting various things.
At 4pm I was in a panel about History in Science Fiction. Obviously, this is a perfect panel for me and I had a great time. We had a lot of great things to say, so much so that we went over.
This wouldn’t have been a problem except that my last panel of the day was immediately following. This panel covered blending genres and it was rough but fun. There were two of us on the panel, Allen and I. As I say, the history panel went long and he was also on that panel so we got started late. Plus, neither of us had planned to moderate so it took a bit to get rolling. However, this was probably the most fun of my panels. We played a game where I went around the room asking for favorite books, movies, things and then I would riff on a blended genre. Lots of improvisational fun.
I thought about going to bed early because I was tired, but ended up heading to the Moon Princess Party. I had a fantastic time and got to chat with a bunch of people. Really glad I went.
I was only involved in one panel on Sunday, and that was a roundtable discussion about endings. I learned a ton, but the most surreal moment was hearing Drake talk about listening to Manly Wade Wellman’s stories as Wellman was on his deathbed. The surreal part is that I had heard one of the stories before, related to Wellman’s time in Wichita and Kansas as a newspaperman, but I had never heard who it was that was involved. Weird how close we all are sometimes.
Constellation was also notable for being my mom’s first SF/F convention. She thought she’d be kind of bored, but ended up going to more panels than I did. Overall, take my mom to work day went very well.
It is a shame Constellation is ending. It was a great con, well run, with good guests and fans. Plus, the sequence of events on this trip are excellent, and I would have liked to have the option to do all three events again.