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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Analog, May/June 2019

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Analog, May/June 2019

The Methuselah Generationby Stanley Schmidt

Galenaby Liam Hogan
Cactus Seasonby Frank Smith
12:20 Bus from the Basicsby Wendy Nikel
A Former Planetary Ruler Speaksby Bruce McAllister
Full Metal Motherby Joe M. McDermott
The Three Laws of Social Roboticsby Mary E. Lowd
Mulliganby Bud Sparhawk
The Gates of Paradiseby Edward M. Lerner
Midway on the Waveby Phoebe Barton
The Orca Queenby Joshua Cole
Paradigm Shiftby Eric Cline
On Stony Groundby Cynthia Ward
Repairs at the Beijing West Space Elevatorby Alex Shvartsman
Welcome to Your Machines,By David Ebenbach
Painting the Massive Planetby Marissa Lingen
Bonehuntersby Harry Turtledove
Forgetfulnessby J.T. Sharrah
The Dominant Heart Begins to Raceby Dave Creek
Leave Your Iron at the Doorby Josh Pearce
At the Fallby Alex Nevala-Lee

Reviewed by Alex Granados

The May/June 2019 issue of Analog Science Fictions and Fact has 16 original short stories and five novelettes.

The Methuselah Generationby Stanley Schmidt

A dying woman is fulfilling her bucket list by traveling to places on Earth she hasnt visited before. However, in this near-future story aliens exist and visit Earth regularly, sometimes disguised as humans themselves.

On this latest trip to visit a swarm of monarch butterflies, her tour group is told that there may be an alien among them. She is intrigued, and all she can think about is discovering who this alien is. Eventually, she does. And she finds that the two of them have more in common than they think.

This is a sweet story that is a meditation on loss and inevitability. The writing is clear and engaging, but the ending is a little too pat.

Galenaby Liam Hogan

In the future, two scientists are exploring a planet outside our solar system that is in the Goldilocks Zone, meaning that the variables of the planet make it ideal for the possible formation of life. As they explore the planet, they are almost certain there should at least be basic lifeforms—not necessarily evolved to the level of humans.

The story is well written, but ultimately it left me flat. I kept waiting for a bigger revelation or conclusion, and I felt let down.

Cactus Seasonby Frank Smith

In this future, the cities of Earth are wastelands, and our protagonists are living in the desert to get away from the savagery of urban living. They survive by salvaging scraps from satellites falling out of orbit. The story follows a father and his daughter as theyre trying to survive. I enjoyed the idea that in this near future fallen satellites are ubiquitous and have become a source for livelihood, but I found the central conflict to be bland.

12:20 Bus from the Basicsby Wendy Nikel

This story is in a near future where people get a guaranteed minimum income when they come of age. The story follows a young woman who has just received her first government payment and, rather than blowing it all on a good time like her friends, has decided to use it as a down payment on a new life. On her way out of town, however, something happens that leaves her with a choice to embrace her humanity or her hopes for the future. Good story and cool premise. I particularly like stories where the futurenessis nothing but a backdrop for ages-old human issues and concerns.

A Former Planetary Ruler Speaksby Bruce McAllister

Out in the greater universe, it is the birthright of certain people to be given an entire planet to rule. The protagonist of this story gets one with giant elephant-like creatures. As he embarks on his rulership, an incident happens that makes him pause to consider whether he is worthy of being in charge of an entire separate species. An interesting exploration of what really separates us, but ultimately I would have liked a more thorough exploration of the issue than is presented in this story.

Full Metal Motherby Joe M. McDermott

This one is probably not too far off from being a reality in our world. It is about a boy and his mother, who is dying of pancreatic cancer and is slowly having body parts and organs replaced by machinery in an effort to stay alive. Her efforts to stave off death through bionic means mirror well the dilemma of real-world people faced with pushing off the inevitable through medical advancement. Through the son, the story also explores what is actually important by having him consider whether there is anything that trumps taking care of his mom in her last days.

The Three Laws of Social Roboticsby Mary E. Lowd

I really liked this one. It is a story told through the perspective of an Artificial Intelligence turned on for the first time. The reader follows the machine as it becomes aware of itself, the outside world, and starts to stretch its understanding of whats going on and what its capable of. I particularly like that this story avoids some of the typical clichés of such stories and ends on a relatively heart-warming, enthusiastic note.

Mulliganby Bud Sparhawk

The premise of this story was pretty ingenious. Two moon prospectors in the future are searching for the golf ball that astronaut Alan Shepard hit on the moon back in the day of the Apollo moon missions. With the passage of time, such things are worth some money, and one of the prospectors—down on his luck—could really use the payday. This story brings to mind old-fashioned tales of adventurers hunting for buried treasure, and I like the transfer of setting to the moon.

The Gates of Paradiseby Edward M. Lerner

A world colonized by humans a long time ago has fallen into a dark age due to genetic tampering in the populace. After a long time, the planets inhabitants clawed their way back from ignorance and have developed space travel about at the level the United States had in the 1960s. They send an astronaut to a dead ship in orbit—the vessel that brought life to the planet years and years ago. What starts as a journey of curiosity soon becomes a mission with critical implications. A great story you wont want to tear yourself from.

Midway on the Waveby Phoebe Barton

Set on Titan, a moon of Saturn, this is a story of human cruelty and compassion. In the not-so-distant past, a spaceship from Earth blew up Xanadu, one of the main cities on the moon. The main character in the story was one of those who came on scene and helped in the aftermath to rescue survivors. She is scarred by the incident, but as the story progresses, forgiveness sets the stage for her to move on with her life. An enjoyable story that captures a dynamic that has, no doubt, happened again and again on our own planet.

The Orca Queenby Joshua Cole

This is an honest-to-goodness space pirate story. Whats not to like? The Orca Queen is a technologically enhanced woman with a band of misfits who take what they want and rule through fear and reputation. But when she is faced with a ship bearing news of her past, we find that there is more to the Orca Queen than first appeared. The story seems to be heading down a completely different track before the Orca Queen asserts herself and shows why she is so well suited to her calling.

Paradigm Shiftby Eric Cline

This story didnt feel like a science fiction story, but it ended up being one of my favorites of the issue. A World War II sniper fallen on hard times has his talent enlisted by a mobster for a task that leaves his stomach unsettled. Set in our real history, the story takes a dramatic turn when the USSR launches Sputnik, terrifying much of America but setting our protagonists imagination free. This is a story about why scientific discovery is important not just for its real-world implications, but also because of how it changes the way we think about ourselves and the world.

On Stony Groundby Cynthia Ward

This is set in an alternate history—around the time of Jesus—where steam engines and rail travel have caused dramatic shifts in the past as currently written. Its told from the perspective of one of the ruling elites on the day that a train is being unveiled. He and his fellows encounter a preacher who sounds an awful lot like the biblical son of God, and we see how even in an altered past, Jesus may have still seemed a threat to the world order. A pleasant enough story, but one that left me shrugging.

Repairs at the Beijing West Space Elevatorby Alex Shvartsman

This is a straightforward story about a man who repairs space elevators for a living. He is called in to repair the elevator that services China and southeast Asia. When he arrives, he discovers that he isnt really being called in for his technical know how, but so the operators of the elevator can resolve a tricky cultural issue. In the process, the man—who feels disconnected from his fellow humans—finds a way to reconnect. I liked this story, particularly how it eschews the technological tension of many science-fiction stories in favor of a more nuanced, human tale.

Welcome to Your Machines,by David Ebenbach

I strongly disliked this story, but not because it is poorly written or doesnt have an interesting premise. I think its just not my thing.

Its an imaginary instruction manual for the machines that will be used by someone settling on Mars. Done in a different way, I think it could have been funny, but as it is, I was bored. Too dry. And just a little too much like an actual instruction manual.

Painting the Massive Planetby Marissa Lingen

An art exhibit seeks to capture the majesty of Jupiter from artists living on a colony on one of the planets moons, this story is about the impossibility of actually capturing the reality of the giant gas planet, and how multiple perspectives can give an audience an inkling of what seems indescribable. At first I wasnt sure what to make of this story, but its one of those rare ones that is saved and redefined by its ending.

Bonehuntersby Harry Turtledove

This is a story that I really didnt want to like. It has the kind of premise that usually makes me stop reading. Its set on a world that might be the future or might just be an alternate past. Humans dont exist, but there are intelligent creatures that appear to have evolved from birds. They are born of eggs. Its about a man and his adopted son. The man is from one race and the son from another, having been rescued when young by the man.

This is a story that seems to hearken back to Americas past in the old west, with tensions between settlers and Native Americans echoed in the story through the interaction between the more modern culture and what they call natives.The story follows an archaeological expedition searching for the evolutionary history of their species through fossils. In the process, the story explores the conflict between native cultures and that of the invaders, as well as questions of evolution, God, and the origin of the modern world.

Like I said, I didnt want to like it, and I did keep waiting for some greater revelation, but ultimately the characters and the down-to-earth plot won me over.

Forgetfulnessby J.T. Sharrah

A group of astronauts travels into deep space and, because of the time dilation and the long amount of time theyve been gone, come back to Earth expecting everyone they knew and loved to be dead. Instead, they find that in their absence a drug was invented that extends life indefinitely. They also find out, much to their annoyance, that Earth has almost forgotten about them and has no interest in what they were doing or what theyve learned.

The story takes a turn when the astronauts discover that the new miracle drug has side effects that they find difficult to accept. Well written and engaging, the story makes you wonder about what trade-offs people would accept in order to avoid death.

The Dominant Heart Begins to Raceby Dave Creek

A species from a destroyed planet searches the cosmos for a new home. They come upon a promising system, and the main character awakens a companion to help her explore the possibility of the new world.

Unfortunately, each awakening for the slumbering spacefarers decreases their health, and the protagonist soon wonders if he made a mistake in waking another. This is a story of love and loss, hope and sacrifice. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and in the end its a beautiful story.

Leave Your Iron at the Doorby Josh Pearce

An old-west story transplanted to a future where a biomechanically-enhanced gunslinger pursues a future mobster who stole her true love. It has worm holes, nuclear explosions, and all the futuristic gunfight at the OK Corral-type action you could want. But I find the writing to be overly stylized and confusing, and ultimately this story wasnt for me. I mostly dont care for other genres being mixed with an SF setting.

At the Fallby Alex Nevala-Lee

Octopus-like robots are sent into the ocean to study thermal vents, possibly because the vents could be a source of energy for humans, but also in an effort to categorize the life living there so that they wont be destroyed by greedy corporations.

Told from the perspective of one of the robot creatures, the story follows the adventure of these explorers when their human handler disappears and they are forced, for the first time in their lives, to make their own decisions about what is the best thing to do.

A good story that takes what seemed like it could be an off-world setting or futuristic plot and plants it in a situation that is all too familiar in our modern world.

While there are no stories in here I would characterize as bad, the novelettes lose out to the short stories in this issue. Sometimes less is more.


Alex Granados is a journalist living in Raleigh, NC.