Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, December 24, 2020

FORGOTTEN BOOK: ANALOG ANNUAL

 Analog Annual edited by Ben Bova (1976)


Ben Bova assumed the editorship of Analog magazine in 1972, following the death of John W. Campbell.  Campbell had published eight volumes of stories from the magazine (titled Analog 1. Analog 2, and so one, 1961-1971), as well as a large anthology of stories from Analog's precursor, The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology (1952) and an anthology marking the transition from Astounding to Analog, Prolog to Analog (1962)[There was also a facsimile edition of the July 1939 issue of the Campbell-edited Astounding that was released in 1981 by Southern Illinois University Press.)  Nova continued Campbell's series by editing Analog 9 in 1973.  And that was it until three years later.

Once upon a time fiction magazines were big business, drawing readers mainly from the middle and lower classes who were looking for a way to relax after the workday.  Along came television, which surplanted the pulp magazines appeal for many.  Magazines began to drop like flies.  Then the paperback boom came and the magazines were once again hit hard.  By the 1970s there were few fiction magazines left, and most new titles died a quick death.  For the science fiction and mystery magazines, readership plummeted.  What is a science fiction editor to do?

Most readers got their fiction from books.  Many may not have realized that fiction magazines existed.  Bova decided to publish what was in essence a 13th monthly issue of Astounding, but in paperback format.  Analog Annual presented the same type of reading you might find in a typical issue of the magazine (minus, of course, a number of regular features, such as a letter column, the AnLab, and In Times to Come...).  Analog Annual featured authors one had come to expect from the monthly magazine:  P. J. Plauger, Dean Ing, Spider Robinson, George R. R. Martin, and John Gribbin.  There was a full-length novel, three short stories, and a fact article.

The contents:

  • P. J. Plauger, Fighting Madness.  A full-length novel  by the winner of the 1995 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  A future where private enterprise, embodied by the ASPERA corporation, has taken over space exploration from the government.  ASPERA runs a not-quite completed space station and a research facility on the moon.  Hahnemann is a highly respected physicist who had a quite public breakdown a year and a half ago.  His fragile psyche had been rescued by psychiatrist Dr. Rheim and now he is looking for a second chance -- which is what ASPERA advertises.  He applies and gets a job on the space station.  It is mainly grunt work but Hahnemann flourishes, as do others.  Everyone on the station works harder than normal, and they all get a one-hour "social time" which most of personnel take advantage of.  The air on the station is filtered by Davisson horns and the one in the area of the social hour often needs changing; which means that every Davisson horn on the station should be replaced at the same time.  When it comes Hahnemann's turn to replace the horns, he notices something strange -- only one horn needs replacing; none of the others do.  Why?  His curiosity leads to his being kidnapped and coming across a plot to plunge the world into war.  He soon finds himself wanted for multiple murder with little chance to escape.  But, as both Astounding and Analog have taught us, never underestimate the competent man.  Plauger, a very capable writer, published only nine stories and one two-part serial from 1973 to 1981.  He published one further story in 2003 and has one unpublished story that has been slated to appear in Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions since forever.
  • Dean Ing, "Malf."  a near-future story about large super-powerful machines designed to take down and strip giant trees.  Think giant tanks with legs and buzzsaws and crane-like lifting capabilities.  These machines will significantly cahnge the logging indistry.  Two of these "Magnum" prototypes have been completed.  Number 6 is operated by Keith Ames, who helped refine the design; the other, Number 7, is operated by George Infante, an instinctual operator who can do wonders with his machine.  Infante refuses to drive Number 6 because it is, he feels, a "malf," a malfunctioning machine, although in what way it is a malf he can't explain.  Infante steals his Magnum and uses it to steal a payroll at a nearby mill.  Infante escapes with the money and the prototype, leaving a guard dead.  If used in the wrong hands, the Magnum could wreak havoc.  And Infante's hands are certainly the wrong ones.  It turns out he is a hitman for a Mafia-related organization.  It's up to Keith and his "malf" to try to stop Infante and Number 7 before more people are slaughtered.  Ing, who recently died this June at 89, is the author of a number of popular "hard" science fiction tales and had completed five novels science fiction novels -- and edited two more -- by Mack Reynolds (himself a very popular Astounding/Analog author of stories with an action/poitical/economic bent).  "Malf" was included in two of Ing's story collections, High Tension (1982) and Firefight 2000 (1987).
  • Spider Robinson, "Half an Oaf."  A typical humorous story by Robinson about Spud, who was playing pool in the living while his mother was out, and the half a fat man (the upper half, of course) who suddenly appeared before him.  Robinson was co-winner (with Lisa Tuttle of the 1974 John W. Campbell Award.  He is one of those writers who could be either very funny (as with his "club tales" about Cllahan's Saloon) or very lyrical (as with his 1978 Hugo and Nebula-winning story (with Jeanne Robinson) "Stardance."  Robinson also won a 1977 Hugo for "By Any Other Name" and a 1983 Hugo for "Melancholy Elephants."  He won the Locus Poll in 1977 for Best Critic.  In 2006. he expanded an 8-page outline by Robert A. Heinlein into a "posthumous"  novel with Heinlein, Variable Star."Half an Oaf" has been reprinted in three of Robinson's collections:  Antinomy (1976), Melancholy Elephants (1984), and By Any Other Name (2001)
  • George R. R. Martin, "The Tower of Ashes."  Before his seemingly never-ending series A Song of Fire and Ice (filmed as Game of Thrones), Martin had already established himself as one of the best new talents in the science fiction/fantasy field.  Johnny Bowen had been living with his girlfriend for four years on a populated island on a distant planter.  The world itself had a single, large, unexplored continent in which any number of unknown intelligent races might, just might, live.  When his girlfriend leaves him for another man, he moves to the edge of the continent with his eight-legged cat Squirrel.  There he lives in a decayed tower that may or may not have been built by another race, and he hunts deadly dream-0spiders for their poison sacs which he sells to an island dealer.  Then his ex-girlfriend and her new beau show up, hoping to talk him back to civilization.  The beau is a clod who believes there is nothing worthwhile on the large continent.  Johnny offer to take them on a brief walk through the forest near his home to show both of them that continent has many amazing things about it.  They come across a dream-spider web with a large male spider at its center.  The cloddish beau -- whose name, by the way, is Gerry (it figures) -- falls into the web and is trapped.  As the large spider moves toward its new victim, Johnny is about to shoot it when its smaller, faster, and deadlier mate drops down from the trees to attack him.  SPOILER: They all survive, although Johnny is wounded.  The couple go off, leaving Johnny among the ruins of his tower.  Martin, another John W. Campbell Award winner, has garnered six Hugo Awards thus far, as well as two Nebula Awards, an Ignotius award, six Locus Awards, a Balrog Award, a Daikon Award, a Gilgamesh Award, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Daedalus Award, as well as a passel of nominations.  Among his other books are a series of Wild Card anthologies ("mosaic novels," to use his term), 25 so far.  The World Fantasy Associationj gave him their 2002 Award for Life Achievement,
  • John Gribbin, "The Climatic Threat."  An article about the next possible ice age and the effects mankind has on the changing climate.  Somewhat out of date, but still interesting to read.  Although Gribbin has published science fiction, he is better known as a science popularizer.  The Jupiter Effect (1974) examines the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky.  Among his other nonfiction books are White Holes:  Cosmic Gushers in the Universe (1977), In Search of Schrodinger's Cat:  Quantum Physics and Reality (1984), The Omega Point:  The search for the Missing Mass and the Ultimate Fate of the Universe (1987), and (with Mary Gribbin) Almost Everyone's Guide to Science:  The Universe, Life, and Everything (1998).
There you it --if your interested in the state of science fiction, particularly Analog science fiction -- and don't want to be bothered with the actual magazine, this was the paperback for you.  and it's darned good reading, too.

For those of you who are wondering if there was an Analog Annual #2, sorry.  but Bova did edit Analog Yearbook, as well as the retrospective The Best of Analog, both in 1978.  Bova left Analog in 1978 to take over the fiction reins of Omni until 1982.  After that, he concentrated on his writing career, adding a dozen nonfiction books and some eighty novels and short story collections to his already prodigious output.  Sadly, Bova passed away last month.

No comments:

Post a Comment