Friday, October 14, 2011

Magazine Review #1 - Amazing Stories, May 1990


May 1990

In the field of Science Fiction Amazing Stories looms large.  It's been around since the 1920's.  Although it's no longer in publication today there are still loads of back issues floating around in used book stores and garage sales.  The copy I have is in near perfect condition.  The pages have yellowed but I don't think this copy has ever been read.

I decided to read this as a bit of a break from the last novel, which was ponderous to me.  So some short stories in the SF genre seemed the ticket to refresh my brain.

One of my favorite authors in the field is Kristine Kathryn Rusch and she has a story in this issue, which, I'm sure, is the reason I bought it.

Reading it also gives a glimpse as to where SF was 20 years ago, a bit of a time capsule really.

1- Giant, Giant Steps by Robert Frazier:  Not a bad story.  Set in Chicago during the Second Great Depression.  The story revolves around Marty and his friend Rita.  Marty works as a tele-soldier fighting a distant war via a computer connection to a "Stiff" a robot he controls.  To work the robot his consciousness is transferred directly to it therefore he still runs the risk of dying.

Music has all but vanished from society, when Marty leaves work he goes to his local bar where he and Rita spend time together. On the wall the bartender displays an old relic -  a Saxophone.

While on a mission Marty tries to save a platoon-mate.  A transfer of abilities occurs and Marty can now hear things like never before.  He can hear music in nearly every sound.

Back at the bar he picks up the Sax.

2- Computer Portrait by Jayge Carr:  Again: not a bad story.  This one also delves into differing realities.  An artist living in the loft of an abandoned building is tormented by his computer.  It watches him all the time and critiques his paintings while in progress; estimating and predicting the final product and just how much money he can expect to make from them.

His creativity is in jeopardy because of it.

He turns the computer off and starts to meet interesting and seemingly sinister people who move into the building.

We discover that his life is very much being controlled not by the computer but by the people behind it.

The computer is never really off.

3- The Animist by Bruce Boston:  I didn't read this story.  As soon as I was dealing with another "altered reality" story I gave up.  He lost me when the character was looking for his shoes and found one on top of his stereo.

Stories where reality is doubted I find tiring.

4- Pins by Joe Clifford Faust: This was a fun story!  Take a pinball machine and cross it with Fight Club and you'll have an idea of how this story feels.

Building on the human/machine interface that this issue seems to be about this story takes a fresh approach is very entertaining.  It has a noir, Blade Runner underground setting where a stranger is challenged to take on a pinball machine with an AI built into it.

Strange and fun.

5- Saint Willibald's Dragon by Esther M. Friesner:   I skipped this one too.  Science Fiction and Fantasy are often grouped together but, in my mind, they are very different genres.  My tastes don't run to fantasy and I'm always disappointed to find such a story in an SF magazine.

No offense to Ms. Friesner.

Fatal Disc Error by George Alec Effinger:  This was an interesting story.  What happens to an Artificial Intelligence when it dies?  Again this story goes in and out of all kinds of "realities" as the AI dies due to a fire where it's servers are kept.

A Time for Every Purpose by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:  The best story of this issue.  Rusch is one of my favorite authors.  She does loads of short fiction and she crosses from SF to Fantasy to Romance and Mystery.  I first read her SF short fiction but also found her mystery fiction to be first rate.  Her voice is fresh and her stories are always clear and believable.

This is a "time cop" story.  The main character is traveling through time trying to prevent a serial killer from committing his first murder.

The story weaves back and forth and plays with history as we know it.  It was a first rate read.

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