Since I retired I have been reading and re-reading old prozines, enjoying its short fiction which seems much more sfnal than much of the short fiction being published currently (much of which tends toward the fantasy and slipstream variety). This month I picked up three issues of Analog
from August, September and October, 1972. I only subscribed to Analog
for a few years in the 1970s when Galaxy
was degenerating under editors Ejler Jacobssen and John J. Pierce (with a few years’ spurt between them under Jim Baen), but I was also given a box of Analogs
in the 1980s by a Biology teacher who was cleaning out his dad’s attic. Since Analog
almost always had part of a serial in each issue, I kept the issues which had serials I did not already have in book form (which was 14 serials total), and gave my friend George, a Physics teacher and SF fan, the issues which either had incomplete serials or serials I already owned). I was left with 56 issues overall, which I have been reading occasionally (but much less frequently than I read 1950s issues of Galaxy
, which are more recent additions to my collection).
I selected the three issues I did this time because they contain a serial by Gordon R. Dickson, The Pritcher Mass
, which I have never read. Dickson is one of the grandmasters of SF by whom I have read sadly-few books, only 2 in fact: Three To Dorsai!
(which contains three novels in his most famous series: Necromancer, Dorsai!
and The Tactics of Mistake
) and the standalone novel Time Storm
(which, for some reason, I have never read).
But I actually have 2 Dickson serials in Analog
, the other being The Outposter
and, based on my enjoyment reading The Pritcher Mass
, I hope to read that serial as well in the near-future. The Pritcher Mass
is about a near-future, overpopulated, polluted Earth, in which the majority of people live in domed cities, never daring to leave the domes because of “the rot” which is a mutated plant life which enters the lungs and grows until the person chokes to death. But life in the protected cities is dominated by The Citadel, a massive crime syndicate whose tentacles stretch even into the government itself.
But there is hope for humanity in the form of the Pritcher Mass, a giant “structure” being built purely by telekinetic-like abilities of the rare people who possess that talent, its purpose being to seek out planets where humanity can emigrate. The main character has been trying to qualify for the Pritcher Mass, since its workers live on a space station away from the crowding and pollution. But he has been failing his tests by the slimmest margins until he finds a “catalyst” in the form of a rock outside the dome. Subsequently, he encounters a female witch whom he believes is actually a telekinetic talent. He also learns that the Citadel is opposed to his being involved with the Pritcher Mass for reasons he does not know.
The novel combines fast-paced adventure with thought-provoking elements about the future of humanity and the polluted Earth. It was a good, if although great, novel which was both worthwhile reading and encouragement to read more by Gordon R. Dickson.
The three issues of Analog
also had several enjoyable novelettes, some by well-known writers (James H. Schmitz, Christopher Anvil) but others by unknowns which, in some instances, is the real joy of reading prozines. The October issue had a novelettes by a writer I have never heard of previously. David Lewis’ “Common Denominator” was a novel about space soldiers. The narrator is a war ace flying solo fighter ships in a war on a distant planet. While the story is ostensibly about the invasion of a planet which is an enemy stronghold, it is really about the attitude of soldiers, both the narrator’s companions as well as the enemy, and how there are times when perhaps the enemy is actually more noble than members of one’s own race, in spite of the extreme differences which are the foundations of the war.
The August issue had a novelette by “old reliable” writer James H. Schmitz. “Symbiotes” is one of his Hub
series featuring Trigger and Telzey, two women who are involved with the Psychology Service. Recently I read Schmitz’ huge collection Eternal Frontier
, which was very enjoyable, but contained only non-Hub stories. Baen Books has published 4 collection of Schmitz’ stories which contain primarily Hub stories: Telzey Amberdon, T‘n’T: Telzey and Trigger, Trigger and Friends
and The Hub: Dangerous Territory
. If “Symbiotes” is any indication, those books should be as good as Eternal Frontier and definitely worth reading.
“Symbiotes” tells of Trigger at a shopping mall when she encounters an 8" high man on the run from somebody who has apparently kidnapped him and two friends who are inhabitants of a distant world which was designed hundreds of years ago as a possible outlet for overcrowded humanity by having its émigrés shrunk so that more of them could fit on the planet without crowding. But apparently somebody has found a profitable way to kidnap some of the tiny people and sell them for considerable profit. In the process, Trigger encounters three of the most intriguing aliens I have seen in a long time. Good stuff.