A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews

One of the interesting things in this random selection of stories is how often the selected items share some unexpected and unintentional trait. The two stories that showed up for the letter I, Jack Iams’s “The Hat in the Hall” and Francis E. Izzo’s “Tank,” both reflect the only entry each author has in the Internet Science Fiction Database (although not, necessarily their only published story).

“Tank” was originally published in the March 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and has since been printed in three anthologies of stories from that magazine, the reprint anthology Supertanks, and On Writing Science Fiction.

Izzo tells the story of Davis, a pinball wizard. While Davis loves pinball and trying to set the high scores on the machines in the arcade, he has also played the various video games that were making inroads into the arcades in the 1970s and found them wanting.  From Pong on up, he would play them, beat them easily, and return to his beloved pinball, sure that no video game could ever give him the thrill of playing pinball.

Cover by Alex Schomburg

However, when Davis sees a new game, he feels the need to play, and defeat, it. One day he found that the arcade had added a booth game. Painted to look like an army tank in dull green, it seemed like just another first person shooter. However, once he started the game, the experience became much more immersive than he expected.

Reading “Tanks” so long after its initial publication demonstrates one of the problems with reading old science fiction (also alluded to in last week’s review of “The Hat in the Hall.” While Izzo’s story of a virtual experience turning real may have been groundbreaking when it was first published, it has now become old hat. The terms that we would apply to Davis’s experience weren’t invented yet when the story was written, but are now used in everyday, mainstream conversation. Not all of Davis’s experiences can be replicated with the latest VR gear, however, even the twist at the end has become dated.

Izzo does manage to capture the mindset of a video game snob, with Davis’s focus on playing pinball machines and having to prove to himself that he can easily master any of the new-fangled computer games, a viewpoint which ultimately causes his downfall as the Tank game proves to be something more than he expects.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a twenty-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for eight years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference six times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x