Disembodied Heads, War Robots, and Crime Hives: May-June 2024 Print SF Magazines

Disembodied Heads, War Robots, and Crime Hives: May-June 2024 Print SF Magazines


May-June 2024 issues of Analog Science Fiction & Fact and Asimov’s Science Fiction. Covers
by Kurt Huggins (for “Uncle Roy’s Computer Repairs and Used Robot Parts”) and Shutterstock.

There’s no sign of the new issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction this month, which is a little concerning. Distribution issues caused the January/February issue to be renamed “Winter 2024” and ship significantly late, but now that spring and gone and summer is upon us, I’d hoped to at least hear news of the next issue. Their website still shows the Winter issue, and their Facebook Page hasn’t been updated since December. These are not promising omens.

Fortunately there’s plenty of great fiction in the print magazines we do have in hand, the May-June issues of Analog and Asimov’s SF, including new stories from Rich Larson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Christopher Rowe, William Preston, Amal Singh, Martin L. Shoemaker, Edward M. Lerner, Sean Monaghan, Aimee Ogden, Richard A. Lovett, Mark W. Tiedemann, and Robert Silverberg.

Victoria Silverwolf enjoyed the latest Asimov’s, and discusses it in detail at Tangent Online.

The novella “Barbarians” by Rich Larson features a pair of starship operators who have been involved in questionable activities in the past. One of them is only a disembodied head kept alive in a special solution, the result of his imprisonment for smuggling. The other is his partner, best friend, and narrator. The pair are hired by twin brothers to take them on a tour of a dead planet-sized organism orbiting a star. The creature is so huge that it has its own ecosystem, including deadly plants and animals. Besides the inherent danger of the environment, the hidden motive of the twins leads to a much more hazardous situation. The exotic setting is richly imagined and creates a true sense of wonder. The plot moves quickly, with a great deal of suspense. In addition to being a compelling science fiction adventure, the story also raises serious issues of guilt, greed, and loyalty.

The title character in “Arazem-2 is Waiting for a Letter” by Amal Singh is a robot, formally a war machine and now performing various mundane tasks on the demand of clients he cannot refuse. (Male pronouns are used throughout the story.) Like others of his kind, he hopes to win his freedom via a slow bureaucratic process. Meanwhile, mobs of protesters attack the robots. The author manages to make the protagonist and other robots into characters with which one can empathize.

“The Rattler” by Leonid Kaganov is translated from Russian by Alex Shvartsman. A strange thing, possibly living or possibly a machine, appears on Earth. About once a second, it uses a mysterious power to randomly kill a person, who might be anywhere on the planet. Anybody who attempts to attack it is immediately killed as well. A team of television newscasters interview a professor who suggests a possible way to defeat the thing, even though just talking about it causes him to be killed also. Partly a puzzle story, with discussion of game theory, this grim tale can also be seen as an allegory for ways in which people might deal with powerful oppressors…

“In the Palace of Science” by Chris Campbell is set in the early 20th century. It takes the form of phonograph recordings from the narrator. He explains how he came to work with a reclusive genius in his extraordinary home full of highly advanced scientific equipment. Together they reactivated an ancient robot that went on a rampage. When the machine returned, they faced an even greater challenge. I can both praise and damn this story by saying that, if it had appeared in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s or early 1930s, it would be considered a classic of early science fiction…

The novella “Maragi’s Secret” by Michèle Laframboise concludes the issue. It takes place many centuries after the surface of the Earth became unlivable, so people dwell in floating cities and travel in airships. (Despite the futuristic setting, the story feels more like steampunk set in Victorian times.) A young woman accompanies her father aboard his airship. Among the many challenges she faces are the inherent dangers of working on the outside of the vessel; the need to disguise her sex in a culture where a female working on an airship is unacceptable; the unwelcome attentions of a young man who knows her true identity; the presence of the extremely valuable egg of an albatross, located in a nest on the surface of the airship; the theft of her father’s gold compass; and a collision with another vessel…

Read Victoria’s complete review here.

I find Sam Tomaino’s short fiction reviews at SFRevu both entertaining and informative, and his coverage of the latest Analog is no exception. Here’s a taste.

The new short fiction begins with the novella, “Uncle Roy’s Computer Repairs and Used Robot’s Parts” by Martin L. Shoemaker.

Roy Harris retires from his job in software design in Kansas City and moves to his wife Martha’s hometown of Milford Creek, Michigan. He opens a shop he calls Uncle Roy’s Computer Repairs and Used Robot’s Parts which refers to a joke at his old job. The only problem is the small town already has a computer guy, a kid named Jimmy Knowles, who is Martha’s cousin. He is a genius who knows a lot and thinks he knows everything.

Roy runs afoul of Jimmy when he makes an unauthorized check of a local business’ computer security and has to beat a quick retreat. The town folk consider him an outsider, so he only gets a little business and decides to try something else, robots which help older people out. But sabotage from Jimmy defeats him again, but he keeps at it, setting up a robot manufacturing business. He gets more competition from Jimmy, but the kid’s lack of experience in the field begins to show. A final confrontation resolves everything. Nice little story with good characters.

“The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” by Edward M. Lerner

Beginning in 2040, the stars in the night sky begin to wink out. What is causing it? Astronomers conclude something is obscuring them. This thing comes to be called the Bubble and it’s headed for Earth. What’s to be done? Our narrator has an idea. Great story!

“Float Where We Will” by Sean Monaghan

The crew of the Petrucchio, Suze, Hella, Wil and Garth, are three thousand meters below the ice crust of Europa when they suddenly start sinking. Something is pulling them down. It’s a fight for survival which is exciting with interesting characters.

“Expert Witness” by Leonard Richardson

Judicant Uvana in this story has previously been seen in “Mandatory Arbitration” in the July/August 2021 issue and “Meat” in the March/April 2023 issue. Here Uvana, and her assistant, Agent Swaway are investigating a crime hive that had sent a shape-shifting species to a planet that was a sanctuary for a dying species called the elsp. Cunbkan, a biologist, has been trying to prove the elsp sentient, but had been using the shape-shifters as her proof. Amusing little tale. Can’t wait to see the next story with Uvana.

“Mayflies” by Richard A. Lovett

Jack Thompson was dying from pancreatic cancer and left what certainly seemed to be a suicide note. So that left the insurance company our narrator works for off the hook. But there was a vial with a curious label in his trash basket and they have no idea how he committed suicide. So our narrator decides to investigate and finds something interesting. Great little story!

Read Sam’s complete review here.

Here’s all the details on the latest SF print mags.


Contents of the May-June 2024 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction

Asimov’s Science Fiction

Sheila Williams provides a handy summary of the latest issue of Asimov’s at the website.

The first of three powerful novellas in the May/June 2024 issue is Rich Larson’s thrilling tale about a group of “Barbarians.” Complex and brutal interactions and betrayals make this story a true page turner/swiper! Michèle Laframboise takes us aboard an airship, where a young girl wrestles with securing sails, de-icing portholes, feathered stowaways, theft, and abuse, and ultimately reveals “Maragi’s Secret”; and, finally, the Old Man resurfaces for one more adventure in William Preston’s exciting tale about a desperate attempt “To Make an End”!

Kristine Kathryn Rusch treats us to a memorable story about “Last Thursday”; Elena Pavlova’s first tale for Asimov’s is a stunning take on the unreliable narrator and a violent warning about “Renting to Killers”—this story was translated from Bulgarian by the author and Kalin M. Nenov; other new-to-the-magazine authors include Amal Singh, who deftly explains why “Azarem-2 Is Waiting for a Letter”; Chris Campbell, who turns back the clock in order to examine the mysteries that occur “In the Palace of Science”; and Leonid Kaganov, who introduces us to a terrifying alien known as “The Rattler.” Alex Shvartsman translated the latter tale from Russian. In addition, Christopher Rowe lands “Cynthia in the Subflooring,” and, with his quiet short story about “The Shadow Box,” M. Bennardo reminds us why we all love tales that capture that “sense of wonder.”

Robert Silverberg’s Reflections introduces us to: “More Shaggy Cousins”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net looks at fiction “Lengthwise”; Kelly Jennings’s On Books reviews works by Justin C. Key, Malka Older, Melissa Scott, Martha Wells, and others; Kelly Lagor’s latest Thought Experiment exposes us to “Giant Monsters, Kaiju, and the Bomb in Godzilla”; plus we’ll have an array of poetry and additional features you’re sure to enjoy.

Get your copy now!

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Novellas

“Barbarians” by Rich Larson
“To Make an End” by William Preston
“Maragi’s Secret” by Michèle Laframboise

Novelettes

“The Rattler” by Leonid Kaganov
“In the Palace of Science” by Chris Campbell

Short Stories

“Last Thursday” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Arazem-2 Is Waiting for a Letter” by Amal Singh
“The Shadow Box” by M. Bennardo
“Renting to Killers” by Elena Pavlova (Translated by Elena Pavlova & Kalin M. Nenov)
“Cynthia in the Subflooring” by Christopher Rowe

Poetry

A Night in Ibadan by Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí
Equipose, 4000 AD by Bruce Boston
Fibonacci Rules the Household by Robert Frazier
Pioneer 10 Looks back by David Barber
Bad Luck for the Fates by Dawn Vogel
Life During the Lazarus Age by Robert Frazier
Granny Gardener by Gretchen Tessmer

Departments

Guest Editorial: Vertical Farming and Reaching for a Better Future by A.T. Greenblatt
Reflections: More Shaggy Cousins by Robert Silverberg
On the Net: Lengthwise by James Patrick Kelly
Thought Experiment: Giant Monsters, Kaiju, and the Bomb in Godzilla by Kelly Lagor
Next Issue
On Books by Kelly Jennings


Contents of the May June 2024 issue of Analog Science Fiction

Analog Science Fiction & Science Fact

Editor Trevor Quachri gives us a tantalizing summary of the current issue online, as usual.

It has been said that teaching kids is a bit like the Peace Corps slogan: it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. But what happens when you mix surly teens with some (very) heavy machinery? Well, that sounds like a job for “Uncle Roy’s Computer Repairs and Used Robot Parts,” by Martin L. Shoemaker, our lead story for May/June.

Then our fact articles this time out will be a pair of Science Behind the Story pieces, one for Edward M. Lerner’s “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” and one for “Project: Desert Sparrow,” by Chana Kohl, the subjects of which will become apparent when you read their eponymous sister stories.

And of course, there’s plenty more, including: “Small Minds,” from Tom Jolly; a “Salvage Operation” with Michael Capobianco; a look at “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” by Edward M. Lerner; the workings of “Project: Desert Sparrow” by Chana Kohl; hearing “Voices Still and Present” with Mark W. Tiedemann; fleeting “Mayflies” from Richard A. Lovett; “Making Gnocchi at the End of the World” with Kelly Lagor; and many others, plus our usual columns, including the winners of this year’s AnLab awards!

when left with no alternative, in “Ganny Goes to War”; a look at a future in which consumers have finally had “Enough,” from William Ledbetter; the next chapter in the (mis)adventures of a certain amorphous shape-shifter, in Auston Habershaw’s “Brood Parasitism”; a survey of the current state of epigenetics, both in real life and SF, by Kelly Lagor; a couple of tax/prank season-appropriate stories from Don D’Ammassa and John W. Armstrong; and much, much more, from Gregor Hartmann, Romi Stott, Adam-Troy Castro, Deborah L. Davitt, and others.

Get your copy now!

Here’s the full TOC.

Novella

“Uncle Roy’s Computer Repairs and Used Robot Parts,” Martin L. Shoemaker

Novelettes

“Salvage Operation,” Michael Capobianco
“Money, Wealth, and Soil,” Lance Robinson
“Small Minds,” Tom Jolly

Short Stories

“The Dark at the End of the Tunnel,” Edward M. Lerner
“Making Gnocchi at the End of the World,” Kelly Lagor
“Float Where We Will,” Sean Monaghan
“Expert Witness,” Leonard Richardson
“Project Desert Sparrow,” Chana Kohl
“Fertile Imagination,” Tim Stevens & Frank Wu
“Susan Rose Sees Mars as the First Frontier,” Charles Velasquez-witosky
“Perturbations, “Amanda Dier
“Tohu Bohu,” Zohar Jacobs
“The Pure Bliss of Contrapuntal Existence,” Michael Panetta
“More and Less and New,” Aimee Ogden
“Mayflies, “Richard A. Lovett
“Voices,” Still and Present, Mark W. Tiedemann

Flash Fiction

“Meow,” Robert Silverberg
“Seven,” Roderick Leeuwenhart

Science Fact

The Science Behind “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel,” Joey Huston, Ph.d.
The Science Behind “Project Desert Sparrow,” Chana Kohl

Poetry

[is Love That Alters], Howard V. Hendrix
Gravity, Pamela Yve Simon

Reader’s Departments

Guest Editorial: Zipf’s Lottery and Big Rocks From Space, Howard V. Hendrix
In Times to Come
The Alternate View, John G. Cramer
The Reference Library, Rosemary Claire Smith
Brass Tacks
Upcoming Events, Anthony Lewis

Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction are available wherever magazines are sold, and at various online outlets. Buy single issues and subscriptions at the links below.

Asimov’s Science Fiction (208 pages, $8.99 per issue, one year sub $47.97 in the US) — edited by Sheila Williams
Analog Science Fiction and Fact (208 pages, $8.99 per issue, one year sub $47.97 in the US) — edited by Trevor Quachri
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (256 pages, $10.99 per issue, one year sub $65.94  in the US) — edited by Sheree Renée Thomas

The May-June issues of Asimov’s and Analog are on sale until June 11. See our coverage of the March-April issues here, and all our recent magazine coverage here.

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