Short works

Books : reviews

Stanley Schmidt.
Aliens and Alien Societies: a writer's guide to creating extra-terrestrial life-forms.
Writer's Digest. 1995

Stanley Schmidt guides you toward a better understanding of our universe to create beings who will live in your science fiction.

Aliens and Alien Societies explains science to help you make your fiction plausible. You’ll avoid bringing characters from solar systems unlikely to support life. Discover the galaxy’s vastness and imagine the technology needed to cross it. Put biochemistry on your side to put viable creatures on your pages. Learn how engineering shapes life and why this suggests that intelligent inhabitants of other planets might have similarities to humans. Develop well-founded cultures and logical languages. Introduce aliens to people or other aliens. Portray them as individuals, true to their species.

In this book, possibilities abound and lines between knowledge and conjecture blur enthrallingly.

Aliens and Alien Societies is thoughtful, clear and utterly fascinating. It is filled with facts to help you write believable fictions about the things in heaven and earth.

Stanley Schmidt, ed.
Analog: December 1998.
Dell Magazines. 1998

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 28 March 1999

I don't tend to buy SF magazines any more -- too many books, too little time, so I have to prioritise, and I tend to prefer novels to short stories nowadays. And when I do choose to read short stories, in books, they come lumped together as author collections or themed anthologies. But, I was given a copy of this issue [disclaimer: by one of the included authors], read it, and was reintroduced to the experience of reading a bunch of stories and articles related neither by author nor by theme (apart from all being SF, of course). It made a pleasant change.


Quality Control II: Reminder and Speculation. 1998
On the importance of complaining, if we want quality to improve
Catherine Asaro. Aurora in Four Voices. 1998
(How Soz and Jato met, 16 years before the events told in Primary Inversion.) Jato is trapped in Nightingale, a city in permanent darkness, inhabited by mathematical artists who mostly ignore him. Soz arrives to repair her ship, meets Jato, and finds herself involved in his problems.
More of Asaro's great way of writing interesting characters living in a well-thought-out future-tech world. In particular I liked the interaction with the computer: a credible verbal interface, and not a 'subroutine' in sight.
Tom Ligon. The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor. 1998
How to build a clean, non-thermal fusion reactor, as a school science fair project.
This article gave me a real jolt of that wonderful excitement I got from reading engineering SF as a teenager. They do write them like that any more!
Geoffrey A. Landis. Outsider's Chance. 1998
He never really believed in space pirates, but now a crew is trying to hijack his cargo of frozen oxygen. So he invites one of them over for coffee to discuss things. Politeness is important on the frontier, after all.
Fran Van Cleave. Ataxia in Ataraxia. 1998
Jeffery D. Kooistra. The Alternate View. Calling Dr. Diogenes. 1998
(non-fiction) A call for help from someone who has diagnosed his own disease, but can't get doctors to listen to him
Bud Sparhawk. High Flight. 1998
A meteorologist on Jupiter has to re-evaluate the reasons why she is there
Allen M. Steele. Zwarte Piet's Tale. 1998
Colonial life on Mars is harsh, but maybe it doesn't take that much to put some magic back into things.
[I liked this more than the few Steele novels I've read so far, because the protagonists aren't such slobs, or, at least, their slobbishness isn't dwelt upon so much.]