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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2022

Welcome to Analog Science Fiction and Fact! Featuring award-winning authors, compelling fiction stories, intriguing science fact articles, editorials, news, reviews ... Travel to the edges of the universe!

EXCERPTS:
Communion
Jay Werkheiser & Frank Wu

Cloudchaser
Tom Jolly

POETRY:
Ham
Holly Day

GUEST EDITORIAL:
The (Sometimes) Reality Of “I Told You So”
Richard A. Lovett

ALTERNATE VIEW:
Fermionic Transversable Wormholes
John G. Cramer 

 

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When an escapee from an interstellar cult looking for an old flame stumbles across an enigmatic structure on a distant planet that seems . . . . 

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Welcome to Analog Science Fiction and Fact! A lifelong appreciation of science fiction has led me to an incredibly fulfilling career with Analog...

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Analog Science Fiction and Fact is the most enduring and popular science fiction magazine in history. Launched in 1930, Analog offers imaginative fiction reflecting the highest standards of scientific accuracy, as well as lively fact articles about current research on the frontiers of real science. A guiding principle for both fiction and provocative opinion columns is the exploration of the impact of science and technology on the human condition.

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CURRENT ISSUE
New year, new issue! We start things off with a bang, in the form of a novella from a titanic team-up: in the aftermath of a disaster, the survivors have to discover a way to communicate with a most alien life form or die trying. My intentionally vague description doesn’t do it justice, as you’ll find out in “Communion,” by Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser.

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An Inside Look

Communion

by Jay Werkheiser & Frank Wu

Tethered to the main cluster, placidly I float in the lazy currents.

Softly, gently, a colony-mate brushes against me. Our membranes touch briefly and fuse.

Electricity.

Instinctively, I extend a single pseudopod toward my neighbor. The texture I feel is neither wrinkled nor ridged, like the infirm or the interloper: my execution proteins remain quiet for now.

My neighbor’s shape is healthy, well-fed, almost spherical, except for the single pseudopod extending to caress mine. Another delicious jolt, as our pseudopod tips release each other in this fleeting embrace.

Wherever we touched, I leave tiny membrane fragments in my neighbor, and my neighbor in me. The fragments carry morsels of news and greetings from afar, written in the beautiful cursive of proteins—coiled, twisted, pleated strings of amino acids, crafted, sculpted, each protein having a unique shape, a unique purpose, a unique message.

The proteins bring news of a current carrying a rich amino acid vein, an ion pocket to avoid, and colony members needing cysteine.

But one messenger activates alarms in my command protein complex.

It bears a critical message in its shape, compressed and distorted by a high-pressure anomaly.

I duplicate the messenger as a memory protein, flagging the original for immediate attention and transferring it down my tether, down to the main cluster. On heightened alert now, I unsheathe defensive command sequences in case they become necessary.

Then I wait for instructions, ready if called to alert others.

An unexpected response arrives.

Do nothing. Nothing.

Thinkers in the main cluster inform me that this is an old protein, as indicated by its degraded tails. Possibly it was passed from one colony to another, from far down the magnetic field.

We are safe for now.

The immediate concern is this: the cluster hungers.

Thinkers instruct me to remain as I am, floating freely, luxuriating in luminous amino acids, sweeping them through the water, toward my cluster-mates below.

And so I do.

The flow of news and nutrients is optimized.

Communion. Harmony.

Nearby the nutrient pocket thrums with rare amino acids. Melodious mimosine, harmonious hypoglycin. Satiation, joy. We dance to the soothing pulse of knowledge proteins.

Suddenly the rhythm changes.

Heat and pressure from below.

Proteins tremble, their carefully crafted shapes smashed into meaningless mounds of broken amino acids. Beautiful coils are replaced by mangled, tangled strands of ugliness.

Is this the anomaly the distant proteins warned of? How could it have reached me so quickly?

Confusion grips me, holds me immobile, as competing commands spin off contradictory enzymes. I deactivate all but the most essential, clearing my mind.

Is it too late to retreat to the safety of the main cluster?

A command protein rises up the tether, and I and my tethered mates willingly obey. Four of us twist our cables together, cross-linking them for strength.

Now we are a sentinel group, like dozens of others extending from the colony in all directions.

No time now for feeding or frolicking. Our only job is to measure local temperature and pressure, sending constant reports down the tether.

Our cluster-mates beat their ropey flagella in unison, moving the entire colony. We will tell them where.

The pressure around me rises and plummets unpredictably. I struggle to match, clenching and relaxing my membrane gates, siphoning fluids in and out, lest my membrane burst and scatter my precious proteins into the water.

Still we monitor and send reports.

I remind myself: I am more than just a double-membraned sack of bio-molecules. I am a sentinel, strong and brave, and if I must, I will die that the colony might live.

Suddenly, a desperate plea for help, then a wave of twisted proteins, dotted with methyl groups. These are old proteins, useless in our present crisis. This makes no sense.

There is only one explanation: one of the other sentinel groups has exploded.

Now . . . more rapid motion, erupting from below.

Field lines race by.

But we hold firm.

Suddenly I lose tension on the tether.

I send news down the cable, but no acknowledgement returns.

Is the colony destroyed?

No. We have been ripped away, away from the cluster.

In the water, communication proteins are increasingly diffuse, as are the waste products of flagellar movement. The cluster is moving away from us, but—yes!—also away from the pressure anomaly.

We have saved the colony. But not ourselves. READ MORE

 

The Cloudchaser

by Tom Jolly


Illustration by Eldar Zakirov

Chapter 1—Arnand, 2119

The toy robot danced wildly to the music being played. It flailed its limbs and spun around as sound poured from the ceiling, motions programmed by the laughing boy watching the dancing toy.

His older brother, Carlos, flung the door open to the small room and glared at his younger brother, alerted by his laugh. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

Lempa scooped up the toy robot and said, “Off,” and the robot stopped moving. “I’m playing. Don’t you have eyes?”

Carlos flushed red. “Don’t talk to me like that, or I’ll have your head cut off,” he said.

“Father won’t allow that.”

“I’ll be king someday.”

“Not today,” Lempa said.

“Let me see your toy.” He held his hand out. Lempa could see where this was going. Carlos would smash his toy. Lempa, though younger than Carlos, was taller and heavier, and he would jump on Carlos, and they would fight, and Carlos would lose that battle. Carlos would run to father afterward with his bruises, then Lempa would be whipped.

Lempa moved the toy behind his back. “No,” he said.

“You can’t say no to me.”

“Really? Listen; no, you can’t have my toy.”

Carlos clenched his jaw and fists. “Father will buy me ten of them.”

Lempa knew it was true. Whatever Carlos wanted, he would get. Whenever Lempa wanted something, it was carefully budgeted for out of his princely stipend. It didn’t seem like much, but he knew it was still far more than the average wage of a villager. His private tutor had made tours of the local villages part of his curriculum, and he found some small pleasure in wearing drab disguises to make himself appear common and learning to imitate their drawling speech.

“Then go ask father for ten of them,” Lempa said, tired of the posturing bully. “Before I have to beat you again.”

Carlos turned a deeper shade of red. “Father would have you whipped!”

“Not if I accidentally killed you. Then I would be heir to the throne.” The words had no more left his mouth than he realized how dangerous they were and covered his mouth with his hand. “I didn’t mean that!” he said.

But Carlos’ eyes were twin moons, in shock at Lempa’s words, and he ran from the room.

Lempa was whipped with a willow switch until welts rose from his back, even though Carlos had no bruises to show for their encounter. Just his word that Lempa had threatened him.

Weeks later, Lempa bought a book. It was a rare book, one of a kind, signed by a dead author well known within the kingdom. The subject matter was of mild interest to Lempa: a traveler’s guide to the planets in local star systems mixed with semi-fictional accounts of the author’s travels.

He was sitting on his bed, reading, when Carlos barged in again one day, tired of playing with and programming ten awkward toy robots.

“What are you doing?” Carlos asked.

“I am reading a book, as you can clearly see.”

“Give it to me.”

Lempa snorted. “Go away.”

Carlos approached the bed and read the spine. “Margi’s Travels on Other Worlds. Father will buy me all of her books.” He crossed his arms, as though it were a challenge.

“You don’t read anyway.”

“I will have all her books, and you will only have the one.”

“This one is signed by the author,” Lempa retorted. “It’s unique. None of yours will be. You can never have this book.” He held it up and waggled it in the air like bait above a fish. Lempa watched the rage build in his brother and wondered for a moment why he did this, since it invariably ended up in a whipping.

“I will get all my books signed!”

“You can’t,” Lempa goaded. “The author has been dead for thirty years. Unless you can raise the dead, and even if you’re king someday, you can’t do that. This is one-of-a-kind. You can never have it.”

Carlos ran to the king with Lempa following behind, curious as to how he would present his case this time. The boys found him in the castle’s library. After Carlos had superficially explained the situation, their father said, “It’s Lempa’s book. He bought it. If you want to read it, go buy a copy.”

“His is signed by the dead author!”

“Then get a book signed by a dead author. I’m sure there are plenty of them,” the king told him. “Even in my own library. Just pick one out.”

“But it won’t be his,” Carlos said, pointing at Lempa.

“Ah,” said the king, leaning back in the cushioned greatseat in the library, looking understandingly at the two of them. “You will have to learn that you can’t own everything. If you try, the effort will consume you. And your kingdom.”

Lempa hesitantly smiled at this result. He still had his book, his brother was angry, and he wasn’t being punished. All was good. But a few days later, he found his book torn to shreds on his bed, even though he’d hidden it away in a secret compartment in his bureau.

He bought a similar signed book, taking pains to flaunt it in front of Carlos, then quietly located a Keeper in town who would hold valuables for a small price until one was ready to retrieve them. The woman had a good reputation and gave him a word and number to memorize when he left the book in her keep so he could fetch it at a later date. She didn’t ask him his name, so he never worried about his brother locating his stash. He would let Carlos catch a glimpse of each new acquisition to torment him, then hide them away with the Keeper. READ MORE

 




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