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Current Issue Highlights

 

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January/February 2022

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.

Our fact article for the issue also comes from Jay Werkheiser, in the form of a Science Behind the Story on Kepler’s Laws, concluding in this very issue, and we have a “speculative history” Special Feature, in Brishti Guha’s “The Robots of Ancient India.”

We also, of course, have a wide array of stories, from androids fighting pirates in Tom Jolly’s “Cloudchaser” and a potentially other-worldy trap in Tony Ballantyne’s “The Lobster Pot” to a high-stakes heist in Raymund Eich’s “A Fistful of Monopoles” and some environmental justice in “Yellow Boots” from Stephen L. Burns, as well as plenty more, from Liz A. Vogel, Megan Hyland, and others.

Get your copy now!

 

Novella

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. READ MORE

Novelette

Cloudchaser

by Tom Jolly

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!” READ MORE

Poetry 

Ham

by Holly Day

Trained to push a button every time a light flashed at him
Ham the Chimp performed perfectly during his first flight into space.
He had two windows: one in the face of his “space suit”
a four-walled box that he was strapped into for safety . . .

READ MORE

Reader's Departments

Guest Editorial: The (Sometimes) Reality of "I Told You So"

by Richard A. Lovett

When I was young, I was a creature of summer. I loved the sun, the heat, the long, long days you get north of the 45th parallel, where I’ve spent most of my life, where sunset lingers after 9 p.m. and dawn comes way before you want to wake up. Birds chirping in your window at 5:00 a.m.? Where are the earplugs?

Then suddenly it would be August, and with fall looming, I’d long for a way to drag my heels, slow the clock, and bask in the sun just a little longer.

Not so today. I currently live in Portland, Oregon. We had a day last June that hit 108°. That would be hot in Yuma, Arizona. Here, it broke the all-time record. But it wasn’t a record that lasted very long. The next day hit 112°. The day after that, 116°. And this was in June, less than a week into official summer. Freak meteorological conditions? Yes. But we’ve had those before. Last time a heat wave like this happened, in 2009, Portland got something like 102°, 105°, 106°. This was the same weather pattern, but 10° hotter. Not to mention, in JuneREAD MORE

 
 

Alternate View: Fermionic Transversable Wormholes

by John G. Cramer 

The fundamental particles that populate our universe (electrons, photons, quarks . . .) all possess a characteristic angular momentum or spin. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, such angular momentum is not produced by an Earth-like physical rotation about a spin axis; rather, it is there because the particle is in a quantum state that has intrinsic spin as a conserved quantum number. Depending on their spins, fundamental particles come in two contrasting quantum-statistic “personality types”: individualistic fermions vs. group-oriented bosons.

In units of the modified Planck constant ħ (1.05457 . . . x 10−34 kg m2/sec), fermions have half-integer intrinsic spins (1/2, 3/2, 5/2  . . .). They exhibit a “territorial” behavior described by the Pauli Exclusion Principle, allowing only one particle to occupy each quantum state. Fermions have matter and antimatter versions that have opposite parities. (Parity: does the wave function change sign under mirror reflection?). Fermions must be rotated by twice 360 degrees to return to their original state.

All of the basic stable and semi-stable particles found in our universe are fermions, including electrons, muons, and neutrinos, as well as the composite spin-½ protons and neutrons, which are composed of three spin-1/2 quarks. However, composite nuclei, which are made of neutrons and protons, can be of either fermions or bosons, depending on whether their neutron and proton numbers are odd or even. For example, the helium-4 nucleus, composed of two neutrons and two protons, is a spin-0 boson, while the lithium-7 nucleus, composed of three protons and four neutrons, is a spin-3/2 fermion.

All bosons have integer spins (0, 1, 2 . . .) and tend to congregate together, piling up many particles in the same quantum state. Bose-Einstein condensates (see the March 1996 Analog’s Alternate View column) are the most spectacular example of this behavior, with huge numbers of boson particles piling up in the same quantum state with the same wave function. All of the mediating particles of the fundamental forces are bosons. These include the photon of electromagnetism, the eight gluons of the strong interaction, the W± and Z0 of the weak interaction, and the Higgs particle, which gives other fundamental particles their mass. These fundamental boson particles have no antimatter twins, and they return to the same state after rotation through only the usual 360 degrees. READ MORE

 

Guest Reference Library

by Sean CW Korsgaard

This isn’t quite how I pictured my first byline in Analog, though in a way, it’s entirely fitting.

I’ve been an avid reader of the magazine for just over a decade, and for that entire time, Don Sakers’ recommendations in his Reference Library columns have capped off every issue. I’ve long since lost count of just how many books Don wrote about in this magazine eventually earned spots on my bookshelves over the years.

That decade has seen these pages filled with stories from hundreds of authors, both new and returning, Stanley Schmidt passing the editorial baton to Trevor Quachri, and even a change in issue size and release schedule. Throughout it all, Don’s latest book recommendations were waiting at the end of every issue. With Don’s recent passing in May, it’s humbling to now offer my own suggestions in his place in this guest column. READ MORE

Guest Reference Library

by Shinjini Dey

This column is a celebration. SFF has taken in the pulpy mass—bring on the novella, the novelette, the comic book and the B-film, usher in the utopias of erased traditions, garland the metatextual and radical beasts. Modern genre stories reveal the claws of capital and colonialism, bare their fangs, bring ancestors to the fight; the tricksters no longer stand apart from the clones, queerness is no longer allegorized as “alien.”

I’ve put together some recommendations; each book here contains familiar and unfamiliar monsters, beings of wonder and horror. These monsters represent the disruptive, subversive, and impossible—none of which we can do without. There’s the alienness of metal and the superhero born of cruel disasters. There are beasts of no nation, birthed by generations of violence. There’s the transformative immortality of clones in a post-singularity universe. There are anthropomorphized aliens and saints of invention, and even uncanny plants. . . .READ NOW

 

Upcoming Events

by Anthony Lewis

Check here for the latest conventions upcoming in January and February. READ MORE

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