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Spectrum SF #4
Spectrum SF #4
Spectrum SF
Spectrum SF is edited by Paul Fraser. Issues can be ordered from:
Spectrum Publishing, PO Box 10308, Aberdeen, AB116ZR, United Kingdom. £3.99 per issue, £14 for a 4 issue subscription

Spectrum Publishing

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

One of the problems with running serials in magazines is the need to wait until the entire story is published to be able to fully appreciate what the author is trying to accomplish and whether they succeed. At the same time, running a serial allows the magazine to include a wider range of fiction, including stories that could not be told in a single installment of a length which would normally be published. Spectrum SF #4 contains the beginning of a serial by John Christopher entitled "Bad Dream," which is set about 20 years in the future when the effects of the European Union may fully be felt. Unfortunately, while Spectrum SF editor Paul Fraser does identify the story as the first part of a serial, he does not indicate how many installments it will take before Christopher's tale is complete.

Many new parents have to find ways of dealing with the encroachment of an infant into their lives. The loss of privacy and personal time can be devastating. Many authors have dealt with these issues by writing stories about their frustrations and problems, such as Harry Turtledove's "Crybaby." Mary Soon Lee, identified as a new mother in the introduction, seems to have come up with her own solution with "Pause Time," in which a new technology allows a parent to place her infant into a sort of suspended animation in order to regain time taken by the infant. Although Pauline doesn't want to pause her baby, she eventually finds herself giving in to the temptation to regain some of her personal time. The ability to pause children as needed is symptomatic of the egocentric nature of the society, which Pauline is forced to accept despite her desire to be more traditional.

Keith Roberts, the author of Pavane, died in September last year. "Virtual Reality," a story in his Kaeti series, graces the fourth issue of Spectrum SF. Roberts successfully manages to capture the flighty conversational style of Norma, Kaeti's daughter, as she flits from topic to topic with her Belgian friend Sabine. Although they come into contact with Thomas, who is playing with a virtual reality helmet, the real virtual reality of the story is the world which Norma creates for herself and her friend, based on her understanding of the world around her.

"The Ultimate Sacrifice" is set on the world of Tarterus, a mere 15 years before the planet's sun is supposed to go nova. Eric Brown's story tells of a filmmaker who visits the planet, not to make a documentary about the last years of the world, but rather to try to find any traces of her brother who was supposed to have died on Tarterus three years earlier. Her journey is something of a travelogue of the planet, focusing on the primitive beliefs espoused by the former European settlers of the jungle world.


John Christopher, "Bad Dream"
Mary Soon Lee, "Pause Time"
Keith Roberts, "Virtual Reality"
Eric Brown, "The Ultimate Sacrifice"

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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