Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Birthday Review: Stories of Daniel Hatch

Daniel Hatch had a recent birthday, and so in his honor, here are some of my reviews of his short fiction from Locus. Hatch is an Analog regular (and, one might add, one of those Analog regulars (there are quite a few) who disprove the notion that Analog is a haven for politically conservative writers), and consistently one of their most interesting contributors.

Locus, January 2003

The lead novella for the January Analog, Daniel Hatch's "Seed of Destiny", concerns a planet inhabited by aliens with strangely mutable genetics. The result is that many species are sentient, but that they can't control their offspring's' sentience, and thus a durable civilization is almost impossible. A human scientist studying the problem makes a breakthrough, but then is kidnapped by an aggressive species hoping to use his knowledge to maintain their own power. The central idea, which reminded me a bit of the main idea in Brian Stableford's novel Dark Ararat, is very interesting, and the slow working out of the consequences is well handled.

Locus, October 2007

Analog for October has a pretty strong lineup overall, highlighted by the lead novella, Daniel Hatch’s “An Angelheaded Hipster Escapes”, and by an Ekaterina Sedia short story, “Virus Changes Skin”. Hatch’s story is about a man from the 20th Century, Jonathon Bender, who has ended up a brain in a box (fairly literally) and a slave to AIs running a space station. (I wonder if both Bender’s name and his situation are nods to the delightful animated show Futurama.) Bender’s scheme for escape ends up getting him stolen by Penelope Antoinette de Sandino y Murphy, one of the Twenty-Seven Families who rule Ciudad de Cielo: an enclave of a group supporting “pure humanity” – no AI upgrades – based in the former Ecuador at the site of an abandoned attempt at a space elevator. Penelope has her own issues, involving political intrigue among the families and a slimy boyfriend, and Jonathon needs to be proven human to escape ownership by the corporation that had previously bought him. This story really only introduces these issues, and the interesting future behind all this. It’s entertaining on its own, and I’m sure it is a precursor to future Penelope and Jonathon stories.

Locus, July 2009

Two long novellas dominate the July-August Double issue of Analog. Daniel Hatch’s “Seeds of Revolution” follows from a couple of earlier stories about a planet where the dominant species takes on multiple forms – is multiple species, if you will. That idea is scientifically interesting, but has been treated with more rigor elsewhere (in Brian Stableford’s Dark Ararat, to name one novel, and in a way in another story I’ll mention later in the column). Hatch here is more interested in having fun – though politically engaged fun, and darkly tinged – with the idea of having intelligent animals of various shapes running around. He explicitly evokes most obviously Pogo (the main character looks like an opossum and somehow has an alien name that is rendered Pog) and the Scarlet Pimpernel (though at times it seems a bit odd to have a fire-breathing Socialist take on the character of an avowed Royalist). Most veteran SF readers will be reminded inevitably of Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson’s Hokas.

Locus, May 2012

Analog for May opens with a long – perhaps too long – novella from Daniel Hatch, “The End of Ordinary Life”. Thomas O'Reilly is an Alaskan bush pilot in a near future in which the US is falling apart, Canada is opposing it, and an old man names Clayton Shaw, it turns out, has met an alien. The plot is mainly a slightly too heavy-handed account of a government crackdown that O'Reilly gets involved in, partly because of his four girlfriends, and how the alien (a bit too conveniently) helps things out. That part is just OK, but O'Reilly and his girlfriends are enjoyable if a bit familiar as characters, and the depiction of Alaska is quite involving.

Locus, November 2012

Daniel Hatch's “Siege Perilous” is a nice Analog story from the November issue. It's set in an isolated asteroid habitat, which comes under attack. The target is the advance “cog” technology being studied in the asteroid. The means of resistance combines an unusual gambit by the crusty leader of the asteroid's people, as well as, basically, advanced anti-virus tech – and more. A brief note following the story claims “ideas are the soul of any science fiction story”, and “Siege Perilous” is chock full of ideas: about computing, about war, about economics, about life in space, and about people.

Locus, December 2013

Daniel Hatch is one of the most consistently interesting of Analog writers, and “The Chorus Line” is the best piece in the December issue of that magazine. A rich man has hired an expert “time viewer” to prove that another man's spectacular discovery about the origins of man is a fraud. But in the end what they do discover about the first humans, in the Olduvai Gorge area, is more important than questions of fraud … not a major work, but a nice small moving piece.

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