More Dean Ing.
This time a book of fiction, speculation, and advice.
Raw Feed (2001): Firefight Y2K, Dean Ing, 2000.
“Preface” — Rather perfunctory introduction to the collection noting its diversity of fact and fiction pieces including historical fantasy and science fiction.
“Fleas” — Almost literally a biter bitten story. This tale is also about a vampire-like predator preyed on himself, fleas on fleas since both are parasites.
“A Report on Advanced Small Arms Concepts” — Interesting article on some advanced concepts in military armor, transportation, and small arms. The article talks about a brainstorming session conducted for the U.S. Army by engineers and science fiction authors and addressing future military hardware for infantrymen. I thought the most interesting idea was the ramjet bullet which contains primer on the inside surface of a cylinder. After being propelled to velocities roughly matching a .45 Auto round, the propellant begins to burn and the round increases in velocity for more power, longer range, and a flatter trajectory for a round that would probably be about a .38 caliber.
“Manaspill” — This story didn’t do much for me at all. I found it tedious. It used a fairly typical plot for a prehistoric story: plucky orphans discover talents while facing a tribe’s scheming shaman who knows much less about magic than orphan girl Thyssa. This story is set in Larry Niven’s When the Magic Goes Away universe (specifically it was first published in the shared world anthology The Magic May Return) which is based on the notion that magic is powered by concentrations of a material called mana.
“Malf” — I rather enjoyed this story of nifty tree harvesters (they limb, cut, and stack the trees in place and walk on legs as well as roll on wheels) engaged in combat and how a skilled operator of the experimental machines turns out to be a vicious ex-getaway driver for the Mob. Real tree harvesters exist (this was a 1976 story) but not this elaborate or large. I presume, Ing being a former engineer, that the engineer jargon of the narrator is accurate to the profession. Villain Infante’s psychological instability turns out, in another case of literalized metaphor, to cause the instability of handling in one of the Magnum harvesters.
“The Future of Flight: Comes the Revolution”, Dr. Leik Myrabo and Dr. Dean Ing — A brief article about, amongst other future transportation technologies, using laser powered rockets.
“Liquid Assets” — Another sf story about intelligent dolphins, published, of course, at the tail end of the 70s, the Golden Age of dolphin stories in sf. Here a cetacean researcher and government agents piece together a kidnapping plot planned and executed by dolphins who take advantage of the human tools and written language given to them by human researchers. It was interesting enough. The title is a pun on both the ten million dollars the dolphins collect in exchange for an Indonesian official’s son and “assets” (in water) in the intelligence sense.
“Lost in Translation” — This is another punning title. It refers to meaning being lost in translation and, in this case, human civilization lost by an act of translation. Essentially this is one of those dangerous, transcendent knowledge sf stories. Ing’s story is engaging as he talks about how two alien civilizations seem to have been destroyed after producing two works of art. He discovers that those civilizations transcended, physically, their world after contemplating those works. Then he discovers the clincher, that same transcendent truth is in a human work of art, a piece of music whose beat works on cardiac rhythms: Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. Ing seems less interested in describing why or how Stravinsky’s piece allows control over time and space than writing a story built around the last line: “It’s lonely at the top.” The blatant and self-professed ambition of the protagonist is given a comeuppance at the end. She has achieved her goal of being head of the Delphium Corporation, but, as a character remarks on a brief return from the worlds transcended humans now inhabit, what’s the point of being number one if there’s no number two? She stupidly and willfully blinds herself from this truth and, at story’s end, resolutely tries to believe that all the ex-humans will tire of their new lives and return to the grind of the social hierarchy where she is number one.
“Evileye” — This story’s biggest flaw is that it features the same protagonist as Ing’s “Liquid Assets” a few years later in her life and still mourning the death of her poet lover. However, no mention is made of the central point of that story: man’s society being changed by intelligent dolphins who will dispute man’s control of the oceans. It’s something different from Ing in that it involves little violence or engineering or intrigue. It’s a metaphor. Evileye, the large Pacific Giant octopus at the facility where she conducts her research on crabs, is discovered not to be a brutal, cunning killer (though it does kill many of her research subjects which engenders Lorenz’s hatred towards it) but an intelligent species who literally tries to reach out and communicate with, first, Lorenz’s pet kitten and then Lorenz. It is a metaphor for how Lorenz must reach out from the depths of her grief and towards the human male she has had little time for, in particular the man, Gary Matthews, who is interested in her.
“Vehicles for Future Wars” — 1979 article speculating about the future of military transport technologies (including body armor). After a whole article outlining exotic transportation technologies including antimatter and matter teleportation, Ing, in the afterword to this 2000 edition, says he was caught totally by surprise with the U.S. Department of Defense deciding to use B-52 bombers until almost 2040.
“Vital Signs” — Fast-paced, interesting tale about a modern day bounty hunter being recruited by the FBI (with the strange element of his working undercover as an architectural draftsman) to track down a hostile alien who has landed in the Sacramento area. He eventually finds out that her hostility is because her child died in human captivity. He unintentionally causes her death when he doesn’t clear out in time to allow her escape. He feels guilty about, in effect, killing the “huntress” out of friendship since the two attempted communication as both were wounded in their combat. This is one of those alien contact stories where the alien’s behavior seems better than human behavior since the Federal government was prepared to kill the alien to get advanced technology, and the alien didn’t try to kill Harve Rackham, the bounty hunter narrator.
“High Tech and Self-Reliance” — Ing in his survivalist mode as he argues that, while high tech can make life comfortable, it is good to have low-tech backups for the necessities of life and career.
“The 12-Volt Solution” — Another Ing survivalist piece, this time about the many uses of 12-volt car batteries as emergency power sources.