After the whole Baen Books or rather Baen’s Bar kerfuffle and being “shamed” into silence by various groups and individuals (including garnering the disapproval of Paul Weimer who I actually kind of like), the one thing I decided to do when I gave up everything else, was to read more Baen Books.
I probably have over the years, but unlike modern “fandom,” I’ve never paid much attention to who published what book as long as I enjoyed the reading (or even if I didn’t).
I can say that I do remember consuming Cobra (1984) by Hugo Award winning author Timothy Zahn. I don’t know how many others I’ve read over the years, but my current review is an effort to pay more attention to that sort of thing. After all, for whatever “crimes” individuals on Baen’s Bar may be guilty of, to the best of my understanding, the worst we can hang on Baen Books in general and editor Toni Weisskopf in specific is that she neglected to police her forum. I’ve seen discussion groups violently crash and burn over the years for this exact reason.
That said, I do want to support Baen and Weisskopf. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog.
The cover is completely anonymous, but clicking on the 2021 edition, I got a list of the short stories contained therein:
APPLESEED: A Founder Effect Legend by Robert E. Hampson
Latuda’s Lady in White by Aaron Michael Ritchey
Misfits by A.C. Haskins
The bio on his website is extensive, but on Amazon, he’s described as:
Dr. Robert E. Hampson wants your brain! Don’t worry, he’s not a zombie, but he does know a few things about them and will keep them away from your brain… at least until he can use it for his own nefarious purposes!
Dr.Rob is a scientist, teacher and author who uses his PhD to study memory and diseases of the brain. He writes real science into hard-science & military SF and incorporates for SF influences on science into his teaching. He is also a popular convention panelist who makes science – and science fiction – interesting and accessible to the public.
I was impressed that “The Founder Effect”, published just last December, has 21 Amazon ratings, 100% of them in the four and five star range.
When I plunged into “Appleseed,” I had no idea what to expect. It’s saving grace is that it’s short.
There seemed to be a few semi-related scenes introducing the story. One was a conversation with logistics staff. Then there was a rather humorous exchange between spacecraft-flying Marines, one of which had a thing for 2001: A Space Odyssey, exploring hidden biospheres within the asteroid belt. Finally we are introduced to the protagonist, a futuristic version of Johnny Appleseed.
This is a small ecological piece with an anti-corporation slant. Miners in the belt (“belters,” which reminded me of decades old stories by Larry Niven) are not consuming their consignment of fruits and vegetables sent from Earth, costing corporations a lot of greenbacks.
Turns out our “Johnny Appleseed” fellow, a gifted terraformer, has been adapting the insides of asteroids into habitable biospheres capable of supporting plant and insect (and occasionally human) life (he couldn’t have pulled this off alone, but although the story also alludes to this, no accomplices are ever named or caught).
Of course, he’s broken the law and is punished, but since he was born and raised in space, putting him in prison on Earth with its heavy gravity would be a death sentence.
So he wakes up from cyrofreeze (or whatever) centuries later, his body having been adapted to Earth-like gravity. He is then assigned to the first colony planet outside the solar system to assist in, you guessed it, terraforming.
Naturally, he disappears and starts growing fruit trees not sanctioned by the corporations, who want to develop their own miserly fruit into specialty items for the elite.
More legal hi-jinx ensue, and eventually Appleseed inspires a revolution on the colony world, and then passes into legend.
It was an “okay” story, but it didn’t really float my boat. It was more philosophical than anything. Really, the point has been made many times before, including the painfully environmentalist 1972 film Silent Running starring Bruce Dern, with soundtrack by Joan Baez.
“Appleseed” isn’t as preachy, but it doesn’t have cool spaceships (except briefly), cooler robotic drones (Hewy, Dewey, and Louie), and a nuclear explosion as punctuation either.
There are two more stories in the “freebie” which I’ll review in the days to come.