“Hawk Among the Sparrows”

I read this novella in a secondhand copy of the very issue of Analog whose cover is shown here. My cousin Barry gave me a box of about five years of Analog magazines, the nearly complete run from 1968-73. Barry gave me this gift around 1973, when I was 12 years old. I read the magazines cover to cover one summer, every word, including the letters and probably the ads too.

Barry is about 15 years older than I, so he would have been in his late 20s or 30 then, when I was about 12. And he was a voracious science fiction reader. I think he moved on to technothrillers over the course of the 80s. When we visited his house in the early 70s, he let me borrow freely from his library. Some of the books I was exposed to at that time were racy and dealt with drug use and other themes; this was the time of the science fiction New Wave. But I got a lot of the classics from the 1940s and 1950s that way too.

Barry outright gave me his castoff books, some of which I loved and are still in my collection. He and I now have very different tastes in fiction; I think a lot of it has to do with my having formed my tastes to a large degree on books he gave me because he didn’t want them!

“Hawk Among the Sparrows” is a time-travel story with a twist. Published in 1968, it’s about the pilot of a cutting-edge (for 1968) fighter jet cast back in time to World War I, along with his fully fueled and operational plane. The pilot tries to use his advanced technology to win the war for the Allies against the Axis powers. But he finds his technology is too advanced. If I recall correctly, the missiles are heat-seeking. Either that or they’re metal-seeking. Either way, there isn’t enough heat (or metal) on a World War I battlefield for the missiles to target on. Also, the plane requires prodiguous quantities of kerosene to fly, and the entire Allied economy can barely produce enough to put that one plane in the air. So the pilot and his World War I friends struggle to find a way to use this technology from 50 years in the future.

Amazingly, 1968 is only slightly further in the future of World War I than today is to 1968.

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