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by Gideon Marcus

There is an interesting rhythm to my science fiction reading schedule. Every other month, I get to look forward to a bumper crop of magazines: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, and the King-Sized Galaxy. Every other month, I get F&SF, Analog, and IF (owned by the same fellow who owns Galaxy).

IF is definitely the lesser mag. Not only is it shorter, but it clearly gets second choice of submissions to it and its sister, Galaxy. The stories tend to be by newer authors, or the lesser works of established ones. This makes sense -- Galaxy offers the standard rate of three cents an article while IF's pay is a bare one cent per word.

That isn't to say IF isn't worth reading. Pohl's a good editor, and he managed to make decent (if not extraordinary) issues every month. The latest one, the January 1962 IF, is a good example.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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When I started this endeavor, I never expected to find so many fellow travelers. Each has provided an unique insight into the worlds of science fiction, comics, science, fandom. I have tried to balance staying true to my original vision (which is why I promise to keep writing at least a majority of the articles here) with showcasing all of these lovely perspectives.

A few months ago, I met a remarkable young woman with a keen eye for fashion as well as an uncommon understanding of geopolitics. The premise of Galactic Journey is that context matters. This is why I leaven the fiction with nonfiction. And it's why the Journey now has...a fashion column. Read on – I think you'll agree that Ms. Conaway is a worthy addition to our constellation of authors...



by Gwyn Conaway

This is a time of change and uncertainty, but we are full to the brim with ambition. We hope for a future of technological mastery. An age of abundance and exploration. We see our society as a beacon of moral and economic high ground. The Reds do too.

You see, I observe the world in patterns of psychology, fear, and desire. I'm a costume designer, and I glean more from fashion trends and wardrobe choices than any newspaper. This shadow of nuclear war hanging over our heads is worrisome, but it seems to me, across the distance of ideology and oceans, that we still dream the same dreams.

“It seemed clear proof that an atom smasher is a poor match for an attractive young lady in a well-fitted blouse.”
The New York Times, Style Show - SRO Soviet Exhibition, NY NY - July 2, 1961


First Lady Jackie Kennedy recently met with Nina Khrushcheva, wife of Nikita Khrushchev, the current Premier of Soviet Russia. While many of my cohorts discussed the new president and the premier’s first encounter in Vienna, I was captured by the meeting of the wives.


Jackie Kennedy and Nina Khrushcheva meet in Vienna, 1961.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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November 1961 been an exciting month for space buffs with several sequels to exciting missions as well as one brand new satellite.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Erica Frank and I have both extolled the virtues of superhero comics; I pumped Marvel while she was a National fan. Now, famed comics expert Jason Sacks weighs in, mostly to tell us that Erica's taste is far better than mine. He's probably right...


by Jason Sacks

Several weeks ago, the Traveler posted a short, mostly complimentary review of the new Marvel Comic The Fantastic Four. He liked the comic’s heady mix of fact and science fiction, as well as its inclusion of a female character in its cast.

That review troubled me because it praises material I consider to be second rate. Marvel is, unfortunately, a schlock-house. Several years ago Marvel specialized in Twilight Zone-style twist-in-the-tail yarns (which the Traveler discussed in 1959). Recently, though, Marvel’s output has descended into juvie monster stories. The Fantastic Four #1 is not much more than a full-length version of those same moribund tales with the addition of derivative super-powers. The ugly art from Jack Kirby only makes things worse. He should go back to drawing love comics and leave heroes alone. I can confidently say Jack Kirby has no future in costumed-hero comics.

A look of the covers of any month’s releases from this second-rate publisher proves this point.  The enormous monster on the cover of The Fantastic Four#1 is similar to the titanic creature featured in nearly every other Marvel book released recently. The outrageous Monsteroso from the October Amazing Adventures #5, the Mohawked Brutto in the October Tales of Suspense #22, and the ridiculous green giant Fin Fang Foom in that same month’s Strange Tales #89 all fit the same general template.


the Marvel monster who wears shorts!

These Marvel creatures are all bites from the same rancid apple. They represent a juvenile collection of clichés and ridiculousness barely suited for even the most dilapidated drive-in.

Conversely, industry leader National Comics is delivering truly outstanding science fiction comics.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

It's the end of the year! "What?" you exclaim, "but it's only November!" True that, but the date on my latest Fantasy and Science Fiction says December 1961, and that means it is the last science fiction digest of the calendar year that will go through my review grinder.

F&SF has been the best magazine, per my ratings, for the past several years. Going into this final issue, however, it has lagged consistently behind Galaxy. Would this final issue be enough to pull it back into 1st place? Especially given the stellar 3.8 stars rating that Galaxy garnered last month?

Well, no. I'm afraid the magazine that Bouchier built (and handed over to Mills) must needs merit 8 stars this month to accomplish that feat. That said, it's still quite a decent issue, especially given the rather lackluster ones of the recent past. So, with the great fanfare appropriate to the holiday season, I present to you the final sf mag of 1961:

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Here's a treat! Our Copy Editor, Erica Frank, is not only a demon at formatting manuscripts, but she is also an avid follower of our rich fan culture. She now takes up the quill for her first article for The Journey – I think you will be as glad that she did so as I am...


by Erica Frank

For some reason, comic books often aren’t considered science fiction, even though they’re full of aliens, time travel, futuristic weapons, genetic mutations, and villains with the goals and technology to destroy the planet, who have to be thwarted by heroes with fantastic powers and specialized training. There is no Hugo award for comic books, and comic book authors and artists are not usually asked to be guests at science fiction conventions. Many people, however, consider comics a perfectly valid medium for fantastic stories that touch on universal themes.

Around every medium of science fiction/fantasy, you've got Fanzines. Fanzines are amateur magazines published to discuss those stories and themes; they are generally available for the cost of postage and sometimes a small charge to cover printing. You've probably heard of or even read a few sf zines, but did you know that comics also have zines? Now you do...and many of them are well worth keeping an eye on.



For instance, Alter Ego, a new comics-themed fanzine, got its start earlier this year; it’s now on its third issue. Jerry Bails, the main editor, noted in the first issue that publication was likely to be irregular. As is the case with many amateur publications, production may slow down after the initial rush of enthusiasm fades. Currently, it has a mimeographed print run of over 300, and is available for 50 cents in coins or stamps, with unfolded “collector” copies available for a few cents more to cover the cost of the special envelope.

Issue 3 focuses on Green Lantern, a superhero of DC Comics fame, with a couple of side articles and the obligatory letters column. Like many classic characters, he had a heyday in the 1940s, disappeared, and returned to print recently. Alter Ego #3 includes a retelling of Green Lantern’s origin story by George Paul and two related articles from different authors; they discuss the history of the original Green Lantern from the 40s and what’s similar and different in the modern version.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

Very little deters me from seeking out science fiction films. Even if the venue is a little disreputable I will still venture in. Even when a film is being trashed by critics I'll still give it a chance. But in the case of Valley of the Dragons I wish I had turned around at the entrance to the seedy theater I found it in. I wish I had heeded the warnings of fellow film reviewers. Valley of the Dragons is this month's science fiction B-movie and 1961's third Jules Verne inspired motion picture. It has everything including a story slower than my Greek tortoise, well known bit-role actors and of course copious use of stock footage. But is it still watchable? No.

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by Gideon Marcus

Every successful endeavor goes through the cycle of growth, stability, decline, and renewal (or death, in which case, there's no cycle). Science fiction magazines are no exception. A particularly far-sighted editor can plan for decline by setting up a successor. For instance Galaxy's H.L. Gold has turned over the reigns to Fred Pohl with no apparent drop in the digest's quality. Anthony Bourchier transitioned to Robert Mills at F&SF, and I understand that Renaissance Man Avram Davidson is waiting in the wings to take over. That event can't happen too soon, as F&SF has been lackluster of late.

Analog has had the same master since the early 30s: John W. Campbell. And while Campbell has effected several changes in an attempt to revive his flagging mag (including a name change, from Astounding; the addition of a 20-page "slick" section in the middle of issues; and a genuinely effective cover design change (see below)), we've still had the same guy at the stick for three decades. Analog has gotten decidedly stale, consistently the worst of The Big Three (in my estimation).

You can judge for yourself. Just take a gander at the December 1961 issue. It does not do much, if anything, to pull the once-great magazine from its shallow dive:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Now here's a special treat. Not long ago, the Junior Traveler began contributing as a co-author. This time around, she has decided to take center stage. My little girl is all growed up! Excuse me. I have something in my eye...


by Lorelei Marcus

Recently, me and my family thought we should take a break from time traveling (in fiction and movies) and do some real traveling! We decided to go to Japan! I was sad because we weren't going to be able to watch any Twilight Zone or new movies. Luckily, we were treated to a new Japanese movie called Mothra. Me and my father had the luxury to see it in theaters, in Japan! It was a very similar (but intriguingly different) experience to an American movie in various ways.



Mothra, similar to many of the American movies we've watched, is a monster movie – in this case, about a giant moth that attacks Tokyo. I noticed monster movies often start out the same, something or someone dear to the monster is taken from them to a big city, and the monster comes back to rescue it, destroying said city in the process. It happened in ; this movie did not break the mold.



(see the rest at
Galactic Journey!)
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by Victoria Silverwolf

The last decade saw a boom in written science fiction as well as science fiction cinema, due in part to both the fear of atomic warfare and the promise of space exploration. Both trends have tapered off recently, possibly due to the many stories and films of poor quality offered to a public grown tired of cheap thrills. (No doubt such a fate awaits the countless Westerns currently dominating American television screens.)

In any case, the two media have had an influence on each other, not always to the advantage of either. Although science fiction movies have sometimes made use of the talents of important writers within the genre, such as Robert A. Heinlein’s contribution to Destination Moon, too often they have turned to the most juvenile pulp magazines and comic books for inspiration. In turn, some written science fiction has lost the sophistication it gained under editors such as John W. Campbell, H. L. Gold, and Anthony Boucher.



These musings come to mind when one peruses the pages of the latest issue of Fantastic. Of the two longest stories in the magazine, one is reminiscent of recent science fiction films, while the other deals directly with the movie business.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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By Ashley R. Pollard

Last month, I wrote about the shocking explosion of the world’s largest atomic bomb. Now, I plan to entertain and delight you all with a review of the film The Day the Earth Caught Fire, which will be on general release in Great Britain from the 23rd of November. Its subject matter is serendipitous, if not unnaturally timely, cast in the light of recent events. This can’t hurt its chances of doing well at the box office, and if you'll pardon the levity, it’s surely guaranteed to become a blockbuster. This early review has been made possible by influence of the Traveller, who has gone to great lengths in assisting me with gaining the credentials to see a pre-release screening of the film.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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How small the world has gotten!

Less than a decade ago, trans-oceanic travel was limited to the speed of a propeller. If you journeyed by boat, as many still do, it would take two weeks to cross the Pacific. Airplanes were faster – with a couple of stops, one could get from California to the Orient in less than two days. As a journalist and travel columnist, I spent a good amount of time in both hemispheres during the early 1950s. I got to be quite seasoned at the travel game.

I have to tell you, things are so much faster these days. The jet engine has cut flight times in half, taking much of the tedium out of travel. Oh, sure, I always had plenty to do in the air, between writing and reading and planning my next adventures, but for my poor fellow travelers, there was little to do but drink, smoke, and write letters. For hours and hours.

These days, the Journey is my primary occupation. I can do it from anywhere, and I often do, bringing my family along with me. As we speak, I am writing out this article with the roar of the Japan Airlines DC-8's jets massaging my ears, music from pneumatic headphone cords joining the mix. It's a smooth ride, too. It would be idyllic, if not for the purple clouds of tobacco smoke filling the cabin. But again, I suffer this annoyance for half the time as before. I'll abide.

We've just lifted off from Honolulu, and in less than 8 hours, we will touch down at Haneda airport, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan's capital. We will be in the Land of the Rising Sun for two weeks, visiting friends and taking in the local culture. I'll be sure to tell you all about our adventures, but don't worry. I've also brought along a big stack of books and magazines so I can continue to keep you informed on the latest developments in science fiction. Moreover, I'm sure we'll see a movie or two, and we'll report on those, too.



Speaking of reports, I've just finished up this month's Galaxy Science Fiction....

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

The house that Rod built was showing signs of decay, but, as happened last season, The Twilight Zone has gotten a little better a few episodes in. It's not perfect, mind you, but I'm still tuning in on Friday. In fact, Serling's show, Andy Griffith, and Route 66 are my strongest bulwark against the "vast wasteland" lying behind the screen of the one-eyed monster (sadly, Route 66 wasn't on this week, more's the pity).

Anyway, submitted for your approval are the next four episodes of the Third Season (descriptions followed by commentary by the Traveler and then the Young Traveler):



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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War is still a ripe subject for fiction. It has been a constant part of the human existence since there were nations. For six thousand years, we've glorified it, hated it, resolved ourselves to it. There's no reason to expect it will go away any time soon, and it's no wonder that war is a common theme in science fiction.

A couple of years back, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers made a big splash with its interesting take on interstellar combat and the character of patriotism. It was a jingoistic piece that I'm sure resulted in a small spike in enlistments. Gordy Dickson's war novel Dorsai also came out in in 1959. Dorsai was a fairly straightforward war story of a genius mercenary with the temperament and training to become a renowned general. Like Troopers, it was a runner up for the 1960 Hugo (Troopers won).



Both are what I'd call "typical" of the genre. I find it interesting how often war is positively portrayed: exciting, filled with tales of cunning, guts, and derring-do. I suppose it's because World War Two was a "good" war. Democracy vs. Tyranny with clear villains to fight. Sure, we lost some of our boys, but we made the world safe again. And so we have a stream of war movies which are by turns dramatic, gripping, even comedic, but rarely overtly anti-war. A Walk in the Sun, a candid film that even included a portrayal of battle fatigue in the midst of action, is one of the few exceptions.

Pacifist sci-fi novels have been similarly rare. Given the nature of Dickson's Dorsai, I was thus surprised (and delighted) to see that his recent Naked to the Stars, serialized over the last to months in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, is a thoughtful and engaging anti-war book.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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By Ashley R. Pollard

A is for atomic and apocalypse, and this month also for Andromeda. Of the three, the most entertaining is the new TV series on the BBC, called A for Andromeda, written by Frederick Hoyle and John Elliot. Hoyle is an astronomer and noted cosmologist who also wrote the science fiction novel The Black Cloud, while Elliot is novelist, screenwriter and television producer.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!!)
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by Rosemary Benton

It's a great leap forward for the United States. This morning, October 28th 1961, one can open the newspaper and learn about yesterday's launch of the Saturn C-1. Some of us even saw the live coverage of the launch on television, watching as the giant rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida and flew 95 miles into the air before plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. A rocket this powerful has never been launched before, and I can only imagine that the scientific community must be trembling like the ground beneath Saturn C-1's S-1 first-stage cluster of nine tanks and eight engines.



It was, quite simply, the biggest rocket ever launched. By far.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Have you ever ordered your favorite dessert only to find it just doesn't satisfy like it used to? I'm a big fan of crème brûlée, and I used to get it every chance I could. That crispy carmelized top and that warm custard bottom, paired with a steaming cup of coffee...mmm.

These days, however, crème brûlée just hasn't done it for me. The portions are too small, or they serve the custard cold. The flavor doesn't seem as bold, the crust as crispy. I've started giving dessert menus a serious peruse. Maybe I want pie this time, or perhaps a slice of cake.

Among my subscription of monthly sf digests, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction used to be my dessert -- saved for last and savored. These days, its quality has declined some, and though tradition will keep it at the end of my review line-up, I don't look forward to reading the mag as much as once I did. This month's, the November 1961 issue, is a typical example of the new normal for F&SF:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Author Harry Harrison has been around for a long time, starting his science fiction writing career at the beginning of the last decade (1951). Yet, it was not until this decade that I (and probably many others) discovered him. He came into my view with the stellar Deathworld, a novel that was a strong contender for last year's Hugo. Then I found his popular Stainless Steel Rat stories, which were recently anthologized. The fellow is definitely making a name for himself.



Harrison actually occupies a liberal spot in generally conservative Analog magazine's stable of authors. While Harry tends to stick with typical Analog tropes (psionics, humano-centric stories, interstellar hijinx), there are themes in his work which are quite progressive – even subversive, at least for the medium in which they appear.

For instance, there is a strong pro-ecological message in Deathworld. I also detect threads of pacifism in Harrison's works, not to mention rather unorthodox portrayal of women and sexual mores. Harry isn't Ted Sturgeon or anything, but he is definitely an outlier for Analog, and refreshing for the genre as a whole.



Harrison's latest novel, Sense of Obligation (serialized over the last three issues of Analog) continues all of the trends described above.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Three years ago, my wife pried my nose out of my sci-fi magazines. "You've been reading all of these stories," she said. "Why not recommend some of the best ones so I can join in the fun without having to read the bad ones."

I started a list, but after the first few titles, I had a thought. What if, instead of making a personal list for my wife, I made a public list? Better yet, how about I publish little reviews of the magazines as they come out?

Thus, Galactic Journey was born.



It's been an interesting ride. I was certain that I'd have perhaps a dozen subscribers. Then a large 'zine made mention of the column, and since then, we've been off to the races. Our regular readers now number in the hundreds, and the full-time staff of The Journey is eight, going on nine. We've been guests at several conventions around the West Coast, and we've been honored with one of fandom's most prestigious awards.

All thanks to you. So please join us in a birthday toast to the Galactic Journey family.

Speaking of significant dates, this month marks the end of an era. Astounding Science Fiction, founded in 1930, quickly became one of the genre's strongest books under the stewardship of Editor John W. Campbell. Last year, Campbell decided it was time to strike out in a new direction, starting with a new name of the magazine. The process has been a gradual one. First, the word, Analog, was slowly substituted month after month over Astounding. The spine name changed halfway through this transition. As of this month, the cover reads Analog Science Fiction. I am given to understand that next month, it will simply say Analog.

I think it's a dopey name, but it's the contents that matter, right? So let's see what Campbell gave us this month:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

The nice thing about writing reviews for an immediately published medium, like a newspaper or a daily column, is the currency of the information you convey. Most reviewers get their books just before release from the publishers, and by the time their reviews are in print, their subjects are several months old. At Galactic Journey, you can be guaranteed a presentation of the very newest material.



Ironically, my offering for you this time around is Raymond Z. Gallun's The Planet Strappers, which while a brand new novel, reads like something written several decades ago. I'd gotten used to the out there stuff by Sturgeon and Farmer and Henderson, so it was a little jarring to find something so old-fashioned. But it makes sense: like the legendary "Doc" Smith, Gallun is a grizzled veteran of the 20s and 30s pulps. In fact, he hardly turned out a thing in the last decade.

Strappers is the story of The Bunch, a gang of young space enthusiasts from Jarviston, Minnesota who live some time in the mid-distance future...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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