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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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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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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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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

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 Victoria Silverwolf

The power of music to portray emotions and to evoke images in the listener’s mind seems to be universal to all cultures. It seems inevitable that it will be used in the future to convey feelings and experiences as yet unknown. As human beings explore the unimaginably vast silence of outer space, they will take music with them to fill the void.

Such is the theme of the novella which forms the anchor of this month’s issue of Fantastic. Before we indulge in this sonic feast, however, let’s whet our appetites with an offering from the creative genius of Fritz Leiber.


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

A long time ago, back in the hoary old days of the 1950s, there was a science fiction magazine called Satellite. It was unusual in that contained full short novels, and maybe a vignette or two. Satellite was a fine magazine, and I was sorry to see it die at the end of the last decade.

Novels still come out in magazines, but they do so in a serialized format. This can be awkward as they generally extend across three or four magazines. Several magazines have started publishing stories in two parts, a compromise between Satellite and the usual digests. Fantasy and Science Fiction does that, but it also hacks the novels to bits, and they suffer for it.

IF, which is Galaxy's sister magazine, had not flirted with this format until this month's, the November 1961 issue. This means a novella-sized chunk of a story and a handful of shorter ones. That makes for a briefer article than normal this time around, but I think you'll still find it worth your time. Let's take a look!



See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Each month, I look forward to my dose of new science fiction stories delivered in the form of digest-sized magazines. Over the decade that I've been subscribing, I've fallen into a habit. I start with my first love, Galaxy (or its sister, IF, now that they are both bi-monthlies). I then move on to Analog, formerly Astounding. I save The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy for last. This is because it has been, until recently, the best of the digests-- my dessert for the month, as it were.

These days, the stories aren't as good. Moreover, this time around, the latter third of the magazine was taken up with half a new Gordy Dickson short novel, which I won't review until it finishes next month. As a result, the remaining tales were short and slight, ranging from good to mediocre.

In other words, not a great month for F&SF, especially when you consider that the novels they print seem to be hacked down for space (if the longer versions that inevitably are printed in book form are any indication). Nevertheless, it is my duty to report what I found, so here it is, the October 1961 F&SF:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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As promised, a surprise article from a surprising source. Victoria Silverwolf has been an asset to this column for three years, providing commentary that might as well have been an article in and of itself (not to mention being 95% in alignment with my views). Imagine my joy when Ms. Silverwolf offered to contribute an article every month. Since to date I have only been able to cover four of the six major science fiction digests, we decided that Vic's greatest contribution would be in the coverage of another. And so, for your viewing pleasure, a review of the October 1961 Fantastic from our newest Mistress of the Weird...


by Victoria Silverwolf

Greetings from the night side. Our esteemed host has invited me to step out of the shadows and offer some thoughts about the literature of the uncanny, of the unnatural, of the unimaginable. Shall we proceed? Take my hand, and don't be afraid of the dark.



Fantastic magazine – or, to use its complete title, Fantastic Stories of Imagination, not to be confused with Fantastic Adventures or Fantastic Universe -- has had a checkered career during its nine-year lifetime. Started as a publication dedicated to literate fantasy fiction, much like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, it soon had to attract readers from its older sister, Amazing Stories, by printing more science fiction. Unfortunately, low payment rates, the glut of science fiction magazines during the 1950’s, and indifference from management resulted in contents of poor quality.

This situation showed signs of improvement a little less than three years ago when Cele Goldsmith, originally hired as a secretary and general assistant, rose to the position of editor for both magazines. She has improved the quality of the publications by introducing readers to talented new authors such as Keith Laumer, Ben Bova, and David R. Bunch, as well as bringing Fritz Leiber out of retirement with a special issue of Fantastic featuring no fewer than five new stories from that master of speculative fiction. It remains to be seen whether Goldsmith’s editorship will lift the magazines’ sales out of the doldrums. One sign of hope is the fact that, for the first time since the Hugo Awards were initiated, Amazing Stories was nominated for Best Professional Magazine in 1960 and 1961.



With an optimistic mood, therefore, let’s take a look at the latest issue of the younger sibling.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction digests are a balancing act. An editor has to fill a set number of pages every month relying solely on the stories s/he's got at her/his disposal. Not to mention the restrictions imposed if one wants to publish an "all-star" or otherwise themed issue.

Analog has got the problem worst of all of the Big Three mags. Galaxy is a larger digest, so it has more room to play with. F&SF tends to publish shorter stories, which are more modular. But Analog usually includes a serialized novel and several standard columns leaving only 100 pages or so in which to fit a few bigger stories. If the motto of The New York Times is "All the news that's fit to print," then Analog's could well be, "All the stories that fit, we print."



How else to explain the unevenness of the October 1961 Analog?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It doesn't take much to make me happy: a balmy sunset on the beach, a walk along Highway 101 with my family, Kathy Young on the radio, the latest issue of Galaxy. Why Galaxy? Because it was my first science fiction digest; because it is the most consistent in quality; because it's 50% bigger than other leading brands!

And the latest issue (October 1961) has been an absolute delight with a couple of the best stories I've seen in a long while. Come take a look with me – I promise it'll be worth your while.

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

Just what is the Galactic Journey? Who is this mysterious "Traveler"?

Every so often, it's good idea to remind my readers who I am and why I do what I do. This weekend, I am presenting at a local science fiction gathering, so it makes sense that the first article they see makes sense of all of this.

My twin passions are science fiction and outer space. I live with my wife and daughter in San Diego, the fairest city in the Golden State of California. From 9 to 5, I run a mid-sized electronics company. In my off time, I maintain this column, writing about current books, magazines, movies, and science news (as well as other miscellany).

Oh yes. I live in 1961.



Normally, I wouldn't have cause to mention this fact. For the longest time, I was the under the impression that we all lived in the same time. Some of the mail I've been getting, however, suggests that a few of you come from the future -- 55 years, to be exact.

It's quite exciting to have a fan-base from the far-flung time of 2016. They report on all sorts of far out advances, some of which have been conceived in science fiction, others of which are beyond our wildest dreams.

Happily, they report that global overpopulation has not been realized. On the other hand, global warming has. They say that Pluto is not a planet; well, that's nothing new.

I suspect, of course, that this is all a fannish game. No one really can know the future. The best we can do is write down our speculations and hope we're right (or in the case of scary visions, wrong!)



And that leads nicely into the subject of this article, the September 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

(See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Everyone who writes has got an agenda, but Science fiction writers may be the most opinionated of authors. That's because their pigeon involves prediction, which in turn, is a personal interpretation of current trends. They can't help but express their own biases in their work. And so we have Robert Heinlein and his penchant for plugging love of cats, libertarianism, and nudism (not necessarily in that order!). Dr. Asimov denounces anti-scientific themes in his works. It is no secret that I advocate for the equal representation of women and minorities.

John W. Campbell, editor of the monthly science fiction digest, Analog, is a big fan of psi – the ability of the human mind to alter matter.

Psi is one of those "pseudo-sciences." To date, I don't think there has been a scrap of compelling research as to the existence of ESP or telepathy or precognition, save in the parlors of the less reputable carnivals. Yet it can make for interesting storytelling, a sort of modern magic. I don't mind it so much in my stories, any more than I mind Faster than Light space travel, which is just as baseless.

That said, Campbell, who has more power projection than a single writer, is a psi fanatic. It's rare that an issue of Analog appears without at least one psi-related story, and most have several.

Like this month's, the September 1961 issue:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Ron Church

Summer is here! It's that lazy, hot stretch of time when the wisest thing to do is lie in the shade with a glass of lemonade and a good book. Perhaps if Khruschev did the same thing, he wouldn't be making things so miserable for the folks of West Berlin. Well, there's still time for Nikita to take a restful trip to the Black Sea shore.

As for me, I may not have a dacha, but I do have a beach. Moreover, this month's IF science fiction proved a reasonably pleasant companion during my relax time. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, I recommend it. Here's what's inside:



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


Take a look at the back cover of this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction. There's the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn't settle for a lesser sci-fi mag. And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh's WorldCon. That's the third Hugo in a row.



It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine. Sure, it's the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories. I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad. Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Human beings look for patterns. We espy the moon, and we see a face. We study history and see it repeat (or at least rhyme, said Mark Twain). We look at the glory of the universe and infer a Creator.

We look at the science fiction genre and we (some of us) conclude that it is dying.

Just look at the number of science fiction magazines in print in the early 1950s. At one point, there were some forty such publications, just in the United States. These days, there are six. Surely this is an unmistakable trend.

Or is it? There is something to be said for quality over quantity, and patterns can be found there, too. The last decade has seen the genre flower into maturity. Science fiction has mostly broken from its pulpy tradition, and many of the genre's luminaries (for instance, Ted Sturgeon and Zenna Henderson) have blazed stunning new terrain.

I've been keeping statistics on the Big Three science fiction digests, Galaxy, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction since 1959. Although my scores are purely subjective, if my readers' comments be any indication, I am not too far out of step in my assessments. Applying some math, I find that F&SF has stayed roughly the same, and both Analog and Galaxy have improved somewhat.

Supporting this trend is the latest issue of
Galaxy (August 1961), which was quite good for its first half and does not decline in its second.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Even months are my favorite.

Most science fiction digests are monthlies, but the twins run by Fred Pohl, IF and Galaxy, come out in alternating months. The latter is noteworthy for being the longest regularly published sf magazine, comprising a whopping 196 pages, so big that I need two articles to cover it. Galaxy also happens to be a personal favorite; I've read every issue since the magazine debuted in October 1950 (when it was a smaller monthly).

How does the August 1961 issue fare? Pretty good, so far!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs vanished from the Earth. There are many hypotheses as to why these great reptiles no longer walk among us. One current of thinking goes thusly: dinosaurs were masters of the Earth for so long that they became complacent. Because their reign was indisputed, they evolved in ways that were not optimized for survival. Thus, the strange crests of the Hadrosaurs. The weird dome head of the Pachycephalosaurs. The giant frills of the Ceratopsians. Like Victorian ladies' hats, the dinosaurs became increasingly baroque until they were too ungainly to survive.

I worry that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is heading in that direction. I'm all for literary quality in my sf mags, but F&SF has been tilting so far in the purple direction that it is often all but unreadable. I present Exhibit A: the July 1961 "All-Star" issue.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Thomas

I'm going to stun you all today.

There are plenty of writers in this genre we call science fiction (or sometimes "scientificition" or "s-f"). I've encountered over 130 of them in just the few years that this column has been extant. Some are routinely excellent; many are excellently routine. A few have gotten special attention for being lousy.

One such writer is Randall Garrett.

This is the fellow whose smug misogyny and his utter conformity to John Campbell's peculiar editorial whims made his works some of the worst I had the displeasure to review. Sure, the stuff he wrote with other authors (Bob Silverberg and Laurence Janifer, for instance) was readable, but when he went solo, it was a virtual guarantee of disaster. It is thus with no undue trepidation that I dug into this month's Analog which features Garrett's pen in the first two tales.

Folks, I'm as amazed as you are. They were actually pretty good.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Girdling the Earth are bands of deadly radiation, the Van Allen Belts. They form a prison, an egg shell that humanity can never pierce. Embittered, the human race turns inward. Psychic powers come to the fore. At first, the psychically endowed paranormals ("parries") use their gifts for a lark or for profit. Over time, the world comes to hate these deviants, forcing them into ghettos and isolated towns.

All except for the rare few employed by Fishhook, an agency that has opened up the stars through other means. Fusing technology and innate power, the "Fishermen" project their minds across the light years and explore other worlds. They bring back wondrous gifts of technology, which are sold in Fishhook-owned centers called "Trading Posts." The Fishermen encounter a riot of experiences: things of incomprehensible beauty, things of unspeakable evil. The most rigidly enforced rule is that the Fishermen must retain their humanity; any taint of alien, any hint of going native, and they are cloistered in a community that is, for all intents and purposes, a gilded cage.

All of which are just abstract concerns to Blaine, a veteran Fisherman, tourist of a hundred worlds, until the day he encounters the pinkness: a sprawling, shabby, impossibly old creature who tells him, "Hi Pal. I trade with you my mind..."

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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