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by Gideon Marcus

The coverage for John Glenn's orbital flight was virtually non-stop on the 20th. My daughter and I (as many likely did) played hookie to watch it. During the long countdown, the Young Traveler worried that the astronaut might get bored during his wait and commented that NASA might have been kind enough to install a small television on the Mercury control panel.

But, from our previous experience, we were pretty sure what the result of that would have been:

CAPCOM: "T MINUS 30 seconds and counting..."

Glenn: "Al, Mr. Ed just came on. Can we delay the count a little bit?"

30 minutes later...

CAPCOM: "You are on internal power and the Atlas is Go. Do you copy, Friendship 7"

Glenn: "Al, Supercar's on now. Just a little more."

30 minutes later...

CAPCOM: "The recovery fleet is standing by and will have to refuel if we don't launch soon...John, what's with the whistling?"

Glenn: "But Al, Andy Griffith just came on!"

So, TV is probably out. But a good book, well...that couldn't hurt anything, right? And this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction was a quite good book, indeed. Witness:



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

Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

These famous last words, ascribed to many a noted actor on his deathbed, are probably apocryphal. Even if nobody ever really uttered them before taking his last breath, they do suggest the difficulty of provoking amusement in one’s audience. This is at least as true of speculative fiction as of the stage.

A quick glance at the Hugo winners, for example, reveals that only one humorous piece has won the prize. Eric Frank Russell’s 1955 Astounding short story Allamagoosa, a comic tale of bureaucratic foul-ups, stands alone among more serious works.

This is not to say that there are not many talented writers as dedicated to Thalia as to Melpomene. From the wit of Fritz Leiber to the satire of Robert Sheckley, from the whimsical musings of R. A. Lafferty to the tomfoolery of Ron Goulart, readers in search of smiles and belly laughs have many choices. In less adept hands, unfortunately, humorous science fiction can degrade into childish slapstick and sophomoric puns.

href="http://galacticjourney.org/stories/6203Fantastic.pdf">The March issue of Fantastic is dominated by comedy, so let's take a look at it with a light heart.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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by John Boston

A couple of months ago I described Amazing, as “promising.” Now here’s the March 1962 issue, with two up-and-comers on the cover and a third on the contents page.

Verdict: promise partly kept.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's been a topsy turvy month: Snow is falling in coastal Los Angeles. Castro's Cuba has been kicked out of the Organization of American States. Elvis is playing a Hawaiian beach bum. So it's in keeping that the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction is, well, uneven.



Luckily, the February 1962 F&SF front-loaded the bad stuff, so if you can make it through the beginning, you're in for a treat – particularly at the end. But first...

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

I said in a recent article that science fiction runs the gamut from the hard-nosed to the fantastic, and that the former can be found most consistently inside the pages of Analog magazine.

Well, the February 1962 issue has proved me a liar.



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

Since the demise nearly a decade ago of the fondly remembered magazine Weird Tales, there has been a dearth of markets for horror stories. Occasionally a tale of terror will appear in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but otherwise there are few places where fiction dealing with the deepest, most irrational fears of humanity can be found. Perhaps this is due to the burgeoning popularity of science fiction as an expression of modern anxieties in this age of space exploration and atomic energy.

Even at the local movie theater one is more likely to find radioactive mutants and creatures from outer space than vampires, werewolves, and mummies, though the recent revival of these Gothic monsters by the British film production company Hammer hints that the tide may be changing, as does the popularity of classic horror movies on television programs such as Shock Theater. The new publication Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by well-known science fiction fan Forrest J. Ackerman, also proves that there are many readers still interested in the dark side of fantasy.

A striking exception to above trend is Fantastic, which often features supernatural horror stories along with the kind of science fiction found in its sister publication Amazing. In particular, the February issue of the magazine contains at least as much of the former as the latter.



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

Science fiction is a broad genre. It includes hard scientific, nuts-and-bolts projections that read like modern tales with just a touch of the future in them; this is the kind of stuff the magazine Analog is made up of. Then you've got far out stuff, not just fantasy but surrealism. The kind of work Cordwainer Smith pulls off with such facility that it approaches its own kind of realism. In this realm lie the lampoons, the parables, the just plain kooky. They get labeled as "science fiction," but they don't predict futures that could actually happen, nor do they incorporate much real science. Rather, they end up in the sf mags because where else would they go? The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction showcases this type as a good portion of their monthly offerings (appropriately enough -- "Fantasy" is in the name).

Galaxy magazine has always trod a middle road, delivering pure scientific tales, fantastic stories, and pieces of psychological or "soft" science fiction that fall somewhere in between. It's that balance that is part of what makes Galaxy my favorite magazine (that and stubborn loyalty – it was my first subscription).

The first Galaxy of 1962, on the other hand, veers heavily into the fantastic. Virtually every story presented has a distinct lack of grounding in reality. Does it work? Well...see for yourself.



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

The Earth is dead, its verdant continents and azure oceans replaced with a roiling hell. The crew of the Benjamin Franklin, humanity's first interstellar ship, gaze on the holocaust in horror. Are they only humans left? Do any of Terra's other ships (particularly the all woman-crewed Europa) still survive? And most of all, who is responsible for this, the greatest of crimes?



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by John Boston

Life is full of happy surprises! At long last Amazing has crossed a line: nothing in the the February 1962 issue is worse than three stars, and the average is a little higher. Read on; I think you'll agree that there is much to enjoy in this, the first magazine of the month:



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

At the end of a sub-par month, I can generally count on The Magazine and Science Fiction to end things on a positive note. F&SF has been of slightly declining quality over the past few years, but rarely is an issue truly bad, and this one, for January 1962, has got some fine works inside.



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

I read a lot of stuff every month. I consider it my duty, as your curator, to cover as broad a range of fiction as possible so that you can pick the stories most likely to appeal to you. What that means is I wade through a lot of stones to find the gems.

Analog is the magazine with the highest stone/gem ratio, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, it's rare that an issue goes by without something to recommend it, and the January 1962 edition has at least one genuine amethyst amongst the quartz.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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[Several months ago, I put out the call for someone to help me review the two science fiction digests I didn't have time to read: Fantastic and Amazing, both edited by young Cele Goldsmith. I've generally considered them the least of the sff magazines, but given how few of them are left these days, I reasoned that they could not be entirely worthless. Moreover, I want Galactic Journey to provide as complete a picture of the genre as I can, covering virtually every story produced in this country (and many in the UK as well!) Hence, my delight when super-fan Victoria Silverwolf took up the pen and started reviewing Fantastic.

Now, a second long-time Journeyer, John Boston, has also responded. As 1962 begins, we now have all of the big periodicals presented. Read on and see what's you've missed...
]


by John Boston

As a a maladjusted high school freshman in a reactionary and pious small town, I'm always glad of the opportunity to get away, if only for a little while. Mostly, that means a flight of fancy facilitated by a trip to the library stacks or, if I've got a couple of bits, the newsstands. And now, the Journey affords me a chance to reach all of you, the fellow travelers who follow this column.

What I have for you today is the January 1962 Amazing Stories, subtitled Fact and Science Fiction. For some years, this magazine has been slowly digging itself out of a hole of purposeful mediocrity, with much improvement — but it's not quite at ground level yet.



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

To be successful, a fiction magazine often needs to strike a balance between established authors and new blood. Experienced writers can generally be counted on to provide work of professional quality, while fledging storytellers may keep the magazine from seeming stale and predictable.

Such a strategy can be seen in the latest issue of Fantastic. Two famous names, one well known to readers of science fiction and the other familiar to almost anybody with a television set, appear on the cover. No doubt this will increase the sales of the magazine on the newsstand. Once the purchase is made, the reader might find the offerings from unknown authors more interesting.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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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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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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