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by Gideon Marcus

I never thought the time would come that reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would be the most dreaded portion of my duties...and yet, here we are. Two issues into new Editor Avram Davidson's tenure, it appears that the mag's transformation from a great bastion of literary (if slightly stuffy) scientifiction is nearly complete. The title of the digest might well be The Magazine of Droll Trifles (with wry parenthetical asides).

One or two of these in an issue, if well done, can be fine. But when 70% of the content is story after story with no science and, at best, stream-of-consciousness whimsy, it's a slog. And while one could argue that last issue's line-up comprised works picked by the prior editor, it's clear that this month's selections were mostly Davidson's.

Moreover, Robert Mills (the outgone "Kindly Editor") used to write excellent prefaces to his works, the only ones I would regularly read amongst all the digests. Davidson's are rambling and purple, though I do appreciate the biographical details on Burger and Aandahl this ish.

I dunno. Perhaps you'll consider my judgment premature and unfair. I certainly hope things get better...



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

Science fiction magazines are not created equal.

Every editor brings her/his own slant to their magazine's theme. For instance, Cele Goldsmith strikes an old-fashioned chord, reviving classics from the Pulp Era in Amazing and Fantastic. Fred Pohl keeps things reliable (if not exceptional) in Galaxy, but showcases new and innovative works in IF. Before it went under, Fantastic Universe devoted much ink to flying saucer stories and articles.



And as you will soon see, Analog is preoccupied with psychic powers and pseudo-scientific quackery (a redundant phrase?). Viz, the May 1962 issue:

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



Last month, I asked: can they keep it up? Amazing’s marked increase in quality, that is. Well, no, not this month anyway.

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

April is the cruelest month -- T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Maybe it's because it's almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it's because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it's because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it's because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it's because of George Schelling's B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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[April 10, 1962] All the Difference (May 1962 IF Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

The measure of a story's quality, good or bad, is how well it sticks in your memory. The sublime and the stinkers are told and retold, the mediocre just fades away. If you ever wonder how I rate the science fiction I read, memorability is a big component.

This month's IF has some real winners, and even the three-star stories have something to recommend them. For the first time, I see a glimpse of the greatness that almost was under Damon Knight's tenure back in 1959. Read on, and perhaps you'll agree.



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

I used to call The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction "dessert." Of all the monthly sf digests, it was the cleverest, the one most willing to take risks, and the most enjoyable reading. Over the past two years, I've noticed a slow but decided trend into the realm of "literary quality." In other words, it's not how good the stories are, or how fun the reading – they must be experimental and erudite to have any merit. And if you don't get the pieces, well, run off to Analog where the dumb people live.



A kind of punctuation mark has been added to this phenomenon. Avram Davidson, that somber dilettante with an encyclopedic knowledge and writing credits that take up many sheets of paper, has taken over as editor of F&SF from Robert Mills. Five years ago, I might have cheered. But Davidson's path has mirrored that of the magazine he now helms: a descent into literary impenetrability. Even his editorial prefaces to the magazine's stories are off-putting and contrived.

I dunno. You be the judge.



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

Ask the average citizen their opinion of science fiction and they'll likely mention monsters, flying saucers, and ray guns. SF has gotten a bad rap lately, largely due to the execrable movies nominally representing it, but there's no question that the pulps of the 30s and 40s, and the lesser magazines of the 50s didn't help much. And yet, only Science fiction offers endless worlds in which to explore fundamental human issues. Religion. Philosophy. Politics. It is only in our fantastic genre that the concept "if this goes on" can be pushed to extremes, whether a story be set in the far future or on a remote planet. SF isn't just kiddie stuff – it can be the most adult of genres.



Case in point: Analog, formerly Astounding Science Fiction, set a standard in the pulp era as the grown-up magazine in the field. And while I've had something of a love-hate relationship with the digest that Campbell built, this particular issue – the April 1962 edition – offers up some intriguing political predictions that, if not probable, are at least noteworthy.

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

If there is any true measure of fame, it might well be the amount of fan mail you get. Many stars employ services to plow through their truckloads and give each missive personal response. Jack Benny came out on his TV stage last night holding a giant sack of fan mail – of course, it was really filled with trash and old cans...



Galactic Journey's popularity lies somewhere inbetween; we do get our fair share of postcards, but I haven't needed to hire help to read them...yet. Truth be told, it was for these correspondences that I started this column. I love meeting you folk – you start the most interesting conversations!

Science fiction magazines get letters, too. Many of these digests feature letter columns: Analog, IF, Amazing, and Fantastic. The two notable hold-outs are Fantasy and Science Fiction and Galaxy. I suspect the main reason for F&SF is lack of space, it being the shortest of the monthly mags.

Galaxy's reasoning is more complex. In fact, its editors (first H.L. Gold, now Fred Pohl) have polled readers to see if they wanted a lettercol. In the last 12 years' of the magazine's existence, the answer has always been no. Ironically, as much as I love talking to fellow fans, I think I'm in agreement (though I do like letters in comic books). More room for stories!

Speaking of which...have a look at the stories that came out in this month's quite good Galaxy, dated April 1962:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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[The precocious Mr. Boston continues to take time from his busy high school schedule to provide coverage of Cele Goldsmith's marquee digest: Amazing, the longest lived of the sff mags. I am deeply grateful to John for his eloquent reviews. I understand that he lives in particularly dull and uninspired part of the country, so I shouldn't wonder that he has time to escape to lands of fantasy...]


by John Boston

The April Amazing opens with a bang: the cover is a startling departure from the usual humdrum machinery. There’s a spacesuit in the foreground, but badly used, missing a glove and a boot, stuffed with straw, and held upright on a pole like a scarecrow, against a surreal background of reddish and yellow desert, a vast cloud of violet smoke, and a washed-out greenish sky. Strikingly imaginative symbolic work by artist Lloyd Birmingham? No, mostly illustrative: this tableau is from the first paragraph of Mark Clifton’s lead short story Hang Head, Vandal! But it is unusual and eye-catching, and Birmingham does get credit (if that’s the word) for the garish color scheme.



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

March has roared in like a lion here in Eastern Tennessee, with high temperatures below fifty and a bit of snow falling in Chattanooga. Can it be possible that spring is right around the corner? Perhaps it would be best to turn our thoughts away from the tempests of winter and concentrate on sunnier matters.

After his triumphant orbiting of the Earth, Colonel John Glenn is scheduled to be treated today to what is predicted to be the largest ticker tape parade in history, filling the streets of New York City with tons of shredded paper. Not great news for the street sweepers of the Big Apple, but the rest of us can celebrate.

For those of us stuck indoors due to the weather, we can tune our radios to just about any station playing the Top Forty and enjoy the sound of Gene Chandler's smash hit Duke of Earl, which has been at the top of the charts for a couple of weeks. It may not have the most profound lyrics in the world, but this catchy little number is sure to be heard in the background of many a teenage courtship as a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.



Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

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



You've almost assuredly heard of Radio Corporation of America (RCA). They make radios (naturally), but also record players, televisions, computers. They have produced the foundations of modern consumer electronics, including the color television standard and the 45 rpm record. And now, they've really outdone themselves: they've created cassettes for tape recording.

Until now, if you wanted to listen to music or a radio show, you had to either buy it as a pre-recorded album or record it yourself. The only good medium for this was the Reel to Reel tape recorder – great quality, but rather a bother. I've never gotten good at threading those reels, and storing them can be a hassle (tape gets crinkled, the reels unspool easily, etc.). With these new cassettes, recording becomes a snap. If the price goes down, I'll have to get me one.

What brought up this technological tidbit? Read on about the March 1962 Analog, and the motivation for this introduction will be immediately apparent.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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