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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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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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Sometimes, I just don't get it.

The December 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction is almost completely devoted to one short novel, Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys. I like Budrys, and F&SF is generally my favorite magazine, so I've been looking forward to this book since it was advertised last month.

To all accounts, it is a masterpiece (and by "to all accounts", I mean according to the buzz in the local science fiction circles). The premise is certainly exciting: there is an alien structure on the moon, an amorphous multi-dimensional thing, that kills all who enter it. To facilitate its exploration, the navy utilizes a matter transporter that disassembles one's molecules in one place and reconstructs them elsewhere. Volunteers are sent from Earth to their certain death to push a few more feet into the deadly extraterrestrial maze.

Of course, the transporter doesn't actually send anyone anywhere; it destroys the original and creates a copy that thinks it is the original. In fact, it's possible to make multiple copies of a person, and that is what is done: one copy goes to the moon to die, while the other stays on Earth to live on. It turns out that the two copies have a limited degree of telepathic contact for a short time, so the Earthbound copy can report on what his moonbound copy experiences.

The project's main hurdle is that it takes a special kind of person to experience one's own death and not go insane. How, indeed, to find such a person to unlock the riddles of the maze?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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Science fiction is my escape. When the drudgery of the real world becomes oppressive, or when I just need a glimpse of a brighter future to make the present more interesting, I turn to my growing collection of magazines and novels to buouy my spirits.

I like stories of interstellar adventure filled with interesting settings and characters. I do not like the psychological horrors that have become popular of late. Sadly, the February 1960 F&SF contains several such pieces. But it does end well.



I wrote last time about the flaws in Howard Fast's lead novella that kept me from fully enjoying it.

Richard McKenna's Mine Own Ways is particularly chilling. It involves a rite of passage designed by interstellar anthropologists to winnow the intellectually mature of a race from the primitive by essentially torturing them; one passes the test by realizing that the torture is transitory and enduring it.

Apprentice, by Robert Tilley, isn't so bad. It involves an alien who can take over a person's mind (without ill effect). The would-be invader possesses a junior flunky on a military base and is revealed when he is able to fulfil tasks that should have been impossible (along the lines of catching snipe, procuring a bottle of headlight fluid or a jar of elbow grease).

I suppose Jane Rice's The White Pony, about unrequited love in a future of post-apocalyptic scarcity is decent, too, and well-drawn. It even has a happy ending, after a fashion even if the world has that feeling of best-days-past shabbiness.

Battle-torn France is the setting for The Replacement, in which a Platoon Sergeant is convinced by a certain Private "Smith" that the war is all in his head, and that the world is nothing but solipsistic figments of his imagination. It is only after Smith unsuccessfully tries the same trick on the company's First Sergeant that we see the trick for what it is. A creepy piece.

Evelyn Smith's Send Her Victorious is a pun piece whose ending I should have seen coming. All about a communal colony of aliens who take on the general form of a middle-aged female before time traveling to 19th Century England.

Algis Budrys has a vignette called The Price about a centuries-old Rasputin(?) surviving an atomic holocaust only to find himself a captive of the few humans who are left. Are they willing to become gnarled, deranged hunchbacks like him in exchange for eternal life?

Dr. Asimov's piece, The Sight of Home, is a nice astronomical article about the greatest distance at which the sun might still be visible to the naked eye (answer: 20 parsecs. Not very far, indeed).

Then we're back to the horror. We are the Ceiling, by Will Worthington, depicts a fellow who books himself into a sanitarium when it appears his wife has begun consorting with troglodytes. Of course, she turns out to be one, as does his doctor.

That leaves us the subject of the cover art, The Fellow Who Married the Maxill Girl, by Ward Moore. This is the kind of story I read F&SF for—gentle, poignant, starring a woman. It's a girl meets boy story set in the depths of the Depression; the boy happens to be an alien. I shan't spoil more, and I hope you like it as much as I did.

I'll have a quick non-fiction stop press tomorrow, and then on to March's batch of magazines!

---

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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I've devoted much ink to lambasting Astounding/Analog editor John Campbell for his attempts to revitalize his magazine, but I've not yet actually talked about the latest (February 1960) issue. Does it continue the digest's trend towards general lousiness?

For the most part, yes. Harry Harrison's serial, Deathworld, continues to be excellent (and it will be the subject of its own article next month). But the rest is uninspired stuff. Take the lead story, What the Left Hand was Doing by "Darrell T. Langart" (an anagram of the author's real name—three guess as to who it really is, and the first two don't count). It's an inoffensive but completely forgettable story about psionic secret agent, who is sent to China to rescue an American physicist from the clutches of the Communists.

Then there's Mack Reynold's Summit, in which it is revealed that the two Superpowers cynically wage a Cold War primarily to maintain their domestic economies. A decent-enough message, but there is not enough development to leave much of an impact, and the "kicker" ending isn't much of one.

Algis Budrys has a sequel to his last post-Apocalyptic Atlantis-set story called Due Process. I like Budrys, but this series, which was not great to begin with, has gone downhill. It is another "one savvy man can pull political strings to make the world dance to his bidding" stories, and it's as smug as one might imagine.

The Calibrated Alligator, by Calvin Knox (Robert Silverberg) is another sequel featuring the zany antics of the scientist crew of Lunar Base #3. In the first installment in this series, they built an artificial cow to make milk and liver. Now, they are force-growing a pet alligator to prodigious size. The ostensible purpose is to feed a hungry world with quickly maturing iguanas, but the actual motivation is to allow one of the young scientists to keep a beloved, smuggled pet. The first story was fun, and and this one is similarly fluffy and pleasant.

I'll skip over Campbell's treatise on color photography since it is dull as dirt. The editor would have been better served publishing any of his homemade nudes that I've heard so much about. That brings us to Murray Leinster's The Leader<. It is difficult for me to malign the fellow with perhaps the strongest claim to the title "Dean of American Science Fiction," particularly when he has so many inarguable classics to his name, but this story does not approach the bar that Leinster himself has set. It's another story with psionic underpinnings (in Astounding! Shock!) about a dictator who uses his powers to entrance his populace. It is told in a series of written correspondence, and only force of will enabled me to complete the tale. There was a nice set of paragraphs, however, on the notion that telepathy and precognition are really a form of psychokinesis.

I tend to skip P. Schuyler Miller's book column, but I found his analysis of the likely choices for this (last) year's Hugo awards to be rewarding. They've apparently expanded the scope of the film Hugo from including just movies to also encompassing television shows and stage productions, 1958's crop being so unimpressive as to yield no winners.

My money's on The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.

---

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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When last we left off with the September 1959 Astounding, things were looking awfully bleak. The star-o-meter stood at a limp 2 stars, and I had poor hopes of raising the needle.

I am happy to report that things got better. Well, "happy" is too strong a word. I can honestly say that the quality improved, but I wouldn't have bought the magazine on the strength of its latter half.

Algis Budrys has the best story of the issue, no surprise there. His The Sound of Breaking Glass is the post-apocalyptic tale of a woman who has been holed up in a well-defended service station for twenty years as the world has slid into anarchy due to the widespread use and abuse of the drug, Lobotimol. Said medication makes the imbiber wholly vulnerable to suggestion--not the prescription for a healthy society. Originally a therapeutic pharmaceutical, it became a weapon that was cheap and ubiquitous.

Well-written and chilling, like most of Budrys' work.

The short-short article by Lt. James W. Owen, Fiction? Reality! is about the realization of arctic exploration gear that was posited as science fiction in a previous Chris Anvil story (Sellers' Market). Brief, but decent.

Amazingly, Randall Garrett's other story (under the pen-name of David Gordon), ...or your money back! is not terrible. It's actually pretty good, even though it is yet another story with the Heironymous Machine as its gimmick. In this tale, though, it is used to enhance psychokinetic powers to cheat at gambling. The sheer implausibility of the device is used as a legal defense by the perpetrator. A cute twist.



Finally, On handling the data, by newcomer M.I. Mayfield, is a depiction of one side of a correspondence exchange in which a graduate student makes an exciting discovery and then subverts it to gain his doctorate. I'm not quite sure I got the point, so I'm hoping my smarter readers can enlighten me.

All told, the latter half raised this issue into 2.5 star territory, which is as low as Astounding has gone this past year (it's never broken the 3 star mark, sadly). Read it at your peril.

In two days--the September 1959 IF! And then on to the new stuff... October!

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I suppose it was too much to hope for two good issues of Astounding in a row. The magazine that Campbell built is back to its standard level of quality, which is to say the bar is not very high. Still, I read the stories so you don't have to (if you don't want), so here's all the news that fits to print.

Randal Garrett's But I don't think isn't horrible. It's actually genuine satire, about a ordnance evasion officer (a "Guesser") who ends up inadvertently jumping ship during shoreleave. He is the denizen of a lawfully evil and hierarchical society, and the story is all about the miserable things he does and that are done to him in large part due to this evil culture. It'll leave a dirty taste in your mouth, like old cigarette butts, but I think it was actually intentional this time.

It's not exactly downhill from here, but there aren't exactly heights, either. The next story, Broken Tool, by Theodore L. Thomas, is a short piece about a candidate for the Space Corps, who ends up washing out because he, ironically, doesn't have enough attachment to his home planet of Earth. A "gotcha" story, the kind I might expect to find in one of the lesser magazines... not that they exist anymore.

I generally like Algis Budrys, and his Straw, about an entrepreneur who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and became the Big Man of the underwater community of Atlantis, isn't bad. It's just not terribly great.

Isaac Asimov has an interesting article entitled, Unartificial elements, explaining how all of the elements humans have managed to synthesize actually do exist in nature, albeit in rather small amounts. This was the best part of the magazine.

There are two stories after the last installment of Dorsai, which I reviewed last time. Chris Anvil's Leverage is a mildly entertaining story about colonists dealing with a planet's ecosphere that has a single-minded, but fatally flawed, vendetta against the settlers. Another low-grade story I'd expect in Imagination or somewhere similar.



Finally, we have Vanishing Point, by C.C. Beck, the illustrator for D.C.'s Captain Marvel. It's all about what happens when an artist learns the true nature of perspective. Cute, but, again, not much to it.

Campbell published the user reviews for March and April 1959. I won't go into great detail, but suffice it to say, Leinster's Pirates of Ersatz topped both months. But in March, Despoiler of the Golden Empire got #2, whereas my favorite, The Man Who Did Not Fit was bottommost. The April results were less disappointing--Now Inhale got #2, and Wherever You Are got #3. I probably would have swapped the places, but I suppose a female protagonist is too much for Analog readers to swallow comfortably.

Lots of space launches coming up--a Vanguard and a Discoverer, so expect some launch reports this week!

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by Ray Pioch

And now for something a bit different.

Back in '56, famed pulp editor, Leo Margulies, launched Satellite, a bi-monthly science fiction digest with the gimmick that it contained a full-length short novel as well as a few short stories. I always had a soft spot for that mag. One of my favorite novels was Planet for Plunder by Hal Clement and Sam Merwin; it came out in the February '57 ish, and I read it on the beach during one of trips to Kaua'i. It's an excellent tale of first contact mostly from a truly alien viewpoint. Highly recommended.

Late last year, Satellite went out on hiatus. Then, at the beginning of this year, Satellite returned with Cylvia Kleiman at the editorial helm. The magazine sported a full-sized format, presumably to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the slicks. No longer featuring novels, it dubbed itself "The Best in Science Fiction."

Who could resist a pitch like that? So the other day, I picked up this month's (May) and last month's (April) issues. What did I find inside?

I suppose one could argue that some of the writers are among science fiction's best, but these are definitely their second-rate stories. This is not the Satellite I used to know and love. Let's have a look, shall we?

The lead story is by the reliable J.T. McIntosh; The Solomon Plan is easily the best fictional piece in the magazine. In Plan, a terran spy tries to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed before: solving the mystery of the backward planet of Bynald. Where the other planets of the 26th century terran federation enjoy a correspondingly advanced quality of life, the hyper-patriotic Bynald seems to be stuck in the 20th century. Moreover, their population is unaccountably low given the length of time it has been settled.


by Leo Morey

McIntosh creates a nice group of characters, including a couple of reasonably developed females. The solution to the mystery is rather implausible, and the ending rather pat, but the story does not fail to entertain. I would have been more impressed had Plan not been a reprint--originally appearing in the February 1956 New Worlds Science Fiction.

A regular feature of Satellite is a biographical piece on one of the antediluvian forefathers of science fiction. In this case, it is a somewhat hagiographic piece by Sam Moskowitz on the justifiably famous A. Merritt. I'm a sucker for history, so it was worth picking up this ish for the piece.

The rest of the magazine is mediocre at best. Fritz Leiber's Psychosis from Space was, reportedly, an old story that he thought so little of that he forgot of its existence until Satellite asked him for a contribution. An astronaut goes out on humanity's first faster than light mission and returns able only to stumble about aimlessly and babble meaninglessly. Turns out his brain is running backwards. There is also some intrigue surrounding the astronaut's doctor and his attempts to coerce information about the trip from his patient. At least the (female) nurse character is competent and resourceful.


by Leo Morey

The duel of the insecure man, by newcomer Tom Purdom, is rather strange. In the far future (1988), it has become popular to engage in duels of cutting questions, the goal being to lay bare the soul of one's opponent and leave them a humiliated wreck. I am given to understand that this story was heavily hacked in editorial, so I won't dignify the resulting kluge with further verbiage.

I did enjoy Ellery Lanier's rather star-eyed account of the American Rocket Society meeting. In particular, I was excited to see his report on the Mouse in Able project. For those who don't know, prior to the Air Force's Pioneer missions, the Thor-Able rocket was used in suborbital shots to test re-entry nose cones. Since scientists abhor unused space as much as nature does, a mouse was included as part of the payload.

What makes this story particularly interesting is that the project was the brainchild of one of the very few woman scientists working in the space program: Laurel 'Frankie' Van der Wal, an amazon of a lady both in stature and fiery spirit. At some point, I'll give you all the inside story on that project; it is both enlightening and humorous.

Algis Budrys' The Last Legend is fair but not up to his usual standard. It's a traditional gotcha story of an older generation of science fiction: an astronaut makes humanity's first trip to another star, the journey having been previously unsurvivable by living things. After returning as a hero, it turns out that he's just a robot.

Robert Wicks' Patient 926, in which all children are inoculated against imagination, and Henry Slesar's Job Offer ("Dig this! The post-nuclear mutant is a normal human!") are both unremarkable in the extreme.

In sum, Satellite is definitely bargain-bin science fiction, though it is not without its charms. I have trouble seeing it surviving much longer, especially out on the newstands next to Life and Time.

Next up, the other half of double-feature that included The Blob!

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Last time on this station, I informed all of you that Part 2 of this (last) month's Fantasy & Science Fiction review would have to wait since I'd wanted to get through the Poul Anderson novelette before reporting.

Well, I'm glad I did. Damn that Anderson, anyway. How dare he write a good story! Now I can't justify skipping him. But more on that later.

Of Time and Cats by Howard Fast, who normally doesn't dip his toe in the science fiction pool, is a fun tale of the multiplicity that ensues when time travel is involved. A slick, paradoxical story.

Algis Budrys has another winner with The Distant Sound of Engines about impending death and the urgent need to impart a lifetime's accumulated wisdom before final departure. Sad. Good.

Avram Davidson's The Certificate is dystopic in the extreme, and probably inspired by the recent Holocaust. A subjugated humanity is reduced to bitter slave labor. The only "gift" from their new overlords is perfect health. How does one escape?



I liked Three Dimensional Valentine by Stuart Palmer (who had a story in the very first F&SF) quite a lot. It is fun and frivolous and rather old-fashioned. It is also unexpected. The author has given me permission to distribute this one, but I haven't quite received it in the mails yet. I'll let you know when I do.

And now to Poul Anderson's The Sky People. As you know, I always approach Anderson with trepidation. Apart from the amazing Brainwave, his work is generally turgid, and I don't like his manly men and absent women.

This one was different. There is still plenty of swashbuckling in this post-apocalyptic tale, but it is done in the style and with the flaire of a good pirate movie like Black Swan. It is set in old San Antone, in the heart of the decaying "Meycan" Empire, south of Tekas and north of S'america. Their technology and mindset is mired in the 16th century. The eponymous "Sky People" are dirigible-driving corsairs from the Kingdom of "Canyon." Though rapacious and ruthless, they possess a greater technology than their target--the Meycans. Unfortunately for them, the timing of their attack proves to be inauspicious as it coincides with the arrival of a delegation from the Federation, successors to the Polynesian nations of Oceania.



Told by three viewpoint characters, one Polynesian, one sky pirate, and one Meycan (a woman!), it is really quite good. Not only has Anderson managed to convincingly portray a wide variety of cultures, he has done a fine job of projecting recovery from an atomic catastrophe in a world that has used up most of its natural resources. I don't know if Anderson has written other stories in this universe or if he intends to, but I would enjoy reading more.

The final story is Alfred Bester's Will You Wait?. The deal with the Devil story has been just about done to death, but this is an infernally cute story about how the modern way of business has made the process Hell on Earth.

Gosh, where does that leave us for the issue? 4 stars? 4 and a half? Definitely a good read worth picking up--if there are any left on the stands, that is.

See you on the 12th!





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Now that you've all read Despoilers of the Golden Empirer, I imagine you'll want to know my thoughts.

I feel as if I waited an inordinate amount of time for the shoe to drop only to be hit in the ear with a wet sock.

As I read Garrett's piece, I kept thinking to myself, "All right. This is clearly modeled on Pizarro's trek. What's he going to do with it?" Was he going to reveal his feelings about intolerant imperialism, either favorably or unfavorably? Was his protagonist going to bring about the ironic ruin of the father Empire through hyper-inflation? I mean, what's the point of an analogy without a point?

And then I got to the end, and there was no analogy at all. It was the literal story, and the only reason one might think it was supposed to be science fiction was the fact that appeared in a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction.

Perhaps Garrett's work was supposed to be a dig against inferior science fiction. After all, H.L. Gold opened up Galaxy by denigrating the "space western." Maybe this piece was made to show how easy it is to dress up non-science fiction as science fiction with the minimum of trappings.

Somehow, I don't think so. I think this was an early April Fool's prank, and not a very clever one. Here Garrett was leading us to think there was going to be a trick ending to the story... and there actually wasn't (though he might argue that was the trick all along).

Oh well.



The rest of the book is pretty unimpressive, too. George O. Smith's Instinct, is about the abduction of an Earther by aliens who have tried seven times to smash humanity back into the stone age only to have us come back as world-beaters every time. The aliens want to know what makes us tick so they can stop us once and for all or peacefully integrate us into their galactic federation. Their plan backfires in the biggest of ways. Not badly written, but not much of a story.

Silverbob's Translation Error is really bad. It's not the concept--meddling alien returns to Earth 50 years after having ended the Great War early hoping to find a backward but peaceful world. Instead, he finds that none of his historical changes took, and the resultant world (our world) is on the brink of nuclear war and the threshold of space. I like alternate histories. The problem with this one is there are about three pages of story and ten more pages of repetition. It is poorly written, repetitive stuff with a conclusion so obvious, one wonders why it was written at all. This is the worst story, technically, that I've read in Astounding. Interestingly enough, my 17 year-old nephew, David, loved this story. There's no accounting for taste.

The only bright spot (aside from part 2 of Murray Leinster's serial, which I have not yet read, and which I shan't review until next month along with part 3) is Algis Budrys' The Man who did not Fit. It's another in the genre where an advanced civilization has figured out how to determine the ideal employment for each of its citizens. Of course, the few who do not fit in to the system are destined to rule. Seen it. Read it. Many times. But this one is nicely done with a rich setting: a conquered Earth at the crossroads of interesting interstellar politics. The protagonist is the son of the Terran government-in-exile (a bit of self-insertion by the author, whose father was the consul general of the Lithuanian government-in-exile after the Soviet take-over). Not a brilliant story, but a good one, and it shines in comparison.

Thus, excluding the Leinster, the issue barely manages to cross the 2 star mark. I suppose that if you enjoyed Part 1 of The Pirates of Ersatz, you should pick up this issue for Part 2, but there's precious little else for you in the March 1959 Astounding.

Happy Valentine's Day, by the way. If you want to recommend any appropriately romantic science fiction, I'm all ears!





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Wrapping up my tour of Kaua'i, here are some pictures I took on the south shore estate of Robert Allerton, whose hospitality is as tremendous as his philanthropy (science fiction-related stuff to follow).









For this installment, I've got something a little different. It's also the good news half of a good/bad news combination.



If is a science fiction magazine that has been around since 1952. Amongst the several dozen that have existed throughout the decade, it is perhaps (outside of The Big Three) the best. I haven't followed it very closely, and that's why I missed the big news.

Two issues ago, Damon Knight (acerbic critic and often brilliant writer) was tapped for the job of editor. I didn't find out until a couple of weeks ago, by which time, I'd missed the opportunity to buy the October and December 1958 issues. February 1959 was still on the stands, however, and I took it with me to Kaua'i.

Perhaps it's just the rosy glow imparted from having read mostly on the lovely Kalapaki beach, but it's really good. I've gotten through the first five stories, and they shall be the topic of today's discussion.

It is, of course, with trepidation that I read the opening piece, Pipe Dream by Fritz Leiber. As I've explained before, I used to like Fritz a lot (who can forget the brilliant A Pail of Air, which appeared in Galaxy many years ago). His stuff of late, however, has been pretty lousy. To be fair, it all appeared in F&SF, so that may have something to do with it. Anyway, Pipe Dream, about the creation of artificial life, is slickly written and atmospheric, but it's also disturbing and unpleasant, and perhaps not in the way Fritz intended. I didn't like it, though I imagine many would.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Wind People is almost a winner. It is a haunting tale of a ship's medical officer who elects to remain on a presumably uninhabited planet rather than expose her newborn child to the risks of hyperdrive travel. Bradley writes powerfully, and the mystery presented as the protagonist and her son make tentative and increasing contact with the furtive natives of the planet is exciting and engaging. The ending, however, is a let-down. One had to wonder if Bradley intended for the story to go in a different direction, one in which the editor was afraid to go. You'll have to read it and see. At least it's by a woman, stars a woman, and takes place in a universe where women make up half of a starship crew. Progress!

I'll skip story #3 until the end, as I've got a lot to say about that one. Number four is The Man who tasted Ashes by Algis Budrys. This is only the third story of his that I've read, and the second really good one; I'm going to look forward to more from him (and perhaps pick up earlier ones I've missed). If ever there was an anti-hero, it is the viewpoint character for this story: a petty political intriguer-for-hire who is contracted by an extraterrestrial concern to facilitate World War III. Good stuff.



Next up: Love and Moondogs by Richard McKenna (a career Navy man who got a writing degree on the G.I.Bill—now there's the American Way!) This is a silly story about the lengths some might go in the pursuit of their cause, however frivolous, and the hypocrisy often inherent therein. In this case, the object of outrage is a Soviet moon-muttnik. Gentle, pleasant satire.

Now back to story #3: The Good Work by relative newcomer Theodore L. Thomas. Remember when I talked about overpopulation in stories and the laughably small numbers most authors bandy about as too much for our planet? Well, Thomas doesn't play around—there are 350 billion souls inhabiting his Earth, and their life is accordingly regimented and drab. It's a satirical anti-utopia (a dystopia?) with a barbed punchline. The core of the story is the search for meaningful work in an age when everyone has just enough, and everything is automated.

I think this story is particularly relevant given that we are, I believe, on the cusp of a dramatic change in our economy. Before the industrial revolution, virtually everyone in the United States was employed in the agricultural sector. By the early 1800s, the industrial and service sectors began to rise as machines created jobs and allowed for the distribution of wealth; this was balanced by a drop of employment on the farm. Around 1900, employment in the agricultural sector had dropped to 35%, tied with the service sector and only slightly above the industrial sector. Industrial sector employment rose to a peak of 37% around 1950, and it has begun a gradual but steady decline since. Agricultural employment was at just over 10% in 1950, and it is plummeting fast. Service sector employment makes up the rest.

Projecting out another 50 years, agricultural employment will decline logarithmically, with a limit of zero as time goes to infinity. Industrial employment may take longer, but with mechanization and (ultimately) roboticization, that sector will also see declining employment. That leaves the service sector, which means that in the end, our economy will consist of nobody making anything, and everyone doing something for each other. Except, in the future, I imagine machines will also be my servants. So what will anyone purchase in 50 years to drive the economy? How will anyone work? Perhaps we'll all be scientists and artists in 2009. More likely, we'll develop artificial needs for useless products. Radio advertising has already been honed to a fine art, and the ad execs are figuring out the television advertising game pretty quickly.

Maybe we'll all be employed making advertisements. That sounds fulfilling.



Anyway, I promised good news, so in summation, If with Damon Knight at the helm promises to be a fine magazine.

The other shoe will drop on the last day of this month...





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It's time for a little timely flag-waving.

Last year, around the time I started this column, Operation Blue Bat wrapped up. It was one of our better moments, foreign policy-wise. Who'd even heard of Lebanon before 1958? But when that country came to the brink of civil war in the aftermath of the Iraqi revolution, American troops, particularly the Marines, were dispatched to help keep the peace. Their mission successful, the last of them came home on October 25.



Now, I'm as cynical as the next person. I know our action in Lebanon was political more than humanitarian. We were calling the bluff of the Soviets, who insisted we not interfere. We were protecting the pro-west Christian government from the pro-Soviet Arab government. As Tom Lehrer put it in a recent song, "They've got to be protected, all their rights respected, 'til somebody we like can be elected."

And yet, I still have to applaud the avoidance of bloodshed, as well as appreciate the now-concrete evidence that the Soviets and the U.S. will not come to blows over petty conflicts (the Suez Crisis of '56 was the first proof of that.)

So it's timely that the next story I read in the February 1959 Astounding was The Stoker and the Stars by John A. Sentry (Algis Budrys' Anglic pen-name). In this story, Earth had been roundly trounced after an interstellar war, and all of humanity had been confined to our own Solar System. Only limited trade was allowed. One proud Marine, defeated but not beaten, became the lynchpin to earning the respect of our cordoning aliens. It's an old-fashioned piece, a reminiscence of a space merchant remembering how he'd known the great man "back in the day," when they had shipped together on one of the last Terran cargo vessels; destination: occupied Alpha Centauri.

It's jingoistic. It's a little maudlin. It plays into Campbell's penchant for Terrans-uber-alles stories. I recognize that. But the memories of Iwo Jima and Lebanon are still fresh, and a good Marine friend of mine only recently returned from his station in the Middle East. Whatever your politics, it does not hurt to recognize that there are some fine people in the service, and I saw a little of my friend in the hero of Sentry's story.

Oribtal Cold War department:

Remember Sputnik III? This was the first "real" Soviet satellite following the bare-bones Sputnik I (which went beep-beep) and the rather stunt-like Sputnik II (which carried the Muttnik, Laika). Weighing in at over a ton and carrying a dozen experiments, it was certainly a feat of Soviet engineering.



It was also the only Soviet satellite launched throughout all of 1958. Thus, while the American Vanguard I continues to chatter happily away from orbit, and Explorer IV is also still up there, albeit silent since October, Sputnik III remains the sole Soviet sentinel in orbital space. So I can just imagine the consternation in the Kremlin when Sputnik III's signal started to decay and warble like a drunkard's whistle. Since December 17, Sputnik III has probably been of little use to anybody.

But the day before yesterday, radio eavesdroppers in Napa, California announced that the poor space lab had recovered (perhaps with fuzz on its geiger counters and the need for some strong tomato juice). The current theory is that Sputnik III gradually got tipped out of alignment so that its solar cells were no longer getting sufficient charge. The probe has finally returned to a favorable tilt, and is happily back on the wagon.

Thus, what began with an American flag-waving has ended with some Soviet flag-waving. All in the spirit of fairness, of course.




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I'm afraid this month's Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) thus far has been a bit of a let-down. I recognize that this sister magazine to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine has a reputation to uphold as the most “literary” of the Big Three science fiction digests (a lofty standing it shares with Galaxy and Astounding), but I think it has gone a bit too far.

Perhaps it's the doing of the new editor, Robert P. Mills, who took the reins when Anthony Boucher stepped down to pursue a more active writing career. Maybe this is what the audience wants. Maybe it's a phase. In any event, the stories are all long on imagery and short on plot and/or comprehensibility. I know I'm prone to writing purplish prose, and I've certainly got a strong snobbish streak, but this month's stories go too far even for me.

“The Eye and the Lightning” is an Algis Budrys-penned tale about a future in which (I think) scanning devices have given people almost unlimited ability to surveil, to destroy, and to teleport. People live in constant fear of being murdered at any moment by an unknown assailant who tired of his peepshow subject. They go to town swaddled in concealing clothes as some version of the Law of Contagion makes it easier to be a target of surveillance and attack if some of your clothes, skin or blood falls into someone else's possession. This tale chronicles what happens when one of the inhabitants of this dystopia invents a detector that allows a scanned person to identify and retaliate against his or her scanner.

Very atmospheric, but it didn't make much sense to me.

Asimov's science article goes too far in the other direction, perhaps. It is a primer on escape velocity, the minimum speed necessary to escape a body's gravity. There is not much to it. We would have been just as well served had he just submitted the charts showing escape velocity by planet without bothering with the explanation.

“Pink Caterpillar” is Tony Boucher's recent foray into writing: a mildly cute, but somewhat fluffy story about the paradox caused by the impossibility of being in two places (or times) at once.

At least I understood it. The same cannot be said for Fritz Leiber's “Poor Little Miss MacBeth,” which (I think?) is about an old witch in a post-apocalyptic setting. It's a short mood piece, and it doesn't make any sense. Perhaps one of my three fans can read it and tell me what a dunce I am.

The final tale of the first half of magazine is “Timequake,” by Miriam Allen Deford. Per the editorial forward, she's written a lot, but I've never heard of her. This story is about the consequences of the clock resetting 12 hours into the past, eliminating all actions done in that period, but leaving the memories of everyone intact. An interesting, if silly, premise. It's turned into a trivial, short tale.

Oh well. Here's hoping Part 2 comprises more substantial stuff.

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