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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



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

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 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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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 Gideon Marcus

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

Thus, Galactic Journey was born.



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

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

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

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



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Recently, I told you about Campbell's lousy editorial in the August 1961 Analog that masqueraded as a "science-fact" column. That should have been the low point of the issue. Sadly, with one stunning exception, the magazine didn't get much better.

And yet...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Has John W. Campbell lost his mind?

Twenty years ago, Campbell mentored some of science fiction's greats. His magazine, Astounding (now Analog), featured the most mature stories in the genre. He himself wrote some fine fiction.

What the hell happened? Now, in his dotage, he's used his editorial section to plump the fringiest pseudosciences: reactionless space drives, psionic circuits with no physical components, the assertion that the human form is the most perfect possible. The world hasn't seen an embarrassing decline like this since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle started chasing fairies.

But this month, Campbell has gone too far. This month, he replaced Analog's science-fact column with a rant on the space race, a full twenty pages of complete poppycock, so completely wrong in every way that I simply cannot let it lie.

(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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I've got a long-running feud going on with Mike Glyer, editor of the popular fanzine, File 770. Well, feud is probably too strong a word given that we're good friends and avid mutual readers. In fact, we usually get along quite well. All fans are united by love for the genre and our status as oddballs, after all. But Mike and I just can't seem to agree on Analog, a monthly science fiction magazine.

Here are the indisputable facts: Analog is the elder statesman of the digests; it pioneered real sf back when all the other outlets were pushing pulp adventure. Analog has the biggest circulation of any of the current digests, somewhere around 200,000 per month.

Now for the disputable ones. Analog is the most conservative of the mags. It's generally Terran-centric, with Earthlings portrayed as the most cunning, successful beings in the galaxy (which is why, of course, most aliens look just like us). While the serialized novels in Analog are often excellent, the accompanying short stories tend to be uninspiring. The science fact columns are awful. Editor John Campbell's championing of psionics and reactionless engines (in real-life, not just fiction), crosses into the embarrassing. All these factors make Analog the weakest of the Big Three magazines, consistently lagging in quality behind Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Of course, Mike disagrees He's even wagered that Analog will take the Hugo award for Best Science Fiction Magazine this year. I think he's dreaming. F&SF has won three years in a row, and barring some unexpected decline in quality, it will do so again.

I'll take that bet, Mike Glyer! Two beers to your one.

As evidence for my case, I present this month's Analog, dated June 1961.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation. Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer. He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon's primacy. This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth's finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories...

...if he wants to be published in Analog anyway. One might suggest to John Campbell that he solicit stories with more subtle openings. To be fair, the May 1961isn't actually that bad, but every time a piece begins in the fashion described above, I feel like I've discovered a portal to 1949's slush pile.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's a banner year for Irishmen, particularly with one having reached the top spot in the country, if not the world. And did you know that the phrase, "Luck of the Irish," actually referred to the knack of Irish immigrants and Americans of Irish descent for becoming wealthy in the Silver and Gold Rushes of the last century? Though the term was often used derisively by folks who thought the fortune was ill-earned.

My luck with Analog, deserved or not, ran out this month. With the exception of the opening serial installment, The Fisherman, by Cliff Simak (which I have not yet read but look forward to), the April 1961 Analog has been singularly unimpressive.

(read more at Galactic Journey!)
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Analog (my errant fingers keep wanting to type "Astounding") was even better than last time. This particular copy is a seasoned traveler, having ridden with me to the lovely shores of Kaua'i and back. At long last, I've finished reading, and I can tell you about it. A sneak preview: there's not a bad piece in the book!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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John Campbell's science fiction magazine continues to defy my efforts to chart a trend. Following on the heels of last month's rather dismal issue, the February 1961 Analog is an enjoyable read.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Illustrated by Van Dongen

Sometimes one plus one is greater than two, and sometimes, two authors produce a substantially better product than either of them might individually.

Take Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg, for instance. Here are a couple of fellows whose personal output tends toward the uninspiring, at best, and the downright offensive, at worst. Yet, together, they wrote the Nidor series, which was solid reading all the way through. Now, Laurence Janifer, on the other hand, writes some pretty good stuff on his own, so perhaps he is not helped by his pairing with Randy. On the third hand, Randy sure as hell writes better stuff when working with Larry (under the pen name of Mark Phillips)!

Case in point: A couple of years ago, the two teamed up to produce a serial novel in Astounding (now Analog) called That Sweet Little Old Lady. It followed the travails of FBI Agent Ken Malone as he tracked down a gaggle of insane telepaths in the early 1970s. His main partner, aside from the Garrett stand-in, Agent Boyd, is a charming grandmotherly telepath whose primary quirk is that she believes herself to be Queen Bess herself. Not a reincarnation, mind you--the real deal.

The G-Man and Her Majesty teamed up again for another serial, Out Like a Light, where the subject of interest was a gang of teleporting juvenile car thieves. By the end of this novel, Malone has picked up some psychic skills of his own, including a sense of precognition and the ability to teleport.

Three months ago, installment one of the latest Mark Phillips novel debuted in Analog. This one is aptly titled Occasion for Disaster, and it is Malone's most ambitious outing to date...

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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As the year draws to a close, all of the science fiction magazines (that is to say, the six remaining--down from a 1953 peak of 45) scramble to publish their best fiction. Their aim is two-fold: firstly, to end the year with a bang, and secondly, to maximize the chances that one of their stories will earn a prestigious award.

By which, of course, I refer to my Galactic Stars, bestowed in December. There's also this thing called a Hugo, which some consider a Big Deal.



And that's probably why the December 1960 Astounding was actually a pretty good ish (for a change). I'll gloss over Part 2 of Occasion for Disaster, co-written by Garrett and Janifer, and head straight into the stand-alone stuff.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Each month, I lament what's become of the magazine that John Campbell built. Analog's slow decline has been marked by the editor's increased erratic and pseudo-scientific boosting behavior. Well, I just don't have the heart to kick a dog today, and besides, the fiction is pretty good in this month's (November 1960) issue. So let's get right to it, shall we?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The October 1960 Analog is a surprisingly decent read. While none of it is literature for the ages (some might argue that the Ashwell-written lead novella is an exception), neither is any of it rough hoeing. Interestingly, it is an issue devoted almost entirely to sequels--and also to enriching writer Mack Reynolds. Don't worry. He earned his checks.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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