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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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by Gideon Marcus

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

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

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



See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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August may have started with cool weather but it ended with a bit of heat wave for the August Bank Holiday weekend. So I did get to sit on the beach eating ice-cream and reading a good book, and in this case having the pleasure of reading Arthur C. Clarke’s latest A Fall of Moondust, of which John Wyndham has said, “The best book that Arthur C. Clarke has written.” A high praise indeed.

I have been a fan of Arthur’s work after reading his novella, which first appeared in Startling Stories, called Against the Fall of Night. I’ve also been fortunate to have had the pleasure of meeting him. For those of you who follow my writing here I can also recommend, if you want a taste of the man’s humour, his short story collection Tales from the White Hart. The title of which is play on the name of the original pub that The London Circle used to frequent.

Arthur C. Clarke’s latest book probably cements his reputation as one of the key science fiction authors of our age; the others being Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. His breakout novel, if you will indulge me in describing it as such, was arguably Childhood's End, which was released in 1953. It describes the arrival of the Overlords on Earth to guide humanity and ends with the transcendence of mankind into something more than human. This was followed by my favourite novel of his The Deep Range in 1957, which tells how a former astronaut becomes an aquanaut, and describes the adventures arising from farming the sea.



So the question is, does A Fall of Moondust live up to John Wyndham’s effusive praise?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Have you ever heard/seen Karl Orrf's Carmina Burana? It's an opera of sorts, the performance of a set of medieval poems to music. It is likely that you're at least familiar with its opening number, the catchy Oh Fortuna!. Well, having seen Carmina, I can tell you that even Orff knew there wasn't much to the rest of the piece – as evidenced by the fact that Oh Fortuna! gets performed twice, once at the beginning and once at the end. You can snooze through the rest.

This month's Fantasy and Science Fiction is like Carmina: a tremendous beginning followed by a largely snoozeworthy remainder. I suppose that, if you want to complete the analogy, you can simply read the opening piece again after finishing the book. You probably will.



(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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Every year or so, Fantasy and Science Fiction releases an "All Star" issue in which only Big Names get published. It's a sort of guarantee of quality (and, presumably, sales). I'll tell you right now that, with the notable exception of the lead novelette, it's largely an "All Three Star" issue. Perhaps it's better to leave things to the luck of the draw. That said, it's hardly an unworthy read, and Zenna Henderson, as always, makes the issue a must buy.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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I've said before that there seems to be a conservation of quality in science fiction. It ensures that, no matter how bad the reading might be in one of my magazines, the stories in another will make up for it. Galaxy was pretty unimpressive this month, so it follows that Fantasy and Science Fiction would be excellent. I am happy to say that the October 1960 F&SF truly is, as it says on the cover, an "all star issue."


from here

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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If there is any innovation that defined the resurgent science fiction field in the 1950s, it is the science fiction digest. Before the last decade, science fiction was almost entirely the province of the "pulps," large-format publications on poor-quality paper. The science fiction pulps shared space with the detective pulps, the western pulps, the adventure pulps. Like their brethren, the sci-fi pulps had lurid and brightly colored covers, often with a significant cheesecake component.

Astounding (soon to be Analog) was one of the first magazines to make the switch to the new, smaller digest format. Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, and a host of other new magazines never knew another format. By the mid-'50s, there were a score of individual science fiction digests, some excellent, some unremarkable. It was an undisputed heyday. But even by 1954, there were signs of decline. By the end of the decade, only a handful of digests remained. The "Big Three" were and are Astounding, F&SF, and Galaxy (now a bi-monthly alternating production with a revamped version of IF). Also straggling along are Fantastic Stories and Amazing, the latter being the oldest one in continuous production.

My faithful readers know I don't generally bother with the last two titles. Although some of my beloved authors sometimes appear in them, their quality is spotty, and my time (not to mention budget!) is limited. Nevertheless, Rosel George Brown had a good story in Fantastic last month, and this month's Amazing had a compelling cover that promised I would find works by Blish, Bone, and Knight inside.



I bit. This article is the result.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Arthur C. Clarke has been a household name for a long time: The “ABCs of science fiction”, Asimov, Bester and Clarke (or Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke, if you're so inclined, and I'm generally not) is a cliché. Yet, up to now, aside from a few random stories in lesser magazines, I'd read nothing by the fellow.

This weekend, I flew in that sleek new symbol of the modern age, the Boeing 707. My destination was a newish science fiction/fantasy convention in Seattle. Aside from being quite an amazing experience (the convention and the flight), the trip gave me time to read a book cover to cover.



And just barely. Jets are fast. It's hard to believe that the trip from San Diego to Seattle lasted just under four hours; it used to take the better part of a day in a DC-3. And that was only a decade ago!

The book that accompanied me on this adventure was Clarke's best-seller, “Childhood's End.” I can't tell you why it took me five years (it was published in 1953) to finally get around to it, but there it is, and you can't chide me anymore for my illiteracy.



Here's what I will tell you: It is more of a series of novellas than a novel, detailing a glimpses of the future of humanity in chronological order. It is written skillfully, oft-times poetically, in a third-person omniscient style. This might have been tedious, but instead, it just made the scope feel more grand.

For a good deal of the novel, I noted approvingly, the protagonist is Black, or at least a Mulatto. For the entirety of the novel, I noted disappointedly (but not unexpectedly), there are no significant female characters. Where they do show up, they are wives and/or mothers and rather frivolous. Still, it is a very fine book.

And I shan't tell you any more than that. Because first and foremost, it is a mystery. Really, a Russian nesting doll of serial mysteries. It was such a joy to read this book with no prior knowledge of its story, that I would hardly be doing you any justice by spoiling it. Suffice it to say that Childhood's End is very original and never dull.

I will relate just one tidbit I found disturbing and, perhaps, prescient: per Clarke, by the mid-21st century, television will be a 24-hour affair with 500 hours of programming available per day. It boggles the mind to think of 20 full-time networks when three (plus the odd local station) are already quite a lot. Moreover, Clarke's future Terrans watch an average of three hours of the stuff every day. It is no surprise that our descendants in Clarke's vision are losing their artistic touch, preferring to be audience rather than creators.

Disturbing stuff... but then Clarke's book is filled with disturbing and thoughtful stuff. Pick it up! You won't regret spending four bits.

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)

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