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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

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:



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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.

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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:



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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.


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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...

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Each month, I look forward to my dose of new science fiction stories delivered in the form of digest-sized magazines. Over the decade that I've been subscribing, I've fallen into a habit. I start with my first love, Galaxy (or its sister, IF, now that they are both bi-monthlies). I then move on to Analog, formerly Astounding. I save The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy for last. This is because it has been, until recently, the best of the digests-- my dessert for the month, as it were.

These days, the stories aren't as good. Moreover, this time around, the latter third of the magazine was taken up with half a new Gordy Dickson short novel, which I won't review until it finishes next month. As a result, the remaining tales were short and slight, ranging from good to mediocre.

In other words, not a great month for F&SF, especially when you consider that the novels they print seem to be hacked down for space (if the longer versions that inevitably are printed in book form are any indication). Nevertheless, it is my duty to report what I found, so here it is, the October 1961 F&SF:

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Everyone who writes has got an agenda, but Science fiction writers may be the most opinionated of authors. That's because their pigeon involves prediction, which in turn, is a personal interpretation of current trends. They can't help but express their own biases in their work. And so we have Robert Heinlein and his penchant for plugging love of cats, libertarianism, and nudism (not necessarily in that order!). Dr. Asimov denounces anti-scientific themes in his works. It is no secret that I advocate for the equal representation of women and minorities.

John W. Campbell, editor of the monthly science fiction digest, Analog, is a big fan of psi – the ability of the human mind to alter matter.

Psi is one of those "pseudo-sciences." To date, I don't think there has been a scrap of compelling research as to the existence of ESP or telepathy or precognition, save in the parlors of the less reputable carnivals. Yet it can make for interesting storytelling, a sort of modern magic. I don't mind it so much in my stories, any more than I mind Faster than Light space travel, which is just as baseless.

That said, Campbell, who has more power projection than a single writer, is a psi fanatic. It's rare that an issue of Analog appears without at least one psi-related story, and most have several.

Like this month's, the September 1961 issue:

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by Gideon Marcus


Take a look at the back cover of this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction. There's the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn't settle for a lesser sci-fi mag. And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh's WorldCon. That's the third Hugo in a row.



It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine. Sure, it's the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories. I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad. Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us:

(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.



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Del Shannon's on the radio, but I've got Benny Goodman on my hi-fi. Say...that's a catchy lyric! Well, here we are at the end of April, and that means I finally get to eat dessert. That is, I finally get to crack into The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. While it is not the best selling science fiction digest (that honor goes to Analog by a wide margin), it is my favorite, and it has won the Best Magazine Hugo three years running.

So what kind of treat was the May 1961 F&SF? Let's find out!



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If you are in the accounting profession, you are familiar with the concept of "closing the books," wherein you complete all your reconciliations and regard a month as finished. Here at the Journey, Month's End does not occur until the last science fiction digest is reviewed. Thus, though the bells have already rung for the new year of 1961, December 1960 will not officially end until I get a chance to tell you about the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction!

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Here's a math problem for you, kids! If more than half of your magazine is taken up by a 2-star short novel, how likely is it that you'll still end up with a good issue?

Answer: not very.

I'm used to Fantasy & Science Fiction having a long table of contents page. This one (the December 1960 issue) comprises just ten entries, and all save the Asimov article are vignettes. I wonder if we'll be seeing a slew of larger stories now that Editor Mills has depleted his stock of tiny ones.

Anyway, it's quality, not quantity that counts. So how was the quality?

(find out at Galactic Journey!)
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With Astounding so good this month, I suppose it was too much to ask that Fantasy and Science Fiction would also be of high caliber. While it's not a bad issue, it's not one of the better ones, either.

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From the depths of mediocrity to the peaks of quality, it looks like our long literary winter may finally be over. Perhaps the groundhog didn't see a shadow this year.

First, we had an uncharacteristically solid Astounding. This month's Fantasy and Science Fiction is similarly exceptional without a clunker in the bunch, and some standouts besides.

I used to see Poul Anderson's name and cringe. The author who had impressed me so much with 1953's Brainwave turned out consistent dreck for the next several years, though to be fair, he generally did so within the pages of Campbell's magazine, not Boucher's. A couple of years ago he got back into his groove, and his stuff has been generally quite good again.

He has the lead novella in the March F&SF, The Martyr, set in a far future in which humanity has met a race of clearly superior psionicists. We are so jealous of these powers, and the possessors so unwilling to give up their secrets, that a small human contingent takes several aliens prisoner to coerce the secrets of psi out of them. But what if it's a secret better left unrevealed?

It's a beautiful story, but there is nastiness here, and it can be a rough read in places. It is no less recommended for that, however. Just giving fair warning.

Ray Bradbury is an author I've never held in much regard, but his Death and the Maiden, about a withered rural crone who shuts herself in an ancient house in defense against mortality, isn't bad.

It doesn't even suffer too badly when compared to Ted Sturgeon's subsequent Like Young, perhaps because the subject matter is so different (Ray was less successful when both he and Ted wrote mermaid stories in quick succession, Ted's being, by far, the superior.) In Sturgeon's tale, the last surviving 504 humans, rendered sterile by radiation, decide to give their race a kind of immortality by planting cultural and scientific relics so as to bootstrap humanity's evolutionary successor. The joke is on us in the end, however.

John Collier's Man Overboard is an atmospheric piece about a dilettante sea captain pursuing an elusive sea-going Loch Ness Monster. It feels old, like something written decades ago. I suspect that is a deliberate stylistic choice, and it's effective.

Then we have a cute little Sheckley: The Girls and Nugent Miller, another story set in a post-atomic, irradiated world. Is a pacifist professor any match against a straw man's Feminist and her charge of beautiful co-eds? The story should offend me, but I recognize a tongue permanently affixed to the inside of the cheek when I see one.

Miriam Allen DeFord has a quite creepy monster story aptly called, The Monster, with an almost Lovecraftian subject (the horror in the cemetery that feeds on children) but done with a more subdued style and with quite the kicker of an ending.

The Good Doctor (Isaac Asimov) is back to form with his non-fiction article on the measuring of interstellar distances, The Flickering Yardstick. I must confess with some chagrin that, despite my astronomical education, I was always a bit vague on how we learned to use Cepheid variable stars to compute galactic distances (their pulsation frequency is linked to their brightness, which allows us to determine how far away they are). Asimov explains it all quite succinctly, and I was gratified to see a woman astronomer was at the center of the story (a Henrietta Leavitt).


"Pickering's harem," the computers of astronomer Edward Pickering (Leavitt is standing)

Avram Davidson has a fun one-pager called Apres Nous wherein a dove is sent to the future only to return wet and exhausted with an olive leaf in its mouth. I didn't get the punchline until I looked up the quote in a book of quotations.

The remainder of the issue is filled with a most excellent Clifford Simak novella, All the Traps of Earth, in which a centuries-old robot, no longer having a human family to serve, escapes inevitable memory-wiping and repurposing by fleeing to the stars. We've seen the "robot as slave" allegory before in Galaxy's Installment Plan. In fact, it was Cliff, himself, who wrote it, and I remember being uncomfortable with his handling of the metaphor in that story.

I had no such problems this time—it's really a beautiful story of emancipation and self-realization, by the end of which, the indentured servant has become a benevolent elder. A fine way to end a great issue.

So pick up a copy if you can. At 40 cents (the second-cheapest of the Big Four), it's a bargain.


"Spacecraft landing on the Moon" - cover artwork without overprinting - Mel Hunter

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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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Statistics are (is?) fun. There is a simple joy to compiling data and finding patterns. Since the beginning of the publishing year, i.e. issues with a January cover date, I have been rating stories and magazine issues in aggregate. This is partly to help me remember the stories in times to come and also to trace patterns of quality. In a couple of months, I plan to have my own mini-Hugo awards; perhaps one of you might help me think of a catchy name.

I use a 1 to 5 star rating system, and until this month, individual issues varied between aggregate ratings of 2.5 and 3.5. But this month, the October 1959 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction broke the curve scoring an incredible, unprecedented 4.5 stars. That’s about as close to perfection as I can imagine, and I strongly urge all of you to get your hands on a copy while they remain at newsstands.

I talked about the first third of the book last week. I’ve since finished the rest, and the quality has not dipped an inch.

To be sure, Charles G. Finney’s The Gilashrikes is only decent. A biologist mates his gila monster to his shrike, and the resulting hybrid, in an attempt to make up for their ignoble provenance, become the town moralists, enforcing virtue to an increasingly annoying degree. I know of Finney from the much raved-about Circus of Dr. Lao, and Gilashrikes has a similar, whimsical quality.



Operation Incubus, by Poul Anderson, on the other hand, is fantastic in both senses of the word. A newlywed magician couple, one a lycanthrope, the other an adept (relearning her trade after losing the maidenhood that was the source of much her power) go on a honeymoon only to run afoul of demonic predators. It’s lyric, tasteful, and impacting. Also very exciting. It also paints a universe much like ours, but with magic more intertwined with our lives. Highly recommended.

Hassoldt Davis’ The Pleasant Woman, Eve is a Garden of Eden story starring God and the Wandering Jew discussing how to get the first humans to make more of themselves independently. It’s very good, but it could have used an extra paragraph. Perhaps space concerns dictated the abrupt ending.

The Pi Man is Alfred Bester’s latest tale of a haunted, pursued psychic. In this case, the protagonist is sensitive to karmic patterns, and he must do good and hateful things, in turn, to maintain balance in the universe. It’s very strangely written, and it took me a few pages to get into it, but I found the journey ultimately rewarding.

Finally, for the short stories at least (and they are all under 16 pages in length to accommodate Heinlein’s serial) is Avram Davidson’s Dagon. I must confess that I did not quite understand this rather ominous tale of an American soldier’s rise to virtual Godhood in post-War China. As the fellow becomes more powerful, he becomes more detached from reality, in the end becoming an intangible viewpoint on the world.--a literal goldfish in a bowl. Perhaps that is the point—with power comes a loss of free will and agency. Or perhaps it was just a comeuppance delivered by a mischievous old Chinaman.

As for the novel, Heinlein’s Starship Soldier, the first half is excellent, particularly in contrast to Dickson’s recent military serial, Dorsai!. Oh, it’s got its share of Heinlein preaching through the mouths of characters, but he has to get it out somewhere. I’ll devote a full article to the story next month.

As a teaser for the next article, I've just learned that the Soviets have launched their second lunar probe. It only takes half a day to get there, so we'll know if it was a success in short order!



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P.S. 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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There is a certain perverse joy to statistics.  Think of the folks who spend hours every week compiling baseball scores, hit averages, etc.  It’s a way to find a pattern to the universe, I suppose. 

To date, I’ve sort of off-handedly rated issues on a 1 to 5 star scale.  Last weekend, I went through my issues and compiled real statistics.  Here’s my methodology:
Each story/article gets rated 1 to 5 with these meanings.

5: Phenomenal; I would read again.
4: Good; I would recommend it to others.
3: Fair; I was entertained from beginning to end, but I would not read again or recommend.
2: Poor; I wasted my time but was not actively offended.
1: Abysmal; I want my money back!

I generally skip editorials and book reviews (in the ratings; I do read them... except for Campbell's editorials).

I then average all the stories in the book.  I do another, weighted, average where I factor in the length of a story (i.e. if the long stories are great and the short ones are terrible, the latter do not bring down the score as much).  Generally, the two scores are close.

My preliminary analysis has confirmed what I’d already felt in my gut--Fantasy and Science Fiction is a consistently better magazine than Astounding.  F&SF runs a consistent 3 or 3.5 average.  That may not sound like a lot, but any score over 3 means there must be at least one good story inside.  I haven’t reviewed a magazine that scored a 4 yet.
Astounding, on the other hand, runs in the 2.5 to 3 range.  This is why I find the magazine a chore.

I haven’t don’t Galaxy yet, but I suspect it will fall in between the two above magazines.



Using my brand new rating system, let’s talk about the new IF Science Fiction.  I’m afraid it’s not quite up to Galaxy’s standards, nor even those set by Damon Knight’s outing as editor, but it’s not horrible, either.

The issue starts strongly enough with F. L. Wallace’s Growing Season, about a starship hydroponics engineer with a contract out on his life.  It’s a very plausible and advanced story whose only flaw is that it ends too quickly and in a pat manner.   4 stars.

The Ogre, on the other hand, is a disappointing turn-out from normally reliable Avram Davidson.  As one reader observed, it falls between two stools, being neither chilling nor funny.  It’s another story where an anthropologist would rather kill than revise a pet theory, in this case, the date of Neanderthal extinction.  2 stars.

Wynne Whiteford, of whom I had not heard before, though I understand he’s been around for a while, writes a rather hackneyed tale of immortality and body-snatching called Never in a Thousand Years.  If you don’t see the end coming from the beginning, you’re not looking very hard.  2 stars.

Sitting Duck, by Daniel Galouye, is one of those stories with a uncannily relevant but unnecessary parallel subplot.  In this case, aliens are hunting humans from artificial “blinds” in the shapes of homes, malls, and movie theater... just like the protagonist when he hunts ducks from blinds.  It really doesn’t work as a story, but it’s not execrable.  Just primitive.  2 stars.

I rather enjoyed Mutineer by Robert Shea, in which cities have reverted to city states (albeit high-technology ones), professions are regimented, and soldiers are both fearsome and feared.  There are interesting parallels to be drawn to Classical Greece, perhaps.  3 stars.



Paul Flehr’s A Life and a Half is inconsequential, a bitter reminiscence by an old-timer about a century from now, noting how much better things were “back then.”  It has a rather strong Yiddish tone throughout, however, so it’s not all bad.  2 stars.

Rosel George Brown continues to show potential that is never quite realized.  In Car Pool, a young mother struggles with mixing alien and human children in a pre-school setting; at the same time, she wrestles with her plainness and puritanical virtuosity.  I liked it, but it is not quite great.  3 stars.

Baker’s Dozens is about a series of clones who encounter life and death in a number of interesting ways in their interstellar journeys.  The story is mainly a vehicle for author, Jim Harmon’s, groan-worthy puns.  3 stars.

IF ends as it began, with a quite good story by Phillip K. Dick called Recall Mechanism.  It combines a post-apocalyptic world with investigations into psychiatry and precognition.  I’m torn between assigning it a 4 or a 5.  If only there were an integer between the two!



Averaged out, this issue clocks in at 3 stars.  You could definitely do worse, and the first and last stories are worth reading.

See you in two days, and thanks for reading!





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It's those haunting, evocatively written F&SF stories that keep me a regular subscriber. July's issue opens with Robert F. Young's To Fell a Tree, about the murder (mercy killing?) of the tallest tree imaginable, and the dryad that lived within. It'll stay with you long after you turn the last page, this sad, but not entirely desolate, tale. So far, it's the best I've seen by Young.

Asimov's column, this month, is a screed against the snobbery of the champions of liberal arts and humanities to the practitioners of science. I'm told that the rivalry is largely good-natured, but Dr. Asimov seems to have been personally slighted, and his article is full of invective.

Avram Davidson's Author, Author is next: venerable British mystery writer is ensnared by the very butlers and baronets who were the subjects of his novels. I found most interesting the interchange between the author and his publisher, in which the latter fairly disowns the former for sticking to a stodgy old format, the country-house murder, rather than filling pages with sex and scandal. I found this particularly ironic as my wife is a mysteries fan who appreciates whodunnits of an older vintage, from Conan Doyle to Sayers. She has, of late, become disenchanted with the latest, more cynical crop of mysteries. I suspect she would have words for the publisher in Davidson's story.

For Sale, Reasonable is a short space-filler by Elizabeth Mann Borgese about a fellow soliciting work in a world where automation has made human labor obsolete. Damon Knight's following book review column is devoted to The Science Fiction Novel, Imagination and Social Criticism, a book of essays written by some of the field's foremost authors. It sounds like a worthy read.

Jane Roberts' Impasse hits close to home--a young lady loses her last living relative, her grandfather. So great is her grief that, by an act of will, she returns him to life, though the old man is not too happy about it. The story struck a chord with me as I lost my family when I was quite young, and I can certainly identify with the poor girl's plight.

The Harley Helix is another fill-in-the-space short short by Lou Tabakow, the moral of which is There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (i.e. the First Law of Thermodynamics). Success Story, which I reviewed last time, is next.

Raymond E. Banks has the penultimate tale, with Rabbits to the Moon, a thoroughly nonsensical tale about the teleportation of creatures (including humans). Its only flaw, that the transported arrive without a skeleton, is made into a selling point.

Last up is The Cold, Cold Box by Howard Fast. The richest man in the world becomes afflicted with terminal cancer and has himself frozen in 1959 so that the future can cure him. But the members of his company's board of directors have a different agenda, particularly after they become the world's de facto controlling oligarchy.

It's good reading all the way through, but it's the lead novella that really sells it. 3.5 stars, I'd say.

I'm off to the movies tonight, so expect a film review soon!

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There's been big news in the space world over the weekend, but I want to talk about it next time so I can see how things shake out. Thus, without further ado, I move onto the rest of the extra-thick Galaxy June 1959.

Avram Davidson is a bit of a writing fiend--it seems I find one of his stories in every magazine I pick up, and they all tend toward the quite good. Take Wooden Indians is one of the good'ns. It's a delightfully confusing (at first) tale of time travel, artistic expression, and nostalgia for Americana, that straightens out nicely at the end. Of course, I imagine there are many out there who would use time travel to save the real Indians rather than their wooden likenesses, but that's another story (one I'd be interested in reading--smallpox inoculations handed out five hundred years ago might do the trick...)



Willy Ley's article is, as usual, worthy reading. I particularly like his answer to the question, "What is the best size for a payload?" Answer: depends on what you're trying to do. If you want to map the Earth's magnetic fields, lots of small satellites are better than one big one. The Soviets like to brag on the size of their probes, but they are of limited utility if they only put up a few.

The next story is from prolific pulp writer, Richard Wilson, who spends most of his time writing for Future these days (I haven't picked up any copies). Traveling Companion Wanted has been described by one of my very favorite readers as a Victorian fantasy, wherein a space traveler falls into the ocean in his space suit and ends up swept by current into a globe-spanning underwater river. On his way, he ends up the unexpected guest of a subterranean race of advanced, Eskimo-ish natives. Unfortunately, they can't figure out how to unsuit the traveler, and he nearly starves (I found this bit rather horrific). But all's well that ends well--he makes it back to the surface with the resolution to revisit the fantastic realm he discovered. It looks like he'll be successful, too!

I'm afraid the "non-fact" article by Larry M. Harris, Extracts from the Galactick Almanack, really isn't worth the space it takes in the magazine. It's one of those "droll" pieces, this one about musical accomplishments of various aliens. Skip it.



Soft Touch, by Daniel F. Galouye, is another matter, entirely, though like his last story, it is frustratingly underdeveloped. In the future, there is a mutant strain of humanity that is utterly moral and good, incapable of lying or hurting a fellow person. They are treated poorly by their non-mutant neighbors because everyone hates a do-gooder. Very impactful and well-written stuff... but the ending is way too rushed. Another 5-10 pages would have been nice.

The final tale of the issue is No Place for Crime, by J.T. McIntosh. It's rare that a locked door mystery is told from the point of view of the criminals, and McIntosh keeps you guessing as to its outcome until the very end. One of the better pieces in the issue, and typical of the writer.

Given Pohl's masterpiece, Davidson and McIntosh's excellent work, the decent Wilson and Galouye stories, the fine Ley article, and the unimpressive Harris, I'd say this issue is a solid "4." I'd like Mr. Wood to stop drawing such lurid cheesecake illustrations, however...

See you on Wednesday with news... from SPAAAACCCCE!





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How scary is a truly dark night sky?

In Asimov's Nightfall, a certain planet's orbital situation ensures that there is always a sun overhead. On the rare occasion that all of the nearby stars align on the opposite side of the planet, the planet's population is consumed with hysteria. I suppose it's a justifiable extrapolation of the impressive and cowing effect on our ancestors caused by eclipses of the sun.

In A. Bertram Chandler's The Man Who could not Stop (which I will discuss at length further on in the article), there are inhabited planets at the edge of the galaxy. When the lens of the galaxy aligns with a rim planet's sun, the result is a near-featureless dark sky marred only by a few far-away solitary stars and nebulae. As Chandler describes it, the effect is unsettling in the extreme, and most natives move away to planets comfortably surrounded with stars.

I suppose it's Chandler's world, and he can do what he wants, but would a truly empty sky be that disconcerting? Even today, on Earth, there are plenty of locales where cloud cover renders the stars invisible. In downtown Tokyo or New York, the lights of the city drown out any puny stellar competition. I should think that the spectacle of the full lens of the galaxy, visible at least half of the year, would more than make up for a half-year of darkness.

What do you think?

As you can probably guess, I have finished this month's Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I've got a report for you. I can honestly say that the magazine ended on a rising trend, quality-wise.

The lovely Rosel George Brown is back with the light-hearted Lost in Translation. It's a silly tale of time travel featuring a drippy but lovely fan of the classics (the Greek classics, that is), but the whole thing is really just a set-up for a bad pun at the end. I like Brown's writing--I'm just waiting for one of her stories to really wow me.



Avram Davidson's The Montavarde Camera is a moody piece (does he write any other kind?) about an antique camera whose pictures spell doom for their subject. Well-written (does he ever write poorly?), but rather a second-rate premise.

I enjoyed (with reservations) Jack London's tale of present-day adventure told in past-tense, The Angry Mammoth, in which a hunter recounts his adventures tracking down and killing the last of the hairy elephant cousins. Not for the animal-lover. Of course, it is a reprint, the original story having been published in 1901 (and it reads like it).

But the real jewel of this issue is the aforementioned The Man Who could not Stop. It is a little reminiscent of those stories where people who could not fit into the regimented roles meted out by society (a la Asimov's Profession) become its masters. In Chandler's story, the protagonist (name of Clavering) is a hardened criminal fleeing justice. He runs from Earth to the galaxy's rim, from where extradition is impossible. Once there, however, he quickly runs afoul of the law. The first time is intentional--he wants to be incarcerated to locate a fence so as to offload a haul of stolen jewelry. The second time is unintentional, but criminal habits are hard to break (and the rim planets make recidivism all but inevitable). The third time is intentional--our anti-hero is told that criminals are deported third time 'round.

Except it turns out that deportation is a one-way trip into the abyss; Clavering ends up press-ganged into the crew of a starship heading out deep into inter-galactic space. So we learn that this is standard operating procedure on the rim worlds: attract the incorrigible and shanghai them.

I liked it a lot, and I understand there may be more tales of the rim worlds on the way. I'm looking forward to it.

That's that for today. I've largely finished this month's Galaxy (which is excellent, by the way), but I understand that NASA plans to announce the Mercury astronauts on April 9, so I'm sure that event will feature prominently in my next article.

Thanks for reading!

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