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by Gideon Marcus

I've said before that IF Worlds of Science Fiction is sort of a poor sister to Galaxy Science Fiction. Since 1959, they've been owned and run by the same team; IF pays its writers less; the quality used to be markedly lower on average (with occasional stand-outs).



We seem to be entering a new era. The July 1962 IF was a cracking read once I got past the first story, which was short anyway. Not only were the stories fairly original, but even where they weren't, the writing was a cut above. And not in that arty, self-indulgent way that F&SF deems "literary," but in a real way that emphasizes characterization. It's a departure from the mode of the 50s, particularly the lesser mags, where the focus was on the gimmick, with the actors playing second-fiddle to the plot. Plus, Ted Sturgeon has made a permanent home here, which is always a good sign.

So read on – I think you'll enjoy the trip.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!

((And don't miss your chance to see the Traveler LIVE via visi-phone, June 17 at 11 AM! A virtual panel, with Q&A, show and tell, and prizes!))
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It doesn't take much to make me happy: a balmy sunset on the beach, a walk along Highway 101 with my family, Kathy Young on the radio, the latest issue of Galaxy. Why Galaxy? Because it was my first science fiction digest; because it is the most consistent in quality; because it's 50% bigger than other leading brands!

And the latest issue (October 1961) has been an absolute delight with a couple of the best stories I've seen in a long while. Come take a look with me – I promise it'll be worth your while.

(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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Good old Galaxy magazine. Dependable, occasionally brilliant, very thick.

So thick, that I traditionally break down my review of each bi-month's issue into two articles, and who am I to buck tradition? Without further ado, the April 1960 Galaxy.



First up is Earl Goodale's Success Story, a surprisingly entertaining satire on an interstellar soldier's life and career. It's sort of a cynical answer to Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I don't know much about Mr. Goodale—this is only his second story, as far as I can tell.

Clifford Simak must have a number of expensive bills to pay, for he's published quite a number of stories this year already. His latest, Condition of Employment, about a down-on-his luck engineer who is desperate to make one last flight home to Mars, is not as good as All the Traps of Earth, but better than The Gleaners, both of which came out last month (in F&SF and IF, respectively). I particularly liked the disdain which the story's protagonist felt for the ominpresent, oppressive greenery of Earth. I feel some empathy—I grew up in the desert, and I find an unbridled environment of foliage (and its attendant insect populations) unsettling rather than attractive.

The Nuse Man is back, compliments of author Margaret St. Clair. The Airy Servitor, about a thought-activated invisible butler much akin to Aladdin's genie, is a lot of fun. My favorite line: "Bert and Franny wore expressions suitable to persons who have just seen a dining room explode." Beware itinerant salesmen from the future bearing gifts they don't understand.

When I saw Cordwainer Smith's name on the cover, I became quite excited. After all, his No, no, not Rogov was a tour de force. The Lady Who Sailed the Soul has the trappings of a good story, it has the subject of a good story, but somehow it fails to be a good story. This tale of the first and only relativistic interstellar spaceship pilot is overwrought and somehow anti-feminist despite having feminist protagonists. Perhaps because they are such caricatures. I also dislike stories where women are motivated solely by love for their man.


by DILLON

Finally, we have James Stamers' Solid State, a dull tale of crystalline teleportation (as in using enlarged crystal lattices as vessels for instant transit) that I barely remembered even just after reading. They can't all be winners, I suppose.

That's it for this batch. See you when the other shoe drops!

---

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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Reading Galaxy is like coming home.

Galaxy is the only science fiction magazine that I have bought consistently since its inception. For nine years, I have read every story, enjoyed every Willy Ley article, perused every Bookshelf column, reviewed every Gold editorial.

There are some who say that Galaxy's heyday was the first half of this decade, and that the story quality has deteriorated some (or perhaps the content simply isn't as revolutionary as once it was). Editor Gold is famously exacting and difficult to work with, and now he's paying less for content. The magazine is down to a bimonthly schedule, and Gold is still suggesting there might be a letters column (padding at best, a slog at worst).

And yet...

Galaxy is consistent. I rarely feel as if I've suffered when I close its pages. I haven't read any offensive Garrett or Silverberg stories in Gold's magazine, and the Leiber stories Gold publishes are the good ones. When Bob Sheckley appears in print, it's usually in Galaxy. Of course, this consistency results in a kind of conservatism. The tone of the magazine has not changed in a decade even though the world around it has changed significantly. It is not a liability yet, but as new authors and new ideas arise, I hope Galaxy can adapt to fit our new science fiction culture.

Enough blather. My April 1959 Galaxy has arrived, and it's time to tell you about it!

As usual, I've done a lot of skipping around. My practice is to eat dessert first (i.e. the authors I know and love) and then proceed to the main course.



First up was Ley's excellent, if dry, article on the Atlantic Missile Range. These days, you can't go a week without hearing about some new missile launch, and the twin but not identical facilities of Cape Canaveral and Patrick Air Force Base are usually the launch point. Ley gives a detailed account of his experiences witnessing a recent Atlas test. It is a good behind-the-scenes. Ley also describes "failures" philosophically explaining that they are always learning experiences even when they don't achieve their mission objective. Easy for engineers to understand, not so easy for those who hold the purse-strings.

I then, of course, jumped to "Finn O'Donnevan's" (Robert Sheckley's) The Sweeper of Loray. Unscrupulous Earther wants to steal the secret of immortality from a race of "primitives" and gets more than he bargained for. It's a dark tale, especially the betrayal at the hands of his partner for the sake of preserving a thesis (similar in concept if not execution to Discipline by Katherine St. Clair).



J.T. McIntosh can always be relied on to turn out a good yarn, and his Kingslayer does not disappoint. Terran spacer has an accident while ferrying royal tourists and ends up in an alien pokey. Can he get out? Does he even want to? The story does rely on a bit of silliness to keep the reader in the dark about the spacer's fate until the very end, but it's worth reading naytheless.

Finally for this installment, there is Cordwainer Smith's When the People Fell. The title says it all, but you'll have to read the story to understand what it means. The Chinese figure prominently in this tale of Venusian colonization, which should come as no surprise when you know that Smith is one of the world's premier sinologists and godson of none other than Sun Yat-Sen! A haunting story, it is also a commentary on the Chinese people and government... as well as a cautionary tale. I don't know if Chairman Mao would approve.

That's that for now. More in two days, like clockwork!





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Wow!

I do declare, the February 1959 IF really is something else. Not a stinker in the book, and some truly excellent stuff. If had always been like this, I think it would have dislodged Astounding and jostled its way into the top tier of science fiction digests.

Without further ado...

The other day, I read in the newspaper that Andrei Gromyko (the Soviet foreign minister) lauded the strength of the Communist Bloc, stating that the counterbalance of the two superpowers actually insured against an atomic apocalypse. Be that as it may, I don't see how we can live persistently at two minutes to midnight without snapping some taut nerves. The Last Days of L.A., by George H. Smith, is a brutal second-person piece about cracking up under the omnipresent threat of nuclear war. I'd be very interested to see statistics on this phenomenon, because I bet it is happening quite often.

I advise you not to read this piece right before going to sleep.



Have you heard of Rosel George Brown? She's an up-and-comer, and Virgin Ground is her third published story. It is a spin on the "pioneer spouse" trope: in this case, it's brides for Mars. This is another dark story with an unhappy ending, but there's no question but that it's well-written.

I found Discipline, by Katerine St. Clair, to be excellent. It is a tale of archaeological rivalry, but with a setting in space. One has to wonder how often it happens that scientific integrity is squandered to preserve an attractive thesis. In this story, one man's pride spells another's doom, but the ending is pleasantly unexpected.

Another newcomer is David R. Bunch. His In the Jag-Whiffing Service is good, funny stuff, but it is so short that to tell you anything about it would spoil the whole thing. Take my word for it. Better yet, read it yourself.

Star of Rebirth, by Bernard Wall (of whom I've never heard; perhaps he is an incognito Damon Knight), is one of the few rays of light in this rather dark set of stories. Set far in the future after a devastating nuclear war, it is a convincing and touching piece following the leader of a tribe of primitive survivors. I liked it a lot.



Finally, you've probably all heard of Cordwainer Smith. His No, No, not Rogov! is a piece of present-day scientifiction (yes, that word is still in vogue) about a husband-and-wife science team working in the Soviet Union; their super-secret work into the field of electric clairvoyance yields unexpected results. Of all of the stories in this magazine, I predict this one may go down in history as a classic.

I think I can see a trend in Damon Knight's editorial choice. Most of these tales are bleak things, though they are of indubitably good quality. However, there is just enough hope leavening the mix to make the book palatable. In any event, it is clear that Mr. Knight was a solid choice to navigate IF out of the sales doldrums.

Except I did promise you bad news, didn't I?

Just after I'd picked up this magazine, I learned that publisher James L. Quinn is throwing in the towel. IF is for sale, and there's no telling when (or if) the magazine will resume publication. It's really a shame. Mr. Knight really hadn't had a chance to bring the magazine back from the brink, and I'm sure that he could have.

On the other hand, I don't think his stable of authors will quit writing. Maybe Galaxy will get enough material to go back to a monthly format. Fingers crossed!

Stay tuned day-after-tomorrow for.... I'm not sure yet. I'm playing this one by ear!





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