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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:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Many years from now, scholars may debate furiously which decade women came to the forefront of science fiction and fantasy. Some will (with justification) argue that it's always been a woman's genre – after all, was it not Mary Shelley who invented science fiction with Frankenstein's monster? (Regular contributor Ashley Pollard says "no.") Others will assert that it was not until the 1950s, when women began to be regularly published, that the female sff writer came into her own.

It's certainly true that a wave of new woman writers has joined the club in just the last few years. If this trend continues, I suspect we'll see gender parity in the sf magazines by the end of this decade. Right around the time we land on the Moon, if Kennedy's recently expressed wishes come to fruition.

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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If you've been a fan in the scientificition/fantasy genre for any length of time, you've likely been exposed to rumors of its impending doom. The pulps are gone. The magazines are dying. The best writers are defecting for the lucre of the "slicks."

And what is often pointed to as the cause of the greatest decline of an entity since Commodus decided he liked gladiating more than emperoring? The visual media: science fiction films and television. Why read when you can watch? Of course, maybe the quality's not up to the standards set by written fiction, but who cares?

All this hubbub is silly. There are two reasons why printed sf/f isn't going anywhere, at least for the next few decades. The first is that the quality isn't in the films or television shows. Sure, there are some stand-outs, like the first season of The Twilight Zone, and the occasional movie that gets it right, but for the most part, it's monsters in rubber suits and the worst "science" ever concocted.

But the second reason, and this is the rub, is the sheer impermanence of the visual media. If you miss a movie during its run, chances are you've missed out forever. Ditto, television. For instance, I recently learned that an episode of Angel (think I Love Lucy, but with a French accent) starred ex-Maverick, James Garner. I'm out of luck if I ever want to see it unless it happens to make the summer re-runs.

My magazines, however, reside on my shelves forever. I can re-read them at will. I can even loan them out to my friends (provided they pony up a $10 deposit). They are permanent, or at least long-lived.

And that's why I'll stick with my printed sf, thank-you-very-much.



Speaking of permanence, I think April 1961 will be a red-letter date remembered for all time. It's the first time, that I'm aware of, that women secured equal top-billing on a science fiction magazine cover. To wit, this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction features six names, three of which belong to woman writers. Exciting stuff, particularly given my observation that, while female writers make up only a ninth of the genre's pool, they produce a fourth of its best stuff.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The old saying goes, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." As you know, I am rarely reserved when I don't like a piece of work. Every once in a while, I get a gentle chiding. One reader said he didn't want to hear about stories I don't like--just the ones I do. Another opined that my fans might tire of my consistently negative reviews of a certain author.

I don't want to discount these criticisms as I think they are valid. On the other hand, if I am unreserved in my scorn, I am similarly effusive about what I like. My columns are rarely completely negative. Moreover, I recognize that even the works I don't like often appeal to others, and I love receiving letters from folks who disagree with my judgments.

Besides, you good folk likely come here to see me as much as to get reading recommendations. Alfred Bester said in F&SF last month that he prefers English non-fiction to American as English authors will intrude into the text. There are only so many ways to package facts; the only distinguishing character is the personality of the packager. Certainly, I read Asimov as much for the science lesson as for the fun anecdotes.

So, enjoy all of me, even the kvetching. And if you don't, feel free to tell me just how much you dislike me. I may even agree with you...



On to the task at hand--reviewing the first half of the February 1961 Galaxy!

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I've said before that I like my reading to be light and pleasant. Not exclusively, mind you, but I find the current trend toward the depressing to be... well... depressing. This month's F&SF is the bleakest I've yet encountered, and under normal circumstances, it would not have been to my taste. On the other hand, being near Hiroshima on August 6 and then near Nagasaki on August 9, fifteen years after they became testing grounds for a terrible new weapon, is enough to put even the cheeriest of persons into a somber mood, and my choice of reading material proved to be quite complementary.

As usual, I lack the rights to distribute F&SF stories, so you'll just have to buy the mag if you want the full scoop, but I'll do my best to describe the stories in detail.

(read 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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