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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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On a walk down the block on a warm autumn afternoon, I finished the rest of the December 1958 Galaxy. I'd worked my way backward from the end, as I'd wanted to finish the next installment of "Time Killer." Thus, I got to the lead novella, "Join Us" by Finn O'Donovan, last.

Both the name and the style were familiar. 18 pages into the tale, I recalled that O'Donovan is a pen name for Robert Sheckley. It is obvious from the writing style that it's a Sheckley story, and given that Time Killer is being serialized in the same issue, I am not surprised Galaxy used a pseudonym.

Of course, this means that of the 142 pages, a good half of them were penned by Sheckley. Galaxy is becoming Satellite (a bi-montly magazine which features a full-length, though short, novel plus a short story or two)!

Being a Sheckley short, it's great. It's not science fiction, per se, or perhaps you might call it soft science fiction. This is the kind of stuff Galaxy pioneered and Sheckley excels at. This particular tale is about a "Splitter," one of class of people in the future who splits his/her personality into three parts: the aggressive "id," the conscientious and dull "superego," and the fun-loving "libido." The superego remains in its own body while the other two parts are put into super-realistic androids.

Traditionally, the polite superego stays on overcrowded Earth while the libido heads to Mars, which is mostly a fleshpot and tourist resort. The tough id heads out to Venus, a wide-open jungle frontier. Sheckley's tale follows superego-bearing Crompton, as he travels to Mars and Venus, desperate to re-unite with his other parts.

I think my favorite parts of the story involve Crompton's libido-bearer, Loomis, and his speeches justifying his hedonistic lifestyle by which he makes fine money as a gigolo and escort. There's compelling satire here:

"Today everything is biased toward the poor as though there were some special virtue in improvidence. Yet the rich have their needs and necessities, too. These needs are unlike the needs of the poor, but no less urgent. The poor require food, shelter, medical attention. The government provides these admirably.

But what about the needs of the rich? People laugh at the idea of a rich man having problems, but does the mere possession of credit exempt him from having problems? It does not! Quite the contrary, wealth increases need and sharpens necessity, often leaving a rich man in a more truly necessitous condition than his poor brother."

To the question, "Why doesn't the rich man give up his wealth," Loomis replies, "Why doesn't a poor man give up his poverty? No, it can't be done. We must accept the conditions that life has imposed on us. The burden of the rich is heavy; still they must bear it and seek aid where they can."

The poor, poor rich people. Also amusing is Loomis' justifications for engaging in adultery. He's quite convincing, too...

Finishing up this month's Galaxy is a short tale by the team of Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth. This was obviously written some time ago since Kornbluth died quite unseasonably of a heart attack in March of this year. He was only 34 (places hand over heart).



The story is called, "Nightmare with Zeppelins," and it is less science fiction than an exercise in writing anachronistically. Specifically, it is a tale told by someone living during the Great War reminiscing about his travels in Africa in 1864. It is fun, ironic stuff; the point of such an exercise, of course, is really to comment on the present. I might try my hand at it some time.

Next up: December 1958's F&SF!

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