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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!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Good Lord, is it already 1960?

When I started this endeavor in 1958, I had only a vague notion what it would look like and how long it would last. Over the past year 14 months, Galactic Journey has settled into what I hope is a consistent, yet varied, mature column. Moreover, I have suspicion that this column will last just about as long as I do, as I see no reason to ever stop.

It is hard to imagine Galactic Journey with bylines dated with futuristic years like 1965 or 1972 or 1988, but why not? Perhaps one day, instead of San Diego, Seattle, or Sapporo, the dateline will read Sinus Rorus, Syrtis Major, or Saturn.



Returning to the present, it must be 1960, for that is the date on the current Fantasy and Science Fiction, January to be exact. Actually, the February issue has already arrived, but that's a topic for a future week. In the meantime, let's see what the first F&SF of 1960 has to offer:

Poul Anderson is back with another Time Patrol story, The Only Game in Town. This time, Everard and his faithful Indian companion (I kid; Salgado is quite a well-developed and co-equal character) are dispatched to the American Southwest in the 13th century to stop, get this, a Mongol invasion.

It's not so silly as it sounds. In fact, it sounds downright plausible that the Mongols could, after conquering China, send a scouting expedition to the New World. It didn't take many horsemen to conquer the Aztecs, and the Mongols were a formidable race, to be sure. What makes this story interesting, aside from the fine writing and evocative setting, is Everard's dawning realization that the Time Patrol's mission may not be as pure as once thought. The Time Cops are told they are to preserve the original timeline, but in this story, they appear to be meddling for meddling's sake rather than fixing damage caused by others.

I look forward to learning more about the secret agenda of Everard's future employers.

Then we have A Divvil with the Women, apparently a resubmission of an earlier story once published in a lesser magazine. It's by Eric Frank Russell (slumming as "Niall Wilde"), and it involves an unpleasant fellow who makes a deal with the devil—with disastrous results, of course. My, but these stories are popular these days! It's no longer than it needs to be to deliver the punchline, which is a blessing (pun intended).

Damon Knight has translated a piece from F&SF's French edition: The Blind Pilot by Charles Henneberg. Sadly, the thing is only half-translated or something; it's well nigh unreadable, and I didn't make it past the first few pages. Oh well.

Reginald Bretnor, who writes the execrable Ferdinand Feghoot puns in F&SF under a pseudonym, has a very silly short-short ("Bug-Getter") that, you guessed it, ends in a pun. I must confess that I did laugh, so it couldn't have been all bad.

For once, Asimov has a decidedly unremarkable article. It's called Those Crazy Ideas, and it segues from a discussion of Asimov's personal creativity to observations on how scientific creativity can be maximized. Fluffy.

Cliff Simak's Final Gentleman just barely misses the mark. Quite a long tale for F&SF, it is one of those excitingly creepy tales with a prosaic payoff. In this case, a respected author retires after 30 years only to find that the trappings and details of his life are largely imaginary, sort of a psychic cloak that surrounds him, altering his surroundings and himself to seem more refined and engaging than they actually are. I found this notion compelling. After all, I often swathe myself in a fantasy, pretending to be decades in the past. I complete the illusion by listening to old music, using obsolete slang, wearing out-of-date clothing. It is a conceit in which I engage to better understand a bygone era for historical purposes, and simply to have a fun invisible refuge from the real world. Hey—it's cheaper than heroin.

But in Simak's story, the psychic hoodwink is perpetrated solely to influence the course of history through an implausible Rube Goldberg chain of interactions. I was disappointed, but you may feel differently.

A Little Girl's Christmas in Modernia, by Ralph Bunch, is next. In this future, we gradually trade in our flesh parts for metal as we grow older. Bunch's tale features a fully human moppet and her mostly-converted parents in the kind of inconsequential story I'd expect to find in a slick. I suppose they needed a Holiday-themed story to fill out this issue.

What do you do when an alien weather probe crashes into your backyard? You bake it, of course, and thus unintentionally forestall an extraterrestrial invasion. G.C. Edmondson's The Galactic Calabash is fun, though it took me several sessions to get through the short story, largely because I always picked it up at bedtime.

Rounding out the magazine is the quite good Double Double, Toil and Trouble by Holley Cantine. An anarchist turned recluse decides to take up magic, eventually learning the secret to doubling anything. It starts out well enough, but the ending provides a cautionary tale against dabbling in the Dark Arts. Holley Cantine, I understand, is a bit of a political theorist, and Double has a deeper message wrapped in a gentle fiction coating.

And so the January 1960 F&SF ends as it began with a four-star story. In-between, there lies a muddle of uncharacteristic unevenness such that the whole issue clocks in at a mere three stars, the same as this month's Astounding.

That just leaves us with the January IF, whose reading is in progress. In the meantime, I'll soon have a report on my latest excursion to the drive-in with my daughter. It don't all gotta be highbrow, after all.

Happy New Year!



Note: If you like this column, consider sharing it by whatever media you frequent most. I love the company, and I imagine your friends share your excellent taste!

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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It's going to be a dreary month, if October's selection of digests is any indication.

Of course, my mood isn't buoyed by the fact that I must compose this article in long-hand. I hate writing (as opposed to typing; and typing on an electric is sheer bliss). On the other hand, I'm the one who chose to occupy much of the next few days in travel, and fellow airplane passengers don't appreciate the bang bang of fingers hitting keys.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, shall we? As I write, I am enjoying my annual plane trip to Seattle for the purpose of visiting my wife's sister, myriad local friends, and to attend a small but lively science fiction convention. This one is singular in that its attendees are primarily female, and its focus is woman creators. People like Katherine MacLean, Judith Merril, Pauline Ashwell, Anne McCaffrey, etc.

Once again, I get to ride in the speedy marvel that is the jet-powered Boeing 707. San Diego to Seattle in just a few hours is a luxury to which I hope I never become jaded. Although I will concede that the roar of jets is less pleasant a sound than the thrum of propellers.

I made several attempts to read this month's Astounding, but I could find nothing in it I enjoyed. I'll summarize that effort later. In the meantime, I have just finished the November 1959 F&SF, and if you can read my chicken-scratch (I hope my editor cleans it up before publication), I'll tell you all about it.



F&SF often features brilliant stories. Last month, the magazine had an unheard-of quality of 4.5 stars, just under the theoretical maximum of five. This month, we're at the nadir end of quality. It's readable but fluffy, forgettable stuff.

Story #1, The Martian Store by Howard Fast, recounts the opening of three international stores, ostensibly offering a limited set of Martian goods. They are only open for a week, but during that time, they attract thousands of would-be customers as well as the attention of terrestrial authorities. After the Martian language is cracked, it is determined that the Martians intend to conquer the Earth. The result is world unity and a sharp advance in technological development. Shortly thereafter, an American company begins production and sale of one of the Martian products, having successfully reverse engineered the design.

Except, of course, in a move that was well-telegraphed, it turns out the whole thing was a super-secret hoax by that company in order to create a demand for those putatively Martian products. World peace was a by-product. Thoroughly 3-star material.

G.C. Edmondson's From Caribou to Carry Nation is a gaudily overwritten short piece about transubstantiation featuring an old man who is reborn as his favorite vegetable... and is promptly eaten by his grandson. Two stars, and good riddance.

Plenitude, by newcomer Will Worthington, is almost good. It has that surviving-after-the-apocalypse motif I enjoy. In this story, the End of the World is an apparent plague of pleasure-addiction, with most of the human population retreating into self-contained sacks with their brains hooked into direct-stimulation machines. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but the quality is such that I anticipate we'll see ultimately see some good stuff from Worthington. The editor says there are three more of his stories in the bag, so stay tuned.

There is a rather pointless Jules Verne translation, Frritt-Flacc, in which a miserly, mercenary old doctor is given a lordly sum to treat a patient only to discover that the dying man he came to see is himself. Two stars.

Then there is I know a Good Hand Trick, by Wade Miller, about the magical seduction of an amorous housewife. It's the kind of thing that might make it into Hugh Heffner's magazine. Not bad. Not stellar. Three stars.

I'll skip over the second half of Starship Soldier, which I discussed last time. That takes us to Damon Knight's column, in which he laments the death of the technical science fiction story. I think Starship Soldier makes an argument to the contrary.

Then we've got Asimov's quite good non-fiction article, C for Celerity, explaining the famous equation, E=MC^2. I particularly enjoyed the etymology lesson given by the good doctor regarding all of the various scientific terms in common physical parlance. I've been around for four decades, and my first college major was astrophysics, yet I never knew that the abbreviation for the speed of light is derived from the Latin word for speed (viz. accelerate).

James Blish has a rather good short-short, The Masks, about the futuristic use for easily applied nail polish sheets. It's a dark story, but worthy. Four stars.

Ending the book is John Collier's After the Ball, in which a particularly low-level demon spends the tale attempting to corrupt a seemingly incorruptible fellow in order to steal his body for use as a football. Another over-embroidered tale that lands in the 2-3 star range.

That puts us at three stars for this issue, which is pretty awful for F&SF. Given that Astounding looks like it might hit an all-time low of two stars, here's hoping this month's IF is worthwhile reading. Thankfully, I've also picked up the novelization of Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and it's excellent so far.

Back in a few days with a convention report and a book review!

---

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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