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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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[April 10, 1962] All the Difference (May 1962 IF Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

The measure of a story's quality, good or bad, is how well it sticks in your memory. The sublime and the stinkers are told and retold, the mediocre just fades away. If you ever wonder how I rate the science fiction I read, memorability is a big component.

This month's IF has some real winners, and even the three-star stories have something to recommend them. For the first time, I see a glimpse of the greatness that almost was under Damon Knight's tenure back in 1959. Read on, and perhaps you'll agree.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

There is an interesting rhythm to my science fiction reading schedule. Every other month, I get to look forward to a bumper crop of magazines: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, and the King-Sized Galaxy. Every other month, I get F&SF, Analog, and IF (owned by the same fellow who owns Galaxy).

IF is definitely the lesser mag. Not only is it shorter, but it clearly gets second choice of submissions to it and its sister, Galaxy. The stories tend to be by newer authors, or the lesser works of established ones. This makes sense -- Galaxy offers the standard rate of three cents an article while IF's pay is a bare one cent per word.

That isn't to say IF isn't worth reading. Pohl's a good editor, and he managed to make decent (if not extraordinary) issues every month. The latest one, the January 1962 IF, is a good example.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

A long time ago, back in the hoary old days of the 1950s, there was a science fiction magazine called Satellite. It was unusual in that contained full short novels, and maybe a vignette or two. Satellite was a fine magazine, and I was sorry to see it die at the end of the last decade.

Novels still come out in magazines, but they do so in a serialized format. This can be awkward as they generally extend across three or four magazines. Several magazines have started publishing stories in two parts, a compromise between Satellite and the usual digests. Fantasy and Science Fiction does that, but it also hacks the novels to bits, and they suffer for it.

IF, which is Galaxy's sister magazine, had not flirted with this format until this month's, the November 1961 issue. This means a novella-sized chunk of a story and a handful of shorter ones. That makes for a briefer article than normal this time around, but I think you'll still find it worth your time. Let's take a look!



See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Ron Church

Summer is here! It's that lazy, hot stretch of time when the wisest thing to do is lie in the shade with a glass of lemonade and a good book. Perhaps if Khruschev did the same thing, he wouldn't be making things so miserable for the folks of West Berlin. Well, there's still time for Nikita to take a restful trip to the Black Sea shore.

As for me, I may not have a dacha, but I do have a beach. Moreover, this month's IF science fiction proved a reasonably pleasant companion during my relax time. If you haven't picked up your copy yet, I recommend it. Here's what's inside:



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Science fiction digests, those monthly magazines filled with s-f short stories, are often like little anthologies. Editors will let their "slush pile" stack up, and when they have enough of a kind of piece, they publish them in a themed issue.

I don't know whether the theme of the July 1961 IF science fiction was intentional or not, but it definitely focuses on the issues of over-population and over-mechanization. That is, in the future, there will be too many of us, and we won't have a whole lot to do.

I'm not particularly concerned about the former. We live on a big planet, and although our presence on it definitely has an impact, I don't think living space is going to be an issue for a long time, if ever. On the other hand, the latter topic holds a strong fascination for me.

We've already seen a precipitous drop in the percentage of people employed in agriculture. Industry looks like it will shed workers soon, too, as the use of robots increases. That leaves the nebulous "service" sector, whose added value to our lives seems rather arbitrary. Eventually, I foresee a world where no one has to grow or build anything...and then what will work mean to us?

It's a worthy topic for discussion. Sadly, the writing in the July 1961 IF fails to impress and often downright disappoints. Here's what we've got:

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At a local gathering of science fiction fans, my wife and I discussed the state of the genre, particularly how our digests are doing. Their boom began in 1949 and peaked in 1953, when there were nearly 40 in publication. That number is down to less than 10, and many are (as usual) predicting the end of the fun.

While it is true that the volume of production is down, I argued that the quality is up...or at least evolving. I used Galaxy's sister magazine IF as an example. IF pays it writers less than Galaxy, and it is a sort of training ground for new blood. Fred Pohl, the magazine's shadow editor, also prints more unusual stories there. As a result, the magazine's quality is highly variable, but the peaks tend to be interesting.



Sadly, this month's IF is chock full of valleys. You win some, you lose some. Still, for the sake of completeness, here's my review; as always, your mileage may vary!

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1961 began on November 10, 1960.

I see some of you are scratching your heads in confusion; others are nodding sagely. It's a long-held tradition in the publishing industry that the date printed on magazines is the date through which they are expected to be on the bookstands, not the date they are first displayed. IF Science Fiction, a bi-monthly, comes out a full two months before it's "expiration date." Thus, I picked up a copy with a January 1961 stamp well before Thanksgiving 1960!

Since IF was acquired by the folks who bring us Galaxy Science Fiction, it has been something of a weak sister to that elder magazine. This month's issue may turn all that around.

(see why at Galactic Journey!)
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Galaxy's little sister, IF Science Fiction has settled into a predictable format. Filled with a number of "B" authors, mostly neophytes, it generally leads with a decent novelette, and the rest of the stories are two and three-star affairs. I don't think the blame can be put on IF's shadow editor, Fred Pohl (Horace Gold is all but retired these days, I understand). Rather, this is about the best quality one can expect for a penny a word.

That said, the stories in IF are rarely offensively bad, and perhaps some day, one of these novices learning the ropes of writing in the minor leagues will surprise us with a masterpiece.

Preamble out of the way, let's take a look at the November 1960 issue:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's been a topsy turvy month! Not only have I been to Japan, but I've just gone to yet another new science fiction convention taking place virtually next door (pictures appended below). Yet, despite all the bustle, I've managed to find time for my #1 pasttime: my monthly pile of science fiction/fantasy digests. And here, at long last, is my review of the September 1960 IF Science Fiction.



(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I'm glad science fiction digests haven't gone the way of the dodo. There's something pleasant about getting a myriad of possible futures in a little package every month. You can read as much or as little as you like at a time. The short story format allows the presentation of an idea without too much belaboring.

Every month, I get several magazines in the mail: Astounding and Fantasy and Science Fiction are monthlies; Galaxy and IF are bi-monthlies, but since they're owned and edited by the same folks, they essentially comprise a single monthlie. I don't have subscriptions to the other two digests of note, Amazing and Fantastic (again, both run by the same people); they just aren't worth it, even if they occasionally publish worthy stuff.



This month, IF showed up last; hence, it is the last to be reviewed. As usual, it consists of several moderately entertaining stories that weren't quite good enough to make it into Galaxy. Let's take a look:

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If there's anything this month's IF, Science Fiction proves, it's that you get what you pay for.

Last year, Galaxy editor, H. L. Gold, cut story rates in half to 2 cents a word. Shortly thereafter, he took over the helm of the promising but unsuccessful digest, IF. Its quality has been in steady decline ever since, and I can only imagine that he pays IF writers even less.

IF's name is ironic. Under the stewardship of Damon Knight, it had a short-lived renaissance culminating in the February 1959 issue. Had this continued, IF might be the leader of the current, heavily winnowed, crop of science fiction digests. Alas, such a history can only be contemplated, never directly perceived.

Why all the doom and gloom? The May 1960 IF is definitely the worst issue I've read to date. While not unmitigatedly bad, it never rises above the passable. In detail:

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It is March Oneth, as my father would say, and it's time to review the last of the March 1960 science fiction digests.

Last on my plate was IF Science Fiction, which in 1959 had proven a slightly erratic but worthy sibling to Galaxy Science Fiction, also edited by Horace Gold. Sadly, this current issue reminds me more of the inferior issues of Imagination or Amazing. It's not all bad, just rather weak.

It has been said of Clifford Simak that when he's good, he's very good, and when he's not, he's forgettable. It appears he used up all of his energy on his masterpiece appearing in this month's F&SF, because his lead novella for IF, The Gleaners, is mediocre. It's a story about a fellow who coordinates a for-profit time travel agency that sends agents back in time to observe, but not to meddle. It's a tough job: the agent defection rate is high, and there is much pressure to verify the historical assertions of the various world faiths. It sounds like it would be a great read, but it doesn't do much interesting development. Perhaps Cliff should start over and try making a novel on the concept.

Raymond Banks has a short story called to be continued about colonists marooned on a tiny island hundreds of light years from Earth for centuries. The beginning and ending are a bit slipshod, but the meat of the story is pretty good, and I particularly like that the story features a starship crewed by a pair of women.

In The Upside-Down Captain, by Jim Harmon, an ethnologist joins the crew of a starship to seek out truly unusual planets. The ship is aided in its endeavor with the help of a cybernetic brain—but is the robot really being much help? It's oddly paced and written, weakening what might have been a strong story.

There are a couple of very short vignettes that I shan't spoil other than to give their titles and authors since any description would give away most of their game. They seem to be written by unknowns, either amateur auteurs or pseudonymic regulars. They are Old Shag, by Bob Farnham, and Monument, by R.W. Major; neither are good, but nor are they long.

Ray Russell has something of a career writing for Playboy. His Father's House is an story about an heir forced to inhabit his deceased father's home, bullied by ghostly holograms of his abusive parent, for five years in order to collect an inheritance. The protagonist seemingly has two choices—be a penniless but satisfied writer and husband or endure a lonely, unfulfilling life in the hopes of inheriting a fortune. In the end, he comes up with a third path with no down sides.

Ignatz, by Ron Goulart, is a cute story about a fellow who leads a one-man crusade against the fad of "Applied Lycanthropy," whereby the citizens of his sleepy town transform into cats for fun and relaxation. The fellow hates cats, you see; they make him feel "crawly." It's cute, though I can't imagine what anyone could have against felines, of whom I am far more fond than dogs.

The magazine ends rather strongly with Daniel Galouye's satirical Gravy Train, in which a retired couple on a remote planetoid gets mistaken for an important Third-World state and finds itself the recipient of a torrent of aid from both the Capitalist and Communist intergalactic empires.

All in all, it's not so much a bad issue as a merely weak one. Most of the stories end rather abruptly with a decidedly last-decade sci-fi slammer, and the writing has a slapdash feeling about it. Perhaps it's just a temporary lull.

In any event, I've got a whole new crop of magazines for this month that I'm looking forward to sharing with you. See you soon!


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I've finally finished the January 1960 IF and can report fully on its contents. January has been a decidedly uninspiring month for digests. They're all in the 3-star range (though for Astounding, that's actually a good month!) with no knockouts in the bunch. Perhaps this is the calm before the storm.

The reliable if stolid Mack Reynolds (writing as Mark Mallory) kicks off this issue with The Good Seed. Can a man trapped on a tiny island by a swelling tide escape before he is drowned? Perhaps with the help of a sentient, telepathic plant. It's actually quite a touching story.

James Stamers seems to be a newcomer, and it shows in his unpolished writing. Despite this, his The Divers, about psionic neutrals (essentially anti-telepaths) with the ability to astrally project, has some fascinating ideas and some genuinely evocative scenes. Had Stamers given the tale to Sturgeon to work over for a final edit, I think it could have been an epic. As it is, the story suggests that its author is a diamond in the rough waiting to be polished.

Two Ulsterians, Bob Shaw and Walt Willis, wrote the short Dissolute Diplomat, about an unsavory space traveler who crashes on an alien world, bullies the jelly-ish inhabitants into fixing his ship, and then gets what he deserves in a groan-worthy fashion that is truly pun-ishing.

The Little Red Bag, by Jerry Sohl, is a good piece of thrilling writing, at least until the somewhat callous and abrupt end. A fellow on a plane has the power of tactile clairvoyance—and he discovers a ticking time bomb in the luggage compartment. Can he save the passengers before it goes off? Having flown the route that the plane takes many times (Southerly down California into Los Angeles), the setting is quite familiar, which is always fun.

Daniel Galouye (how do you pronounce his name?) is up next with the interesting teleportation yarn, The Last Leap. Three military subjects have gone AWOL after artificially gaining the ability to materialize anywhere. Surely they were not killed--after all, even the vacuum of space poses no danger, for the 'porters reflexively snap back to a safe spot; moreover, they instinctively avoid teleporting into solid objects. What could have happened? You find out in the end...

To Each His Own, by Jack Sharkey, stars a team of Venusians who explore the Earth after a recent holocaust. The nature of said disaster is never made explicit until the very end, though it is alluded to subtly. I confess that I should have figured out the gimmick ending, but I didn't. I suppose that constitutes a point in the author's favor.

Margaret St. Clair has a fun story (The Autumn after Next) about a magical missionary whose job is to convert magic-less cultures into adepts at the Arts. He meets his match, and his end, attempting to introduce the most reluctant of tribes to the supernatural. Better than The Scarlet Hexapod, not as good as Discipline, both IF stories.

Finally, we have Cultural Exchange by J.F. Bone wherein a crew of space explorers meets a sophisticated alien race with both superior and inferior technologies. It is a first contact story of Cat and Mouse with both sides attempting to be the predator. Not stellar, but satisfying.

That's that! It's an unremarkable issue, slightly under the standards of its older sibling, Galaxy, I'd say. Worth a read, but you won't remember it next month (unless, of course, you review my column).

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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The new IF Science Fiction magazine, now under the Galaxy aegis, is an odd duck. Not quite a literary book, like F&SF, not an antediluvian throwback like Astounding, and not as polished as its older brother, Galaxy, IF is nevertheless generally a worthy read.

I don’t think it’s just a repository for substandard Galaxy submissions—the stories in IF are different in style and tone. I think, if anything, it’s more of a showcase for experimental stuff and new authors.

As such, we get to see a lot of fresh faces, but not necessarily the best tales. Here are my impressions from the November issue, the third under Gold/Pohl’s editorial helm:

First up is If You Wish, by John Rackham, in which a confirmed bachelor botanist secluded in a space-based greenhouse, is burdened with a female-form robot assistant, with whom he (grudgingly) falls in love. Traditionally, IF has stuck its best submissions right up front, but not this time. It’s not bad, exactly, and there is some quite good writing in here, as well as a lot of interesting and detailed stuff on Venusian botany, but it reads a bit like a wish-fulfillment daydream. It also strikes me as overly fannish that the robot’s name is “Susan Calvin,” and direct reference is made to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

On the other hand, the two characters are pretty well-drawn, the protagonist is unfailingly a gentleman, albeit a somewhat neurotic one, and in the end, it’s Susan who’s in control of the situation the whole time. By the way, if you don’t spot the “twist” in the first few pages, you’re not trying.

Miriam Allen deFord has been around for a while. Her Nor Snow Nor Rain starts out so well, but it ends with a whimper. A retiring postal worker comes upon a mystery on his last day—the office to which he must deliver his last parcels doesn’t exist! Being a science fiction fan (the first I’ve read about in a science fiction story, and a nice piece of portraying someone with multiple interests), he comes up with a number of explanations, which serve as effective red herrings.

Sadly, the actual explanation is the least interesting and the most hackneyed. Again, good writing but flawed execution.

I did not like Good-by, Gloria by “Ted Bain” (really the prolific Britisher, E.C.Tubb). Spacers working for an insufferably perfect captain decide to leave stranded an insufferably perfect female castaway, who has bootstrapped herself a la Tarzan, for fear that she and the captain will have insufferably perfect children. It’s supposed to be funny; it comes off as heartless. And dumb.



The talented J.T.McIntosh’ Return of a Prodigal is an altogether different matter. It is more bitter than sweet, but it’s also defiant and triumphant, and it stars a very compelling female lead. In brief: about six generations from now, the Moon is colonized. It turns out that a decent proportion of humanity suffers from incurable and potentially fatal spacesickness. As a result, the Moon colony (the beautifully conceived and described Luna City) becomes a haven for hereditary “viaphobes,” those who cannot go anywhere else to live. They are a proud bunch, and they refuse to admit that they have a disorder; they can leave whenever they want, they maintain.

At the tender age of 18, a girl named Clare, overshadowed by her pretty older sister, Emma, decides to go to New York on Earth and expose viaphobia publicly. The ensuing article shames the lunar residents, and Clare is essentially banished. Some ten years later, after a failed marriage on a colony world, Clare returns to Luna City, and that is where the story begins.

I don’t want to spoil any more, even though I do not have permission from Mr. McIntosh to distribute the tale. All I can say is that it’s worth finding and reading. I’m not sure if it’s a 4 or 5 star story, but I suspect I will go for 5 since there’s nothing wrong with it—it’s just a little hard to take at times.

Wynne Whiteford has the next entry: The Gelzek Business. Alien female engineer and temptress convinces two men to back production of her gizmos despite her secretiveness regarding their actual function. It’s an unsatisfying story, one of the weaker entries. I’m still waiting for an unflawed Whiteford piece.

Jerry Sohl's Counterweight, about the extreme measures taken to keep several thousand colonists sane on a year-long trip to an interstellar colony, is diverting, well-written, but unremarkable. The solution, having one of the crew commit a slew of crimes to invoke the wrath of the passengers, seems awfully silly.



I did enjoy E.C. Tubb's other story in this book, the thriller, Orange. On a world with the universe's most valuable substance, guarded by a race of psionic aliens, money is king. And the only way to make money is to own a trading concession. One can duel a concession-holder for such a prize, which makes life interesting indeed. This story details one such duel and the unorthodox way in which it turns out. It's the most Galaxy-style of all of the stories in this ish, I think.

All told, the November issue comes up a 3-star mag. This is misleading, however, given the wide inconsistency of its contents. IF may end up being one of the greats someday. It's certainly a damnsight better than Astounding.

Sorry about the late edition. I didn't have much to report on before, and now my typewriter is busted. Expect the next update in a few days. At least the next lovely crop of magazines has arrived in my mail.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

(Note: It is not clear who drew the internal artwork--credit goes to "Harrison, Morrow, and Emsh." I'm guessing the art for Prodigal is Emsh's.


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We left off on a cliff-hanger of sorts, half-way through my review of the second issue of IF under Gold and Pohl’s management. In brief, it ends as it began: with a strong start and a fairly middlin’ finish.

Gordy Dickson is back to form with Homecoming, a quite nice novelette about a fellow running afoul of Earth customs agents when he tries to declare his pet. If you had a beloved companion, would you sacrifice your chances at immigration by refusing to part with it? The deck is extra stacked in this case—said “animal,” an enhanced kangaroo, is near-sentient. It’s a page-turner, and over too fast.

I’ve never heard of Kirby Kerr, but his An Honest Credit, about a down-on-his-luck fellow with nothing to his name but a priceless, ancient coin (with which he refuses to part) is pretty good. A bit maudlin and short on much that would identify it as science fiction, but I enjoyed it.

I normally don’t include book-review columns in these reviews, but Fred Pohl takes his column a step further, making it a sort of essay. Worlds of If discusses the appearance and non-appearance of gadgetry in science fiction stories, and whether or not it adversely affects the story (or makes it less “science-fictiony.” What do you think? Do you require whiz-bang inventions, or do you prefer a more subtle kind of s-f?

The penultimate tale is Escape into Silence by Australian Wynne N. Whiteford. I enjoyed most of it, this tale of a colony world that has slowly but inexorably ended up under the strict and paternalistic dominion of another colony, one that has risen to supremacy. The protagonist tries to escape, is given the opportunity to emigrate lawfully, but ultimately embraces the confined, noisy enclosures of his home town. I suppose people are loathe to give up what they know, even if they have a chance at something better. Something about the end rang false, however.

Finally, we have Hornets’ Nest by a Mr. Lloyd Biggle Jr. (which suggests there is a Lloyd Biggle Sr. roaming about; that makes me smile). Nest could have been written in the 1930s. A human starship returns to the solar system and finds all of humanity dead for having DARED TO PROBE THE HEART OF JUPITER, THE PLANET WITH THE BALEFUL EYE OF DEATH! It’s not quite so hackneyed; it’s actually a decent read, but I take my amusements where I can.

IF continues to be a solid, if uninspiring, magazine. Lacking the utter dreck of Astounding, it is, nevertheless, not as consistently good as its sister, Galaxy. It feels like what it is—a repository for the second-rate Galaxy stories (though, to be fair, they are not bad so much as often mediocre, and some are quite good). Three stars, and that makes it one of the better mags this month, sad to say.

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September is almost over, and it’s not even the end of August.

Confused?  It’s standard practice to date magazines with the month that they are to be taken off the shelves.  Thus, I got all of my September 1959 issues in late June.  I also got my October Galaxy around then, too, but that’s because it’s a bi-monthly.



The September 1959 IF, now essentially Galaxy Jr., is the last September issue to review before moving on to the next month, and so far so good!

As with the last ish, the magazine opens strongly with a novelette by James H. Schmitz called Summer Guests.  At first, it seems like a bit of wish-fulfilment: bored, lonely working stiff encounters a pair of lovely fairies while at his summer retreat.  Very quickly, our protagonist learns that his guests are far more than they seem, and he finds himself an unwitting pawn in a struggle between races and dimensions.  It’s got a wicked sting in the tail, too.  Solid, 4-star tale.

On to number two.  Philip K. Dick never turns in a bad effort, but Fair Game is one of his lesser works.  A professor is hounded by extra-dimensional creatures who appear to be after his fine intellect.  In tone, it sounds a bit like a much better Dick story I read in Beyond many years ago (I can’t remember the title), but the ending is rather pat. 3 stars.

Margaret St. Clair (often known as Idris Seabright) has an entry in this month’s issue: The Scarlet Hexapod.  In short, if you like dogs, you’ll love the six-footed Martian version.  It’s all about how Jeff, the extraterrestrial Fido, risks all to save its owner from a murderous plot.  I found the story insubstantial, but not trying.  3 stars.

Finally, for today, we have Charles L. Fontenay’s Bargain Basement in which a pair of modern-day fellows frequent a little general store that is, literally, a slice of the future.  No one minds getting whiz-bang merchandise for cheap, but the pleasant situation collapses in a bit of paradox when one of the protagonists uses a love drug to steal the fiancée of the other (in a bit I found disturbing).  The subsequent change in history causes the future store to disappear… yet nothing else changes, including the marital status of the woman and her scoundrel new husband.  3 stars reduced to 2 for the poor treatment of the female character.

That leaves us at exactly 3 stars for the first half of the issue.  We’re doing better than this month’s Astounding, but will the luck hold out into Part 2?

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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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If you have a cat, you know what impediments to constructive activity they can be. Perhaps you're purposefully striding to your next chore; the cat will rub up against you or flop on the floor in a coy manner, and you will have no choice but to stop and give it a good petting. Maybe you're trying to read or, say, type up an article related to science fiction; said cat will purr alluringly, magically appearing under your hands, rendering keys or pages quite inaccessible.

There are worse fates, I suppose.

Luckily, I had the force of will to extricate myself from feline obstruction. It only took about 45 minutes! And now, without further delay, I can tell you all about the revived IF Science Fiction magazine.

Six months ago, I lamented that no sooner had I rediscovered IF, daringly helmed by Damon Knight, than the magazine folded. Imagine my pleasure upon learning that IF had not been discontinued but merely sold. In fact, looking at the masthead, I found that the new editor is H.L.Gold! It looks as if IF is going to be Galaxy's sister publication appearing in alternate months. This effectively makes Galaxy a monthly again. IF is only 130 pages long, while Galaxy is 196. This puts the average number of pages at 163, which is a good length for a monthly digest. Hurrah!

But the real question is whether or not the quality of Galaxy #2 is up to the standards of the original. After all, there is no Willy Ley article to look forward to. On the other hand, it looks like Fred Pohl will be a regular feature submitter, and a quick glance at the names of writers appearing inside (Rosel George Brown!) is encouraging.

So stay tuned. I'm afraid festivities in celebration of our nation's 183rd birthday preclude me from telling you about the July 1959 IF just yet. But I'll be back in three days with a full report. In the mean time, why don't you pick up a copy, and we can explore this new magazine together.

If you are from the United States of America, Happy Independence Day! If you're from the United Kingdom, no hard feelings. And if you're from anywhere else, Happy July 4th (or July 5th) of No Particular Consequence!





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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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