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by Gideon Marcus

Ah, and at last we come to the end of the month. That time that used to be much awaited before Avram Davidson took over F&SF, but which is now just an opportunity to finish compiling my statistics for the best magazines and stories for the month. Between F&SF's gentle decline and the inclusion of Amazing and Fantastic in the regular review schedule, you're in for some surprises.



But first, let's peruse the June 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and see if, despite the new editor's best efforts, we get some winners this month (oh, perhaps I'm being too harsh – Editor is a hard job, and one is limited to the pieces one gets.)

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

I never thought the time would come that reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction would be the most dreaded portion of my duties...and yet, here we are. Two issues into new Editor Avram Davidson's tenure, it appears that the mag's transformation from a great bastion of literary (if slightly stuffy) scientifiction is nearly complete. The title of the digest might well be The Magazine of Droll Trifles (with wry parenthetical asides).

One or two of these in an issue, if well done, can be fine. But when 70% of the content is story after story with no science and, at best, stream-of-consciousness whimsy, it's a slog. And while one could argue that last issue's line-up comprised works picked by the prior editor, it's clear that this month's selections were mostly Davidson's.

Moreover, Robert Mills (the outgone "Kindly Editor") used to write excellent prefaces to his works, the only ones I would regularly read amongst all the digests. Davidson's are rambling and purple, though I do appreciate the biographical details on Burger and Aandahl this ish.

I dunno. Perhaps you'll consider my judgment premature and unfair. I certainly hope things get better...



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

I used to call The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction "dessert." Of all the monthly sf digests, it was the cleverest, the one most willing to take risks, and the most enjoyable reading. Over the past two years, I've noticed a slow but decided trend into the realm of "literary quality." In other words, it's not how good the stories are, or how fun the reading – they must be experimental and erudite to have any merit. And if you don't get the pieces, well, run off to Analog where the dumb people live.



A kind of punctuation mark has been added to this phenomenon. Avram Davidson, that somber dilettante with an encyclopedic knowledge and writing credits that take up many sheets of paper, has taken over as editor of F&SF from Robert Mills. Five years ago, I might have cheered. But Davidson's path has mirrored that of the magazine he now helms: a descent into literary impenetrability. Even his editorial prefaces to the magazine's stories are off-putting and contrived.

I dunno. You be the judge.



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

The coverage for John Glenn's orbital flight was virtually non-stop on the 20th. My daughter and I (as many likely did) played hookie to watch it. During the long countdown, the Young Traveler worried that the astronaut might get bored during his wait and commented that NASA might have been kind enough to install a small television on the Mercury control panel.

But, from our previous experience, we were pretty sure what the result of that would have been:

CAPCOM: "T MINUS 30 seconds and counting..."

Glenn: "Al, Mr. Ed just came on. Can we delay the count a little bit?"

30 minutes later...

CAPCOM: "You are on internal power and the Atlas is Go. Do you copy, Friendship 7"

Glenn: "Al, Supercar's on now. Just a little more."

30 minutes later...

CAPCOM: "The recovery fleet is standing by and will have to refuel if we don't launch soon...John, what's with the whistling?"

Glenn: "But Al, Andy Griffith just came on!"

So, TV is probably out. But a good book, well...that couldn't hurt anything, right? And this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction was a quite good book, indeed. Witness:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's been a topsy turvy month: Snow is falling in coastal Los Angeles. Castro's Cuba has been kicked out of the Organization of American States. Elvis is playing a Hawaiian beach bum. So it's in keeping that the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction is, well, uneven.



Luckily, the February 1962 F&SF front-loaded the bad stuff, so if you can make it through the beginning, you're in for a treat – particularly at the end. But first...

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

At the end of a sub-par month, I can generally count on The Magazine and Science Fiction to end things on a positive note. F&SF has been of slightly declining quality over the past few years, but rarely is an issue truly bad, and this one, for January 1962, has got some fine works inside.



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

It's the end of the year! "What?" you exclaim, "but it's only November!" True that, but the date on my latest Fantasy and Science Fiction says December 1961, and that means it is the last science fiction digest of the calendar year that will go through my review grinder.

F&SF has been the best magazine, per my ratings, for the past several years. Going into this final issue, however, it has lagged consistently behind Galaxy. Would this final issue be enough to pull it back into 1st place? Especially given the stellar 3.8 stars rating that Galaxy garnered last month?

Well, no. I'm afraid the magazine that Bouchier built (and handed over to Mills) must needs merit 8 stars this month to accomplish that feat. That said, it's still quite a decent issue, especially given the rather lackluster ones of the recent past. So, with the great fanfare appropriate to the holiday season, I present to you the final sf mag of 1961:

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Have you ever ordered your favorite dessert only to find it just doesn't satisfy like it used to? I'm a big fan of crème brûlée, and I used to get it every chance I could. That crispy carmelized top and that warm custard bottom, paired with a steaming cup of coffee...mmm.

These days, however, crème brûlée just hasn't done it for me. The portions are too small, or they serve the custard cold. The flavor doesn't seem as bold, the crust as crispy. I've started giving dessert menus a serious peruse. Maybe I want pie this time, or perhaps a slice of cake.

Among my subscription of monthly sf digests, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction used to be my dessert -- saved for last and savored. These days, its quality has declined some, and though tradition will keep it at the end of my review line-up, I don't look forward to reading the mag as much as once I did. This month's, the November 1961 issue, is a typical example of the new normal for F&SF:



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

Just what is the Galactic Journey? Who is this mysterious "Traveler"?

Every so often, it's good idea to remind my readers who I am and why I do what I do. This weekend, I am presenting at a local science fiction gathering, so it makes sense that the first article they see makes sense of all of this.

My twin passions are science fiction and outer space. I live with my wife and daughter in San Diego, the fairest city in the Golden State of California. From 9 to 5, I run a mid-sized electronics company. In my off time, I maintain this column, writing about current books, magazines, movies, and science news (as well as other miscellany).

Oh yes. I live in 1961.



Normally, I wouldn't have cause to mention this fact. For the longest time, I was the under the impression that we all lived in the same time. Some of the mail I've been getting, however, suggests that a few of you come from the future -- 55 years, to be exact.

It's quite exciting to have a fan-base from the far-flung time of 2016. They report on all sorts of far out advances, some of which have been conceived in science fiction, others of which are beyond our wildest dreams.

Happily, they report that global overpopulation has not been realized. On the other hand, global warming has. They say that Pluto is not a planet; well, that's nothing new.

I suspect, of course, that this is all a fannish game. No one really can know the future. The best we can do is write down our speculations and hope we're right (or in the case of scary visions, wrong!)



And that leads nicely into the subject of this article, the September 1961 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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


Take a look at the back cover of this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction. There's the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn't settle for a lesser sci-fi mag. And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh's WorldCon. That's the third Hugo in a row.



It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine. Sure, it's the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories. I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad. Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs vanished from the Earth. There are many hypotheses as to why these great reptiles no longer walk among us. One current of thinking goes thusly: dinosaurs were masters of the Earth for so long that they became complacent. Because their reign was indisputed, they evolved in ways that were not optimized for survival. Thus, the strange crests of the Hadrosaurs. The weird dome head of the Pachycephalosaurs. The giant frills of the Ceratopsians. Like Victorian ladies' hats, the dinosaurs became increasingly baroque until they were too ungainly to survive.

I worry that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is heading in that direction. I'm all for literary quality in my sf mags, but F&SF has been tilting so far in the purple direction that it is often all but unreadable. I present Exhibit A: the July 1961 "All-Star" issue.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Why read science fiction? To act as your headlights as you hurtle faster and faster down the but dimly visible road to the future. Reading through this month's Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, I found Dr. Isaac Asimov's article particularly thought-provoking. I'd like to get your thoughts.

It's called Four Steps to Salvation. The Good Doctor attributes the success of our species to a series of revolutions in communication. They are:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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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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Every year or so, Fantasy and Science Fiction releases an "All Star" issue in which only Big Names get published. It's a sort of guarantee of quality (and, presumably, sales). I'll tell you right now that, with the notable exception of the lead novelette, it's largely an "All Three Star" issue. Perhaps it's better to leave things to the luck of the draw. That said, it's hardly an unworthy read, and Zenna Henderson, as always, makes the issue a must buy.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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Greetings from sunny Kaua'i! It seems like only yesterday I was reporting from this island's idyllic shores. Much has changed, of course--Hawai'i is now a state! 50 is a nice round number, so perhaps we won't see any new entries into the Union for a while.



Accompanying me on this trip is the last science fiction digest of the month, the February 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction. On a lark, I decided to read from the end, first. In retrospect, I'm glad I did, but it certainly made the magazine a challenge. You see, the stories at the end are just wretched. But if you skip them (or survive them, as I did), the rest of the magazine is quite excellent.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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If you are in the accounting profession, you are familiar with the concept of "closing the books," wherein you complete all your reconciliations and regard a month as finished. Here at the Journey, Month's End does not occur until the last science fiction digest is reviewed. Thus, though the bells have already rung for the new year of 1961, December 1960 will not officially end until I get a chance to tell you about the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Here's a math problem for you, kids! If more than half of your magazine is taken up by a 2-star short novel, how likely is it that you'll still end up with a good issue?

Answer: not very.

I'm used to Fantasy & Science Fiction having a long table of contents page. This one (the December 1960 issue) comprises just ten entries, and all save the Asimov article are vignettes. I wonder if we'll be seeing a slew of larger stories now that Editor Mills has depleted his stock of tiny ones.

Anyway, it's quality, not quantity that counts. So how was the quality?

(find out at Galactic Journey!)
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With Halloween around the corner, one might have thought that there would have been an extra spooky issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction this month. Nothing doing. The current issue is nothing extraordinary, if not completely forgettable. Having covered the end novellette in my last article, it's time to cover the rest of the magazine.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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