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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



God help me, I've found a new medium for my science fiction addiction.

Before 1950, I was strictly a toe-dipper in the scientifiction sea. I'd read a few books, perused a pulp now and then. Then Galaxy came out, and I quickly secured a regular subscription to the monthly magazine. After I got turned onto the genre, I began picking up books at the stores, occasionally grabbing copies of F&SF, Imagination, Astounding, and Satellite, too. By 1957, my dance card was pretty full. I was reading up to seven magazines a month, and I'd already filled a small bookcase with novels.

Then I started this column.

Well, I couldn't very well leave magazines or books unbought. How then could I give an honest appraisal of the genre as a whole? By 1960, I was up to two large bookcases – one for magazines, and one for books. For me, the magazine bust of the late 50's was something of a blessing: fewer digests to collect!

I might have been all right with this load, juggling work, family, books and magazines. But then I discovered Ace Doubles.

Occupying that niche between single novels and story collections, Ace Doubles are two short novels bound back to back. It's a format that's been around since 1952, but I generally ignored them. I figured the material was either rehashes of magazine serials, or stuff too mediocre to warrant its own release.

I wasn't far off the mark, but at the same time, after plowing through a few of them, I determined that there was often solid entertainment to be had amongst the pages of these two-headed beasts. And so I start on my third set of bookshelves...and my first review of an Ace Double: serial number F-113.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The nice thing about a science fiction magazine (or anthology) as opposed to a novel is, if you don't like one story, you might like the next. Once you start a bad novel, your only options are to drag yourself through it or give it up unfinished. And you can't very well review an unfinished novel, can you?

Galaxy's sister magazine, IF, is not as good, on the average, as the other members of the Big Four (including F&SF and Analog). But because it is a digest, occasional stories surprise and delight. There's one gem in this month's issue of IF, and few other diverting tales.


(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Last time, my theme was "more of the same," pointing out that Galaxy is keeping its content as consistent as possible, at the expense of taking any great risks. It is ironic that, as I pound the keys of my typewriter, my radio is playing a new version of "Apache." This bossanova version by a Danish cat, name of Jörgen Ingmann, is fair, but I like the British one better, the one compellingly performed by The Shadows.



You are, of course, here to find out if the rest of the April 1961 Galaxy follows the trend set by the first half. The answer is "yes." It's a good issue, but not a great one.

(see 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:

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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.


---

Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.
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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There's been big news in the space world over the weekend, but I want to talk about it next time so I can see how things shake out. Thus, without further ado, I move onto the rest of the extra-thick Galaxy June 1959.

Avram Davidson is a bit of a writing fiend--it seems I find one of his stories in every magazine I pick up, and they all tend toward the quite good. Take Wooden Indians is one of the good'ns. It's a delightfully confusing (at first) tale of time travel, artistic expression, and nostalgia for Americana, that straightens out nicely at the end. Of course, I imagine there are many out there who would use time travel to save the real Indians rather than their wooden likenesses, but that's another story (one I'd be interested in reading--smallpox inoculations handed out five hundred years ago might do the trick...)



Willy Ley's article is, as usual, worthy reading. I particularly like his answer to the question, "What is the best size for a payload?" Answer: depends on what you're trying to do. If you want to map the Earth's magnetic fields, lots of small satellites are better than one big one. The Soviets like to brag on the size of their probes, but they are of limited utility if they only put up a few.

The next story is from prolific pulp writer, Richard Wilson, who spends most of his time writing for Future these days (I haven't picked up any copies). Traveling Companion Wanted has been described by one of my very favorite readers as a Victorian fantasy, wherein a space traveler falls into the ocean in his space suit and ends up swept by current into a globe-spanning underwater river. On his way, he ends up the unexpected guest of a subterranean race of advanced, Eskimo-ish natives. Unfortunately, they can't figure out how to unsuit the traveler, and he nearly starves (I found this bit rather horrific). But all's well that ends well--he makes it back to the surface with the resolution to revisit the fantastic realm he discovered. It looks like he'll be successful, too!

I'm afraid the "non-fact" article by Larry M. Harris, Extracts from the Galactick Almanack, really isn't worth the space it takes in the magazine. It's one of those "droll" pieces, this one about musical accomplishments of various aliens. Skip it.



Soft Touch, by Daniel F. Galouye, is another matter, entirely, though like his last story, it is frustratingly underdeveloped. In the future, there is a mutant strain of humanity that is utterly moral and good, incapable of lying or hurting a fellow person. They are treated poorly by their non-mutant neighbors because everyone hates a do-gooder. Very impactful and well-written stuff... but the ending is way too rushed. Another 5-10 pages would have been nice.

The final tale of the issue is No Place for Crime, by J.T. McIntosh. It's rare that a locked door mystery is told from the point of view of the criminals, and McIntosh keeps you guessing as to its outcome until the very end. One of the better pieces in the issue, and typical of the writer.

Given Pohl's masterpiece, Davidson and McIntosh's excellent work, the decent Wilson and Galouye stories, the fine Ley article, and the unimpressive Harris, I'd say this issue is a solid "4." I'd like Mr. Wood to stop drawing such lurid cheesecake illustrations, however...

See you on Wednesday with news... from SPAAAACCCCE!





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There are months when The Magazine of Fantasy AND Science Fiction is filled with sublime stuff. Then there are months when F&SF is just mildly diverting. This is looking to be one of those months. Things could be worse, of course.

Editor Robert Mills opens things up by asking if we'd like longer short stories (novelets), which apparently are in a bumper crop this year. Robert, if you're reading, I think that's a fine idea. I like a good 20 pages to feel the start, middle, and end of a story. Shorter pieces tend to rely on gimmick endings or be mood pieces. Not that those don't have their place, but everybody has her or his preferences, and that one is mine.

What do y'all think?

First out of the gate is J.T. McIntosh's Tenth Time Around, which takes place in a nearish future where travel back in time is possible, but expensive, and only into your younger self. Our protagonist uses his multiple lives trying to successfully woo a lost love. The result is not unpredictable, but McIntosh writes a fine yarn.

I much liked Asimov's non-fiction column in this issue, detailing the fiendish difficulty involved in both escaping Earth's gravity and ensuring subsequent capture by the moon. It is a subject of which I never had a real intuitive grasp, despite having followed all of the Pioneer and Mechta shots avidly (I've even published a few non-fiction articles on the subject, myself).

Satirist Ron Goulart's Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir is a genuinely humorous account of a fictitious writer from the tarnished side of pulp's Golden Age. I caught the Lovecraft references, having read virtually everything H.P. ever published, but I'm afraid I've missed the other jokes. Perhaps someone can help me with this one.

Then there's The One that Got Away by Chad Oliver, who writes both science fiction and westerns. He combines the two to good effect here. Well, I'm not sure it actually takes place in "the west," but the setting is a bucolic valley and involves by turns pyromania, a rustic lodge, good fishing, and aliens. Fun and fluffy.

Finally, for today, is Robert Graves' The Shout, which Robert Mills found good enough to reprint, the story having first appeared in the magazine seven years ago (before I was a regular reader). Or perhaps F&SF is simply hard up for material. Or Mr. Graves is hard up for cash. Somehow I doubt the latter, the great classicist having penned such eternal works as I, Claudius.



In any event, Shout is a moody piece, told in a lunatic asylum, one inmate to another, involving a soul-shattering scream taught the narrator by Australian aboriginals. I found the tale a little too disjointed to be entirely comprehensible, but I did enjoy the idea that all of the souls of the world are actually small stones on a sandy hill between a town and beach in southern England.

I mean, they have to be somewhere, don't they?

So there you go. Nothing stand-out, nothing offensive. Pleasant fire-side or shady tree fare. In two or three days, Part II (unless some space spectacular compels me to issue a stop-press...)

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by Ray Pioch

And now for something a bit different.

Back in '56, famed pulp editor, Leo Margulies, launched Satellite, a bi-monthly science fiction digest with the gimmick that it contained a full-length short novel as well as a few short stories. I always had a soft spot for that mag. One of my favorite novels was Planet for Plunder by Hal Clement and Sam Merwin; it came out in the February '57 ish, and I read it on the beach during one of trips to Kaua'i. It's an excellent tale of first contact mostly from a truly alien viewpoint. Highly recommended.

Late last year, Satellite went out on hiatus. Then, at the beginning of this year, Satellite returned with Cylvia Kleiman at the editorial helm. The magazine sported a full-sized format, presumably to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the slicks. No longer featuring novels, it dubbed itself "The Best in Science Fiction."

Who could resist a pitch like that? So the other day, I picked up this month's (May) and last month's (April) issues. What did I find inside?

I suppose one could argue that some of the writers are among science fiction's best, but these are definitely their second-rate stories. This is not the Satellite I used to know and love. Let's have a look, shall we?

The lead story is by the reliable J.T. McIntosh; The Solomon Plan is easily the best fictional piece in the magazine. In Plan, a terran spy tries to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed before: solving the mystery of the backward planet of Bynald. Where the other planets of the 26th century terran federation enjoy a correspondingly advanced quality of life, the hyper-patriotic Bynald seems to be stuck in the 20th century. Moreover, their population is unaccountably low given the length of time it has been settled.


by Leo Morey

McIntosh creates a nice group of characters, including a couple of reasonably developed females. The solution to the mystery is rather implausible, and the ending rather pat, but the story does not fail to entertain. I would have been more impressed had Plan not been a reprint--originally appearing in the February 1956 New Worlds Science Fiction.

A regular feature of Satellite is a biographical piece on one of the antediluvian forefathers of science fiction. In this case, it is a somewhat hagiographic piece by Sam Moskowitz on the justifiably famous A. Merritt. I'm a sucker for history, so it was worth picking up this ish for the piece.

The rest of the magazine is mediocre at best. Fritz Leiber's Psychosis from Space was, reportedly, an old story that he thought so little of that he forgot of its existence until Satellite asked him for a contribution. An astronaut goes out on humanity's first faster than light mission and returns able only to stumble about aimlessly and babble meaninglessly. Turns out his brain is running backwards. There is also some intrigue surrounding the astronaut's doctor and his attempts to coerce information about the trip from his patient. At least the (female) nurse character is competent and resourceful.


by Leo Morey

The duel of the insecure man, by newcomer Tom Purdom, is rather strange. In the far future (1988), it has become popular to engage in duels of cutting questions, the goal being to lay bare the soul of one's opponent and leave them a humiliated wreck. I am given to understand that this story was heavily hacked in editorial, so I won't dignify the resulting kluge with further verbiage.

I did enjoy Ellery Lanier's rather star-eyed account of the American Rocket Society meeting. In particular, I was excited to see his report on the Mouse in Able project. For those who don't know, prior to the Air Force's Pioneer missions, the Thor-Able rocket was used in suborbital shots to test re-entry nose cones. Since scientists abhor unused space as much as nature does, a mouse was included as part of the payload.

What makes this story particularly interesting is that the project was the brainchild of one of the very few woman scientists working in the space program: Laurel 'Frankie' Van der Wal, an amazon of a lady both in stature and fiery spirit. At some point, I'll give you all the inside story on that project; it is both enlightening and humorous.

Algis Budrys' The Last Legend is fair but not up to his usual standard. It's a traditional gotcha story of an older generation of science fiction: an astronaut makes humanity's first trip to another star, the journey having been previously unsurvivable by living things. After returning as a hero, it turns out that he's just a robot.

Robert Wicks' Patient 926, in which all children are inoculated against imagination, and Henry Slesar's Job Offer ("Dig this! The post-nuclear mutant is a normal human!") are both unremarkable in the extreme.

In sum, Satellite is definitely bargain-bin science fiction, though it is not without its charms. I have trouble seeing it surviving much longer, especially out on the newstands next to Life and Time.

Next up, the other half of double-feature that included The Blob!

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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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