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by Gideon Marcus

A few years ago, Galaxy Science Fiction changed its format, becoming half again as thick but published half as often. 196 pages can be a lot to digest in one sitting, so I used to review the magazine in two articles. Over time, I simply bit the bullet and crammed all those stories into one piece – it was cleaner for reference.

But not this time.

You see, the June 1962 issue of Galaxy has got one extra-jumbo novella in the back of it, the kind of thing they used to build issues of Satellite Science Fiction around. So it just makes sense to split things up this time around.

I've said before that Galaxy is a stable magazine – rarely too outstanding, rarely terrible. Its editor, Fred Pohl, tends to keep the more daring stuff in Galaxy's sister mag, IF, which has gotten pretty interesting lately. So I enjoyed this month's issue, but not overmuch. Have a look:



(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 Rosemary Benton

Fate has been very kind to me throughout 1961. I was able to find a niche for myself as a university archivist, and I came across many people who shared my interest in all things science fiction. I have had the pleasure of publishing my thoughts on such amazing creators as Zenna Henderson and Andre Norton, and have even taken daring adventures to the shadier side of the science fiction entertainment industry. Finishing out the year with James Blish's The Star Dwellers was the cherry on top of a very delicious ice cream sundae.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Less than a generation ago, Adolf Hitler made eugenics -- the selective breeding of humans for desired traits -- a dirty word. But what if a race of bona-fide supermen were created through the direct manipulation of DNA and presented as a fait accompli? What would be the moral ramifications, and how would the "normals" react? James Blish's attempts to tackle these questions in his new book, Titans' Daughter.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I've said before that there seems to be a conservation of quality in science fiction. It ensures that, no matter how bad the reading might be in one of my magazines, the stories in another will make up for it. Galaxy was pretty unimpressive this month, so it follows that Fantasy and Science Fiction would be excellent. I am happy to say that the October 1960 F&SF truly is, as it says on the cover, an "all star issue."


from here

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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If there is any innovation that defined the resurgent science fiction field in the 1950s, it is the science fiction digest. Before the last decade, science fiction was almost entirely the province of the "pulps," large-format publications on poor-quality paper. The science fiction pulps shared space with the detective pulps, the western pulps, the adventure pulps. Like their brethren, the sci-fi pulps had lurid and brightly colored covers, often with a significant cheesecake component.

Astounding (soon to be Analog) was one of the first magazines to make the switch to the new, smaller digest format. Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, and a host of other new magazines never knew another format. By the mid-'50s, there were a score of individual science fiction digests, some excellent, some unremarkable. It was an undisputed heyday. But even by 1954, there were signs of decline. By the end of the decade, only a handful of digests remained. The "Big Three" were and are Astounding, F&SF, and Galaxy (now a bi-monthly alternating production with a revamped version of IF). Also straggling along are Fantastic Stories and Amazing, the latter being the oldest one in continuous production.

My faithful readers know I don't generally bother with the last two titles. Although some of my beloved authors sometimes appear in them, their quality is spotty, and my time (not to mention budget!) is limited. Nevertheless, Rosel George Brown had a good story in Fantastic last month, and this month's Amazing had a compelling cover that promised I would find works by Blish, Bone, and Knight inside.



I bit. This article is the result.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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by Erich Lessig

It's been heavy reading following the papers these days what with the Communist siege of Berlin seemingly without end. These potential flashpoints between East and West get more frightening every day, particularly as both sides perfect methods of delivering atomic weapons across the globe.

Thankfully, I can rely on my monthly installment of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (often the highlight of my literary science fiction experience). Thankfully, it doesn't look like F&SF is going the way of IF, Satellite, or even Galaxy. And its quality remains high, if not stellar.

James Blish opens the issue with a bang, quite literally. This Earth of Hours is a really good tale of first contact and interstellar war... one in which the Terrans are hopelessly outmatched. A proud terrestrial fleet is completely destroyed save for two segments of its flagship that crash to the surface of an alien planet. There, what's left of the crew finds a race of sentient hive mind centipedes that communicate through telepathy. Not only is are the aliens (collectively) smarter than us, but they span a federation of like-minded aliens that spans much of our galaxy. In short, humanity doesn't have a chance against them. Beaten, the crew repair their ship and embark on a tortuously long journey back to Earth to dissuade humanity against further bellicose expeditions.

If there's anything wrong with the story, it's the fact that it's too short. It's a brilliant opening couple of chapters to a bigger novel, but I don't know if a novel is forthcoming.



Asimov has an interesting article, Planet of the Double Sun, which examines the effect on ancient mythology of having an extra sun in our sky a la the situation that might exist around Alpha Centauri. Of course, Isaac sort of misses the point--in a world where true darkness happens rather rarely (perhaps a quarter of the year), I should think evolution would have ended up quite a bit differently, not to mention the effects another star's gravitational influence might have had on our planet's formation. Whatever ancient society might have developed in this hypothetical situation probably wouldn't have been human in any sense of the word.

Lee Sutton hasn't written a lot. So far as I can tell, his only work prior to this issue of F&SF was the juvenile novel Venus Boy, about which I know nothing. Soul Mate is his latest story, and it's a rather chilling, decidedly unromantic story about what happens when a dominating middle-aged telepathic male crosses path with a naive, sexually liberal young telepathic woman. There is a meeting of the minds, but it is anything but pleasant, and the end is truly horrifying. Plausible, but icky.

About Venus, More or Less, by Punch writer, Claud Cockburn, is so slight a story, that I quite forgot it was even in the issue until I re-checked the table of contents.

Josef Berger is another author unknown to me. His Maybe we got something is about a band of fisherman who, in a post-apocalyptic era, trawl up the head of Lady Liberty, herself. It's nothing special.



The last story for today is the rather amusing The Hero Equation, by Robert Arthur (first printed in 1941 as Don't be a Goose! When a milquetoast scientists transports himself into the past to inhabit the body of a hero, he is surprised that the heroic form he comes to possess is not human at all...

I'm sorry I haven't been able to secure permission to distribute these stories freely. On the other hand, with the exception of the first one, they are diverting but unremarkable.

But stay tuned! There's a second half to cover in a few days...

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