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Many years from now, scholars may debate furiously which decade women came to the forefront of science fiction and fantasy. Some will (with justification) argue that it's always been a woman's genre – after all, was it not Mary Shelley who invented science fiction with Frankenstein's monster? (Regular contributor Ashley Pollard says "no.") Others will assert that it was not until the 1950s, when women began to be regularly published, that the female sff writer came into her own.

It's certainly true that a wave of new woman writers has joined the club in just the last few years. If this trend continues, I suspect we'll see gender parity in the sf magazines by the end of this decade. Right around the time we land on the Moon, if Kennedy's recently expressed wishes come to fruition.

Come meet six of these lady authors, four of whom are quite new, and two who are veterans in this, Part IV, of The Second Sex in SFF.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction is my escape. When the drudgery of the real world becomes oppressive, or when I just need a glimpse of a brighter future to make the present more interesting, I turn to my growing collection of magazines and novels to buouy my spirits.

I like stories of interstellar adventure filled with interesting settings and characters. I do not like the psychological horrors that have become popular of late. Sadly, the February 1960 F&SF contains several such pieces. But it does end well.



I wrote last time about the flaws in Howard Fast's lead novella that kept me from fully enjoying it.

Richard McKenna's Mine Own Ways is particularly chilling. It involves a rite of passage designed by interstellar anthropologists to winnow the intellectually mature of a race from the primitive by essentially torturing them; one passes the test by realizing that the torture is transitory and enduring it.

Apprentice, by Robert Tilley, isn't so bad. It involves an alien who can take over a person's mind (without ill effect). The would-be invader possesses a junior flunky on a military base and is revealed when he is able to fulfil tasks that should have been impossible (along the lines of catching snipe, procuring a bottle of headlight fluid or a jar of elbow grease).

I suppose Jane Rice's The White Pony, about unrequited love in a future of post-apocalyptic scarcity is decent, too, and well-drawn. It even has a happy ending, after a fashion even if the world has that feeling of best-days-past shabbiness.

Battle-torn France is the setting for The Replacement, in which a Platoon Sergeant is convinced by a certain Private "Smith" that the war is all in his head, and that the world is nothing but solipsistic figments of his imagination. It is only after Smith unsuccessfully tries the same trick on the company's First Sergeant that we see the trick for what it is. A creepy piece.

Evelyn Smith's Send Her Victorious is a pun piece whose ending I should have seen coming. All about a communal colony of aliens who take on the general form of a middle-aged female before time traveling to 19th Century England.

Algis Budrys has a vignette called The Price about a centuries-old Rasputin(?) surviving an atomic holocaust only to find himself a captive of the few humans who are left. Are they willing to become gnarled, deranged hunchbacks like him in exchange for eternal life?

Dr. Asimov's piece, The Sight of Home, is a nice astronomical article about the greatest distance at which the sun might still be visible to the naked eye (answer: 20 parsecs. Not very far, indeed).

Then we're back to the horror. We are the Ceiling, by Will Worthington, depicts a fellow who books himself into a sanitarium when it appears his wife has begun consorting with troglodytes. Of course, she turns out to be one, as does his doctor.

That leaves us the subject of the cover art, The Fellow Who Married the Maxill Girl, by Ward Moore. This is the kind of story I read F&SF for—gentle, poignant, starring a woman. It's a girl meets boy story set in the depths of the Depression; the boy happens to be an alien. I shan't spoil more, and I hope you like it as much as I did.

I'll have a quick non-fiction stop press tomorrow, and then on to March's batch of magazines!

---

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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Happy Thanksgiving!

This season, we have much to be thankful for, but I am particularly thankful that I ended this publishing year on a high note—the December Fantasy and Science Fiction.



If anything could get out the taste left by this month's Astounding, particularly the Garrett story, it's F&SF. In this case, the lead novelette, What now, little man? by Mark Clifton, was the indicated antidote.

Clifton addresses the issue of racial abuse head on with this excellent tale. On a distant mining colony, humans have only one native source of food—the bipedal, humanoid "Goonie." When the colony was first inhabited, the Goonies were deemed unintelligent by human standards. They seemed to have no culture, and they let themselves be slaughtered without so much as a peep of protest.

Then they proved to be trainable. At first, they performed simple beast-of-burden chores, but over time, they learned more sophisticated skills. By the time of the story, many can read and write, and one exceptional example can perform as an accountant.

This tale is that of a man wracked with conscience. This farmer, who was the first to train a Goonie to perform advanced mathematical services, is convinced that the slaughter of Goonies is wrong. To champion this cause, he is willing to put his life on the line, though it turns out that a female sociologist from Earth employs better, non-lethal methods to effect change, or at least to set the world on the course of change.

The protagonist, and the reader, are left with the fundamental questions: What defines intelligence? Who defines intelligence? Can one justify making the definition so rigid as to exclude members of one's own race? And what do the Goonies represent? True pacifists? The ultimate survivors?

Good stuff. Four stars.

Dr. Asimov has another fine article, this one on the layers of the Earth's atmosphere. It's well timed, perhaps on purpose, as I'd just read a scholarly article on a new revised atmospheric model. We've learned a lot in just three years of satellite launches.

I've never heard of Gerard E. Neyroud. His Terran-Venusian War of 1979, in which Venus conquers the Earth with love, but subsequently devolves into civil war, is glib and fun, if rather insubstantial.

Marcel Aymé has another cute short translated from the French. The State of Grace is about an (un)fortunate fellow whose saintliness is blessed with a halo only a few decades into his life. This quickly becomes a terrible annoyance to his wife, who begs him to do something about it. His solution: to sin like there's no tomorrow. Yet, no matter how far he indulges himself in the seven deadly sins, he cannot rid himself of the damned thing. The moral is, apparently, piety will out, even when covered in degradation.

Stephen Barr's The Homing Instinct of Joe Vargo is chilling stuff, indeed. An expedition to a mining planet finds a truly unbeatable creature. Ubiquitous, cunning, and virtually indestructible, "It" is a translucent blob that kills by extruding threads of incredible strength, constricting its prey, and slicing it alive.

Only one fellow, the eponymous Joe Vargo, is able to survive thanks to equal parts wisdom and luck. The ending of the story is unnecessarily downbeat, and also implausible. As with Poul Anderson's Sister Planet, one can excise the coda and come away with a perfectly satisfying story.

Jane Rice has another good F&SF entry with The Rainbow Gold. Told in folksy slang, it is the story of a somewhat magical (literally) yokel family and their quest to secure that legendary pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It's a lot of fun, and it has a happy ending.

damonknight has, perhaps, the best line of the issue in his monthly book column. Writing of Brian Aldiss, he says, "If the writer ever does a novel with his right hand, it will be something worth waiting for."

The Seeing I is Charles Beaumont's new column on science fiction in the visual media. In this installment, he details at length his involvement with the new show, The Twilight Zone. It's an absolutely fascinating read, and it just goes to show that things of quality can still be made, on purpose, so long as people are willing to invest the time and energy into the endeavor.

Finally, we have Robert Nathan's A Pride of Carrots, written as a radio play. That's because it actually was a radio play a couple of years ago on CBS. The prose has been substantially embellished, but it's largely the same story. At least, I think it is. I'm afraid fell asleep during the last act of the radio show.

I won't spoil the plot, save that it involves the planet Venus, two warring states peopled by vegetables, two visitors from Earth, and an interracial love triangle.

But is it good, you ask? Well, it's silly. It's not science fiction, but it is occasionally droll. Try it, and see what you think.

That wraps up the year. I'll be compiling my notes to determine which stories will win Galactic Stars for 1959. I'll make an announcement sometime next month.

In the meantime, enjoy your turkey. I'll have more for you soon.



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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Do you know who reads The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction?

Clifton Fadiman, writer, editor, judge of the Book-of-the-Month Club does. It supplies him his “special escape-reading...the finest the field has to offer in the way of short fiction.”

Spring Byington, famous star of the Broadway Stage does. It improves the imagination, she says.

Basil Davinport, another writer and editor for the Book-of-the-Month Club does. “F&SF gives us some of the best writing in the field, and the field is one of great importance.”

Orville Prescott, Book Review Editor for the New York Times does. He says, “People who think that their literary I.Q. is too high for them to enjoy [F&SF] don't know what they're missing.”

In other words, snobs read F&SF--and you can be a snob, too. Unlike those other lowbrow sci-fi mags, F&SF is the real stuff. Just stay away from Astounding, and for God's sake, avoid Amazing!

I know H.L.Gold was a bit nose-in-the-air when he compared Galaxy to Space Westerns, but F&SF is positively the caviar set by comparison. I'm for the promotion of science fiction's respectability, but I don't think F&SF has the sole claim on quality. In fact, I think F&SF's editorial policy leans a bit overmuch toward the superfluously florid.

On the other hand, they are the favored home of more female authors than any other science fiction magazine. And I've never read a Garrett or Silverberg story between its pages, though I did read a horrible Poul Anderson story in F&SF's, thankfully defunct sister magazine, Venture.

Good-natured ribbing aside, while many issues of F&SF may suffer from overwriting-itis, the February 1959 issue is good stuff all the way though (even if the rest of the magazine is not as amazing as its lead story).

Continuing where we left off, Misfit by G.C. Edmondson (the only Mexican science fiction author I know of, and a San Diego native!) is a good yarn about the perils of time travel--to the timeline if not the traveler.

Last month's issue had the first of George Elliot's Venusian stories, Invasion of the Planet of Love. Its sequel, Nothing but Love depicts the Venusian counter-attack. It is less satirical, less impactful, and less interesting. On the other hand, I don't know that I liked the first one very much either. It's not bad, exactly. It's just odd.

I did enjoy Charles Fontenay's Ghost Planet, in which a presumably failed Martian colony is found to have survived through an unexpected and happy circumstance. Apparently, Martian sage grass traps oxygen, so as long as one stays crouched within the grass, there is air and warmth.

Now here's where I need help: I have the strangest feeling that I've seen this gimmick before in another story. Does this sound familiar? I'm hoping one of my many (Webster defines “many” as “more than three”) readers will solve this mystery for me. Drop me a line and let me know. If you don't know the answer, please share this article with someone who might.

Raymond Banks wrote the next story, Natural Frequency, about what happens when someone's voice naturally hits the resonant frequency of... well.. everything. People, glasses, bridges... It's a silly story, reminiscent of that scene from the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs, impersonating the great conductor, Leopold, makes an opera singer sing a high note until his pants fall off and his tuxedo rolls up like a Venetian blind. Filler.

Jane Rice's The Willow Tree is the last piece of the magazine. Per the editorial preface, Ms. Rice wrote for Unknown back in the late '30s, and I have it on good authority that she wrote for a solid ten years after that for various magazines. This story marks the end of a subsequent ten-year hiatus. Your mileage may vary, but I liked it, this tale of two children sent to the past after losing their parents. It is written like a fairly conventional children's fantasy, much like something Edward Eager would write, but with a much more sinister undertone and ending.

And thusly, we have come to the end. I'd say 4 stars out of 5. The lead story is fantastic, and the rest are decent to quite good.

Normally, one might expect (this being the 27th) that I have the new Astounding and/or F&SF in hand for the next review. However, I am still out in the Territory of Hawai'i, and deliveries are understandably delayed. Forward thinker that I am, I will still have something to discuss on the 29th.

But you'll just have to wait until then to find out what it is.











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