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by Victoria Silverwolf

March has roared in like a lion here in Eastern Tennessee, with high temperatures below fifty and a bit of snow falling in Chattanooga. Can it be possible that spring is right around the corner? Perhaps it would be best to turn our thoughts away from the tempests of winter and concentrate on sunnier matters.

After his triumphant orbiting of the Earth, Colonel John Glenn is scheduled to be treated today to what is predicted to be the largest ticker tape parade in history, filling the streets of New York City with tons of shredded paper. Not great news for the street sweepers of the Big Apple, but the rest of us can celebrate.

For those of us stuck indoors due to the weather, we can tune our radios to just about any station playing the Top Forty and enjoy the sound of Gene Chandler's smash hit Duke of Earl, which has been at the top of the charts for a couple of weeks. It may not have the most profound lyrics in the world, but this catchy little number is sure to be heard in the background of many a teenage courtship as a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.



Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Human beings look for patterns. We espy the moon, and we see a face. We study history and see it repeat (or at least rhyme, said Mark Twain). We look at the glory of the universe and infer a Creator.

We look at the science fiction genre and we (some of us) conclude that it is dying.

Just look at the number of science fiction magazines in print in the early 1950s. At one point, there were some forty such publications, just in the United States. These days, there are six. Surely this is an unmistakable trend.

Or is it? There is something to be said for quality over quantity, and patterns can be found there, too. The last decade has seen the genre flower into maturity. Science fiction has mostly broken from its pulpy tradition, and many of the genre's luminaries (for instance, Ted Sturgeon and Zenna Henderson) have blazed stunning new terrain.

I've been keeping statistics on the Big Three science fiction digests, Galaxy, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction since 1959. Although my scores are purely subjective, if my readers' comments be any indication, I am not too far out of step in my assessments. Applying some math, I find that F&SF has stayed roughly the same, and both Analog and Galaxy have improved somewhat.

Supporting this trend is the latest issue of
Galaxy (August 1961), which was quite good for its first half and does not decline in its second.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Here's a question I've gotten more than once: what is the point in spotlighting woman writers? Shouldn't I simply point out the good stories as I find them, and if they happen to be written by women, bully for them? Why should I create an artificial distinction?

Those are actually fine questions, about which I've given much thought. I make no claims to being an expert, or even someone whose opinion should matter much to you. All I have is my taste, my gut and (lucky for me) my own column in which to voice my opinions. So take my words as strictly my viewpoint.

We live in a particular kind of world. Men are the default: the default heroes, the default writers, even the default pronoun. Open a history book, and it will be filled with the names of great men. Women are a seeming afterthought. You may not even have thought twice about it. It seems "natural" that movies should star men, that books should star men, that men should be the generals, the presidents.

But, there is a change a brewing. Black men universally won the right to vote in 1865. Women secure duniversal suffrage in 1920, fully three generations after the least privileged men. The gap is narrowing. This year, a Black man became skipper of a U.S. Naval vessel. 1961 also marks the year a woman became a shipboard U.S. Naval officer for the first time. Women are now just one generation behind the least advantaged of the men. Someday, we may be on a level playing field, all races of men and women.

Science fiction is supposed to be forward-looking, yet socially it seems stuck in the present, or even the past. One almost never reads about woman starship captains or woman presidents or woman...well... anything. I don't think this is the result of deliberate collusion by the science fiction writing community. It's just that society is the air we breathe. We are unconsciously bound by its rules and traditions. Unless something shakes up our viewpoints, we'll stick in our ruts and continue to accept this male-dominated paradigm as the natural order of things.

So when I spot something unusual that I think should be universal, I note it. I encourage it. I enjoy it.

Without further ado, part #3 of my encyclopedic catalog of the woman writers active as of this year of 1961:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Every novel is a kind of contract with the reader, a promise that ideas, events, and characters will be presented in the beginning such that, by the end, they will have facilitated a satisfying story. A corollary to this is that a writer must ensure that all of a story's scenes are interesting to the reader. Lesser authors pound their keys trying to get "to the good parts," stringing together pearls of interest with thread of mediocre space-filler.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Aloha from America's prettiest territory.



Kaua'i is particularly pretty, and one of the less-developed islands. Just last year, the hit musical South Pacific was filmed here, and I've gotten to see its location, the lovely town of Hanalei.

Yet such is my devotion to all five of my fans (up 25% over last month!) that I have flashed in my latest column to ensure you know what stories in this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction are worth reading.

It's a bit of a grab bag, really, after that amazing first one, but not a stinker in the bunch thus far:

Following Asimov's science article is Graveyard Shift by Idris Seabright (the F&SF pen name of feminism and witchcraft enthusiast, Margaret St. Clair). It's an exciting, atmospheric piece about a young man working the night shift at a haunted sundries store. One might label it “modern fantasy,” where beneath the banalities of technological life lie a malestrom of magical undercurrent.

No Matter Where You Go, by Joel Townsley Rogers (of long-time pulp fame), is strange novelet. It features a space traveler with the ability to zip between real and counter-Earths. The two worlds have much in common, but there are also striking differences. When our hero's wife falls for the resident of one of the worlds and is subsequently exiled to the other, and the courting Cassanova comes a-calling at the hero's residence... well, it gets interesting. Like most F&SF stuff, it is written with pizazz, though I'm not sure I exactly liked it overmuch.

Eleazar Lipsky's Snitkin's Law is a satirical look at a future in which justice is meted out perfectly by computer, much to the misery of everyone—that is, until a shyster lawyer, the eponymous Snitkin, is brought from the past to reprogram it. It's short and unremarkable. I suspect Snitkin is a parody of the author, a deputy district attorney (who also wrote the manuscript behind the famous move, Kiss of Death).

Finaly, for today, is Death Cannot Wither by Judith Merril. I am always excited to see Ms. Merril's work, though I'm not quite sure how I feel about this novelet. It is, first and foremost, a ghost story. It is dark and a bit disturbing. The ending is gruesome though perhaps not entirely unhappy. It is not my cup of tea, but it might well be yours.

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much, so I'll save the wrap-up for the 27th. And then I have a bit of a departure for you... but we'll have to wait until the 29th for that, won't we?

Aloha (a double-service word) and Mahalo for reading!







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Boy, am I glad I read from front to back this time!

As my faithful readers (should that be plural?) know, the first half of this month's Fantasy & Science Fiction was pretty lackluster stuff. It turns out I was mistaken about Tony Boucher's story--it was not a new one, but some old thing from 1945 under the name “William A. P. White.” At least I know one of Boucher's pseudonyms now.



The second half, thankfully, was far superior. Story #1 was “Honeysuckle Cottage” by P. G. Wodehouse. I have not read much by this famous ex-patriate English humorist. I think all of the stories I have encountered by him were published in F&SF. This particular tale came out in 1928. One wonders if Wodehouse is desperate for cash since being, perhaps unfairly, chased out of his home country for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Or perhaps Boucher could only afford an old reprint. Either way, it's a fun little story about a mystery writer being cursed with the haunting of his romance-writing aunt. I liked it.

“Wish upon a star,” by famed anthologist Judy Merril, is an excellent story about coming of age on a generation ship. For those not in the know, a generation ship is a starship, generally traveling slower than the speed of light, designed to colonize a planet many tens or even hundreds of years in the future. Because the mission takes so long, it is anticipated that several generations will be born before the ship reaches its destination. Even more unusually, though quite plausibly, most of the crew and all of the officers of the ship are women. The only thing wrong with the story is its length--I would love to see a novella or full-length novel on the topic--by Ms. Merril, preferably.



Though Boucher no longer edits F&SF, he still does the book-review column. He spends most of it praising Theodore Sturgeon but expressing his dissatisfaction with “The Cosmic Rape.” This, Sturgeon's third novel, is an expansion on the novelet, “To Marry Medusa,” which appeared in Galaxy a few months ago. Alternatively, the Galaxy story may be a pared-down version of the novel. I recall the story, which was about an interstellar hive-mind's attempts to incorporate humanity, had said all that was needed to be said. I have to wonder what purpose the extra verbiage served.

Next up is “Dream Girl,” a slight head-trip penned by Ron Goulart, who had an interesting story back in July called “The Katy Dialogues.” The following story, “Somebody's Clothes, Somebody's Life,” by mystery-writer Cornell Woolrich, is written like a play and could easily be an episode of F&SF's counterpart to X Minus One. It's sheer fantasy involving a Countess with a gambling problem, a young woman with bigger problems, and the Russian clairvoyant who crosses their paths. Good affecting stuff. Finally, there is a cute three-page story by Walter S. Tevis, which I shan't spoil for you, but it's worth reading.

So that's that. 2.5 stars out of 5 for this week's F&SF, but that's only because the first half is a 1.5 and the latter is a 4.5.

You should all know that I am flying out to Japan this Friday with my family. This should not stem the tide of articles, however. I am bringing along this month's Astounding, two unread Heinlein novels, and I expect to catch up on my giant monster movies. It's my understanding that Godzilla has a sequel, and other movies by that studio have also recently come out. Here's hoping these films uphold the fine standard set by the first of them.

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