galacticjourney: (Default)


I've got a long-running feud going on with Mike Glyer, editor of the popular fanzine, File 770. Well, feud is probably too strong a word given that we're good friends and avid mutual readers. In fact, we usually get along quite well. All fans are united by love for the genre and our status as oddballs, after all. But Mike and I just can't seem to agree on Analog, a monthly science fiction magazine.

Here are the indisputable facts: Analog is the elder statesman of the digests; it pioneered real sf back when all the other outlets were pushing pulp adventure. Analog has the biggest circulation of any of the current digests, somewhere around 200,000 per month.

Now for the disputable ones. Analog is the most conservative of the mags. It's generally Terran-centric, with Earthlings portrayed as the most cunning, successful beings in the galaxy (which is why, of course, most aliens look just like us). While the serialized novels in Analog are often excellent, the accompanying short stories tend to be uninspiring. The science fact columns are awful. Editor John Campbell's championing of psionics and reactionless engines (in real-life, not just fiction), crosses into the embarrassing. All these factors make Analog the weakest of the Big Three magazines, consistently lagging in quality behind Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Of course, Mike disagrees He's even wagered that Analog will take the Hugo award for Best Science Fiction Magazine this year. I think he's dreaming. F&SF has won three years in a row, and barring some unexpected decline in quality, it will do so again.

I'll take that bet, Mike Glyer! Two beers to your one.

As evidence for my case, I present this month's Analog, dated June 1961.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
galacticjourney: (Default)
Some shows start with a bang and quickly lose their spark; some are a slow burn, taking a while to find their stride; The Twilight Zone has remained a class act from the beginning.

As of Friday, April 8, 1960, there have been 27 episodes. They have ranged in quality from fair to outstanding, and the current crop of four (I like to review them in monthly batches) comprises superior installments.

I think the success of the show can be attributed in large part to the high bar that creator and writer, Rod Serling, has set for its production. This is a person who clearly knows his craft and seeks out like talents (Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, etc.) to draft screenplays. Much of the credit must be doled out to the directors, cinematographers, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, to say nothing of the frequently excellent acting talent that CBS has managed to contract.

So much for the general praise. On to the reviews!



Long Live Walter Jameson sets the standard for this batch. The eponymous Professor Jameson is a brilliant history teacher with a knack for vivid anecdotes. It's almost as if Jameson has lived through each of the periods and settings he describes, which is, of course, the case.

This is a thoughtful, fascinating piece that describes the blessing and curse that is immortality. It's hardly the first, of course. The one I remember most vividly is The Gnarly Man, by L. Sprague de Camp, but it is always a worthy topic. In a piece I wrote many years ago, I once put these words into the mouth of a 5000 year old man:

"Imagine being in library with every book you ever want to read, and all the time in the world in which to do so. And you read them... and you still have all the time in the world."



The following week, People Are Alike All Over. Two astronauts, a rock-chinned type and a frightened intellectual, go to Mars where they find a remarkably human populace. But why does the fine house crafted for the scientist (the hero-type having died soon after landing) have no windows or doors?

I'll spoil it for you. Roddy McDowell (the panicky scientist's actor) has been turned into a zoo specimen, relegated to live out the rest of his life as an exhibit in his "native habitat." I get the message, but I still think it was a weak story idea.



Execution is another time travel fish-out-of-water story, but unlike The Last Flight, the voyager is a thoroughly unlikable chap. Snatched from the hangman's noose in 1880, the murderous viewpoint character finds himself in 1960, the guest of a dapper chronologist (is that what you call a time travel expert?) The criminal remains true to type, killing and looting, being driven close to madness by the ever-present 20th century cacophony. The ending comes as a surprise, for the most part.

An interesting point—time travelers often are inordinately worried about changing the past, but no one gives a thought to changing the future. After all, the present is really just someone else's past, and any gross modification of the present (say, sending one of its inhabitants permanently into the past) must to a resident of the future, make a severe alteration to the timeline. Food for thought.



Finally, we have The Big Tall Wish, the first episode to date that features a black protagonist (and several black supporting actors). An over-the-hill boxer tries to win a come-back fight with the help of the wishes of a little boy.

The episode doesn't feature the madness or the weirdness of its predecessors. Rather, it is a slow, wordy piece. My daughter particularly enjoyed the heart-warming relationship between the boxer and his child friend. That said, the twist (there's always a twist on this show) is very effective, and we are left with this conundrum: is a fight won with magic preferable to one honestly lost?

That's the wrap-up for this month. I'll be back in two days with this month's F&SF!

---










(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)
galacticjourney: (Default)
It occurs to me that it has been a long time since I've given anything unreserved praise. Moreover, it's been a while since I've reported on anything really fun. To that end, I recently picked up and re-read my well-thumbed copy of The Incomplete Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt.



Sprague is a titan in the science fiction and fantasy fields. Aside from his quite impressive chin of beard, I hold him in highest regard for his alternate historical Lest Darkness Fall and the collection Wheels of If (which lead title is also alternate historical—my tastes are obvious).

Pratt, of course, left us quite unseasonably two years ago. He didn't write much fiction on his own, though he did produce a couple of good novels. He is perhaps better known for his historical expertise and especially his set of naval miniature wargame rules, with which he occupied a good deal of floor at the Naval College.

Plenty talented on their own, the two were dynamite together. Enchanter is my favorite work of theirs—a riproaring fantasy of the best caliber. It details the adventures of Harold Shea, a darkly almost-handsome practitioner of magic. Sort of. You see, it turns out that it is possible to travel into mythological universes just by concentrating really hard (excuse me, through the use of “Symbolic Logic”). Once there, a canny fellow can utilize the magical laws unique to that universe and become a powerful wizard.

Enchanter contains two of Shea's adventures. They are essentially self-contained, which makes sense; both of them were originally published as separate novellas in Unknown back in 1940. In the first, Shea tries to visit the realms of Irish mythology. He misses and winds up in Norse mythology just in time for Fimbulwinter, the prelude to the epic clash of the Gods and Giants known as Ragnarok. None of the accoutrements of modern science that Shea brought (his matches, his stainless steel knife, etc.) are functional. On the other hand, Shea does figure out how to make use of the Magical Law of Analogy. This is the theorem that creating an effect in miniature can produce a larger, similar effect.



While in the Norse realm, Shea meets up with all of the main Gods, is captured along with the God, Heimdall, by trolls, and ultimately escapes and ensures that the Gods will be have a fighting chance in their final fight against the giants. All of this is written with a fun, light touch. Things never go as planned, yet somehow, they don't go too badly.



Once returned to our world, Shea is eager to go on another expedition. This time, he is joined by the creator of Symbolic Logic, Reed Chalmers. They also hit their target: the world of Edmund Spencer's poem, The Faerie Queen. It is a bright and colorful medieval universe, quite the contrast to the grim and whited-out world of the Norse. Magic is a bigger deal here, and there are plenty of powerful fighters and enchanters (male and female—I especially like the woman knight, Britomart). It's all very satisfying to the Middle Ages buff and great fun. It's also a romance: both Shea and Chalmers leave Spencer's realm with brides, though not without considerable travail on both their parts!

It is difficult to do justice to the novel with a review. There are so many fun scenes. For instance, when a very bored Shea and Heimdall race cockroaches while in gaol; before each race, Heimdall solemnly states, “I shall call mine 'Goldtop', after my mount.” Or when, in the second story, Shea faces off with a knight in shining armor. Shea has a thin rapier while his opponent brandishes a mighty broadsword. The victory goes to the more agile of the combatants (Shea), who wins with myriad pricks inside his opponent's armor. These are just lovely moments.

In short, if you are a fan of Norse mythology, or The Faerie Queene or light fantasy, or any combination of the three, you either have already read Enchanter... or you really must do so post-haste!

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)

Profile

galacticjourney: (Default)
galacticjourney

September 2017

S M T W T F S
      12
3 45 67 89
101112 1314 1516
17 1819 2021 2223
24252627282930

Links

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 06:17 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios