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[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Silverwolf

July isn't quite over yet, and already I feel overwhelmed by all that's been going on in the world:

Two new nations, Rwanda and Burundi, have been created from the Belgian territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Similarly, France has recognized the independence of its former colony Algeria.



Despite protests, the United States continues to test atomic weapons. The USA also detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space, hundreds of miles above a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. The explosion created a spectacular light show visible from Hawaii, more than seven hundred miles away. It also disrupted electronics in the island state. An underground nuclear explosion created a gigantic crater in the Nevada desert and may have exposed millions of people to radioactive fallout.



AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we'll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell's Soup.



The Washington Post published an article revealing how Doctor Frances Oldham Kelsey, a medical officer for the Food and Drug Administration, kept thalidomide, a drug now known to cause severe birth defects, off the market in the United States.

Even popular music seems to be going through radical changes lately. Early in the month the charts were dominated by David Rose's raucous jazz instrumental The Stripper. It would be difficult to think of a less similar work than Bobby Vinton's sentimental ballad Roses are Red (My Love), which has replaced it as Number One.



It seems appropriate that the latest issue of Fantastic offers no less than nine stories, one long and eight short, to go along with these busy days:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Science fiction magazines are not created equal.

Every editor brings her/his own slant to their magazine's theme. For instance, Cele Goldsmith strikes an old-fashioned chord, reviving classics from the Pulp Era in Amazing and Fantastic. Fred Pohl keeps things reliable (if not exceptional) in Galaxy, but showcases new and innovative works in IF. Before it went under, Fantastic Universe devoted much ink to flying saucer stories and articles.



And as you will soon see, Analog is preoccupied with psychic powers and pseudo-scientific quackery (a redundant phrase?). Viz, the May 1962 issue:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction digests are a balancing act. An editor has to fill a set number of pages every month relying solely on the stories s/he's got at her/his disposal. Not to mention the restrictions imposed if one wants to publish an "all-star" or otherwise themed issue.

Analog has got the problem worst of all of the Big Three mags. Galaxy is a larger digest, so it has more room to play with. F&SF tends to publish shorter stories, which are more modular. But Analog usually includes a serialized novel and several standard columns leaving only 100 pages or so in which to fit a few bigger stories. If the motto of The New York Times is "All the news that's fit to print," then Analog's could well be, "All the stories that fit, we print."



How else to explain the unevenness of the October 1961 Analog?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Recently, I told you about Campbell's lousy editorial in the August 1961 Analog that masqueraded as a "science-fact" column. That should have been the low point of the issue. Sadly, with one stunning exception, the magazine didn't get much better.

And yet...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Every science fiction digest has a flavor. Part of it is due to the whimsy of the editor, part of it is the niche the magazine is trying to fill, and part of it is luck of the draw.

Astounding can be summed up in just a few words: psionic, smug, workmanlike, crackpot, inbred.

Not necessarily in that order.

You see, every editor has an agenda. For F&SF's Tony Boucher, and his successor, Paul Mills, it's to have as literary a magazine as possible. For Galaxy and IF's H. L. Gold, it's to present solid science fiction without resorting to hackneyed tropes of the pulp era.

For Astounding's John Campbell, the motivation might once have been to mentor young writers so that they could create the best science fiction of the day. Certainly, Campbell's magazine pioneered the field in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. But these days, Campbell seems determined to be the strongest champion of psychic phenomena and other silliness.

For instance: perpetual motion. Campbell promises to fully educate us on the "Dean Drive" next month, a flop of a device (so I understand) that supposedly turns rotational energy into linear energy for propulsion purposes.

For instance: psychic paper. The "Heironymous Machine," a meaningless circuit that is just as effective (so its creator and defenders claim) whether it be made out of electronic components or simply drawn on a sheet.

For instance: virtually every story that appears in Astounding must feature psychic powers and/or some reference to one of Campbell's pet projects.

It reminds me of how Fantastic Universe catered to the UFO crowd during its sunset years, much good it did them.

The result of this editorial policy, and the over-reliance on just a few of the field's less exceptional authors, is a magazine that usually ranks lowest of the Big Three (combining Galaxy and IF). Last month was a striking exception to this rule. This month, we may not be so lucky.



The May 1960 Astounding only has five pieces apart from the second part of the "Mark Phillips" serial, Out like a Light. I won't review the serial until its completion next month.

Astounding perennial Randall Garrett contributes the lead novella, the promising but ultimately flawed Damned if you Don't. In 1981, an enterprising scientist develops a perfect, tiny energy source that threatens to throw the entire planet's economy into chaos. Everyone is out to stop him, from the power company to the government. The first half is pleasant reading, with some reasonably good characterization and suspense as to who's actually after the powerful "Converter" machines. There's another nod to Murray Leinster by name. At one point, there is a description of a computer small enough to have been knocked over by a single person, which is an interesting extrapolation of miniaturization trends.

But then the story gets talky. There is a meaningless aside describing a lukewarm Middle Eastern and European war in the late '60s that leads to a clamp down on private scientific investigations. It is meaningless not only for its implausibility but also for the fact that it doesn't really have any bearing on the story. Then there are pages of discussion on how release of the device will destroy the world as we know it. These are capped off with the realization that the device has been stolen, and it's all a moot point. So much for that story.

Then we have John Cory's three-pager Egocentric Orbit. Twice before, astronauts have been launched into space and refused to come down. In this story, following the third orbital astronaut, we find out why.

Laurence Janifer, one half of the pair that is Mark Phillips (the other being Randall Garrett) has a decent story under the pseudonym "Larry M. Harris." It's a period piece set in 1605 called Wizard, and it involves a brotherhood of telepaths attempting to thwart the inquisition, which threatens to wipe their breed from the Earth.

The final fiction entry is Mack Reynold's pedestrian Revolution, which entertains a number of ridiculous propositions. Item: the Soviet Union will surpass the United States in production in just seven years. Item: a revolution is easy to incite so long as you throw lots of money at the problem. Item: if you think the USSR is productive now, wait until bright-eyed Syndicalist Technocrats take over!

Much like Garrett's opening story, the latter half is composed mostly of speeches justifying the plot line, and the ending features the revolution's catalyst, a western agent, suggesting that the revolution be aborted lest the USSR someday truly trounce the West. Pretty bad stuff.

On the other hand, Dr. Asimov is back with a nice long piece (The March of the Phyla) on the various animal groups and the successive adaptations that allowed them to increasingly become masters of their environment rather passive creatures vulnerable to the caprice of Mother Nature. It's a bit teleological in its presentation, but quite informative.

I just have to wonder when Asimov will supplant Ley at Galaxy and monopolize all of the digests. Nice racket if you can get it...

So, there you have it. A magazine largely written by just two authors (Garrett and Janifer), suffused with smugness, even the non-fiction, featuring psionics and super-inventions, none of it terribly well-written. Campbell's got to find some new blood, or Astounding is going to founder, I fear. Perhaps Harry Harrison offers some hope—his Deathworld was the overwhelming favorite of the fans, per the Analytical Laboratory (the magazine's reader survey) for January and February. More like that would help.

There's an exciting launch coming tomorrow. If it's successful, I'll see you on the 2nd with an update on... TIROS.

---










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Sorry about the wait, friends, but I promise to make it up to you. I had a lovely night at the drive-in that precluded my fingers hitting the typewriter keys, but I'll have movies to discuss in short order as a result.

In the meantime, let's wrap up this month's Astounding. shall we? After all, new issues come out in just a couple of days, and I have to have the boards clear before pressing on.


(illustrated by Martinez)

George O. Smith, science fiction's A-lister of latin descent, turns out a fine story for animal lovers with History Repeats. In the far future, canis familiar has been given enhanced intelligence to rival that of humanity's, but their loyalty to their bipedal companions remains undiminished. In this tale, Terran agent, Peter, and his furry companion, Buregarde, are sent to Xanabar, a sort of latter-day Byzantium, to rescue a kidnapped damsel in distress. It's worth reading just for Buregarde--Smith always writes a fun, poetic story.


(illustrated by van Dongen)

Operation Haystack, by Frank Herbert, is an interesting political thriller set about a thousand years from now. It involves a centuries-old plot by the descendants of nomadic Arabs to seize political control of the galaxy. What makes the story special is that the orchestrators of the plot are women--and they pretty much win in the end. That said, it's a little disappointing that these powerful women generally rule through their husbands, who hold the political offices (though the women pull the strings). I'd like to think that the future lies in the equality of the sexes rather than the eternal struggle, with one side or the other side enjoying supremacy for a while. Still, I suppose Herbert's is as plausible a future as any, and at least the women are getting their say in it.


(NASA photo)

Philip Latham's Disturbing Sun is written in the form of an interview, the kind of transcription you often find in NASA press releases. It's one of those non-non-fiction pieces, and it is not un-clever. Psychologist Dr. Niemand describes the untoward effects increased sunspot activity has on the psyches of people during the sunlit hours. Given that we still don't know what sunspots really are (well, we know they are cool spots, but we don't know why they exist or how they're made), I suppose Latham's fancies are to disprove. Interestingly, Latham (who appears in the story as the interviewer) is actually the alter-ego of real-life astronomer Robert Richardson; Richardson was even the technical advisor on Destination: Moon, so I imagine he knows whereof he speaks. Even if you don't buy the sunspot/neurosis connection (I doubt Richardson does either), the style is captured with verisimilitude and is a fun read.


(illustrated by Summers)

Last up is Hex by Larry M. Harris. This is a story I would have expected to find in Fantasy & Science Fiction (that's a compliment) dealing as it does with witchcraft, a do-gooder welfare worker with fine intentions but creepy, eldritch methods, a scheming Russian ex-patriate who wants to bilk the system rather than be magically compelled to find work, and a gypsy witch in over her head. Interesting, whimsical, disturbing. Good stuff.

Gosh, where does that leave us? I guess this really wasn't a bad book, all told. 3.5 stars? Worth getting, particularly if you want to catch Dorsai in serial form.

Next up: The last issue of Satellite! Stay tuned!

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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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