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2017-06-25 01:20 pm

[June 25, 1962] XX marks the spot (July 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

I've been thundering against the new tack Editor Avram Davidson has taken The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for several months now, so much so that I didn't even save what used to be my favorite magazine for last this month.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when, in synchronicity with the sun reaching its annual zenith, the July edition also returns to remembered heights. Of course, Davidson's editorial prefaces are still lousy, being at once too obvious in describing the contents of the proceeding story, and at the same time, obtuse beyond enjoyment. If there's anything on which I pin the exceeding quality of this issue, it's the unusual abundance of woman authors. It's been a long time, and their absence has been keenly marked (at least by me). For the most part, the fellas aren't too bad either. Take a look:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-06-23 09:00 am

[June 23, 1962] Only the Lonely (July 1962 Fantastic)


by Victoria Silverwolf

In this age of Cold War tensions, it's a little disconcerting to discover that the United States made two failed attempts this month to detonate a nuclear warhead in space. The project, whimsically known as Operation Fishbowl, launched Thor missiles from Johnston Island, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean under the command of the US Air Force. The missiles launched on June 2 (Bluegill) and June 19 (Starfish) had to be destroyed in flight due to technical problems. (Radar lost track of Bluegill, and the Starfish rocket engine stopped prematurely.) Some of the debris from Starfish landed on Johnston Island, potentially contaminating persons stationed on the atoll with radioactive material.



If that weren't scary enough, the three inmates who escaped from Alcatraz a couple of weeks ago are still at large. It's probable that they drowned in San Francisco Bay, but I'd advise those of you who live in the area to keep your doors locked.



Raising the alarm in these troubling times are two newly published documents drawing attention to the problems we face. The left-wing organization Students for a Democratic Society released a manifesto entitled The Port Huron Statement a week ago, promoting universal disarmament and other social and political reforms through non-violent civil disobedience.



(It's interesting to note the cover price is the same as that of the magazine I'll eventually get around to reviewing.)

At the same time, The New Yorker (which costs ten cents less than Fantastic or The Port Huron Statement published an excerpt from Silent Spring, an upcoming book from marine biologist Rachel Carson which discusses the danger posed to the environment by chemical pesticides.

With all of this depressing news, it's not surprising that a melancholy ballad of loneliness and lost love has been at the top of the charts for the entire month. Ray Charles isn't the first musician to have a hit with Don Gibson's 1958 country song I Can't Stop Loving You -- besides Gibson himself, Kitty Wells released a popular version the same year, as did Roy Orbison in 1961 -- but his version is by far the most successful. It seems likely that this unique combination of rhythm and blues with country-western will have a powerful impact on popular music.

In keeping with this mood, it's appropriate that many of the stories in the current issue of Fantastic feature characters haunted by loneliness, isolation, and lost love.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-06-13 05:12 pm

[June 13, 1962] THE SINCEREST FORM? (the July 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston



The July Amazing starts off ambiguously, with Stonehenge on the cover—often a bad sign, you could find yourself in Atlantis if you’re not careful. But it illustrates A Trace of Memory, a new serial by the reasonably hardheaded Keith Laumer, so we may be spared any deep wooliness. I’ll defer reading and comment until it’s complete.



So what else is there?

(find out at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-06-10 09:35 pm

[June 10, 1962] A star shall rise (July 1962 IF Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

I've said before that IF Worlds of Science Fiction is sort of a poor sister to Galaxy Science Fiction. Since 1959, they've been owned and run by the same team; IF pays its writers less; the quality used to be markedly lower on average (with occasional stand-outs).



We seem to be entering a new era. The July 1962 IF was a cracking read once I got past the first story, which was short anyway. Not only were the stories fairly original, but even where they weren't, the writing was a cut above. And not in that arty, self-indulgent way that F&SF deems "literary," but in a real way that emphasizes characterization. It's a departure from the mode of the 50s, particularly the lesser mags, where the focus was on the gimmick, with the actors playing second-fiddle to the plot. Plus, Ted Sturgeon has made a permanent home here, which is always a good sign.

So read on – I think you'll enjoy the trip.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!

((And don't miss your chance to see the Traveler LIVE via visi-phone, June 17 at 11 AM! A virtual panel, with Q&A, show and tell, and prizes!))
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2017-05-31 08:10 pm

[May 31, 1962] Rounding Out (June 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

Ah, and at last we come to the end of the month. That time that used to be much awaited before Avram Davidson took over F&SF, but which is now just an opportunity to finish compiling my statistics for the best magazines and stories for the month. Between F&SF's gentle decline and the inclusion of Amazing and Fantastic in the regular review schedule, you're in for some surprises.



But first, let's peruse the June 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and see if, despite the new editor's best efforts, we get some winners this month (oh, perhaps I'm being too harsh – Editor is a hard job, and one is limited to the pieces one gets.)

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-26 04:30 pm

[May 26, 1962] Home is the Sailor (June 1962 Fantastic)


by Victoria Silverwolf

In recent days the eyes of the world were focused on the most important event yet during the administration of President Kennedy. No, not Scott Carpenter’s successful, if suspenseful, orbiting of the Earth, so ably reported by our host. I’m talking about Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to the leader of the free world in a skintight beaded dress that drew at least as much attention as her little girl's voice.



In other musical news, after three weeks at the top of the Billboard's Hot 100 with their smash hit Soldier Boy, the Shirelles, pioneers of the girl group sound, have yielded the position to British clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk with his performance of Stranger on the Shore. (Bilk is only the second artist from across the pond to make it to Number One on the American pop charts. The first was just slightly less than a decade ago, when Vera Lynn reached that position with Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart. I suppose we'll have to wait another ten years before the British invade the Yankee airwaves again.)

Bilk's haunting, melancholy melody could easily serve as background music for the cover story in the June 1962 issue of Fantastic.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-21 06:28 pm

[May 21, 1962] Old AND New (UK's New Worlds Magazine)


By Ashley R. Pollard

Here, as I sit writing in May 1962, I’m contemplating change. The change that occurs when the old is phased out, and new things are built that replace the familiar. What spurred this moment of reflection was the news of the last trolley bus run in London which, as fate would have it, happened on the eighth of May in my manor—London slang for my local area. The irony is that the trolley buses were built to replace the old trams, but have now themselves fallen to the same fate of being old, and no longer appreciated for the modern convenience they once were.



Science fiction is arguably about change, hopefully not in the didactic way of, say, the classroom lecture, but rather through exploring the changes that comes from the introduction of the new. While I’m sure that some of the Galactic Journey’s readers may consider American SF stories to be the wellspring of all that the future holds, Britain does have magazines of its own to bring stories to aficionados of the genre on this side of the Atlantic.

One of them is called New Worlds.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-17 06:26 pm

[May 17, 1962] Not as bad as it looks (June 1962 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus

A wise fellow once opined that the problem with a one-dimensional rating system (in my case, 1-5 Galactic Stars) is that there is little differentiating the flawed jewel from the moderately amusing. That had not really been an issue for me until this month's issue of Analog. With the exception of the opening story, which though it provides excellent subject matter for the cover's striking picture, is a pretty unimpressive piece, the rest of the tales have much to recommend them. They just aren't quite brilliant for one reason or another.



So you're about to encounter a bunch of titles that got three-star ratings, but don't let that deter you if the summaries pique your interest:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-13 06:00 pm

[May 15, 1962] RUMBLING (the June 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston

Oh groan. The lead story in the June 1962 Amazing is Thunder in Space by Lester del Rey. He’s been at this for 25 years and well knows that in space, no one can hear—oh, never mind. I know, it’s a metaphor—but’s it’s dumb in context and cliched regardless of context. Quickly turning the page, I'm slightly mollified, seeing that the story is about Cold War politics. My favorite!



Only a few weeks ago, one of my teachers assigned us all to write essays about current affairs, to be read to the rest of the class. Mine suggested that the government of China is no more to be found on Taiwan than the government of the United States is in London, and it might be wise to drop the current pretense keeping Taiwan in China’s United Nations seat, along with the fantasy of invading mainland China and reinstating Chiang Kai-shek to the power he couldn’t hold on to. After I had read this, one of the other students turned to me and said, “John . . . are you a communist?” I assured him I am not, but in hindsight, I should have said, “That’s right, Jimmy. I get my orders straight from Albania.”

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-11 05:57 pm

[May 11, 1962] Unfixed in the Heavens (The Seed of Earth, by Robert Silverberg)


by Gideon Marcus

A hundred and fifty years from now, the stars are finally attainable. With the invention of a reliable and quick interstellar drive, the galaxy is now ripe for colonization. But humanity is too fat and happy to leave the nest; the world government is forced to conscript candidates to become unwilling pioneers. Six thousand men and women are sent on sixty starships every day toward some farflung world. The goal: to ensure that the human race can be spread as widely as possible.



This is the premise of Robert Silverberg's newest piece, a short novel published in the :June 1962 Galaxy called The Seed of Earth. It's really two novellas in one, the first half dealing with the lives of four conscriptees as they are selected and prepared for departure, and the second half about what happens to them once they reach their destination.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-05-04 03:32 pm

[May 4, 1962] Cleft in Twain (June 1962 Galaxy, Part 1)


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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2017-04-28 04:36 pm

[Apr. 28, 1962] Changing of the Guard (May 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


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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2017-04-20 02:41 pm

[April 20, 1962] Boot Camp (May 1962 Analog)


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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2017-04-15 11:37 am

[April 15, 1962] REGRESSION TO THE MEAN (the May 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston



Last month, I asked: can they keep it up? Amazing’s marked increase in quality, that is. Well, no, not this month anyway.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-04-12 04:02 pm

[April 12, 1962] Don't Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic)


by Victoria Silverwolf

April is the cruelest month -- T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Maybe it's because it's almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it's because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it's because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it's because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it's because of George Schelling's B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-04-10 07:42 pm

[April 10, 1962] All the Difference (May 1962 IF Science Fiction)

[April 10, 1962] All the Difference (May 1962 IF Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

The measure of a story's quality, good or bad, is how well it sticks in your memory. The sublime and the stinkers are told and retold, the mediocre just fades away. If you ever wonder how I rate the science fiction I read, memorability is a big component.

This month's IF has some real winners, and even the three-star stories have something to recommend them. For the first time, I see a glimpse of the greatness that almost was under Damon Knight's tenure back in 1959. Read on, and perhaps you'll agree.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-03-28 06:49 pm

[March 28, 1962] Paradise Lost (April 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

I used to call The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction "dessert." Of all the monthly sf digests, it was the cleverest, the one most willing to take risks, and the most enjoyable reading. Over the past two years, I've noticed a slow but decided trend into the realm of "literary quality." In other words, it's not how good the stories are, or how fun the reading – they must be experimental and erudite to have any merit. And if you don't get the pieces, well, run off to Analog where the dumb people live.



A kind of punctuation mark has been added to this phenomenon. Avram Davidson, that somber dilettante with an encyclopedic knowledge and writing credits that take up many sheets of paper, has taken over as editor of F&SF from Robert Mills. Five years ago, I might have cheered. But Davidson's path has mirrored that of the magazine he now helms: a descent into literary impenetrability. Even his editorial prefaces to the magazine's stories are off-putting and contrived.

I dunno. You be the judge.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-03-22 02:59 pm

[March 22, 1962] Provoking Thought (April 1962 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus

Ask the average citizen their opinion of science fiction and they'll likely mention monsters, flying saucers, and ray guns. SF has gotten a bad rap lately, largely due to the execrable movies nominally representing it, but there's no question that the pulps of the 30s and 40s, and the lesser magazines of the 50s didn't help much. And yet, only Science fiction offers endless worlds in which to explore fundamental human issues. Religion. Philosophy. Politics. It is only in our fantastic genre that the concept "if this goes on" can be pushed to extremes, whether a story be set in the far future or on a remote planet. SF isn't just kiddie stuff – it can be the most adult of genres.



Case in point: Analog, formerly Astounding Science Fiction, set a standard in the pulp era as the grown-up magazine in the field. And while I've had something of a love-hate relationship with the digest that Campbell built, this particular issue – the April 1962 edition – offers up some intriguing political predictions that, if not probable, are at least noteworthy.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-03-10 08:30 pm

[March 10, 1962] Mail Call! (The April 1962 Galaxy)


by Gideon Marcus

If there is any true measure of fame, it might well be the amount of fan mail you get. Many stars employ services to plow through their truckloads and give each missive personal response. Jack Benny came out on his TV stage last night holding a giant sack of fan mail – of course, it was really filled with trash and old cans...



Galactic Journey's popularity lies somewhere inbetween; we do get our fair share of postcards, but I haven't needed to hire help to read them...yet. Truth be told, it was for these correspondences that I started this column. I love meeting you folk – you start the most interesting conversations!

Science fiction magazines get letters, too. Many of these digests feature letter columns: Analog, IF, Amazing, and Fantastic. The two notable hold-outs are Fantasy and Science Fiction and Galaxy. I suspect the main reason for F&SF is lack of space, it being the shortest of the monthly mags.

Galaxy's reasoning is more complex. In fact, its editors (first H.L. Gold, now Fred Pohl) have polled readers to see if they wanted a lettercol. In the last 12 years' of the magazine's existence, the answer has always been no. Ironically, as much as I love talking to fellow fans, I think I'm in agreement (though I do like letters in comic books). More room for stories!

Speaking of which...have a look at the stories that came out in this month's quite good Galaxy, dated April 1962:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-03-03 04:18 pm

[March 3, 1962] Getting Somewhere (the April 1962 Amazing)

[The precocious Mr. Boston continues to take time from his busy high school schedule to provide coverage of Cele Goldsmith's marquee digest: Amazing, the longest lived of the sff mags. I am deeply grateful to John for his eloquent reviews. I understand that he lives in particularly dull and uninspired part of the country, so I shouldn't wonder that he has time to escape to lands of fantasy...]


by John Boston

The April Amazing opens with a bang: the cover is a startling departure from the usual humdrum machinery. There’s a spacesuit in the foreground, but badly used, missing a glove and a boot, stuffed with straw, and held upright on a pole like a scarecrow, against a surreal background of reddish and yellow desert, a vast cloud of violet smoke, and a washed-out greenish sky. Strikingly imaginative symbolic work by artist Lloyd Birmingham? No, mostly illustrative: this tableau is from the first paragraph of Mark Clifton’s lead short story Hang Head, Vandal! But it is unusual and eye-catching, and Birmingham does get credit (if that’s the word) for the garish color scheme.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)