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Even months are my favorite.

Most science fiction digests are monthlies, but the twins run by Fred Pohl, IF and Galaxy, come out in alternating months. The latter is noteworthy for being the longest regularly published sf magazine, comprising a whopping 196 pages, so big that I need two articles to cover it. Galaxy also happens to be a personal favorite; I've read every issue since the magazine debuted in October 1950 (when it was a smaller monthly).

How does the August 1961 issue fare? Pretty good, so far!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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1961 began on November 10, 1960.

I see some of you are scratching your heads in confusion; others are nodding sagely. It's a long-held tradition in the publishing industry that the date printed on magazines is the date through which they are expected to be on the bookstands, not the date they are first displayed. IF Science Fiction, a bi-monthly, comes out a full two months before it's "expiration date." Thus, I picked up a copy with a January 1961 stamp well before Thanksgiving 1960!

Since IF was acquired by the folks who bring us Galaxy Science Fiction, it has been something of a weak sister to that elder magazine. This month's issue may turn all that around.

(see why at Galactic Journey!)
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It's been a topsy turvy month! Not only have I been to Japan, but I've just gone to yet another new science fiction convention taking place virtually next door (pictures appended below). Yet, despite all the bustle, I've managed to find time for my #1 pasttime: my monthly pile of science fiction/fantasy digests. And here, at long last, is my review of the September 1960 IF Science Fiction.



(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Good old Galaxy magazine. Dependable, occasionally brilliant, very thick.

So thick, that I traditionally break down my review of each bi-month's issue into two articles, and who am I to buck tradition? Without further ado, the April 1960 Galaxy.



First up is Earl Goodale's Success Story, a surprisingly entertaining satire on an interstellar soldier's life and career. It's sort of a cynical answer to Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I don't know much about Mr. Goodale—this is only his second story, as far as I can tell.

Clifford Simak must have a number of expensive bills to pay, for he's published quite a number of stories this year already. His latest, Condition of Employment, about a down-on-his luck engineer who is desperate to make one last flight home to Mars, is not as good as All the Traps of Earth, but better than The Gleaners, both of which came out last month (in F&SF and IF, respectively). I particularly liked the disdain which the story's protagonist felt for the ominpresent, oppressive greenery of Earth. I feel some empathy—I grew up in the desert, and I find an unbridled environment of foliage (and its attendant insect populations) unsettling rather than attractive.

The Nuse Man is back, compliments of author Margaret St. Clair. The Airy Servitor, about a thought-activated invisible butler much akin to Aladdin's genie, is a lot of fun. My favorite line: "Bert and Franny wore expressions suitable to persons who have just seen a dining room explode." Beware itinerant salesmen from the future bearing gifts they don't understand.

When I saw Cordwainer Smith's name on the cover, I became quite excited. After all, his No, no, not Rogov was a tour de force. The Lady Who Sailed the Soul has the trappings of a good story, it has the subject of a good story, but somehow it fails to be a good story. This tale of the first and only relativistic interstellar spaceship pilot is overwrought and somehow anti-feminist despite having feminist protagonists. Perhaps because they are such caricatures. I also dislike stories where women are motivated solely by love for their man.


by DILLON

Finally, we have James Stamers' Solid State, a dull tale of crystalline teleportation (as in using enlarged crystal lattices as vessels for instant transit) that I barely remembered even just after reading. They can't all be winners, I suppose.

That's it for this batch. See you when the other shoe drops!

---

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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Galaxy editor Horace Gold is hard up for writers these days now that he's cut payment rates. In this month's (February 1960) editorial, he notes that he's getting all kinds of low-quality stuff, and would these would-be authors please try reading a scientific journal or two to get better ideas!



Be that as it may, thus far, this double-sized issue of Galaxy is quite enjoyable. I'm splitting the book into two columns so as not to overwhelm you and give you a chance to follow along at home.

Bob Sheckley has a new story out: Meeting of the Minds. I think I've mentioned in an earlier column how one of my best friends has a profound aversion to stories involving a take-over of the body a la Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. He'd have to give Meeting a miss, because that's its central theme: the bug-like Quedak, psychic coordinator for the extinct hive-mind species of Mars, hitches a ride back to Earth where he intends to conduct a similar conquest.


Dick Francis

While Bob tends to write in a flip sort of way, he also is capable of some downright creepy prose. I particularly like how the Quedak is portrayed in glances through other characters' eyes. The use of limited viewpoints is quite effective. Moreover, it would be interesting to viscerally feel what a bird or pig or other human feels, were the cost not losing one's individuality to a hive-mind.

Unsettling, but good.

Margaret St. Clair has been a busy bee, with stories appearing both here and in IF this month. The Nuse Man is a shaggy dog story about a brick salesman from the future, and how he ran afoul of political intrigue in ancient Mesopotamia. You won't remember it long after you read it, but you will enjoy it.


Wallace Wood

Newcomer James Stamers is another author who is filling the pages of two Golden magazines in one month. Dumbwaiter is cute, but eminently forgettable (clearly, as I had to rack my brain for several minutes to remember what it was about!) It opens, excitingly enough, with a master smuggler attempting to secret an extraterrestrial animal through customs. That half of the story is a pleasant cat and mouser. The remainder, wherein the animal turns out to be a sort of eager-to-please teleport, who charms the smuggler's fiancée by bringing her numerous treasures, is not as engaging.


Dillion

Finally, in The Day the Icicle Works Closed, we have a solid extraterrestrial whodunit by Fred Pohl featuring body-swapping, kidnapping, politics, and a reasonably compelling detective. It starts out rather prosaic, but the pace accelerates as the pieces fit together, and the end is worth waiting for. I shan't spoil any more in the event you want to take a crack at some armchair sleuthing.


Dillon

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I'll discuss Willy Ley, Zenna Henderson (two women in one Galaxy!) and more.

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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I've finally finished the January 1960 IF and can report fully on its contents. January has been a decidedly uninspiring month for digests. They're all in the 3-star range (though for Astounding, that's actually a good month!) with no knockouts in the bunch. Perhaps this is the calm before the storm.

The reliable if stolid Mack Reynolds (writing as Mark Mallory) kicks off this issue with The Good Seed. Can a man trapped on a tiny island by a swelling tide escape before he is drowned? Perhaps with the help of a sentient, telepathic plant. It's actually quite a touching story.

James Stamers seems to be a newcomer, and it shows in his unpolished writing. Despite this, his The Divers, about psionic neutrals (essentially anti-telepaths) with the ability to astrally project, has some fascinating ideas and some genuinely evocative scenes. Had Stamers given the tale to Sturgeon to work over for a final edit, I think it could have been an epic. As it is, the story suggests that its author is a diamond in the rough waiting to be polished.

Two Ulsterians, Bob Shaw and Walt Willis, wrote the short Dissolute Diplomat, about an unsavory space traveler who crashes on an alien world, bullies the jelly-ish inhabitants into fixing his ship, and then gets what he deserves in a groan-worthy fashion that is truly pun-ishing.

The Little Red Bag, by Jerry Sohl, is a good piece of thrilling writing, at least until the somewhat callous and abrupt end. A fellow on a plane has the power of tactile clairvoyance—and he discovers a ticking time bomb in the luggage compartment. Can he save the passengers before it goes off? Having flown the route that the plane takes many times (Southerly down California into Los Angeles), the setting is quite familiar, which is always fun.

Daniel Galouye (how do you pronounce his name?) is up next with the interesting teleportation yarn, The Last Leap. Three military subjects have gone AWOL after artificially gaining the ability to materialize anywhere. Surely they were not killed--after all, even the vacuum of space poses no danger, for the 'porters reflexively snap back to a safe spot; moreover, they instinctively avoid teleporting into solid objects. What could have happened? You find out in the end...

To Each His Own, by Jack Sharkey, stars a team of Venusians who explore the Earth after a recent holocaust. The nature of said disaster is never made explicit until the very end, though it is alluded to subtly. I confess that I should have figured out the gimmick ending, but I didn't. I suppose that constitutes a point in the author's favor.

Margaret St. Clair has a fun story (The Autumn after Next) about a magical missionary whose job is to convert magic-less cultures into adepts at the Arts. He meets his match, and his end, attempting to introduce the most reluctant of tribes to the supernatural. Better than The Scarlet Hexapod, not as good as Discipline, both IF stories.

Finally, we have Cultural Exchange by J.F. Bone wherein a crew of space explorers meets a sophisticated alien race with both superior and inferior technologies. It is a first contact story of Cat and Mouse with both sides attempting to be the predator. Not stellar, but satisfying.

That's that! It's an unremarkable issue, slightly under the standards of its older sibling, Galaxy, I'd say. Worth a read, but you won't remember it next month (unless, of course, you review my column).

Note: If you like this column, consider sharing it by whatever media you frequent most. I love the company, and I imagine your friends share your excellent taste!

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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September is almost over, and it’s not even the end of August.

Confused?  It’s standard practice to date magazines with the month that they are to be taken off the shelves.  Thus, I got all of my September 1959 issues in late June.  I also got my October Galaxy around then, too, but that’s because it’s a bi-monthly.



The September 1959 IF, now essentially Galaxy Jr., is the last September issue to review before moving on to the next month, and so far so good!

As with the last ish, the magazine opens strongly with a novelette by James H. Schmitz called Summer Guests.  At first, it seems like a bit of wish-fulfilment: bored, lonely working stiff encounters a pair of lovely fairies while at his summer retreat.  Very quickly, our protagonist learns that his guests are far more than they seem, and he finds himself an unwitting pawn in a struggle between races and dimensions.  It’s got a wicked sting in the tail, too.  Solid, 4-star tale.

On to number two.  Philip K. Dick never turns in a bad effort, but Fair Game is one of his lesser works.  A professor is hounded by extra-dimensional creatures who appear to be after his fine intellect.  In tone, it sounds a bit like a much better Dick story I read in Beyond many years ago (I can’t remember the title), but the ending is rather pat. 3 stars.

Margaret St. Clair (often known as Idris Seabright) has an entry in this month’s issue: The Scarlet Hexapod.  In short, if you like dogs, you’ll love the six-footed Martian version.  It’s all about how Jeff, the extraterrestrial Fido, risks all to save its owner from a murderous plot.  I found the story insubstantial, but not trying.  3 stars.

Finally, for today, we have Charles L. Fontenay’s Bargain Basement in which a pair of modern-day fellows frequent a little general store that is, literally, a slice of the future.  No one minds getting whiz-bang merchandise for cheap, but the pleasant situation collapses in a bit of paradox when one of the protagonists uses a love drug to steal the fiancée of the other (in a bit I found disturbing).  The subsequent change in history causes the future store to disappear… yet nothing else changes, including the marital status of the woman and her scoundrel new husband.  3 stars reduced to 2 for the poor treatment of the female character.

That leaves us at exactly 3 stars for the first half of the issue.  We’re doing better than this month’s Astounding, but will the luck hold out into Part 2?

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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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Wow!

I do declare, the February 1959 IF really is something else. Not a stinker in the book, and some truly excellent stuff. If had always been like this, I think it would have dislodged Astounding and jostled its way into the top tier of science fiction digests.

Without further ado...

The other day, I read in the newspaper that Andrei Gromyko (the Soviet foreign minister) lauded the strength of the Communist Bloc, stating that the counterbalance of the two superpowers actually insured against an atomic apocalypse. Be that as it may, I don't see how we can live persistently at two minutes to midnight without snapping some taut nerves. The Last Days of L.A., by George H. Smith, is a brutal second-person piece about cracking up under the omnipresent threat of nuclear war. I'd be very interested to see statistics on this phenomenon, because I bet it is happening quite often.

I advise you not to read this piece right before going to sleep.



Have you heard of Rosel George Brown? She's an up-and-comer, and Virgin Ground is her third published story. It is a spin on the "pioneer spouse" trope: in this case, it's brides for Mars. This is another dark story with an unhappy ending, but there's no question but that it's well-written.

I found Discipline, by Katerine St. Clair, to be excellent. It is a tale of archaeological rivalry, but with a setting in space. One has to wonder how often it happens that scientific integrity is squandered to preserve an attractive thesis. In this story, one man's pride spells another's doom, but the ending is pleasantly unexpected.

Another newcomer is David R. Bunch. His In the Jag-Whiffing Service is good, funny stuff, but it is so short that to tell you anything about it would spoil the whole thing. Take my word for it. Better yet, read it yourself.

Star of Rebirth, by Bernard Wall (of whom I've never heard; perhaps he is an incognito Damon Knight), is one of the few rays of light in this rather dark set of stories. Set far in the future after a devastating nuclear war, it is a convincing and touching piece following the leader of a tribe of primitive survivors. I liked it a lot.



Finally, you've probably all heard of Cordwainer Smith. His No, No, not Rogov! is a piece of present-day scientifiction (yes, that word is still in vogue) about a husband-and-wife science team working in the Soviet Union; their super-secret work into the field of electric clairvoyance yields unexpected results. Of all of the stories in this magazine, I predict this one may go down in history as a classic.

I think I can see a trend in Damon Knight's editorial choice. Most of these tales are bleak things, though they are of indubitably good quality. However, there is just enough hope leavening the mix to make the book palatable. In any event, it is clear that Mr. Knight was a solid choice to navigate IF out of the sales doldrums.

Except I did promise you bad news, didn't I?

Just after I'd picked up this magazine, I learned that publisher James L. Quinn is throwing in the towel. IF is for sale, and there's no telling when (or if) the magazine will resume publication. It's really a shame. Mr. Knight really hadn't had a chance to bring the magazine back from the brink, and I'm sure that he could have.

On the other hand, I don't think his stable of authors will quit writing. Maybe Galaxy will get enough material to go back to a monthly format. Fingers crossed!

Stay tuned day-after-tomorrow for.... I'm not sure yet. I'm playing this one by ear!





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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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