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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.


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by Victoria Silverwolf

Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

These famous last words, ascribed to many a noted actor on his deathbed, are probably apocryphal. Even if nobody ever really uttered them before taking his last breath, they do suggest the difficulty of provoking amusement in one’s audience. This is at least as true of speculative fiction as of the stage.

A quick glance at the Hugo winners, for example, reveals that only one humorous piece has won the prize. Eric Frank Russell’s 1955 Astounding short story Allamagoosa, a comic tale of bureaucratic foul-ups, stands alone among more serious works.

This is not to say that there are not many talented writers as dedicated to Thalia as to Melpomene. From the wit of Fritz Leiber to the satire of Robert Sheckley, from the whimsical musings of R. A. Lafferty to the tomfoolery of Ron Goulart, readers in search of smiles and belly laughs have many choices. In less adept hands, unfortunately, humorous science fiction can degrade into childish slapstick and sophomoric puns.

href="http://galacticjourney.org/stories/6203Fantastic.pdf">The March issue of Fantastic is dominated by comedy, so let's take a look at it with a light heart.


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by Gideon Marcus


Take a look at the back cover of this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction. There's the usual array of highbrows with smug faces letting you know that they wouldn't settle for a lesser sci-fi mag. And next to them is the Hugo award that the magazine won last year at Pittsburgh's WorldCon. That's the third Hugo in a row.



It may well be their last.

I used to love this little yellow magazine. Sure, it's the shortest of the Big Three (including Analog and Galaxy), but in the past, it boasted the highest quality stories. I voted it best magazine for 1959 and 1960.

F&SF has seen a steady decline over the past year, however, and the last three issues have been particularly bad. Take a look at what the August 1961 issue offers us:

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How do rate a story which is objectively well done, but which you just don't like?

We taught our daughter manners at a very early age. When she encountered a food she didn't enjoy, she was to say, "This is not to my taste," rather than something more forceful and potentially bruising of feelings. I recognize that my readers are turned on by different things than I am. One person's trash is another's treasure, and so on. But at the end of every review, I have to come up with a numerical score, and that score necessarily reflects my views on a piece.

This conundrum is particularly acute with the current issue of Galaxy, dated February 1961. None of the stories are bad. Many are well crafted, but I found the subject matter unpleasant. They may be the bees knees for you. Take my reviews with that disclaimer in mind, and you should be all right.

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If anyone can claim the title of “Dean of Modern Science Fiction,” it is Murray Leinster. For decades, the gentle old man of the genre has turned out exciting interstellar adventures leavened with humor and hard science.

But old men are prone to losing their faculties, and I fear we're seeing the first signs of it.

(see why at Galactic Journey!)
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Keeping up with all the science fiction releases is virtually impossible for one person. Luckily, I'm not making this Journey alone. When it turned out I could only review one of October's books, long-time fan TRX offered his services as a guest contributor. He chose to cover Murray Leinster's Men into Space, a collection based on the recently completed television show which had garnered a strong fan base (alas, I was not one of them). Let's see what he's got for us...



(see the review at Galactic Journey!)
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I believe I may have discovered a new physical law: The Conservation of Quality.

Last year, Galaxy editor Horace Gold decided to slash writer pay in half. The effect was not immediately apparent, which makes sense since there was likely a backlog of quality stuff in the larder. But the last issue of Galaxy was decidedly sub-par, and I fear Gold's policy may be bearing bitter fruit.

On the other hand, Astounding (soon to be Analog) editor John Campbell has been trying to reinvent his magazine, and this latest issue, dated April 1960, is better than I've seen in a long time. To be sure, none of the stories are classics for the ages, but they are all readable and enjoyable.


by Kelly Freas

Randall Garrett still pens a good quarter of the magazine, and you know how I feel about him, but he's not bad this month. For the lead serial, Out Like a Light, Garrett teams up again with Laurence Janifer under the pseuonym "Mark Phillips" in a sequel to That Sweet Little Old Lady. FBI Agent Malone and Garrett look-a-like Agent Boyd investigate a series of Cadillac heists only to discover a ring of teleporting juvenile delinquents. I had expected the story to drag, and it is occasionally too cute for its own good, but I found myself enjoying it. We'll see if they can keep up the interest through two more installments.

Next up is the enjoyable short story, The Ambulance Made Two Trips by ultra-veteran Murray Leinster. Mob shake-down artist meets his match when he tangles with a psionically gifted laundromat owner who can alter probability to make violence impossible—with highly destructive results! It's a fun bit of wish fulfillment even if it (again) stars the Heironymous device, that silly psychic contraption made out of construction paper and elementary electronics. I'm not sure whether Campbell inserts references to them after editing or if authors incorporate them to ensure publication.

Harry Harrison is back with another "Stainless Steel Rat" story featuring Slippery Jim diGriz (the first having appeared in the August 1957 Astounding). My nephew, David, had rave reviews for The Misplaced Battleship, in which con man turned secret agent tracks down the construction and theft of the galaxy's biggest capital ship. I liked it, too: stories with lots of interstellar travel get extra points from me, and Harrison is a good writer. Not as compelling as Deathworld, but then, that was a tour de force.


by John SchoenHerr

Wedged in the middle of Harrison's tale, on the slick-paged portion of the magazine, rocketteer G. Harry Stine has an entertaining plug for model rocketry. It is a hobby that has grown from a dangerous homebrew affair to a full-fledged pastime. Safe miniature engines are now commonplace, and launches can be conducted in perfect safety—provided one observes all the rules. Stine prophetically notes that the first person to walk the sands of Mars is already alive and in high school, and he (of course, he) probably cut his engineering teeth on model rockets. Maybe so.

The story published under Randall Garrett's name is The Measure of a Man, and it's surprisingly decent. The lone survivor in a wrecked Terran battleship must find a way to get the hulk back to Earth in time to warn humanity of an alien superweapon before it is used. Again, I like stories with lots of planets and spaceships. I also liked the direct reference to Leinster's The Aliens, a really great story.

Finally, we have Rick Raphael's sophomore effort, Make Mine Homogenized, a surprisingly good story about a tough old rancher, a cow that starts producing high octane milk, and hens that lay bomb-fuse eggs. The first half is the superior one, in which the rancher discovers that her (yes her!) "milk" is highly combustible and that, when mixed with the fuse eggs, creates an explosion that puts Oppenheimer's work to shame. The second half, when the AEC gets involved, is still good, but it digresses and becomes more detached. I really enjoyed the intimacy of the beginning. I'm a sucker for accurately detailed farm stories, having grown up on a farm.


by Kelly Freas

So, there you have it. A perfectly solid Astounding from cover to cover. Who'da thunkit?

Happy Spring everyone!

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I've devoted much ink to lambasting Astounding/Analog editor John Campbell for his attempts to revitalize his magazine, but I've not yet actually talked about the latest (February 1960) issue. Does it continue the digest's trend towards general lousiness?

For the most part, yes. Harry Harrison's serial, Deathworld, continues to be excellent (and it will be the subject of its own article next month). But the rest is uninspired stuff. Take the lead story, What the Left Hand was Doing by "Darrell T. Langart" (an anagram of the author's real name—three guess as to who it really is, and the first two don't count). It's an inoffensive but completely forgettable story about psionic secret agent, who is sent to China to rescue an American physicist from the clutches of the Communists.

Then there's Mack Reynold's Summit, in which it is revealed that the two Superpowers cynically wage a Cold War primarily to maintain their domestic economies. A decent-enough message, but there is not enough development to leave much of an impact, and the "kicker" ending isn't much of one.

Algis Budrys has a sequel to his last post-Apocalyptic Atlantis-set story called Due Process. I like Budrys, but this series, which was not great to begin with, has gone downhill. It is another "one savvy man can pull political strings to make the world dance to his bidding" stories, and it's as smug as one might imagine.

The Calibrated Alligator, by Calvin Knox (Robert Silverberg) is another sequel featuring the zany antics of the scientist crew of Lunar Base #3. In the first installment in this series, they built an artificial cow to make milk and liver. Now, they are force-growing a pet alligator to prodigious size. The ostensible purpose is to feed a hungry world with quickly maturing iguanas, but the actual motivation is to allow one of the young scientists to keep a beloved, smuggled pet. The first story was fun, and and this one is similarly fluffy and pleasant.

I'll skip over Campbell's treatise on color photography since it is dull as dirt. The editor would have been better served publishing any of his homemade nudes that I've heard so much about. That brings us to Murray Leinster's The Leader<. It is difficult for me to malign the fellow with perhaps the strongest claim to the title "Dean of American Science Fiction," particularly when he has so many inarguable classics to his name, but this story does not approach the bar that Leinster himself has set. It's another story with psionic underpinnings (in Astounding! Shock!) about a dictator who uses his powers to entrance his populace. It is told in a series of written correspondence, and only force of will enabled me to complete the tale. There was a nice set of paragraphs, however, on the notion that telepathy and precognition are really a form of psychokinesis.

I tend to skip P. Schuyler Miller's book column, but I found his analysis of the likely choices for this (last) year's Hugo awards to be rewarding. They've apparently expanded the scope of the film Hugo from including just movies to also encompassing television shows and stage productions, 1958's crop being so unimpressive as to yield no winners.

My money's on The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.

---

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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There are times that I feel I could trot out the same Astounding review every month. It would go something like this:

"Editor John Campbell continues to showcase Human-First, psionic stories with young male protagonists and virtually no female characters. The table of contents features Randall Garrett, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, and Murray Leinster. Yet again, the magazine is a disappointment."

For the most part, the above summary would serve this month, but there is a kicker at the end of this review.

Skipping the first part of a serial by a fellow of whom I've never heard (a Harry Harrison), the issue opens up with one of Murray Leinster's weaker outings, Attention Saint Patrick. Leinster is often excellent, but in this one, he's just boringly droll, telling the story of an Irish space colony that relies on giant serpents to control its vermin problem—in this case, little dinosaurs with diamond teeth.


by Bernklau

Then we have the truly ridiculous A Rose by Other Name, a Chris Anvil story about how the removal of military and jingoistic jargon from our vocabulary makes it impossible to go to war. Not good.

Campbell has tried to make his magazine more respectable by including a slick paper non-fiction segment starting this month. Frank Foote and Arthur Shuck penned Solid Plutonium Headache about the technical and physical difficulties associated with working this dangerous radioactive material. A more boring article I have never read, which is a shame because there's nothing wrong with the subject matter. Until Campbell finds himself an Asimov or a Ley, I think his non-fiction section won't be worth much—particularly as the slick paper is not at all absorbent.

Poul Anderson's The Burning Bridge, about a fleet of interstellar colony ships on a 40-year trip to settle a new world, is decent. Recalled by Earth nearly a few years into their flight, the fleet's Admiral must determine whether or not they will return or press on. The cast is nicely international, and women play an important (though oddly segregated) part.


by Bernklau

Then we have The Garrett, in this case Viewpoint. A fellow dreams himself into the future and discovers a strange new world before snapping back to his original time. The now-typical Randallian gimmick is that the person is a famous figure from the past, and the destination is now-ish. It's not as bad as it could have been, but Garrett loses a star just for being Garrett.

Finally, we have The Silverberg: Stress Pattern. This story is hard to rate because there are really two things going on here. On one hand, we have the story of a sociologist and his assistant wife (no doubt inspired by Bob Silverberg's wife and partner, Barbara) and the slow unraveling and subsequent recovery of their lives. The characterization and writing are quite good, and I was carried along for the entirety of the tale's 30 pages.

On the other hand, in the end, the story is a rather ham-fisted argument against the leveling qualities of increased socialism (small "s") and social welfare. The message of the story is that while we might keep the lower classes fat and happy, the secure smart people are just going to get bored and restless. While such an argument could be made against a uniform public school curriculum, and while in true Socialism, the only way to get ahead is to cheat, I don't think things can progress in America as Silverberg contests. Moreover, that part just feels tacked on to tickle Campbell's fancy. It has that "secret society knows all the answers and can manipulate humanity like a machine" conceit I generally find tiresome.

Still, Bob is coming along. I think if he tried writing for another magazine, he could put his talent for prolific writing and good portrayals toward making something truly good. He's not Randy Garrett, even though he works with him regularly.

All told, it's a 2.5 star issue. But I promised a kicker: the serial, Deathworld, is excellent so far, and I'm keenly anticipating next month's installment. You'll have to wait until next February to get the review, but I think it will be a good one!

Stay tuned!

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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People seem to enjoy extremes. The first to do this. The best at doing that. The most exciting. The brightest. The darkest.

If you're wondering why I failed to write on schedule, day-before-yesterday, it's because I was wrestling with the worst. Specifically, the worst magazine I've had to trudge through since I began this project in 1954. Let me tell you: there was nothing to enjoy about it.

I speak of the September 1959 issue of Astounding. Not only are the stories (at least those I've thus far read) thoroughly dull, but they have that sharp stamp of Campbellian editing, or pandering, which causes them to have the same tedious, nonsensical elements.



Take That Sweet Little Old Lady, by "Mark Phillips," a pseudonym so phoney, I knew Randall Garrett had to be involved. Sure enough, Mark Phillips is Randy and a fellow named Laurence F. Janifer. It's a drab, unamusingly droll stream-of-consciousness story about a detective and his quest to find a psionic spy. In the course of his investigations, he meets a dotty esper convinced that she is an immortal Queen Elizabeth. Joy of joys, this is only the first of a two-part serial.

As for the Campbellian twist, much reference is made to psionic devices that are part electronic and part symbolic. This is a nod to Campbell's obsession with "Heironymous Machines," devices that measure "non-electromagnetic radiation," using electric circuits that appear to have no function and could, it is boasted, be replaced by pen-and-ink diagrams of those same circuits without affecting the ability of the machine.

Well, I can't disagree with that.

Chris Anvil continues to make solid 2-star stories that fill blank spots in the pages of Astounding. Captive Leaven is about the effect an interstellar traveler had on a primitive civilization, uplifting it to a very specialized sophistication so that it could produce parts to repair the traveler's spaceship. Not a bad idea, I suppose, but executed in so dull a fashion that I fairly had to reread the whole tale to remember the plot.

Finally, even Murray Leinster disappoints with his A Matter of Importance, in which Leinster's characteristic employment of short sentences annoys to distraction. Ostensibly a story about an interstellar police rescue mission, it's really an opportunity to point out that the human form is the most natural of forms for intelligent creatures, that the Solar System is the most typical of planetary systems, and the predictions of a canny protagonist always come out to be correct.

Fatuous determinism. You can have it.

I'm dreading the rest of this issue, and the next one, to be honest. I'll read them, because I feel I've a contract with you, my good readers, but I can't promise not to skim.

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I’m a bit of an etymology nut, so when I recently heard the hit song, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend me your Comb),” I became intrigued by the provenance of the final lyric, “Baby, you’re the ginchiest.”

Turning to my Dictionary of American Slang, I found that ginch was 30s slang for a woman, a rather unflattering depersonalizing word.  It is akin to, and possibly related to “wench.”  Some people have taken “ginchiest” to mean “tops” or “the best,” but seeing how the male singer is a self-absorbed, beat-spouting jerk, and the girl (from his viewpoint) keeps pestering him, I think he really means, “Man… you’re such an annoying chick!”

Maybe I think too hard on trivial matters.

I’m happy to announce that this month’s Astounding starts with a bang, but first, I want to detour to the issue’s non-fiction article.  It’s the second of its kind that I’ve seen recently, an overdramatic, underrational speculation into the effects of weightlessness and space on the human psyche.  The author opines that, in the absence of normal sensory input or gravity, a person trapped in a tin can for any length of time will go nuts.

Well, people have survived on submarines for 50 years just fine (save for the occasional unfortunate build-up of carbon dioxide).  I suspect our future astronauts will remain sane.  It’s not as if we’re sending them into space inside of sensory deprivation tanks.



Now the fiction.  Murray Leinster has a really excellent story in this ish that I hate to spoil with too much description.  It’s a story of first contact, of an encounter between spaceships, of the interplay between crews, alien and familiar.  And it features a female bridge officer!  Leinster’s penchant for repetitive sentences, like he’s orally reciting an Homeric ode, is a little off-putting, but not cripplingly so.

I give it 5 stars.  How about you?

P.S. I’d planned to write more, but the next story in the book is a Randall Garrett, and I fell asleep five pages in.  I shall try again tonight.  Until next time, dear readers…





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And now, my gentle readers, a free gift.

As you know, I am well-acquainted with Mr. Murray Leinster, science fiction writer extraordinaire. His newest novel, The Pirates of Ersatz has just finished its serial run in this month's Astounding, and the nice fellow has given me permission to distribute it freely amongs my readers.

That's right. This book is yours entirely free of charge!

Now, the question is, should you read it?

I suppose that depends. As I said a couple of months ago, it's set in the same universe as the Med Series, but with a completely different protagonist.

In brief, young Bron Hoddan is an engineer from a family of pirates. Where Hoddan's from, it's almost respectable, even. But Hoddan wants to make his mark in the clean world and so heads to squeaky-clean Walden... where he runs afoul of the law for trying to improve on paradise with an upgraded power generator.

Fleeing for his life to the crude medieval planet Darth, he then runs afoul of the local aristocracy for... well.. just about everything. Yet, so resourceful is Hoddan that he manages not only do survive but to thrive, getting the best of the petty nobles and winning the admiration of the plucky heroine, Lady Fani.



That's only the first half. How Hoddan turns a ragtag fleet of colony ships into a phoney piracy concern and manages to steal from the rich and somehow make everyone richer, is rollicking adventure.

Now, I don't think this is the best Leinster I've ever read. He likes to write short sentences. His sentences have few words. They can be repetitive. He abuses this trait a little overmuch to my liking. The story is also a bit disjointed (dare I say "episodic"?), particularly in the Darth section.

That said, there is also much to like. I happen to really like the decentralized Med Series universe with its range of interesting, unique planets. The story also makes it quite clear that a strong heroine is far more compelling than a trophy, and it is always clear who is in the driver's seat in the Fani/Hoddan courtship.

Most interestingly, in the course of his travels, Hoddan invents an independent landing device small enough for installation on starships. This is huge as, until this book, ships could only land on planets that had erected mammoth landing grids that projected magnetic tractor beams to guide vessels to the ground. I wonder if we'll see the fall-out of this invention in later stories.



So try it. The price is right, and it will definitely get you from point A to Z with a smile on your face. 3.5 stars out of 5.

See you on the 14th!

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Have you heard of Murray Leinster?



Of course you have, though he also writes under "William F. Jenkins," which happens to be his real name. Leinster/Jenkins is one of the few authors with a shot at the title of "Dean of Science Fiction." He's one of the old guard--a veteran of World War One, the pulp era, Campbell's Golden Age of Astounding, and he's still going strong. He won the Hugo in 1956 for his Exploration Team (which I haven't yet read). Leinster has an interesting style, unadorned and occasionally repetitive, that I think lends itself well to being read by adults and kids.

Interestingly, I am not as acquainted with Leinster as I feel I should be. Aside from the juvenile, Space Tug (which I mentioned in an earlier article), I've only read some of his short stories. Sam, this is you, for instance, came out in Galaxy a few years ago, and it was good.

My favorites have been the short two stories, thus far, in the "Med Series," (there is also at least one novel, which I should read soon.) Their protagonist, Calhoun, is a "med man." That is, he's a doctor who flies in his one-person ship between planets like a country doctor visiting farms, bringing the latest cures and techniques. Normally, his trips are routine, but we don't get to read those stories.

Calhoun does have a companion--the cat/monkey hybrid named "Murgatroyd." Not only is the creature incredibly cute, but it has the innate ability to develop antibodies to virtually any disease. It is thus invaluable for creating vaccine sera.



I like any story where the hero is distinguished by his or her healing rather than combat prowess. Moreover, Calhoun has to use his brain, which is more fun and interesting than wielding a gun. Both of the stories came out in Astounding (Ribbon in the Sky, June 1957; The Grandfathers' War, October 1957) in the last couple of years, and I imagine back issues would not be hard to obtain.

What I also like about this series is the universe. Leinster's future posits a superluminary drive that goes some 30 times the speed of light. This is unquestionably an impressive speed, but though it facilitates colonization of other planets, it is too slow to efficiently maintain a galactic empire. Instead, each planet is left to its own devices, and there are a few loose galactic organizations whose purpose is to facilitate the spread of medicine (the Med Corps) and to mediate interplanetary disputes.

This Ambassadorial Corps is featured in Leinster's new serialized novel, The Pirates of Ersatz ("A ha! He's finally getting to his point!" I hear you say.) The February 1959 issue of Astounding has been sitting on my to-read pile for some time, and I've finally gotten to it. Of course, only the first of three parts has come out, and I don't want to spoil it issue-by-issue. Suffice it to say, it looks promising. It does not feature Calhoun, but rather an enterprising inventor, who suffers for his ingenuity. In tone and structure, it feels a bit like Heinlein's recent Astounding serial, Citizen of the Galaxy. This is not a bad thing.

So stay tuned! I won't have a review of Leinster's novel for another two months, but the other stories in the magazine (blessedly, I don't think there's an Anderson or Garrett among them) will be discussed quite soon.

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Science advances rapidly, and with it, our visions of the future. People have been dreaming about traveling to outer space for thousands of years, and their dreams have necessarily been based on extrapolations of the time. For instance, when Daedalus and Icarus made their flights, they used bird-like wings. What else was there? When Jules Verne wrote about a trip to the moon, a giant cannon was the propulsion.

Then the rocket came along, and that became the vehicle of choice for space jaunts. Yet the portrayal of rockets in science fiction even just a few years ago differs dramatically from how they ended up actually being used for space travel. One crucial development changed the whole game in the span of just five years.

Two books in my library illustrate what I'm talking about. In 1953, Jeffery Lloyd Castle wrote Satellite E One, and Murray Leinster wrote Space Tug, both near-future tales of space stations. In the beginnings of both books, our heroes are blasted into orbit with the use of rockets—lots of rockets. Castle's booster is 150 feet tall and has 50 rocket engines. Leinster's is even more creative. Dozens of independent jet engines propel the rocket assembly to about 12 miles up and then detach, whereupon solid rockets fire and subsequently detach. Finally, the rocket's own engines (presumably liquid fuel) ignite to finish the journey.

Both of these stories are products of their era. Until 1953, rockets were pretty small affairs. In the 30s, they were strictly hobbyists' stuff. Even in the 40s, the vaunted German V-2 was what would now be classified a Short Ranged Ballistic Missile (SRBM). Missile development languished in the early post-war compared to the prodigious effort expended on the development of jet engines. To science fiction writers, it seemed any space rocket would have to be purpose-built, and it would take a tremendous number of these small engines to get a craft to orbit. That's why most predictions saw humanity reaching the moon around the end of the century. Clarke was particularly visionary in Childhood's End when he wrote about a manned lunar mission as early as 1975 using atomic rockets.

What few authors predicted was the InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) race. In 1954, the Air Force and Army began working in earnest to develop titanic missiles to send nuclear warheads across the world. Since all must crawl before walking, their first product was the Intermediate Ranged Ballistic Missle (IRBM), which will be based in Europe. The Army finished their first proto-IRBM, the Redstone, in 1956. All of a sudden, the United States had an off-the-shelf method to send payloads into orbit. With the completion of the Thor and Jupiter IRBMs in 1957, as well as the Navy's Vanguard (not a military vehicle but based on the earlier Viking, in turn based on the V-2), America suddenly had a stable of boosters.

That year, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. They didn't use a purpose-built space booster; they borrowed an ICBM from their arsenal and stuck a satellite on top. We know it was an ICBM for two reasons: the Soviets had, just a few months before, announced that they'd built and tested an ICBM. And Sputnik III, which used the same launcher as Sputniks I and II (presumably) weighed a ton-and-a-half, so an ICBM class booster was needed to loft it.

We don't know how many individual rockets make up the Soviet booster, but the Redstone, Thor and Jupiter use just one. Of course, it is more efficient to send multi-staged rockets into orbit, so the Juno-I that launched the first Explorer actually has 14 engines (the one on the Redstone and 13 solid-fueled Sergeants on top). The Juno-II also has 14 (Jupiter plus 13 Sergeants). The Junos are stopgaps, however. The Thor-Able that launched Pioneers 0-2 only has three engines. The first crop of American ICBMs, the Atlas and the Titan, have just 2-3 engines. Even Von Braun's proposed lunar mission monsters will only have around 12, tops. So much for cluster rockets with dozens of engines.

It is no coincidence that the Space Race started when it did. It is a direct side-effect of the ICBM race. Science fiction authors are going to have to revise their timetables as well as their portrayals of rockets. It just goes to show that science progresses awfully fast when we want it to, sometimes faster than our ability to predict its progress.

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