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Hello, fellow travelers! As promised, here's a round-up of this month's Galaxy magazine.

Or should I say Galaxy Science Fiction? According to editor Horace Gold (and I somehow missed this), Galaxy was misprinted last month with the old logo and the old price! They really lost their shirt on that issue, sadly. On the other hand, Gold is going to try not being ashamed of what he peddles and see if it affects sales positively or adversely. I'm hoping for the former.

Diving into the stories, George O. Smith continues to write in a workmanlike fashion. His The Undetected is part thriller, part who-dunnit, part romance, and features a psionic detective looking for a psionic criminal. And you thought it could only happen in Astounding.


Virgil Finlay

The often-excellent Phillip K. Dick has a lackluster story in this ish: War Game. In the future, the tricky Ganymedians are constantly trying to sneak subversive toys past our customs censors. In this case, they succeed by occupying the attention of a pair of said censors with a sort of automated toy soldier kit. It's the sort of throwaway tale I'd have expected ten years ago.


Wallace Wood

On the other hand, it provides an excellent segue to an exciting new arena of gaming. A hundred years ago, the Germans invented sandbox "wargaming," wherein they simulated war with a set of rules and military units in miniature. A half-century later, H.G. Wells proposed miniature wargaming as a way of scratching the human itch for violence without bloodshed. Fletcher Pratt, popularized the naval miniature combat game in World War 2, playing on the floor of a big lobby.

A fellow named Charles Roberts has taken the concept of miniature wargaming and married it to the tradition of board-gaming (a la Scrabble and Monopoly or Chess, perhaps a prototype wargame). Thanks to his revolutionary Tactics, and its sequel Tactics II, two players can simulate war on a divisional scale between the fictional entities of "Red" and "Blue" using a gameboard map, cardboard pieces, and dice. While perhaps not as visually impressive as facing off thousands of tin soldiers against each other, it is far more accessible and inexpensive.



War leaves me cold; I am a confirmed pacifist. But there is fun in the strategy and contest that a wargame provides. I look forward to seeing what new wargames Roberts' Avalon Hill company comes up with. Perhaps we'll see games with a science fictional theme in the near future—imagine gaming the battles depicted in Dorsai! or Starship Soldier!

To the next story: Jim Harmon is a fine writer, and his Charity Case, about a fellow hounded by demons who cause his luck to be absolutely the worst, starts out so promisingly that the rushed ending is an acute disappointment. Maybe next time.


Dick Francis

Fred Pohl's The Snowmen is a glib, shallow cautionary tale covering subject matter better handled in Joanna Russ' Nor Custom Stale. In short, humanity's need to consume compels it to generate power from heat pumps that accelerate the process of entropy leaving Earth in a deep freeze.

I did like Robert Bloch's Sabbatical, about a time traveler from 1925 who quickly determines that the grass is always greener in other time zones, and one might as well stay home. I enjoyed the off-hand predictions about the future—that Communism will no longer be the big scare, to be replaced with Conservativism; the patriarchy will be replaced with a matriarchy; the average weight of folks will be dramatically higher. I guess we'll see which ones come true.

Finally, we have Andy Offut's Blacksword. I had hoped for an epic fantasy adventure. Instead, I got one of those satirical political romps wherein one man plays chess with thousands of inferior minds, and things work out just as he planned. And then it turns out he's just a pawn (or perhaps a castle) in a bigger political chess game. Inferior stuff.


Wallace Wood

All told, this issue tallied at three stars. The problem is that this issue wasn't a mix of good and bad but rather a pile of unremarkable stories. With the exception of the Sheckley and the Ley article, and perhaps Bloch's short story, it was rather a disappointment.

Of course, this month's Astounding prominently features Randall Garrett, again. Out of the frying pan, into inferno.

See you in two! Try not to get involved with any rigged quiz shows...

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Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.

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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There is a certain perverse joy to statistics.  Think of the folks who spend hours every week compiling baseball scores, hit averages, etc.  It’s a way to find a pattern to the universe, I suppose. 

To date, I’ve sort of off-handedly rated issues on a 1 to 5 star scale.  Last weekend, I went through my issues and compiled real statistics.  Here’s my methodology:
Each story/article gets rated 1 to 5 with these meanings.

5: Phenomenal; I would read again.
4: Good; I would recommend it to others.
3: Fair; I was entertained from beginning to end, but I would not read again or recommend.
2: Poor; I wasted my time but was not actively offended.
1: Abysmal; I want my money back!

I generally skip editorials and book reviews (in the ratings; I do read them... except for Campbell's editorials).

I then average all the stories in the book.  I do another, weighted, average where I factor in the length of a story (i.e. if the long stories are great and the short ones are terrible, the latter do not bring down the score as much).  Generally, the two scores are close.

My preliminary analysis has confirmed what I’d already felt in my gut--Fantasy and Science Fiction is a consistently better magazine than Astounding.  F&SF runs a consistent 3 or 3.5 average.  That may not sound like a lot, but any score over 3 means there must be at least one good story inside.  I haven’t reviewed a magazine that scored a 4 yet.
Astounding, on the other hand, runs in the 2.5 to 3 range.  This is why I find the magazine a chore.

I haven’t don’t Galaxy yet, but I suspect it will fall in between the two above magazines.



Using my brand new rating system, let’s talk about the new IF Science Fiction.  I’m afraid it’s not quite up to Galaxy’s standards, nor even those set by Damon Knight’s outing as editor, but it’s not horrible, either.

The issue starts strongly enough with F. L. Wallace’s Growing Season, about a starship hydroponics engineer with a contract out on his life.  It’s a very plausible and advanced story whose only flaw is that it ends too quickly and in a pat manner.   4 stars.

The Ogre, on the other hand, is a disappointing turn-out from normally reliable Avram Davidson.  As one reader observed, it falls between two stools, being neither chilling nor funny.  It’s another story where an anthropologist would rather kill than revise a pet theory, in this case, the date of Neanderthal extinction.  2 stars.

Wynne Whiteford, of whom I had not heard before, though I understand he’s been around for a while, writes a rather hackneyed tale of immortality and body-snatching called Never in a Thousand Years.  If you don’t see the end coming from the beginning, you’re not looking very hard.  2 stars.

Sitting Duck, by Daniel Galouye, is one of those stories with a uncannily relevant but unnecessary parallel subplot.  In this case, aliens are hunting humans from artificial “blinds” in the shapes of homes, malls, and movie theater... just like the protagonist when he hunts ducks from blinds.  It really doesn’t work as a story, but it’s not execrable.  Just primitive.  2 stars.

I rather enjoyed Mutineer by Robert Shea, in which cities have reverted to city states (albeit high-technology ones), professions are regimented, and soldiers are both fearsome and feared.  There are interesting parallels to be drawn to Classical Greece, perhaps.  3 stars.



Paul Flehr’s A Life and a Half is inconsequential, a bitter reminiscence by an old-timer about a century from now, noting how much better things were “back then.”  It has a rather strong Yiddish tone throughout, however, so it’s not all bad.  2 stars.

Rosel George Brown continues to show potential that is never quite realized.  In Car Pool, a young mother struggles with mixing alien and human children in a pre-school setting; at the same time, she wrestles with her plainness and puritanical virtuosity.  I liked it, but it is not quite great.  3 stars.

Baker’s Dozens is about a series of clones who encounter life and death in a number of interesting ways in their interstellar journeys.  The story is mainly a vehicle for author, Jim Harmon’s, groan-worthy puns.  3 stars.

IF ends as it began, with a quite good story by Phillip K. Dick called Recall Mechanism.  It combines a post-apocalyptic world with investigations into psychiatry and precognition.  I’m torn between assigning it a 4 or a 5.  If only there were an integer between the two!



Averaged out, this issue clocks in at 3 stars.  You could definitely do worse, and the first and last stories are worth reading.

See you in two days, and thanks for reading!





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Happy New Year! 1959 promises to be stellar in all senses of the word.



My apologies for the hiatus. Those of you who are familiar with manual typewriters know the strain pressing down on those keys can have on your hand muscles. I am fairly drooling over the idea of trading in my Smith Corona portable for one of the slick, new IBM electrics. Perhaps when this column makes me a millionaire.

My regular subscribers (soon, I will need both hands to count you) know of my long quest to secure the January 1959 Fantasy & Science Fiction. Ironically, shortly after I finally picked up a battered old copy at a secluded newsstand, I received the new February issue! So, for a short time, I have lots to read.



The January issue is quite good, at least so far as I have read. Former editor Anthony Boucher kicks off the issue with the first tale of his I've really liked: The Quest for St. Aquin falls into the rare category of post-apocalyptic religious fiction. In fact, the only real example of the genre I can recall is Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz, which I much enjoyed, and which also debuted in F&SF. Boucher's tale follows a young priest and his robot companion as they travel through a radiated, Christian-hostile America. It's atmospheric, thought-provoking, and fun. A cameo character gives the story an extra star all on his own (those who know me will know who he is).

I've already written about Asimov's non-fiction article, which dealt with the threat of global warming. It's worth reading. The next piece of fiction is a fine short piece by Avram Davidson (does he write any other kind?) called The Woman who Thought She could Read. If you like gypsies, fortune-telling, Avram Davidson, sad endings, or any combination thereof, you don't want to miss this atmospheric tale.

I'm saving the issue's novella, Fritz Leiber's The Silver Eggheads, for next time. Thus, the subsequent tale is Dick's first short story in a while: Explorers We, about a returning expedition from Mars. It's not bad, but Dick has spoiled me. I expect all of his stories to rock me. Ah well.

It is worth reading Tony Boucher's "Recommended Reading" column, if only for his droll relating of his encounters with UFOlogists.

Finally (for this article, not the issue) came Robert A. Young's cleverly titled and aptly timed Santa Clause. The story asks the question: is it better for the delusional characters of one's childhood to be real or completely nonexistent? Sadly, though the tale is well-written and ties in both Saint Nick and Old Nick, it somehow fails to deliver a knockout punch at the end.

So stay tuned! Next article, I shall wrap up the January F&SF, unless, of course, scientific events preempt my spotlight on fiction and compel me to do a stop-press account.

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