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2017-02-26 05:37 pm

[February 26, 1962] Record Beating (March 1962 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus



You've almost assuredly heard of Radio Corporation of America (RCA). They make radios (naturally), but also record players, televisions, computers. They have produced the foundations of modern consumer electronics, including the color television standard and the 45 rpm record. And now, they've really outdone themselves: they've created cassettes for tape recording.

Until now, if you wanted to listen to music or a radio show, you had to either buy it as a pre-recorded album or record it yourself. The only good medium for this was the Reel to Reel tape recorder – great quality, but rather a bother. I've never gotten good at threading those reels, and storing them can be a hassle (tape gets crinkled, the reels unspool easily, etc.). With these new cassettes, recording becomes a snap. If the price goes down, I'll have to get me one.

What brought up this technological tidbit? Read on about the March 1962 Analog, and the motivation for this introduction will be immediately apparent.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-02-10 02:11 pm

[Feb. 10, 1962] Here is the News (March 1962 IF)


by Gideon Marcus

If "no news is good news," then this has been a very good week, indeed! The Studebaker UAW strike ended on the 7th. The Congo is no more restive than usual. Laos seems to be holding a tenuous peace in its three-cornered civil war. The coup is over in the Dominican Republic, the former government back in power. John Glenn hasn't gone up yet, but then, neither have any Russians. The Studebaker UAW strike ended on the 7th. The Congo is no more restive than usual. Laos seems to be holding a tenuous peace in its three-cornered civil war. The coup is over in the Dominican Republic, the former government back in power. John Glenn hasn't gone up yet, but then, neither have any Russians.



And while this month's IF science fiction magazine contains nothing of earth-shattering quality, there's not a clunker in the mix – and quite a bit to enjoy! Get a load of these headlines:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-01-09 08:27 am

[January 9, 1962] Unfortunate Tale (Anderson's Day After Doomsday)


by Gideon Marcus

The Earth is dead, its verdant continents and azure oceans replaced with a roiling hell. The crew of the Benjamin Franklin, humanity's first interstellar ship, gaze on the holocaust in horror. Are they only humans left? Do any of Terra's other ships (particularly the all woman-crewed Europa) still survive? And most of all, who is responsible for this, the greatest of crimes?



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2017-01-04 06:15 pm

[January 4, 1962] Over the top...Barely (February 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston

Life is full of happy surprises! At long last Amazing has crossed a line: nothing in the the February 1962 issue is worse than three stars, and the average is a little higher. Read on; I think you'll agree that there is much to enjoy in this, the first magazine of the month:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-12-30 07:09 am

[Dec. 30, 1961] Finishing Strong (January 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

At the end of a sub-par month, I can generally count on The Magazine and Science Fiction to end things on a positive note. F&SF has been of slightly declining quality over the past few years, but rarely is an issue truly bad, and this one, for January 1962, has got some fine works inside.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-08-02 08:15 am

[August 2, 1961] Between Two Worlds (Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions)



Have you ever wanted to throw yourself into a fantasy world? Tour through Middle Earth? Plan a trip in Narnia? Who hasn't imagined themselves rubbing elbows with Robin Hood or Jason's Argonauts?

Some folks have gone so far as to write their own cross-world adventures , much to the delight of their readers. L. Frank Baum made it a common practice to feature immigrants from the "real world" to Oz. L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, in their Incomplete Enchanter, detailed the travels of Earth-dweller Harold Shea through Norse Mythology and The Faerie Queen.

And now, the esteemed Poul Anderson has taken a stab at the genre with Three Hearts and Three Lions.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-06-25 07:12 am

[June 25, 1961] The Twilight Years (July 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction)



Some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs vanished from the Earth. There are many hypotheses as to why these great reptiles no longer walk among us. One current of thinking goes thusly: dinosaurs were masters of the Earth for so long that they became complacent. Because their reign was indisputed, they evolved in ways that were not optimized for survival. Thus, the strange crests of the Hadrosaurs. The weird dome head of the Pachycephalosaurs. The giant frills of the Ceratopsians. Like Victorian ladies' hats, the dinosaurs became increasingly baroque until they were too ungainly to survive.

I worry that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is heading in that direction. I'm all for literary quality in my sf mags, but F&SF has been tilting so far in the purple direction that it is often all but unreadable. I present Exhibit A: the July 1961 "All-Star" issue.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-06-03 08:17 am

[June 3, 1961] Hope Springs (Poul Anderson's Orbit Unlimited)



Today's article is about second chances.

The newspapers are full of scary news these days. Overpopulation. Tension between the East and West. The threat of global disaster. Some feel that we are headed toward a doomed future, one of increased authoritarian governments, of scarcity, of rationing. That we lost something when the last frontiers closed, forcing us to turn inward, toward oblivion.

Poul Anderson's just come out with a new book along those lines: Orbit Unlimited. It's a fix-up of sorts, composed of four stories, two of which I've reviewed before. There are many scenes and as many viewpoint characters, but they all revolve around a central premise: a hundred years from now, freedom is ended, humanity is stagnant, and just one sliver of hope remains – a harsh world around the star e Eridani called Rustum.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-05-03 09:06 am

[May 3, 1961] Passing the Torch (June 1961, Galaxy, 2nd Half)

Something is changing over at Galaxy magazine.

Horace Gold, Galaxy's editor, started the magazine in 1950, near the beginning of the post-pulp digest boom. He immediately set a high bar for quality, with some of the best authors and stories, and including a top-notch science columnist (this was before Asimov transitioned from fiction). Galaxy only once won the Best Magazine Hugo (in 1953, and that one it shared), but it paid well, eschewed hoary cliches, and all-in-all was a pillar of the field. It was the magazine that got me into reading science fiction on a regular basis.

Warning bells started to clang in 1959. The magazine went to a bi-monthly schedule (though at a somewhat increased size). Author rates were slashed in half. Gold, himself, suffering from battle fatigue-induced agoraphobia, became more erratic. This new Galaxy was not a bad mag, but it slipped a few rungs.

Fred Pohl came on last year. He was not officially billed as the editor, but it was common knowledge that he'd taken over the reigns. Pohl is an agent and author, a fan from the way-back. I understand his plan has been to raise author rates again and bring back quality. While he waits for the great stories to come back, he leavens the magazines with old stories from the "slush pile" that happen not to be awful. In this way, Galaxy showcases promising new authors while keeping the quality of the magazine consistent.

The June 1961 Galaxy is the first success story of this new strategy.

Last issue, I talked about how Galaxy was becoming a milquetoast mag, afraid to take risks or deviate far from mediocrity. This month's issue, the first that lists Pohl as the "Managing Editor," is almost the second coming of old Galaxy -- daring, innovative, and with one exception, excellent.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-02-10 06:57 pm

[February 10, 1961] Two for two! (March 1961 Analog)



Analog (my errant fingers keep wanting to type "Astounding") was even better than last time. This particular copy is a seasoned traveler, having ridden with me to the lovely shores of Kaua'i and back. At long last, I've finished reading, and I can tell you about it. A sneak preview: there's not a bad piece in the book!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2016-01-02 06:14 pm

[January 2, 1961] Closing out the month (the January 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction)



If you are in the accounting profession, you are familiar with the concept of "closing the books," wherein you complete all your reconciliations and regard a month as finished. Here at the Journey, Month's End does not occur until the last science fiction digest is reviewed. Thus, though the bells have already rung for the new year of 1961, December 1960 will not officially end until I get a chance to tell you about the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-11-19 06:20 pm

[November 19, 1960] Saving the Best for Last (December 1960 Analog)

As the year draws to a close, all of the science fiction magazines (that is to say, the six remaining--down from a 1953 peak of 45) scramble to publish their best fiction. Their aim is two-fold: firstly, to end the year with a bang, and secondly, to maximize the chances that one of their stories will earn a prestigious award.

By which, of course, I refer to my Galactic Stars, bestowed in December. There's also this thing called a Hugo, which some consider a Big Deal.



And that's probably why the December 1960 Astounding was actually a pretty good ish (for a change). I'll gloss over Part 2 of Occasion for Disaster, co-written by Garrett and Janifer, and head straight into the stand-alone stuff.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-09-18 02:21 pm

[Sep. 18, 1960] Keeping things even (October 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

I've said before that there seems to be a conservation of quality in science fiction. It ensures that, no matter how bad the reading might be in one of my magazines, the stories in another will make up for it. Galaxy was pretty unimpressive this month, so it follows that Fantasy and Science Fiction would be excellent. I am happy to say that the October 1960 F&SF truly is, as it says on the cover, an "all star issue."


from here

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-08-10 02:03 pm

[August 9, 1960] Destructive Pages (the September 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)



I've said before that I like my reading to be light and pleasant. Not exclusively, mind you, but I find the current trend toward the depressing to be... well... depressing. This month's F&SF is the bleakest I've yet encountered, and under normal circumstances, it would not have been to my taste. On the other hand, being near Hiroshima on August 6 and then near Nagasaki on August 9, fifteen years after they became testing grounds for a terrible new weapon, is enough to put even the cheeriest of persons into a somber mood, and my choice of reading material proved to be quite complementary.

As usual, I lack the rights to distribute F&SF stories, so you'll just have to buy the mag if you want the full scoop, but I'll do my best to describe the stories in detail.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-08-05 10:29 am

[August 4, 1960] Phoning it in (September 1960 Analog)

If you hail from California, particularly the southern end of the state, you might find the concept of seasons to be a foreign one. I know I expect mild, sunny days every time I step outside. We have a joke around here that the weather report is updated once a week, and that's just to give it a fresh coat of paint.



Japan, on the other hand, is a country rooted in seasonality. Every month brings a new package of delights to the denizens of this Far Eastern land. Now, usually I'm a smart fellow, and I only travel here in the Spring for the cherry blossoms, or the Fall to see the fiery colors of the wizened leaves. Only a madman would visit in the Summer, when the heat and humidity are ferocious, and when neither is mitigated by the constant rain that characterizes the immediately prior Typhoon season.



This year, I joined the crazy persons' club.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-08-02 03:36 pm

[August 1, 1960] Saving the Day (Poul Anderson's The High Crusade)

Analog (formerly Astounding) has tended to be the weak sister of the Big Three science fiction digests. This can be attributed largely to Editor John Campbell's rather outdated and quirky preferences when it comes to story selection. There seem to be about five or six authors in Analog's stable, and they are not the most inspiring lot.

On the other hand, at least since last year, Analog has reliably produced a number of good serial novels that have elevated the overall quality of the magazine. This month's issue, the September 1960 Analog, contains the conclusion to Poul Anderson's The High Crusade, and it continues this winning streak.



(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-07-10 07:31 pm

[July 10, 1960] Eye of the Storm (August 1960 Analog)

Once again, I find myself on vacation in my home town. San Diego is hosting two science fiction conventions back to back this July, and this second one promises to be the larger of the two. Of course, neither of these conventions holds a candle to the big one starting in Los Angeles tomorrow, the one that will determine our next Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

But that's a topic for another article. You came here to find out about this month's fiction, right?



(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-06-02 12:40 pm

[June 2, 1960] Fewer is Less (July 1960 Astounding)



What makes a story worth reading?

As a writer, and as a reader who has plowed through thousands of stories over the past decade, I've developed a fair idea of what works and what doesn't. Some writers cast a spell on you from the first words and maintain that trance until the very end. Others have good ideas but break momentum with clunky prose. Some turn a phrase skillfully, but their plots don't hold interest.

I find that science fiction authors are more likely to hang their tales on plot to the exclusion of other factors. This is part of the reason our genre is much maligned by the literary crowd. On the other hand, the literary crowd tends to commit the opposite sin: glazing our eyes over with experimental, turgid passages.

A few authors have managed to bridge the gap: Theodore Sturgeon, Avram Davidson, Daniel Keyes. And, in general, I think the roster of science fiction authors, as they mature, are turning out better and better stuff.

Sadly, Astounding is rarely the place you'll find them.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-05-03 07:37 am

[May 3, 1960] Sharpening Up (Poul Anderson's Brain Wave)

It's tough to be a smart person in a dumb world.

When I was in 4th grade, I had a miserable, mean teacher named Mrs. Middleton. She was the sort of lady who wore a smile on her face that had a depth of about a micron—she certainly didn't have a pleasant soul. I remember many incidents that caused her to rank in the lower tiers of my instructors, but the one that sticks out the most went as follows:

I had done or said something that displayed my somewhat above-average intelligence, and Mrs. Middleton took umbrage. She sneeringly asked me, "You think you're so smart! How would you like it if everyone was as smart as you?"

I answered, quite innocently, "I would love it. Then I'd have people to talk to."



Perhaps this is why Poul Anderson's 1954 novel, Brain Wave, which explores the aftermath of an event that causes every living thing with a brain to become about four times smarter, resonates so strongly with me.

(See the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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2015-02-23 05:46 am

[Feb. 23, 1960] Cepheid Oscillations (March 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)



From the depths of mediocrity to the peaks of quality, it looks like our long literary winter may finally be over. Perhaps the groundhog didn't see a shadow this year.

First, we had an uncharacteristically solid Astounding. This month's Fantasy and Science Fiction is similarly exceptional without a clunker in the bunch, and some standouts besides.

I used to see Poul Anderson's name and cringe. The author who had impressed me so much with 1953's Brainwave turned out consistent dreck for the next several years, though to be fair, he generally did so within the pages of Campbell's magazine, not Boucher's. A couple of years ago he got back into his groove, and his stuff has been generally quite good again.

He has the lead novella in the March F&SF, The Martyr, set in a far future in which humanity has met a race of clearly superior psionicists. We are so jealous of these powers, and the possessors so unwilling to give up their secrets, that a small human contingent takes several aliens prisoner to coerce the secrets of psi out of them. But what if it's a secret better left unrevealed?

It's a beautiful story, but there is nastiness here, and it can be a rough read in places. It is no less recommended for that, however. Just giving fair warning.

Ray Bradbury is an author I've never held in much regard, but his Death and the Maiden, about a withered rural crone who shuts herself in an ancient house in defense against mortality, isn't bad.

It doesn't even suffer too badly when compared to Ted Sturgeon's subsequent Like Young, perhaps because the subject matter is so different (Ray was less successful when both he and Ted wrote mermaid stories in quick succession, Ted's being, by far, the superior.) In Sturgeon's tale, the last surviving 504 humans, rendered sterile by radiation, decide to give their race a kind of immortality by planting cultural and scientific relics so as to bootstrap humanity's evolutionary successor. The joke is on us in the end, however.

John Collier's Man Overboard is an atmospheric piece about a dilettante sea captain pursuing an elusive sea-going Loch Ness Monster. It feels old, like something written decades ago. I suspect that is a deliberate stylistic choice, and it's effective.

Then we have a cute little Sheckley: The Girls and Nugent Miller, another story set in a post-atomic, irradiated world. Is a pacifist professor any match against a straw man's Feminist and her charge of beautiful co-eds? The story should offend me, but I recognize a tongue permanently affixed to the inside of the cheek when I see one.

Miriam Allen DeFord has a quite creepy monster story aptly called, The Monster, with an almost Lovecraftian subject (the horror in the cemetery that feeds on children) but done with a more subdued style and with quite the kicker of an ending.

The Good Doctor (Isaac Asimov) is back to form with his non-fiction article on the measuring of interstellar distances, The Flickering Yardstick. I must confess with some chagrin that, despite my astronomical education, I was always a bit vague on how we learned to use Cepheid variable stars to compute galactic distances (their pulsation frequency is linked to their brightness, which allows us to determine how far away they are). Asimov explains it all quite succinctly, and I was gratified to see a woman astronomer was at the center of the story (a Henrietta Leavitt).


"Pickering's harem," the computers of astronomer Edward Pickering (Leavitt is standing)

Avram Davidson has a fun one-pager called Apres Nous wherein a dove is sent to the future only to return wet and exhausted with an olive leaf in its mouth. I didn't get the punchline until I looked up the quote in a book of quotations.

The remainder of the issue is filled with a most excellent Clifford Simak novella, All the Traps of Earth, in which a centuries-old robot, no longer having a human family to serve, escapes inevitable memory-wiping and repurposing by fleeing to the stars. We've seen the "robot as slave" allegory before in Galaxy's Installment Plan. In fact, it was Cliff, himself, who wrote it, and I remember being uncomfortable with his handling of the metaphor in that story.

I had no such problems this time—it's really a beautiful story of emancipation and self-realization, by the end of which, the indentured servant has become a benevolent elder. A fine way to end a great issue.

So pick up a copy if you can. At 40 cents (the second-cheapest of the Big Four), it's a bargain.


"Spacecraft landing on the Moon" - cover artwork without overprinting - Mel Hunter

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