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New to the Journey, reference this summary article to see what we’re all about.]


by Gideon Marcus

There's a war going on in our nation, a war for our souls.

No, I'm not referring to the battle of Democracy versus Communism or Protestants against Catholics. Not even the struggle between squares and beatniks. This is a deeper strife than even these.


(from Fanac)

I refer, of course, to the schism that divides science fiction fans. In particular, I mean the mainstream fans and the literary crowd. The former far outnumber the latter, at least if the circulation numbers for Analog compared to that of Fantasy and Science Fiction are any indication.

Devotees of editor Campbell's Analog, though they occasionally chide the editor's obsession with things psychic, appreciate the "hard" sf, the focus on adventure, and the magazine's orthodox style it has maintained since the 1940s. They have nothing but sneering disdain for the more literary F&SF, and they hate it when its fluffy "feminine" verbosity creeps into "their" magazines.

F&SF, on the other hand, has pretentions of respectability. You can tell because the back page has a bunch of portraits of arty types singing the magazine's praises. Unfortunately for the golden mag (my nickname – cover art seems to favor the color yellow), many of the writers who've distinguished themselves have made the jump to the more profitable "slicks" (maintstream magazines) and novels market. This means that editor Davidson's mag tends to be both unbearably literate and not very good.

This is a shame because right up to last year, I'd sided with the eggheads. F&SF was my favorite digest. On the other hand, I'm not really at home with the hoi polloi Campbell crowd. Luckily, there is the middle ground of Pohl's magazines, Galaxy and IF.

Nevertheless, there is still usually something to recommend F&SF, particularly Dr. Asimov's non-fiction articles, and the frequency with which F&SF publishes women ("feminine" isn't a derogatory epithet for me.)

And in fact, if you can get past the awful awful beginning, there's good stuff in the August 1962 F&SF:

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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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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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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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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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by John Boston

A couple of months ago I described Amazing, as “promising.” Now here’s the March 1962 issue, with two up-and-comers on the cover and a third on the contents page.

Verdict: promise partly kept.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

I said in a recent article that science fiction runs the gamut from the hard-nosed to the fantastic, and that the former can be found most consistently inside the pages of Analog magazine.

Well, the February 1962 issue has proved me a liar.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Victoria Silverwolf

To be successful, a fiction magazine often needs to strike a balance between established authors and new blood. Experienced writers can generally be counted on to provide work of professional quality, while fledging storytellers may keep the magazine from seeming stale and predictable.

Such a strategy can be seen in the latest issue of Fantastic. Two famous names, one well known to readers of science fiction and the other familiar to almost anybody with a television set, appear on the cover. No doubt this will increase the sales of the magazine on the newsstand. Once the purchase is made, the reader might find the offerings from unknown authors more interesting.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Every successful endeavor goes through the cycle of growth, stability, decline, and renewal (or death, in which case, there's no cycle). Science fiction magazines are no exception. A particularly far-sighted editor can plan for decline by setting up a successor. For instance Galaxy's H.L. Gold has turned over the reigns to Fred Pohl with no apparent drop in the digest's quality. Anthony Bourchier transitioned to Robert Mills at F&SF, and I understand that Renaissance Man Avram Davidson is waiting in the wings to take over. That event can't happen too soon, as F&SF has been lackluster of late.

Analog has had the same master since the early 30s: John W. Campbell. And while Campbell has effected several changes in an attempt to revive his flagging mag (including a name change, from Astounding; the addition of a 20-page "slick" section in the middle of issues; and a genuinely effective cover design change (see below)), we've still had the same guy at the stick for three decades. Analog has gotten decidedly stale, consistently the worst of The Big Three (in my estimation).

You can judge for yourself. Just take a gander at the December 1961 issue. It does not do much, if anything, to pull the once-great magazine from its shallow dive:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Have you ever ordered your favorite dessert only to find it just doesn't satisfy like it used to? I'm a big fan of crème brûlée, and I used to get it every chance I could. That crispy carmelized top and that warm custard bottom, paired with a steaming cup of coffee...mmm.

These days, however, crème brûlée just hasn't done it for me. The portions are too small, or they serve the custard cold. The flavor doesn't seem as bold, the crust as crispy. I've started giving dessert menus a serious peruse. Maybe I want pie this time, or perhaps a slice of cake.

Among my subscription of monthly sf digests, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction used to be my dessert -- saved for last and savored. These days, its quality has declined some, and though tradition will keep it at the end of my review line-up, I don't look forward to reading the mag as much as once I did. This month's, the November 1961 issue, is a typical example of the new normal for F&SF:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction digests are a balancing act. An editor has to fill a set number of pages every month relying solely on the stories s/he's got at her/his disposal. Not to mention the restrictions imposed if one wants to publish an "all-star" or otherwise themed issue.

Analog has got the problem worst of all of the Big Three mags. Galaxy is a larger digest, so it has more room to play with. F&SF tends to publish shorter stories, which are more modular. But Analog usually includes a serialized novel and several standard columns leaving only 100 pages or so in which to fit a few bigger stories. If the motto of The New York Times is "All the news that's fit to print," then Analog's could well be, "All the stories that fit, we print."



How else to explain the unevenness of the October 1961 Analog?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Everyone who writes has got an agenda, but Science fiction writers may be the most opinionated of authors. That's because their pigeon involves prediction, which in turn, is a personal interpretation of current trends. They can't help but express their own biases in their work. And so we have Robert Heinlein and his penchant for plugging love of cats, libertarianism, and nudism (not necessarily in that order!). Dr. Asimov denounces anti-scientific themes in his works. It is no secret that I advocate for the equal representation of women and minorities.

John W. Campbell, editor of the monthly science fiction digest, Analog, is a big fan of psi – the ability of the human mind to alter matter.

Psi is one of those "pseudo-sciences." To date, I don't think there has been a scrap of compelling research as to the existence of ESP or telepathy or precognition, save in the parlors of the less reputable carnivals. Yet it can make for interesting storytelling, a sort of modern magic. I don't mind it so much in my stories, any more than I mind Faster than Light space travel, which is just as baseless.

That said, Campbell, who has more power projection than a single writer, is a psi fanatic. It's rare that an issue of Analog appears without at least one psi-related story, and most have several.

Like this month's, the September 1961 issue:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Recently, I told you about Campbell's lousy editorial in the August 1961 Analog that masqueraded as a "science-fact" column. That should have been the low point of the issue. Sadly, with one stunning exception, the magazine didn't get much better.

And yet...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Thomas

I'm going to stun you all today.

There are plenty of writers in this genre we call science fiction (or sometimes "scientificition" or "s-f"). I've encountered over 130 of them in just the few years that this column has been extant. Some are routinely excellent; many are excellently routine. A few have gotten special attention for being lousy.

One such writer is Randall Garrett.

This is the fellow whose smug misogyny and his utter conformity to John Campbell's peculiar editorial whims made his works some of the worst I had the displeasure to review. Sure, the stuff he wrote with other authors (Bob Silverberg and Laurence Janifer, for instance) was readable, but when he went solo, it was a virtual guarantee of disaster. It is thus with no undue trepidation that I dug into this month's Analog which features Garrett's pen in the first two tales.

Folks, I'm as amazed as you are. They were actually pretty good.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Have you ever heard/seen Karl Orrf's Carmina Burana? It's an opera of sorts, the performance of a set of medieval poems to music. It is likely that you're at least familiar with its opening number, the catchy Oh Fortuna!. Well, having seen Carmina, I can tell you that even Orff knew there wasn't much to the rest of the piece – as evidenced by the fact that Oh Fortuna! gets performed twice, once at the beginning and once at the end. You can snooze through the rest.

This month's Fantasy and Science Fiction is like Carmina: a tremendous beginning followed by a largely snoozeworthy remainder. I suppose that, if you want to complete the analogy, you can simply read the opening piece again after finishing the book. You probably will.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Illustrated by Van Dongen

Sometimes one plus one is greater than two, and sometimes, two authors produce a substantially better product than either of them might individually.

Take Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg, for instance. Here are a couple of fellows whose personal output tends toward the uninspiring, at best, and the downright offensive, at worst. Yet, together, they wrote the Nidor series, which was solid reading all the way through. Now, Laurence Janifer, on the other hand, writes some pretty good stuff on his own, so perhaps he is not helped by his pairing with Randy. On the third hand, Randy sure as hell writes better stuff when working with Larry (under the pen name of Mark Phillips)!

Case in point: A couple of years ago, the two teamed up to produce a serial novel in Astounding (now Analog) called That Sweet Little Old Lady. It followed the travails of FBI Agent Ken Malone as he tracked down a gaggle of insane telepaths in the early 1970s. His main partner, aside from the Garrett stand-in, Agent Boyd, is a charming grandmotherly telepath whose primary quirk is that she believes herself to be Queen Bess herself. Not a reincarnation, mind you--the real deal.

The G-Man and Her Majesty teamed up again for another serial, Out Like a Light, where the subject of interest was a gang of teleporting juvenile car thieves. By the end of this novel, Malone has picked up some psychic skills of his own, including a sense of precognition and the ability to teleport.

Three months ago, installment one of the latest Mark Phillips novel debuted in Analog. This one is aptly titled Occasion for Disaster, and it is Malone's most ambitious outing to date...

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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There's a big difference between weather and climate. Weather is immediate; climate is gradual. 50 years from now, when the Earth's average temperature has climbed a half a degree or more, thanks to the warming effects of human-caused pollution, people will still point to a cold day in January as proof that nothing has changed.

Just like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot of water, slow change is difficult to perceive. Only by assiduous collection of data, and by the subsequent analysis of that data, can we detect long-term trends.



Thus, it is too early to tell whether or not Analog is ever going to pull itself out of its literary doldrums. I had such high hopes after December's issue; January's has dashed them.

(see why at
Galactic Journey!)
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Each month, I lament what's become of the magazine that John Campbell built. Analog's slow decline has been marked by the editor's increased erratic and pseudo-scientific boosting behavior. Well, I just don't have the heart to kick a dog today, and besides, the fiction is pretty good in this month's (November 1960) issue. So let's get right to it, shall we?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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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by Freas

I poke a lot of fun at John Campbell's magazine, Astounding for its overfeaturing of psionics and Randall Garrett, two things of which I've gotten very tired--so imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying a serial that intimately involves both!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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