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by Lorelei Marcus

You hear that? That's the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe its also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I'd like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.



The first ones I would like to honor, of course, were the two recent five star rated episodes, Little Girl Lost and The Fugitive. Truly spectacular works that were the perfect balance of peculiar, creepy, and heartwarming. Next I would like to honor The Mirror in its complete awfulness. It was really terrible, in a "so bad it's good" kind of way. Finally, I would like to say something about Time Enough at Last and It's a Good Life, because I know people are going to be asking about them. Time Enough had an interesting setup and conflict, however I didn't like the ending at all. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for happy endings, but just having his glasses break seemed like a cheap cop-out rather than an actual twist. It's a Good Life also had an interesting setup, however from there it just went downhill for me. There wasn't really a message I got out of it other than "don't spoil your kids," which I assume was not the intended theme. At least I don't have to babysit the kid. If you'd like to see full reviews of all the episodes I just mentioned, and more, just peruse past articles of Galactic Journey with The Twilight Zone in the title.

Alright, enough talk about episodes I've already reviewed; let's talk about the last four episodes. Which just so happen to be the literal last four episodes of The Twilight Zone:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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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 timeā€”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

---

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 promised a book review today, but then I misplaced my book. Life is like that. So, for your reading pleasure, I instead offer my meanderings through the March 1959 Fantasy & Science Fiction (you know, the one I was supposed to have done last month instead of the prematurely secured April issue).

As with the last (next) ish of F&SF, it starts with a bang. Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies---" is an unique tale of time travel. Everyone has heard of the Grandfather's Paradox, but what if you end up being your own granpaw? I have to give extra credit to Heinlein for having a transsexual protagonist (i.e. someone who has been both male and female). I hope I'm using that word correctly--it's brand new.

I like Asimov's science article, Nothing, in which he points out that the mass of all the "empty" spaces between the galaxies actually exceeds the mass contained in the galaxies by a significant margin. I suppose that makes sense, but it is odd to conceptualize. I guess the Great Watchmaker needs to stir up the universe just a little more to get the lumps out...



Ray Bradbury has a tale involving mermaids in this issue called The Shoreline at Sunset. Any mermaid story in F&SF naturally invites comparison to Sturgeon's mermaid story A Touch of Strange (published in the Jan. 1958 issue). Unfortunately, unlike Sturgeon's quite brilliant piece, Bradbury's is well-written but somewhat pointless. But then, I might say that any time I compare Bradbury to Sturgeon.

Have you been following Zenna Henderson's stories of "The People"? Human in form but possessed of tremendous psychic powers, these interstellar refugees have been trapped on Earth in hiding for many years. They dwell in their sequestered valleys, occasionally venturing forth to rescue isolated members of their kind raised by native Earthers. Henderson's stories are always beautiful, often with a touch of sadness.

Well, with Jordan, the castaways finally have the opportunity to be rescued. More "civilized" members of their race arrive in a spaceship with an invitation to settle on a new planet, one on which they won't have to hide their powers or use rough technology to do what their powers could do more elegantly. Yet the exiled People have grown to love the Earth and even the crude methods they've had to employ to survive. Can they leave it all behind?

According to the editorial blurb preceding the story, it looks like Ms. Henderson finally has enough stories of The People to fill an anthology. I definitely recommend picking it up when it hits the shelves.

See you on the 8th!





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