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It's those haunting, evocatively written F&SF stories that keep me a regular subscriber. July's issue opens with Robert F. Young's To Fell a Tree, about the murder (mercy killing?) of the tallest tree imaginable, and the dryad that lived within. It'll stay with you long after you turn the last page, this sad, but not entirely desolate, tale. So far, it's the best I've seen by Young.

Asimov's column, this month, is a screed against the snobbery of the champions of liberal arts and humanities to the practitioners of science. I'm told that the rivalry is largely good-natured, but Dr. Asimov seems to have been personally slighted, and his article is full of invective.

Avram Davidson's Author, Author is next: venerable British mystery writer is ensnared by the very butlers and baronets who were the subjects of his novels. I found most interesting the interchange between the author and his publisher, in which the latter fairly disowns the former for sticking to a stodgy old format, the country-house murder, rather than filling pages with sex and scandal. I found this particularly ironic as my wife is a mysteries fan who appreciates whodunnits of an older vintage, from Conan Doyle to Sayers. She has, of late, become disenchanted with the latest, more cynical crop of mysteries. I suspect she would have words for the publisher in Davidson's story.

For Sale, Reasonable is a short space-filler by Elizabeth Mann Borgese about a fellow soliciting work in a world where automation has made human labor obsolete. Damon Knight's following book review column is devoted to The Science Fiction Novel, Imagination and Social Criticism, a book of essays written by some of the field's foremost authors. It sounds like a worthy read.

Jane Roberts' Impasse hits close to home--a young lady loses her last living relative, her grandfather. So great is her grief that, by an act of will, she returns him to life, though the old man is not too happy about it. The story struck a chord with me as I lost my family when I was quite young, and I can certainly identify with the poor girl's plight.

The Harley Helix is another fill-in-the-space short short by Lou Tabakow, the moral of which is There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (i.e. the First Law of Thermodynamics). Success Story, which I reviewed last time, is next.

Raymond E. Banks has the penultimate tale, with Rabbits to the Moon, a thoroughly nonsensical tale about the teleportation of creatures (including humans). Its only flaw, that the transported arrive without a skeleton, is made into a selling point.

Last up is The Cold, Cold Box by Howard Fast. The richest man in the world becomes afflicted with terminal cancer and has himself frozen in 1959 so that the future can cure him. But the members of his company's board of directors have a different agenda, particularly after they become the world's de facto controlling oligarchy.

It's good reading all the way through, but it's the lead novella that really sells it. 3.5 stars, I'd say.

I'm off to the movies tonight, so expect a film review soon!

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We live in such exciting times that it's no wonder science fiction is flourishing. It seems not a month goes by without some kind of space shot, and yet we're still perhaps years away from the first manned orbit (not to mention a lunar jaunt). Science fiction lets us see the headlines of tomorrow long before they are thrown onto our doorstep.

Of course, not all science fiction deals with space, and not all science fiction magazines deal exclusively in science fiction. The latter half of this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction comprises naught but fantasies.

Not that this is a bad thing. With Berlin under siege, Israel and its neighbors barely restrained from coming to blows, Cuba in the throes of revolution, any kind of escape is a welcome one.



Most of the rest of this month's ish is taken up by Philip Jose Farmer's The Alley Man, a gritty, rambling story that is as hard to take as it is to put down. It spotlights the grubby life of the what may be the last of the Neanderthals consigned, like the rest of his race, to survive off the scraps cast off by the superior Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Not that Old Paley is any dumber than us. Quite the contrary. While he has the rough manner and speech as might be expected of the lowest of the lower economic class, he is a fine raconteur and rather wise.

No, what did in the Neanderthals 50,000 years ago, was the loss of their chieftain's sacred headpiece (and the fact that Neanderthals were worse shots with the bow and arrow). Over the millenia, the Neanderthals have slowly dwindled away, until just one remained (though it appears there are plenty of half-breeds and quatroons around). Old Paley is a garbage scavenger who lives with a half-Neanderthal woman called "Gummy" and a physically blemished former socialite intellectual named Deena with a fetish for rough treatment.

Enter Dorothy, the aide of a physical anthropologist, who befriends Old Paley to study him. It becomes clear over the course of the story that she becomes rather attracted to him (in part due to the powerful stench of the Neanderthal, like "a pig making love to a billy goat on a manure pile," but laden with powerful pheremones), but theirs is not fated to be a happy relationship. In fact, the resulting love quadrangle is all kinds of dysfunctional and, ultimately for Old Paley, fatal.

But you can't deny it's well-written and compelling.

There are three remaining odds and ends: an interesting article on orbits, Satellite Trails by Ken Rolf, about not just the course satellites take around the Earth, but the interesting and sometimes unintuitive patterns they make to ground observers (something like Ptolemy's epicycles); Charles Finney's Iowan's Curse, a cautionary tale about the karmic danger of being a Good Samaritan; and Robert Young's Production Problem, a short-short about a creativity shortage in the far future. They fill the pages, but are not particularly noteworthy.

I think that leaves us at an uninspiring 3.5 or so for the issue. The lead story is very good, and Alley Man is worth reading, I suppose, but the rest is lackluster.

But you can decide for yourself! And should. Until next time (and do stay tuned--I have many interesting updates to come).

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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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