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[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Silverwolf

July isn't quite over yet, and already I feel overwhelmed by all that's been going on in the world:

Two new nations, Rwanda and Burundi, have been created from the Belgian territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Similarly, France has recognized the independence of its former colony Algeria.



Despite protests, the United States continues to test atomic weapons. The USA also detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space, hundreds of miles above a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. The explosion created a spectacular light show visible from Hawaii, more than seven hundred miles away. It also disrupted electronics in the island state. An underground nuclear explosion created a gigantic crater in the Nevada desert and may have exposed millions of people to radioactive fallout.



AT&T launched Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite (which we'll be covering in the next article!)

The world of literature suffered a major loss with the death of Nobel Prize winning author William Faulkner.

In Los Angeles, young artist Andy Warhol exhibited a work consisting of thirty-two paintings of cans of Campbell's Soup.



The Washington Post published an article revealing how Doctor Frances Oldham Kelsey, a medical officer for the Food and Drug Administration, kept thalidomide, a drug now known to cause severe birth defects, off the market in the United States.

Even popular music seems to be going through radical changes lately. Early in the month the charts were dominated by David Rose's raucous jazz instrumental The Stripper. It would be difficult to think of a less similar work than Bobby Vinton's sentimental ballad Roses are Red (My Love), which has replaced it as Number One.



It seems appropriate that the latest issue of Fantastic offers no less than nine stories, one long and eight short, to go along with these busy days:

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

In this age of Cold War tensions, it's a little disconcerting to discover that the United States made two failed attempts this month to detonate a nuclear warhead in space. The project, whimsically known as Operation Fishbowl, launched Thor missiles from Johnston Island, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean under the command of the US Air Force. The missiles launched on June 2 (Bluegill) and June 19 (Starfish) had to be destroyed in flight due to technical problems. (Radar lost track of Bluegill, and the Starfish rocket engine stopped prematurely.) Some of the debris from Starfish landed on Johnston Island, potentially contaminating persons stationed on the atoll with radioactive material.



If that weren't scary enough, the three inmates who escaped from Alcatraz a couple of weeks ago are still at large. It's probable that they drowned in San Francisco Bay, but I'd advise those of you who live in the area to keep your doors locked.



Raising the alarm in these troubling times are two newly published documents drawing attention to the problems we face. The left-wing organization Students for a Democratic Society released a manifesto entitled The Port Huron Statement a week ago, promoting universal disarmament and other social and political reforms through non-violent civil disobedience.



(It's interesting to note the cover price is the same as that of the magazine I'll eventually get around to reviewing.)

At the same time, The New Yorker (which costs ten cents less than Fantastic or The Port Huron Statement published an excerpt from Silent Spring, an upcoming book from marine biologist Rachel Carson which discusses the danger posed to the environment by chemical pesticides.

With all of this depressing news, it's not surprising that a melancholy ballad of loneliness and lost love has been at the top of the charts for the entire month. Ray Charles isn't the first musician to have a hit with Don Gibson's 1958 country song I Can't Stop Loving You -- besides Gibson himself, Kitty Wells released a popular version the same year, as did Roy Orbison in 1961 -- but his version is by far the most successful. It seems likely that this unique combination of rhythm and blues with country-western will have a powerful impact on popular music.

In keeping with this mood, it's appropriate that many of the stories in the current issue of Fantastic feature characters haunted by loneliness, isolation, and lost love.



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

In recent days the eyes of the world were focused on the most important event yet during the administration of President Kennedy. No, not Scott Carpenter’s successful, if suspenseful, orbiting of the Earth, so ably reported by our host. I’m talking about Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to the leader of the free world in a skintight beaded dress that drew at least as much attention as her little girl's voice.



In other musical news, after three weeks at the top of the Billboard's Hot 100 with their smash hit Soldier Boy, the Shirelles, pioneers of the girl group sound, have yielded the position to British clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk with his performance of Stranger on the Shore. (Bilk is only the second artist from across the pond to make it to Number One on the American pop charts. The first was just slightly less than a decade ago, when Vera Lynn reached that position with Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart. I suppose we'll have to wait another ten years before the British invade the Yankee airwaves again.)

Bilk's haunting, melancholy melody could easily serve as background music for the cover story in the June 1962 issue of Fantastic.



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

April is the cruelest month -- T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Maybe it's because it's almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it's because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it's because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it's because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it's because of George Schelling's B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye.


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

March has roared in like a lion here in Eastern Tennessee, with high temperatures below fifty and a bit of snow falling in Chattanooga. Can it be possible that spring is right around the corner? Perhaps it would be best to turn our thoughts away from the tempests of winter and concentrate on sunnier matters.

After his triumphant orbiting of the Earth, Colonel John Glenn is scheduled to be treated today to what is predicted to be the largest ticker tape parade in history, filling the streets of New York City with tons of shredded paper. Not great news for the street sweepers of the Big Apple, but the rest of us can celebrate.

For those of us stuck indoors due to the weather, we can tune our radios to just about any station playing the Top Forty and enjoy the sound of Gene Chandler's smash hit Duke of Earl, which has been at the top of the charts for a couple of weeks. It may not have the most profound lyrics in the world, but this catchy little number is sure to be heard in the background of many a teenage courtship as a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.



Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

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

Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

These famous last words, ascribed to many a noted actor on his deathbed, are probably apocryphal. Even if nobody ever really uttered them before taking his last breath, they do suggest the difficulty of provoking amusement in one’s audience. This is at least as true of speculative fiction as of the stage.

A quick glance at the Hugo winners, for example, reveals that only one humorous piece has won the prize. Eric Frank Russell’s 1955 Astounding short story Allamagoosa, a comic tale of bureaucratic foul-ups, stands alone among more serious works.

This is not to say that there are not many talented writers as dedicated to Thalia as to Melpomene. From the wit of Fritz Leiber to the satire of Robert Sheckley, from the whimsical musings of R. A. Lafferty to the tomfoolery of Ron Goulart, readers in search of smiles and belly laughs have many choices. In less adept hands, unfortunately, humorous science fiction can degrade into childish slapstick and sophomoric puns.

href="http://galacticjourney.org/stories/6203Fantastic.pdf">The March issue of Fantastic is dominated by comedy, so let's take a look at it with a light heart.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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by Victoria Silverwolf

Since the demise nearly a decade ago of the fondly remembered magazine Weird Tales, there has been a dearth of markets for horror stories. Occasionally a tale of terror will appear in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but otherwise there are few places where fiction dealing with the deepest, most irrational fears of humanity can be found. Perhaps this is due to the burgeoning popularity of science fiction as an expression of modern anxieties in this age of space exploration and atomic energy.

Even at the local movie theater one is more likely to find radioactive mutants and creatures from outer space than vampires, werewolves, and mummies, though the recent revival of these Gothic monsters by the British film production company Hammer hints that the tide may be changing, as does the popularity of classic horror movies on television programs such as Shock Theater. The new publication Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by well-known science fiction fan Forrest J. Ackerman, also proves that there are many readers still interested in the dark side of fantasy.

A striking exception to above trend is Fantastic, which often features supernatural horror stories along with the kind of science fiction found in its sister publication Amazing. In particular, the February issue of the magazine contains at least as much of the former as the latter.



(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 Victoria Silverwolf

The last decade saw a boom in written science fiction as well as science fiction cinema, due in part to both the fear of atomic warfare and the promise of space exploration. Both trends have tapered off recently, possibly due to the many stories and films of poor quality offered to a public grown tired of cheap thrills. (No doubt such a fate awaits the countless Westerns currently dominating American television screens.)

In any case, the two media have had an influence on each other, not always to the advantage of either. Although science fiction movies have sometimes made use of the talents of important writers within the genre, such as Robert A. Heinlein’s contribution to Destination Moon, too often they have turned to the most juvenile pulp magazines and comic books for inspiration. In turn, some written science fiction has lost the sophistication it gained under editors such as John W. Campbell, H. L. Gold, and Anthony Boucher.



These musings come to mind when one peruses the pages of the latest issue of Fantastic. Of the two longest stories in the magazine, one is reminiscent of recent science fiction films, while the other deals directly with the movie business.

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

The power of music to portray emotions and to evoke images in the listener’s mind seems to be universal to all cultures. It seems inevitable that it will be used in the future to convey feelings and experiences as yet unknown. As human beings explore the unimaginably vast silence of outer space, they will take music with them to fill the void.

Such is the theme of the novella which forms the anchor of this month’s issue of Fantastic. Before we indulge in this sonic feast, however, let’s whet our appetites with an offering from the creative genius of Fritz Leiber.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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As promised, a surprise article from a surprising source. Victoria Silverwolf has been an asset to this column for three years, providing commentary that might as well have been an article in and of itself (not to mention being 95% in alignment with my views). Imagine my joy when Ms. Silverwolf offered to contribute an article every month. Since to date I have only been able to cover four of the six major science fiction digests, we decided that Vic's greatest contribution would be in the coverage of another. And so, for your viewing pleasure, a review of the October 1961 Fantastic from our newest Mistress of the Weird...


by Victoria Silverwolf

Greetings from the night side. Our esteemed host has invited me to step out of the shadows and offer some thoughts about the literature of the uncanny, of the unnatural, of the unimaginable. Shall we proceed? Take my hand, and don't be afraid of the dark.



Fantastic magazine – or, to use its complete title, Fantastic Stories of Imagination, not to be confused with Fantastic Adventures or Fantastic Universe -- has had a checkered career during its nine-year lifetime. Started as a publication dedicated to literate fantasy fiction, much like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, it soon had to attract readers from its older sister, Amazing Stories, by printing more science fiction. Unfortunately, low payment rates, the glut of science fiction magazines during the 1950’s, and indifference from management resulted in contents of poor quality.

This situation showed signs of improvement a little less than three years ago when Cele Goldsmith, originally hired as a secretary and general assistant, rose to the position of editor for both magazines. She has improved the quality of the publications by introducing readers to talented new authors such as Keith Laumer, Ben Bova, and David R. Bunch, as well as bringing Fritz Leiber out of retirement with a special issue of Fantastic featuring no fewer than five new stories from that master of speculative fiction. It remains to be seen whether Goldsmith’s editorship will lift the magazines’ sales out of the doldrums. One sign of hope is the fact that, for the first time since the Hugo Awards were initiated, Amazing Stories was nominated for Best Professional Magazine in 1960 and 1961.



With an optimistic mood, therefore, let’s take a look at the latest issue of the younger sibling.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)

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