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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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It's been a topsy turvy month: Snow is falling in coastal Los Angeles. Castro's Cuba has been kicked out of the Organization of American States. Elvis is playing a Hawaiian beach bum. So it's in keeping that the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction is, well, uneven.



Luckily, the February 1962 F&SF front-loaded the bad stuff, so if you can make it through the beginning, you're in for a treat – particularly at the end. But first...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction is my escape. When the drudgery of the real world becomes oppressive, or when I just need a glimpse of a brighter future to make the present more interesting, I turn to my growing collection of magazines and novels to buouy my spirits.

I like stories of interstellar adventure filled with interesting settings and characters. I do not like the psychological horrors that have become popular of late. Sadly, the February 1960 F&SF contains several such pieces. But it does end well.



I wrote last time about the flaws in Howard Fast's lead novella that kept me from fully enjoying it.

Richard McKenna's Mine Own Ways is particularly chilling. It involves a rite of passage designed by interstellar anthropologists to winnow the intellectually mature of a race from the primitive by essentially torturing them; one passes the test by realizing that the torture is transitory and enduring it.

Apprentice, by Robert Tilley, isn't so bad. It involves an alien who can take over a person's mind (without ill effect). The would-be invader possesses a junior flunky on a military base and is revealed when he is able to fulfil tasks that should have been impossible (along the lines of catching snipe, procuring a bottle of headlight fluid or a jar of elbow grease).

I suppose Jane Rice's The White Pony, about unrequited love in a future of post-apocalyptic scarcity is decent, too, and well-drawn. It even has a happy ending, after a fashion even if the world has that feeling of best-days-past shabbiness.

Battle-torn France is the setting for The Replacement, in which a Platoon Sergeant is convinced by a certain Private "Smith" that the war is all in his head, and that the world is nothing but solipsistic figments of his imagination. It is only after Smith unsuccessfully tries the same trick on the company's First Sergeant that we see the trick for what it is. A creepy piece.

Evelyn Smith's Send Her Victorious is a pun piece whose ending I should have seen coming. All about a communal colony of aliens who take on the general form of a middle-aged female before time traveling to 19th Century England.

Algis Budrys has a vignette called The Price about a centuries-old Rasputin(?) surviving an atomic holocaust only to find himself a captive of the few humans who are left. Are they willing to become gnarled, deranged hunchbacks like him in exchange for eternal life?

Dr. Asimov's piece, The Sight of Home, is a nice astronomical article about the greatest distance at which the sun might still be visible to the naked eye (answer: 20 parsecs. Not very far, indeed).

Then we're back to the horror. We are the Ceiling, by Will Worthington, depicts a fellow who books himself into a sanitarium when it appears his wife has begun consorting with troglodytes. Of course, she turns out to be one, as does his doctor.

That leaves us the subject of the cover art, The Fellow Who Married the Maxill Girl, by Ward Moore. This is the kind of story I read F&SF for—gentle, poignant, starring a woman. It's a girl meets boy story set in the depths of the Depression; the boy happens to be an alien. I shan't spoil more, and I hope you like it as much as I did.

I'll have a quick non-fiction stop press tomorrow, and then on to March's batch of magazines!

---

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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