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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

Ah, and at last we come to the end of the month. That time that used to be much awaited before Avram Davidson took over F&SF, but which is now just an opportunity to finish compiling my statistics for the best magazines and stories for the month. Between F&SF's gentle decline and the inclusion of Amazing and Fantastic in the regular review schedule, you're in for some surprises.



But first, let's peruse the June 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and see if, despite the new editor's best efforts, we get some winners this month (oh, perhaps I'm being too harsh – Editor is a hard job, and one is limited to the pieces one gets.)

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

It's the end of the year! "What?" you exclaim, "but it's only November!" True that, but the date on my latest Fantasy and Science Fiction says December 1961, and that means it is the last science fiction digest of the calendar year that will go through my review grinder.

F&SF has been the best magazine, per my ratings, for the past several years. Going into this final issue, however, it has lagged consistently behind Galaxy. Would this final issue be enough to pull it back into 1st place? Especially given the stellar 3.8 stars rating that Galaxy garnered last month?

Well, no. I'm afraid the magazine that Bouchier built (and handed over to Mills) must needs merit 8 stars this month to accomplish that feat. That said, it's still quite a decent issue, especially given the rather lackluster ones of the recent past. So, with the great fanfare appropriate to the holiday season, I present to you the final sf mag of 1961:

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A thousand pardons for my lateness. It is partly to blame on mundane matters taking precedence, and partly to blame on my magazines showing up late this month. Perhaps laziness is also a factor. It's languidly warm this Summer.

We left off half-way through this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction. Fifth in the line-up is Will Stanton's Who will cut the Barber's Hair? It is the very definition of a two-start story; I've had to go back several times to remember what it was even about. In brief, a human from the far future, when creativity has disappeared, takes over a hayseed's body to experience a bizarre cocktail party and feel the full gamut of human emotions. Utterly forgettable.

On the other hand, newcomer Joanna Russ' Nor Custom Stale stayed with me far longer than it ought to have given the silliness and simplicity of the premise. A husband and wife shut themselves into a near-immortal house with the ability to generate Air and Food in limitless quantities. They discover that adhering to an extremely regular schedule every day contributes to longevity. In fact, the couple end up sleep-walking through thousands, if not millions, of years until the ultimate end of the Earth in a fashion recalling Leiber's A Pail of Air. I don't know why I liked it so much, but I did, and I look forward to more by Ms. Russ.



Robert Graves' Interview with a Dead Man is a cute reprint from 1950 about an embalmed fellow who still finds time to write. It's over almost as quickly as it begins, and it seems mortar for bricks, but I enjoyed it.

The Makers of Destiny, by Edward S. Aarons, is a direct sequel to his The Communicators, although it is so different in tone and content that I'd forgotten until recently, when I looked through my catalog of stories. The world is rather fascinating--the Ten Day War erupts between East and West when an American bomber inadvertently bombs Moscow near the end of the century. The United States and the Soviet Union are reduced to barbarism for decades, and the rest of the world shuns the erstwhile superpowers as pariahs. Slowly, painfully, the United States reforms as a loose confederation with the aid of a group of psionically adept "Communicators."

In the instant story, Private Mugrath is a soldier of the Northern Union fighting in the last battles of the 15-year Civil War, which has waged since 2050. But he is more than that--he is an esper under the control of the Communicators. Their goal is to alter the course of history through the creation of squad of psychic superhumans--but there is resistance, and whether that resistance is some fundamental property of the universe or a traitor in the organization, is unknown.

I liked it a lot. Evocative, dramatic.

Last up is Leslie Bonnett's Game with a Goddess, a delightfully lusty (though oblique) tale of the ravishing of a comely acolyte by the Goddess of Love. There aren't many stories dealing with the mythology of the Orient, and this story does a great job of conjuring the setting and style.

Apropos of nothing, have you read Robert van Gulik's Chinese Detective novel, The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee? It is excellent and lots of fun, a recreation of Ching dynasty mysteries set in the Tang dynasty.



That's that for this issue. A unremarkable but not unpleasant 3-star issue. See you in two days. I'm sure I'll have something for you!

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