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by Gideon Marcus

Since humans have been a species, there has always been a frontier. Whether it be Alaska for the first settlers of the Americas, or the New World (for Europeans), or the Wild West (for White Americans), there has always been an "over there" to explore. Today, our frontiers are the frozen Arctics, the deep seas, and the vastness of orbital space.

Science fiction has always stayed one step ahead. A hundred years ago, Jules Verne took us 20,000 leagues under the sea. A generation later, Edgar Rice Burroughs took us to Darkest Africa, lost continents, and fancifully rendered nearby planets,. Astounding and its ilk of the 30s and 40s gave us scientific jaunts through the solar system.

These days, one is hard-pressed to find stories that take place on Mars or Venus. Now that four men have circled the Earth and probes have flown millions of miles from our planet, tomorrow's frontier lies among the stars. Thus, science fiction has taken up residence in the spacious quarters of the Milky Way, light years away from home.

As you'll see if you pick up this month's most worthy issue of Galaxy:



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

A few years ago, Galaxy Science Fiction changed its format, becoming half again as thick but published half as often. 196 pages can be a lot to digest in one sitting, so I used to review the magazine in two articles. Over time, I simply bit the bullet and crammed all those stories into one piece – it was cleaner for reference.

But not this time.

You see, the June 1962 issue of Galaxy has got one extra-jumbo novella in the back of it, the kind of thing they used to build issues of Satellite Science Fiction around. So it just makes sense to split things up this time around.

I've said before that Galaxy is a stable magazine – rarely too outstanding, rarely terrible. Its editor, Fred Pohl, tends to keep the more daring stuff in Galaxy's sister mag, IF, which has gotten pretty interesting lately. So I enjoyed this month's issue, but not overmuch. Have a look:



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

If there is any true measure of fame, it might well be the amount of fan mail you get. Many stars employ services to plow through their truckloads and give each missive personal response. Jack Benny came out on his TV stage last night holding a giant sack of fan mail – of course, it was really filled with trash and old cans...



Galactic Journey's popularity lies somewhere inbetween; we do get our fair share of postcards, but I haven't needed to hire help to read them...yet. Truth be told, it was for these correspondences that I started this column. I love meeting you folk – you start the most interesting conversations!

Science fiction magazines get letters, too. Many of these digests feature letter columns: Analog, IF, Amazing, and Fantastic. The two notable hold-outs are Fantasy and Science Fiction and Galaxy. I suspect the main reason for F&SF is lack of space, it being the shortest of the monthly mags.

Galaxy's reasoning is more complex. In fact, its editors (first H.L. Gold, now Fred Pohl) have polled readers to see if they wanted a lettercol. In the last 12 years' of the magazine's existence, the answer has always been no. Ironically, as much as I love talking to fellow fans, I think I'm in agreement (though I do like letters in comic books). More room for stories!

Speaking of which...have a look at the stories that came out in this month's quite good Galaxy, dated April 1962:



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

Science fiction is a broad genre. It includes hard scientific, nuts-and-bolts projections that read like modern tales with just a touch of the future in them; this is the kind of stuff the magazine Analog is made up of. Then you've got far out stuff, not just fantasy but surrealism. The kind of work Cordwainer Smith pulls off with such facility that it approaches its own kind of realism. In this realm lie the lampoons, the parables, the just plain kooky. They get labeled as "science fiction," but they don't predict futures that could actually happen, nor do they incorporate much real science. Rather, they end up in the sf mags because where else would they go? The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction showcases this type as a good portion of their monthly offerings (appropriately enough -- "Fantasy" is in the name).

Galaxy magazine has always trod a middle road, delivering pure scientific tales, fantastic stories, and pieces of psychological or "soft" science fiction that fall somewhere in between. It's that balance that is part of what makes Galaxy my favorite magazine (that and stubborn loyalty – it was my first subscription).

The first Galaxy of 1962, on the other hand, veers heavily into the fantastic. Virtually every story presented has a distinct lack of grounding in reality. Does it work? Well...see for yourself.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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How small the world has gotten!

Less than a decade ago, trans-oceanic travel was limited to the speed of a propeller. If you journeyed by boat, as many still do, it would take two weeks to cross the Pacific. Airplanes were faster – with a couple of stops, one could get from California to the Orient in less than two days. As a journalist and travel columnist, I spent a good amount of time in both hemispheres during the early 1950s. I got to be quite seasoned at the travel game.

I have to tell you, things are so much faster these days. The jet engine has cut flight times in half, taking much of the tedium out of travel. Oh, sure, I always had plenty to do in the air, between writing and reading and planning my next adventures, but for my poor fellow travelers, there was little to do but drink, smoke, and write letters. For hours and hours.

These days, the Journey is my primary occupation. I can do it from anywhere, and I often do, bringing my family along with me. As we speak, I am writing out this article with the roar of the Japan Airlines DC-8's jets massaging my ears, music from pneumatic headphone cords joining the mix. It's a smooth ride, too. It would be idyllic, if not for the purple clouds of tobacco smoke filling the cabin. But again, I suffer this annoyance for half the time as before. I'll abide.

We've just lifted off from Honolulu, and in less than 8 hours, we will touch down at Haneda airport, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan's capital. We will be in the Land of the Rising Sun for two weeks, visiting friends and taking in the local culture. I'll be sure to tell you all about our adventures, but don't worry. I've also brought along a big stack of books and magazines so I can continue to keep you informed on the latest developments in science fiction. Moreover, I'm sure we'll see a movie or two, and we'll report on those, too.



Speaking of reports, I've just finished up this month's Galaxy Science Fiction....

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It doesn't take much to make me happy: a balmy sunset on the beach, a walk along Highway 101 with my family, Kathy Young on the radio, the latest issue of Galaxy. Why Galaxy? Because it was my first science fiction digest; because it is the most consistent in quality; because it's 50% bigger than other leading brands!

And the latest issue (October 1961) has been an absolute delight with a couple of the best stories I've seen in a long while. Come take a look with me – I promise it'll be worth your while.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Human beings look for patterns. We espy the moon, and we see a face. We study history and see it repeat (or at least rhyme, said Mark Twain). We look at the glory of the universe and infer a Creator.

We look at the science fiction genre and we (some of us) conclude that it is dying.

Just look at the number of science fiction magazines in print in the early 1950s. At one point, there were some forty such publications, just in the United States. These days, there are six. Surely this is an unmistakable trend.

Or is it? There is something to be said for quality over quantity, and patterns can be found there, too. The last decade has seen the genre flower into maturity. Science fiction has mostly broken from its pulpy tradition, and many of the genre's luminaries (for instance, Ted Sturgeon and Zenna Henderson) have blazed stunning new terrain.

I've been keeping statistics on the Big Three science fiction digests, Galaxy, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction since 1959. Although my scores are purely subjective, if my readers' comments be any indication, I am not too far out of step in my assessments. Applying some math, I find that F&SF has stayed roughly the same, and both Analog and Galaxy have improved somewhat.

Supporting this trend is the latest issue of
Galaxy (August 1961), which was quite good for its first half and does not decline in its second.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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My nephew, David, has been on an Israeli Kibbutz for a month now. We get letters from him every few days, mostly about the hard work, the monotony of the diet, and the isolation from the world. The other day, he sent a letter to my brother, Lou, who read it to me over the phone. Apparently, David went into the big port-town of Haifa and bought copies of Life, Time, and Newsweek. He was not impressed with the literary quality of any of them, but he did find Time particularly useful.

You see, Israeli bathrooms generally don't stock toilet paper...



Which segues nicely into the first fiction review of the month. I'm happy to report I have absolutely nothing against the June 1961 Galaxy – including my backside. In fact, this magazine is quite good, at least so far. As usual, since this is a double-sized magazine, I'll review it in two parts.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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As we speak, my nephew, David, is on the S.S. Israel bound for Haifa, Israel. It's the last leg of a long trip that began with a plane ride from Los Angeles to New York, continued with a six-day sea cruise across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and which currently sees the youth making a brief landing in the Greek port of Piraeus. He's about to begin a year (or two) in Israel on a kibbutz. An exciting adventure, to be sure, though I will miss our discussions on current science fiction, even if his tastes were, understandably, a little less refined than mine.

So I hope, dear readers, that you will make up for his absence by sending me even more of your lovely comments!



Of course, you can hardly prepare your posts until I've reviewed this month's set of magazines. First on the pile, as usual, is the double-large issue of Galaxy, the biggest of the science fiction magazines with 196 pages packed with some of the biggest names in the field.

But is bigger always better? Not necessarily. In fact, Galaxy seems to be where editor H.L. Gold stuffs his "safe" stories, the ones by famous folks that tend not to offend, but also won't knock your socks off.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The old saying goes, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." As you know, I am rarely reserved when I don't like a piece of work. Every once in a while, I get a gentle chiding. One reader said he didn't want to hear about stories I don't like--just the ones I do. Another opined that my fans might tire of my consistently negative reviews of a certain author.

I don't want to discount these criticisms as I think they are valid. On the other hand, if I am unreserved in my scorn, I am similarly effusive about what I like. My columns are rarely completely negative. Moreover, I recognize that even the works I don't like often appeal to others, and I love receiving letters from folks who disagree with my judgments.

Besides, you good folk likely come here to see me as much as to get reading recommendations. Alfred Bester said in F&SF last month that he prefers English non-fiction to American as English authors will intrude into the text. There are only so many ways to package facts; the only distinguishing character is the personality of the packager. Certainly, I read Asimov as much for the science lesson as for the fun anecdotes.

So, enjoy all of me, even the kvetching. And if you don't, feel free to tell me just how much you dislike me. I may even agree with you...



On to the task at hand--reviewing the first half of the February 1961 Galaxy!

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Ten years ago, a World War Two vet named H. L. Gold decided to try his luck as editor of a science fiction digest. His Galaxy was among the first of the new crop of magazines in the post-war science fiction boom, and it quickly set an industry standard.

A decade later, Galaxy is down to a bimonthly schedule and has cut author rates in half. This has, predictably, led to a dip in quality, though it is not as pronounced as I'd feared. Moreover, the magazine is half-again as large as it used to be, and its sister publication, IF, might as well be a second Galaxy. All told, the magazine is still a bargain at 50 cents the issue.



Particularly the December 1960 issue. There's a lot of good stuff herein (once you get past yet another senilic Gold editorial):

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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There is an old saw: "Just when I got my mule to work without being fed, she up and died on me!"

At the end of 1958, Galaxy editor H. Gold announced that his magazine was going to a bi-monthly publication schedule. He did not mention that he was also slashing writer pay rates in half.

Last issue, Gold crowed about his stable of fresh new authors who would carry the torch of science fiction creation. And, of course, there is plenty of room for the new authors now that the old names have departed for greener pastures.

Is this how a great magazine dies? Not with a bang, but with a whimper? You may disagree with me, but the October 1960 issue of Galaxy feels like a throwback. A lesser mag from the mid '50s. Let me show you the first half of the issue, and you'll see what I mean.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!
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Last year, Galaxy editor Horace Gold bowed to economic necessity, trimming the length of his magazine and slashing the per word rate for his writers. As a result (and perhaps due to the natural attrition of authors over time), Galaxy's Table of Contents now features a slew of new authors. In this month's editorial, Gold trumpets this fact as a positive, predicting that names like Stuart, Lang, Barrett, Harmon, and Lafferty will be household names in times to come.

In a way, it is good news. This most progressive of genres must necessarily accept new talent lest it become stale. The question is whether or not these rookies will stay long enough to hone their craft if the money isn't there. I suppose there is something to be said for doing something just for the love of it.



As it turns out, the August 1960 issue of Galaxy is pretty good.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's that happy time of year when the sun is up late and the weather is perfect. Of course, the weather is usually perfect here in the nicest unincorporated part of northern San Diego County (though there are rumors that our little farming community is going to vote on incorporation soon).



One of my favorite Spring-time activities is to lounge on the veranda (well, my daughter's tree house) with a portable radio, a cup of coffee, and good book. Today's entree is the newest issue of Galaxy. It's a double-sized issue, so I'll be breaking it out over two articles. A body needs time to digest, after all.

See the rest at Galactic Journey!
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Mediocre magazines are always the hardest to plow through.

When I've got a good issue in my hands, reading is a pleasure, and I generally tear through in nothing flat. Bad issues are unpleasant, but I also feel no compunctions in skimming.

But it's those middle-of-the-road, "C Minus" magazines that drag you down. Each story is a chore, but none are so offensive as to register on the memory, even in their badness.

Had I known that this month's Galaxy would be so lackluster (my apologies to those who favor the Bird), I might have skimmed faster and compiled my reviews into one article. As it is, I have to devote an entire column's space to the four remaining pieces, and they don't deserve the energy.

Willy Ley's column, entitled What's Only Money, is an arid piece on the history and composition of coin currency. As a numismatist, I found the subject matter interesting, but the presentation was lacking. I miss the Dr. Ley of ten years ago.

Don't Look Now, by Leonard Rubin, is a turgid tale about (I think) image projectors and the way they disrupt our lives in the future. I tackled this story in small increments, and it left virtually no impression on me.



Then you've got the vignette, The Power, by veteran Frederic Brown. It is neither remarkable nor offensive.

Rounding out the issue is George O. Smith's, The Troublemakers, which starts promisingly but falls flat on its face. It is really two intertwined stories. The first involved a headstrong (read: "thinks for herself") young woman who objects to being sedated into placidity, as is the norm in the overcrowded, genetically optimized future. Note that Mr. Smith believes 6 billion souls will lead to cramped living conditions—see my thoughts on this issue in a prior article.

She also refuses to be paired with a somnolent drip of a fellow, who needs medication to act at an even minimal level of energy.

Then you've got the young spacer, who believes he has discovered an efficient hyperdrive that could open the stars to humanity. He is told to cool his heels in a dead-end assignment until he discovers the error in his mathematics. There, of course, isn't one.

It turns out, as is telegraphed far in advance, that the seemingly unfair practices of the society, ostensibly designed to cull outliers, are really designed to find the few exceptional people so that they can be sent to far flung colonies and become the cutting edge of humanity.



I do find the idea of a crowded society a fascinating one, and rigid societal norms take on heightened importance in that circumstance. Contrast the American expression, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," to the Japanese expression, "the nail that sticks out gets pounded." It makes sense that, on an overpopulated Earth, culture would favor conformity and sticking to the center of the bell curve.

But Troublemakers is boring, so even a good premise can't save it. And with that, the April 1960 Galaxy comes to an unsatisfying end.

Twilight Zone is on tonight. Let's see if that improves my outlook. I've got a four-week summary coming up soon.
---

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 made fun of Galaxy editor Horace Gold for the slightly panicked tone in this month's editorial. It's clear that he has concerns that the quality of his magazine might dip unless he can tap a reservoir of new talent.

That said, the February 1960 Galaxy finishes as it started (and as did its sister, the January 1960 IF)--on the good side of three stars, but not too far from the middle. Let us see how Part 2 turned out.

I am sad to report that Willy Ley's articles just aren't as engaging as once they were. They were what originally sold me on getting subscription, Galaxy being the first magazine I followed regularly. The lovable ex-German just seems unfocused and a little cranky these days.

Zenna Henderson's Something Bright, on the other hand, is that engaging mix of magic, grit, unease, and wonder that I have come to expect from her. This one is told from the point of view of a Depression-era teen who has a close encounter with a peculiar, and rather frightening, neighbor. It's nice to see work by two woman authors in Galaxy, a sign that the genre as a whole is becoming more balanced.


Dillon

Simak's Crying Jag takes place in a similar setting—he does enjoy those rustic tales, evocative of his home in rural Minnesota. In this one, the rather soused protagonist becomes the friend and keeper of an alien for whom sad stories are an intoxicant. Everybody wins in this one, as the storytellers thus find themselves free of their psychological pain. Not stellar, but enjoyable.


Wallace Wood

For some reason, I really enjoyed David Fisher's East in the Morning, about a intellectual prodigy who must wait until his very old age for his genius to bear fruit. It is told in this detached yet gripping manner that I found engaging. Perhaps there is a bit of identification, too—after all, I too blazed through my early life displaying signs of promise and even, perhaps, genius... but I'm still waiting to make my mark. Someday.


Dick Francis

Sadly, the magazine has stumbles to an unimpressive finish. Jim Wannamaker is a new face to the science fiction world, and his Death's Wisher, about a psychokinetic who threatens to blow up the world by setting off its hydrogen bombs, is not an impressive first outing. Truth to tell, I almost fell asleep.


Dick Francis

Space news is up next. All about a midget Mercury and its furry astronaut. Stay tuned!

(all Galaxy magazines can be found here)

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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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Whenever I read the book review columns by Floyd Gold, Damon Knight, Groff Conklin, etc., or the science articles by Willy Ley and Isaac Asimov, I’m always as fascinated by the little personal details they disclose as the information and opinions they provide. It’s a glimpse into their lives that humanizes their viewpoint. Anecdotes make fun reading, too.

Since I assume all of my readers (bless the five of you!) feel similarly, otherwise why bother reading my column, I thought I’d share a little bit about how information gets into my brain prior to article composition.

My issues all come by mail subscription now as it is significantly cheaper than buying them on the newsstand and more consistent. It means I’m no longer hunting the newsstands for other magazines, but now that there are so few active digests, this seems the best way to go.

I have an evening ritual that I’ve preserved since my teen years, particularly in the Fall and Winter when the sun sets early. After coming home from work, the rays of sunlight slanted sharply against my driveway, I pull out my portable radio and a beverage, rest my back against a tree or lamppost, and read until the sun dips below the horizon. Here in Southern California, we get a nice mix of White, Negro, and Latin stations, so I can listen to all the latest Rock ‘n Roll and Rumba as well as the insipid croonings of Paul Anka and Pat Boone. It makes for a delightful half hour of escape from the real world better than M, reefer, or any other drug you’d care to mention.

What have I been reading, you ask? This bi-month’s issue of Galaxy, of course—December 1959 to be exact. Galaxy is the most consistent of the four magazines to which I have subscriptions, generally falling in the upper middle of the pack.


EMSH

As always, I started with Willy Ley’s column. I’m impressed that after ten years of writing, he still finds interesting topics to teach about. In this one, he discusses the (probably) extinct Giant Sloth and the efforts naturalists have made over the centuries to learn more about the creature. I love paleontology, so it was right up my alley. By the way, for the overly curious, this piece I read while soaking in a nice hot bath over the weekend.

Leading the book is Robert Sheckley’s newest, Prospector’s Special. The setting is Venus , where a handful of hardscrabble miners brave the blazing heat and sandwolves of the Venusian deserts in the hopes of finding a vein of Goldenstone. It’s one of those stories where the protagonist runs into worse and worse luck and has to use wits to survive to the end, which has a suitably happy ending. Bob is invariably good, particularly at this kind of story, and I polished this one off in the same aforementioned bath.


DILLON

Rosel George Brown continues to be almost good, which is frustrating, indeed. Her Flower Arrangement is the first-person narrated story of a rather dim housewife and how the bouquet she and her kindergartener made turned out to unlock the secrets of the universe. It comes from a refreshing female perspective, but it’s just a bit too silly and affected to work well.


DILLON

Con Blomberg’s only written one other story, and that one appeared in Galaxy two years ago. His Sales Talk is interesting, about two salesmen who try to sell a recalcitrant unemployed fellow on the joys of living vicariously through the taped memories of others. The would-be mark makes a compelling argument against the dangers of becoming a worthless consumer. There is, of course, a twist, which I half-predicted before the end.

There's an interesting point to the story. In the first place, it predicts a “post-scarcity” economy. Let me explain: There are three sectors to the economy. They are Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Service. Until a few hundred years ago, Agricultural was far and away the dominant sector, with most people relying on subsistence farming. Then the Industrial Revolution hit, and the peasants moved to the city to work on the assembly line, while farming became more and more mechanized, requiring fewer people. As industry became more efficient, the Service sector grew—waiters, courtesans, attorneys, doctors, advertisers, artists, etc.

But what happens when industry and agriculture become fully mechanized? What if robots take over the Service sector? What is left for humans to produce? The world only has so much need for art, music, politics, and religion. In a post-scarcity economy, most of us will become consumers, so the more pessimistic predictions go. And all we'll do all day is lie around living other people's dreams, predicts Blomberg.


MORROW

Is the idea that plugging oneself into a memory-tape machine, experiencing all five senses and the feelings of the original senser, all that different from watching a film or reading a good story? After all, both take you out of reality for a while, make you feel along with the protagonists. When full “Electronic Living” becomes possible, will it really be a revolution or just evolution? Food for thought.

That’s what I’ve got so far. Stay tuned soon for further reviews of this extra-thick magazine. You’ll next hear from me in sunny Orlando, Florida!

---

Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.
P.S. 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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Last year, Galaxy moved to a bi-monthly format. Coincident with that was a drop in writer rates per word. I had had concerns that there would be a corresponding drop in quality. Thankfully, this year's issues have been of consistently high quality.


All pictures by Dick Francis

Moreover, Galaxy really isn't a bi-monthly anymore. Inside the front cover of this month's (October) issue is a full-page advertisement for IF magazine, which is now owned by the same publishers, has the same editors, and appears in Galaxy's off months. Quacks like a duck; sounds as if Galaxy is a monthly, and every other month, is an oversized issue, to boot.

One of the reasons Galaxy can still fill its pages is that both the editor (H.L.Gold) and his brother (Floyd Gold, known as Floyd Gale) are both fair writers in their own right. Their opening novella, co-written under the pseudonym "Christopher Grimm," is called Someone to Watch Over Me, and it is almost excellent.

Len Mattern is a space merchant, seasoned from decades of meandering from star to star in a tramp freighter. His obsession is the high-class prostitute, Lyddy, and Len has spent his entire adult life amassing sufficient wealth to wed her, which he does at the story's beginning. The rest of the tale is told mostly in flashback. In this universe, traversing hyperspace has the most unsettling effect on travelers: they become unnatural beasts with tentacles and extra eyes. All but the most hardened spacer must knock her/himself out for the journey or suffer profound psychological trauma.

Mattern, however, has discovered that hyperspace is a destination, as well as a conduit, and it is inhabited. Moreover, some items that are useless in our dimension become highly valuable in the other, and vice versa. Mattern becomes the first to establish trade relations with the horrible but peaceful aliens. One of them even accompanies Mattern for the next decade of highly lucrative commerce, becoming a combination best-friend and perpetual shadow.



If the story has any flaw, it's a sort of dismissive view of women, though, to be fair, one of the best characters is the alien queen, at once beautiful and terrible. My favorite line: "I see no reason...why a male should be deemed incapable of ruling, provided he is under careful supervision."

Worthwhile reading. I'm glad the Gold brothers are writing as well as editing.

E.C. Tubb's Last of the Morticians is short and unremarkable, about two undertakers weathering a lack of business resulting from the recent advent of immortality. Their solution: bury something other than people!

Willy Ley's article this month is a little scattered, but the latter two thirds (he has split the column in three this time) is quite good. And bad Ley is still fine reading. I especially liked his piece on "Zilphion," a now-extinct Graeco-Roman spice plant.

Last for today is the very good "A Death in the House," by Cliff Simak. Simak is a very uneven writer, I have found, but when he's on top of his game, he is a real stand-out. Death is reminiscent in tone and subject of Dickson's E Gubling Dow from May's Satellite, but far better in in execution. In this tale, Old Mose (whom, until I saw the illustration, I pictured as Black), is a lonely farmer whose heart is big enough to rescue a rather repulsive alien that he finds mortally wounded on his property. It's really quite a beautiful story with a rather happy ending. In stark contrast to Garrett, Simak actually kept me up until I'd finished!



From what I can tell, the rest of the magazine is excellent, too. This issue may well earn the coveted four star rating. Only Galaxy has managed this feat of consistent quality in 1959, though excellent stories have appeared in other magazines, of course.
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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Just what is this world coming to?

Reading this month's edition of Galaxy, it was hammered home just how far our linguistic standards have fallen. Have you ever read a letter from the last century? Even the prose from the most humble of fellows is lyric and articulate. And while the published fiction might sometimes be a bit purple, there's no denying the facility the authors had with our language.

And now? I'm only half-way through the August 1959 Galaxy, and I've spotted "there" for "their" as well as "effect" for "affect." I thought this magazine was supposed to be edited.

I'm overreacting, you say. I know what the writer meant--what's the big deal? Here's my deal: we pay a contractor to build a house properly, we pay a doctor to do an operation correctly, and we pay a wordsmith to write competently. If our literary experts can't be bothered to communicate clearly, that will inevitably lead to a trickle-down of linguistic sloppiness. Half a century from now, who knows how far standards will decline?

That's about my gripe quota for the month. I'm happy to say that the actual content of the magazine is pretty good, malaprops aside. I assume you've all picked up an issue so we can compare notes.

Cliff Simak hasn't written anything I've loved since Junkyard, but his latest, No Life of Their Own is pretty solid. Four kids, at least two of them quite alien, share a rural summer together several centuries in the future. Their pastimes are pretty timeless, though with some notable exceptions, largely derived from the alien nature of the children and their families. It's not an entirely idyllic setting--all of the farmers in the area are suffering from a run of unmitigated bad luck, whereas the meanest cuss of them all seems to be blessed. There's a reason, and the kids find it out.

Warning: There is a little bit of cruelty to a cat. Rest assured, however, that the cat is not unduly damaged, and the malefactor gets a comeuppance.



Newcomer Michael Shaara contributes Citizen Jell. If you were a fugitive with the ability to do tremendous good, but only at the cost of your freedom, what would be your tipping point? That's the subject of Shaara's ultimately heartwarming story.



Willy Ley has another excellent article, this time on the solar orbit of Mechta, the Soviet lunar probe. I must say, I have to admire a fellow who can remain the first item on my monthly science fiction read list for a decade.



Finally (for today), there is The Spicy Sound of Success, by the prolific Jim Harmon. For some reason, interstellar explorers become afflicted with transphasia (the swapping of sensory inputs--taste for sound, etc.) when scouting a new world. This story involves a daring rescue and an interesting first contact.



Join me next time for a round-up of this double-sized, bi-monthly edition... unless the Air Force's impending space shot stops the presses!

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There's been big news in the space world over the weekend, but I want to talk about it next time so I can see how things shake out. Thus, without further ado, I move onto the rest of the extra-thick Galaxy June 1959.

Avram Davidson is a bit of a writing fiend--it seems I find one of his stories in every magazine I pick up, and they all tend toward the quite good. Take Wooden Indians is one of the good'ns. It's a delightfully confusing (at first) tale of time travel, artistic expression, and nostalgia for Americana, that straightens out nicely at the end. Of course, I imagine there are many out there who would use time travel to save the real Indians rather than their wooden likenesses, but that's another story (one I'd be interested in reading--smallpox inoculations handed out five hundred years ago might do the trick...)



Willy Ley's article is, as usual, worthy reading. I particularly like his answer to the question, "What is the best size for a payload?" Answer: depends on what you're trying to do. If you want to map the Earth's magnetic fields, lots of small satellites are better than one big one. The Soviets like to brag on the size of their probes, but they are of limited utility if they only put up a few.

The next story is from prolific pulp writer, Richard Wilson, who spends most of his time writing for Future these days (I haven't picked up any copies). Traveling Companion Wanted has been described by one of my very favorite readers as a Victorian fantasy, wherein a space traveler falls into the ocean in his space suit and ends up swept by current into a globe-spanning underwater river. On his way, he ends up the unexpected guest of a subterranean race of advanced, Eskimo-ish natives. Unfortunately, they can't figure out how to unsuit the traveler, and he nearly starves (I found this bit rather horrific). But all's well that ends well--he makes it back to the surface with the resolution to revisit the fantastic realm he discovered. It looks like he'll be successful, too!

I'm afraid the "non-fact" article by Larry M. Harris, Extracts from the Galactick Almanack, really isn't worth the space it takes in the magazine. It's one of those "droll" pieces, this one about musical accomplishments of various aliens. Skip it.



Soft Touch, by Daniel F. Galouye, is another matter, entirely, though like his last story, it is frustratingly underdeveloped. In the future, there is a mutant strain of humanity that is utterly moral and good, incapable of lying or hurting a fellow person. They are treated poorly by their non-mutant neighbors because everyone hates a do-gooder. Very impactful and well-written stuff... but the ending is way too rushed. Another 5-10 pages would have been nice.

The final tale of the issue is No Place for Crime, by J.T. McIntosh. It's rare that a locked door mystery is told from the point of view of the criminals, and McIntosh keeps you guessing as to its outcome until the very end. One of the better pieces in the issue, and typical of the writer.

Given Pohl's masterpiece, Davidson and McIntosh's excellent work, the decent Wilson and Galouye stories, the fine Ley article, and the unimpressive Harris, I'd say this issue is a solid "4." I'd like Mr. Wood to stop drawing such lurid cheesecake illustrations, however...

See you on Wednesday with news... from SPAAAACCCCE!





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