Sep. 18th, 2017

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by Gideon Marcus

Are the times changing?

Summer threatens to change to Fall, and the kids are going off to high school and college. Is this just another turn of the wheel, or are we on the verge of something different, what Historian of Science Thomas Kuhn might call a new "paradigm?"

I had this feeling once before. In '53, right after Korea, and after Stalin died, America seemed poised on the edge of an unprecedented era of stability. Well, really stagnation. The pendulum had swung heavily in the direction of conservatism. Black soldiers had come home from the war and were being treated worse than ever. Ditto women, who had for a while gotten to enjoy some of the rights of men while they were off to war. The swing from the prior two decades had gotten overripe and shmaltzy, only somewhat mitigated by the western, blues, and latin music I was able to tune into on nights with clear reception. The one really bright spot was science fiction, which had been booming since the late '40s.

Then rock and roll hit, and boy was it a breath of fresh air. Sure, you couldn't hear Black songs on White stations, but there's no color bar on the airwaves. Fragile 78 records gave way to durable 45s. The vacuum tube started to step aside for the transistor. We were building the missiles that would soon blast us to orbit. At the same time, sf started to wane. We went from forty magazines to six over the course of the decade.

This, then, has been the recent paradigm. Here we are nine years later, but Elvis and the Everley Brothers still dominate the airwaves. A new President has asked us what we could do for our country, not what it could do for us; tasking us to go to the Moon before the decade is out, but Black men must still fight even for the right to go to school or ride a bus in much of the nation. There are now ten thousand Russian troops in Cuba and ten thousand American soldiers in South Vietnam, but are these transitory brush fires or the tip of a belligerent iceberg?

Are the 1960s going to be a continuation of the 1950s? Or are we overdue for a new epoch? You tell me. I'm no soothsayer.

I suppose in one way, the shift has already happened. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has become quite different since new editor Avram Davidson took over earlier this year. It's not bad, exactly, but it has meandered even further into the literary zone. This has rendered one of my favorite mags almost unreadable on occasion. The October 1962 issue does not have this problem, for the most part, but it's not great.

Enough dilly-dallying. Here's the review:


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