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I've devoted much ink to lambasting Astounding/Analog editor John Campbell for his attempts to revitalize his magazine, but I've not yet actually talked about the latest (February 1960) issue. Does it continue the digest's trend towards general lousiness?

For the most part, yes. Harry Harrison's serial, Deathworld, continues to be excellent (and it will be the subject of its own article next month). But the rest is uninspired stuff. Take the lead story, What the Left Hand was Doing by "Darrell T. Langart" (an anagram of the author's real name—three guess as to who it really is, and the first two don't count). It's an inoffensive but completely forgettable story about psionic secret agent, who is sent to China to rescue an American physicist from the clutches of the Communists.

Then there's Mack Reynold's Summit, in which it is revealed that the two Superpowers cynically wage a Cold War primarily to maintain their domestic economies. A decent-enough message, but there is not enough development to leave much of an impact, and the "kicker" ending isn't much of one.

Algis Budrys has a sequel to his last post-Apocalyptic Atlantis-set story called Due Process. I like Budrys, but this series, which was not great to begin with, has gone downhill. It is another "one savvy man can pull political strings to make the world dance to his bidding" stories, and it's as smug as one might imagine.

The Calibrated Alligator, by Calvin Knox (Robert Silverberg) is another sequel featuring the zany antics of the scientist crew of Lunar Base #3. In the first installment in this series, they built an artificial cow to make milk and liver. Now, they are force-growing a pet alligator to prodigious size. The ostensible purpose is to feed a hungry world with quickly maturing iguanas, but the actual motivation is to allow one of the young scientists to keep a beloved, smuggled pet. The first story was fun, and and this one is similarly fluffy and pleasant.

I'll skip over Campbell's treatise on color photography since it is dull as dirt. The editor would have been better served publishing any of his homemade nudes that I've heard so much about. That brings us to Murray Leinster's The Leader<. It is difficult for me to malign the fellow with perhaps the strongest claim to the title "Dean of American Science Fiction," particularly when he has so many inarguable classics to his name, but this story does not approach the bar that Leinster himself has set. It's another story with psionic underpinnings (in Astounding! Shock!) about a dictator who uses his powers to entrance his populace. It is told in a series of written correspondence, and only force of will enabled me to complete the tale. There was a nice set of paragraphs, however, on the notion that telepathy and precognition are really a form of psychokinesis.

I tend to skip P. Schuyler Miller's book column, but I found his analysis of the likely choices for this (last) year's Hugo awards to be rewarding. They've apparently expanded the scope of the film Hugo from including just movies to also encompassing television shows and stage productions, 1958's crop being so unimpressive as to yield no winners.

My money's on The World, The Flesh, and The Devil.

---

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Date: 2015-01-29 07:13 pm (UTC)
laurose8: (Shiveria)
From: [personal profile] laurose8
I should think The World, The Flesh and The Devil would win against stronger opposition than it has.

I did like Summit, and found the kicker-message ending satisfactory. The earlier part's message wasn't that believable, perhaps, but for a short story like that, well done. And it could have been explained in a longer one.

I read the earlier part of the Langeart story. For someone all-understanding, his supermen do seem remarkably uninterested in other people, or indeed anything. From the writing style, I do wonder if it was written in earlier days; possibly when he'd first read EE Smith's Lensman series.

I like The Leader 's basic idea, and ending. I think, myself, a smaller stage would have been better. Politics apart, Winston wasn't the first of superior intellect and personality the Leader would have met.

Date: 2015-01-29 11:51 pm (UTC)
laurose8: (Shiveria)
From: [personal profile] laurose8
Thanks for a very nice helping of sf as it was.

Behind the Bamboo Curtain

Date: 2015-01-29 10:01 pm (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
"What the Left Hand . . . was Doing" was OK. I was able to read it without skipping. Pretty much just an action/adventure/spy story, and it could be rewritten without the speculative elements by Ian Fleming or some other current creator of espionage fiction.

I didn't have a problem with the notion of secret agents with various psychic powers as a plot gimmick, but it got too extreme for my taste. (Flying across the ocean!)

Politics

Date: 2015-01-30 06:38 pm (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
I liked the message of "Summit" but it's not much as fiction. Maybe an essay would be better, but I know the author has to earn money by selling it to a market. In any case, I found the science fiction content to be pointless. (Maybe if it had been the near future and the US and USSR leaders were getting together to keep the Arms Race going by planning "incidents" to make sure peace didn't break out . . .)

I thought "The Leader" was too coy by pretending to hide the identity of "the Leader" and "Winston" when it was absolutely clear who we were talking about from the start. (I suppose the author didn't want to write fiction about a living person, but I think Sir Winston would be amused by his depiction as a superman.) I guess this story is supposed to take place in some other reality, since Hitler (controlled by Churchill) agrees to retreat! In any case, this was much too simplistic a view of history, and seemed to completely ignore the fact that the majority of the War in Europe took place between Germany and the USSR. (Was Stalin also a superman?)

(P.S. I meant to say that I was amused by the way "Langart" was careful to use the word "analog" more than once in his story. Nothing like writing to the market!)

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