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It is March Oneth, as my father would say, and it's time to review the last of the March 1960 science fiction digests.

Last on my plate was IF Science Fiction, which in 1959 had proven a slightly erratic but worthy sibling to Galaxy Science Fiction, also edited by Horace Gold. Sadly, this current issue reminds me more of the inferior issues of Imagination or Amazing. It's not all bad, just rather weak.

It has been said of Clifford Simak that when he's good, he's very good, and when he's not, he's forgettable. It appears he used up all of his energy on his masterpiece appearing in this month's F&SF, because his lead novella for IF, The Gleaners, is mediocre. It's a story about a fellow who coordinates a for-profit time travel agency that sends agents back in time to observe, but not to meddle. It's a tough job: the agent defection rate is high, and there is much pressure to verify the historical assertions of the various world faiths. It sounds like it would be a great read, but it doesn't do much interesting development. Perhaps Cliff should start over and try making a novel on the concept.

Raymond Banks has a short story called to be continued about colonists marooned on a tiny island hundreds of light years from Earth for centuries. The beginning and ending are a bit slipshod, but the meat of the story is pretty good, and I particularly like that the story features a starship crewed by a pair of women.

In The Upside-Down Captain, by Jim Harmon, an ethnologist joins the crew of a starship to seek out truly unusual planets. The ship is aided in its endeavor with the help of a cybernetic brain—but is the robot really being much help? It's oddly paced and written, weakening what might have been a strong story.

There are a couple of very short vignettes that I shan't spoil other than to give their titles and authors since any description would give away most of their game. They seem to be written by unknowns, either amateur auteurs or pseudonymic regulars. They are Old Shag, by Bob Farnham, and Monument, by R.W. Major; neither are good, but nor are they long.

Ray Russell has something of a career writing for Playboy. His Father's House is an story about an heir forced to inhabit his deceased father's home, bullied by ghostly holograms of his abusive parent, for five years in order to collect an inheritance. The protagonist seemingly has two choices—be a penniless but satisfied writer and husband or endure a lonely, unfulfilling life in the hopes of inheriting a fortune. In the end, he comes up with a third path with no down sides.

Ignatz, by Ron Goulart, is a cute story about a fellow who leads a one-man crusade against the fad of "Applied Lycanthropy," whereby the citizens of his sleepy town transform into cats for fun and relaxation. The fellow hates cats, you see; they make him feel "crawly." It's cute, though I can't imagine what anyone could have against felines, of whom I am far more fond than dogs.

The magazine ends rather strongly with Daniel Galouye's satirical Gravy Train, in which a retired couple on a remote planetoid gets mistaken for an important Third-World state and finds itself the recipient of a torrent of aid from both the Capitalist and Communist intergalactic empires.

All in all, it's not so much a bad issue as a merely weak one. Most of the stories end rather abruptly with a decidedly last-decade sci-fi slammer, and the writing has a slapdash feeling about it. Perhaps it's just a temporary lull.

In any event, I've got a whole new crop of magazines for this month that I'm looking forward to sharing with you. See you 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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Date: 2015-03-03 12:01 am (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
Thanks for letting me take a look at this issue. I'll add some comments as I make my way through it. (Maybe I'll mail away for one of those Willy Ley space models!)

I thought "Gleaners" was so-so. Most of the story seemed to be the author just throwing in everything he could think of to complicate the plot. It was also very talky. However, the ending was pretty clever and I have to admit I didn't see it coming.

Re: Gleaners

Date: 2015-03-03 12:59 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Like I said--it needed to be a developed novel rather than a rushed exposition.

Two Short Stories

Date: 2015-03-03 03:02 am (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
I didn't care for "To Be Continued" at all. The writing style seemed amateurish, almost childish, and the whole thing seemed kind of silly.

The conclusion of "Old Shag" wasn't much, but I did like the way the author wrote about working on a locomotive.

O Captain, My Captain

Date: 2015-03-03 03:58 am (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
(RE: The previous comment, I'll certainly agree that having women in command positions is a big plus in any SF story. Compare it to the 100% male crew of the next story to be discussed.)

"The Upside-Down Captain" was a little better written, but it was also pretty goofy. At least it was trying to be a comedy (I think.)

(Minor annoyance: Don't name your protagonist "Starbuck" and then mention Melville in your story. That made me lose my suspension of disbelief right away.)

The notion that a computer might be very small, and might be able to response to voice commands, was interesting, if done in a rather nutty way.

Three More Stories

Date: 2015-03-03 11:29 pm (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
"Monument" -- Just a trivial joke, of course, but I found the tongue-in-cheek style of this tall tale mildly amusing.

"His Father's House" -- I liked this one pretty well. Not badly written, with an unusual premise and a resolution which manages to be both logical and unexpected. I suspect there's a bit of the author talking to himself, about the compromises he's had to make, as we all do. (I was surprised to see the importance of the novelist Henry Green to this story. Not many genre readers are going to be very familiar with his novels, the latest of which appeared nearly a decade ago. I have to admit I haven't read any of them, although I have heard a little bit about that author. Maybe they'll come back into print as classics some day, the way this story predicts.)

"Ignatz" -- A very light tale, which one might read as an allegory about nonconformists (and they way they can become conformists when they collect into groups) and those who are less than tolerant of them. But that's probably reading too much into a story designed to raise a chuckle.

(I am also an ailurophile. I live with 19 cats at the present time.)

Gravy Train

Date: 2015-03-04 02:51 am (UTC)
victoria_silverwolf: (Default)
From: [personal profile] victoria_silverwolf
Since we end with another comedy, it seems that "If" is trying to be "Galaxy Light."

Anyway, this was a pretty decent satire on the Cold War. It probably could have been written without the science fiction elements. (Change the retirement planetoid to somebody's home, and the two galactic empires to the USA and the USSR.) But I can certainly understand that they make the story more marketable.

At first I thought it would be too broadly comic for my taste. ("Rear-Sobucks" made me groan, although I admit I got a chuckle out of the popcorn joke.) By the end, however, particularly when the two leaders of the superpowers realize how they've wasted their resources on a pointless conflict, I can to see that the author was making a serious point.


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