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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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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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It is still truly a man's world, at least between the covers of Astounding magazine. I recognize that we live in a culture where men aren't allowed to take cooking or shorthand classes (these are women's topics, after all), but I'd like to think that science fiction writers are more progressive.

Perhaps I'm the one who's wrong, however. Maybe women will remain "separate but equal" into the foreseeable future...

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes. The rest of February 1959's Astounding. To be fair, the remaining four stories actually range from decent to good. They are typical in their construction: an interesting set-up, a presented conundrum, and then a "gotcha" ending, but the execution is generally competent. Each had an interesting tidbit that stood out to me, a place where the writer dared to dream--or failed to do so. I'll point each one out as I go.



Hi Diddle Diddle is by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg--why he needed a pseudonym, I'm not sure; perhaps Campbell wants us to think more than one person writes for his magazine). I think Campbell would call it a "funny" story, but it's pretty decent stuff about the crew of a small moonbase trying to come up with a way to synthesize food for provisions on the moon. There are no women in the small crew, of course, though there is a line to suggest that is not always the case. And, of course, everybody smokes. Even on the moon, where air is (presumably) at a premium.

What I found compelling was Silverberg's conjecture that, by 1995, there would be eight moon bases: three American, three Soviet, one Chinese, and one Indian. Moreover, by then, the Cold War will have thawed considerably. I'm happy when any writer remembers there is more to the world than the Eagle and Bear, and I think the timeline is quite plausible. As for the story, well, as I said above, it's pretty formulaic, but competently written. Like all of Silverberg's stuff.

So far as I can tell, Peter Baily, author of the next story, Accidental Death, has not written anything else. That would set up alarm bells that he is someone's pseudonym, but none of my reliable sources can tell me if that truly be the case. In any event, Baily's tale is of Earth's first interstellar ship, and the first contact it makes with a race of creatures that possesses the ability to adversely affect probability. A "Jinx" race, if you will. Not a bad story, but the part that stuck out to me is when the protagonist, dictating his last thoughts for posterity, suggests that his memoir would make big news if someone could get it to a radio station or a newspaper office. Baily's story takes place in a future with starships, but media is stuck in 1940. It just goes to show that science fiction writers need be careful to avoid the intrusion of current (or even latter)-day items and technologies lest they kill the verisimilitude.

Frank Herbert is a newish writer. His Missing Link is nothing special. A Terran spacer is involved in first contact with an alien race with delusions of superiority. The Earther soon puts the alien in its place with go ol' Terran ingenuity. Lest I forget what magazine I'm reading.

Finally, The Professional Touch by "Leonard Lockhard" (actually the duo, Charles L. Harness and Theodore L. Thomas) is a fascinating, satirical piece on patent law, and its many current deficiencies. It's worth reading just as a treatise on the subject, particularly on the topics of "obviousness" and "flash of genius," and just how arbitrary are those tests that determine the worthiness of a patent.

All told, 3 stars. Nothing terribly offensive. Nothing strikingly original. I'm looking forward to further installments of the Leinster series, though.





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