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by Gideon Marcus

Every successful endeavor goes through the cycle of growth, stability, decline, and renewal (or death, in which case, there's no cycle). Science fiction magazines are no exception. A particularly far-sighted editor can plan for decline by setting up a successor. For instance Galaxy's H.L. Gold has turned over the reigns to Fred Pohl with no apparent drop in the digest's quality. Anthony Bourchier transitioned to Robert Mills at F&SF, and I understand that Renaissance Man Avram Davidson is waiting in the wings to take over. That event can't happen too soon, as F&SF has been lackluster of late.

Analog has had the same master since the early 30s: John W. Campbell. And while Campbell has effected several changes in an attempt to revive his flagging mag (including a name change, from Astounding; the addition of a 20-page "slick" section in the middle of issues; and a genuinely effective cover design change (see below)), we've still had the same guy at the stick for three decades. Analog has gotten decidedly stale, consistently the worst of The Big Three (in my estimation).

You can judge for yourself. Just take a gander at the December 1961 issue. It does not do much, if anything, to pull the once-great magazine from its shallow dive:



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction digests are a balancing act. An editor has to fill a set number of pages every month relying solely on the stories s/he's got at her/his disposal. Not to mention the restrictions imposed if one wants to publish an "all-star" or otherwise themed issue.

Analog has got the problem worst of all of the Big Three mags. Galaxy is a larger digest, so it has more room to play with. F&SF tends to publish shorter stories, which are more modular. But Analog usually includes a serialized novel and several standard columns leaving only 100 pages or so in which to fit a few bigger stories. If the motto of The New York Times is "All the news that's fit to print," then Analog's could well be, "All the stories that fit, we print."



How else to explain the unevenness of the October 1961 Analog?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Recently, I told you about Campbell's lousy editorial in the August 1961 Analog that masqueraded as a "science-fact" column. That should have been the low point of the issue. Sadly, with one stunning exception, the magazine didn't get much better.

And yet...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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When last we left off with the September 1959 Astounding, things were looking awfully bleak. The star-o-meter stood at a limp 2 stars, and I had poor hopes of raising the needle.

I am happy to report that things got better. Well, "happy" is too strong a word. I can honestly say that the quality improved, but I wouldn't have bought the magazine on the strength of its latter half.

Algis Budrys has the best story of the issue, no surprise there. His The Sound of Breaking Glass is the post-apocalyptic tale of a woman who has been holed up in a well-defended service station for twenty years as the world has slid into anarchy due to the widespread use and abuse of the drug, Lobotimol. Said medication makes the imbiber wholly vulnerable to suggestion--not the prescription for a healthy society. Originally a therapeutic pharmaceutical, it became a weapon that was cheap and ubiquitous.

Well-written and chilling, like most of Budrys' work.

The short-short article by Lt. James W. Owen, Fiction? Reality! is about the realization of arctic exploration gear that was posited as science fiction in a previous Chris Anvil story (Sellers' Market). Brief, but decent.

Amazingly, Randall Garrett's other story (under the pen-name of David Gordon), ...or your money back! is not terrible. It's actually pretty good, even though it is yet another story with the Heironymous Machine as its gimmick. In this tale, though, it is used to enhance psychokinetic powers to cheat at gambling. The sheer implausibility of the device is used as a legal defense by the perpetrator. A cute twist.



Finally, On handling the data, by newcomer M.I. Mayfield, is a depiction of one side of a correspondence exchange in which a graduate student makes an exciting discovery and then subverts it to gain his doctorate. I'm not quite sure I got the point, so I'm hoping my smarter readers can enlighten me.

All told, the latter half raised this issue into 2.5 star territory, which is as low as Astounding has gone this past year (it's never broken the 3 star mark, sadly). Read it at your peril.

In two days--the September 1959 IF! And then on to the new stuff... October!

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)


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The penultimate magazine offering this month, at least that has made it into my house for review, is Astounding. As always, my bar is pretty low with that mag, though last month's issue made me dare to hope.

In fact, I'm not quite sure how I feel about the May issue. This may come out rather stream of consciousness, so bear with me!

Gordy Dickson, who has written much I like, starts a new serial this month uninspiringly called Dorsai! I am both enjoying it and somewhat off-put by it. It's the story of a young mercenary from a planet whose primary export is mercenaries. It is written in this sober, manly style, and there is lots of posturing and fighting. At the center of it all is the sole female character, who is bound by contract to a rather odious fellow, and whom it appears the protagonist is trying to save, somehow.

Story-wise, it's not really my cup of tea. Yet it is well written, and I've seen enough of Dickson's work to know that he is facile in a number of styles (i.e. he must be writing this way for a reason) so I'm going to go with it and see where it takes me. I will send you postcards along the way.

We didn't do anything wrong, hardly, by Roger Kuykendall (of whom I know nothing) might well be called I didn't write anything, hardly. Children build a space ship out of spare parts and snag a Russian satellite. I guess Campbell is reduced to buying Danny Dunn rejects these days.

(Please note that Mr. Kuykendall has given me permission to distribute his story, but Mr. Campbell has not. If he expresses his displeasure, I shall let you know.)


by EMSH

Cum Grano Salis isn't bad. Of course, I had to get past the distaste that just comes naturally from seeing "Randall Garrett" on the byline (or, in this case, his nom de plume, David Brown). In this tale, a colonizing team (all men, natch) are stuck on a planet with too few provisions to survive until relief. All of the food on the planet tests poisonous. Yet one crewmember, a hypochondriac with a supply of nostrums, manages to eat the local fruit and thrive. The solution is interesting.

(Again, I have distribution permission from the author, not the editor.)

So that takes me exactly half-way through the magazine, so I will leave the other half (including a rather good tale by George O. Smith) for day-after-tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)


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Today's article is going to be quite brief, not because I don't have much to say, but because I want your input, and saying anything about the topic at hand will spoil it.

Suffice it to say, I have schlepped the March 1959 Astounding with me to Hawai'i in back (and the paper, as I left, mentioned that the territory is already planning a big party for its impending, but yet unscheduled, statehood). Yet I only got around to start reading it yesterday.


Illustration by Kelly Freas

The lead novella is Despoiler of the Golden Empire, by David Gordon (really the beloved Randall Garrett in disguise). Now, I want you to read this story, not because it is amazing, but because Randall is trying to do something here, and I want to know if you think he succeeded. I'll give my thoughts in the next article so you have time gather and communicate your thoughts.

"But I don't have the March 1959 Astounding!" I hear you wail. Fear not. I have graciously been granted permission by the author to freely distribute this piece. It thus follows this column entirely uncut and unexpurgated.

Despoiler of the Golden Empire by Randall Garrett.

Don't worry--there is no brutalization of women in this one. There are, in fact, no women. It's probably better that way.





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