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[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]

by Gideon Marcus

The Fall season of television is nearly upon us, so it is appropriate that we pause to reflect on what the Idiot Box has brought us recently. May of last year, Newton Minow, our (relatively) new FCC chief, described television as "The Vast Wasteland." While it may have its moments of education, quality, and even sublimity, he argued, the majority of the stuff you see, network or syndicated, will turn your brain to mush.

I imagine anyone exposing themselves 24 hours a day to every game show, every variety act, every soap opera would make a similar assessment. But what about the selective viewer? The one who rewards only quality with her/his eyeballs? And has there been improvement since Minow made his judgment?

Now, I normally restrict my reviews to things SFnal (science fictional for the non-fan), but over the last year, I've found myself in front of the small screen more hours than I'd normally care to admit. And since a subsection of my followers are, perversely, as interested in my humdrum 1962 life as they are in my analysis, I thought I'd give you insight as to what shows keep the Traveller's tube aglow.

So here are the Galactic Stars, 1961-62 TV edition, covering the television season that ended back in June and has since been in summer reruns. Many of these programs will continue into the Fall season, so consider this a Galactic Readers' Digest:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Everyone knows that the great American pastime is Baseball. Most fans enjoy watching the drama on the diamond, the crowds, the cheers, the hot dogs. But there is a dedicated minority for whom the sublimest pleasure is compiling Baseball stats. How well did each team do this year? Each player? Year over year, what are the trends? What are the chances of the Cubs ever winning the World Series again (hah!)

So here's my confession: I love statistics. A lot of the reason I read so much science fiction and maintain this column is so that, every year, I can keep track of every story, every magazine, every novel. In December, I compile these numbers and determine the annual recipients of the Galactic Stars. It tickles my mathematical brain, and it lets me see, graphically, how things are going not just in the careers of my favorite writers, but in the genre as a whole.

Plus, you get a slew of recommendations in the bargain. I mean, why wait for the Hugos? They're just going to echo what I say, anyway, right?

1961 was a better year than 1960, which saw an absolute nadir of 5-star stories. As a result, there was some stiff competition in nearly every category. I've listed the winners in bold, followed by the runners up and the honorable mentions (where applicable). Read on – I'm sure you'll agree that I had tough choices to make:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The chill of winter is finally here, heralding the end of a year. It's time for eggnog, nutmeg, presents, pies, and family. But more importantly, it's time for the second annual Galactic Stars awards.

Forget the Hugos–here’s what I liked best in 1960.

In a tradition I began last year, I look back at all fiction that debuted in magazines (at least, The Big Four) with a cover date of this year (1960) as well as all of the science fiction books published. Then I break down the fiction by length, choose the best by magazine, and finally the best overall. All using the most modern and sophisticated scientific techniques, of course.

Last year, my choices mirrored those chosen at the Labor Day Worldcon for the Hugo awards. We'll see if my tastes continue to flow in the mainstream. I break my length categories a bit finer than the Hugos, so there are bound to be some differences from that aspect, alone.

(see my choices at Galactic Journey!)
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Science fiction is dead. Long live science fiction.

Naysayers have been predicting the end of the genre since 1953 when the first post-war boom started to lose momentum. Since then, I've read a lot of science fiction (and fantasy). It's true that a lot of the lesser magazines have folded in the past 6 years, but I still find plenty to read every month, and much of it is quite good.

Now that I've been at this article-writing business for more than a year, I have enough comparative data to not only convey my favorite stories of 1959, but the best stories (in my opinion) for each magazine, and for each length.

In other words, I can conduct my own mini-Hugos specifically for the Big 3 (or 4, depending on how you count Galaxy/IF. Let this serve as both a buying guide and a request for agreement/rebuttal.


The Categories:

Best Astounding Stories by Length

Serial: Pirates of Ersatz by Murray Leinster—3 stars.
Novella: Despoiler of the Golden Empire by Randall Garrett—2 stars.
Novelette: Cat and Mouse by Ralph Williams—5 stars.
Short story: Seeling by Katherine MacLean—4 stars.
Vignette: Vanishing Point by C.C. Beck—3 stars.
Non-fiction: Blood from Turnips by William Boyd—4 stars.

Pretty pathetic that the best novella is one of the worst I've ever read. There were just two 5-star stories the entire year (Murray Leinster's novelette Aliens being the other). In fact, if you took all of Astounding's four and five star stories and articles, they would fit in a single large-ish issue. It'd be a very good issue, but the other eleven would be just dreadful.

Best Galaxy/IF Stories by Length

Serial: None (Bob Sheckley's Time Killer started last year).
Novella: Whatever Counts by Fred Pohl—5 stars.
Novelette: Return of a Prodigal by J.T.McIntosh—5 stars.
Short Story: Death in the House by Clifford Simak—5 stars.
Vignette: Jag-Whiffing Service by David R. Bunch—4 stars.
Non-fiction: Solar Orbit of Mechta by Willy Ley—5 stars.

There were a total of seven 5-star entries in Galaxy/IF in 1959 and plenty of 4-star pieces. IF is slightly more uneven in quality than its big sister, Galaxy, but it consistently has stand-out tales. Call it an experiment that's working.

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories by Length

Serial: Starship Soldier by Robert Heinlein—4 stars.
Novelella: None.
Novelette: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes—5 stars.
Short Story: The Man who lost the Sea by Theodore Sturgeon—5 stars.
Vignette: Game with a Goddess by Leslie Bonnet—4 stars.
Non-fiction: No more Ice Ages by Isaac Asimov—5 stars.

F&SF had 11 5-star pieces this year! There were some hard choices here. Knight's What Rough Beast, Boucher's Quest for St. Aquin, This Earth of Hours, To Fell a Tree--F&SF has no shortage of excellent novelettes. Asimov's articles are consistently better than Ley's, too (not to slight Willy, whose pieces are never bad and often cover more esoteric territory).

I'm very curious to see what gets anthologized.

Best Overall by Story Length

Serial: Starship Soldier.
Novella: Whatever Counts.
Novelette: Flowers for Algernon.
Short Story: The Man who lost the Sea.
Vignette: Game with a Goddess.
Non-fiction: No more Ice Ages.

F&SF comes out on top, though there was stiff competition. I find it interesting that there were no 5-star vignettes; it may simply be that it is harder to make a strong impression in such a short space, or perhaps I am simply biased against the format.

Best Magazine

Fantasy and Science Fiction: 3.33
Galaxy/IF: 3.21
Astounding: 2.58

I don't think these rankings come as a surprise.

There you have it: 1959's Galactic Stars. I had considered making this a double-length article by judging the worst science fiction and fantasy stories of the year (perhaps the Galactic Turkeys?), but it's the holiday season, and I'm feeling charitable. Let's just make one award, engrave it with Randall Garrett's name, and burn it in effigy.

Now—tell me your top picks for 1959!

Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.

P.S. 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!

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


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