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Now here's a special treat. Not long ago, the Junior Traveler began contributing as a co-author. This time around, she has decided to take center stage. My little girl is all growed up! Excuse me. I have something in my eye...

by Lorelei Marcus

Recently, me and my family thought we should take a break from time traveling (in fiction and movies) and do some real traveling! We decided to go to Japan! I was sad because we weren't going to be able to watch any Twilight Zone or new movies. Luckily, we were treated to a new Japanese movie called Mothra. Me and my father had the luxury to see it in theaters, in Japan! It was a very similar (but intriguingly different) experience to an American movie in various ways.

Mothra, similar to many of the American movies we've watched, is a monster movie – in this case, about a giant moth that attacks Tokyo. I noticed monster movies often start out the same, something or someone dear to the monster is taken from them to a big city, and the monster comes back to rescue it, destroying said city in the process. It happened in ; this movie did not break the mold.

(see the rest at
Galactic Journey!)
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How small the world has gotten!

Less than a decade ago, trans-oceanic travel was limited to the speed of a propeller. If you journeyed by boat, as many still do, it would take two weeks to cross the Pacific. Airplanes were faster – with a couple of stops, one could get from California to the Orient in less than two days. As a journalist and travel columnist, I spent a good amount of time in both hemispheres during the early 1950s. I got to be quite seasoned at the travel game.

I have to tell you, things are so much faster these days. The jet engine has cut flight times in half, taking much of the tedium out of travel. Oh, sure, I always had plenty to do in the air, between writing and reading and planning my next adventures, but for my poor fellow travelers, there was little to do but drink, smoke, and write letters. For hours and hours.

These days, the Journey is my primary occupation. I can do it from anywhere, and I often do, bringing my family along with me. As we speak, I am writing out this article with the roar of the Japan Airlines DC-8's jets massaging my ears, music from pneumatic headphone cords joining the mix. It's a smooth ride, too. It would be idyllic, if not for the purple clouds of tobacco smoke filling the cabin. But again, I suffer this annoyance for half the time as before. I'll abide.

We've just lifted off from Honolulu, and in less than 8 hours, we will touch down at Haneda airport, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan's capital. We will be in the Land of the Rising Sun for two weeks, visiting friends and taking in the local culture. I'll be sure to tell you all about our adventures, but don't worry. I've also brought along a big stack of books and magazines so I can continue to keep you informed on the latest developments in science fiction. Moreover, I'm sure we'll see a movie or two, and we'll report on those, too.

Speaking of reports, I've just finished up this month's Galaxy Science Fiction....

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Seattle, one of my favorite towns, is about to become big news for it will be the home of the 1962 World Expo, and its futuristic "Space Needle" is under construction. When it's done, the city's skyline will be distinctive, indeed!

But that's not what brought us to the Emerald City in 1961. In fact, we fly out each year to visit my sister-in-law and the dozen or so friends we've accumulated from visits past. It is, if course, complete coincidence that our trips always seem to coincide with the annual gathering of female fandom affectionately nicknamed "Geek Girl Con."

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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There's no question that we are in the Space Age. Our headlines are dominated with space flights, the movies feature missions to the Moon and invaders from other planets, and our comic books incorporate the very latest scientific discoveries delivered from beyond our planet.

Not that comics employ the most rigorous application of science, but it's the thought that counts. If you follow my column, you know that I am an unabashed fan of these junior pulps. Call me a kid if you like, but I dig these mags. The Westerns, the romances, the science fiction anthologies.

But what I fondly remember from the War Days are the superhero comics. Though Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman are still around, it seems caped crusaders have fallen out of vogue with the populace.

Until now...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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My nephew, David, has been on an Israeli Kibbutz for a month now. We get letters from him every few days, mostly about the hard work, the monotony of the diet, and the isolation from the world. The other day, he sent a letter to my brother, Lou, who read it to me over the phone. Apparently, David went into the big port-town of Haifa and bought copies of Life, Time, and Newsweek. He was not impressed with the literary quality of any of them, but he did find Time particularly useful.

You see, Israeli bathrooms generally don't stock toilet paper...

Which segues nicely into the first fiction review of the month. I'm happy to report I have absolutely nothing against the June 1961 Galaxy – including my backside. In fact, this magazine is quite good, at least so far. As usual, since this is a double-sized magazine, I'll review it in two parts.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Comic book lovers, science fiction aficionados, and history buffs all share some characteristics, no matter how disparate their interests may seem on the surface: they are passionate about their pidgin, they plumb deeply into the lore of their fields, and they are all just a bit off-center from the rest of "normal" society.

Let's face it--it's 1961, and conformity is still the rule of the day. We're expected to wear suits and hats (though our new President seems to be a trendsetter in the "no hats" arena). We're supposed to abandon the frivoloties of youth and settle down to hard work and raising a family. Heaven forbid our interests should stray outside the socially acceptable pasttimes of sports, religion, politics, and cocktail parties.

But for those of us who refuse to "grow up", we still want to belong somewhere. We don't want to go it alone; we seek out others of our ilk. The weird ones. The creative ones.

The Fans.

So we form clubs, some associated with centers of learning, others with geographic districts. We create fan circles that put out fanzines. We form readers' groups to share our self-penned works.

And...we hold conventions.

These are generally smallish affairs compared to their business-oriented cousins, with attendance running into the hundreds. But for the fan who normally has a local community of just a few fellows (and perhaps many more as pen pals), going to a convention is like a pilgrimage to Mecca. One meets people with completely different experiences, different perspectives. There is the opportunity to get news from far and wide on exciting new projects, both fan and professional. And the carousing is second to none, both in the heights of enthusiasm and creativity.

Take a look at my newly developed roll of shots from "WonderCon", a sizeable affair held last weekend in Los Angeles. These are some dedicated fans, some fabulous costumes, and some terrific times!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Greetings from sunny Kaua'i! It seems like only yesterday I was reporting from this island's idyllic shores. Much has changed, of course--Hawai'i is now a state! 50 is a nice round number, so perhaps we won't see any new entries into the Union for a while.

Accompanying me on this trip is the last science fiction digest of the month, the February 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction. On a lark, I decided to read from the end, first. In retrospect, I'm glad I did, but it certainly made the magazine a challenge. You see, the stories at the end are just wretched. But if you skip them (or survive them, as I did), the rest of the magazine is quite excellent.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The results of the Republican National Convention, held in Chicago this year, are in. They should hardly come as a surprise to anyone: Vice President Richard M. Nixon is the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Two conventions in as many weeks! What as I thinking? And yet, despite the undoubted ardor of the undertaking, it was well worth it. San Diego's intimate little science fiction and comic book convention, aptly titled "Comic Con," was the most fun I've had at a convention in 1960.

There was plenty to see and do, including a well-stocked exhibit hall, fascinating panels with opportunities to meet creators--like the new Marvel (formerly Atlas) Comics hotshot, Stan Lee, and, of course, people in costume. There was a refreshing number of female and juvenile attendees--and not just Millie the Model fans, either!

One could say that D.C. (Detective Comics) ruled the roost, with big exhibits devoted to perennial favorites like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, though there are rumbles that Marvel Comics may return to superhero comics next year. I remember the brief revivals of Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, and Captain America with fondness, so here's hoping they can pull it off.

Now, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let's take a look at these lovely (color!) photos I took at the convention, speedily developed for my eagerly awaiting fans.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!
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What is it that makes a con? Is it the chance to meet published authors and prominent fans? Is it the spirited discussion of high-minded concepts deep into the night? Is it the opportunity to engage in salacious activities?

Ultimately, what a convention all comes down to is building a community. We all live in disparate locations around the country, and even with the gleaming new interstate system that allows us to travel in minutes what used to take hours, the density of fans in any given location is not particularly high. So we all congregate in one place so that, for a brief shining instant, we can imagine a world where the fan is the norm.

It's a beautiful (and sometimes frightening) idea.

The convention I just came back from was Westercon SD (not to be confused with the "true" Westercon, currently still going on in Boise, Idaho and known this year as "Boycon"). All of the traditional con activities were present: the filk sings, the masquerade, the dance (a sock-hop, of course).

(Come to Galactic Journey for the rest!)
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Greetings from sunny springtime California!

Yesterday was a vacation of sorts. Having dashed off (I mean to say "meticulously crafted") my review of the June 1960 Galaxy, I thought it high time to hit the beach with some nice non-fiction. My favorite shoreline happens to be in Carlsbad, a sleepy community in northern San Diego County. For the fans who enjoy phototourism, take a gander at these newly developed pics (in color, no less!)

(see the rest and lots of photos at Galactic Journey!)
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No man is an island; but without conventions, the moat can be pretty broad.

Humans are social creatures. Most of us have a natural desire to share our passions with others. When we read (or watch) science fiction and fantasy, we are receiving a broadcast from an author, but the communication stops there. If we want to discuss the experience, we need to find fellow fans.

There are many ways to do this. You can take out an ad in the newspaper's personal columns. You can join a local fan group, either public or privately sponsored. These venues let you find nearby fans, and many clubs have become formidable associations.

But if you want to meet fans from all over, or change your relationship with your favorite authors from a one-way experience into a face-to-face dialogue, there is no substitute for the convention.

The father of all science fiction conventions is the annual World Science Fiction Convention, at which the Hugo awards are announced. This year, it will take place in Pittsburgh from September 3-5.

There are lots of smaller conventions, however. For instance, there recently was a small affair in Anaheim called "Wondercon" whose focus was comic books, science fiction, and animated films. Anaheim is very close to my home town of San Diego, so we decided to make a family weekend it.

It was a jolly time. Being a small convention, the folks were very energetic and creativity abounded. My daughter hawked mimeographed copies of her home-grown comic book, which the professional writers at DC purchased with gusto. My wife dressed as the Bat-Woman (of recent prominence in the Batman comics); she pulled it off quite well! I perused fanzines, expanded awareness of this column, vigorously discussed the ramifications of copyright and trademark laws, and gawked at the well-crafted costumes.

Genre great Robert Heinlein was not in attendance, but a fan circle devoted to him was there leading a blood drive. I also met up with the family of the late great Edgar Rice Burroughs, who fretted about the upcoming ACE paperback reprintings of the master's works. Apparently, ACE will not be paying royalties (the original works having fallen out of copright).

Without further ado, here is my slew of photographs from the convention. My apologies for the blurriness—it is my first time working with color film.


Rose Tyler

Peggy Carter

Amy Saunders (who is an excellent artist; contact her for some excellent comics-inspired and science fiction prints!)

As Anaheim is the home of Walt Disney's theme park, Disneyland, Disney costumes were popular:

Historical dress was also common:

Who doesn't like Captain America?

And, of course, Superman!

The Author, himself

By the way, the Wisconsin Democratic Primary is today. My bet is on Hubert Humphrey. After all, he is for all intents and purposes, the state's third Senator. I can't imagine an East Coast upstart like Jack Kennedy winning more than four of the ten delegates, no matter what the over-enthusiastic polls are predicting.


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Have no fear, for The Traveler has returned from Orlando safe and sound. My apologies for not submitting this article earlier, but I did not have easy access to a typewriter or my editor while on my vacation.

I have come home to my brand new typewriter, however, and it is time to tell you all about the Martin Marietta plant... and to wrap up the last four weeks' worth of that television sensation, The Twilight Zone!

First off, the plant. Martin Marietta has become one of this nation's leading developer of rocket systems including the Titan and the Atlas, both of which have been tapped for service with the manned space program. Their Orlando plant opened in December 1957, and I was looking forward to seeing some boosters in the process of manufacture.

Nothing doing. The Orlando plant is specifically for the production of smaller weapons systems including the Lacrosse and Pershing artillery missiles (for the Army), the Bullpup air-to-surface missile (for the Navy), and the Missile Master, an electronic air defense control system. Worse yet, all of the work is secret, for obvious reasons, and I was turned away at the gate. So much for the inside view! At least I had a lovely time in the Orlando sun, which looks much like San Diego's sun, with my cousin and her family.

Also, I got home in time to watch The Twilight Zone last night, so I now have four episodes to talk about. Ready for a preview?

The fourth episode of The Twilight Zone was The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, in which Ida Lupino, playing an aging star of the screen, shuts herself off from he world to watch endless replays of her old movies. Unable to face an aging reality and the reality of aging, she ultimately disappears into one of her films. The end is telegraphed from the beginning, and this was one of the show's poorer entries.

Walking Distance, episode five, fares a bit better. A 36-year old ad-man (played by a 46-year old Gig Young) flees from the city, desperate to recapture the simplicity of his small town pre-teen days. He returns to his stomping grounds to find them unchanged—in fact, he has gone back in time. He even meets himself and his family, whereupon his father urges him to return to the present and let his younger self enjoy an unshared youth. It's not bad, but it is mawkish and somewhat drawn out.

I'm a sucker for “deal with the Devil” stories, so I enjoyed Escape Clause: A thoroughly unlikable hypochondriac played by David Wayne bargains his soul for invulernability and immortality. The fellow had only been concerned with himself before the exchange, and such remains the case afterward. Rather than focusing on a myriad of fantasized ailments, he instead throws himself into a series of would-be fatal accidents in an attempt to chase thrills. He quickly tires of the game and becomes just as miserable as he had been.

Things look up when his wife ends up in a fatal accidental fall. Our “hero” calls the police and confesses to the crime, hoping to get the Chair, which he would endure with ease and a smirk on his face. Instead, he receives life imprisonment. Oh the irony. In his final act, the prisoner beseeches Old Nick to take his life prematurely, and off he goes—to Hell, presumably.

That ending frustrated me. Were I immortal and stuck in prison, I'm sure I'd find little difficulty (and excitement) in breaking free. But, as my daughter noted, the fellow hadn't much soul to begin with; selling it to Satan couldn't improve matters. It's no wonder Wayne's character was doomed to disappointment.

Finally, we've got the brand-new The Lonely. A convict is incarcerated on an asteroid; a supply ship comes every three months, but besides that, he has only a few books and a diary to keep him company. Though the prisoner is innocent of the murder for which he was convicted, a pardon seems unlikely. The supply ship captain takes pity on the convict some four years into his sentence and gives him an unusual gift—a robot in the shape of a woman.

I actually don't want to spoil this one in the event it gets rerun mid-season. Jack Warden does an excellent job with his role as the convict. The episode kept us guessing throughout. It has the setup of Eric Russell's Panic Button and much of the plot of John Rackham's If You Wish. These stories were so recently published that I have to wonder if they did not directly inspire the show.

Back shortly with a wrap-up of the new Galaxy. Stay tuned!


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!

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Greetings from sunny Orlando, Florida!

I know what you're thinking: why travel across the country to central Florida, which at first glance has little to offer to the tourist?

Firstly, my only first cousin on my father's side lives here with her family. Secondly, Orlando is home to the Martin Marrietta manufacturing plant—and guess who has a free pass to see the Titan and Atlas rocket assembly lines?

Also, I wanted to see the place before it is destroyed in next month's atomic holocaust. Or at least before Fidel's revolution travels to the mainland. I imagine it will hit Florida before other states.

As you can see, Orlando has gotten its Christmas decorations up early. Someday Christmas will precede Halloween, I predict.

I haven't had a chance to tour much, so I'll save the meat of my sightseeing report for next time. In the meantime, here's a Space News round-up:

(Note that neither of these stories happened in Florida, which just figures since it is one of the rare times I'm actually in the state)

As you know from reading this column, there are two competing manned space programs in this country. Sadly, one of them has suffered a setback: On its third mission, the rocket plane X-15 experienced an explosion in mid-flight. Luckily, pilot Scott Crossfield managed to dump his fuel in a jiffy and get the plane on the ground in one piece. He's fine, and the plane will fly again, but it won't go up until it's known precisely what happened.

The Air Force has also had a mishap: Discoverer 7, their capsule-return spacecraft designed for biological sample return (which hasn't carried an actual biological sample in several flights) got up into orbit just fine; but then it started to tumble, and the boys in blue couldn't get the capsule to separate from the rest of the craft.

While I may be cynical about the stated purpose of the Discoverer program, it does underline how technically complicated even an unmanned mission can be. Getting the rockets to work is only one of many problems to be tackled before we can think of sending a person into space.

I will try to have an update in two days' time, but it may have to wait until I get back home. I've a brand-new typewriter waiting for me there!


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!

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Seattle really knows how to throw a science fiction convention.

I had been saddened that I hadn't gotten to join Bjo Trimble in her caravan across the country to Detention last month. After once again experiencing the joy that is GGC (the acronym was never explained to me), all of my regrets disappeared.

I mentioned in my last article that GGC is quite remarkable. Much of the attendance is female, and the emphasis is on female creators and protagonists in our niches of the literary and cinematic worlds. There were lectures on our woman science fiction luminaries, with Judith Merril and Katherine MacLean particularly prominent. There was an update on the state of women in the sciences. Someone from Space Technology Laboratories talked about scientist Frankie van der Wal and engineer Jenny Sanders: the former directed the Mouse In Able project that launched rodents atop several Thor-Able test rockets; the latter is the first woman to work at Cape Canaveral. There was also a spotlight on women in comic books, Wonder Woman being the obvious example, but with much also made of newcomers Supergirl and Lady Blackhawk.

For those who couldn't attend the convention (and for those who did and want to see themselves), here is a selection of photographs, on which I rushed development to get quickly to press. I did not get pictures of the science-fiction play or the costume masquerade--the light level was too low, but I did get a nice selection of attendees. Take a look!

A superheroine, by the name of Bluebird (a new character, apparently).

This is Nick, a gentleman with whom I had a pleasant conversation, and behind him are a number of attendees playing various card games.

Michael is an interesting chap. He is part of a growing group of people who finds solace in the past, reveling in past literature, culture, and clothing (he appears to be from the 1920s). It's a seductive idea, though I'm certainly not about to go in for that sort of thing.

Miss Molly (good Golly!) is a vendor for a small publishing group called Northwest Press. They print, among many things, comic books of a rather progressive and subversive nature. Avante garde indeed!

I'm sure you've all seen Walt Disney's newest masterpiece, Sleeping Beauty. These costumes are exquisite.

(These are the best I could find amongst my rolls of film, but perhaps other attendees have contributions they'd like to make. There were certainly plenty of snapshots to take!)

In many ways, the convention was a glimpse into the future of society and fandom. Someday soon, women and men will work in all arenas of life as equal partners, heading shoulder to shoulder to the stars. I can't wait for this golden time to arrive.

Until then, at least we have GGC. See you next year...


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!

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It's going to be a dreary month, if October's selection of digests is any indication.

Of course, my mood isn't buoyed by the fact that I must compose this article in long-hand. I hate writing (as opposed to typing; and typing on an electric is sheer bliss). On the other hand, I'm the one who chose to occupy much of the next few days in travel, and fellow airplane passengers don't appreciate the bang bang of fingers hitting keys.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, shall we? As I write, I am enjoying my annual plane trip to Seattle for the purpose of visiting my wife's sister, myriad local friends, and to attend a small but lively science fiction convention. This one is singular in that its attendees are primarily female, and its focus is woman creators. People like Katherine MacLean, Judith Merril, Pauline Ashwell, Anne McCaffrey, etc.

Once again, I get to ride in the speedy marvel that is the jet-powered Boeing 707. San Diego to Seattle in just a few hours is a luxury to which I hope I never become jaded. Although I will concede that the roar of jets is less pleasant a sound than the thrum of propellers.

I made several attempts to read this month's Astounding, but I could find nothing in it I enjoyed. I'll summarize that effort later. In the meantime, I have just finished the November 1959 F&SF, and if you can read my chicken-scratch (I hope my editor cleans it up before publication), I'll tell you all about it.

F&SF often features brilliant stories. Last month, the magazine had an unheard-of quality of 4.5 stars, just under the theoretical maximum of five. This month, we're at the nadir end of quality. It's readable but fluffy, forgettable stuff.

Story #1, The Martian Store by Howard Fast, recounts the opening of three international stores, ostensibly offering a limited set of Martian goods. They are only open for a week, but during that time, they attract thousands of would-be customers as well as the attention of terrestrial authorities. After the Martian language is cracked, it is determined that the Martians intend to conquer the Earth. The result is world unity and a sharp advance in technological development. Shortly thereafter, an American company begins production and sale of one of the Martian products, having successfully reverse engineered the design.

Except, of course, in a move that was well-telegraphed, it turns out the whole thing was a super-secret hoax by that company in order to create a demand for those putatively Martian products. World peace was a by-product. Thoroughly 3-star material.

G.C. Edmondson's From Caribou to Carry Nation is a gaudily overwritten short piece about transubstantiation featuring an old man who is reborn as his favorite vegetable... and is promptly eaten by his grandson. Two stars, and good riddance.

Plenitude, by newcomer Will Worthington, is almost good. It has that surviving-after-the-apocalypse motif I enjoy. In this story, the End of the World is an apparent plague of pleasure-addiction, with most of the human population retreating into self-contained sacks with their brains hooked into direct-stimulation machines. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but the quality is such that I anticipate we'll see ultimately see some good stuff from Worthington. The editor says there are three more of his stories in the bag, so stay tuned.

There is a rather pointless Jules Verne translation, Frritt-Flacc, in which a miserly, mercenary old doctor is given a lordly sum to treat a patient only to discover that the dying man he came to see is himself. Two stars.

Then there is I know a Good Hand Trick, by Wade Miller, about the magical seduction of an amorous housewife. It's the kind of thing that might make it into Hugh Heffner's magazine. Not bad. Not stellar. Three stars.

I'll skip over the second half of Starship Soldier, which I discussed last time. That takes us to Damon Knight's column, in which he laments the death of the technical science fiction story. I think Starship Soldier makes an argument to the contrary.

Then we've got Asimov's quite good non-fiction article, C for Celerity, explaining the famous equation, E=MC^2. I particularly enjoyed the etymology lesson given by the good doctor regarding all of the various scientific terms in common physical parlance. I've been around for four decades, and my first college major was astrophysics, yet I never knew that the abbreviation for the speed of light is derived from the Latin word for speed (viz. accelerate).

James Blish has a rather good short-short, The Masks, about the futuristic use for easily applied nail polish sheets. It's a dark story, but worthy. Four stars.

Ending the book is John Collier's After the Ball, in which a particularly low-level demon spends the tale attempting to corrupt a seemingly incorruptible fellow in order to steal his body for use as a football. Another over-embroidered tale that lands in the 2-3 star range.

That puts us at three stars for this issue, which is pretty awful for F&SF. Given that Astounding looks like it might hit an all-time low of two stars, here's hoping this month's IF is worthwhile reading. Thankfully, I've also picked up the novelization of Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and it's excellent so far.

Back in a few days with a convention report and a book review!


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!

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Wrapping up my tour of Kaua'i, here are some pictures I took on the south shore estate of Robert Allerton, whose hospitality is as tremendous as his philanthropy (science fiction-related stuff to follow).

For this installment, I've got something a little different. It's also the good news half of a good/bad news combination.

If is a science fiction magazine that has been around since 1952. Amongst the several dozen that have existed throughout the decade, it is perhaps (outside of The Big Three) the best. I haven't followed it very closely, and that's why I missed the big news.

Two issues ago, Damon Knight (acerbic critic and often brilliant writer) was tapped for the job of editor. I didn't find out until a couple of weeks ago, by which time, I'd missed the opportunity to buy the October and December 1958 issues. February 1959 was still on the stands, however, and I took it with me to Kaua'i.

Perhaps it's just the rosy glow imparted from having read mostly on the lovely Kalapaki beach, but it's really good. I've gotten through the first five stories, and they shall be the topic of today's discussion.

It is, of course, with trepidation that I read the opening piece, Pipe Dream by Fritz Leiber. As I've explained before, I used to like Fritz a lot (who can forget the brilliant A Pail of Air, which appeared in Galaxy many years ago). His stuff of late, however, has been pretty lousy. To be fair, it all appeared in F&SF, so that may have something to do with it. Anyway, Pipe Dream, about the creation of artificial life, is slickly written and atmospheric, but it's also disturbing and unpleasant, and perhaps not in the way Fritz intended. I didn't like it, though I imagine many would.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Wind People is almost a winner. It is a haunting tale of a ship's medical officer who elects to remain on a presumably uninhabited planet rather than expose her newborn child to the risks of hyperdrive travel. Bradley writes powerfully, and the mystery presented as the protagonist and her son make tentative and increasing contact with the furtive natives of the planet is exciting and engaging. The ending, however, is a let-down. One had to wonder if Bradley intended for the story to go in a different direction, one in which the editor was afraid to go. You'll have to read it and see. At least it's by a woman, stars a woman, and takes place in a universe where women make up half of a starship crew. Progress!

I'll skip story #3 until the end, as I've got a lot to say about that one. Number four is The Man who tasted Ashes by Algis Budrys. This is only the third story of his that I've read, and the second really good one; I'm going to look forward to more from him (and perhaps pick up earlier ones I've missed). If ever there was an anti-hero, it is the viewpoint character for this story: a petty political intriguer-for-hire who is contracted by an extraterrestrial concern to facilitate World War III. Good stuff.

Next up: Love and Moondogs by Richard McKenna (a career Navy man who got a writing degree on the G.I.Bill—now there's the American Way!) This is a silly story about the lengths some might go in the pursuit of their cause, however frivolous, and the hypocrisy often inherent therein. In this case, the object of outrage is a Soviet moon-muttnik. Gentle, pleasant satire.

Now back to story #3: The Good Work by relative newcomer Theodore L. Thomas. Remember when I talked about overpopulation in stories and the laughably small numbers most authors bandy about as too much for our planet? Well, Thomas doesn't play around—there are 350 billion souls inhabiting his Earth, and their life is accordingly regimented and drab. It's a satirical anti-utopia (a dystopia?) with a barbed punchline. The core of the story is the search for meaningful work in an age when everyone has just enough, and everything is automated.

I think this story is particularly relevant given that we are, I believe, on the cusp of a dramatic change in our economy. Before the industrial revolution, virtually everyone in the United States was employed in the agricultural sector. By the early 1800s, the industrial and service sectors began to rise as machines created jobs and allowed for the distribution of wealth; this was balanced by a drop of employment on the farm. Around 1900, employment in the agricultural sector had dropped to 35%, tied with the service sector and only slightly above the industrial sector. Industrial sector employment rose to a peak of 37% around 1950, and it has begun a gradual but steady decline since. Agricultural employment was at just over 10% in 1950, and it is plummeting fast. Service sector employment makes up the rest.

Projecting out another 50 years, agricultural employment will decline logarithmically, with a limit of zero as time goes to infinity. Industrial employment may take longer, but with mechanization and (ultimately) roboticization, that sector will also see declining employment. That leaves the service sector, which means that in the end, our economy will consist of nobody making anything, and everyone doing something for each other. Except, in the future, I imagine machines will also be my servants. So what will anyone purchase in 50 years to drive the economy? How will anyone work? Perhaps we'll all be scientists and artists in 2009. More likely, we'll develop artificial needs for useless products. Radio advertising has already been honed to a fine art, and the ad execs are figuring out the television advertising game pretty quickly.

Maybe we'll all be employed making advertisements. That sounds fulfilling.

Anyway, I promised good news, so in summation, If with Damon Knight at the helm promises to be a fine magazine.

The other shoe will drop on the last day of this month...

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Do you know who reads The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction?

Clifton Fadiman, writer, editor, judge of the Book-of-the-Month Club does. It supplies him his “special escape-reading...the finest the field has to offer in the way of short fiction.”

Spring Byington, famous star of the Broadway Stage does. It improves the imagination, she says.

Basil Davinport, another writer and editor for the Book-of-the-Month Club does. “F&SF gives us some of the best writing in the field, and the field is one of great importance.”

Orville Prescott, Book Review Editor for the New York Times does. He says, “People who think that their literary I.Q. is too high for them to enjoy [F&SF] don't know what they're missing.”

In other words, snobs read F&SF--and you can be a snob, too. Unlike those other lowbrow sci-fi mags, F&SF is the real stuff. Just stay away from Astounding, and for God's sake, avoid Amazing!

I know H.L.Gold was a bit nose-in-the-air when he compared Galaxy to Space Westerns, but F&SF is positively the caviar set by comparison. I'm for the promotion of science fiction's respectability, but I don't think F&SF has the sole claim on quality. In fact, I think F&SF's editorial policy leans a bit overmuch toward the superfluously florid.

On the other hand, they are the favored home of more female authors than any other science fiction magazine. And I've never read a Garrett or Silverberg story between its pages, though I did read a horrible Poul Anderson story in F&SF's, thankfully defunct sister magazine, Venture.

Good-natured ribbing aside, while many issues of F&SF may suffer from overwriting-itis, the February 1959 issue is good stuff all the way though (even if the rest of the magazine is not as amazing as its lead story).

Continuing where we left off, Misfit by G.C. Edmondson (the only Mexican science fiction author I know of, and a San Diego native!) is a good yarn about the perils of time travel--to the timeline if not the traveler.

Last month's issue had the first of George Elliot's Venusian stories, Invasion of the Planet of Love. Its sequel, Nothing but Love depicts the Venusian counter-attack. It is less satirical, less impactful, and less interesting. On the other hand, I don't know that I liked the first one very much either. It's not bad, exactly. It's just odd.

I did enjoy Charles Fontenay's Ghost Planet, in which a presumably failed Martian colony is found to have survived through an unexpected and happy circumstance. Apparently, Martian sage grass traps oxygen, so as long as one stays crouched within the grass, there is air and warmth.

Now here's where I need help: I have the strangest feeling that I've seen this gimmick before in another story. Does this sound familiar? I'm hoping one of my many (Webster defines “many” as “more than three”) readers will solve this mystery for me. Drop me a line and let me know. If you don't know the answer, please share this article with someone who might.

Raymond Banks wrote the next story, Natural Frequency, about what happens when someone's voice naturally hits the resonant frequency of... well.. everything. People, glasses, bridges... It's a silly story, reminiscent of that scene from the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs, impersonating the great conductor, Leopold, makes an opera singer sing a high note until his pants fall off and his tuxedo rolls up like a Venetian blind. Filler.

Jane Rice's The Willow Tree is the last piece of the magazine. Per the editorial preface, Ms. Rice wrote for Unknown back in the late '30s, and I have it on good authority that she wrote for a solid ten years after that for various magazines. This story marks the end of a subsequent ten-year hiatus. Your mileage may vary, but I liked it, this tale of two children sent to the past after losing their parents. It is written like a fairly conventional children's fantasy, much like something Edward Eager would write, but with a much more sinister undertone and ending.

And thusly, we have come to the end. I'd say 4 stars out of 5. The lead story is fantastic, and the rest are decent to quite good.

Normally, one might expect (this being the 27th) that I have the new Astounding and/or F&SF in hand for the next review. However, I am still out in the Territory of Hawai'i, and deliveries are understandably delayed. Forward thinker that I am, I will still have something to discuss on the 29th.

But you'll just have to wait until then to find out what it is.

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Aloha from America's prettiest territory.

Kaua'i is particularly pretty, and one of the less-developed islands. Just last year, the hit musical South Pacific was filmed here, and I've gotten to see its location, the lovely town of Hanalei.

Yet such is my devotion to all five of my fans (up 25% over last month!) that I have flashed in my latest column to ensure you know what stories in this month's Fantasy and Science Fiction are worth reading.

It's a bit of a grab bag, really, after that amazing first one, but not a stinker in the bunch thus far:

Following Asimov's science article is Graveyard Shift by Idris Seabright (the F&SF pen name of feminism and witchcraft enthusiast, Margaret St. Clair). It's an exciting, atmospheric piece about a young man working the night shift at a haunted sundries store. One might label it “modern fantasy,” where beneath the banalities of technological life lie a malestrom of magical undercurrent.

No Matter Where You Go, by Joel Townsley Rogers (of long-time pulp fame), is strange novelet. It features a space traveler with the ability to zip between real and counter-Earths. The two worlds have much in common, but there are also striking differences. When our hero's wife falls for the resident of one of the worlds and is subsequently exiled to the other, and the courting Cassanova comes a-calling at the hero's residence... well, it gets interesting. Like most F&SF stuff, it is written with pizazz, though I'm not sure I exactly liked it overmuch.

Eleazar Lipsky's Snitkin's Law is a satirical look at a future in which justice is meted out perfectly by computer, much to the misery of everyone—that is, until a shyster lawyer, the eponymous Snitkin, is brought from the past to reprogram it. It's short and unremarkable. I suspect Snitkin is a parody of the author, a deputy district attorney (who also wrote the manuscript behind the famous move, Kiss of Death).

Finaly, for today, is Death Cannot Wither by Judith Merril. I am always excited to see Ms. Merril's work, though I'm not quite sure how I feel about this novelet. It is, first and foremost, a ghost story. It is dark and a bit disturbing. The ending is gruesome though perhaps not entirely unhappy. It is not my cup of tea, but it might well be yours.

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much, so I'll save the wrap-up for the 27th. And then I have a bit of a departure for you... but we'll have to wait until the 29th for that, won't we?

Aloha (a double-service word) and Mahalo for reading!

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The best-laid plans of mice and men...

So here I am on a DC-7C turbo-prop headed for the emerald isle of Kaua'i. A full week of lying out on the beach with nothing but my family, my typewriter, and a large backlog of books and magazines. I had intended to write, today, about the rest of the February 1959 Fantasy and Science Fiction. Unfortunately, due to a S.N.A.F.U. in bag-packing, that magazine was unavailable to me for the flight out.

But every cloud has a silver lining. As it turned out, I had packed a random A.E.Van Vogt novel called The Mixed Men. It was published some seven years ago, and the original stories from which it was compiled were published during the War. I finished the short novel in just a few hours, and, as the flight takes nearly half a day, I found myself with time to write this article and flash it to my editor. On time for the evening edition, no less!

The book is very very good.

I read a lot of science fiction, and precious few authors write advanced technology and settings in a way that is not destined to become dated in short order. There is an art to boldly plotting the future while keeping the descriptions of the advanced components of technology non-specific. Van Vogt, of course, is well-regarded for a reason. A spiritual descendant of Doc Smith, his space opera is both sweeping and plausible.

In The Mixed Men, it is some tens of thousands of years in the future, and humanity has colonized the entire Milky Way galaxy. The Imperial Battleship Star Cluster has been dispatched to the Greater Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy of ours) on a ten-year mapping mission. The vessel is enormous, fully a mile long and crewed by 30,000 men and women.

Significantly and refreshingly, its skipper is a woman, the viewpoint character Lady Gloria Laurr. More refreshingly, she is brilliant and capable (gasp!)

The story: at the tail-end of the Star Cluster's assignment, the ship finds incontrovertible evidence of a human presence spanning the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Complicating the matter is the revelation that the Magellanic peoples are actually mutant refugees (and their non-mutant allies) from Earth. The mutants possess superhuman intelligence and strength, but at the cost of their creativity. The “robots,” as they were pejoratively labelled, were reviled by “normal” humanity and became the victims of a genocidal war prosecuted against them some 15,000 years prior. They were forced to flee our galaxy to the Magellanic Cloud, where they have now lived for millennia on 50 hidden worlds.

With the discovery of this renegade branch of humanity, Lady Gloria orders the ship to undertake a new mission: the incorporation of the 50 worlds into the Terran Empire—by force, if necessary. Her aim is not subjugation for its own sake. The Imperial policy is one of freedom and democracy for all, but no independent states are allowed to exist for fear that an external force might pose a threat to the Empire.

Lady Gloria's decision predictably leads to an all-out conflict with the Magellanic state, which also has a protagonist in the person of Peter Maitland. Ostensibly an astrogator on a Magellanic warship, Maitland is actually the hereditary leader of the “Mixed Men,” offspring of the mutants and non-mutants. These Mixed Men have double-brains conferring to them the brilliance and toughness of the mutants as well as the creativity of normal humans. Moreover, Mixed Men have the ability to exert psychic domination upon others making them quite formidable indeed.

Just as the mutants were mistrusted and shunned by Earth, so are the Mixed Men discriminated against by the Magellanic Government. Thus, the Mixed Men are forced to constitute a hidden state within the 50 worlds.

Confused yet? And that's just the set-up! Yet the story flows quite naturally and with a strong personal connection. There are wheels within wheels, machination after machination, and best of all, intelligent decisions made all around from beginning to end. If I have any quibble at all, it is that the second half flags slightly after the brilliance of the first half; Van Vogt was not quite able to completely caulk over the seams of the three stories that make up the book. I also felt a little uneasy at the mind-control exerted not just by Maitland, but by Lady Gloria (the latter using machinery where Maitland needs only his mind). But only a little: Van Vogt sensitively restrains himself from portraying mind-rape, for which I am grateful.

In short, The Mixed Men is science fiction that is at once of the widest and narrowest scope. Whole galaxies are involved, yet the players are few and well-drawn. I heartily recommend it. Interestingly, going back over my old Astoundings, I see P. Schuyler Miller didn't like it much, and he felt the protagonist “wasn't very convincing.” I wonder which protagonist he's talking about. I liked 'em both. I know, too, that Van Vogt has been attacked for reworking his short stories into “fix-up” novels, but I think it worked pretty well with this one.

Stay tuned day-after-tomorrow for another article and photos from Nawiliwili Bay!

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