[February 22, 1963] Still Snowing (an update on UK fandom)

[While you’re reading this article, why not tune in to KGJ, Radio Galactic Journey, playing all the current hits: pop, rock, soul, folk, jazz, country — it’s the tops, pops…]

By Ashley R. Pollard

Unbelievable, but true! Britain is still covered in snow! With weather like this, British people have plenty to talk about.  I know, I know, compared to the snow in the American Rockies, what we get is nothing.  When I hear complaints about the snow, I remind everyone of the Donner-Reed Party who died during the winter of 1846/47.

I’m good like that.  It’s all part of my sunny disposition and ability to see the bright side of any bad situation.  So, while villages have been cut-off, Britain is hardly the Wild West of the Great American frontier. No comparison at all. We haven’t eaten each other in many a winter.

So, no grumbling here.  Or at least not much. It’s not like I’m in need of a St. Bernard to rescue me from an avalanche.

On a more serious note.

The sad news is that Sylvia Plath died, after she committed suicide.  She was an American born poet who lived here in London, and the news was quite shocking.

In further shocking news, Kim Philby was revealed to be a member of the Cambridge Five.  Shock, horror that this was a front for a Soviet spy-ring came to light when he escaped, via Beirut, to the Soviet Union. That’s meant to be sarcasm, for those readers who don’t know that Philby was forced to resign from MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, for being a suspected double agent.

Flabbergasted, I tell you. Who would’ve thought. That’s the trouble with us as a nation — were too nice.

Given that he was a top official in British intelligence the revelation that he was working for the Russians, has long been expected. But, it still caused ripples in the British establishment.

Quite honestly, given Britain’s reputation as spymasters par excellence—historically we were good at what is often called The Great Game—so this news makes us, as a nation, look rather inept.

One member of The Cambridge Five was also associated with a intellectual group called The Apostles.  he questions being asked now are, where does it all end? So, Britain is now searching for any more Reds under the Bed, or as they’re known over here, Fellow Travellers.

Perhaps we should call them the Red Apostles? Are we living in some alternative reality, and if so, where’s James Bond when you need him?  He has gadgets, and gadgets are good, right? What we need is some super science fictional spy detector. Perhaps, psionic’s or we could always bring back Dennis Wheatley. I’m thinking in the guise of his most famous character, the Duke de Richleau. He could uncover the spies through the his knowledge of the occult.

Sorry, that’s just my imagination running riot. It’s the cold numbing my brain, driving me mad. Mad, I say!

Back in the real world, just to take the biscuit, Charles de Gaulle, President of France’s Fifth Republic, vetoed Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community.  Pah! I tell you, pah!  I feel like our bright new future of tomorrow has been pulled out from beneath my feet.

No wonder I seek escape into the world of my imagination.

Anyway, moving away from the mundane mundanity into the glittering world of all that’s exciting.  I am of course, talking about British fandom.

What fans are looking forward to, when hopefully the all the snow will be gone, is this years EasterCon.  This will Britain’s fourteenth national science fiction convention.  Something of an achievement, given that organizing fans is like herding cats, and therefore worth celebrating.

EasterCon is being held between Friday the 12th and Monday the 15th of April at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough.  Unsurprisingly enough, it’s called BullCon.  The committee consists of Ken Slater, Pauline Jackson, and Dave Barber.

The Guest of Honour will be Edmund Crispin. This is a pseudonym used by Robert Bruce Montgomery, who is known as an editor of SF anthologies, a composer, and author of crime novels. It’s all looking quite exciting.

So I promise that I will write a full ConRep, convention report, on BullCon for my April post.

Also, we—as in fans—are also looking forward to Ethel Lindsay’s TAFF report. For those who don’t know or remember, TAFF stands for the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund.  She has promised her report will be out this April, by which time we hope all the snow will have gone.

There has been a flourish of fanac, fan activity, with new fanzines in the works from London fan Langdon Jones, who is working as I write this on Tensor 1. Probably because everyone has been trapped, snowed inside their homes, with little else to do.

Oh how we laugh at the weather.

And furthermore, I can announce the winners of the Skyrack fan poll for 1962, early.  You heard it here first.  Walt Willis gets Best British Fan Writer, ATom as Best British Fan Artist, and Ella Parker as Leading Fan Personality of the year.  And, Skyrack by Ron Bennett was voted Best British fanzine.

Postscript to last month.  After the recent death of Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson MP has won the Labour Party leadership election.  I mention this in passing, because the Conservatives have been in power since 1951, and the sense of imminent change is in the air.  Recent opinion polls showed that Labour could win the next General Election, which has also caused shock waves in certain sections of society.

So, this is Ashley Pollard signing off from the depths of winter, in snow bound Britain.  I’m going out now; I may be some time.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 20, 1963] A merry chase (March 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

[While you’re reading this article, why not tune in to KGJ, Radio Galactic Journey, playing all the current hits: pop, rock, soul, folk, jazz, country — it’s real now, man…]

by Gideon Marcus

If you’ve been reading the papers this week, you’ve no doubt been avidly following the improbable trip of the Anzoategui.  This Venezuelan freighter was hijacked by Communist dissidents who wanted to embarrass Venezuelan prime minister Betancourt such that he wouldn’t visit the United States.  Several navies chased the purloined vessel as it steamed ’round the eastern hump of South America, ultimately finding sanctuary in Brazil.

The editorial helm of F&SF was recently taken over by Avram Davidson, and like the poor freighter, the magazine has been a captive to its new master and his whims.  Quality has declined steeply, and were it not for Asimov’s article and the excellent tale at the end, this issue would barely be fit to warm a stove.

But, those two pieces are the saving grace of the March 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction

Seven Day’s Wonder, by Edward Wellen

This un-shocking tale of an electric New Testament missionary will fail to galvanize you, either with its ponderous pace or its puny puns.  Honestly, this is the sort of thing Avram Davidson (now F&SF‘s editor) used to make work.  Sadly neither Wellen nor Davidson are Davidson anymore.  two stars.

The Day After Saturation, by D. K. Findlay

If overpopulation compel us to settle the seas, is de-evolution toward our aquatic ancestry the next inevitable phase?  Probably not, and this, Findlay’s first work, is overwrought.  Two stars.

The Sky of Space, by Karen Anderson

Not a bad poem on the changing understanding but unchanging characteristics of outer space.  Three stars.

The Question, by Donald E. Westlake and Laurence M. Janifer

Hot enough for you?  Be careful what you take for granted.  It might just disappear.  Three stars.

The Importance of Being Important, by Calvin Demmon

Second in a matched pair on solipsism (also from a new author), it explores the perfect life of a fellow whose existence is merely another’s convenience.  Pointless.  Two stars.

The Journey of Ten Thousand Miles, by Will Mohler

It’s the end of the world, and Tyson St. J Tyson III desperately wants to leave his tomb of a house and go on a sea cruise — only the sea isn’t there anymore.  Three pages of a story inflated five-fold to no one’s profit.  One star.

Captain Honario Harpplayer, R.N., by Harry Harrison

Overblown, unfunny pastiche of C. S. Foreseter’s work.  I’ve often said that I have trouble distinguishing Harrison and Laumer, but Laumer is funnier when he tries.  1 star.

Game for Motel Room, by Fritz Leiber

When a three-brained, too-silky centenarian beauty with a homicidal husband comes a flirtin’, best you send her packing sooner rather than later.  Decently written, but disturbing and kind of dumb.  Two stars.

You, Too, Can Speak Gaelic, by Isaac Asimov

I love pieces on etymology, and the Good Doctor does a fine job of explaining the (not) Celtic roots of para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde.  Four stars.

Zack With His Scar, by Sydney Van Scyoc

When the world of the future is perfect, the only imperfect thing…is you.  And the only therapy is being saddled with someone worse.  I don’t know that I liked this story, but I found it interesting.  Three stars.

Hunter, Come Home, by Richard McKenna

I put off reading the final novelette for days, given how lackluster the rest of the issue had been.  But this story makes up for them all.  It’s sort of a cross between Deathworld and Hothouse — a planet with a single, planet-spanning and omnivariate lifeform is under attack by a group of rapacious colonists bent on scouring the native biome and replacing it with terrestrial plants and animals.  The rationale of the invaders is plausible (if distasteful), the depiction of the native life is profound, and the characterization is superb.  Five stars.

And there you have it.  Mediocrity and downright lousiness followed by a burst of talent.  Let’s hope Asimov and McKenna don’t disembark at Brazil, never to be seen again…

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 18, 1963] An Odd Beast (Roger Corman’s The Raven)

[It is with great pleasure that I welcome back the Journey’s first Fellow Traveler, Rose Benton, who was gone on an unfortunate hiatus caused by Mundac, destroyer of All That Which is Pleasurable.  As you will see, she has not lost one whit of her touch…]

by Rosemary Benton

To come back to the science fiction genre after taking such a long break is not unlike a science fiction story itself.

Returning to her home world, the protagonist finds herself displaced as a citizen in a country she only vaguely recognizes. Undeterred, she resolves to integrate with this bizarre, new adaptation of her homeland. To begin assimilation she must start with something familiar which she can grasp onto.

For me that familiar reentry into science fiction comes via horror movies.

I would go so far as to argue that much of what has shaped the genre of science fiction in film stems from the cinematic roots science fiction and horror share. It has not been uncommon over the last decade to see directors, producers and actors of horror dabble in science fiction, or vice versa. As such, upon realizing that director Roger Corman had released another film last month I put it on my short-list of entertainment priorities.

The Raven hit theaters last month not so much to terrify audiences, but to reel them in with a star studded cast and a light, Edgar Allan Poe-flavored, fantasy comedy story. Starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Hazel Court, the film is very loosely based around the narrative Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name. By this I mean that Hazel Court is, of course, the sassy and longed-for Lenore, and Vincent Price quotes segments of the poem. There the similarities end.

The plot itself is a hilarious melodrama featuring magicians, “diabolical mind control,” and betrayal. Doctor Erasmus Craven (Vincent Price), the overly polite son of the late Grand Master of the Brotherhood of Magicians, is interrupted one evening by a raven tapping at his window. The raven, it turns out, is actually another magician named Doctor Bedlo (Peter Lorre), who was put under a spell by the current Grand Master, Doctor Scarabus (Boris Karloff). Initially Dr. Craven is hesitant to accompany the vengeful Dr. Bedlo back to Dr. Scarabus’ castle, but after Dr. Bedlo tells Dr. Craven that his dearly departed wife, Lenore (Hazel Court), may be stuck at the Grand Master’s castle as an enslaved spirit, both magicians set out to confront him. They are accompanied by Dr. Craven’s daughter, Estelle (Olive Dora Sturgess), and Dr. Bedlo’s son, Rexford (Jack Nicholson).

Greeted by a surprisingly hospitable Dr. Scarabus, Dr. Craven, Rexford and Estelle are lulled into a false sense of security before being imprisoned in Dr. Scarabus’ dungeon. The treacherous Dr. Bedlo, who was promised power in exchange for luring Dr. Craven to him, is likewise thrown in the dungeon. The very much alive Lenore then appears to taunt Dr. Craven, confessing to having killed someone else and placing their body in the casket. After nearly escaping, Dr. Craven and Dr. Scarabus decide to resolve their conflict with a duel of magic. The winner absorbs the other’s power, causing the loser’s control of magic to be unreliable for the rest of their lives. A lengthy, whimsical battle replete with fun special effects ensues, but ultimately our heroes are victorious. Lenore futilely implores Dr. Craven to take her back, claiming ineffectively that she was under Dr. Scarabus’ mind control. As the castle burns in the background they return home, Dr. Craven now all the more powerful, Estelle and Rexford are besotted with one another, and Dr. Bedlo is stuck as a raven indefinitely. The immoral Dr. Scarabus and Lenore survive as well, but are now without a home or magic. 

While still best known for his role as the monster in the Universal Pictures Frankenstein movies (or rather, his pre-Hayes Code work in general), Karloff gave a very solid performance that was both charming with a sinister undercurrent. I was very much convinced that his character, Dr. Scarabus, was a charismatic master manipulator who could realistically have backstabbed and coerced his way up the ranks of the Brotherhood of Magic. Where as Vincent Price does most of his acting through facial expressions and Peter Lorre’s strengths lie in applying various degrees of bluster, slight effeminateness, and weaselly demeanor to his roles, Boris Karloff performs his lines with smooth rehearsed precision.

Although the draw for The Raven is obviously its cast and its versatile director, the real reason I would encourage anyone to pay the $0.86 for admission is the odd combination of The Raven’s quirky setting and comical deadpan dialogue. Not since he was in Frankenstein has Boris Karloff acted in such an strangely pieced-together beast. It was billed as a horror movie with the tag line, “The Macabre Masterpiece of Terror,” it thanks to what was undoubtedly ad libbing by Price and Lorre, it unquestionably took on an awkward but funny tone.

No one is going to fault The Raven for being a boring movie, but will it be remembered as a well developed story? Probably not. Will it be remembered for its odd fantasy/comedy/horror angle? Definitely. A spontaneous and fun fantasy/drama in the guise of a horror movie, The Raven was well worth the ticket price even if it was a rather silly way to begin the process of reacquainting myself with my long lost science fiction. 

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 15, 1963] New Kid in Town (April 1963 Worlds of Tomorrow)

[If you’re in in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Victoria Silverwolf

Frederik Pohl must not be busy enough editing Galaxy and If.  Now he’s added another bimonthly magazine to his roster with the appearance of the first issue of Worlds of Tomorrow.

There hasn’t been a new American science fiction magazine on the newsstands for about five years, and none of them survived for very long.  (Anybody remember Saturn?) It’s been more than a decade since any magazine of SF which is still published in the USA was launched.  If and Fantastic are the most recent success stories. 
Given the death of so many periodicals in the field over the last ten years, the publishers are taking a risk.  Let’s take a look at the contents of the premiere issue and see if the quality of fiction justifies their hazardous venture.

People of the Sea (Part 1 of 2) , by Arthur C. Clarke

The magazine begins in fine form with a new novel from this talented British writer.  Set in the middle of the next century, it follows the adventures of a teenage boy as he stows away on a hovercraft bound for Australia.  Barely surviving the sinking of the vessel, he winds up on a small island near the Great Barrier Reef.  He encounters scientists who can communicate with dolphins, and plays an important part in their project.  The first section of this installment is full of fast-paced action.  The second section is mostly a travelogue of this part of the Pacific.  However, the reader’s interest never fades, because the author’s descriptions are always fascinating.  Clarke obviously knows and loves the Great Barrier Reef, and he writes about the sea as compellingly as he does about space.  One minor quibble is the fact that this novel seems intended for younger readers.  Much like Heinlein’s so-called juveniles, it is likely that adults will enjoy it as well.  Four stars.

X Marks the Pedwalk, by Fritz Leiber
This is a brief account of a future war between pedestrians and drivers.  The government steps in to keep the level of violence within certain limits.  Although Leiber is incapable of writing a bad sentence, it’s a very minor piece.  Two stars.

The Long Remembered Thunder, by Keith Laumer

A government agent investigates a mysterious transmission coming from a small town.  It involves a recluse who is nearly a century old and the woman he loved at the turn of the century.  The story begins as a realistic tale of intrigue, but eventually becomes an account of a vast conflict across dimensions.  It held my interest, but the climax was too fantastic for my taste.  Three stars.

Where the Phph Pebbles Go, by Miriam Allen deFord

Aliens play a game of throwing rocks.  Some of the stones escape their low-gravity planet and wind up landing on other worlds.  They realize this might draw unwanted attention, so they come up with a plan to eliminate the problem.  This comic tale is inoffensive, but not very amusing.  The author tosses in several silly words like the one in the title.  Two stars.

Third Planet, by Murray Leinster

This story takes place in a future where humanity easily travels hundreds of light-years, but the Cold War is still going on.  The Communists have the upper hand, as they are willing to start a nuclear war if the West ever refuses to give in to their demands.  While this is happening, a starship discovers a planet much like Earth, but with no life.  The reason for this involves a device located on another planet in the same solar system.  The alien technology threatens to destroy the Earth, but also promises to save it.  The author’s treatment of the Reds is heavy-handed, depicting them as gleefully plotting to destroy the opposing side without mercy.  There’s mention of an implausible scientific law which states that all solar systems must be similar to our own.  Two stars.

Heavenly Gifts, by Aaron L. Kolom

A housekeeper who works at a facility where scientists are attempting to contact other planets uses their equipment to broadcast what she thinks of as prayers.  She asks for simple things like an electric blanket, and they miraculously appear from nowhere.  Meanwhile, radioactive materials begin to disappear from Earth, leading to panic in the governments of the USA and the USSR.  This is a trivial comedy with a weak ending.  Two stars.

The Girl in His Mind, by Robert F. Young

A man purchases the services of an alien (but very humanoid) prostitute.  She has a human girl living in her home, purchased as a slave when the child lost her parents.  After this opening scene, the reader enters the bizarre landscape of the man’s mind, where he wanders through scenes of his past while pursuing a woman whom he believes murdered her father.  Meanwhile, three women from his childhood chase him.  The transition between these sections of the story is disorienting, but we eventually find out what’s really happening.  Like many stories from this author, the plot involves a man’s obsessive love for a woman.  It’s strange enough to hold one’s attention, but may be too Freudian for many.  Three stars.

To See the Invisible Man, by Robert Silverberg

We end on a high note with this excellent story from a prolific author whose work has not often been distinguished.  He creates a future society where a man guilty of the crime of being cold-hearted is sentenced to a year of symbolic invisibility.  A mark on his forehead warns all who see him that they must act as if he does not exist.  The author goes into a great deal of detail as to how this strange form of punishment might work.  At first, the man enjoys the ability to commit petty crimes without consequences.  He soon discovers the many disadvantages of invisibility, from the fact that he will not receive medical treatment, even if he is dying, to the intense loneliness of complete isolation.  At the end of the story, he learns to reach out to his fellow human beings, even at great cost.  This is a unique and compelling tale, with an important point to make.  Five stars.

If the editor continues to publish stories of the quality of People of the Sea and To See the Invisible Man (while filling up pages with fair-to-middling work), we may still be reading Worlds of Tomorrow when we are living in the world of tomorrow.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 12, 1963] HOPE SPRINGS (the March 1963 Amazing)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by John Boston

Well, hope springs eternal, and a good thing for certain SF magazines that it does.  The March Amazing has a rather distinguished table of contents: a novelet by John Wyndham and short stories by veterans Edmond Hamilton, H.B. Fyfe, and Robert F. Young and up-and-comers like J.G. Ballard, rising star Roger Zelazny, and variable star Keith Laumer. 

But we must temper optimism with realism: since Amazing is about the lowest-paying of the SF magazines, top-market names are probably here with things they couldn’t sell elsewhere.  So, prepared for all eventualities . . .

Edmond Hamilton’s Babylon in the Sky is a simple morality tale for SF fans.  Young Hobie lives in the sticks, where there are no jobs and people survive on doles and make-work, seldom make it past the eighth grade, and resent eggheads and know-it-alls—especially the decadent ones in the orbiting cities that Hobie’s preacher father rails against.  So Hobie runs away to the spaceport and stows away to one of these satellites, planning to sabotage the power plant and blow it up.  He doesn’t get far, and the sane and reasonable people there explain to him that they are not living sybaritic lives but working hard at research to benefit everyone.  We didn’t rob you, Hobie, the home folks did.  So they’re just sending him back, but Hobie, you’re a smart kid, if you go to the Educational Foundation near the spaceport, they’ll take care of you, and then maybe you can join up and come back here.  Hobie buys it.  Well, yeah, that’s more or less my life plan too if I can swing it, but I don’t read SF for homilies even if I agree with them.  It’s slickly enough done, but two stars for unearned propagandizing.

Speaking of slick, here’s Robert F. Young again.  When last he appeared, I said he “knows so many ways of being entirely too cute,” and boy howdy was I right.  In Jupiter Found, the protagonist’s brain, after an auto accident did for the rest of him, is installed in a giant mining and construction machine on Jupiter—a M.A.N. (Mining, Adapting Neo-Processor), model 8M.  He is shortly joined by model EV, who is of course a W.O.M.A.N. (Weld Operating, Mining, Adapting Neo-Processor).  They work for Gorman and Oder Developments, which has strictly forbidden them to process an ore called edenite, and they’ve also been warned to beware of a guy who has been cast out of a high place in the company and is now in business for himself, who will be sending down a mining unit called a Boa 9.  By this point in Young’s arch and labored rendition of the Old Testament I was thinking longingly of some of the more bloodthirsty passages in Leviticus.  One star.  What kind of rubes does this guy think he’s writing for?  Even Hobie wouldn’t go for this.

John Wyndham is best known for his chilly novels of the 1950s, from The Day of the Triffids to The Midwich Cuckoos, less so for Trouble with Lichen (1960), intelligent and readable but much less incisive than its predecessors.  His novelet Chocky is unfortunately in the latter vein.  The protagonist’s kid seems to be having conversations with an imaginary friend, except anybody who’s read a lick of SF will know immediately that he’s communicating with an extraterrestrial intelligence.  So we get the worried parent routine, and the marital tension, and the visit from the child psychologist friend, the rather subdued climax, and then . . . some explanation and it all goes away.  The whole 38 pages worth is so low-key as to be near-comatose.  One wonders if Wyndham is taking some of the new tranquilizers that psychiatrists hand out these days.  It’s benignly readable but there’s not much to it.  Two stars.

Roger Zelazny’s short The Borgia Hand is livelier but insubstantial, about a young man with a withered hand in generic fairy-tale country who chases down a pedlar (sic) reputed to traffic in body parts.  Yeah, he’s got a hand in stock, and here’s a quick gimmick and it’s over.  Two stars.  Snappy writing is nice, but as one noted critic put it, where’s the bloody horse?

But relief is in sight.  There’s nothing especially original about Keith Laumer’s The Walls: future overpopulated Earth with people living regimented lives stuffed into tiny spaces in big apartment complexes; protagonist’s husband is on the make and brings home a Wall, i.e. a TV screen that covers one wall.  You can turn it off but then you’ve got a wall-sized mirror.  Next, another Wall; then another; then . . . .  The story is the wife’s psychological disintegration stuck all day with a choice of all-directions TV-land or a hall of mirrors, but—as with It Could Be Anything from a couple of issues ago—Laumer’s knack for concrete visual detail brings it off and keeps it from being a print version of one of those lame Twilight Zone episodes which end with somebody going crazy.  Four stars.

J.G. Ballard is back with The Sherrington Theory, his most minor effort yet in the US magazines.  Protagonist and wife are at a beach cafeteria terrace, watching the remarkably dense beach crowd (no sand visible), and intermittently discussing the theory of Dr. Sherrington that the imminent launch of a new communications satellite will trigger certain “innate releasing mechanisms” in humans, which of course it does.  This one frankly reads a bit like a self-parody; in fact, the idea is a sort of domesticated knock-off of the one he developed much more effectively in The Drowned World.  Of course it’s written with Ballard’s usual flair (or mannerisms, as you prefer), e.g.: “. . . this mass of articulated albino flesh sprawled on the beach resembled the diseased anatomical fantasy of a surrealist painter.” The situation is more skillfully developed and built up than in Zelazny’s story, bringing it up, barely, to three stars.

The stars hide their faces as we come to H.B. Fyfe’s Star Chamber, a shameless Bat Durston in which a parody of a despicable criminal has crash-landed on an uninhabited planet and a lone lawman has come after him.  It reads like something Fyfe couldn’t sell to Planet Stories until the mildly clever end, which reads like something he couldn’t sell to Analog because they were overstocked on Christopher Anvil.  Two stars, barely.

And here is earnest Ben Bova with Intelligent Life in Space.  Haven’t we seen this already?  Not quite—this time he’s going on about the definition of intelligence, touching base at ants, dolphins, and chimpanzees, and suggesting that we’re not likely to find it in the Solar System but likely will do so farther away.  This one is a more pedestrian rehash of familiar material than most of his earlier articles.  Two stars.

So: one very good story, one amusing one, and downhill—pretty far downhill—from there.  Hope may spring eternal, but one takes what one can get.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 9, 1963] Do something about the weather… (The State of the Art in Computing)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Ida Moya

Let me take you on a little trip, one that starts in wartime and that ends with a peacetime enterprise that increasingly affects all of our lives.  One that I’ve had the good fortune to participate in (or, at least, on the edges of).  Who knows — you might end up an integral part of it, too!

I’ll start with an important but little-known woman scientist, one who was not only representative of the kind of service women have provided for decades, but who was also pivotal in my development.

Charlotte Serber was the first librarian at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. She went to live there with her husband, Robert Serber, at the start of the secret project. Bob was a student of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppie, as we all called him, was the charismatic (and later tortured) leader of what we now call the Manhattan Project.

The Library at Los Alamos

I worked for Charlotte, who was the only female section leader of Project Y on The Hill. Like me, she didn’t start as a professional librarian. In fact, one of Charlotte’s first tasks was to organize the maids. Charlotte taught me a lot, and we all worked together to organize the printed materials, borrow scientific books from universities, subscribe to physics journals from all over the world, and endlessly mimeograph things. I didn’t think my hands would ever NOT be blue from that messy ink. We had the only mimeograph machine for a long time, so it seemed everybody would come by to make some copies and share the latest news.

Charlotte and Bob left Los Alamos after the bomb was dropped, but I stayed on. There were a lot of Hispanos like me on The Hill; my cousins and second cousins and of course my husband and family were living and working there too. When my husband moved us to The Hill and started working as a carpenter, they put out a call for wives who could type. That I can type and had the courage to answer that call saved me from what was seemingly my destiny on The Hill — being a maid, or at best, a store clerk. I’m grateful for Charlotte taking a chance on my younger self and letting this Hispano work more seriously on The Hill.

That was then, when computers were people or room-sized tube-packed monstrosities.  The world now is crazier than science fiction dreamed back then, in the middle of which my work has situated me. In fact, my unique position enables me to do research using the resources of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, our sister institution the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the libraries of our managing institution, the University of California. This puts me ahead of the curve in knowing about (and working on the computers involved with) cutting edge developments in science.

Take the weather, for example. The Traveler has recently written about the upcoming launch of the first Nimbus satellite, and the recent launches of three Tiros weather satellites. My interest piqued, I’ve lately been quizzing my colleagues in engineering about how weather prediction via satellite using computers actually works. Fair warning: I might tell you something that is classified, but I will try to keep the classified things secret.

Weather prediction via satellite does not just involve getting the object into space (a big task in itself); there is also a coordinated effort of redundant ground stations to collect the data sent from the satellites. Computers are far too huge and heavy to send into orbit, so the satellites transmit their findings to computers back on earth for further analysis. But what do these computers actually compute?

Predicting the weather has a long history, going back to Aristotle and before. In the modern age, Lewis Fry Richardson is considered the father of using computers to analyze the weather, based on his 1922 book, Weather prediction by numerical process. This book was written before transistorized or tube computers; he was thinking about men and women with electronic hand calculators like the Marchant we used before the IBM computers came to Los Alamos. One much cited quote is his thought experiment describing a “weather theatre” or “forecast factory”:

“After so much hard reasoning, may one play with fantasy? Imagine a large hall like a theatre, except that the circles and galleries go right round through the space usually occupied by the stage. The walls of this chamber are painted to form a map of the globe. The ceiling represents the north polar regions, England is in the gallery, the tropics in the upper circle, Australia on the dress circle and the Antarctic in the pit. A myriad computers are at work upon the weather of the part of the map where each sits, but each computer attends only to one equation or part of an equation.”

I love this little sketch; I’m not sure where it came from. It’s not in Richardson’s book, but it fits his vision. In his thought experiment, Richardson imagined 64,000 human computers, all calculating simultaneous equations for their part of the globe, their pace synchronized by the conductor in the center. Runners would go down the aisles collecting results from sectors where the conductor would shine a light, and take them to a central office to be collated. A crazy idea. Until now, when we have transistorized computers fast enough to potentially run and collate 64,000 calculations at a time.
These new computers, aside from calculating nuclear explosions (a thing we at Los Alamos are very familiar with) are being used for weather prediction. In the UK, a Ferranti Mercury computer, known as “Meteor,” was used starting January 1959 at the Met Office to do Numerical Weather Prediction. The Meteor is a vacuum tube computer. Those panels along the right are not just a fancy wall; those are the sides of the frames of the computer! Unlike the women in the bank HSBC wearing spike heels, these computer operators seem to be allowed more practical footwear.

A transistorized English Electric KDF9 “Comet” is slated to replace this Mercury in another year or so. This is the same type of computer used by HSBC to perform banking operations. All of that blue and silver receding into the background of this photo is the computer. The typewriter-looking thing on the right is used to get results from the computer, while the U-shaped things are high speed paper tape readers used to feed data into the computer. Getting information in and out of these things is turning out to be a limiting factor to their speed. That punched paper tape has to be rewound by hand; a careful task that must be done properly or it will kink and break. The tape is impossible to repair it once it has broken, so there is a lot of cursing and re-punching of tapes when that happens. Also, the tape moves so fast it is like a razor blade, giving the mother of all paper cuts to the incautious.

In America, weather prediction is being done at the Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit (consisting of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Weather Bureau. The JNWPU is on their 4th IBM computer, having already used the IBM 701 and IBM 704 (both vacuum tube computers). They then used an IBM 1401 transistorized computer with a high speed paper tape reader. The national weather service then got one of the very first IBM 7090 computers. Each of these computers was about 6 times faster than the one before.
The photographs sent from the Tiros satellites is sent in triplicate to Command and Data Acquisition stations in DC and Hawaii. There humans use physical tools, drafting tables and scales, to hand plot the movement of the clouds onto maps. These coordinates are then sent to the NASA Computing Center and the U. S. Weather Bureau, where they are then fed into the computers (using that terrible punched paper tape). The computers use complex mathematical formulas to predict the future movement of the clouds and therefore predict the weather. The output is automatically printed on wide paper by a typewriter-like thing, a Friden Flexowriter. This whole process is managed by teams of technicians, men and women. When it is ready, the printout goes to engineers who study the results.

As you can see, the glory is really all on the ground.  To all of you who want to be astronauts, perhaps you might think about the many people who support their flight…and aspire to be one of them instead.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 6, 1963] Up and Coming (March 1963 IF Science Fiction)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Gideon Marcus

I’ve complained from time to time about the general decline in quality of some of the science fiction digests, namely Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction.  On the other hand, Cele Goldsmith’s mags, Amazing and (particularly) Fantastic have become pretty good reads.  And IF is often a delight.  Witness the March 1963 issue.  Not only does it have a lot of excellent stories, but the new color titles and illustrations really pop. 

Speaking of which, Virgil Finlay provides most of the pictures in this issue.  While I think he’s one of the most talented artists in our genre (I gave him a Galactic Star last year), I find his subject matter increasingly dated.  His pieces would better fit a magazine from the 40s. 

The Time-Tombs, by J. G. Ballard

The Egyptians entombed their notables such that they might enjoy a rich and comfortable afterlife.  But what if they had preserved them with the intention of eventual resurrection?  Ballard’s tale features a trio of grave robbers — pirate-archaeologists who plunder tombs containing the digitized remains of the long-dead.  Each has their own motivations: scholarship, profit, romance.  Taken too far, they lead to ruin.  Ballard’s tales tend to be heavy, even plodding.  There’s no question but that he’s popular these days, and his stuff is worth reading.  It’s just not strictly to my taste.  Three stars.

Saline Solution, by Keith Laumer

My correspondence with the Laumer clan (currently based in London) continues, but I’d enjoy his work regardless.  The cleverly titled Saline Solution is one of my favorite stories involving Retief, that incredibly talented yet much put-upon diplomat/superspy of the future.  It’s also the first one that takes place in the Solar System.  Four stars.

The Abandoned of Yan, by Donald F. Daley

Daley’s first publication stars an abandoned wife on an autocratic world.  It’s a bleak situation in a dark setting, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it when I was done.  But it stayed with me, and that’s worth something.  Three stars.

The Wishbooks, by Theodore Sturgeon

Sturgeon’s non-fiction piece this month is essentially a better, shorter version of the article on technical ads in last month’s Analog.  Three stars.

The Ten-Point Princess, by J. T. McIntosh

A conquered people deprived of their weapons still find clever ways to resist.  When a Terran soldier kills his superior over an indigenous girl, is it justifiable homicide?  Self defense?  Or something much more subtle?  It’s up to an Earthborn military lawyer to find the truth.  This is a script right out of Perry Mason with lots of twists and turns.  Four stars (and I could see someone giving it five).

Countdown, by Julian F. Grow

Someday, our nuclear arsenals will be refined to computerized precision and hair-trigger accuracy.  When that happens, will our humanity be sufficient to stop worldwide destruction?  The beauty of this story is in the presentation.  I read it twice.  Four stars.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 3 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

At last, Heinlein’s serial has come to an end.  It only took five months and three issues.  Sadly, the plot was saved for the last third, and it wasn’t worth waiting for.  Turns out Poddy’s trip to Venus wasn’t a pleasure cruise, but rather served as cover for her Uncle’s ambassadorial trip.  Two unnamed factions don’t want this trip to happen, and they pull out all the stops to foil his mission.  Overwritten, somewhat unpleasant, and just not particularly interesting.  Two stars for this segment, and 2.67 for the aggregate. 

Between this and Stranger in a Strange Land, has the master stumbled?

I, Executioner, by Ted White and Terry Carr

Last up is a haunting piece involving a mass…but intensely personal execution.  Justice in the future combines juror and deathdealer into one role.  Excellent development in this short tale.  Four stars (and, again, perhaps worthy of five).

That comes out to eight pieces, one of which is kind of a dud, and four of which are fine.  I know I plan to keep my subscription up.

Speaking of subscriptions, drift your eyes to the upper right of this article and note that KGJ is now broadcasting.  Playing the latest pop, rock, mo-town, country, jazz, folk, and surf — and with not a single advertisement — I expect it to be a big hit from Coast to Coast… and beyond.  Tune in!

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Your ballot should have arrived by now…]

[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Victoria Lucas

Now that the Traveler has treated you to a review of the first four episodes of the new season of Twilight Zone, I thought you would like to hear about the secret fifth episode that aired last month, but not on Friday at 9:00 PM…

Most evenings I’m out, doing little theatre, or in, typing to supplement my income, but on January 15th, I had just finished a thesis and the drama season hadn’t recovered from the holidays yet, so I twiddled the dial on the television and there he was, “Old Blue Eyes.” Also known as Jack Benny, a fellow who has been on TV for more than a decade. 

A brief intro from the University of Arizona’s biography stacks: this graduate of vaudeville, like my mother, found his way onto radio in the 1930s and (unlike my mother), then into television.  Born Benny Kubelski and trained on the violin since age 6, Benny pretends to play badly, won’t reveal his age (which is perpetually 39), and stares his way through the fourth wall on every show.

I have a feeling that SFF-lovers likely know Rod Serling and his “Twilight Zone” better than they know Benny and his menage of characters that include his wife, Mary Livingston, and vaudeville comedian Eddie Anderson (“Rochester”).  Of course, I could be wrong.  I am discovering that fans are a diverse lot.

Anyway, the plot of the January 15 show involves Benny pretending to try to hire Serling to add some culture to his uncouth “writers,” one of whom Serling says “can type with his toes.” Although they don’t know about Twilight Zone, they do know about “Wreck of a Heavyweight” (Requiem for a Heavyweight, which earned Serling his second Emmy).

When (predictably) Serling emerges disheveled a second time from the writers’ den, he and Benny decide to call it quits on the idea of making Benny’s scripts better, and he and Serling part friends.  However, Benny isn’t satisfied with Serling’s explanation of what the “Twilight Zone” is.  After Serling leaves and as Benny gets ready to leave his office, he opines to himself, “I can’t get over it.  An intelligent fella like him trying to tell me that there’s a Twilight Zone, a thing, a place!  Oh, well.”

As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme.  Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone.  Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell.  Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny.  Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.

Benny accuses Serling, Rochester, and tenor Dennis Day from his show of gaslighting him (credit to Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film Gaslight).  But Serling has the last word within the teleplay: “Anybody who claims to be 39 as long as he has is a permanent resident of the Twilight Zone.”

I love it.  I hope you get a chance to see this episode in the summer reruns .  Benny is silly, funny, and one of the architects of my sense of humor, which runs to the dry and ironic.  I listened to his show when I was a little girl playing in the dirt with my two-inch-long toy cars a few feet from my father’s workshop, where he always had the radio comedy shows playing on the long summer nights: Benny, Edgar Bergen (whom I saw in Tucson!), Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, Fred Allen, Duffy’s Tavern.  They will always make me laugh.  Unlike Twilight Zone, which I also watch — but not for the humor.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]

[February 2, 1963] Whither the Prodigal Son?  (Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 1-4)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Gideon Marcus

Every year, the TV networks play musical chairs with their shows.  Some programs get canceled.  Others get revived.  Popular shows might get more attractive time slots; others might get demoted.  Last year, it looked as if The Twilight Zone had gone the way of the dodo after its third season.  In its place came the sitcom Fair Exchange (which I haven’t watched). 

Now, creator Rod Serling’s baby is back, albeit in a different form.  Now simply dubbed Twilight Zone, the show is an hour long, has a snazzy new title sequence, and it’s clear that Serling is no longer on set for shooting.  Rather than appearing as an integral part of each episode, as he did in Seasons 2 and 3, he instead appears to be pre- or post-filming his monologues elsewhere.

How did the first crop of Twilight Zone fare?  Let’s find out:

In His Image, by Charles Beaumont

A young man is plagued by blackouts and half-memories of murder.  When he takes his fiancee (whom he has known for all of four days) back to his home town that he left just a week before, he finds twenty years appear to have elapsed — and his family has no trace of existence at all.  Who is this man?  Where did he come from?  And what is the cause of his manic episodes?

George Grizzard gives a fine turn as the afflicted protagonist in a story that has more than one reveal.  While the pacing is a little slow, the course of the characters and the nuanced storytelling keeps it going for the expanded length of the show.  Four stars.

The Thirty Fathom Grave, by Rod Serling

Far less successful is this modern-day ghost tale set in the Pacific.  An American destroyer runs across a stranded submarine from which ominous tapping sounds emanate.  Simultaneously, the ship’s Chief Boatswain, a survivor of a sub drowning twenty years prior, feels he is being drawn to the wreck.  Turns out, of course, that the wreck is the Bos’n’s sub.

What might have been an effective half-hour show is padded to oblivion.  We get treated to the same exploratory diving sequence three times as a man in a tank plods on the side of a mock-up of an old sub.  Bad stuff.  One star.

Valley of the Shadow, by Charles Beaumont

A journalist stops for gas on the way to Albuquerque and discovers a reclusive town filled with wondrous technologies and tight-lipped citizens.  When he tries to leave, he finds himself a prisoner — possessing too much knowledge of the place’s secrets to ever rejoin civilization.

This is another show with far too much padding, compounded with a truly unlikable main character, though the premise is mildly interesting.  Two stars.

He’s Alive, by Rod Serling

The last of the quartet features a young Neo-Nazi, an American Brownshirt with a hatred of the non-White but a paradoxical fondness for an old Holocaust survivor.  This would-be dictator’s struggle toward prominence is directed by a mysterious man, his face shadowed.  This mentor speaks in a German accent, writhing his hands expressively, urging his protégé more deeply into depravity.  CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS MYSTERY MAN IS?

He’s Alive goes on too long.  Perhaps an hour too long.  One star.

So how does this new, longer format hold up?  Conceivably, a full hour allows more time allows for character and plot development.  On the other hand, it is highly unkind to the one-trick shows, forcing the lead-up to the payoff to be intolerably long.  Thus far, the score is 1-3.  The Young Traveler has already begged off watching this season, and I am tempted to follow.  We shall see…

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]

[January 30, 1963] Escape Velocity (February 1963 Analog)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]

by Gideon Marcus

The latter half of January was filled with fanac (Fan Activity), and oh what a joy it was.  The third weekend in January, the Journey once again attended ConDor, San Diego’s SFF convention.  And once again, we were guests, presenting on the state of current science fiction both Saturday and Sunday.  It was a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones.  ConDor is always a fun event.

The highlight of that weekend, however, was a Saturday night trip up to San Juan Capistrano to watch Dick Dale and his Del-Tones perform.  If you’re not familiar with the King of the Surf Guitar by now, he is easily the most exciting instrumental musician these days.  He puts on a hell of a show.

If the January’s fanac was superlative, the February 1963 Analog, though beautifully illustrated by Schoenherr, was anything but.  Not that the stories were bad, mind you.  They just all had some significant flaw that kept them from being truly good. 

Code Three, by Rick Raphael

For those not in the know, “Code Three” is police-speak for a high speed chase.  It’s an appropriate title for this Highway Patrol tale of the future, when North America is criss-crossed by mile-wide superhighways whose cars zoom at speeds of up to 400 miles per hour.  Raphael writes in a lovingly technical fashion that is oddly compelling but gives short shrift to its three human characters, who are so much cardboard.  I don’t find Raphael’s futuristic freeways particularly plausible, either, but they are fun to read about.  Three stars.

Hilifter, by Gordon R. Dickson

This is five sixths of a great yarn about a futuristic spaceship hijacker, who relies on daring and ingenuity to pull off a caper against all odds.  Dickson portrays his protagonist deftly and with subtlety, but the ending… hoo boy.  I’m not sure if Dickson wrote the expositional fatuity for editor Campbell, of if the editor sliced the original ending to bits, but it is the mustache on the Mona Lisa.  Three stars.

Something Will Turn Up, by David Mason

Stories with a lot of Beat jargon can often fall flat, but Mason does a good job of writing a poet/TV-repairman who pits forces against a hexed idiot box.  Cute.  Three stars.

“The Sound of Gasping”, by Mel Sturgis

If you read (as I do) Aviation Week, then you’re familiar with technical advertising.  It’s made with the slick standards of any Madison Avenue product, but the subject matter is abstruse engineering.  Sturgis’ piece is presumably on the growth and importance of technical advertising, as well as his experiences observing same at the recent convention, WestCon.  But if you get anything out of this article, you’re doing better than me.  One star. 

(The title is an obscure reference indeed — a riff on Isaac Asimov’s article The Sound of Panting in the June 1955 Astounding (that being this magazine’s name before it became Analog).  The article was on the difficulty of keeping up with current technical literature.)

The Topper, by Arthur Porges

Cockroaches made sentient by radiation?  It must be a joke… right?  Well, probably.  A bit of improbable fluff, just long enough to entertain rather than annoy.  Three stars.

With No Strings Attached, by David Gordon (Randall Garrett)

A fellow markets an amazing new power source as a battery (it isn’t, and you should know what it is right off) to prevent poaching and ensure exclusivity.  I’ve been around long enough to recognize most of Randy Garrett’s pseudonyms, so I cracked into “David Gordon’s” latest with trepidation.  Turns out Strings isn’t bad (just devoid of women, like most Garrett stories).  Three stars.

Space Viking (Part 4 of 4), by H. Beam Piper

This last installment of Piper’s latest is arguably the best of the bunch.  It contains the payoff of Prince Trask of Tanith’s quest to forge a civilized empire out of the wreckage of the Old Federation.  Though Trask started as a Space Viking, plundering half-civilized planets, by the end of the book, his league of planets has surpassed the feudal Sword Worlds whence he came and is a local power center.

As I’ve stated in prior reviews, the problem with Viking is its sketchiness.  We hardly get to know any of the characters, interesting episodes are glossed over, giant spans of time are leaped without transition.  This is an epic series of books compressed to a novel-length outline.  I hope Piper gets a chance to expand on this genuinely interesting saga at some point, or perhaps open up his universe to collaborative efforts (has that ever been done before?)

As is, this is a four-star installment of a 3.25-star book.

Now it’s time for the best part of the month, where we get to add up the numbers!  Galaxy is a clear winner at 3.3 stars, followed by F&SF with 3.1.  All of the other mags fell below the 3-star mark with Fantastic at 2.9, Analog at 2.8, Amazing at 2.4, and New Worlds at 2.3. 

But all of the magazines, with the exception of New Worlds, had at least one four-star story.  In fact, if you collected all the four and five-star stories, you could almost fill two magazines — twice as much material as last month. 

Finally, women wrote 3.5 of 37 fiction pieces.  Not a good showing, but again — better than last month.

Speaking of showings, next week I’ll let you know if The Twilight Zone is worth watching in its new format (hint: so far, not so good…)

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]