A Disturbing Sign (10-27-1958)

Uh oh.

I received my December 1958 Galaxy magazine in the mail yesterday.  I have a very set pattern when I read my Galaxies: I start with the editorial, move on to Willy Ley’s science column (“For Your Information”), finish any serial novels in process, and then enjoy the rest.

I was in for a shock right out of the gate, however.  Per Mr. Gold (the editor), Galaxy is going to a bi-monthly format.  Instead of 142 pages for 35 cents every month, Galaxy will be a 192-page magazine coming out every other month for 50 cents.

Now, Mr. Gold puts as positive a spin on it as he can.  He describes the change in schedule as being done to accommodate his desire to offer a bigger magazine rather than reflecting an inability to publish on a monthly schedule. 

“We can fill 196 pages every other month with really good science fiction.  We can’t do it on a monthly schedule.  Nobody can.

Transposed western and detective stories cosmetically disguised as science fiction, oversexed Playboy rejections, witless space wars, extraterrestrial spies, post-atomic societies, biblical greats who turn out to be aliens or visitors from the future, cave-dweller Ugh who discovers how to chip flint or make fire or meets the gods with six arms or ray-flannel buckskins, the road or valley that proves to be a time fault into the future or past, good guy and bad guy marooned on an asteroid, psionics that have long psickened us with their psenseless psamenesses — there are enough of these literary cinders to fill any number of slagpile magazines.  But Galaxy quality?  Enough for 196 packed pages every two months is all we dare hope for, all we can safely promise.”

I wish Mr. Gold would tell us how he really feels about his competitors.

In sum, to hear Mr. Gold tell it, he just can’t get enough good stories.  I have a nagging suspicion that the truth is he is getting hit by the same economic pinch as his competitors, perhaps the continuing fallout from the demise of the American News Company, last year’s event that disrupted magazine distribution nationwide and effectively killed the last of the pulps.  This is borne out by a rumor I have heard from a reliable source that Galaxy is cutting its pay in half: from three cents per word to just one-and-a-half cents per word.  No wonder Mr. Gold expects he will have trouble filling issues!

Interestingly enough, Mr. Gold has also solicited a new round of suggestions from his readers for changes in the magazine’s format.  He is interested in knowing whether we want to keep serial novels or go to a mostly short story contents page.  He also wants to know if we want a letters column (something we strongly rejected eight years ago, and which I would encourage us all to do again). 

Mr. Gold even wants to know how we feel about Mr. Ley’s monthly (now bi-monthly) science column.  I don’t know about you, but Willy Ley, that great German rocket-designing expatriate turned science popularizer is the reason I started subscribing to Galaxy in the first place.  His readable style and interesting topics are well worth picking up back issues for.  I think Galaxy would do well to anthologize his articles as they do their fiction (and as I understand Asimov is doing/plans to do with his articles in Astounding/F&SF). 

I hope going to bi-monthly, and the accompanying floundering for a new magazine design, doesn’t mark the beginning of the end for Galaxy, and by extension, science fiction magazines as a whole.  I understand that we live in a world where science fiction has become fact, and that the headlines of our daily newspapers are nearly as thrilling as the contents pages of our digests.

But dreams are important, too.  We need to keep dreaming one, two or ten steps ahead of reality so that we have an incentive to progress and make the headlines.  To support these dreams, we have to buy these magazines and keep them going, or all we’ll have left is newspaper headlines, and in time, maybe not even those.

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

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