[April 20, 1962] Boot Camp (May 1962 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus

Science fiction magazines are not created equal.

Every editor brings her/his own slant to their magazine’s theme.  For instance, Cele Goldsmith strikes an old-fashioned chord, reviving classics from the Pulp Era in Amazing and Fantastic.  Fred Pohl keeps things reliable (if not exceptional) in Galaxy, but showcases new and innovative works in IF.  Before it went under, Fantastic Universe devoted much ink to flying saucer stories and articles.

And as you will soon see, Analog is preoccupied with psychic powers and pseudo-scientific quackery (a redundant phrase?).  Viz, the May 1962 issue:

Anything You Can Do! (Part 1 of 2), by Darrell T. Langart

As you might have guessed, Mr. “Langart”‘s name is really an anagram for Analog perennial, Randall Garrett (this is another way magazines are differentiated – they each have a stable of regular authors).  Generally, when Garrett uses a pseudonym, it means he’s got another piece in the magazine; more on that later.

Anything is a surprisingly (for Garrett) capable story about a single alien invader, and the man who is recruited and intensively trained to stop the extraterrestrial’s acts of violence and theft.  It’s the second time one of his stories has featured gifted identical twins, one of whom has a disability which turns out to be an asset (see The Foreign Hand-Tie.  It is also a story that very well could take place in the same universe as the recent “Ship Named MacGuire” series.  So far, it’s shaping up to be a good short novel.  Four stars.

The Next Logical Step, by Ben Bova

Recent author Ben Bova (who prefers to describe a genius as “a regular Galileo” rather than “a regular Einstein”) hasn’t turned in anything particularly impressive to date.  Step is about a military wargaming computer that delivers a full-sensory experience, one that almost inevitably depicts even small brushfire wars ending in global conflagration.  Simulated Mutually Assured Destruction.  Nice concept, but heavy handed and perfunctorily executed.  Two stars.

Nor Iron Bars a Cage…, by Johnathan Blake MacKenzie

I’m not sure that this piece of crime fiction, in which an American and British team of detectives track down a child molester, really belongs here.  It starts promisingly enough, but then just sort of degenerates into mediocrity, particularly the eight pages of psychological exposition at the end.  I also did not appreciate the lumping of child rapists and gay people – according to the recent eye-opening television special on homosexuals, The Rejected, perhaps as much as 40% of the population is queer to some degree, and all of them are human beings with a normal distribution of traits (negative and positive).  Two stars.

By the way, I’m pretty sure Mr. “MacKenzie” is Randall Garrett in disguise.  The story has his fingerprints on it, and he’s already appeared pseudonymously earlier in the issue.

The Fourth Law of Motion, by Dr. William O. Davis

Editor Campbell is always trying to prove that the “Dean Drive,” a purportedly reactionless engine that would overturn the laws of physics as we know them, is a legitimate invention.  To that end, he’s enlisted the aid of a Dr. Davis, the head of a Connecticut paper company.  At first, I dismissed the article as hot air, but I think it does make some interesting points (even if they probably don’t support the efficacy of Dean’s Drive).

Davis suggests that Newton’s famous equation, F=ma, needs to be modified to reflect that, when an object is accelerated, it doesn’t do so all at once.  The force pushes on the object’s nearest components first, and the impact then ripples along the object in a wave until the whole thing is in motion.  Basically, physical bodies can respond to forces “out of phase” with each other.  This is not a revolutionary concept – there’s even a name for it: “starting transient.” 

That this jerk or change in acceleration could have other effects is interesting, and I’d like to know more about them.  But my college training was in physics.  For the rest of you, I suspect this dry explication on the third derivative of position will be must-skip material.  Two stars.

Sight Gag, by Larry M. Harris

Mr. Harris is really Laurence M. Janifer, who is not only a regular at Analog, but frequently writes in collaboration with Mr. Garrett.  I’ve liked some of his stuff very much, but this gimmick story about a vengeful fellow who goes after a psionic G-Man reads like something out of the early 50s.  Three stars, since it’s decently told.  No more, because of the hoary format.

Look Before You Leap, by Donald E. Westlake

This one opens so well, with a terrified Air Force boot teleporting from a particularly harrowing episode of Basic Training and then, in equal fright, zapping right back.  He is the latest result (victim) of a controlled stress test conducted by a certain Colonel.  The officer’s goal is to sieve out the psionically gifted by monitoring the most difficult situation a human can face this side of the battlefield.

Sadly, by about halfway through, the story ends up twice as padded as it needs to be, and the compounding of indignity and torture upon the recruit in an attempt to make him duplicate his initial feat is both unpleasant and unrealistically shrugged off at the story’s end.  Two stars.

***

2.6 stars and a grinding slog.  I feel like I’ve just spent a week in Basic.  Well, there’s always next month…

9 thoughts on “[April 20, 1962] Boot Camp (May 1962 Analog)”

  1. “Oh, the Dean Machine, the Dean Machine,
    You put it right in a submarine,
    And it flies so high that it can’t be seen—
    The wonderful, wonderful Dean Machine! ”

    — Damon Knight

    1. You’d better be careful, or Harry Harrison might write just that story!

      The whole Dean Drive thing always reminded me of E.E. Smith’s “power bar” drive in Skylark of Space.  It was quite simple – an external force persuaded all the randomly-moving atoms in a piece of metal that they wanted to move all in the same direction instead of at random.

      I imagine every military and large commercial operation in the world perked up their ears when the Dean Drive was announced… but the fact that the military hasn’t dumped those troublesome rockets shows that if such a thing exists, it’s not practical to implement.

      1. Five or six years ago, two, maybe three, major companies went to Dean with very large checks for the purchase of a working model and rights to the device. He wanted the money up front (and a Nobel!) before he would give them a demonstration. To me, that screams, “Scam!” and it must have to the company representatives, too, since they all walked away without seeing the thing in action.

  2. I don’t usually like to read only part of a serial, so I skipped “Anything You Can Do!” for now.  I also didn’t bother with the science article, which would be over my head.

    (But I enjoyed the one page description of the critter on the cover.  On the other hand, is this “Analog” or “National Geographic”?)

    “The Next Logical Step” was a one punchline story, if a rather grim one.  At least it was short.

    “Nor Iron Bars a Cage . . .” was pretty gruesome and unpleasant to read at the start.  The middle wasn’t bad, as a straight crime story; the British cop was enjoyable.  But the end turned into a long lecture on what sure sounds like the sort of Dianetics nonsense Campbell has been pushing.

    “Sight Gag” was another one idea story.  It was so-so.

    “Look Before You Leap” really dragged when the main character just thought and thought about his problem for paragraph after paragraph.

  3. Campbell used to provide lengthy critiques to writers, explaining in detail how he wanted their stories changed to his magazine’s format.  And he has been known to simply come up with an outline on his own and assign it to one of his authors.  Even Heinlein and Asimov rewrite to Campbell’s orders and seem to be okay with that.

    By various reports, Campbell is getting pretty strange in person.  I’m guessing what he’s printing is some distorted reflection of what’s inside his head nowadays.

    1. Campbell was always a contrarian but starting with Dianetics he started wearing it on his sleeve.  Did he really believe in the Hieronymus machine or the Dean Drive? He even beleaguered Robert Heinlein at dinner , early 50’s, with his own brand of Dianetics! Yet , eventually he seemed to be able to separate wish from fact without giving up being a contrarian!

      Ah well, critiques, you know Campbell has always been looking for a Galactic Empire novel powered by PSI, he never could get it out of van Vogt, but he might yet find someone who can!

  4. I liked this issue a little better than you did. Maybe Campbell’s absurd rant at “American Science” made you grumpy. It came close to making me grumpy. Fortunately, I was able to find some amusement in his completely unironic statement “Human observers, when told they’re wrong, tend to argue back in a nasty fashion…”

    The novel is shaping up nicely. I’m pretty sure I know what the big “surprise” is going to be as to which twin is which. Good start, but Garrett is more than capable of screwing up the final execution. We’ll see.

    I’m in general agreement with you on both the Bova and the Jannifer.

    I liked “Nor Iron Bars” rather more than you did. I understand and agree with your problems conflating homosexuality with child rapists. I’m not sure, though, that the author was doing that. The homosexual “zany” was in trouble largely for going after underage boys and being rather violent about it. It is a problematic depiction and could easily have been replaced by a different issue.

    I agree with your identification of the author, though. The rather unnecessary English super-detective is a strong clue, but for me the clincher was the lengthy discussion of the “geas”. That’s exactly the sort of pointless fact dredged up from the author’s store of medieval knowledge that Garrett is very prone to. Still, there was some good writing in this one, and combined with the first half of the serial, there may be some hope that he’s maturing as a writer.

    The fact article was unbearably dry. I have a degree in engineering and, even though it’s been decades since I put it to use, I remember enough to be able to follow the math as presented here. Alas, it was just so dull, I couldn’t do more than skim. And I don’t really see how this could provide an explanation for the Dean drive.

    I enjoyed the Westlake, though I see some of the problems you had with it. I’d still give it three stars.

    Now, was it just me, or was there a lot of interior art in this issue. I had the feeling Campbell could have dropped half of it and had room for another story. (Of course, the same could be said of his editorial rant, too.)

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