[August 22, 1960] If every day were a convention (September 1960 IF)

It’s been a topsy turvy month!  Not only have I been to Japan, but I’ve just gone to yet another new science fiction convention taking place virtually next door (pictures appended below).  Yet, despite all the bustle, I’ve managed to find time for my #1 pasttime: my monthly pile of science fiction/fantasy digests.  And here, at long last, is my review of the September 1960 IF Science Fiction.

As Galaxy‘s lesser sister, its overall quality tends to be a little lower.  There are a couple of stand-outs in this issue that made it a worthy purchase, however.  Moreover, I’m noticing a trend toward the experimental.  H. Gold (and his right-hand, Fred Pohl) seem more willing to take chances with this mag.  I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

I don’t want to spoil the stories for you, so I’ll keep the synopses brief:

Daniel Galouye has the opening number, a longish novelette called Kangaroo Court.  It’s an interesting murder mystery in a world where telepathy has made crime obsolete.  An extra twist is the development of memory copying–a technology that lets one create a full simulacrum of a person’s personality up to the date of storage.  I’m given to understand that a writer should only present one revolutionary technology per story, but I think Galouye pulls it off.  Three stars.

Margaret St. Clair is also back with her short story, Parallel Beans, a cute little piece about the dangers of bartering across alternate time streams.  Three stars.

Wedge, by H.B. Fyfe, is about a human prisoner who is the subject of an alien intelligence test.  Is he the testee or the tester?  The first weak piece of the issue: Two stars.

But it is followed up by To Choke an Ocean by the reliable J.F.Bone.  I like stories without antagonists, and they get bonus points if they involve interesting alien civilizations.  Four stars.

That brings us to Arthur Porges, who turned 45 yesterday (Happy Birthday!) His Words and Music, about a man who can tell a person’s future in a decidedly off-beat (or perhaps “on-beat” is more appropriate) fashion, would make a fantastic episode of The Twilight Zone.  Another four star tale.

There is a brief interlude during which Fred Pohl contributes a longish book-review column.  It includes praise for the rather awful The Tomorrow People, by Judy Merril.  It is followed by Robert Shea’s unusually written, but rather pointless, Star Performer, involving a Martian aborigine and his effect on the decadent, overripe population of Earth.  Two stars.

Finally, R.A. Lafferty offers up Six Fingers of Time, about a fellow who discovers a talent for living life at an accelerated rate.  The writing is odd, and the subject matter uninspired, and yet…it has a certain charm.  Three stars.

That puts us at exactly three stars for the issue no matter how you slice it, which ranks it above Astounding and below F&SF this month.  No surprises there.  F&SF also wins the prize for best story: George Elliott’s The NRACP, though to be fair, it’s a reprint.  I might give the nod for best original story to Bone.  Your mileage will almost assuredly vary. 

Finally, of the 22 stories, serial portions, and non-fiction articles appearing in the three magazines, exactly two of them were written by women.  I’ll leave this datum here without further observation or opinion.

This weekend, I’m off to the movies to watch Dinosaurus, the new flick from the team that brought us The Blob and 4D-Man.  Sadly, neither of the members of my immediate family will go with me.  Perhaps I’ll run into one of you, my beloved fans.

And for those who came here to see the pretty pictures, here are the costumes from our local science fiction convention:

And some attendees, not in costume:

Yes, that’s the Traveller, himself (on the left).

That’s all for today, and if you’re one of the gracious attendees who allowed me to take her/his picture, do drop me a line!

14 thoughts on “[August 22, 1960] If every day were a convention (September 1960 IF)”

  1. Not a bad set of stories. The Galouye didn’t really work for me, but I do tend to bounce off of his stuff. I saw where it was going pretty early, too.

    Margaret St. Clair, on the other hand, is almost always a delightful read, whether she’s writing as St. Clair or Idris Seabright. This story is no exception.

    Fyfe’s tale could have been really good. The underlying concept is a good one, but it’s as if he had an idea and couldn’t quite get a story out of it. Branch Rickey or Connie Mack once said something to the effect that the worst thing a ballplayer can have is potential, because it means he’s not playing his best. In that sense, this story has a lot of potential.

    The Bone was a good story, despite the framing tale within a tale/bar story thing. Although the title really gave the game away. It would have been nice to be kept guessing a little longer. Obviously inspired by the introduction of rabbits to Australia.

    The Porges certainly went in a very different direction than I was expecting. Might make an interesting Twilight Zone episode, they seem to like that sort of twist.

    “Star Performer” was, I’m not sure, interesting? I think I see what Shea was going for, but I’m not sure he quite got there. But it is a fair example of the more literary direction the genre seems to be headed, and I don’t think that’s an entirely bad thing.

    R.A. Lafferty stories always feel to me like Ted Sturgeon and Avram Davidson got together, smoked a lot of opium, and then collaborated on a story. This is certainly no exception. It leaves me with more questions than it answered and they niggle at me. I’d really like to know more about the mysterious group and their plans.

    1. I thought I was the only one…

      Editors obviously like Lafferty; at least, they keep buying his work.  And some readers claim to like him.  But so far, I’m very much not a fan of his.

  2. You’re looking good! I’m so glad if the convention was the success it seems to have been.

    Of the few readable stories in my issue, I’d say the Porges comes closest to success. It is beautifully written, but the amabassador being there is so unlikely. The Fyfe has a good idea, but nothing else and is too long for just that.

  3. PS: I disagree with Pohl about the Norton. When I read it, I felt I’d been shortchanged. And I do think he could have made more of the Lewis, which has enough in originality and good writing to make it a major classic.

  4. “Kangaroo Court” was a pretty good story.  As a murder mystery, it was so-so, but as a science fiction story, with interesting technology and sociological speculation it was quite enjoyable.  The “personality copier” was a fascinating idea.  For a while I wondered if the killer was going to turn out to be the recording (in a very strange form of suicide, I suppose) but it was made clear that it had no true consciousness (although it seemed as if it could pass the Turing Test with flying colors.)

  5. “Parallel Beans” — Well, that was different.  A bit silly for my taste, and I usually quite like St. Clair/Seabright.  (Some of her stories for F&SF are downright beautiful.)

    “Wedge” — Eh.  One-idea story.  It would have fit right into Astounding/Analog, and that may be the worst thing I can say about it.

  6. “To Choke an Ocean” — I’d call this a “pleasant” story, with all the good and bad that implies.  Very enjoyable to read, but not terribly exciting.  It’s nice to see ecology taken seriously as the science in science fiction.

    “Words and Music” — A clever little tale, with a sting in the tail, if maybe just a bit too thin.  With just a bit of tinkering it could indeed be a good “Twilight Zone.”  It would have to be opened up a bit and made more dramatic — maybe have somebody force the protagonist to use his talent for profit, possibly even blackmail, then end with the twist.  Oh, well, I can dream, can’t I?

    I haven’t seen the vast majority of the books that Pohl reviews.  The one by “Sarban” sounds interesting.  The C. S. Lewis is indeed a Christian allegory — what else could it be? — but he’s a good writer.  I neither hated the Merrill as much as Knight reportedly did, nor liked it as much as Pohl did, but rather found it unmemorable.  (I’m not sure if Pohl should be reviewing books by his ex-wife, but I guess that’s part of the job.)

  7. “Star Performer” — I thought this was pretty good, even if the main revenge plot was pretty simple.  The society created by the author was interesting, and reminded me in some ways of Fritz Leiber’s fine story “Coming Attraction.”

    “The Six Fingers of Time” — One of this author’s usual strange and eccentric stories.  I found it intriguing, possibly because not everything was fully explained.

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