There is an old saw: “Just when I got my mule to work without being fed, she up and died on me!”
At the end of 1958, Galaxy editor H. Gold announced that his magazine was going to a bi-monthly publication schedule. He did not mention that he was also slashing writer pay rates in half.
Last issue, Gold crowed about his stable of fresh new authors who would carry the torch of science fiction creation. And, of course, there is plenty of room for the new authors now that the old names have departed for greener pastures.
Is this how a great magazine dies? Not with a bang, but with a whimper? You may disagree with me, but the October 1960 issue of Galaxy feels like a throwback. A lesser mag from the mid ’50s. Let me show you the first half of the issue, and you’ll see what I mean.
Allen Kim Lang opens things up with his novella, World in a Bottle. The premise is an interesting one: take a group of people with no resistance to diseases (such people exist today). Put them together in a sort of commune. What are the sociological and practical implications? What kind of life can they expect to have?
Some of the story rings true, particularly the feeling of imprisonment and the lack of attraction for one’s fellow commune residents. This isn’t science fiction–this is what’s happening right now on the kibbutzim in Israel. What kills the story, for me, is the breezy style and the overly neat finish at the end. It’s a pity–Lang has been good enough to get printed in F&SF. I’m sure he could turn out better.
The Hills of Home, by Alfred Coppel, originally came out in Future Science Fiction back in 1956. It reads like an inferior version of Sturgeon’s sublime The Man who lost the Sea, but I guess Coppel’s came first, so perhaps Sturgeon’s is a polish-up. In any event, it’s a clunky piece, but not horrible. It does show that Galaxy is now resorting to reprints to fill its pages. That’s probably not a good sign.
Marshall King is, as far as I can tell, a complete newcomer to science fiction. His Beach Scene, about a cute little alien who can stop time, is rather engaging. The creature’s encounter with a band of rapacious human colonizers is bittersweet. Mostly bitter.
Then we’ve got James Stamers’ The Imitiation of Earth, positing a sort of planetary sentience that deliberately fosters the evolution of life. This is Stamers’ fourth published story, and Gold has bought every one of them. I’ve noted in my reviews of his last three that his work tends to be forgettable stuff with occasional interesting ideas mixed in. He continues this trend with his newest story, which starts out in a quite compelling manner, but ends prosaically.
That brings us to newcomer Andrew Fetler’s Cry Snooker, a satiric tale about the havoc wreaked on a suburban town by an experimental little flying machine. It reads like a lesser Rosel George Brown story. Heavy on the domestic banter, crude with the lampooning.
Now, things could turn around quite suddenly in the second half of this month’s issue, but thus far, we’re looking at a 2.5 star issue. It would be a crying shame if Galaxy, once my favorite science fiction digest, ended up below Astounding!
In happier news, I met a lot of wonderful folks at the local science fiction convention last week. One of them was dressed up as the new member of the family from Krypton, Supergirl. Well, it turns out she is a local, and she sent me a photo to share with my fans. Meet Janel, everyone!