[August 30, 1962] Flawed set (September 1962 Analog)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

In the Soviet Union, they have an interesting grocery practice.  Food production is, of course, nationalized.  Thus, there are quotas that manufacturers are supposed to reach.  Provided you have enough klass (social clout in the “classless society”), you can order a great many desirable foods for your office, your restaurant, your institute.  Sausage, chocolates, and so on.  However, you generally can’t order these items individually.  Rather, you request a set of items. 

For instance, one might want coffee, but the set also includes chocolate, sugar, and cookies — whether you need them or not.  The cookies might be several years old, the chocolate might be stale, or there might not even be any coffee.  Or you could get lucky. 

Maybe you want a kilo of fresh beef, but you can only get it with two cans of pressed meat, a kilo of hamburger meat, and a kilo of frozen vegetables.  Well, why not?  But when it arrives, the vegetables are freezer burned and the hamburger is green on the inside.  At least you got the beef and the SPAM, right?

The science fiction digest, Analog, is much the same.  For the past few years, the general pattern has been for the magazine to include a serial of high quality, and the rest of the space larded out with substandard shorts and ridiculous “science” articles on crackpot topics. 

So enjoy your September 1962 Analog — it’s what you ordered…and a lot more that you didn’t:

A Life for the Stars (Part 1 of 2), by James Blish

This is the jewel of the issue, a fantastic piece about the twilight of the Earth.  After centuries of resource depletion and oppressive rule, humanity is spreading itself amongst the stars.  Whole cities are departing the Earth, powered by “spindizzy” anti-gravity drives.  Each is a small principality unto itself, trading with other settlements, space-borne and planet-bound. 

Our viewpoint is Crispin DeFord, a scrap-metal scrounger on the outskirts of Scranton just before the tired town plans to fly off to the heavens.  The tale is a little bit Heinlein (Citizen of the Galaxy in particular) and a bit more bucolic Simak.  The first half will grip you tight, and the second part will hold your interest, if not as strongly.  I am very keen to see where this goes.  Four stars.

The Winds of Time, by James H. Schmitz

This relic of the dawn of the Digest Era continues to write stuff in an aged vein.  This particular tale involves a little cargo ship, crew of one, hijacked by one of the two passengers.  He is a Villainous Time Traveler from the Future.  The Pilot must use his strength and cunning to rescue himself and the other passenger, a Girl, before the Villain’s alien sidekick secures the ship permanently in the higher levels of hyperspace.

Actually, Winds wouldn’t be such a bad story except that it reads more like an outline than a finished piece.  The sort of summary blurb that might accompany the latter portions of a serial rather than a stand-alone short.  Thus, it is tedious and disappointing.  Two stars.

The First Science, by Joseph F. Goodavage

Now this is vintage Analog, a full thirty pages devoted to a defense of astrology, of all things.  The argument goes something like this: many of our brightest lights in natural philosophy — Galileo, Kepler, Brahe, Newton — were all astrologers, and some of their predictions came true!  If those smart people believed in the stuff, aren’t we fools not to?  I’m certain there was no cherrypicking of evidence on the part of Mr. Goodavage; after all, when I’ve looked for confirmation bias, I’ve always found it.

Why does this laughable thing get two stars instead of one?  There is some good biographical data in here, despite the ludicrous conclusion.  And there is a grim fascination as one reads, wondering if the shoe is really going to drop on the side of the most pseudo of pseudo-sciences.

Good Indian, by Mack Reynolds

A hundred years from now, the United States has so integrated that there is no such thing as a minority anymore — until three full-blooded Seminoles march into the Bureau for Indian Affairs and demand reparations for the Trail of Tears.  Played for laughs, and with a truly offensive ending, this is the sort of story I expect from Analog, but not from Reynolds.  One star.

The Professional Approach, by Leonard Lockhard

The legally adept Lockhard (really Theodore L. Thomas) provides another insight into the world of technical patents, this one involving a miracle invention and the attorney who falls a little too much in love with it.  As the Japanese say, “With love, even pockmarks become dimples,” and so Approach’s protagonist fails to find the fatal flaw in his client’s creation…before too late.

Competent and fun, as always.  Three stars.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Christopher Anvil

Communism in Cuba is upended by little radio transmitters placed in the teeth by activist dentists.  These transmissions create an intense desire to work, independent of ideology or compensation.  Of course, one must never confuse motion for action, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue in this piece.  I think it’s supposed to be a satire on the undesirability of the moocherism of Communism and the cold ,ercantile nature of Capitalism… but I found it talky, implausible, and just plain dumb.  Par for the course for the material Anvil produces for Analog‘s editor, Campbell.  One star. 

Beyond Pandora, by Robert S. Martin

Finally, a short short gotcha piece where we find that the origin of the longevity serum is none other than… well, you can read it and find out, but you won’t be surprised.  Two stars.

At 2.3 stars, Analog is not quite the worst magazine of the month (that award goes to Amazing with 2.2 stars), but it’s awfully close.  And yet, the Blish is so good that you might find it worth 50 cents for that story alone.  Or you might wait for it to end and then buy the novel.

Thank goodness we live in the West and you have that option!




12 thoughts on “[August 30, 1962] Flawed set (September 1962 Analog)”

  1. Love that analogy about Analog!

    Actually, I disagree about the Anvil. If it was more realistic, it could be another fic about curing headaches by guillotine, but it seems to me just meant for a light piece of fluff, and I enjoyed it.

    Like the Martin, too. May it be predictive.

  2. To me, Blish’s ‘Okie’ stories are another product of John W Campbell’s vision. A good story well put …with the science extrapolated such that verisimilitude is all a-thrill. Blish is one of those SF writers without a science background but he has fished up some remarkable physics. How did he know of P.M.S. Blackett’s investigations of magnetism? This spun into the spindizzy.! That was just one gizzy that Blish used. Man!… the idea of uprooting entire cities as FTL star ships , that is more than genius that is magical concept making. Blish , like all those Campbell influenced is a master of the rippin yarn and flying cities rips entire sails of canvas in half!

    1. Well, we’ve only seen the first installment, but I’m not as excited as Our Host.  I live near one of the new Interstate highways, and I see the lines of trucks running all day and most of the night into the city.  Food, clothing, televisions, lumber, concrete, steel, books, medicines… cities are net consumers, not producers. 

      Whatever their straits were to start with, they’re going to be poor in the way that those islanders were when the US Army abandoned their bases in the Pacific.  After the “cargo” stopped coming the natives weren’t all that keen on going back to their previous existence.

      I’m more interested in how Blish is going to handle Soviet levels of rationing than the “spindizzy.”

  3. How do you know how good the second part of the Blish story is? Have you gotten involved in some time travel shenanigans? Or have you just read ahead? ;)

    1. I should have been more clear — the first half of the first part is stunning.  The second half of the first part is good.

      I have no idea what’s coming up, and if you’ve read the galleys, please don’t spoil me!

  4. I’ve put off the Blish for the moment, but I have enjoyed some of his other Okie stories, so I have some hope for this one.

    The Schmitz wasn’t bad, really. I thought it could have been a bit shorter (or as you suggested fleshed out to full novel), but on the whole not bad. I’m not sure, though, why you refer to Schmitz as a “relic of the Pulp Era”. He didn’t really get started until after the War (I think he had one story during) and didn’t become prolific until the 50s. You’d hardly call Ron Goulart, for example, a relic of the Pulp Era.

    I’m not wasting my time reading 30 pages on an attempt to justify astrology. Campbell’s editorial was bad enough, as he straw men kept picking up the goal posts and moving them. I also seriously question whether one can predict solar flares based on the position of the planets. I imagine this Mr. Nelson of his is working from a very small sample size, which can lead to correlations that seem statistically significant, but are really just random noise.

    I’m not sure who this person claiming to be Mack Reynolds is, but Mr. Reynolds should sue. Terrible piece.

    As you hinted, Leonard Lockhard is Ted Thomas, who knows a thing or two about patent law. This was easily the best story in the issue (barring the Blish, which I have yet to read).  I think our heroes have missed the boat, though. I can imagine a number of possible applications around or under water for their material.

    The Anvil might have been better in other hands. Maybe this should have been the Mack Reynolds story; he’d have handled it a lot better. Or Bob Sheckley. What we got was largely just tedious.

    The Martin story? I really can’t tell. In a way, at just two pages it was over long.

    Now to dig into the Blish. I hope I like it as well as you did.

    1. I didn’t realize there were more Okie stories! 

      I think we’ve made that same comment re: Anvil before, perhaps several times.  Chris Anvil, when writing for Analog, just plain stinks.

      I’m not sure why I got the notion Schmitz was from further back than he is.

      1. Going by my bookshelf, this is the fourth novel set in this universe. Well, the first one was a fix-up of a couple of stories from around 10 years ago, but it’s on my shelf as a novel. They’re not bad. You should poke around some of the used book stores to see if you can find them.

  5. DemetriosX pretty much sums up what I thought.

    The Schmitz was just kind of “eh.”  Not terrible, but not memorable.  The time travel gimmick didn’t seem to do much for the story, and the human/alien relationship was more interesting.

    The ending of the Reynolds was offensive.  That’s enough, but the rest of it wasn’t funny, either.

    The Anvil seemed to go on and on long after the gimmick was revealed.  (And quite giving away the point of the story in the introduction!)

    The “Lockhard” was OK.  It reminded me of the classic film “The Man in the White Suit.”

    The Martin isn’t so much a story as a one-liner.  As such, it was all right.

    All the short fiction seems designed to be very light filler.  It doesn’t seem to me to be a good idea to be so dependent on the serials to carry the magazine.

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