[December 16, 1962] See!  The Stars…

by Gideon Marcus

What a tumultuous year this has been.  War scares, pitched congressional fights, escalating civil rights conflicts, celebrity deaths…yes, I definitely can’t wait to see the back-side of 1962.  It is easy to get caught up in the unceasing drone of bad news.  That’s why, at times like these, it’s helpful to look back on the bright points of the year.  For instance, segregation was dealt several blows in the South with schools across Dixie admitting their first Black students.  The balloon did not go up over Laos, Berlin, or Cuba, thanks in part to the expert manuevering of our President.  John Glenn showed that the pioneering spirit of America still soars high, and it is likely that humanity will have touched another world before the decade is out.

Science fiction, too, had some setbacks.  Some of my favorite magazines suffered a distinct drop in quality this year.  If you are a regular reader, you’ve experienced what must seem an unmitigated litany of complaint — after all, there were a lot of one and two-star stories.

But looking back on the last twelve months and cataloging just the good stuff, it is reassuring just how much of it there truly was.  And so, I end 1962 on a bright note with the Galactic Stars — a summary of the very best this year had to offer scientifiction fans:

Best Poetry

Vintage Wine, Doris Pitkin Buck (F&SF)

Buck’s vampiric poem was a shoo-in.  There just wasn’t a lot of competition in this category this year.  Perhaps fanzines are a better place to mine for material.

Best Vignette (1-9 pages):

Sword of Flowers, by Laurence P. Janifer (Fantastic)

This time, the serpent in the garden is a man.

Wonder as I Wander, Manly Wade Wellman (F&SF)

A set of tiny-tinies featuring the magical John the Balladeer.

Honorable Mention:

Prelude to a Long Walk, Nils Peterson (F&SF)

And it was Good, A. Earley (Amazing)

The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass, Fred Pohl (Galaxy)

The Long Silvery Day, Magnus Ludens (Galaxy)

Best Short Story (10-19 pages):

April in Paris, Ursula K. Le Guin (Fantastic)

A story of time travel, love, and friendship.

Hawk in the Dusk, William Bankier (F&SF)

Karmic horror reaches…and redeems a bitter old man.

Honorable Mention:

Snowbank Orbit, Fritz Leiber (IF)

Science and sacrifice ’round the Seventh Planet.

A City near Centaurus, Bill Doede (Galaxy)

A teleport to the nearest star leads to philosophical conflict between species.

To Lift a Ship, Kit Reed (F&SF)

A lovely piece on confinement and freedom.

The Garden of Time, J.G. Ballard (F&SF)

Victoria Silverwolf’s choice.

Best Novelette (20-45 pages)

The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

The second time an Instrumentality tale has gotten a Star… and this one is better.

The 64-Square Madhouse, Fritz Leiber (IF)

One of the most plausible futures I’ve ever read — a must for chess-lovers… and everyone else.

Unholy Grail, Fritz Leiber (Fantastic)

The origin of the Grey Mouser, and a fantastic fantasy in Fantastic.

I note with interest that Fritz Leiber wrote some of my most and least favorite fiction of this year.  But, to be fair, his misses may have been with me — others liked them.

The Golden Horn and A War of no Consequence, Edgar Pangborn (F&SF)

Two closely related stories of a post-apocalyptic future.

Honorable Mention:

Jonathan and the Space Whale, Robert F. Young (F&SF)

The Star Fisherman, Robert F. Young (Fantastic) [Victoria Silverwolf’s choice]

Plane Jane, Robert F. Young (Fantastic)

Note the common element?

Best Novella (46+ pages)

This category is normally populated by second-rate pieces, but this year, competition was stiff!

Listen!  The Stars…, John Brunner (Analog)

Really excellent stuff.  I understand Ace may novelize it; I’m interested to see what gets added.

The Dragon Masters, Jack Vance (Galaxy)

A close second, with some excellent art by Gaughan. 

Honorable Mention:

Mercenary, Mack Reynolds (Analog)

An interesting vision of a caste-based future where fighting is the only way to get ahead.

Best Novel/Serial

This one was tough.  There were a lot of good books, but none that all of us agreed were the best.  So, I will let several writers each submit favorites.

The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard: (Berkeley)

The twilight of humanity and the world after the sun heats up.  Rose, Mark, and John all gave it highest marks.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux )

Lorelei’s favorite.

A life for the Stars, James Blish (Analog)

Honorable Mention:

Secret Agent of Terra, John Brunner (Ace Books)

The Star Dwellers, James Blish (Analog)

A Plague of Pythons, Fred Pohl (Galaxy)

Science Fact

By Jove, Isaac Asimov (F&SF)

Honorable Mention:

Theodore Sturgeon, Judith Merril (F&SF)

Best Magazine

IF (3.03 stars; best story of the month, 0 times)

Fantastic (2.99 stars; best story of the month, twice)

Fantasy and Science Fiction (2.92 stars; best story of the month, four times)

Galaxy (2.85 stars; best story of the month, thrice)

Analog (2.73 stars; best story of the month, once (not counting serials))

Amazing (2.68 stars; best story of the month, once)

There was a general drop in quality for the magazines in 1962, though there was still plenty of stories worth reading.  F&SF had the most woman authors, but since October, women have tended to be more represented elsewhere.  This reflects both a drop in numbers in F&SF and an increase in other mags. 

Best author(s)

Fritz Leiber

Leiber is hit and miss.  But when he hits (and he hit twice this year), wow!

John Brunner

A prolific new author from Great Britain, Brunner has definitely already made his mark.

Best Artist

Ed Emshwiller

Virgil Finlay

Best Dramatic Presentation

This wasn’t a great year for sf on screen.  Even including the fantasy films, some of which we covered, some of which will be rounded up next month by Victoria Silverwolf, it was slim pickings.  Still, there was some worthy stuff:

Panic in Year Zero

Excellence where one might have expected schlock.

The Creation of the Humanoids

A surprisingly effective super-low budget movie.

The Twilight Zone

This lackluster third season nevertheless had two of our favorite episodes.

Best Fanzine

Aside from Galactic Journey (which was a nominee-runner up last year!) my favorite amateur mags were:

Science Fiction Times



Kudos go to Al haLevy for (briefly) restarting Rhodomagnetic Digest.  Sadly, it is unlikely that the revival will continue.

And that’s that!  What a wonderful trip down memory lane.  1962 may have been a slog at times, but when you compile all the worthy works, all of a sudden, it don’t look so bad.  Why not enjoy some of these lovelies as an early holiday gift?

7 thoughts on “[December 16, 1962] See!  The Stars…”

  1. The Drowned World , yup, can go along with that.
    I found The Man in the High Castle to be better in 1962, may be the best novel Dick will ever write.

  2. You’ve forgotten what might be the brightest point of the year: we’ve seen the last of Dick Nixon (or so he said, and I don’t see how anybody comes back from that little tirade of his)!

    I missed a lot this year thanks to being swamped with work a few times and just not having time to read anything. I look back at some of what were the best stories of the year for you (and our tastes aren’t all that far apart) and many of them don’t ring any bells at all. But that has more to do with me than the stories I think.

    Anyway, I think hands down the best story of the year was “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell”. Just a stunning piece. Cordwainer Smith is probably the best author openly working in the field right now.

    On the novel front, I would submit The Lani People by J.F. Bone. There was certainly a whole lot more there than what it said on the tin. It might not be as good as some of the novels you listed, but it certainly deserves mention.  And H. Beam Piper had a novel out, too. Little Fuzzy. Probably not quite award worthy, but did we all miss this one?

    Looking at the mags, I find it interesting that the one with the best score never had a best story of the month. It’s like the Tour de France, where you can win the whole race by coming in second on every leg. I think the real question is who the best editor is, Fred Pohl or Cele Goldsmith. It’s certainly not Campbell or Davidson. (That’s a bitter battle for last place.) Fred might have the edge, but he’s got more experience, better connections and a slightly better pay scale. Miss Goldsmith might actually be better, especially if she weren’t hampered by being forced to run those reprints.

    1. Both The Lani People and Little Fuzzy are worth reading (and have similar premises — what does it mean to be a person?) but I did not feel they rose to the 4-star minimum to be considered for a Galactic Star.  Ditto High Castle.

      And we should be so lucky to see the final backside of Tricky Dick.  Now, of course, it looks like we get the loon from Arizona as the anointed GOP candidate for ’64.  I read his article in this year’s edition of The Great Ideas, and a bigger reactionary I’ve not seen since Attila.  We don’t need that kind of nativist, isolationist selfishness in the White House… or anywhere else.

      If it has to be an elephant, let it be Rocky.  He’s the best of the lot.

  3. I’m glad there were two good episodes in Twilight Zone. Hope there are more next season. Funny how a luxury feels like a necessity.

    On my own short list I’d have Hamilton’s Requiem, Karen Anderson’s Landscape With Sphinxes and probably Fitzpatrick’s Circuit Riders; but yours seems thoughtful and very fair.

    1. I’m trying to recruit a writer to cover TV next year.  My dance card is getting overfull. 

      I liked Requiem a lot, Landscape less so.  Circuit Riders was promising. 

      In short, our tastes are different, but not mutually exclusive!

  4. I have no argument with your choices, so I’ll just add a few comments.

    My favorite science fiction novel published this year was definitely “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, even though it was not published with that label.

    As the resident specialist on “Fantastic” I’ll go over some of the best stories that appeared this year, in addition to the ones you have noted above.

    “This is Your Death” by Albert Teichner (January) — the best story yet from this journeyman author.

    “A Bit of the Dark World” by Fritz Leiber (February) — One of his many fine stories this year.

    “Joyleg” by Avram Davidson and Ward Moore (March and April) — A charming bagatelle.

    “The Shrine of Temptation” by Judith Merril (April) — Mysterious and evocative.

    “The Singing Statues” by J. G. Ballard (July) — Another excellent tale of Vermillion Sands.

    “Cocoon” by Keith Laumer (December) — Proof that he can do more ambitious work than the Retief stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.