[December 24, 1961] The Best and the Brightest (1961’s Galactic Stars)

by Gideon Marcus

Everyone knows that the great American pastime is Baseball.  Most fans enjoy watching the drama on the diamond, the crowds, the cheers, the hot dogs.  But there is a dedicated minority for whom the sublimest pleasure is compiling Baseball stats.  How well did each team do this year?  Each player?  Year over year, what are the trends?  What are the chances of the Cubs ever winning the World Series again (hah!)

So here’s my confession: I love statistics.  A lot of the reason I read so much science fiction and maintain this column is so that, every year, I can keep track of every story, every magazine, every novel.  In December, I compile these numbers and determine the annual recipients of the Galactic Stars.  It tickles my mathematical brain, and it lets me see, graphically, how things are going not just in the careers of my favorite writers, but in the genre as a whole.

Plus, you get a slew of recommendations in the bargain.  I mean, why wait for the Hugos?  They’re just going to echo what I say, anyway, right?

1961 was a better year than 1960, which saw an absolute nadir of 5-star stories.  As a result, there was some stiff competition in nearly every category.  I’ve listed the winners in bold, followed by the runners up and the honorable mentions (where applicable).  Read on – I’m sure you’ll agree that I had tough choices to make:

Best Poetry

Extraterrestrial Trilogue, Sheri Eberhart (Galaxy)

Best Vignette (1-9 pages):

Ms Fnd in a Lbry, Hal Draper (F&SF)

Adapted, by Carol Emshwiller (F&SF)

The Intruder, Theodore L. Thomas (F&SF)

Honorable Mention:

The House in Bel Aire, Margaret St. Clair (IF)

Juliette, Claude-François Cheiniss (F&SF)

The Day they got Boston, Herbert Gold (F&SF)

Best Short Story (10-19 pages):

Vassi, Art Lewis (IF)

Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown (F&SF)

The Little Man who wasn’t Quite, William Stuart (Galaxy)

Honorable mention:

The Weirdest World, R.A. Lafferty (Galaxy)

Best Novelette (20-45 pages)

Return, Zenna Henderson (F&SF)

A Planet Named Shayol, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

Time Lag, Poul Anderson (Analog)

Honorable Mention:

Hothouse, Brian Aldiss (F&SF)

Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, Cordwainer Smith (F&SF)

The Moon Moth, Jack Vance (Galaxy)

Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

Hiding Place, Poul Anderson (Analog)

The Quaker Cannon, Cyril Kornbluth and Fred Pohl (Analog)

Best Novella (46+ pages)

Sentry of the Sky, Evelyn Smith (Galaxy)

Undergrowth, Brian Aldiss (F&SF)

Ultima Thule, Mack Reynolds (Analog)

(These were all three-star stories; were no outstanding Novellas this year.  This is not too shocking – it is a rare story length)

Best Novel/Serial

Naked to the Stars, Gordon Dickson: (F&SF)

Dark Universe, Daniel Galouye

A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clarke

Honorable Mention:

The Fisherman, Cliff Simak (Analog)

Three Hearts and Three Lions, Poul Anderson

The Mind Thing, Frederic Brown

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Ben Barzman

Science Fact

Not as we know it, Isaac Asimov (F&SF) (and most of Asimov’s other articles in his F&SF column this year)

Honorable Mention:

An Introduction to the Calculus of Desk Cleaning, Maurice Price (Analog)

Dragons and Hot Air Ballons, Willy Ley (Galaxy)

Best Magazine

Galaxy (3.43 stars)

Fantasy and Science Fiction (3.11 stars)

Analog (2.79 stars)

IF (2.73 stars)

The Big Three magazines all had strong representation in every category.  The one surprise was IF‘s in the Novelette list.  However, in overall quality, it wasn’t a close competition this year.  Not only did Galaxy have the highest score, but it also was the best magazine five out of the six months it was published. 

Best author(s):

Cordwainer Smith

Poul Anderson

This is a new category, one that likely won’t be reflected in the Hugos.  I feel that these two authors put out so much good work this year, with Smith penning three 5-star stories, and Anderson being both prolific and consistently excellent, that they deserved some kind of special recognition.

Best Dramatic Presentation

Master of the World

Mysterious Island


One might argue that Jules Verne was the real winner given that his works inspired two of these three winners.  Note that The Twilight Zone did not make the cut this year. 

Thus ends 1961, a thoroughly enjoyable year for science fiction and fantasy.  Next year, perhaps we’ll add Fantastic and Amazing to the consideration.  I rub my hands greedily at the thought of collecting even more statistics…

22 thoughts on “[December 24, 1961] The Best and the Brightest (1961’s Galactic Stars)”

  1. 1960 had Ballard’s ‘The Voices of Time’ and Aldiss’s ‘Old Hundredth’ in New Worlds; Michael Moorcock’s ‘Elric’ series started this year in Science Fantasy and I’m told they have a very good story by Thomas Burnett Swann coming up, ‘Where is the Bird of Fire’, amongst others.
    I realise you can’t read everything, but I think you are missing some interesting work in these two magazines. You don’t seem to care much for Analog: why don’t you find another victim sorry, reader, for it.

    1. I’m afraid that, as a Yank, subscribing to British magazines is logistically difficult.  Now, if you’re volunteering…

      (by the by, the talented Ashley Pollard is our London correspondent, and she’s turned out some fine work (that’s how I discovered Clarke’s novel.))

      As for Analog, I’ve stuck with it this far, so I might as well see it through.  Besides, as I pointed out in my last article, there’s generally something good in each issue.

  2. Interesting that the novelette seems to bring out the best in our authors.  Not too short, not too long, just right.

    Not a lot of separation among the magazines, which is a good thing.  There is certain to be some decent reading in just about any of them.

    I didn’t see enough of “Fantastic” to be able to comment intelligently on how it did this year.  Based on the few I read, I would guess it’s somewhere in the same ballpark.  I believe that “Hatchery of Dreams” and “This is Your Death” would have made the Honorable Mention list, at least.

  3. Thank you for doing such a good and conscientious job. Such a lot of good stuff to choose from!

    I’d just like to underscore your choice of Poul Anderson by applauding his range. And perhaps he’ll be getting another best next year!

    1. I’m glad you like it!  No one seems to be disagreeing with my choices (or at least, no one disagrees strongly enough to say so…)

      In the end, I based my choices both on my records (the scores I gave them at the time) and if I remember them strongly now.  After all, a good story should be memorable.

  4. Wow, a cover of F&SF by Ed Emshwiller in which his wife has a story. I wonder is there is a cover by Emsh where Carol has a story but also appears as a character on the cover?!
    A few years ago Gordon Van Gelder was noting a rare appearance by Carol Emshwiller in F&SF , had to write him a reminder that Carol had appeared ‘on’ F&SF many times when her husband Ed used her as a model!

    1. The first world SF convention I went to, when I was 19, was in Pittsburgh in 1960. I remember a talk, by either Damon Knight or James Blish about notable science fiction of the 1950s. One book mentioned was Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. Next day I was in the dealer’s room looking at paper backs, some woman next to me asked the dealer if he had it. He said he didn’t, but I noticed he had a copy of the Bantam paperback edition Utopia 14. The woman thanked me and introduced me to her husband Ed Emshwiller, I knew who that was!  My eyes were on the lady, a brunette to take your breath away. I just knew I had seen her before. Only later did I realize it was a face I had seen many times on covers and especially in black and white interiors. That was Carol Emshwiller. Ed used other models but I think Carol appears in more of his illustrations that any other. One explicit appearance, with her usual short hair, is the November 1960 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

  5. Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittens , I think that is,
    Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons.
    I remember like Cordwainer Smith at the time, a lot, but took years for me to come around to to being totally mind-Jazzed by him. He is still the most unique and original SF writer of the 20th century.

    1. With my friend Al all the way on this. Smith’s voice was so fresh, so energetic and so strange that it startled and mesmerized me then as now. I consider him one of the best of his era.

      1. Paul, I wholeheartedly agree.  While I can’t predict the future, I can’t imagine a world that forgets about the greatness that is Cordwainer Smith.  Why, come the 21st Century, I am certain his name will be mentioned in the same breath as Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein.

  6. By the by Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons is about the planetary defense system of Norstrilia , something which the very gods would not dare vex.

  7. I might quibble with you a little bit. I liked both “Alpha Ralpha” and “Mother Hitton” better than “Shayol” and didn’t care for the Galouye novel at all. But other than that, we’re largely in agreement.

    But is it just me or was the whole year perhaps a touch subpar? Certainly there were some tremendous highs, like Cordwainer Smith, but the average seems low. No really outstanding novelettes, for example, and 3.4 is low for the best magazine (not to mention that both Analog and Fantastic were below average).

    1. 1960 was significantly worse:

      Fantasy and Science Fiction (3.17 stars)

      Analog (2.92 stars)

      Galaxy/IF (2.75 stars)

      1959 was good, particularly rich in 5-star stories (that year, I broke out quality by magazine; I’ve stopped, more mirroring the Hugos in format):

      Fantasy and Science Fiction: 3.33

      Galaxy/IF: 3.21

      Astounding: 2.58

        1. I did mean novellas. I knew I meant the longest short form, but swapped novella and novelette. I guess the latter just sounds longer to me.

      1. These ratings for the whole year, 1960?
        Because I really liked:
        The High Crusade by Poul Anderson [Astounding ]
        Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys [F&SF]
        Deathworld by Harry Harrison [Astounding]
        Tho Deathworld was kind of Campbell-Taylored , tho , by that time, Harrison knew Campbell’s wavelength.

        In 1960 two of my favorite novels appeared, A Canticle for Leibowitz and Rogue Moon, but then I have only started following things here.

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