First Impressions (February 1959 Fantasy and Science Fiction;1-21-1959)

The February 1959 Fantasy and Science Fiction has left me with a variety of impressions, so I preemptively beg your pardon for the scattered nature of this piece.

Firstly, the cover.  It’s a pretty Emswhiller, for certain, but “Under Jupiter’s Red Spot”?  It has been some 250 years since anyone last thought that the Red Spot (Jupiter’s most enduring feature, three times the size of the Earth) was the result of vulcanism or any other “surface” activity.  In fact, the prevailing model is that Jupiter, composed almost exclusively of hydrogen and helium, has no surface.  There is just hydrogen and helium under increasing pressure until it takes on the properties of an ice, Further in, the hydrogen may take on the characteristics of a metal.  There may be a rocky core underneath all of that, but we’d never see it.  There would not be a “surface” as we are familiar with the term. 

Thus, Emsh’s drawing is a weird throwback.  It’s just strange to see it on the cover of a current science fiction digest.

Secondly, the big news:

After ten years at the steady rate of 35 cents a digest, which was standard for “The Big Three,” F&SF is finally upping its rates to 40 cents an issue.  You can also get a year’s subscription for $4.50 (or 37.5 cents apiece).  I don’t think the increase is egregious, especially given that publishing costs have increased 38% since 1949–at least, according to the publisher.  With Galaxy now at 50 cents for a bimonthly, one wonders how long it will be before Astounding raises their rates.  Their production quality is the lowest of “The Big Three,” but I imagine their costs must still have gone up like everyone else’s.

Thirdly, Asimov has another article in this issue.  It’s a pretty short piece about the naming of big numbers–quite handy for describing things like a multitude of stars… or atoms.  It’s worth reading, but hardly his best work.

Fourthly…

Perhaps you wonder why I slog through so much mediocre science fiction every month.  Two stars… three stars… Randall Garrett…  Well, it’s for stories like the opener to this month’s F&SF.

Damon Knight (or damonknight, as he’s known when he’s reviewing), has written a lot.  Much of it is unremarkable.  One of his stories, Four in One, which came out in Galaxy way back in 1952, is one of the niftiest stories I’ve ever read.  His latest work, What Rough Beast, is in that caliber. 

Mike Kronski, the protagonist, is a foreigner.  That is clear from his manner of speech, which seems Eastern European.  He has a very special gift–the ability to change one thing into another.  But the mechanism by which he does this is unique, and its ramifications are both fascinating and chilling.  I don’t want to spoil it anymore.  Suffice it to say that it is excellent.  It’s worth 40 cents just for this story.

So’s you know, my next update may be a day late.  I know my readers (I almost need two hands to count you now!) love my travelogues almost as much as my reviews.  Just for you, the family and I are flying to the island of Kaua’i in the Territory of Hawa’ii.  We will be sure to include photos with the next installment of this column!



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5 thoughts on “First Impressions (February 1959 Fantasy and Science Fiction;1-21-1959)”

  1. I paid more than 40 cents for this story but it was worth it in any case. Reading all these reviews gets me to hankering after a re-read. If only I can remember where I put that strange book…

      1. What Rough Beast is certainly one of my fave Knight stories. From its quirky narrative through to its glimpses of Kronski’s worlds its top shelf Knight.
        Great blog by the way.

          1. I think the Russkies have an unshakeable lead. Mark my words: Russians on the moon by 1970. In any case once Khrushchev gets the kinks out their system maybe we’ll all be Russians by 1970 – just like Mack Reynolds predicts ;)
            In any case I’m hoping for some aliens to arrive by then. How many rockets have we gotta throw up there before they step in, already?

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