Galaxy editor Horace Gold is hard up for writers these days now that he’s cut payment rates. In this month’s (February 1960) editorial, he notes that he’s getting all kinds of low-quality stuff, and would these would-be authors please try reading a scientific journal or two to get better ideas!
Be that as it may, thus far, this double-sized issue of Galaxy is quite enjoyable. I’m splitting the book into two columns so as not to overwhelm you and give you a chance to follow along at home.
Bob Sheckley has a new story out: Meeting of the Minds. I think I’ve mentioned in an earlier column how one of my best friends has a profound aversion to stories involving a take-over of the body a la Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters. He’d have to give Meeting a miss, because that’s its central theme: the bug-like Quedak, psychic coordinator for the extinct hive-mind species of Mars, hitches a ride back to Earth where he intends to conduct a similar conquest.
While Bob tends to write in a flip sort of way, he also is capable of some downright creepy prose. I particularly like how the Quedak is portrayed in glances through other characters’ eyes. The use of limited viewpoints is quite effective. Moreover, it would be interesting to viscerally feel what a bird or pig or other human feels, were the cost not losing one’s individuality to a hive-mind.
Unsettling, but good.
Margaret St. Clair has been a busy bee, with stories appearing both here and in IF this month. The Nuse Man is a shaggy dog story about a brick salesman from the future, and how he ran afoul of political intrigue in ancient Mesopotamia. You won’t remember it long after you read it, but you will enjoy it.
Newcomer James Stamers is another author who is filling the pages of two Golden magazines in one month. Dumbwaiter is cute, but eminently forgettable (clearly, as I had to rack my brain for several minutes to remember what it was about!) It opens, excitingly enough, with a master smuggler attempting to secret an extraterrestrial animal through customs. That half of the story is a pleasant cat and mouser. The remainder, wherein the animal turns out to be a sort of eager-to-please teleport, who charms the smuggler’s fiancée by bringing her numerous treasures, is not as engaging.
Finally, in The Day the Icicle Works Closed, we have a solid extraterrestrial whodunit by Fred Pohl featuring body-swapping, kidnapping, politics, and a reasonably compelling detective. It starts out rather prosaic, but the pace accelerates as the pieces fit together, and the end is worth waiting for. I shan’t spoil any more in the event you want to take a crack at some armchair sleuthing.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I’ll discuss Willy Ley, Zenna Henderson (two women in one Galaxy!) and more.
P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!
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