Last year, Galaxy editor Horace Gold bowed to economic necessity, trimming the length of his magazine and slashing the per word rate for his writers. As a result (and perhaps due to the natural attrition of authors over time), Galaxy‘s Table of Contents now features a slew of new authors. In this month’s editorial, Gold trumpets this fact as a positive, predicting that names like Stuart, Lang, Barrett, Harmon, and Lafferty will be household names in times to come.
In a way, it is good news. This most progressive of genres must necessarily accept new talent lest it become stale. The question is whether or not these rookies will stay long enough to hone their craft if the money isn’t there. I suppose there is something to be said for doing something just for the love of it.
As it turns out, the August 1960 issue of Galaxy is pretty good. I’m particularly pleased with Chris Anvil’s lead novelette, Mind Partner. It’s a fascinating story involving a man paid to investigate a most unusual addictive substance, the habit of which its victims are generally unable to kick. Those that manage to break free retreat into paranoid near-catatonia or explode into random streaks of violence.
Chris is a fellow who has churned out reliably mediocre tales for Astounding (now Analog) for years, yet I’ve always felt that he was capable of more. Just as a good director can coax a fine performance out of an actor, perhaps Anvil just needs a better editor than Campbell.
William Stuart is up next with, A Husband for My Wife, a rather conventional, but not unworthy, time travel story involving the heated competition for affection and success between two friends/nemeses, one exemplifying brains, the other brawn. The brainy one jumps off into the future with the brawny one’s girlfriend leaving the latter stuck with the brainy one’s domineering wife. But the meathead and the shrew will be waiting when the brain returns…
Stuart was the new author who penned the pleasant (though ultimately dark) Inside John Barth in the last issue. His sophomore effort is not quite as good, but I can definitely see why Gold keeps him around, and he clearly has time to write!
Non-fiction writer Willy Ley is back to his old standard, I think, with his article on the origin of legends: How to Slay Dragons. I was particularly interested to learn that the mythical dragon, at least in the West, only goes back to the Renaissance. Apparently the notion of winged lizards cavorting with medieval princesses is anachronistic.
Back to fiction, The Business, as Usual is Jack Sharkey’s second story in Galaxy, and it’s about as bad as his first. Set in 1962, it portrays, satirically, the top brass of our nation figuring out what to do with a new stealth aircraft. It’s all a set-up for a groan-worthy last line.
Sordman the Protector is an interesting, ambitious novella by serviceman Tom Purdom about a class of psychically gifted “Talents” who are both prized and reviled for their abilities. The story is praiseworthy both for its innovative portrayal of future culture and the taut whodunit it presents. It is clear that the author put a lot into developing the tale’s background universe. I wonder if he intends to expand it into a novel.
Neal Barrett’s first tale, To Tell the Truth, has a cute title and an interesting set-up. In an interstellar war where security is of paramount importance, combatants are given pain blocks against torture and suicide triggers that trip if their owners are on the verge of divulging sensitive information. This provides strong protection for secrets when soldiers get captured. But what if the secrets were never true to begin with?
Finally, we’ve got L.J. Stecher’s An Elephant for the Prinkip, a rather delightful piece about the difficulties of transporting pachyderms across the stars. It’s one of those stories that shouldn’t work, being all tell and no show (literally–its narrator is a salty old captain recounting the tale at a bar), but it does. But then, I’ve always had a soft spot for stories involving interstellar freight.
That leaves the second and final part of Fred Pohl’s short novel, Drunkard’s Walk… but I’ll cover this one separately.