Let’s do the numbers (June 1959 Astounding; 5-23-1959)

I’m about half-done with this month’s Astounding, but since that half largely comprises the second third of Dorsai!, and because I don’t want to give anything away before it’s complete, there’s not much fiction on which to report today.

But that doesn’t mean I’m out of material… 

Four months ago, I wrote about Astoundings unique habit of publishing the results of reader surveys of fiction appearing in the magazine.  I then compared what the readers thought of the November and December issues of Astounding and what I thought.

The numbers are out again, this time for the January and February issues, and the results are similar.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

When I reviewed the January issue, I noted that, with the exception of To Run the Rim, and Seedling, the magazine had been awfully unimpressive.  The problem with Editor Campbell’s scoring system is that it only compares the stories to each other rather than on an absolute scale.  That said, on my card, I put Rim first and Seedling second. 

Well, the rest of the readers agreed that Seedling was #2, but they put the tedious Study in Still Life on top.  I just can’t wait for Campbell to put more turgid “funny” tales in his mag.  To Run the Rim finished fourth, behind the fatuous Deadlock; Robin Hood’s Barn and By New Hearth Fires came in a distant fifth and sixth.  The fact that the highest scoring story only got a 2.84 suggests that, as with the December issue, readers were unimpressed with the crop and were voting ranking based on the story they liked least (rather than which one they liked most).

The February issue was a better one, and the readers’ opinions were more in line with my own.  Murray Leinster’s Pirates of Ersatz (Part 1) was the favorite at 2.03 followed closely by Silverberg’s Hi Diddle Diddle!.  As you’ll recall from my review, I actually liked that story quite a bit despite it being Silverberg, and despite it being one of the “funny” stories.  Within two paragraphs, I am found out as a hypocrite.  Ah the shame.

The jingoistic but good Stoker and the Stars came in a solid #3, while the medicore Missing Link and Accidental Death round out the list at a distant 4th and 5th.  Sadly, Leonard Lockhard’s satirical look at patent law, The Professional Touch, did not even make the list.

I’ll be very interested to see the numbers for the April issue, which demonstrated a marked increase in quality.  Then we’ll really see how the ratings compare.

In the meantime, I’ll have more on this month’s Astounding in a few days, and by then, all of July’s issues should have arrived in my mailbox.  Here’s hoping I’ll have more space shots to discuss, too.

(Confused?  Click here for an explanation as to what’s really going on)


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