[March 12, 1961] Mirror Images (April 1961 Galaxy, second half)

Last time, my theme was “more of the same,” pointing out that Galaxy is keeping its content as consistent as possible, at the expense of taking any great risks.  It is ironic that, as I pound the keys of my typewriter, my radio is playing a new version of “Apache.”  This bossanova version by a Danish cat, name of Jörgen Ingmann, is fair, but I like the British one better, the one compellingly performed by The Shadows

You are, of course, here to find out if the rest of the April 1961 Galaxy follows the trend set by the first half.  The answer is “yes.”  It’s a good issue, but not a great one.

Let’s start with the next story, I can do Anything by J.T. McIntosh.  I know I have readers who aren’t particularly fond of him, but I find he usually turns in a good show.  So it is with this story, about a man exiled to a miserable mining world for the crime of being a bit more than human.  His power is an unsettling one; I’m glad to see it employed solely for good.  A gritty piece with depth.  Four stars.

Homey Atmosphere is a cute tale about the virtues and difficulties inherent in employing sentient computers in one’s starships.  Daniel Galouye is another author on whom I often find opinion divided.  I generally fall on the side of liking him.  This story has an ending you might suspect before it occurs, but that doesn’t make it a bad one.  Four stars.

All the People is a strangely unwhimsical and straightforward piece by R.A. Lafferty about a man who knows everyone on Earth despite never having met most of them.  The story gets a quarter star for mentioning my (obscure) home town of El Centro, California, and it loses a quarter star for spoiling the ending a page early with a telling illustration.  Three stars.

I don’t know Roger Dee very well.  In fact, I’ve never reviewed any one his stories in this column, and though my notes suggest I’ve encountered him before, none of his creations stuck in my mind.  I suppose, then, it should come as no surprise that his The Feeling similarly failed to impress.  The notion that astronauts should feel an overwhelming sense of homesickness immediately upon leaving their home planet is not justified by any scientific research, and while, as the spacemen’s ship approaches Mars, the story careens near an exciting resolution, Dee adroitly manages to avoid it.  Two stars.

But then there’s Ted Sturgeon, who can write three-star stories in his sleep (and probably does, to pay the bills).  Tandy’s Story reads like a Serling preamble to an episode of The Twilight Zone and features two poignant themes.  The first is a Sturgeon perennial: the symbiotic merger of minds with a result decidedly greater than the sum of the parts involved.  The other is a human perennial: the unease at watching one’s children grow up far too fast… 

A very good story, but it doesn’t tread any new ground for Sturgeon or Galaxy.  Thus, just four stars.

On the plus side, we have a 3.5-star issue, and only one below-average entry in the bunch.  In the minus column (paradoxically) are the good stories, none of which are outstanding.  That said, I do like the fellows they’ve now got doing the art.  I say if you’re going to include pictures in your literary magazine, make them good ones.

Give me a couple of days for next entry—I’m making my way through James Blish’s Titan’s Daughter.  It’s not bad, so far, though it feels a little dated, which makes sense given that the first half of the novel was written as the novella, Beanstalk, nine years ago.

Stay tuned!

9 thoughts on “[March 12, 1961] Mirror Images (April 1961 Galaxy, second half)”

  1. This issue certainly is a winner. Thank you. The McIntosh and Lafferty are so well written! In I Can Do Anything, some might find the idea of human manual labourers being carefully transported over the ligth years a bit of a stretch, but McIntosh’s excellent writing helps to persuade it has social purpose. Both the plot and the writing are solid and stylish.

    All The People is dark Lafferty, which seems as good as his light.

    Galouye is pretty good, but I think Kid was a bit of a mistake; certainly his asking for help was unreasonable.

    I agree The Feeling isn’t written nearly as well as these, but it’s an original idea. Perhaps you could think of it as fantasy?

        1. Madge is what we, and it, called Imagination.  It was a decidedly B-rank mag, but when it had Mari Wolf’s column covering the fanzine and convention world, it was a worthy purchase.  It’s been dead for four years now.

  2. I haven’t made it through the Sturgeon yet, but I’m largely in agreement on the rest. I even liked the Galouye! I think the worst thing about “The Feeling” is that its premise is so utterly antithetical to science fiction itself. And you can’t really blame Lafferty for bad placement of an illustration.

    But this issue, with Lafferty and Sturgeon, not to mention the fairly unconventional Leiber and that odd Stamers story, makes it pretty clear that Gold is just a name on the masthead at this point and Fred Pohl is running the show. Heck, even the editorial was halfway coherent.

    1. I have to disagree.  Sturgeon came out with Baby is Three in Galaxy almost a decade ago.  Leiber’s was more F&SF, to be sure, but he’s been a Galaxy staple forever, too (A Pail of Air).  Lafferty is like a daft Sheckley, on whom Galaxy has a virtual monopoly.

      While I understand that Gold has largely handed over the reigns to Pohl, I do not see a dramatic shift in editorial choice in the flagship.  IF is where the weird stuff happens.

  3. “I Can Do Anything” — Not bad at all.  I was lukewarm over the premise at first — superpowers don’t do much for me — but the characterization was nicely done and the ending quite moving.  This is McIntosh at the top of his game.  I’ll give him credit for creating female characters who are at least two-dimensional (something he hasn’t always done in the past.)

    “Homey Atmosphere” — Cleverly done, with good characterizations of the simulated humans.  I’ll admit that I did not expect the ending, so it worked for me.  (I was expecting the starship to go into permanent warp mode, so the protagonist and his simulated friends could live in the fantasy world forever.)

    “All the People” — A darker side of Lafferty’s eccentric imagination.  The start of the story, with the four philosophical conversations, struck me as very much in this writer’s style.  Much of the rest reminded me of some of the more serious works of Philip K. Dick.  (The illustration didn’t spoil the story for me.  I must not be very observant today.)

    “The Feeling” is definitely the weak spot of this issue.  It reminded me a lot of the “Twilight Zone” episode “And When the Sky Was Opened.”  Like that episode, it was just a pointless anecdote.

    “Tandy’s Story” was a delight to read after that disappointment.  It’s got Sturgeon’s usual fine style and excellent characterization.  (McIntosh can do two-dimensional; Sturgeon does three-dimensional.) The highlight of the issue for me.

    Two items in passing:

    I was glad to see “A Fine and Private Place” get a glowing review.  It’s a truly fine novel.  Beagle is going to be a name to watch.

    I am excited to see that a new story by the mysterious “Cordwainer Smith” is coming up next time.  I am head-over-heels in love with his strange and beautiful myths of the far future, so I’m looking forward to that.

    1. Smith is excellent.  You’re so effusive in your praise that I feel as if I’ve been cynically stinting.  I just felt that, somehow, it wasn’t quite as magical as it could have been.

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