[March 13, 1960] Shineless shoe (April 1960 Galaxy, Part 2)

Mediocre magazines are always the hardest to plow through.

When I’ve got a good issue in my hands, reading is a pleasure, and I generally tear through in nothing flat.  Bad issues are unpleasant, but I also feel no compunctions in skimming.

But it’s those middle-of-the-road, “C Minus” magazines that drag you down.  Each story is a chore, but none are so offensive as to register on the memory, even in their badness.

Had I known that this month’s Galaxy would be so lackluster (my apologies to those who favor the Bird), I might have skimmed faster and compiled my reviews into one article.  As it is, I have to devote an entire column’s space to the four remaining pieces, and they don’t deserve the energy.

Willy Ley’s column, entitled What’s Only Money, is an arid piece on the history and composition of coin currency.  As a numismatist, I found the subject matter interesting, but the presentation was lacking.  I miss the Dr. Ley of ten years ago.

Don’t Look Now, by Leonard Rubin, is a turgid tale about (I think) image projectors and the way they disrupt our lives in the future.  I tackled this story in small increments, and it left virtually no impression on me.

Then you’ve got the vignette, The Power, by veteran Fredric Brown.  It is neither remarkable nor offensive.

Rounding out the issue is George O. Smith’s, The Troublemakers, which starts promisingly but falls flat on its face.  It is really two intertwined stories.  The first involved a headstrong (read: “thinks for herself”) young woman who objects to being sedated into placidity, as is the norm in the overcrowded, genetically optimized future.  Note that Mr. Smith believes 6 billion souls will lead to cramped living conditions—see my thoughts on this issue in a prior article.

She also refuses to be paired with a somnolent drip of a fellow, who needs medication to act at an even minimal level of energy.

Then you’ve got the young spacer, who believes he has discovered an efficient hyperdrive that could open the stars to humanity.  He is told to cool his heels in a dead-end assignment until he discovers the error in his mathematics.  There, of course, isn’t one.

It turns out, as is telegraphed far in advance, that the seemingly unfair practices of the society, ostensibly designed to cull outliers, are really designed to find the few exceptional people so that they can be sent to far flung colonies and become the cutting edge of humanity.

I do find the idea of a crowded society a fascinating one, and rigid societal norms take on heightened importance in that circumstance.  Contrast the American expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” to the Japanese expression, “the nail that sticks out gets pounded.”  It makes sense that, on an overpopulated Earth, culture would favor conformity and sticking to the center of the bell curve.

But Troublemakers is boring, so even a good premise can’t save it.  And with that, the April 1960 Galaxy comes to an unsatisfying end.

Twilight Zone is on tonight.  Let’s see if that improves my outlook.  I’ve got a four-week summary coming up soon.

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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7 thoughts on “[March 13, 1960] Shineless shoe (April 1960 Galaxy, Part 2)”

  1. Of The Troublemakers: his characters have a conceit such as rendered the last issue of If so meleagrine. But what I most dislike about this story is the underlying assumption that only one type of human being matters. 

  2. Nitpick: It’s Fredric Brown, not Frederick — so anyone who searches the correct spelling of his name will find only one of the three actual hits.

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