[May 4, 1962] Cleft in Twain (June 1962 Galaxy, Part 1)


by Gideon Marcus

A few years ago, Galaxy Science Fiction changed its format, becoming half again as thick but published half as often.  196 pages can be a lot to digest in one sitting, so I used to review the magazine in two articles.  Over time, I simply bit the bullet and crammed all those stories into one piece – it was cleaner for reference.

But not this time.

You see, the June 1962 issue of Galaxy has got one extra-jumbo novella in the back of it, the kind of thing they used to build issues of Satellite Science Fiction around.  So it just makes sense to split things up this time around.

I’ve said before that Galaxy is a stable magazine – rarely too outstanding, rarely terrible.  Its editor, Fred Pohl, tends to keep the more daring stuff in Galaxy’s sister mag, IF, which has gotten pretty interesting lately.  So I enjoyed this month’s issue, but not overmuch.  Have a look:

The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass, by Frederik Pohl

Instead of an editor’s essay, Pohl has written a cute vignette on overpopulation without remediation.  Old Man Malthus in a three-page nightmare.  Apparently, good old Phineas didn’t think to pack Enovid when he brought perfect health back in time to the Roman Empire.  Anyway, I liked it.  Four stars.

For Love, by Algis Budrys

Budrys strikes a nice balance between satirical and macabre in this post-alien-invasion epic.  The last remnants of Homo Sapiens, driven underground after a tremendous ET tetrahedron crashes into the base of the Rockies, launch a pair of daring attacks against the invaders.  But at what cost to their humanity?  Four stars.

The Lamps of the Angels, by Richard Sabia

I viciously panned Sabia’s first work, I was a Teen-Age Superweapon; his latest is an improvement.  A thousand years from now, the human race is on the verge of reaching out for the stars, and one Mexico City-born pilot is selected for the honor of scouting Alpha Centauri.  But if humanity was meant to explore beyond the sun, surely God would have given us hyperdrives at birth.  A bit clunky in that “translated foreign languages way” (and I can be guilty of the same charge), but also compelling.  Three stars.

For Your Information: Names in the Sky, by Willy Ley

Every now and then, Ley returns to his former greatness and gives us a really good article.  This one, on the origins of the names of planets and stars is filled with good information pleasantly dispensed.  Of course, I’m always more kindly disposed towards articles that deal with etymology and/or astronomy… Four stars.

On the Wall of the Lodge, by James Blish and Virginia Blish

The latter portion of the magazine takes a sad turn for the worse.  Lodge is an avante garde piece about (I believe) a fellow whose life takes place in a television show.  It tries too hard and doesn’t make a lot of sense.  More significantly, it lost my interest ten pages in.  Thus, I must give it the lowest of scores: one star.

Dawningsburgh, by Wallace West

A cute piece about a callow tourist on Mars, who resents the other callow tourists of Mars, and the attempts to revive departed Martian culture with robots, to make a few bucks for the callow tourist industry.  Three stars.

Origins of Galactic Philosophy, by Edward Wellen

Wellen’s Origins series has deteriorated badly.  This latest entry, involving a space entrepreneur and the robot society he finds, is utterly unreadable.  One star.

Dreamworld, by R. A. Lafferty

Last up is a whimsical piece on a literal nightmare world with an telegraphed ending made tolerable by Lafferty’s unique touch.  Worth two or three stars, depending on your mood (and on which side of the bed one woke).

***

I’ll save The Seed of Earth, by Robert Silverberg, for next time.  Here’s hoping it is in keeping with the first third rather than the second third of the magazine.  In the meantime, stay tuned…and try not to get drafted.

5 thoughts on “[May 4, 1962] Cleft in Twain (June 1962 Galaxy, Part 1)”

  1. Let me put in a good word for “On the Wall of the Lodge.”  It does make sense, of an unusual sort: surrealistic dream logic.  I found its imagery nightmarishly powerful.  It’s far from perfect–I suspect it’s been hacked out of some larger work that’s very far from finished–but I am always glad to see something in these magazines that isn’t the same old crap, even if I wouldn’t want to see this variety every month.

  2. Pohl’s sardonic little essay/story certainly made its point in a sharp and effective way.

    “For Love” was the best story in this part of the issue, I thought.  Budrys manages to come up with unique concepts and make them seem completely real, while not neglecting his characters.

    “The Lamps of the Angels” was quite good, in my opinion.  I could quibble that its Mexican characters are a bit quaint, and the second half is somewhat overwritten, but it held my interest all the way through.

    I’ll agree with John Boston that the Blishes convincingly portrayed a nightmare, even though I didn’t see much of a point to it.  If “Who’s in Charge Here?” was subtle, this was completely opaque.

    “Dawningsburgh” was a powerful fable about the real destroyed by the fake.  Not bad at all.

    The Wellen was tiresome, way too long for its attempt at comedy.

    “Dreamworld” was predictable, but had that special Lafferty quirkiness to make it enjoyable.

    It was interesting to see so many out-and-out strange stories in Galaxy.  A couple of them seemed more like fantasy than SF.  Maybe the magazine is becoming more like If, or maybe Pohl just likes that kind of oddball story.

  3. Well, wherever SF in general and Pohl’s GALAXY in particular is trending, if any editor could fill whole issues with stories of the quality of ‘For Love’ by Budrys the field would be far the better for it.

    Though grimmer, also. Still, Budrys is producing work here at a comparable level to that of the best of the late, great C.M. Kornbluth.

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