[May 7, 1960] Grab Bag

Here’s a bit of a hodgepodge article for the column as I plow through reading material and await the next Space Spectacular:


RCA’s Mrs Helen Mann, holder of two degrees in physics, issues instructions to FLAC (Florida Automatic Computer) at Patrick Air Force Base, from where military and civilian (Air Force) space launches originate. From here

Being a statistics nut, I like to track the (completely subjective) quality of my science fiction digests.  For those just joining us, I use the Galactic Star scale, as follows:

5: Phenomenal; I would read again.
4: Good; I would recommend it to others.
3: Fair; I was entertained from beginning to end, but I would not read again or strongly recommend.
2: Poor; I wasted my time but was not actively offended.
1: Abysmal; I want my money back!

For those who like summaries, here is how the Big Three digests did last month (May 1960):

IF: 2 stars; best story: Matchmaker by Charles Fontenay, 3 stars

Astounding: 2.5 stars; best story: Wizard by Laurence Janifer, 3 stars

Fantasy and Science Fiction: 3 stars; best story: The Oldest Soldier, by Fritz Leiber, 4 stars

That’s a comparatively bad crop!  On the other hand, I’ve seen enough slumps to expect that this one won’t last.  After all, people have been predicting the death of science fiction for 6 years now…

In other news, something of an ominous development.  Apparently, a U2 high-altitude “spy plane” was shot down over the Soviet Union on May 1.  Premier Khruschev is making a lot of hay about it, but the White House says it was a civilian “weather study” mission under the auspices of NASA.

There’s even a picture to go with it:

I hope this doesn’t jeopardize the upcoming peace summit.

Happy birthday to Jack Sharkey, who turned 29 yesterday.  Galactic Journey has covered two of his tales to date.

Finally, I am excited to say that this column garnered an honorable mention in no less esteemed a venue than Astounding/Analog!  Rest assured, however, that the accolade will not prevent me from skewering Campbell’s magazine when skewering is due.

8 thoughts on “[May 7, 1960] Grab Bag”

  1. Congratulations on the boost from ‘Astounding’! Well earned.

    Of the spy plane, a non US person is apt to think it was parobably gathering both types of material.  Good luck with the peace conference, anyway. Don’t forget Kruschev will be snarky for domestic as well as foreign reasons. For instance, I believe Russian shoes are notoriously ill made.

  2. I’m a fan of “What’s My Line?” and the other panel shows, so it was nice to see Helen Mann at work.

    I’d pretty much agree with your ratings of the digests, although I think I liked “Open to Me, My Sister” better than you did.

    The U-2 crisis is frightening.

    1. Particularly since it appears we’ve been caught in a lie.

      As for the Farmer, the end just disturbed me… I wanted a sweet, interspecies love tale.  I got senseless murder.

  3. Your rating scale is a little harsher than the one I use for books, which runs:

    0 stars — I couldn’t finish it, a Dorothy Parker
    1 star — Significant problems, would not recommend
    2 stars — Readable but flawed, could have been better
    3 stars — Sound, enjoyable story, worth reading
    4 stars — Significantly better than average, recommended
    5 stars — Outstandingly good, knocked my socks off, read this book!

    3 stars is my default or baseline rating, from which I move up or down as indicated. I will sometimes keep a 2-star book, but anything below that goes to the used bookstore.

  4. Won’t be too long before we won’t need these somewhat risky plane flights for this sort of intelligence gathering. If we’ve got cameras that can take useful pictures from as high as these planes supposedly fly, then cameras that can take useful pictures from orbit can’t be far behind. The biggest problem is probably figuring out how to get the film back to the ground.

    1. I would think some sort of live broadcast would serve our uses better.  But as for film capsule return, is it any coincidence that the Air Force’s “biological sample return” Discoverers haven’t carried animals for the last eight missions or so?

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