Hello, fellow travelers! As promised, here’s a round-up of this month’s Galaxy magazine.
Or should I say Galaxy Science Fiction? According to editor Horace Gold (and I somehow missed this), Galaxy was misprinted last month with the old logo and the old price! They really lost their shirt on that issue, sadly. On the other hand, Gold is going to try not being ashamed of what he peddles and see if it affects sales positively or adversely. I’m hoping for the former.
Diving into the stories, George O. Smith continues to write in a workmanlike fashion. His The Undetected is part thriller, part who-dunnit, part romance, and features a psionic detective looking for a psionic criminal. And you thought it could only happen in Astounding.
The often-excellent Phillip K. Dick has a lackluster story in this ish: War Game. In the future, the tricky Ganymedians are constantly trying to sneak subversive toys past our customs censors. In this case, they succeed by occupying the attention of a pair of said censors with a sort of automated toy soldier kit. It’s the sort of throwaway tale I’d have expected ten years ago.
On the other hand, it provides an excellent segue to an exciting new arena of gaming. A hundred years ago, the Germans invented sandbox “wargaming,” wherein they simulated war with a set of rules and military units in miniature. A half-century later, H.G. Wells proposed miniature wargaming as a way of scratching the human itch for violence without bloodshed. Fletcher Pratt, popularized the naval miniature combat game in World War 2, playing on the floor of a big lobby.
A fellow named Charles Roberts has taken the concept of miniature wargaming and married it to the tradition of board-gaming (a la Scrabble and Monopoly or Chess, perhaps a prototype wargame). Thanks to his revolutionary Tactics, and its sequel Tactics II, two players can simulate war on a divisional scale between the fictional entities of “Red” and “Blue” using a gameboard map, cardboard pieces, and dice. While perhaps not as visually impressive as facing off thousands of tin soldiers against each other, it is far more accessible and inexpensive.
War leaves me cold; I am a confirmed pacifist. But there is fun in the strategy and contest that a wargame provides. I look forward to seeing what new wargames Roberts’ Avalon Hill company comes up with. Perhaps we’ll see games with a science fictional theme in the near future—imagine gaming the battles depicted in Dorsai! or Starship Soldier!
To the next story: Jim Harmon is a fine writer, and his Charity Case, about a fellow hounded by demons who cause his luck to be absolutely the worst, starts out so promisingly that the rushed ending is an acute disappointment. Maybe next time.
Fred Pohl’s The Snowmen is a glib, shallow cautionary tale covering subject matter better handled in Joanna Russ’ Nor Custom Stale. In short, humanity’s need to consume compels it to generate power from heat pumps that accelerate the process of entropy leaving Earth in a deep freeze.
I did like Robert Bloch’s Sabbatical, about a time traveler from 1925 who quickly determines that the grass is always greener in other time zones, and one might as well stay home. I enjoyed the off-hand predictions about the future—that Communism will no longer be the big scare, to be replaced with Conservativism; the patriarchy will be replaced with a matriarchy; the average weight of folks will be dramatically higher. I guess we’ll see which ones come true.
Finally, we have Andy Offut’s Blacksword. I had hoped for an epic fantasy adventure. Instead, I got one of those satirical political romps wherein one man plays chess with thousands of inferior minds, and things work out just as he planned. And then it turns out he’s just a pawn (or perhaps a castle) in a bigger political chess game. Inferior stuff.
All told, this issue tallied at three stars. The problem is that this issue wasn’t a mix of good and bad but rather a pile of unremarkable stories. With the exception of the Sheckley and the Ley article, and perhaps Bloch’s short story, it was rather a disappointment.
Of course, this month’s Astounding prominently features Randall Garrett, again. Out of the frying pan, into inferno.
See you in two! Try not to get involved with any rigged quiz shows…
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P.S. 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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