[Nov. 28, 1960] Odds and Ends (the December 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

Here’s a math problem for you, kids!  If more than half of your magazine is taken up by a 2-star short novel, how likely is it that you’ll still end up with a good issue?

Answer: not very.

I’m used to Fantasy & Science Fiction having a long table of contents page.  This one (the December 1960 issue) comprises just ten entries, and all save the Asimov article are vignettes.  I wonder if we’ll be seeing a slew of larger stories now that Editor Mills has depleted his stock of tiny ones.

Anyway, it’s quality, not quantity that counts.  So how was the quality?

Winona McClintic is a sporadic contributor to the magazine, and she offers up The Way Out of Town, in which an infestation of snakes blocks all of the vehicular arteries in and out of every city in the (unidentified) state.  They cause havoc, widespread and personal, as one might expect. 

That’s about it; the story is over almost as it starts.  Mills says in the prologue, “Readers who like only those stories with beginnings and middles and ends, in which everything is clearly explained,may not be fully satisfied with the following.”  He’s right!  Two stars.

Up next is Rope’s End, by Miriam Allen deFord.  The premise is excellent: a Terran accidentally kills an alien on the extraterrestrial’s world.  His sentence is to wear a rope around his neck for twenty years–one that is constricted every year.  I like everything about it but the ending; and it’s not even the ending that bothers me so much as the protagonist’s inability to suspect how things would turn out given how much time he devoted to the problem.  Three stars.

Avram Davidson has a two-pager about sexually frustrated teens whose unfulfilled desires channel into a powerful psychokinetic talent.  Called Yo-ho, and Up, it is silly and rather difficult to read.  Two stars.

I don’t usually go for poetry, but Rosser Reeves (who is, apparently, a businessman by day) has a nice piece on alternate worlds called Infinity.  I dug it.  Four stars.

Speaking of digging, The Beatnik Werewolf is (I believe) the first effort by Dan Lindsay.  What’s a shaggy vegetarian hepcat…er…dog to do when he falls in love after two hundred years as a lone wolf?  Cute, if inconsequential.  Three stars.

Dr. Asimov’s article is on dolphins and echo-location this month.  A could-be fascinating topic, particularly the bits about the ability to produce sound being used for navigation long before its purposing for communication.  But the good doctor seems rather scattered this time around.  Three stars.

The last piece is a reprint from a literary mag New World Writing #16 called The Listener by John Berry.  It’s not really science fiction or fantasy, but I enjoyed it a lot, this tale of the meeting between an itinerant fiddler and an old, old lighthouser.  Four stars.

Using my trusty slide rule, this all adds up to about 2.5 stars.  A less than auspicious end of the year for what is normally my favorite science fiction magazine.  It’s a good thing the competition was in excellent form this month.

See you at the end of the month for a review of November, a preview of December, and a space-based peeping tom whose presence we can all be thankful for.

5 thoughts on “[Nov. 28, 1960] Odds and Ends (the December 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

  1. I’d say the Reeves poem alone is worth buying the magazine for. The Berry, too, is really good. Not sf, but good.

    I agree the Davidson is one of his duddest; and Thurber has written about non-writers like McClintic, who have half an idea and think that’s enough. To me, ‘Rope’s End’ is meh.

    I did enjoy the Lindsay, the better for being in pastels rather than technicolour. But I thought it much weaker for the end twist.

  2. I find the best thing I can say about the McClintic is that cat survived. It certainly didn’t hold together as a story at all, though I suspect the author (and perhaps the editor) thought there was some deep symbolism in there. She’s written a few other stories over the years and most of them have been run in F&SF. Boucher seems to like her stuff.

    “Rope’s End” was an enjoyable read, but it did fall a little flat. It might make a decent Twilight Zone episode; they like that sort of twist. Still, I expect better of Mrs. deFord.

    The werewolf tale was amusing, but I wonder if Mr. Lindsay has ever met an actual beatnik. I know it was meant to be humorous, but he made Maynard G. Krebs sound like a “square”. It pulled me out of the story over and over again. Next time, he should try reading a little Kerouac for authenticity.

    In any case, with “Rogue Moon” tossed in, I’m not sure this issue was worth my 40 cents. Well, they can’t all be masterpieces, I suppose. We did get two stories by women, at least.

  3. I agree that “The Listener” was the highlight of the issue.  If nothing else, the folks at F&SF have a knack for finding stories in the literary journals that would be of interest to their readers, even if they are technically not SF or F at all.  They just have that feel of strangeness that appeals to readers of speculative fiction.

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