[November 13, 1960] Evening out (December 1960 Galaxy, second half)

It’s hard to keep the quality up in a long-format magazine like Galaxy, especially when your lower tier stuff gets absorbed by a sister magazine (IF).  Thus, it is rare to find a full issue of Galaxy without some duds that bring the average down.  Editor Gold has saved this month’s weak entries for the second half.

Not that you could tell at first, given the fascinating Subject to Change, by Ron Goulart.  A creepy story about a woman, her gift for transformation, her struggle with kleptomania, and her increasing estrangement from her fiancee.  Four stars.

H.B. Fyfe’s Round-and-Round Trip is a hoot.  If you’re an inveterate traveler like me, you’ll especially appreciate this tale of a fellow who seems to be trapped on the interstellar version of the M.T.A., endlessly shuttling from planet to planet, never reaching his destination.  But does he actually have one?  Or is the journey the thing?  I’m torn between three and four stars.

But then we have Blueblood, by Jim Harmon.  Human explorers find a planet of blue humanoids racially divided based on the depth of the skin’s hue.  The darker ones are seemingly dumber than the lighter ones.  I held my breath for some kind of satire or allegory regarding our present prejudicial woes in this country, but the story took a left turn somewhere and just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  If it’s allegory, the message to be gleaned is disturbing, and if it is not, then it’s just a weak tale.  It’s too bad–Harmon is fairly consistently good.  Two stars this time.

Patrick Fahy is another complete novice, and Bad Memory, illustrated by Mad Magazine’s Don Martin, is unimpressive.  A space horticulturalist sacrifices all to turn his planet into a Jovian swamp.  On the upside, he falls in love.  On the downside…well, I didn’t like the downside.  Two stars (you might like it more than me).

The issue is wrapped up by Daniel Galouye’s Fighting Spirit, about a space force clerk who shennanigans his way into real combat only to find that war isn’t quite the rifle and stiff upper lip type.  More the garlic, cross, and mirror type…  Three stars.

All told, we end up with an issue that just barely crests the three-star line on the Journey-meter.  Still, that’s pretty good for an issue in “decline,” and there are some definite gems, albeit more amethyst than emerald.

By the way, speaking of Don Martin, the newest Mad Magazine has hit the stands.  As you can see, they successfully predicted the outcome of the race:

But they also hedged their bet–this was the outside cover:

10 thoughts on “[November 13, 1960] Evening out (December 1960 Galaxy, second half)”

  1. I consider you very generous to give ‘Bad Memory’ two stars. I wouldn’t even give it one.

    Harmon’s team would have messed up any contact. I *think* his point is ‘What can you expect of civilians/amateurs’?

    Thanks for sharing the Mad magazine cover. Bravo, them.

  2. The Goulart story was excellent, possibly my favorite in this issue. He’s put out quite a few stories in the last couple of years and I think he shows real promise. He seems to have a bit of hand for humor as well, which is rare in the field. I hope we see a lot more from him.

    The Fyfe was also quite good. I did figure out what was going on ahead of time (although I didn’t suspect the protagonist was that far up the ladder). It was the only explanation for the constant changes to his ultimate destination. An enjoyable story.

    But after that? Ho, boy. I’ll grant Harmon some points for trying to address a serious issue, but he flubbed completely. The story is just a mess and I wound up skimming over most of it. The same is true for the Fahy, without the attempt to deal with a serious issue. Both might have turned into decent stories in other hands, but these were awful.

    And once again, I bounce completely off of a Galouye story. I don’t get it. He seems to write well and his ideas are interesting. But somehow the words just won’t come off of the page and into my brain. We’re utterly incompatible for some reason, which is too bad and my loss. I’ll keep trying, though.

  3. FWIW, my rating system runs thusly:

    0 stars – so bad I couldn’t finish it (this is rare)
    1 star – seriously flawed, do not recommend
    2 stars – flawed but readable
    3 stars – competent, no significant flaws in either story or writing (this is my default rating)
    4 stars – significantly better than average
    5 stars – outstanding, knocked my socks off

    I should note that different people will respond differently to a particular flaw, and something that I view as a 2-star might be a 1-star for someone else, or even a 0-star if they find that particular flaw to be a deal-breaker.  One thing I like about your reviews is that, like me, you tend to be specific about things you consider to be flaws; that’s helpful to the reader.

    1. I’m glad you appreciate, stardreamer.  The tricky part is doing so in a way that doesn’t spoil the story (particularly when I’ve been given license to distribute).

      Your scale is similar to mine save that I lack a zero, which means 1 and 2 are worse.  A 3 for me is perfectly enjoyable.  If the subject matter is of interest to someone, I may recommend it. 

      It does seem like there were far fewer 5s this year than last year.  I don’t know if my standards are higher or if the quality really has gone down.

      1. I started out without a zero rating; it was added after the first time I encountered a book so horrendously written that I really couldn’t finish it. That seemed worth having its own marker, and there was nowhere else to go.

  4. Hmm.  I seem to be neither as favorably disposed to the good stories in this issue as most, nor as disfavorably disposed to the bad ones.  Overall, my reaction to this half of the issue is fair-to-middlin’.

    “Subject to Change” wasn’t bad, and it was interesting to see a bit of pure fantasy in Galaxy.  (The influence of F&SF, maybe?) I felt that the story ended just when it was getting going, however.

    “Round-and-Round Trip” was amusing enough.  I expected the same revelation as our host, but the explanation provided by the author actually makes a little more sense.

    “Blueblood” handled an explosive issue pretty lamely, I’d agree.  Maybe the author had his heart in the right place, but what could have gone into some cutting allegorical satire just wound up as a gimmick story.

    “Bad Memory” is a forgettable trifle.  I didn’t hate it, but the best thing about it was unmistakable Don Martin art.

    “Fighting Spirit” (only now do I understand the double meaning of the title) was interesting, and shows more of the fantasy creeping into Galaxy that I mentioned above.  The best story in the second half, I think.

    If nothing else, this issue had a lot of different kinds of stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.