[Oct. 20, 1960] Fiction > Non-fiction… sometimes (the November 1960 Analog)

Each month, I lament what’s become of the magazine that John Campbell built.  Analog‘s slow decline has been marked by the editor’s increased erratic and pseudo-scientific boosting behavior.  Well, I just don’t have the heart to kick a dog today, and besides, the fiction is pretty good in this month’s (November 1960) issue.  So let’s get right to it, shall we?

“Mark Phillips” (Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer) have a new four-part serial in their Malone series.  Set in the 1970s, the series details the adventures of a couple of federal agents, who are helped in their cases by a telepath who believes herself (and may actually be) Queen Elizabeth I.  I won’t spoil the details of this one, Occasion for Disaster, but I’ve liked the previous novels, so I suspect Occasion will also be pleasant reading.

Heading off the magazine’s short stories is a fun piece by Theodore L. Thomas, half of the pseudonymous duo that previously brought us a fascinating study into the world of copyright, The Professional TouchCrackpot continues in that vein, featuring a brilliant old scientist (Prof. Singlestone… get it?!) who convinces the world that he’s gone senile.  His aim?  To make his work so disreputable that no government agency will want it, so that no university will employ him, so that he can for the first time in his life enjoy working as a truly free agent.  So that when his invention proves to be utterly unignorable, he will be the master of its fate.  Cute stuff.  Three stars.

Next up is E.C. Tubb’s The Piebald Horse.  It starts out well enough with a Terran spy trying to escape a repressive alien world with his brain full of sensitive knowledge.  The jig seems up for him when the aliens employ telepaths as mind-screen agents, but they are foiled when the protagonist pickles himself continuously until he can depart the planet.  I’m pretty sure I just saw this tactic in Fred Pohl’s Drunkard’s Walk.  2 stars.

These two stories are followed by a pair of execrable “non-fiction” articles.  Captain, MSC, US Navy H.C. Dudley, PhD (he must be authoritative–look at all the titles!) has the first: The Electric Field Rocket.  He maintains that the Earth’s electrostatic field can be used to assist rocket launches; he implies that the Soviet’s lead in the Space Race is attributable to their taking advantage of said phenomenon.  Not only is the article unreadable, but I suspect the science is bunk.  Time will tell.  1 star.

Speaking of which, Editor Campbell contributes the second article: Instrumentation for the Dean Drive.  I’m not even going to dignify with a review this next piece in an endless series on Dean’s magical inertialess engine.  He needs to knock it off already.  1 star.

Blessedly, the rest of the issue is quite good.  The reliable Hal Clement is back with Sunspot, an exciting, if highly technical, account of a group of spacemen who ride a comet around the Sun.  What better shielding exists for a close encounter with a star than billions of cubic tons of ice?  Four stars.

At last, we come to H. Beam Piper’s Oomphel in the Sky.  The set-up is great: a Terran colony world in a binary star system courts disaster when the planet makes a close approach to the usually far-away sun.  This triggers unrest amongst the natives, threatening Terran and native interests alike.  I’m an unabashed fan of Piper, and this is a good tale, although he does get a little patronizing toward the do-gooder but ineffective Terran government.  I like the strong anthropological bent, and I appreciate the respect with which he treats the natives and their interests.  Four stars.

In sum, the November 1960 Analog (I almost typed “Astounding“) is quite decent, fiction-wise.  Campbell needs to do what Galaxy’s Gold has done and hire a ghost editor, and a real non-fiction author.  I can’t believe there isn’t another budding Asimov or Ley out there champing at the bit to be published…

The fourth and last Kennedy/Nixon debate is tomorrow night!  I hope you’ll all watch it with me, but if you can’t bring yourself to sit through another hour of sparring, I’ll give you the full details the following day.

21 thoughts on “[Oct. 20, 1960] Fiction > Non-fiction… sometimes (the November 1960 Analog)”

  1. I have yet to read a Hal Clement story I didn’t like. For my money, he’s one of the best writers out there. Plus I’ve met him and he’s a really nice person, always happy to chat with fans.

  2. A lot of thought gone into Kwannon, and another tick for the name. Good descriptive writing, too. I do think it’s big business which is more likely to try and turn the natives into more economcally useful psedo-Terrans. As a non-religious do gooder myself, I think we’re more likely to keep them out of the tech civilisation, just not to hurt their poor little feelings. I did find the young female missionee a bit tiresome.

      1. Thanks very much for telling me that!

        Btw, in human history shamans were phonies. Some of them were sane, ‘and every shaman knows himself a fake, and believes implicitly in the power of other shamans’. Some of them were schizophrenic.

        I do think it was major league fail that none of them listened to the Terran-educated. Even a fool may know something worth knowing. (If it was humans, it would be the villager-in-the-street, not the priests, who decided to stick with the old ways.)

  3. Clement and Piper in one issue. That alone is enough to compensate for all flaky nonfiction. Not to mention the psionic stuff from Garrett and Jannifer. I have a really hard time suspending my disbelief when it comes to that. It’s interesting that Jannifer is able to contribute something that lets you overcome your problems with Garrett.

    I’d like to know what Capt. Dudley’s PhD is in. I bet it isn’t physics or anything to do with electronics. Wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t even in a scientific field at all. I don’t have any numbers, but I suspect that the Earth’s electrostatic field is far too weak to provide any benefit to boosting a rocket. The mass of any equipment necessary to exploit the field likely would overwhelm any gain.

    I love Piper and this is a terrific story, but I felt he was a bit ham-handed in his attitudes toward the ivory tower intellectuals and left-wing philosophers. It’s ironic that the title comes from the Wobblies songbook, written by Joe Hill himself, no less.

    1. Hmm, I made a couple of phone calls, and apparently Capt. Dudley is a nuclear physicist. Go figure. I still think he’s dead wrong.

  4. Thanks for sharing a couple of stories with us.

    The Tubb was well written, with an interesting background, and created some tension and suspense with its espionage plot.  However, the gimmick was transparent from the start, and made for a thin story.

    It’s difficult for me to be objective about the Piper, since it seemed designed to rub me the wrong way.  I’m a bleeding heart liberal.  (I’m sure the new John Birch Society would think of me as a pinko, if not an out-and-out commie.) Thus, I kept hoping that the woman would turn out to be the hero and show up the military-industrial complex (to quote that well-known Marxist Dwight David Eisenhower) as wrong.  Oh, well.  Trying to look beyond my own prejudices. I suppose the story was decently written with an interesting background.  I would have even been happy with a satiric look at the condescending attitude of well-meaning liberal do-gooders towards “natives,” but this was just too one-sided.  The military and business don’t exactly have a good track record when dealing with “natives,” either.

  5. Not sure if this is an error or just garbled: “Heading off the magazine’s short stories is a fun piece by Theodore L. Thomas, the pseudonym of the duo that previously brought us a fascinating study into the world of copyright, The Professional Touch. ”

    Theodore L. Thomas was not a pseudonym but a real person.  In collaboration with the real person Charles L. Harness, he wrote a series of pieces about copyright law under the pseudonym Leonard Lockhard.

    John Boston

        1. No problem. Keep up the good work: I do enjoy your comments.

          One thing I was told about these variant covers, btw, but I don’t know how true it is, but evidently the UK covers are not the same artists as the US ones, even though they look very similar. Must be a copyright issue, I guess.

  6. [twiddles thumbs anxiously] My copy still hasn’t shown up…

    Commenting unread on the Piper, though – I don’t know Piper’s philosophy or politics, but most of his societies (at least in the stories I’ve read) have a definite authoritarian streak to them.  It’s all through his Paratime stories, probably most blatant in “Temple Trouble” about ten years ago.  I like most of Piper’s stuff, but his future societies aren’t places I’d want to live in.

    1. I’d say Piper is probably in a political space not too far off from Heinlein. Maybe a touch more conservative socially, maybe a hair more liberal in politics. Hard to tell.

      As for his societies, he usually draws from some historical example and less pleasant times and places make for better stories. Mind you, I agree with you when it comes to his Paratime stuff and I sure wouldn’t want to go anywhere near his Lone Star Planet (though that’s not entirely his), but his Terro-Human Federation seems all right.

      1. I think this is right.  Piper’s fiction generally presents libertarian attitudes including great distrust of do-gooders and great value placed on the practical man (usage intentional) of action.  Some surprises to be found in his fiction are a strongly internationalist sentiment (see “The Mercenaries,” 1950) and a defense of academic tenure (“The Edge of the Knife” from about1957, if memory serves).  Of course one never knows the extent to which these expressions represent the author’s views or story devices.

        John Boston

    2. My copy finally came in, and I went straight for the Piper story.

      Frankly I was expecting something along the line of “Uller Uprising”, but under the pseudo-Raj gloss I found a surprisingly thoughtful story.

      The “help” the government of Kwannon gave its natives really wasn’t all that different from the kind of “help” the Bureau of Indian Affairs is extending right now…

      Miles Gilbert’s justification for lying to the natives got muddled in semantics and philosophy, which is sort of odd because he nailed it earlier when describing why the government was ignoring reports and failing to act: “You can’t tell that kind of people the truth. They won’t believe it. It doesn’t agree with their preconceptions.”

      It’s easy to snigger and point when you see that sort of thing, but it wasn’t that long ago that respected physicists were trying to shout down Einstein, Hilbert, and Dirac and their “quantum theory.”

      People don’t take kindly to having the basics of their world view changed, no matter how much proof you can show them.  And they’ll sometimes cling to outmoded beliefs even when their homes and workplaces are burning down around their ears.

      And *that* was the primary point of Piper’s story; that both the government and the natives were blinkered by their worldviews.  The military forces weren’t; not because they were military, but because they were outsiders who didn’t have a stake in the status quo.

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