by Gideon Marcus
Three years ago, my wife pried my nose out of my sci-fi magazines. “You’ve been reading all of these stories,” she said. “Why not recommend some of the best ones so I can join in the fun without having to read the bad ones.”
I started a list, but after the first few titles, I had a thought. What if, instead of making a personal list for my wife, I made a public list? Better yet, how about I publish little reviews of the magazines as they come out?
Thus, Galactic Journey was born.
It’s been an interesting ride. I was certain that I’d have perhaps a dozen subscribers. Then a large ‘zine made mention of the column, and since then, we’ve been off to the races. Our regular readers now number in the hundreds, and the full-time staff of The Journey is eight, going on nine. We’ve been guests at several conventions around the West Coast, and we’ve been honored with one of fandom’s most prestigious awards.
All thanks to you. So please join us in a birthday toast to the Galactic Journey family.
Speaking of significant dates, this month marks the end of an era. Astounding Science Fiction, founded in 1930, quickly became one of the genre’s strongest books under the stewardship of Editor John W. Campbell. Last year, Campbell decided it was time to strike out in a new direction, starting with a new name of the magazine. The process has been a gradual one. First, the word, Analog, was slowly substituted month after month over Astounding. The spine name changed halfway through this transition. As of this month, the cover reads Analog Science Fiction. I am given to understand that next month, it will simply say Analog.
I think it’s a dopey name, but it’s the contents that matter, right? So let’s see what Campbell gave us this month:
Well, not a whole lot, numerically. There are just five pieces, but most of them are quite lengthy.
First up is a novella by Analog perennial, Chris Anvil: No Small Enemy. It combines two common Analog tropes, Terran supremacy and psionics. In this case, an alien invasion is defeated by doughty humans using psychic talents. It should be terrible, and the coincidence of the extaterrestrial onslaught and humanity’s discovery of ESP strains credulity. Nevertheless, it’s actually not a bad read, and it suggests Anvil will do well when he’s not writing for Campbell’s unique fetishes. In fact, we know that to be the case based on last year’s Mind Partner, published in Galaxy. Three stars.
Jim Wannamaker’s Attrition features a fairly conventional set-up. Interstellar scout is dispatched to determine why a previous scout mission failed to return from an alien world. Where it fails in originality, it succeeds in execution. It’s a decent mystery, and the characterization and deft writing make it worth reading. Four stars.
Things go downhill in the science fact section of the magazine, as they often do. A Problem in Communication, by George O. Smith, is a weird piece about how the two brains of a Brontosaurus might talk to each other. It is followed up by Hal Clement’s Gravity Insufficient, an attempt to describe how magnetic fields modulate the Sun’s tempestuous flares. It starts out like gangbusters but then fizzles into incomprehensibility. Both pieces get two stars.
That leaves (Part 3 of 3) of Sense of Obligation, by Harry Harrison, which I’ll review next time. All told, this issue garners 3 stars. Given some of the real clunkers Campbell churned out this year, this may represent a good augury for this newly renamed digest. I’d hate for them to go the way of the dinosaurs…