[Oct. 30, 1960] Halloween Candy (the November 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

With Halloween around the corner, one might have thought that there would have been an extra spooky issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction this month.  Nothing doing.  The current issue is nothing extraordinary, if not completely forgettable.  Having covered the end novellette in my last article, it’s time to cover the rest of the magazine.

I’ve never heard of Vance Aandahl before, but his tiny It’s a Great Big Wonderful Universe, about a sad Terran who has everything but the planet he hails from, is a good aperitif.  Four stars.

Robert F. Young is up next with his Romance in a Twenty-First Century Used-Car Lot.  It’s a weird extrapolation and intersection of two trends: an increased sanction of promiscuity coupled with a perverse need to be armored against the world.  In this story, everybody, but everybody, is expected to wear their own personal automobile at all times.  To go without is to be shunned as a “nudist.”  It’s all very strange and allegorical, but too silly to be effective.  Once again, it’s not up to the standard set by his excellent To Fell a Tree, though I did appreciate that the protagonist was female, and the story’s focus on the very real difficulties they face vis. a vis. men and society.  Three stars.

Who dreams of Ivy? is another macabre piece by Will Worthington set in a world marred by institutionalized violence and fear.  I’m afraid I didn’t quite get it, or maybe there isn’t much to get.  Is there a message to this dark look at election season, where mayors live in constant fear for their lives, and thus take this fear out on their citizens?  I feel as if Sheckley’s Ticket to Tranai did it better and more humorously.  Three stars.

Next up is an old old reprint, Funk, by John W. Vandercook.  It’s a well-written if somewhat pedestrian tale of dark magic on the steamy coast of West Africa.  What happens when you build a bank vault right square on the spot where the Crocodile God slithers to devour its periodic sacrifices?  Nothing good, I assure you.  The closest we get to a seasonal ghost story.  Three stars.

I did quite enjoy Combat Unit, from newcomer Keith Laumer, in which a damaged but still-sentient robot tank finds itself behind enemy lines.  This is a fine portrayal of metallic, sexless intelligence.  Four stars.

Yes, we have no Ritchard, by Bruce J. Friedman (normally a writer for the slicks), is a cute tale about an usual afterlife situation.  There is a Heaven and a Hell, but no one goes to Heaven, and Hell isn’t so bad.  So how does one distinguish the good from the bad?  And what happens to the ego of a good man in such a demoralizing predicament?  Three stars.

Finally, we have Isaac Asimov’s latest non-fiction piece, The Element of Perfection.  As one might gather from the title, it’s on the discovery of Helium (and, incidentally, the other noble gases).  It’s one of my favorite articles from the good doctor–educational and entertaining.  Five stars.

No surprises this month: an F&SF that finishes slightly on the positive side of three stars.  You won’t regret the expenditure of 40 cents (quite reasonably, really), but I suspect you won’t find yourself returning to this issue very often, either.

Tomorrow, a sneak preview at the month of November!

7 thoughts on “[Oct. 30, 1960] Halloween Candy (the November 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

  1. Myself, I liked the Young very much. Perhaps the personalities were too simplified for you? For once, metaphor was fun. I love the updating of Wagner and Perrault, and the note that Carbonella is considered adult fare. A definite lol at Thank you, Big Jim; and not such a laugh at raise your quota of consumers. Arabella’s address to the judge is a good serious touch. Good cover, too.

    I agree about the Laumer. The bits about classical music somehow really improved and solidified the story.

  2. I quite liked the Reynolds story, but the Laumer one *shines*.

    Self-aware computer brains go back to the early days of SF, of course, but stories set from the point of view of the brain itself are not common. 

    This isn’t just a very short story, it’s only a handful of hours in story time, almost all of it spent waiting for orders.  Yet I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next.

    Unit TME isn’t just a person, it is a self-aware weapon, which is fairly horrifying if you stop to think about it.  Yet it has curiosity and introspection.  And though we’re told nothing about its creators other than that they were human, those creators didn’t just make a self-aware weapon, they chose to load its memories with music and literature.  The society that made something like that… that’s worth a story in itself.

    Laumer seems to be fairly new; the only other thing I can remember seeing with his name on it was “Diplomat-at-Arms” in Fantastic SF.  That one was a riotously funny comedy, nothing at all like this.

    So far he’s knocked two for two right out of the park. If Laumer keeps on writing like this, he’s going to be a star.

    1. I had hoped that the twist would be that the “capturers” were trying to repair him, and that it would be a little tragic that he wreaked so much havoc.  Still, the story I got was fine, too.

  3. I thought this was a pretty good issue, with no really bad story in it.

    Aandahl, according to the story’s blurb, is still a teenager.  Good start!  Reminded me of Bradbury.

    I enjoyed the Young as satire of the modern American obsession with automobiles.

    The Mohler, according to my notes, was my favorite story in the issue.  I guess I enjoy things that are dark and mysterious.

    The Vandercook was a decent horror story, nothing special.

    I don’t think you mentioned the extremely weird thing — prose poem? — by Robert Choly.  “Danse Macabre” was pure surrealism, which works well enough at such a very short length.

    The Laumer was a good, solid SF story.

    I got a kick out of the Friedman, and I don’t usually like most fantasy humor.  This was was quite witty.

    The Reynolds was a decent bit of sociological SF.

    Nice balance of genres and moods in this issue.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts!  Yes, I tend to skip the one/half-pagers.  I never know how to review them.

    What did you think of my previous article (on the Reynolds and other matters)?  I was surprised to receive no mail regarding that one.

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