Ring in the New Year!  (January 1959 Fantasy and Science Fiction; 1-01-59)

Happy New Year!  1959 promises to be stellar in all senses of the word.

My apologies for the hiatus.  Those of you who are familiar with manual typewriters know the strain pressing down on those keys can have on your hand muscles.  I am fairly drooling over the idea of trading in my Smith Corona portable for one of the slick, new IBM electrics.  Perhaps when this column makes me a millionaire.

My regular subscribers (soon, I will need both hands to count you) know of my long quest to secure the January 1959 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Ironically, shortly after I finally picked up a battered old copy at a secluded newsstand, I received the new February issue!  So, for a short time, I have lots to read.

The January issue is quite good, at least so far as I have read.  Former editor Anthony Boucher kicks off the issue with the first tale of his I’ve really liked: The Quest for St. Aquin falls into the rare category of post-apocalyptic religious fiction.  In fact, the only real example of the genre I can recall is Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz, which I much enjoyed, and which also debuted in F&SF.  Boucher’s tale follows a young priest and his robot companion as they travel through a radiated, Christian-hostile America.  It’s atmospheric, thought-provoking, and fun.  A cameo character gives the story an extra star all on his own (those who know me will know who he is).

I’ve already written about Asimov’s non-fiction article, which dealt with the threat of global warming.  It’s worth reading.  The next piece of fiction is a fine short piece by Avram Davidson (does he write any other kind?) called The Woman who Thought She could Read.  If you like gypsies, fortune-telling, Avram Davidson, sad endings, or any combination thereof, you don’t want to miss this atmospheric tale.

I’m saving the issue’s novella, Fritz Leiber’s The Silver Eggheads, for next time.  Thus, the subsequent tale is Dick’s first short story in a while: Explorers We, about a returning expedition from Mars.  It’s not bad, but Dick has spoiled me.  I expect all of his stories to rock me.  Ah well.

It is worth reading Tony Boucher’s “Recommended Reading” column, if only for his droll relating of his encounters with UFOlogists. 

Finally (for this article, not the issue) came Robert F. Young’s cleverly titled and aptly timed Santa Clause.  The story asks the question: is it better for the delusional characters of one’s childhood to be real or completely nonexistent?  Sadly, though the tale is well-written and ties in both Saint Nick and Old Nick, it somehow fails to deliver a knockout punch at the end.

So stay tuned!  Next article, I shall wrap up the January F&SF, unless, of course, scientific events preempt my spotlight on fiction and compel me to do a stop-press account.

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