[September 1, 1960] Looking up (October 1960 Galaxy, second half)

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting like caught fish (with baited breath), so I shan’t keep you in the dark any longer regarding the October 1960 Galaxy.  The second half of the magazine is better than the first, but it is not without its troubles.

Neal Barrett is back with his sophomore effort, The Stentorii Luggage.  This engaging little tale highlights the dangers involved in running a hotel for dozens of disparate (and mutually incompatible) alien races.  It also justifies the “no pets” policy common to most places of lodging. 

A Fall of Glass gets my nomination for the best story of the issue.  This is also a second effort, by Stanley R. Lee, in this case.  Breezy, light touch tales are hard to pull off, but I think Lee has managed in this one, a romance set inside a climate-controlled, post-apocalyptic dome.  Superficially similar to World in a Bottle in subject matter, but far better in execution.

That brings us to Edward Wellen’s “non-fact” article, Origins of the Galactic Short-Snorter.  It’s an unwieldy title, to be sure, and these droll attempts at humor generally fall flat.  But this one, about a museum of obsolete currency, isn’t bad.

The one familiar name in the issue is Gordon Dickson.  He can usually be counted on to turn in a decent story; his The Hours are Good is rather masterful.  It’s not the vaguely futuristic setting or the details of the plot that stand out.  What distinguishes this thriller is the measured, deliberate way Dickson reveals what’s going on in, culminating in a nice kicker.  I like stories that show rather than tell, and it’s all show in this one.

Sadly, the issue doesn’t stop there.  It’s final tale, David Duncan’s The Immortals, is a loser.  In brief: the inventor of immortality wants to know the effects his efforts will have on civilization.  He enlists the aid of a computer simulations expert.  When the projection shows that everlasting life leads to cultural torpor, the pair insert themselves into the simulation to learn more.

Duncan’s story is B-Movie fare.  The idea that a computer could predict the future with perfect accuracy, so long as it is fed sufficient data, is silly on its face.  Anyone with a background in mathematics knows that even single equations often have several answers; many have an infinite number.  Add to that implausibility the idea that one could wander around this virtual reality and interact with its denizens using computers of current vintage…well, let’s just say I’ll need a splint for my strained credulity.

It’s really too bad.  The societal impacts of everlasting life are worth exploring.  So is the notion of creating “life” within the memory banks of a computer.  Either would merit a novel of development.  Both get short shrift in this clunky novelette.

In more positive news, my family enjoyed a lovely, sunset stroll down Grand Avenue in nearby Escondido a few days ago.  I picked up copies of my reading material for this month, so you can expect reviews of Sheckley and Sturgeon in short order.

7 thoughts on “[September 1, 1960] Looking up (October 1960 Galaxy, second half)”

  1. I love Wellen! And the Dickson could be nominated for the good mystery as well as sf collections. It’s a nice idea, Mafia executing a philosopher for optimism.

    You’re both looking good.

  2. I haven’t read the Duncan yet, but the rest of the stories in this half certainly went a long way toward making up for the first. I think my favorite was the Barrett. I wonder if he’s ever worked in the hotel business.

    I felt like “A Fall of Glass” took a little too long to get where it was going. It could have used some editing to cut away a little dross. And maybe it’s because I grew up in sunny Southern California, but 59° and 47% humidity sounds cold and clammy to me. Hardly optimum environmental conditions.

    The Dickson was also pretty good. I spotted the ending, but not all that early. He also did a really good job of filling us in on the society his story was set in without blatant exposition. And did anybody else think the protagonist sounded like Dickson himself? Especially physically.

    And, you sir, are either very, very tall or your wife is rather on the short side.

    1. 59° is cold, but 47% humidity sounds dry.  I’m from San Diego, and I love traveling to moister climes!

      Regarding, the Dickson, exactly.  You learn about the world in gradual little bits.  I love that kind of storytelling.

      I am moderately tall.  My wife is still searching for her pot of gold…

  3. “The Stentorii Luggage” — This was OK, nothing special.  A bit lightweight.  The author thought out the implications of his premise, at least.

  4. “A Fall of Glass” — I liked this one quite a bit.  Another soft, emotional story.  Perhaps the magazine is shifting its tone a bit in that direction (although this one does feature a touch of the satire that Galaxy is known for.) This reminded me of Ray Bradbury.  I’d say it’s a dead heat between this one and “Beach Scene” for the best story in the issue.  Sometimes giving new authors a chance pays off.  (Here in the hot, humid American South, 59 degrees and 47% humidity sounds good to me!  I think the author deliberately wanted to make his domed city sound cold and dry.)

    The very short review of “Starship Troopers” was interesting.  I never thought of it as a juvenile.

    The “non-fact” article didn’t tickle my funny bone.

    “The Hours are Good” was a solid story, quite well told.  I didn’t see the ending coming until quite near the end, so that worked for me.  I also liked the fact that not everything was explained.  (We don’t really know why the author was targeted, although Stephanie’s theory is intriguing.)

  5. “The Immortals” — Not good, although I didn’t hate it as much as “Cry Snooker.”  The idea of actually pouring the magic hormone into the computer made me snicker, as did the great escape by bicycle.  The sociological implications of a greatly extended lifespan and youthfulness are worth exploring, but this story wasn’t a particularly good example.  The “external” story, if you will, didn’t seem to add anything.

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