Tag Archives: 1963

[January 22, 1963] Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive (February 1963 Fantastic)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Silverwolf

January was full of ups and downs here in the United States.  Early in the month, the price of a first class stamp jumped from four cents to five cents.  That’s a twenty-five percent increase, and it’s only been five years since the last time the cost went up.


And postcards are now four cents.

At least we could forget about inflation for a while when Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece La Gioconda (more commonly known as Mona Lisa) was put on exhibition in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.  Thanks to the diplomatic charm of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the French agreed to let the most famous painting in the world travel across the Atlantic.


President Kennedy, Madame Malraux, French Minister of State for Cultural Affairs Malraux, Mrs. Kennedy, Vice-President Johnson.

Not even this great artistic event, however, could distract Americans from the most important social problem facing the nation.  Because I live about twenty miles from the state of Alabama, it hit me hard when I read the inauguration speech of George C. Wallace, newly elected Governor of the Cotton State.


Wallace delivering a speech written by Asa Carter, a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

Given this fiery defiance, I am terrified of the possibility of my country facing a second Civil War over Civil Rights.

It’s understandable that, in these uncertain times, Americans turned to the soft crooning of Steve Lawrence’s syrupy tearjerker Go Away, Little Girl, which hit the top of the charts this month.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic is a mixture of the good and the bad.

Dr. Adams’ Garden of Evil, by Fritz Leiber

It seems likely that Lloyd Birmingham’s bizarre cover art provided the inspiration for this strange story of supernatural revenge.  The antihero is the publisher of a girlie magazine.  A woman holds him responsible for the coma that robbed her sister of her mind after she was the magazine’s Kitten-of-the-Month.  We quickly find out that this isn’t just paranoia on her part.  Through methods that combine Mad Science and Black Magic, the publisher grows miniature copies of women, which have harmful effects on the real ones.  He soon faces his just deserts.  Stylishly and elegantly written, with a great deal of imagination, this is a weird tale that always holds the reader’s attention.  Four stars.

The Titan in the Crypt, by J. G. Warner

The narrator enters a labyrinth of catacombs beneath the city of New Orleans, where he witnesses arcane rituals by cultists offering a disturbing sacrifice to a gigantic idol.  A horrible being chases after him as he makes his way back to the outside world.  This pastiche of H. P. Lovecraft doesn’t offer anything new.  The best thing about it is another outstanding, if grotesque, illustration by Lee Brown Coye.  Two stars.

Let ‘Em Eat Space, by William Grey Beyer

This issue’s reprint comes from the November 4, 1939 issue of Argosy.  Two insurance investigators travel to a distant solar system in order to find out why the metabolism of everyone on Earth is slowing down.  They find a planet inhabited by giant intelligent blobs, some of whom have mutated into evil creatures that prey on the others.  Our pair of wisecracking heroes manage to save humanity and the aliens.  This is a wild, tongue-in-cheek pulp adventure yarn with a lot of bad science.  Two stars.

Final Dining , by Roger Zelazny

An artist paints a portrait of Judas, using a strange pigment he found in a meteorite.  The painting has a life of its own, and tempts the painter into evil and self-destruction.  This is a compelling story by a prolific new writer.  It’s slightly overwritten in places, and the meteorite seems out of place in a tale of pure fantasy, but otherwise it’s very effective.  Four stars.

The Masters, by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is only the second genre story by another promising newcomer.  It takes place centuries after the fall of modern civilization.  Instead of returning to a completely pre-technological society, however, the people in this post-apocalyptic world are able to build steam engines and other moderately advanced devices.  The plot begins when a man undergoes a grueling initiation, allowing him to join the rigidly controlled guild of machinists.  A fellow engineer tempts him to violate the rules of their order through such forbidden activities as trying to measure the distance to the Sun and using Arabic numerals.  This pessimistic tale is much more original than most stories set after a worldwide disaster.  Four stars.

Black Cat Weather, by David R. Bunch

Editor Cele Goldsmith’s most controversial author offers a brief story set in a future where people have many of their body parts replaced with metal.  A little girl not yet old enough to require such procedures, assisted by a robot, brings something from a cemetery to her father.  Told in a dense style that requires close reading, this is a dark, disturbing tale.  Four stars.

Perfect Understanding, by Jack Egan

A man’s spaceship crashes on Mercury while racing away from hostile aliens.  The ethereal beings track him down, but he captures them and forces them to reveal their secrets in a way not revealed until the end of the story.  This space opera reads like something rejected by Analog.  It throws in a lot of implausible details, and the twist ending is predictable.  One star.

Like life in these modern times, this issue was a real rollercoaster ride.  Maybe it’s best to follow the advice of the old Johnny Mercer song and accentuate the positive.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 20, 1963] The Big Freeze (news from a UK fan)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

The new year has brought snow. Lots of snow. So much snow that parts of Britain have been brought to a standstill. I thought last year was bad, but this year puts last years snow into perspective, in much the same way as downing a yard of ale as compared to a good old British pint of beer does.

And just to make things clear, when I say snow, I don’t mean a few fluffy flakes falling on London.

Parts of the country have been cut-off by the amount of snow that has fallen here. A blizzard left up to 20 feet of snow in some places. The BBC news shows images of the sort of thing one might see in some Hollywood extravaganza set in the Antarctic wastes.

One almost expects to see penguins or Polar bears. I could easily imagine Polar bears swimming here to enjoy our climate. It’s a snowpocalypse I tell you. Send food parcels now! 

OK, I jest, but not by much.

Really, it started snowing on Boxing Day and has continued to snow pretty much until now. A waterfall has frozen in Wales, I know Niagara Falls freezes, but this is Britain, we haven’t experienced these conditions for a very long time. How long ago you might ask? The Met Office says this has been the coldest January since 1814.

That’s a long time ago.

Also, the sea in Whitstable Bay froze. The sea water froze out to four miles at Dunkirk. I knew theoretically it can happen, but…

As I’m writing this, the forecast for tonight is for temperatures to drop to minus eight degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I work and live in London. So I may moan and grumble, but I don’t have to face the hardships of those people living in the countryside cut-off by snow drifts.

But, there is a promise of a thaw in a few days time. I can only hope that the Met Office is correct in their prediction.

I’m sure they’re right, after all, Cliff Richard’s new musical film, Summer Holiday, premiered the other week in London. Surely this presages warmer weather to come? Cliff Richard and The Shadows are a popular young persons band, for those who have not heard of him or them.

This is, as always, only the backdrop to the wonderful world of the science fiction, like myself and my friends in The London Circle.

Oh, what jolly japes and fun were had as we sat drinking, discussing the mood of the general population. We fans talked about stories set in snowy wastelands. Frankenstein was mentioned as the prime setting. Lovecraft’s, At the Mountains of Madness, was also deemed germane.

And, of course, the horror of starvation as food ran out with the railways and roads snowbound. SF fans have a great imaginations, and the amazing ability to create stories from whole cloth. It was almost like we were re-enacting the Shelley, Byron, and Polidori’s competition to write a scary story. 

Then somebody mentioned we’d all have to live by eating pork pies supplied by Brian Burgess. That leavened the tone of the conversation, making everyone present burst out in laughter. A laughter with a slight hollow ring to it, as anyone who has survived the experience one of eating one of Brian’s famous pork pies can attest.

Brian, a rather large man, who can appear intimidating when you first meet him, can best be described as one of fandoms great eccentrics. Which is saying something when it comes to fandom. Though, after thinking about it for a moment, British people in general can be rather eccentric. Or so my American friends tell me.

I blame the war, but war stories will have to wait for another time.

Last month I mention That Was The Week That Was. This month, in a more serious vein, befitting the serious weather we’re facing, another news show I recommend people to try and catch, if they can. The commercial broadcaster, Grenada Television, launched The World in Action. An unorthodox current affairs programme that investigates more thoroughly what That Was The Week That Was mocks.

Already there are rumblings in the House as the news team’s probing into underhand dealing and corruption threaten to expose the great and the good. I shall be making time to watch The World in Action and report back.

And on another serious note, the leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, died suddenly at the age of 56 from heart failure. His sudden passing has shocked the establishment, being labelled a national tragedy.

He was certainly a more moderate politician than some of his more left wing party colleagues, and I admired his appeals to reason. Though my psychological background always makes me doubt that such appeals will be effective. In the words taken from the short story collection, Assignment in Eternity, Robert Heinlein said, “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So that’s it for another month. I promise to wrap up warm and stay safe. You do the same, please.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 17, 1963] Things of Beauty (February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The beautiful and talented Betty White turned 41 today.  Of what is this apropos?  Nothing in particular.  Just a piece of pleasant news amidst all the Asian war talk and tax cut squabbling and racial disharmony one must contend with in the paper and on the TV.  Ms. White is always so charming and cheerful, but in an intelligent (not vapid) way.  She reminds me, in her own way, of Mrs. Traveler, this column’s esteemed editor.  Though she, like Jack Benny, stopped aging at 39…

One entity that has not stopped aging, and whose aging I have whinged upon quite frequently, is Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine now in its 14th year and third editor.  Editor Avram Davidson has given me a decent issue this time around, for which I am grateful.  See if you enjoy the February 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction as much as I did…

The Riddle Song, by Vance Aandahl

Young Mr. Aandahl continues to, after an auspicious beginning, produce stuff that disappoints.  I’m not sure of the point of this tale, about an old besotted bum with poems for anecdotes.  Perhaps you’ll get the reference — I didn’t.  Two stars.

Counter Security, by James White

Ah, now this is what I read sf for.  This largely autobiographical piece features a young, underemployed night watchman in a British department store who must solve the mystery of (what appears to be) a spiteful, peppermint chewing, floor-spitting, Black-hating skulker before the staff quit en masse from worry and fear.  I finished this novelette in one sitting on the beach at Waimea as the sun rose, and I’m not sure a more perfect half hour was ever spent.  Five stars.

Punk’s Progress, by Robert Wallsten

A take on The Rake’s Progress with a decidedly modern tone.  Nothing new, but the journey is fun.  Three stars.

Gladys’s Gregory, by John Anthony West

A Modest Proposal meets marriage in suburbia.  A wicked piece, but kind of fun.  Three stars.

The Nature of the Place, by Robert Silverberg

Ever wonder where you go when you die?  What if your own personal hell is more of the same?  Of course, being a cup is half full sort of guy, that sounds more like the other place to me.  But I understand Silverbob is the melancholy type.  Three stars.

The Jazz Machine, by Richard Matheson

Don’t let the poetic layout fool you — this is pure prose, but Matheson turns it into a song.  A harsh Blues song tinged with the pain of the oppressed.  Four stars.

The Lost Generation, by Isaac Asimov

In which the Good Doctor sidesteps his lack of knowledge of “Information Retrieval” to discuss the importance of networking — and recognizing opportunity when it bites you in the hinder.  It’s about this history of the Theory of Evolution, by the way.  Four stars.

The Pleiades, by Otis Kidwell Burger

When immortality and beauty are universal, it takes a most unusual girlie show to make an impact.  This is the first story by Ms. Burger I really liked.  Four stars.

Satan Mekatrig, by Israel Zangwill

…and then the magazine slides downhill.  The bulk of the last quarter is taken up with this reprint from 1899, in which a hunchbacked Lucifer tempts the pious Moshe from his orthodoxy.  It’s not bad, but it is dated and doesn’t really belong in this magazine (though I can see why it appeals to Davidson).  Two stars.

Peggy and Peter Go to the Moon, by Don White

A trifle, written like a children’s story but barbed like a cactus.  Fine for what it is, but not my thing.  Two stars.

3.1 stars!  It doesn’t sound like much, but given F&SF‘s recent slump, this is a breath of fresh air.  Plus, five-star stories are quite rare.  Do check it out.

And, if you get the chance, come out this weekend for ConDor, a San Diego SFF convention at which yours truly will be presenting both Saturday and Sunday (the latter is the Galactic Journey panel). 

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 15, 1963] Venus’ true face (Scientific Results of Mariner 2)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Remember five years ago, when Explorer 1 was launched?  At first, the big news was that America had answered Sputnik and joined the Space Age, but it soon became clear that the flight had larger significance.  For Explorer discovered the giant bands of hellish radiation that girdled the Earth, particles trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field.  Until 1957, these “Van Allen Belts” had been virtually unsuspected.  With one flight, our conception of the universe had drastically changed.

It’s happened again.

Mariner 2 is humanity’s first successful mission to another planet, and the scientific harvest is absolutely enormous.  Moreover, thanks to recent changes in policy, the initial results of this harvest were released unprecedentedly quickly (scientists are now reporting upon submission and acceptance of papers rather than publication).  Just one month since the probe’s encounter with Venus, the flood of information has been almost too much to parse; nevertheless, I think I’ve gotten the broad strokes:

Getting there is half the fun

Before I talk about Mariner’s encounter with Venus, it’s important to discuss what the spacecraft discovered on the way there.  After all, it was a 185 million mile trip, most of it in interplanetary space charted but once before by Pioneer 5.  And boy, did Mariner learn a lot!

For instance, it has finally been confirmed that the sun does blow a steady stream of charged particles in a gale known as the “Solar Wind.”  The particles get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and cause, among other things, our beautiful aurorae. 

Mariner also measured the interplanetary magnetic field, which is really the sun’s magnetic field.  It varies with the 27-day solar rotation, and if we had more data, I suspect the overall map of the field would look like a spiral. 

Why is all this important?  Well, aside from giving us an idea of the kind of “space weather” future probes and astronauts will have to deal with, these observations of the sun’s effect on space give us a window as to what’s going on inside the sun to generate these effects. 

One last bit: along the way, Mariner measured the density of “cosmic dust,” little physical particles in space.  It appears that there’s a lot of it around the Earth, perhaps trapped by our magnetic field, and not a lot in space.  It may be that the solar wind sweeps the realm between the planets clean.

Unattractive planet

Given how magnetically busy the Earth is, and since Jupiter fairly crackles on the radio band thanks to its (likely) magnetic dynamo, one would expect Venus to impact its local space environment.  Nope.  In fact, Mariner 2 flew past the second planet without detecting a trace of Venusian magnetic field, nor any concentration of space dust around the planet.  Now, it’s possible that Venus has a weak field, or that its field is so oddly shaped that Mariner just hit a low patch, but the simplest explanation is usually the right one — Venus has no magnetic field.

Taking her temperature

Right up until December 14, some scientists (and many writers!) had held out hope that the thick clouds of Venus hid a reasonably hospitable surface, potentially teeming with life.  Earth-based sensors had indicated that the Venus was unbearably hot, but such could be explained by an unusually active Venusian ionosophere.  But as Mariner 2 turned its microwave and infrared radiometers across the face of Venus, it was clear that the edges of the planet were cooler than the center.  This is what one would expect from a hot surface, cooler atmosphere; the reverse would be expected of the “hot ionosphere” model.

So how hot is Venus?  At least 400 degrees Kelvin (260 degrees Fahrenheit), and probably a lot more.  There’s no way there is any liquid water under that hellish greenhouse of carbon dioxide.  Moreover, it’s not any nicer at night time.  There appears to be no real difference in temperature between the illuminated and dark halves of Venus, probably for the same reason the Earth’s oceans run a fairly consistent temperature – Venus’ atmosphere is thick enough for efficient distribution of warmth. 

Amtor dispelled

Mariner 2 and terrestrial radar have determined that the Venusian day incredibly long (~250 days, backward with respect to the other planets), but the Venusian winds blow across the planet far faster than the planet rotates; clouds have been seen racing around the disk of Venus in just 4-5 days.  Recent radar observations indicate that Venus’s surface is smoother than that of the Earth or the Moon. 

This, then, is our new picture of Venus.  It is a truly hellish place, more worthy of its less common moniker, Luciferos — a bleak, half-lit world scoured by hurricane-strength sandstorms hot enough to melt lead.  Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day, not to mention Burroughs’ “Venus” series’, will need some serious revision. 

Details, details

One of the nice things about sending a probe far from Earth is it allows for more accurate measurement of basic units – like the distance of the Earth and Venus from the sun.  This will help in future expeditions, manned and unmanned.  Another bit of bounty from Mariner’s flight is a refinement of the mass of Venus.  It is 81.485% that of Earth – one of the few ways Venus remains “Earth’s Twin.”

What’s next?

Opportunities to explore Venus occur every 19 months, when the second and third planets of the solar system are aligned in their orbits for easy travel.  Mariner 2 was so successful in its mission that NASA has canceled plans for a repeat flight in 1964.  Rather, the space agency will focus on Mars that year and follow up with Venus later, perhaps 1965. 

One reason to launch a new probe to Venus sooner rather than later is, despite the wealth of information passed back by Mariner 2, we did not get a single photograph of the planet.  That’s because the spacecraft was too small to carry the transmitting equipment required to send back pictures from so far away.  But by ’65, the new Centaur booster stage will have replaced the weaker Agena, which will allow a beefier payload. 

In the meantime, telemetry is worth a thousand pictures.  For now, let us revel in this scientific bonanza. Venus may not be a great place to live, but visiting has paid off tremendously.


(that’s rolls of data, not paper towels)

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 10, 1963] (February 1963 Galaxy)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

The Traveler family has now been on the island of Kaua’i (in the newest state of the Union, Hawai’i) for five days, and I can feel the shackles of the mainland loosening.  We are staying in a vacant worker cottage on the Waimea Sugar Plantation, guests of one of the manager’s, and it’s just lovely.  Timeless beauty surrounds us.  There’s no question but that this state is destined to be a tremendous tourist attraction some day – but I hope this island never loses its virgin charm.

It’s hard to describe the relaxation that comes with visiting this sub-tropical paradise.  In the main room of our three-room cottage, the Young Traveler plucks away at her ukelele, singing Elvis’ recent Hawai’ian hit, I can’t help falling in love with you, and then the apt Jamaican Farewell popularized by Belafonte not long ago.  Last night, we were guests of the Gaylord family at their Kilohana estate.  After a sumptuous meal of meticulously prepared fish and delectable desserts (including a half-coconut), we dallied in the Sitting Room as one of the family played Scott Joplin tunes on the piano. 

Of course, even in this Westernmost bastion of America, modern civilization is encroaching.  We flew into the new small but international airport at Lihue (and commerce is already relocating from its traditional center here at Waimea to that burgeoning mini-city).  The grocery chain, Safeway, is building a supermarket on the island. 

And then there are the relics of the Mainland we’ve brought with us in the form of the books packed in our suitcases.  The Young Traveler has been devouring Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People (Watch out World!), while I have just finished this month’s Galaxy.

Its editor, Fred Pohl, has spilled much ink over the role of the science fiction writer.  He insists that our job is not to predict the future, and indeed, we’re pretty bad at such things, statistically speaking.  Rather than saying, “This is what will happen,” we really say, “This is what will happen if.”

The timing is no coincidence.  The February 1963 Galaxy is filled with “what will happen ifs,” — have a look:

Home from the Shore, by Gordon R. Dickson

Dickson’s story asks, “What will happen if the nascent trend of undersea living is carried to its logical conclusion?”  The result is, as we’ve seen previously explored in The Underwater City, a nation of humans living underwater.  Living in Castle-Homes and Small-Homes on the ocean floor, some six million people, enhanced by genetics and technology, thrive alongside their dolphin companions.

It is an uneasy existence, the Landers resenting the independence of their former brethren (who they’d hoped to use primarily as stock for space exploration).  As Home from the Shore begins, one of the sea people’s leaders, Johnny Joya is defecting from the astronaut corps to rejoin his people.  It turns out that the precipitous action is the spark that provokes war between the Landers and the mermen.  Willy-nilly, this fight will catapult the sea people to the next phase of their existence.

Dickson pens a vivid piece, but it feels more prologue than complete tale, and the details are a bit too oblique to follow in places.  In particular, I’m never quite sure just how life underwater works or how it’s sustainable.  I found myself stalling at the beginning a number of times.  I think Shore earns three stars, but just barely.

Think Blue, Count Two, by Cordwainer Smith

This latest tale of the “Instrumentality,” Smith’s unique far future, explores the ramifications of centuries-long space flight given an unchanging temperament for humans.  How will we keep our sanity, our morality, when faced with the yawning vastness of space, divorced from the society that keeps us civilized.

Think Blue, Count Two is a sequel, of sorts, to The Lady who Sailed the Soul, which introduced us to the concept of interstellar sailing ships and deep frozen passengers.  This latest edition stars an ingenue colonist, chosen solely for her beauty, and details how she manages the increasingly neurotic attentions of her two male co-passengers.

It’s another beautiful Smith tale, but Think Blue is less about what the protagonist does but what happens around and to her.  Riveting but somehow unsatisfying stuff.  Four stars.

For Your Information: First Flight by Rocket Power, by Willy Ley

To project where we’re going, one has to know where we’ve come from.  This month’s science department traces down the very first rocket powered human flight and then describes the important ones since.  Three stars.

(Anyone want to lay odds on whether the Russians will beat Gordo Cooper to be the first person in space in 1963?)

Comic Inferno, by Brian W. Aldiss

Aldiss makes a bold prediction in this story of robots and people: As life gets easy, our breeding instinct will wane, and a hundred years from now, the world will be a fraction as populated.  Mechanical people will fill in the gaps, being our servants and our underclass.  But what if the romen tire of their inferior position?

There are great concepts in here, but Comic Inferno is rather rough sledding, what with its Extremely British satirical style.  Much like the Dickson, it takes time to get into, but in retrospect, the trip was rewarding.  Three stars.

Pollony Undiverted, by Sydney J. Van Scyoc

Here is another journey into an indolent future, in which all needs are met save for the ones that matter most – those that give us emotional satisfaction.  Van Scyoc gives us a tale from a feminine perspective that captures the frivolity of existence and the fleeting nature of happiness in a world made infinitely small by teleportation.  Three stars.

Day of Truce, by Clifford D. Simak

Did you just put up a fence to keep tykes from riding their bicycles and scooters on your property?  Maybe a menacing “No Trespassing” sign?  What if these are the first unplanned shots in an escalating war between the Homeowners and the Punks?

Simak writes a fun, barbed story about a battle deep in the course of the conflict at a time when a man’s home is truly a castle, and the teenage delinquents are armed with time bombs and Molotov cocktails.  Four stars.

The Bad Life, by Jerome Bixby

You may remember Bixby from his The Twilight Zone story, It’s a Good Life.  His latest story shares no similarities but for the titles and the overwhelming sense of feeling trapped in a hellish situation.

John Thorens is a do-gooder, a Hand of the Helping Hands dispatched to the Jovian artificial moon/penal colony called Limbo to bring solace to the criminals living there.  The extrapolation in this piece is, “How would a first generation Australia in space treat a well-meaning vistor?” 

Not well.  An intellectual among boors, a civilized man among animals, Thorens is hounded and beaten to the point of insanity. 

This is a brutal story, difficult to read, made compelling by Bixby’s sheer “writerliness” (as one of my readers might put it).  Not recommended for the easily disturbed, and perhaps Bixby overdoes the writing by 10%.  But it’ll sure stay with you.  Three stars. 

And that’s that.  A dense read, a hard read at times, but in many ways a rewarding one.  None of the futures depicted are pleasant ones, but they offer valuable signposts of potholes to avoid on the path of progress.

Next up – John Boston and this month’s Amazing!

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 7, 1963] From Los Alamos to the Moon (Computing — the State of the Art)


by Ida Moya

[Meet our newest fellow Journeyer, Mrs. Moya, whose technical background is as enviable as it is fascinating.  Given the whirlwind pace at which computer technology is advancing, I thought our readers would like to get, straight from the source (as it were), an account of Where We Are Today…]

Hello, fellow Travelers. My journey to date has been both a long and short one. Long in that I’ve come a long way since I first started as a typist at an institution you might have heard of: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.  And short in the fact that, well, I’m still here, now employed in the Lab’s technical library. I’ve been around these New Mexico labs for nearly twenty years, since they built the first atomic bombs which ended the war.
 
I started at Los Alamos as a typist, creating memos and reports for the scientists. I learned how to type in high school, a skill that has taken me a long way. I was on the Hill in the beginning, in 1943, when there were only a couple of hundred people were working there. By 1945, there were over 6000. I’ve done a lot of things in these twenty dusty years at Los Alamos. Most of my work has been in the library, helping the scientists and engineers find the documents and information they need in order to get their work done. I’ve seen a lot over these years, and learned quite a bit about science and computers to better help the scientists get things done.

I can tell you more about Los Alamos and Project Y, which until now have been the hush-hushiest of subjects, because just this year a book came out — Volume 1 of the History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission: The New World 1939-1946.

This blockbuster new report, designed by esteemed colleague Marilyn Shobaken of Penn State, where it was published, has all the science archives in New Mexico and beyond buzzing. She was so involved with the production of this document that her name is even included on the verso, right after the Library of Congress catalog card number 62-14633.
 
That’s just background. I promise I will tell you more stories of Project Y and the Hill later, but for now, let me tell you about my current work.  It involves the development of computation and how these new transistorized computers will take us into space. I’m not flying into space myself, but the work I do is helping those brave men get to the moon. This is an incredibly exciting project to be a part of, and I’m glad that NASA is not secret. So let me tell you about some of the competitive scientific and technical developments that Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory is leading.
 
Just last month, on December 7, 1962, the University of Manchester in the UK commissioned the Atlas computer, said to be faster than even the newest IBM computers — the Stretch, the 7090, and the 7094. However, one thing the Atlas computer doesn’t have is an industry behind it. Manchester made this one experimental machine, and have two others in the works; that’s it.

At Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, we acquired the first IBM Stretch computer in 1961. This new transistorized computer was supposed to be 100 times faster than IBM’s previous vacuum-tube based computer, the IBM 704. The Stretch turned out to be only about 35 times faster, so IBM considers it a failure.

Still, the Stretch is faster than the gals in the human computer facilities, pecking away on their baby-blue Marchant electromechanical calculators. I did this for a time before we got our electronic computers; a tiring and thankless job that had to be done accurately in makeshift buildings in the high desert. Now we program our computers in FORTRAN, in air-conditioned rooms. If you have the aptitude, I highly recommend you learn to program computers using this innovative formula translating language. The space race needs more capable computer programmers (and it’s not just for women, no matter what the engineers might tell you).

IBM made a few more Stretch computers, all for governmental customers. The National Security Agency has just installed the next one, and others are being prepared for our sister project at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, as well as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in England, and the US National Weather Service. That’s about it, though. As I said, IBM deems this marvel a failure.

However, IBM has learned from this exercise, and has turned their considerable manufacturing prowess to the IBM 7090 and IBM 7094 computers. IBM has factories churning these out by the dozen. As I write, two IBM 7090 computers are installed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, calculating trajectories for NASA’s Mercury program. These 7090 computers are also being used by rocket scientist Wernher von Braun to simulate flight trajectories in aid of the design of the Saturn rocket system, the rocket that is going to take Americans to the moon. Four more IBM 7090 computers are being used by the Air Force for their Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. There is even an IBM 7090 installed at the Woomera Long Range Weapons Establishment, as part of the Anglo-Australian Joint Project, also used to calculate rocket and missile trajectories. America’s industries are not far behind; two more IBM 7090 systems are being used by American Airlines for their forward-thinking SABRE flight reservation system. Imagine, soon even regular people like us will be able to experience the glamour and sophistication of air travel, as new jet and computer technologies put the price of a ticket within affordable reach.

So, Manchester U.K. may have the “fastest” computer in the Atlas, but the United States has the lead in building an entire industrial infrastructure to deploy fast computers all over the country and free world. Healthy competition with our allies is fine, but what we really need to do is win the space race against those godless Russian communists. The American people will prevail in space, in no small part thanks to FORTRAN and IBM computers.

I’m proud to be a part of this adventure, and now, as part of the Journey, I look forward to bringing you along with me!

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 5, 1963] The Trial on Trial


by Victoria Lucas

Have you been following the talk about Orson Welles’s latest movie, one he personally wrote and edited?  While not precisely science fiction, it does overlap thematically, enough so that I’m certain you’ll enjoy a summary.

I was fortunate enough to catch the interview with him by Huw Wheldon on the BBC, or “The Beeb” as people across the Pond say.  First off, Welles talks about changes he made from the novel by Franz Kafka.  He says the main character (Josef K.) “doesn’t really deteriorate, certainly doesn’t surrender at the end” like the character in the novel.  That’s true, more or less, but listen carefully to Anthony Perkins playing K. at the very end and ask yourself why he doesn’t throw what he is reaching for.

I know, I know, what am I doing writing a review for a movie that hasn’t been released in the States yet.  Well, it was released in Paris, and quite a lot of people had something to do with the production and showing.  I hate to tell you this, but a copy somehow found its way into the hands of a friend of mine.  I can’t tell you any names, and I know no more than the name of my friend.  The copy is a bit, all right, under par, not like seeing it in a movie house, but it’s exciting to see the film many months before I possibly could have otherwise.  The earliest premiere in the US is in NYC, and I stand a snowball’s chance in hell of making that or any showing not in Tucson or Phoenix.  I would prefer to watch a non-bootleg copy and probably will sooner or later, but beggars can’t be choosers.

When the beginning title hits the screen, the recently discovered (1958) and orchestrated “Adagio in G Minor” by Tomas Albinoni begins a beat of what I can’t help but think of as a dirge before we see the opening parable, done in something called “pinscreen” graphics.  The title, by the way, is most remarkable for the fact that there is no trial in “The Trial.”

Of course we must keep in mind that a German word for “trial,” the title of the film and the Franz Kafka book that “inspired” it (according to Welles), is Der Prozess.  Also spelled “Process,” this word in German means “process, trial, litigation, lawsuit, court case.”  There are other words for “judgment, tribunal, trial”: “das Gericht,” which at least has the word “right” in it; and “die Verhandlung,” meaning “negotiation, hearing, trial.” 

It turns out there are numerous words that might apply to what we in the US would call a “trial” by judge and/or jury or any litigation: there are also “die Gerichtsverhandlung,” “die Instanz” (which also means “authority, court.”  Why did Kafka choose “der Prozess,” and why are some of the words feminine rather than masculine (like Prozess) or even neutral?  These are fine points of German as a language that I cannot reach from my one college semester of German.  It just appears to me that German has as many words for legal proceedings as the Eskimos are said to have for snow.  However, in this case the word “process” in English is fitting, because we never see a trial, only one hearing, during which the protagonist, Josef K. (with only an initial and not a full name, as if the author was protecting a real person) speaks and brands himself as a troublemaker.  (All legal proceedings in this alternate system of law are supposed to be secret.)

What we see in this film is a process indeed, a destructive process during which an innocent is exposed to corruption and chaos he never dreamed existed.  The book makes it much clearer that the system that crushes Josef K. is not related to the uniformed police and visible court system.  In fact, near the end, as K. is being frog-marched to a place of execution, he aids his captors in avoiding a policeman to whom he might have complained to prevent what was, after all, an abduction.  This network is underground, with courtrooms and file rooms in attics throughout the unnamed city.  Those enmeshed in it are “The Accused” as well as (illegal) Advocates and various officers and employees of the “court,” not to mention families who move their furniture and abandon their flats so that hearings can occur.  One character remarks (in both the book and film), “There are court offices in almost every attic” and “Everything belongs to the court.”

Welles changes this secrecy and underground nature to connect “the law” to the visible law courts by having K. exit a massive public building (actually in Rome or Zagreb), having entered it through a tenement at the back, in line with his view that “this is now 1962, and we’ve made the film in 1962.” During this century the classism and racism that were beneath public consciousness but engraved in the law, as well as officially tolerated or encouraged vigilantism, came into the open in a big way, like the difference between law practice in a makeshift courtroom and that in Grecian-style marble halls supported by uniformed officers of court and police. 

The author of the original book, Das Process was killed by an early 20th-century epidemic we now call tuberculosis, dying at age 40 in Austria.  (I am tempted to say, “died like a dog,” as K. characterizes his own murder or, in the logic of the book, execution.) Born Jewish in the kingdom of Bohemia, Kafka was a lawyer who worked for insurance companies.  This book would have been destroyed had his executor followed his instructions, but instead the order of the written chapters (mostly finished, apparently—I saw only one chapter labeled “unfinished”) were determined by his editor/executor and the book was originally published in 1925, a year after Kafka’s death.  Welles mentioned the Holocaust in the BBC interview as his reason for changing the ending, choosing “the only possible solution” (rather than the “Final” one) to negate the choices made “by a Jewish intellectual before the advent of Hitler.” So I feel justified in seeing much that relates to racism, not to mention sexism and classism.  Kafka was reportedly a socialist with some tendencies toward anarchism. 

According to Welles, the movie was filmed partly in Zabreb, Yugoslavia (exteriors), with most interiors in Paris (the Gare d’Orsay and a Paris studio), and some exteriors in Rome.  Welles would have filmed in Czechoslovakia, but Kafka’s work is banned there.  The last scene was shot in Yugoslavia, and so were the scenes with 1,500 desks, typewriters, and workers in a huge room for which they could locate no place but the Zabreb “industrial fair grounds” (scenes at K’s workplace, which do not correspond with the descriptions in the book). 

The partly abandoned Gare d’Orsay, in contrast to the other locations, was a huge seminal find for Welles, one that appeared to him at the end of a long day in which he learned that sets in Zagreb could not be finished in time to make his schedule or possibly even the film, if he could not find another location quickly.  Originally the Palais d’Orsay, subsequently a railroad station with platforms that became too short for long-distance use, the station was mostly abandoned, but the building included a 370-room hotel.  Welles quickly changed his plans from sets that dissolved and disappeared to one that was “full of the hopelessness of the struggle against bureaucracy” because “waiting for a paper to be filled is like waiting for a train.”

The gossip is that producer Andrew Salkind agreed to underwrite Welles’s project only if he could find a book to base it on that was in the public domain.  They both thought this work by Kafka was such a book, but discovered that they were wrong and had to pay for the use of the story, reducing the budget for the film.  Several people are credited with the writing, with Welles himself reading the titles at the end, but he says he wrote as well as directed and acted in it.  Rumor also says he wanted Jackie Gleason (yes, “Honeymooners”) to play the role he played, that of a lawyer Kafka named Dr. Huld (German for “grace” or “favor”) but that Welles christened “Hastler” (hassler? what the lawyer should do to the courts but not to the clients?).

There are some problems with Welles’s editing, the main one in my view concerning a scene with a wall of computers at the bank where K. is a middle-rank executive.  As it is, the scene is quite pointless and appears to exist only to show how up-to-date the film is compared to the 1925 novel.  However, it was originally a 10-minute scene in which Katina Paxinou (a face on the cutting-room floor) uses the computers to foretell K’s future (wrongly…OK, mostly wrongly).  It was “cut on the eve of the Paris premiere,” according to my notes on the BBC interview—in other words done in haste and, as in the proverb, made waste, but Welles clearly felt there was something wrong with the scene and saved us from most of it. 

Nevertheless, on the whole Welles felt good about “The Trial.” In the BBC interview he summed it thusly, “So say what you like, but ‘The Trial’ is the best film I have ever made.” I’m not sure I agree, but it’s definitely worth watching, even taking the time to compare it with the book.  (But beware of any resulting depression.)

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[December 22, 1962] The More Things Change . . . (January 1963 Fantastic)


by Victoria Silverwolf

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
(The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.)
Jean-Baptiste Alphose Karr, Les Guêpes, January 1849

Those famous words of the noted French journalist of the previous century are worth pondering at this time, when we look forward to a new year.  Thanks to the peculiarities of the publishing industry, we can already see the prophetic words January 1963 on every newsstand, and if there’s one thing we can safely predict, it is that the breakneck pace of technological headlines will not slacken.

Earlier this month, the University of Manchester (United Kingdom) offered another glimpse into the future.  The Atlas computer, the most powerful in the world, began operating on December 7.  Said to be equivalent to four IBM 7094 devices, it operates at a speed approaching one million instructions per second.

The American spacecraft Mariner 2, so ably discussed by our host in a previous article, flew by Venus on December 14.  The data from the probe seem to indicate an atmospheric temperature of nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  So much for oceans and dinosaurs!

Just one day before this historic encounter, the Relay 1 satellite soared into orbit atop a Delta B rocket.  Designed to study the Earth’s radiation belts, it will also serve as a communications satellite, similar to Telstar 1.  If it, works, that is.  Due to a battery leak, the new spacecraft isn’t likely to change our knowledge of the universe…or that of goings-on in other continents.

Speaking of that renowned spacecraft, the instrumental number of the same name by the Tornados, already a smash hit in the United Kingdom, reached Number One in the USA today, much to my delight.  After suffering through five weeks of Big Girls Don’t Cry by the inexplicably popular Four Seasons at the top of the charts, this sprightly tribute to the Space Age is a refreshing change of pace.  Keeping in mind the wise words of Monsieur Karr, however, we can expect this charming import to be an anomaly, and not the sign of a British invasion of the American airwaves.

The latest issue of Fantastic also bears the hallmarks of change, breaking with tradition by including a nonfiction article and a book review.  Nevertheless, at its core, it remains the old magazine we know and love, continuing to provide entertainment for the reader of fantasy and science fiction.

The first item of note, before moving on to the contents proper, is that all five letters printed in the According to you . . . section of the magazine offer high praise for Fritz Leiber’s story The Unholy Grail, which appeared in the October 1962 issue.  Such universal acclamation is rare among fantasy fans, notorious for their contrary opinions.  (Just note the continuing debate over David R. Bunch in the same letter column.)

Neither Stairs Nor Door, by Robert F. Young

An author who often combines science fiction with romance makes use of a familiar legend in this simple but charming tale.  In medieval times, an unhappily married woman witnesses a handsome, beautifully dressed man emerge from a tower that appears from nowhere.  The reader already knows that he’s really an alien come to Earth in a shuttlecraft from the mothership.  You’ll probably predict which fairy tale this story parallels, but it’s enjoyable enough.  Three stars.

In the Days of King Arsgrat, by John Jakes

A boy who has lived alone in the wilderness since early childhood arrives at a village and is adopted by a childless couple.  At first, the setting seems to be a fantasy world.  We soon find out that the story takes place centuries after a disaster destroyed civilization.  The descendants of the survivors are awed by the few artifacts left behind by their remote ancestors, whom they think of as gods.  They go on raids to destroy the hated Green Crabs, and live in fear of the unseen King Arsgrat, to whom the most desirable of the young women in the village go when they come of age.  The hero, in love with a girl doomed to this fate, determines to confront King Arsgrat.  What he discovers changes his former skepticism about the gods.  This is a compelling, thoughtful adventure story with a subtle touch of satire.  The nature of the Green Crabs, and the true identity of King Arsgrat, are surprising, and make the reader think about the things our modern society considers important.  Four stars.

Ghost and Ghoul, by T. C. Lethbridge

This excerpt from the book of the same name is the first nonfiction article I’ve seen in Fantastic.  The author attempts to explain paranormal phenomenon by hypothesizing that the human brain filters out most information before it reaches the mind.  Only gifted psychics can perceive such things.  The author presents no evidence for his theory and is unlikely to convince any skeptics.  One star.

The Leech, by Jack Sharkey

An officer of the law goes to arrest a man for practicing medicine without a license.  The fellow only wants to help people, using a bizarre method to remove cancer from the patient’s body.  He makes a deal with the officer, with unexpected consequences.  This is a fairly effective horror story with a gruesome climax.  Three stars.

Three Tales for the Horrid at Heart, by Brad Steiger

As the title implies, this piece consists of a trio of very short stories with grim, ironic endings.  In the first, a man has his ESP tested under rigorous conditions.  In the second, a police detective tries to expose a spiritualist.  In the third, two persons await battle with the one who threatens their existence.  How much you enjoy them may depend on your fondness for bagatelles.  Two stars.

The Man Next Door, by Paul Ernst

This month’s Fantasy Classic first appeared in the March 4, 1939 issue of Argosy.  A mental patient who made a hobby of astronomy during his rational moments disappears from an insane asylum.  At the same time, a mysterious fellow purchases the empty house next to the narrator’s home.  A series of strange deaths is involved.  The solution to the mystery isn’t surprising, even if you don’t bother to read the introduction by SF historian Sam Moskowitz, who always reveals the plot gimmicks of these reprints.  The story comes to a very sudden, unsatisfactory end.  Two stars.

The Forelife Myth, by Albert Teichner

Ghosts debate the existence of people.  The author creates an imaginative setting, where the spirits of the dead have no idea why they suddenly appear, at any age from newborn to elderly, in what seems to them to be the only real world.  Although the plot is extremely simple, the background is constructed with great care.  Three stars.

3rd Sister, by Arthur Porges

As a young girl, the narrator faces the impending death of her mother.  In a desperate effort to save her life, she goes to a house inhabited by three elderly sisters rumored to be evil.  The plot involves a familiar myth, which the author uses with good effect.  Four stars.
(I might also mention that the above two stories are greatly enhanced by the chilling art of Lee Brown Coye.)

On the Road to Splenoba, by Roger Zelazny

I believe this is the longest work yet from a new writer who specializes in very short stories.  A Communist official traveling in a remote area behind the Iron Curtain has to stay the night at the castle of a Baron.  If you’ve ever seen an old horror movie on Shock Theater, you won’t be too surprised at what kind of being the Baron turns out to be.  Not as poetically written as the author’s miniature tales, this story does feature an interesting twist at the end.  Three stars.

Fantasy Books, by S. E. Cotts

To my knowledge, this is only the second time that the magazine has printed a book review.  The subject is Ray Bradbury’s new novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I have read and enjoyed this nostalgic fantasy of an evil carnival and the effect it has on two young boys in a small town.  I recommend it to those who enjoy Bradbury, although you may want to wait until it comes out in paperback.  (The hardcover costs almost five dollars!) The reviewer is not so enthusiastic.  The main objection is that the book never comes together as a whole, and is more like a series of beautifully written sketches.  Whether or not you agree with this assessment, the review is thoughtful and persuasive.

With so many changes, both welcome and unwelcome, going on in the world these days, it’s good to know that some things, like the eternal movement of time through the years, or the fact that any issue of a fiction magazine is going to have both gems and dross, never change.  Have a good 1963!

[P.S. If you want the chance to nominate Galactic Journey for Best Fanzine next year, you need to register for WorldCon before the end of the year! (or have registered last year… but then you can only nominate, not vote.) The Journey will be at next year’s WorldCon, so don’t miss your chance to meet us and please help put us on the ballot for Best Fanzine!]




[December 12, 1962] UP THE SPOUT AGAIN (the January 1963 Amazing)


by John Boston

All right, Frogeyes,* dust off all the stars.  We’re finally going to need them for this January 1963 Amazing, specifically for Keith Laumer’s novelet It Could Be Anything.
*Those without a classical education may ignore this and similar allusions.

“Things are not what they seem” is a well worn SF device, employed by the likes of Heinlein, Sturgeon, and more recently Philip K. Dick.  But it’s not worn out, as Laumer demonstrates.  Young Brett is about to take the train out of the stereotypical small town of Casperton, heading for the unnamed big city, despite stereotypical remonstrances.  His Aunt Haicey says, “It was reading all them books that done it.  Thick books, with no pictures in them.  I knew it would make trouble.” The stationmaster offers, “If I talk to Mr. J.D., I think he can find a job for you at the plant.” His girlfriend Pretty-Lee doesn’t show, not after their big argument in Rexall’s over her preoccupation with a movie magazine.  But he boards anyway, and some time later finds himself on a deserted stopped train in the middle of a field where the tracks just stop, no clue as to why, but the city is visible on the horizon.  So he walks.  I won’t spoil the story’s revelations in detail, but Brett quickly learns that the people he encounters in the city, engaged in ordinary mundane activities like walking down the street and eating in restaurants, are not real—they are automatons acting out routines.  What’s going on?  The answer is pretty nasty, and the story quickly turns crude and violent.  At the end, Brett is heading home to Casperton, with the similarity between the automatons’ routines and the behavior of the home folks not lost on him.  The story is exceedingly well visualized, gaining power from Laumer’s attention to mundane sensual detail even in the midst of violent melodrama.  Its impact is also enhanced by what isn’t there—an explanation.  The story is told entirely from Brett’s limited viewpoint, ignorant of the larger picture even after his shattering experiences in the city, leaving the reader knowing very little about the comprehensive catastrophe that seems to have overtaken the world, but creating an unusually strong sense of a larger world outside the confines of the story about which one can only speculate.  Five stars.

The cover story, Cerebrum by Albert Teichner, makes a nice contrast to the Laumer story—“nice” in the original sense of precise or fine, not the current debased usage—since it takes a well worn plot device and fails to revitalize it.  In the future, everybody’s telepathic, and they’re all hooked up to the Central Synaptic Computation Receptor and Transmitter System, which routes thoughts like a telephone exchange, only better.  Otherwise, nobody could hear themselves think through everyone else’s mental noise.  But people who think negative thoughts about Central get Suspended, and now there’s a large and growing underclass of Suspendeds since Central seems to be making a lot of mistakes lately—but don’t think that or you’ll be Suspended too.  Protagonist and family get Suspended and have to learn to live as outcasts on the margins; they discover what passes for an underground; then Central falls apart entirely and the brewing problems between Suspendeds and paraNormals (sic) conveniently disappear.  So, it’s the early Galaxy routine of society distorted by an innovation, with The Machine Stops thrown into the mix, no more than routinely clever connect-the-dots stuff.  Two stars; ten years ago when this sort of thing was newer, it might have seemed better.  The cover, by Lloyd Birmingham, merits a comment as well: de Chirico repeats, this time as farce.

Jack Egan’s Cully, like his earlier World Edge from November, is a short tale told by (or for) a damaged consciousness, which any further explanation would spoil; this one is better written and less busy than its predecessor.  Maybe Egan is getting the hang of it.  Generously, three stars.

S. Dorman—presumably the Sonya Dorman who appeared in the October Ladies’ Home Journal—provides something else entirely in The Putnam Tradition, her first in the SF magazines: sort of like Zenna Henderson with sharper edges.  The Putnams are a matriarchal and rather change-resistant New England family, witches or psi-talented as you prefer, whose children (the healthy ones) are mostly daughters, and whose husbands “spent a lifetime with the long-lived Putnam wives, and died, leaving their strange signs: telephone wires, electric lights, water pumps, brass plumbing.” And now young Simone’s husband Sam has brought them an “invasion” of large and small appliances, and their daughter doesn’t seem to have inherited the family talents.  Is tradition dead?  Or is something else going on?  The story is told in sort of fairy-tale fashion, with the occasional startling image (“. . . power lines had been run in, and now on cold nights the telephone wires sounded like a concert of cellos, while inside with a sound like the breaking of beetles, the grandmother Cecily moved through the walls in the grooves of tradition.”).  Dorman’s writing seems a little amateurish in places but it conveys the sense of a real individual behind the typewriter and not (unlike, say, Teichner’s) some device grinding up and recycling the last 50 SF stories she read.  Four stars, and thanks for the fresh air.

Bringing up the rear, or letting it down, is the “Classic Reprint” from the January 1933 issue: Omega, the Man by Lowell Howard Morrow, about Omega, the last human alive (well, he starts out with his wife Thalma and briefly acquires a son—Alpha, of course) on a dying Earth, with a schematic plot and the sort of bombastic style that one could barely get away with even then, and nowadays reads like parody.  A bizarre Frankensteinian plot twist at the end comes much too late to redeem this fiasco.  Moskowitz’s praise of it is almost as risible.  One star.

Ben Bova soldiers on with another article, Progress Report: Life Forms in Meteorites, again beautifully but inaptly illustrated by Virgil Finlay.  Bova reviews findings on exactly what the title says, as usual assembling a fair amount of interesting information.  He does seem to have his thumb on the scales sometimes, though, as when he recounts several competing theories about the nature of seemingly organic particles found in some meteorites: are they fossilized life forms, or crystalline structures that are the “intermediate step” between DNA molecules and living cells, or inorganic materials that contain lots of iron, or fossils that have been partly replaced by iron through a petrifaction process?  “On balance, though,” Bova says, “it would appear that the particles are life forms, or at least, fossils of once-living cells.” But he doesn’t explain why he’s choosing one side or another in this technical debate.  Still, three stars for pulling this material together in more or less plain English.

So: one excellent story, another very good one, and only one complete pratfall.  Looks like progress.  Of course I said that early last year too.  Da capo.  If the magazine can retain good new contributors like Dorman, Zelazny, and Ballard, maybe it can keep it up this time.