Tag Archives: James White

[January 27, 1963] The Freeze Continues (New Worlds, February 1963)

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


by Mark Yon

The Big Freeze of December has continued into January. As I type this, towards the end of the month, things have begun to thaw, especially in the south of Britain, but there are still areas unchanged. It is a surprise to see even London’s Trafalgar Square frozen.

Here in the colder Midlands, the melting is not as advanced, yet we seem to have settled into a routine. I’m just pleased that the postal services have not been too affected and this month’s copy of New Worlds has managed to arrive here.

I Like It Here, by Mr. James White

This month’s guest editorial is from a New Worlds regular, who I know you will recognise in the US for his Sector General stories. With characteristic humour he adeptly summarises the contradiction in the current argument in s-f, between writers who don’t care what they write (as long as it sells) and writers who do not produce the sort of s-f that readers want. In typically droll manner, the many trials and tribulations of the modern writer is recognised in this editorial, determined to amuse. For a slightly less amusing consequence of this we also have Mr. John Carnell’s ‘View from the Hill’ at the end of this issue, of which more later.

To the stories. There’s a couple about alien species this month:

Twice Bitten, by Mr. Donald Malcolm

The first of these is Mr. Malcolm’s tale of first contact with an alien lifeform which Planetary Ecologist Paul Janeba has to tame before colonisation can occur. There’s a nice touch with the unusual aliens, but the story’s not a patch on Murray Leinster’s Colonial Survey stories. There’s also a strange military interlude in this story that tries very hard to evoke Mr. Robert Heinlein, but seems clumsy and irrelevant here. Two out of five.

Live Test, by Mr. Peter Vaughan

I found that this story of a misfunctioning spaceship built up a sense of peril nicely at the start but the whole story hangs on a situation that is so improbable that it ruined the story for me. The circumstances just wouldn’t happen in the first place, and I felt that there were easier ways of obtaining the result required that were just as effective as the method employed here. Two out of five.

Pet Name for a World, by Mr. Gordon Walters

Another New Worlds newcomer (or at least one unknown to me), Mr. Walters gives us the second of this month’s alien stories. Of the two, this is the stronger. On planet Angstrom Veema, our nameless and reluctant toxin specialist is sent to rid the planet of a vampyrric resident, so that a colony can survive. It’s a little wobbly in its logic (what would the effect of the removal of this key carnivore on the rest of the ecosystem be? Has nobody in the future read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?) and the solution to the problem is rather extreme, but I appreciated the author’s attempt to write an unusual take on a tired concept. Three out of five points.

Till Life Do Us Part, by Mr. Robert Presslie

An author appearing with regularity recently, Mr. Presslie’s latest short story is one of his best to date (although that may not be saying much, admittedly.) I liked the idea of this story, though, that in a future where people live extended lifespans the rich live in the Earth’s oceans or in other people’s bodies as ‘deathmembers’ or ‘liferenters’, whilst the majority struggle to eke an existence.  It doesn’t quite hold together in places, though, and the ending is resolved far too quickly. Three out of five.

Dawn’s Left Hand, by Mr Lan Wright

After last month’s debut, the second part of this serial begins after the cliff-hanger ending of last month, where our ‘hero’ Martin Regan has become Manuel Cabera, son of a gangster. This middle part of the trilogy involves Regan trying to gain control of a power struggle situation and as a result there’s a big reveal (that’s not that revealing, to be honest) and a lot of running about.  Once beyond this, when it boils down to it, it’s a typical middle part of a story, still lacking logic. Still two out of five.

Survey Report of 1962, by Mr John Carnell

Although this is not a story, it is an important summary that reflects how things are and perhaps where things are going to be in the future in British s-f. To sum up, it was a good year on a broad scale, but whereas the US market has been ‘more of the same’, there has been a noticeable growth in markets and sales of hardbacks and paperbacks in Europe. The present debates we have been seeing over the last few months (and indeed in this month’s Guest Editorial), are because s-f is being increasingly changed by outside influences. Whether this is a reflection of s-f moving to the mainstream, or the mainstream becoming more accommodating of s-f, I guess has yet to be seen. Signs of greater exposure in film and television suggest that these may be the places we will notice s-f in 1963.

In summary, compared with last month’s issue of New Worlds, this one is the weaker. I suspect that when it comes around to December and I’m considering the stories I’ve liked in 1963, there’s little here I will remember. Hopefully it will be better next month.

[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…]




[Dec. 30, 1961] Finishing Strong (January 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

At the end of a sub-par month, I can generally count on The Magazine and Science Fiction to end things on a positive note.  F&SF has been of slightly declining quality over the past few years, but rarely is an issue truly bad, and this one, for January 1962, has got some fine works inside.

Christmas Treason, by Ulsterian peacenik James White, starts things off with a literal bang as a gang of toddler espers attempt to save Christmas with the help of the world’s nuclear arsenal.  It’s nothing I haven’t seen Sturgeon do before, but it is charming and effective.  Four stars.

Kate Wilhelm has made a name for herself in the past several years, being a regular contributor to many science fiction magazines, Sadly, A Time to Keep, about a fellow with a pathological aversion to doorways, does not make much sense.  Not one of her better tales.  Two stars.

Every so often, some wag will write a “clever” piece on the need to send girls to service man astronauts on the long journeys to Mars.  Jay Williams’ Interplanetary Sex is the latest, and it’s as awful as the rest.  Casual reference to rape?  Check.  Stereotypical portrayal of married couples (henpecked husband and nagging shrew wife)?  Check.  It’s the sort of thing that will provide ample archaeological data on this era 55 years from now, but offers little else in value. 

HOWEVER, there are a few paragraphs near the end depicting a sentient cell’s mitosis written in florid romance novel style, and it’s genuinely funny.  You can skip to it…and skip the rest.  Two stars.

Maria Russell’s The Deer Park appears to be her first story, and it’s a fine freshman effort.  It effectively (albeit in an often difficult-to-parse manner) depicts a decadent future humanity entrapped in fantasy worlds of individual creation.  It’s hard to break out of a gilded cage, and the outside world is sometimes no improvement.  Three stars.

Ron Goulart’s occult detective, Max Kearney, is back in Please Stand By.  This time,the private dick has been enlisted by a hapless were-Elephant, the victim (or beneficiary?) of a magic spell.  It’s a charming story, and Goulart has an excellent talent for writing without exposition.  Four stars.

I didn’t much care for Asimov’s science column this month, The Modern Demonology.  The subject of Maxwell’s Demon, that metaphorical creature who can trade energetic for lazy atoms across two buckets such that one gets cold and one gets hot, is a good one.  However, the Good Doctor than meanders into philosophical territory, positing the existence of an evolutionary equivalent, a “Darwin’s Demon,” and it’s just sort of a muddy mess.  Three Stars.

Newcomer Nils T. Peterson is back with Prelude to a Long Walk, a somber short story about a static man in a growing world.  Not really science fiction, but memorable all the same.  Four stars.

Progress, by Poul Anderson, is a long-awaited sequel to The Sky People, both set in a post-apocalyptic future in which several nations of the world struggle toward modern civilization.  They are hampered both by a critical lack of resources, fossil fuels and metals, but also a fear of duplicating the catastrophe that threw them into a new Stone Age. 

Our heroes are once again representatives of the Polynesian Federation, if not the most technically advanced, probably the most progressive socially.  Ranu Makintairu and Alisabeta Kanukauai make charming protagonists, but Progress reads like a watered down vignette of Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz.  It also has that smugly superior tone I associate with Analog.  Three stars.

The issue wraps up with a inconsequential poem, To the Stars by heretofore unknown James Spencer.  To discuss it further would take more words than Mr. Spencer wrote.  Two stars.

That wraps up magazines for this month, and boy is there a lot to compare!  F&SF was the clear winner, clocking in at 3.1 stars.  IF was number #2 at 2.9.  Cele Goldsmith’s mags, Fantastic and Amazing tied at 2.5 stars, and Analog finished at a dismal 2.3 stars.

Each of the mags, save for Amazing, had at least one 4-star story in it.  I give the nod for best piece to Piper’s Naudsonce, though Christmas Treason is close.  Out of 28 pieces of fiction, a scant two were written by women (and if we’re just including the Big Three, as I have in the past, then the ratio is still bad: two out of eighteen).  On the other hand, two of the five magazines were edited by a Ms. Goldsmith, so there’s something.

Next up, Ms. Benton reviews the latest Blish novel!