Tag Archives: jim wannamaker

[Oct. 21, 1961] Cause célèbre (Three years, and the November 1961 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus

Three years ago, my wife pried my nose out of my sci-fi magazines.  “You’ve been reading all of these stories,” she said.  “Why not recommend some of the best ones so I can join in the fun without having to read the bad ones.”

I started a list, but after the first few titles, I had a thought.  What if, instead of making a personal list for my wife, I made a public list?  Better yet, how about I publish little reviews of the magazines as they come out?

Thus, Galactic Journey was born.

It’s been an interesting ride.  I was certain that I’d have perhaps a dozen subscribers.  Then a large ‘zine made mention of the column, and since then, we’ve been off to the races.  Our regular readers now number in the hundreds, and the full-time staff of The Journey is eight, going on nine.  We’ve been guests at several conventions around the West Coast, and we’ve been honored with one of fandom’s most prestigious awards.

All thanks to you.  So please join us in a birthday toast to the Galactic Journey family. 

Speaking of significant dates, this month marks the end of an era.  Astounding Science Fiction, founded in 1930, quickly became one of the genre’s strongest books under the stewardship of Editor John W. Campbell.  Last year, Campbell decided it was time to strike out in a new direction, starting with a new name of the magazine.  The process has been a gradual one.  First, the word, Analog, was slowly substituted month after month over Astounding.  The spine name changed halfway through this transition.  As of this month, the cover reads Analog Science Fiction.  I am given to understand that next month, it will simply say Analog

I think it’s a dopey name, but it’s the contents that matter, right?  So let’s see what Campbell gave us this month:

Well, not a whole lot, numerically.  There are just five pieces, but most of them are quite lengthy. 

First up is a novella by Analog perennial, Chris Anvil: No Small Enemy.  It combines two common Analog tropes, Terran supremacy and psionics.  In this case, an alien invasion is defeated by doughty humans using psychic talents.  It should be terrible, and the coincidence of the extaterrestrial onslaught and humanity’s discovery of ESP strains credulity.  Nevertheless, it’s actually not a bad read, and it suggests Anvil will do well when he’s not writing for Campbell’s unique fetishes.  In fact, we know that to be the case based on last year’s Mind Partner, published in Galaxy.  Three stars.

Jim Wannamaker’s Attrition features a fairly conventional set-up.  Interstellar scout is dispatched to determine why a previous scout mission failed to return from an alien world.  Where it fails in originality, it succeeds in execution.  It’s a decent mystery, and the characterization and deft writing make it worth reading.  Four stars.

Things go downhill in the science fact section of the magazine, as they often do.  A Problem in Communication, by George O. Smith, is a weird piece about how the two brains of a Brontosaurus might talk to each other.  It is followed up by Hal Clement’s Gravity Insufficient, an attempt to describe how magnetic fields modulate the Sun’s tempestuous flares.  It starts out like gangbusters but then fizzles into incomprehensibility.  Both pieces get two stars.

That leaves (Part 3 of 3) of Sense of Obligation, by Harry Harrison, which I’ll review next time.  All told, this issue garners 3 stars.  Given some of the real clunkers Campbell churned out this year, this may represent a good augury for this newly renamed digest.  I’d hate for them to go the way of the dinosaurs…

[Jan. 21, 1960] Siamese, if you please (February 1960 Galaxy, part 2)

I made fun of Galaxy editor Horace Gold for the slightly panicked tone in this month’s editorial.  It’s clear that he has concerns that the quality of his magazine might dip unless he can tap a reservoir of new talent.

That said, the February 1960 Galaxy finishes as it started (and as did its sister, the January 1960 IF)–on the good side of three stars, but not too far from the middle.  Let us see how Part 2 turned out.

I am sad to report that Willy Ley’s articles just aren’t as engaging as once they were.  They were what originally sold me on getting subscription, Galaxy being the first magazine I followed regularly.  The lovable ex-German just seems unfocused and a little cranky these days.

Zenna Henderson’s Something Bright, on the other hand, is that engaging mix of magic, grit, unease, and wonder that I have come to expect from her.  This one is told from the point of view of a Depression-era teen who has a close encounter with a peculiar, and rather frightening, neighbor.  It’s nice to see work by two woman authors in Galaxy, a sign that the genre as a whole is becoming more balanced.


Dillon

Simak’s Crying Jag takes place in a similar setting—he does enjoy those rustic tales, evocative of his home in rural Minnesota.  In this one, the rather soused protagonist becomes the friend and keeper of an alien for whom sad stories are an intoxicant.  Everybody wins in this one, as the storytellers thus find themselves free of their psychological pain.  Not stellar, but enjoyable.


Wallace Wood

For some reason, I really enjoyed David Fisher’s East in the Morning, about a intellectual prodigy who must wait until his very old age for his genius to bear fruit.  It is told in this detached yet gripping manner that I found engaging.  Perhaps there is a bit of identification, too—after all, I too blazed through my early life displaying signs of promise and even, perhaps, genius… but I’m still waiting to make my mark.  Someday.


Dick Francis

Sadly, the magazine has stumbles to an unimpressive finish.  Jim Wannamaker is a new face to the science fiction world, and his Death’s Wisher, about a psychokinetic who threatens to blow up the world by setting off its hydrogen bombs, is not an impressive first outing.  Truth to tell, I almost fell asleep. 


Dick Francis

Space news is up next.  All about a midget Mercury and its furry astronaut.  Stay tuned!

(all Galaxy magazines can be found here)

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns.  While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!



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