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[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

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


by Gideon Marcus

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:

The Secret Flight of the Friendship Eleven, by Alfred Connable

We all know astronauts are lantern-jawed, steely eyed, terse test-pilots.  Great for getting the job done, not so great for poetic inspiration.  Eleven is the tale of a corps of artistic types selected specifically so as to describe their journeys in more approachable terms.  But space has the last laugh.

Every so often, a brand new author knocks one out of the park on the first at bat.  This is not one of those cases.  For satire to work, it has to be clever, and this is just mundanely droll.  One star.

Sorworth Place, by Russell Kirk

It’s October, so ghost stories are thoroughly appropriate.  This one, however, set in a battered Scottish castle, is neither original nor particularly engaging.  Two stars.

Card Sharp, by Walter H. Kerr

I really have no idea what Kerr’s poem is about.  Even Davidson’s explanation is no help.  One star.

Hop-Friend, by Terry Carr

Thus begins about twenty pages of relative quality, an island of the old F&SF in a sea of lousiness.  Newish author Carr finds his feet with this sensitive and striking tale of first contact between Human and Martian.  Introverts can never fathom extroverts, and similarly, xenophobes find xenophiles, well, alien!  But extroverted xenophiles, even from different species, are birds of a feather.  Four stars (even if Carr’s Mars conforms more to older theories of the Red Planet’s atmosphere).

Pre-Fixing it Up, by Isaac Asimov

How many rods in a furlong?  How many grains in a pennyweight?  I have no idea…and with the metric system, it doesn’t matter.  The Good Doctor explains the ins, outs, and many merits of the new standard that lets you measure everything from an atom to a universe with a series of easily manipulated units.  Four stars.

Landscape With Sphinxes, by Karen Anderson

Back into the sea with a Sphinx-themed riddle: What earns four stars at its prime, two stars when it doesn’t try, and three stars most of the time?  The Anderson family of writers.  No matter how good an author one is, it takes more than a promising beginning to make a story.  Two stars for this third of a vignette.

Protect Me from My Friends, by John Brunner

There is a fine line between innovation and illegibility.  I read Brunner’s first person account of an overwhelmed telepath twice (it’s short), and I still don’t like it.  Two stars.

You Have to Know the Tune, by Reginald Bretnor

Another half tale from the fellow we know better as Grendel Briarton (of Feghoot “fame” — and that entry is truly bad this month).  Industrialist on the way to Africa hears a tale of the pied bassoonist of the veldt only to find it’s likely no legend.  Trivial.  Two stars.

The Journey of Joenes (Part 2 of 2), by Robert Sheckley

As any of my readers knows, no greater fan of Robert Sheckley walks the Earth.  His short stories are funny, thought-provoking, chilling, clever — by turns or all at once.  In the last decade, he wrote enough to fill six excellent collections, none of which will ever leave my library.

Where he falters is novels.  Somehow, Sheckley can’t keep the pace for 150 consecutive pages, and the result is, while never bad, never terrific.  Cases in point: Time Killer and The Status Civilization.  Bob seems to be cognizant of this weakness.  In his latest book, The Journey of Joenes he attempts to overcome it by writing a novel composed of short, somewhat independent narratives.  The result is something that is, to my mind, no more successful than his previous book-length works.  You may, of course, disagree.

Joenes is a pure satire, putatively written in a post-apocalyptic 30th Century Polynesian.  It details the life of Joenes, an American-born Tahitian power engineer, who is one of the few to survive the worldwide cataclysm.  The tale is told by others: Polynesian historians; excerpts from the memoirs of Joenes’ beatnik companion, Lum; edifying tales recorded anonymously. 

There is a plot — Joenes comes to the United States, winds up before a Court on the charge of sedition, is sentenced to a mental hospital for the Criminally Insane, flees to become a professor of Polynesian Cultural Studies, goes into government, and ultimately escapes nuclear anhilation.  This, however, isn’t the point.  Rather, we see our own modern culture through a mirror darkly, distorted not just as a satire of our society, but of legend in general.  The history of the United States is mixed liberally with that of Ancient Greece.  Historical and mythical personages are referenced with equal frequency.  It’s effectively done, essentially doing for 20th Century America what Homer did for 12th Century B.C. Greece.

Joenes is clearly an attempt by the author to make the philosophical treatise for the 1960s, the equivalent of Stranger in a Strange Land or Venus Plus X.  The satire is approachable, even for the layman, and there is some sex in it.  Whether it succeeds wildly like Heinlein’s piece or fizzles like Sturgeon’s, only time will tell. 

I can only speak for myself.  While Sheckley is always readable, I felt that the joke went on too long, particularly in the latter portions.  Perhaps I’m just too close to the subject matter he was aping.  In any event, I give Joenes three stars.  If this kind of thing is your bag, I suspect you’ll rate it more highly.

And that’s that for this month.  More disappointment in 130 pages than I’ve seen in a long time, if ever.  When I do the Galactic Stars next month, I’m certain F&SF won’t be on the list, and that saddens me.  Nevertheless, I hope against hope that this is just a phase, and the once proud digest will someday return to its former glory.  Time will tell…




[September 1, 1962] Facing East (a view from the UK: October 1962 New Worlds)

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


by Mark Yon

Hello, all: greetings from Britain, again.

The October issue of New Worlds has arrived, so I guess that must mean that it is time to send my thoughts across the teletype.

Here things are turning Autumnal. We’ve had one of the coldest August Bank Holidays on record. The Meteorological Office tells us that it was the coldest in Kew (London) on record since 1888. Here it was just wet and rainy, which is how most Bank Holidays tend to go if I’m honest. It is perhaps ironic that we’ve got a tune by Carole King in the pop charts here called It Might As Well Rain Until September.

In pop music it seems that that catchy instrumental record, Telstar, by the Tornados is quite popular. It certainly sounds different, with that electronic sound giving it a real Space Age appeal to me. I was very pleased to see it reach Number 1 in the UK charts. I suspect it may do well with you across the Atlantic as well.

Film-wise, here’s a little heads-up. Earlier this week, I learned of a movie coming out which I guess will go down a storm in the US when it gets to you next year. I suspect queues will be quite long when it opens in early October.

It is the story of a secret agent called James Bond and the movie is called Dr. No. The movie looks great, especially the parts in the sunny Caribbean – miles away from rainy England! – and, as anticipated, there’s lots of fast paced action. The lead, a young actor named Sean Connery, is very charismatic. There is, of course, a foreign bad-guy with access to nuclear weapons threatening the world – guess what happens? However the pace is so fast and the setting so good I suspect we will see more of Mr. Bond in the future. The books, by Mr. Ian Fleming, are very popular here too. There are ten of those, so there’s plenty for the movies to have a go at!

On television I was sorry to see the end of the ITV s-f series that started at the end of August. Miss Pollard has mentioned this one as well, I think. Called Out of this World, it’s been essential viewing on Saturday nights for those of us with a television set. I guess that it is our British equivalent of your Twilight Zone. There’s been a good selection of s-f stories by Mr. Isaac Asimov (Little Lost Robot), Mr. Philip K. Dick (Impostor) and Mr. Clifford D. Simak (Immigrant and Target Generation) and, perhaps unsurprisingly to those of us who know of these writers, they have been very well received. I look forward to a second series, should it happen.

Enough preliminaries.  Now for this month’s look at New Worlds. Many thanks for your comments about the September issue: they were much appreciated.

The October issue continues the trend in covers mentioned last time. This month it is a fluorescent orange. Rather pumpkin-like, if truth be told, but perhaps more Autumnal than last month’s day-glo pink cover.

The October issue also continues another recent trend at New Worlds – that of using Guest Editors, although I’m sure Mr. Carnell is still involved in there somewhere. After the enthusiastic essay by fan Mr. John Baxter last month, we’re back to the use of s-f writers this time. Stepping up to the plate is Mr. Edward Mackin, from Blackpool, Lancashire. According to Mr. Carnell’s introductory profile, he is perhaps best known for his Hek Belov satirical stories, usually found in New Worlds’s sister publications, Authentic Science Fiction (now sadly defunct) and Science Fantasy.

His Editorial essay, Anything is Possible, is a little more serious than his stories would suggest. He does make the point that s-f reflects a broad spectrum of tastes and values which, despite what was said last month by the then-editor, means that there may still be a case for older-style s-f stories that have that sense of enthusiasm and wonder that the stories he first read years ago. He argues that if you wish to encourage new readers, then catching their initial interest at an early age is important, but you must also take into account the market you are selling to. He bemoans the lack of good quality female characters and suggests a need for less over-heated sex scenes, but not to the point of ignoring it, as has happened in the past. Instead Mr. Mackin points out that a balance in all things in s-f is needed, if it is to be credible. Things have got better in s-f writing but there is a need for tales that evoke a sense of wonder – alongside the deeper, more cynical and more stylistically cutting-edge stories, of course!

This is a view not as extreme as Mr. Baxter’s last month and seems perhaps a more sensible way of carrying both present readers, who are accepting change without breaking the ties to older stories from the past, and the new readers, who are expecting the old rules to be ripped up. I guess we’ll see how this transformation evolves over the next few years – watch this space!

No Postscripts letters section this month. I’m still interested to read what other readers thought of Mr. John Baxter’s mission statement editorial – perhaps next month.

Instead, we have the return of Mr. Leslie Flood’s reviews, and welcome they are too. There are four books reviewed by Mr. Flood: Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss, Pilgrimage by Zenna Henderson, The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction – 9th Series, edited by Robert P Mills and lastly Who? by Algis Budrys. All, with the exception of Mr. Aldiss, are given generally favourable comments.  In comparison, Mr. Aldiss’s novel is “tedious in its repetitious violence, casual wonder and the contrived terminology….”.

Remould, by Mr. Robert Presslie

Mr. Presslie is a New Worlds stalwart, last in the magazine a mere two issues ago. This is a big trek for survival novelette, which tells of humans forced to travel out of an alien-imposed Sterile Zone between 20 -60 degrees North of the Equator. This is about as far from the typical adventure stories where heroes made sacrifices for the benefit of the many as you can get. There is no real heroism here as thousands die, are drowned, trampled or left for dead. It isn’t pretty.  I guess in some ways it shows us how far s-f stories have developed less romantic ideas of chivalry and thus become more realistic. My main issue with the story was that the main reason for the migration seemed weak. There’s a nice little twist when the survivors meet the alien invaders but the ending happens all too quickly, giving the tale a somewhat unbalanced tone at the end. Nevertheless I suspect that this one will be popular with regular readers because it tries to be different. 2 out of 5 from me.

Schizophrenic by Mr. Richard Graham

The second novelette this month is thankfully a much lighter comedy of manners that deals with that old chestnut, time travel.  Much of the humour derives from the consequences of a 24th century holidaymaker who swaps places with John in the 20th century for a week. Unsurprisingly the traveller causes chaos by disregarding the rules of the 20th century, like going to work, paying for things in shops and bringing girlfriends home to meet the wife.  This is clearly good advice for any time traveller! For all that it has been done before, I preferred this novelette to Remould, so 3 out of 5.

A Question of Drive by H. B. Caston

I liked this one. A tale of a dodgy interstellar trade deal done between a human and an alien thief to get a revolutionary new space drive. Reminded me a little of Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn stories published in Astounding Magazine. 3 out of 5.

Jogi by Mr. David Rome

I did say that Mr. Rome’s story last month, Moonbeam, was satisfactory, though not his best.  I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one more. Jogi is a tale told from the viewpoint of a lost alien who feeds on something unusual. There’s a nice sense of ‘alienness’ here – it is cute, yet actually creepy – though the overall tale is slight. My favourite of the month, I think, though still 3 out of 5.

The Crack of Doom (part 2) by Mr. Keith Woodcott

Although I thought that the first part of this was nothing particularly special last month, I must admit that I have been looking forward to read how this story finishes. Last time we left the story on a cliff-hanger, with our cosmoarchaeologist Philip Gascon on his way to investigate goings on and the ancient artefacts of the Old Race on Regnier’s Planet, and a group of Psions trying to escape a potential pogrom from the cruel Starfolk. I did say that I thought I knew where this one was going and I’m a little disappointed that I was right. The story remains a well-told tale but with little new to offer – a novel which does not seem to fit the magazine’s determination to push the envelope. Nevertheless I enjoyed it, in that way that I enjoyed Mr. Graham’s Schizophrenic – you can enjoy old tropes reheated. Overall, 3 out of 5, the same as last month.

So, overall was the magazine as glowing as its orange cover? Not quite, although I’m giving it a score of 3 out of 5 overall. I actually enjoyed this issue more than last month’s if I’m honest, but there’s a lot of familiar ground being trodden here, albeit done reasonably well. It was good to read a David Rome story back on form, though Jogi is no Streets of Ashkalon.

And that’s it for this month. I wish you well as the nights draw in here, and things grow a little foggy – hoping that such things give you more time for great reading!




[August 3, 1962] New Worlds to Conquer (a view from Britain: September 1962 New Worlds)

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


by Mark Yon

Hello to all Travellers – greetings from Europe.

I’ve been asked by our Traveller to tell you of the British magazine situation as it appears here in England. There are some differences between the British & the American markets, as you may know. Generally US magazines are quite difficult to get here, due to the cost of transportation and the fact that there import restrictions to this fair isle. One of the consequences of this is that although we do get UK editions of your main magazines such as Analog, Fantasy & SF and Galaxy here, they are often different to the American editions you see. What this has meant in actuality is that the British editions often have less content than their American equivalents, with editorials, stories and serials removed altogether. To add to the confusion even more, different stories from different American editions are often mixed together in one British issue. This can mean that my view of what you are reading in America is slightly different, or at least a few months behind, yours.

Nevertheless, we do have some interest in new science fiction in England. Our co-traveller Ashley Pollard has mentioned much of this already in her articles here. Our most popular ‘home-grown’ SF magazine is New Worlds, which Ashley has already given a wonderful summary of already. The intention of New Worlds’s editor, Mr. John (Ted) Carnell seems to be to not only produce a magazine that shows British talent off but to also push the boundaries of science fiction (s-f).

It seems to be a time of change for s-f here in England. Generally the situation at the moment seems to be one of decline for British magazines. The actual number of publications available is much smaller than it was five years ago, though there are some that seem to survive. There are four by Nova Publications, of which, and currently in its 16th year of publication, New Worlds is the most popular British magazine at the moment. I do like Nova Publications’s Science Fiction Adventures and Science Fantasy as well, but I think that my purpose here is to discuss New Worlds with you.

I can see that, even with New Worlds, there have been some drastic changes in the last few months. The glorious colour covers of the last few years by artists such as Bob Clothier, Gerard Quinn, Sidney Jordan and Brian Lewis have since the June issue (that’s number 119) been replaced by covers with black & white photographs on a coloured background. Whatever reason editor John Carnell has had for the change – I’m assuming to reduce printing costs, but of course, it could be a number of things – to my mind it makes the magazine less attractive as a science fiction magazine (One rumour is that it is meant to be a radically different cover style to try and attract a wider, less specifically science-fiction readership). Colour pictures on the front cover would have made this new look so much more attractive. I do hope that this is nothing to worry about from our leading British magazine.

The magazine contents are as variable as ever, though. New Worlds has a reputation of being the publishing place of many of our British authors such as Mr’s Brian W. Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, James White, and John Brunner, names you may recognise. Some of the work of other lesser known authors can vary in terms of quality and consistency, though I must say that there’s something worth reading in each issue. As well as the fiction, the magazine occasionally covers book, film and television reviews, usually by Mr Leslie Flood.

With all of that out of the way, what about the latest issue, #122?

Well, the cover reflects the current startling colour scheme. Behind the bright pink cover we begin this issue with a Profile of the Guest Editor, 22-year-old Mr John Baxter from Australia. Australia does buy a lot of these magazines from Britain as well. There have been a number of Guest Editorials recently, but this is the first by a science-fiction fan, as Mr. Carnell says in his introduction “to represent a reader’s viewpoint”.

Mr. Baxter pulls no punches with his Editorial. This is clearly not an essay that panders to sycophancy. Instead, whilst welcoming the addition of Guest Editors, he decries their lack of criticism: “…. all of them have been, in my opinion, short-sighted, illogical and inconclusive…. As literary essays, the Guest Editorials were fine; as constructive criticism, a dead loss.”

I was impressed that Mr. Carnell has been brave enough to take on and publish such a forthright and provocative opinion. Mr. Baxter writes with enthusiasm and creates an effective call-to-arms for modern s-f readers and writers – that if science fiction is to be accepted by the masses then writers need to take up the challenge of writing stories that are intelligent and scientifically precise that also manage to stand up to professional criticism. This is a view also taken by many in the intermittent letters section, Postmortem, at the back of the magazine. Presumably to ally with the Guest Editor’s perspective, many of the letters there this month also examine the importance and usefulness of previous Guest Editorials, the need for scientific accuracy in stories and the need for s-f that is Literature, with a capital-L. I’ll be interested to see what response we get in future issues from other readers.

Of the actual fiction, first of all there is the start of a new two-part serial. This one is by Mr. Keith Woodcott, an author unknown to me, although I suspect that because there is no picture of the author on the lurid front cover, it may actually be written by someone better known as another name. The rather dramatic title, The Crack of Doom, is a psi-story that according to its introduction “introduces a slan-like atmosphere into what has become a highly controversial theme.” It’s a story that deals with racial segregation and cultural isolation as Van Vogt’s classic, Slan, did, with the psinull Starfolk, in a fit of evolutionary superiority, persecuting the psychic minority Psions. There are similarities between our world, at a time of a racial conflict, and Mr. Woodcott’s one, I feel. The plot basically hinges on the revelation that an anguished psionic scream is heard by all Psions coming from ancient Old Race ruins on the Starfolk-governed Regnier’s Planet. This may have consequences for our hero Philip Garcon, intrepid graduate in cosmoarchaeology, who, as a psinull rarity, is given the task of uncovering the source of the scream on Reignier’s at the end of this first part.

It’s a satisfactory tale. Rather old-fashioned in some ways – after all, Slan is over fifteen years old! – it also refreshes those ideas fairly well. I’m not a huge fan of these ESP type tales, personally, but I’ve always liked the idea of archaeology in space, (here called cosmoarchaeology) and ancient cultures. The Crack of Doom is a bit run-of-the-mill, but done well enough to keep me reading. I look forward to the next part, though I think I can see where this story is going. 3 out of 5.

There are five short stories in this issue. The first is by a well-known author who you may know in the US – Mr. Harry Harrison. In line with the editor’s current mission to push the envelope of British s-f, it may be a controversial one. The Streets of Ashkalon is one which tackles the idea of religion head-on. It is the story of John Gath, an atheist trader on the planet of Ashkalon, who greets the arrival of Father Mark, a Christian missionary, with extreme reluctance. Father Mark is determined to bring the word of God to the alien Wesker species living there on Ashkalon, though to Gath they are pure and innocent and cannot understand the difference between facts and beliefs. Whilst Gath is eventually impressed by the zealot’s single-mindedness, there are consequences to Father Mark’s actions. The story is shocking and memorable, and by far the best thing in this issue. I wonder what Mr. James Blish, whose 1958 novel A Case of Conscience also dealt with religion, would think of it? 5 out of 5.

The second story is Pandora’s Box by Mr. Steve Hall, a fairly new writer to me. It’s a typical space-frontier tale, set on the Moon, that I think Mr. Arthur C Clarke would appreciate. It was OK for me, not too surprising, but I liked it. The story does much to set up a scenario of a mysterious box being found on the Moon whilst a new Matter Transmitter is being built there, but then uses a rather obvious solution and has an ending that concludes the tale rather too abruptly for my tastes. I suspect that in the end it’ll not be that memorable, but Mr. Hall may be an author to watch for in the future. 2 out of 5.

Next is a short story by another new name to me, Mr. Morris Nagle, named Serpent in Paradise. It’s the story of an adventurous millionaire, Archibald Downes, a castaway who seems reluctant to be rescued. When an exploratory team find him they not only have to persuade him to leave but also deal with the local flora and fauna. This one is typical adventure story stuff, with an unsurprising twist at the end. It was OK but not really outstanding for me. 2 out of 5.

The next story, The Craving of Blackness by Mr. Robert Ray, was a tale of about a young man’s coming-of-age, and the consequential loss of innocence. Fourteen-year-old Joey wishes to be a Space-Medic but on taking his IQ test finds that things in the future may not be what he hopes for. It’s OK but is a little heavy-handed for my tastes personally. 3 out of 5.

Lastly we have Moonbeam, by an author not unknown to me or other regular New Worlds readers, Mr. David Rome. Since his first story in the May 1961 New Worlds, Mr. Rome has become an increasingly popular writer. Moonbeam is a story of the effects of the first faster-than-light transmission of a person far away to Alpha Centauri. Earth to Alpha Centauri in five hours is something we can only dream of today, and here it is suggested that there are problems in being one of the first people brave enough to try it. The ‘test pilot’, as it were, Bianchi, finds that there are unanticipated consequences of such travel. There’s issues of identity involved, as Bianchi appears to be a subject created in a factory and an increasing sense of dislocation as the story tells its plot. It is capped by a nice twist in the ending to this one, which stays in the mind just long enough to make you think before moving on. 3 out of 5.

So: was New Worlds worth my 2/6 (that’s two shillings and sixpence to you non-Brits) this month? On balance, yes. I would give it a score of 3 out of 5. It’s a solid issue overall, with some parts very memorable and others being OK, without any real rotters. I suspect that The Streets of Ashkalon will become one of Mr Harrison’s better-known works in the future, and not just for its determination to tackle sacred issues.

This time around, New Worlds seems to have made its mission explicit – to be different, to not be content with mundanity and clichés but push s-f into new and exciting ideas and themes. It is therefore perhaps as good a place as any to start my journey with you, fellow travellers. It’ll be interesting to see where this takes us.




[July 2, 1962] Getting to the Point (July 1962 Analog Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

There are many ways to measure the strength of a story.  Is the plot innovative?  Does it resonate emotionally?  Are the featured characters unusual?  Does it employ clever literary devices?

As a writer, I am always particularly impressed by efficiency: the ability of an author to develop his tale with a minimum of exposition, unfolding a plot teasingly so as to keep the reader turning those pages with increased anticipation, and then delivering a solid conclusion at the end – where it belongs.

The July 1962 Analog Science Fiction delivers a series of object lessons in how (and how not) to write efficiently.  In some cases, the execution can be admired even if the story isn’t great shakes.  And vice versa.  Read on!:

Listen! The Stars!, by John Brunner

Brunner is a new British author whose prolific writings have already enchanted one of the Journey’s writers.  Now it’s my turn.

Listen! takes place a few decades from now, just after the discovery of an esoteric electronic principle that allows one to literally eavesdrop on the stars.  Using a sort of acoustic telescope, the “stardropper,” one can tune in to the mental vibrations of extraterrestrials.  This isn’t telepathy, and even if it were, who could understand the minds of total aliens? 

Yet, listening to these emanations is compelling in the extreme.  There is the feeling that, if you could just wrap your head around them, the secrets of the universe might be yours.  Stardropper addiction runs rampant…and then the disappearances begin.  Users simply vanish, though very few cases are actually witnessed.  Concerned at the ramifications, the American government dispatches a special agent to investigate the vanishings. 

Listen! is perfectly constructed, fitting its novella length just right.  The plot is also novel, though there are shades of Clarke’s Childhood’s End.  The characterizations serve the tale rather than being tacked on.  A five star story.

Junior Achievement, by William M. Lee

This tale of a gaggle of precocious kids and their science project is neither engaging nor novel.  I think the idea is that fall-out from an atomic exchange has caused the kids to surpass the adults by leaps and bounds, but otherwise, I couldn’t see the point.  Two stars.

The Other Likeness, by James H. Schmitz

Alien agents in human form are inserted into a Terran Federation with the goal to destroy it from within.  A textbook example of how not to write: three quarters of this story is action without explanation, followed by the most expository of endings.  The result is that one wonders why one is reading until the finale and then feels let down for the effort expended.  Two stars.

Brain Waves and Thought Patterns, by John Eric Holmes, M.D.

I normally cringe at the prospect of reading non-fiction in Analog given Editor Campbell’s preference for crackpots pushing psychic malarkey, but July’s piece genuinely intrigues.  We are finally learning a bit about the black box of the mind that lies between stimulus and response.  The key has been to implant electrodes into the brain and measure the electrical output.  Cats are the subject of choice being the perfect combination of ubiquitous and medium-sized.

The result?  We now know a lot about the brainwaves of cats.  What this means for the future of humanity, brain research, Dr. Rhine, etc. remains to be seen.  Three stars.

Border, Breed Nor Birth (Part 1 of 2), by Mack Reynolds

El Hassan, the mythical would-be uniter of North Africa is back in Reynolds’ second tale set in the Mahgreb of the 1980s.  As in the first, it follows Homer Crawford and his band of Westernized Negroes as they promulgate the virtues of democracy and technology under a collective assumed identity. 

I’m a little warmer to the idea that Africa can use the help of its displaced children across the sea, and I do appreciate the attention to detail in the setting and the politics (no surprise – Reynolds spent a good deal of time in Morocco and Algeria).  However, the presentation is still too flip, and I suspect the endeavor is going to prove all too easy.  But perhaps the naive ambitions of Crawford et. al. will be thwarted in Part II.  Three stars so far, but I’m waiting for the thump of shoe #2.

The Rescuer, by Arthur Porges

Last up is the chronicle of the destruction of a machine, perhaps the most powerful and important machine in human history.  The pay-off is as hoary as your grandmother, but the unveiling is rather masterful.  Three stars.

Summed up, this month’s Analog is the least good of the Big Five magazines, scoring a still respectable 3.1 stars – and it has the month’s best story, in my opinion.  Given that no digest scored under the three stars this month, it has been an unusually fruitful July for science fiction lovers.

***

(P.S. Don’t miss the second Galactic Journey Tele-Conference, July 29th at 11 a.m.!  If you can’t make it to Worldcon/Chicon III, this is YOUR chance to Vote for the 1962 Hugos!)

[May 31, 1962] Rounding Out (June 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)


by Gideon Marcus

Ah, and at last we come to the end of the month.  That time that used to be much awaited before Avram Davidson took over F&SF, but which is now just an opportunity to finish compiling my statistics for the best magazines and stories for the month.  Between F&SF‘s gentle decline and the inclusion of Amazing and Fantastic in the regular review schedule, you’re in for some surprises.

But first, let’s peruse the June 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and see if, despite the new editor’s best efforts, we get some winners this month (oh, perhaps I’m being too harsh – Editor is a hard job, and one is limited to the pieces one gets.)

Such Stuff, by John Brunner

Thanks to recent experiments, we now know what people cannot survive long when deprived of the ability to dream.  But what about that bedeviled fellow who enjoys an escape from nightmares?  And what if your mind becomes the vessel for his repressed fantasies?  A promising premise, but this Serling-esque piece takes a bit too much time to get to its point.  Three stars.

Daughter of Eve, by Djinn Faine

After an interstellar diaspora, there are but two remaining groups of humans on a colony world.  One is a large population of radiation-sterilized people; the other comprises just one man and his young daughter, the mother having died upon planetfall.  From the title of the story, you can likely guess the quandary the sole fertile man is faced with.  The childlike language of the viewpoint character (the daughter) is a bit tedious, but this first story by Virginia Faine (nee Dickson – yes, that Dickson) isn’t bad.  It stayed with me, and that’s something.  Three stars.

The Scarecrow of Tomorrow, by Will Stanton

Reading more like a George C. Edmondson tale than anything else, this pleasantly oblique tale describes the encounter between two farmers and a murder of crows…with a partiality for things Martian.  I reread the ending a half-dozen times, but I’m still not quite sure what it all means.  Nicely put together, though.  Three stars.

The Xeenemuende Half-Wit, by Josef Nesvadba

During the War, a prominent German rocket scientist is stumped by a thorny guidance problem.  Can his savant son help him out?  And is it worth the price?  Another moody, readable piece from Nesvadba.  I’m sure there’s a point, but I’m not quite sure what it is.  Three stars.

The Transit of Venus, by Miriam Allen deFord

I don’t usually go for expositional stories, but deFord makes this one work, particularly with the story’s short length.  In a world of regimentedly liberal mores, one prude dares to turn society on its ear with a scandalous go at winning the Miss Solar System beauty pageant.  A fun piece from a reliable veteran.  Three stars.

Power in the Blood, by Kris Neville

I didn’t much like this story when it was It’s a Good Life on The Twilight Zone, and I like it less here.  Some addled old woman with the power to destroy slowly deteriorates the world until there’s naught left but wreckage.  Disjointed, unpleasant, and just not good.  One star.

The Troubled Makers, by Charles Foster

About the reality-challenged psychic who bends reality to his will, and the Watusi Chief who helps him around.  You’ve seen versions of this story a dozen times or more in this magazine over the years, but it’s not a bad variation on the theme.  An assiduous copy of the mold from a brand new writer.  Three stars.

The Egg and Wee, by Isaac Asimov

I normally enjoy the Good Doctor’s essays, and this one, comparing the ovae of various creatures and then segueing to a discussion of the smallest of biological creatures, isn’t bad.  But it misses the sublimity that his work can sometimes achieve.  Three stars.

Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: LI, by Grendel Briarton

Mr. Bretnor’s latest is much worse than normal, perhaps in Garrett territory.  But, I’ve never included these puns in my ratings, so I shan’t now.  Lucky for F&SF.

The Fifteenth Wind of March, by Frederick Bland

Penultimately, we’ve got the jewel of the issue.  As magical winds scour the Earth with increasing frequency and intensity, one thoroughly ordinary British family attempts to find shelter before it’s too late.  Both extraordinary and humdrum at once (no mean feat), it’s a poignant slice of unnatural life.  Four stars.

The Diadem, by Ethan Ayer

Mr. Ayer’s first printed story involves two women and the goddess that connects them.  It tries hard to be literary, but is just unnecessarily hard to read.  Two stars.

It should be clear to one with any facility with math (and who read every article this month) that the June 1962 F&SF was not the prize-winner this month.  In fact, the Goldsmith mags took surprising first and second place slots with 3.4 and 3 stars for Fantastic and Amazing, respectively.  Galaxy and Analog tied at 2.7 stars.  F&SF rated a middlin’ 2.8, but it may have had the best story, though some will argue that Fantastic’s The Star Fisherman earned that accolade.  It also had the laudable achievement of featuring the most woman authors…though two is hardly an Earth-shattering number. 

Speaking of women, the next article will feature women in the army.  And on that progressive note…ta ta for now!

[March 25, 1962] A Double Hit (A. Bertram Chandler’s The Rim of Space and John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra)


by Rosemary Benton

I love the bookstore in my town. Not only do they have a newsstand in front that provides me with the latest world events and developments in the US space program, but they have a very comprehensive science fiction section, front and center, as you walk in. I’ll occasionally look at the stand’s selection of comic books when I hear that there is a new series from Marvel Comics, but every trip to the bookstore must come with at least thirty minutes spent in the science fiction section.

This month part of my book budget went to Ace Double Novel F-133 containing the third publication of A. Bertram Chandler’s The Rim of Space as well as the first edition of John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra. Reading these stories back to back was a real treat, and one that I desperately needed this month. After the national tension created by the USSR pledging millions of dollars in military aid to Cuba on February 8th, coupled with the rapidly deteriorating health of one of my family members, my mind had been adrift on dark thoughts. I needed distractions of the science fiction variety, my favorite form of escapism. These stories supplied it in spades.

The first book I read was Chandler’s The Rim of Space. This novella centers around a rag tag team of wash-ups turned merchants aboard the dilapidated, but reliable, ship Lorn Lady. Stationed on the fringe of the Galactic Rim, this is a territory so remote from Earth that the central Terran government, the Federated Worlds, has little influence. Rebellion is building in order to mount a push for the Rim Worlds to become their own government. Caught in this wave of frontier space nationalism is Derek Calver, a man who used to work for a respectable company but has since left to pursue a drifting life in deep space. Through episodic adventures loosely tied to the exchange of merchandise, the crew of Lorn Lady meet intelligent alien lifeforms and experience strange space anomalies.

After finishing The Rim of Space I turned to Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra. I couldn’t help but feel as if I was reading a novella that pitted the characters of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime series against the American agents of The Time Traders. In almost exact contrast to the universe of Chandler’s piece, Brunner’s protagonists are agents of the Corps Galactica – a economic and security force powerhouse for Earth’s galaxy-wide territories. When a remote and technologically backward world called Planet 14 is penetrated by off-worlders looking to take advantage of the natural resources of the isolated human society, it is up to agents of the Corps to infiltrate the population without notice and take down the exploitative evil doers.

Of the two novellas I found Brunner’s tale of espionage and infiltration to be the more complete of the stories. Like H. Beam Piper, Brunner goes to great lengths to build up an unEarthly society complete with religion, social casts, lore and legend. When I first began reading Secret Agent I had no idea what an unexpected turn the plot would take. The society of Carrig, the central city on the planet, is first introduced in such minutia through the eyes of a merchant trader that one would think he would be the main character. In no way would one guess he was from another planet. In no way would the reader assume he was, in the grand design of the plot, such a minor character. Brunner has a way of making each citizen who appears in his book an indispensable part of the story, even if they play a minor roll. Within the entirety of the book I don’t believe I read about a single character that was superfluous to the overarching story. Every player had a part to play, and it was clear that Brunner knew where he was going with his story from start to finish.

The Rim of Space, on the other hand, focused nearly entirely on building up only three characters out of the entire cast – Derek Calver, the purser Jane Arlen, and strangely enough, the aged Captain Engels. To Chandler’s credit these are three very interesting characters. Calver and Jane are both deeply flawed people with questionable morals, rocky relationship histories, and physically rough around the edges. The relationship that develops between them is entirely fitting for their damaged pasts, and their snappish and jeering squabbles seem to come naturally even as they grow closer. Captain Engels, while nearly absent from the first half of the story, comes to be a constant reminder of the impending conflict that will arise between the Rim Worlds and the Federation. He’s grandfatherly and wise, but frail.

This was a great purchase, and one which I happily give four stars to as a whole. I would love to read the full novel of The Rim of Space at some point. Apparently chapters four and five had to be removed for printing purposes in the Ace Double Novel edition. My hope is that these missing chapters will more closely tie in the impending revolt of the Rim Worlds with the rest of the episodic adventures. As it stands though, individually I think that The Rim of Space is a solid three and a half stars for choosing to develop only three characters and not tying up the adventures of the Lorn Lady’s crew more closely to the hints of a larger overarching plot. Secret Agent of Terra deserves a full five stars. Great twists, incredible setting, fully rounded characters and impeccable world-building put it on the very top.

[February 26, 1962] Record Beating (March 1962 Analog)


by Gideon Marcus

You’ve almost assuredly heard of Radio Corporation of America (RCA).  They make radios (naturally), but also record players, televisions, computers.  They have produced the foundations of modern consumer electronics, including the color television standard and the 45 rpm record.  And now, they’ve really outdone themselves: they’ve created cassettes for tape recording.

Until now, if you wanted to listen to music or a radio show, you had to either buy it as a pre-recorded album or record it yourself.  The only good medium for this was the Reel to Reel tape recorder – great quality, but rather a bother.  I’ve never gotten good at threading those reels, and storing them can be a hassle (tape gets crinkled, the reels unspool easily, etc.).  With these new cassettes, recording becomes a snap.  If the price goes down, I’ll have to get me one.

What brought up this technological tidbit?  Read on about the March 1962 Analog, and the motivation for this introduction will be immediately apparent.

His Master’s Voice, by Randall Garrett

The RCA-themed title for Garrett’s latest is most appropriate.  Voice is the next in the exploits of the ship called McGuire.  As we learned in the first story, McGuire is a sentient spacecraft that has imprinted on a specific person – an interplanetary double-agent working for the United Nations.  Like the last story, Voice is a whodunnit, and a bit better handled one than before, as well.  Garrett’s slowly improving, it seems.  Three stars.

Uncalculated Risk, by Christopher Anvil

Every silver lining has a cloud, and every scientific advance is a double-edged sword.  Anvil likes his scientific misadventure satires.  This one, about a soil additive that proves potentially subtractive to the world’s arable land, is preachy but fun.  Three stars.

Rough Beast, by Roger Dee

The most fearsome carnivore in the known universe breaks free from an interstellar zoo and runs amok on one of the Floria Keys.  Can a group of scientists, a host of pacifist aliens, one cranky moonshiner, and a nervous tomcat stop the creature in time?  A shaky, over-adjectived beginning, but the rest is a lot of fun (and I guessed the ending moments before it was revealed).  Four stars.

The Iron Jackass, by John Brunner

Brunner is a prolific author whose work I’ve rarely encountered, perhaps because he’s based across the pond; Rosemary Benton plans to review his newest book next month.  Jackass is a fun tale involving an off-world steel mill, the Central European miners who work it and shun automation, and the robots that threaten to put the miners out of business.  I saw shades, in Jackass, of the recent Route 66 episode, First-Class Mouliak, which took place in a Polish steel community in Pennsylvania.  Three stars. 

Power Supplies for Space Vehicles (Part 2 of 2), by J. B. Friedenberg

Mr. Friedenberg has returned to tell us more about motors of the space age.  This time, it’s all about solar-heated turbines, and it’s just about as exciting as last time.  I give credit to Friedenberg for his comprehensiveness, if not his ability to entertain.  Two stars.

Epilogue, by Poul Anderson

Anderson is going through a phase, digging on somber, after-the-end stories (witness After Doomsday).  His latest novella takes place fully three billion years in the future, after humanity has destroyed itself and self-repairing and replicating machines have taken over.  Sparks fly between silicon and carbon-based life when a crew of time-lost humans returns to its mother planet for one last farewell. 

An excellent idea, and Anderson’s typically deft characterizations, are somewhat mitigated by robots that are a bit too conventional in their culture (no matter how radical their physiology), and by the fact that, in the end, Epilogue becomes a straight technical puzzle story.  Four stars.

The Numbers

This all adds up to a 3.2-star issue, respectable for any magazine and downright shocking for Analog.  This makes it the #2 digest for March 1962 (behind F&SF at 3.8, and ahead of IF (3.2), Amazing (2.8), and Fantastic (2.5).  Women once again wrote just two of this month’s pieces, one of which was a tiny poem.  The best stories came out in F&SF, the best of which is hard to determine – the Pangborn, the Young, or the Wellman?

Stay tuned for Fantastic to start the exciting month of March!

[July 10, 1960] Eye of the Storm (August 1960 Analog)

Once again, I find myself on vacation in my home town.  San Diego is hosting two science fiction conventions back to back this July, and this second one promises to be the larger of the two.  Of course, neither of these conventions holds a candle to the big one starting in Los Angeles tomorrow, the one that will determine our next Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

But that’s a topic for another article.  You came here to find out about this month’s fiction, right?

John Campbell is continuing his magazine’s slow transitioning of names from Astounding to Analog.  Both names are still on the cover, superimposed upon each other in a confusing mess, but the spine now unequivocally says Analog, so that’s how I’ll refer to it from now on.  R.I.P. Astounding.  Here’s to 24 years of an influential, if not entirely consistent, existence.

It’s not a bad issue.  Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade continues to be excellent, if wholly implausible.  This story of a 14th Century English village transformed into a nomadic band of universe-conquering marauders is played completely straight, with lovely characterization and an authentic ear for the language.  I find it hard to imagine that I won’t enjoy it through all three parts at this point.

The magazine fares less well in its shorter pieces.  The lead novella, Mack Reynold’s Adaptation, for instance, doesn’t quite work.  A galactic Terran federation is trying to bring old, backward human colonies into the fold, but first, these wayward settlements must be brought to modern status sociologically and technologically.  Two planets are the subject of a 50-year project, one of which has reverted to a European-style feudalism, the other emulating Aztec culture and advancement.  Of course, the inhabitants all speak English and are descended from American stock. 

The team dispatched to elevate the planets to galactic standard splits in twain.  They determine that a healthy competition is in order, one of them championing a controlled economy a la the Soviet Union.  The other employs capitalism.  While both divisions manage to raise the economic output of their charge planets, they are accompanied by serious growing pains, and it is not clear which course is better (or if either be optimum). 

The set-up is terribly forced, but I just pretended the contact team was really trying to improve the lot of a couple of real cultures from the past, perhaps in alternate timelines.  The characterization is largely incidental, and there are no female characters at all.  Still, Reynolds does get you from point A to B, and he does get you invested in the outcomes of the experiments.

Next up is Pushbutton War by brand-newcomer Joseph P. Martino, and it reads like someone’s freshman work.  It’s the story of an Air Force pilot, who zips around at Mach 25 in a rocket-powered anti-missile interceptor.  Not only is the concept silly, but the story alternates between walls of actionless dialogue and soulless action.  And yet, despite this, it’s not horrible.  I’d have suggested a rewrite or two, however.


by John Schoenherr

John Brunner has the exceedingly slight, Report on the Nature of the Lunar Surface, a few-pager that exists solely to set up the punchline.  In short (as there is no long), a technician’s sandwich ends up on the Moon, the result of carelessness around a lunar probe.  The bacteria in the dairy products thus introduced to Earth’s celestial companion result in a transformation of the Moon’s crust of a decidedly viridian and odorous nature…

Since the magazine is now Analog Science Fact and Fiction, it is apt that there are two science articles in this issue.  One is a comprehensive summary on Venus by R.S.Richardson, the fellow who recently wrote a similar piece on Mars in a recent issue.  The current scientific consensus seems to be that we still really don’t know much about “Earth’s Twin” save that it has an impenetrable veil of clouds.  As we get better at radar studies, and once we send a spacecraft out to the solar system’s second planet, perhaps the Goddess of Love will reveal her secrets.

The other article is an interesting, if dry, essay by Alastair Cameron on how elements heavier than helium were formed in the universe.  The popular theory these days is that everything north of atomic weight two on the Periodic Table formed amidst the unimaginable pressures existing in the center of stars.  The idea that our bodies are composed of the remains of long-dead suns is a romantic, mind-boggling one, I think.

Last up is Christopher Anvil’s A Taste of Poison, about a canny businessman who convinces a set of alien would-be invaders that the inhabitants of Earth are a far tougher conquest than our comparatively primitive technologies might indicate.  A typical Anvil story that might pass the typical editorial filters of Campbell.

All told, it’s a 3-star issue buouyed by the Anderson and the non-fiction articles and shackled by the pedestrian shorter fiction.  Still, that’s two thirds of a winning combination.  If Campbell manages to get a decent new set of writers, he could pull his magazine out of its recent nosedive.

See you very soon with a gallery of photos from “Comic Con.”  Don’t let the name fool you–it’s a general science fiction/fantasy convention.

Stay tuned!

Momentum stalled (October 1959 Galaxy; 8-13-1959)

I really enjoy the broadness of Galaxy’s 196-page format.  It allows for novellas and novelets, which is a story size I’ve come to prefer.  F&SF has lots of stories per issue, too, but they tend to be very short.  Astounding likes serials, which can be fine if they’re good, but dreary if they’re not.  I mentioned last time that this month’s issue was looking to be a star all through.  Let’s see if that prediction held true.


All pictures by Dick Francis

Wilson Tucker’s King of the Planet certainly did not disappoint.  You may remember that Tucker wrote the excellent Galaxy novel, The City in the Sea.  His writing skills are on full display in the instant story, about a old old man who has outlasted all of his comrades. and now lives a solitary existence in a mausoleum, the one remaining survivor of a colony of humans.  Every so often, he is visited by other humans from faraway stars.  They question him, conduct surveys, and then they leave, puzzled at the self-styled king’s longevity and solitude.  King is the story of one such visit.  There is an interesting, religious twist at the end; what is your take?  Let me know, would you?

Silence, by Englishman John Brunner, is also fine reading.  Abdul Hesketh has been the captive of the inhuman Charnogs, with whom humanity has been at war with for decades, for 28 years.  When he is at last rescued, his mind has been thoroughly damaged by the ordeal, and his treatment at the hands of his saviors, which amounts to near-torture as they attempt to pry useful intelligence from him, is anything but therapeutic.  A little let down by the ending, but a fascinating psychological exploration.

Sadly, the last two stories are not up to the standard set by the rest of the magazine.  Elizabeth Mann Borgese, polymath daughter of the famed German philosopher, Thoman Mann, has never written anything I really liked, and True Self is no exception.  It is a story of plastic surgery and feminine beautification taken to an absurd level.  A worthy topic of satire, but not a very engaging piece.

Lastly, “Charles Satterfield” (co-editor Fred Pohl, presumably working for peanuts) has a rather mediocre novelette (Way Up Younder) set on a future colony world with a decidedly Ante-bellum Southern culture with robots standing in for Black slaves.  It’s not bad; it just sort of lies there.

Where does that leave us with the star tally?

Sadly, the last two stories dropped the issue from 4 to 3.5 stars.  A pity, really.  What’s better?  A tight, good issue, or a less-good longer issue?
(Confused?  Click here for an explanation as to what’s really going on)


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