Tag Archives: John Eric Holmes

[October 27, 1962] Calm in the Storm (the November 1962 Analog)

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


by Gideon Marcus

What the papers are now calling the Cuban Missile Crisis is a blister ready to burst.  An American pilot has been shot down.  There are rumors of confrontations between American and Soviet warships.  Bomber take-offs have rattled windows in towns near Air Force bases around the nation.  Kennedy, Khruschev, and U Thant are all offering proposals to turn this thing off, but so far, there are no takers.

I find almost jarring the contrast between the lurid and constant news reports and the rather bland offerings found in the last American science fiction magazine I’m reviewing this month, namely the November 1962 Analog.  Perhaps you’ll find its relative drabness a comfort. 

Space Viking (Part 1 of 4), by H. Beam Piper

Piper has written many stories set in what appears to be a coherent future history.  There are consistent references to planets such as Tanith and the Sword Worlds.  A Terran Imperium spans much of the galaxy.  Space Viking is both familiar and a departure, set as it is centuries after that Empire has collapsed.  Society and technology are on the regress, and the now-independent Sword Worlds have reverted to a kind of planetary feudalism.  These worlds grow rich on plundering the decaying carcass of the Empire; space piracy and raiding on a planetary scale are now respected endeavors.

This latest of Piper’s works follows a noble of one of the Sword Worlds who contracts a famed but currently shipless captain to skipper a newly commissioned ship.  The mission of the cruiser Nemesis is not piracy, but revenge against a most egregious of pirates.

It’s an interesting read, and planethopping tales are among my favorites.  I lament the lack of any real female characters though, particularly from the author who gave this column its avatar (Dr. Martha Dane of Omnilingual).  Three stars thus far.

Untechnological Employment, by E. M. Clinton, Jr.

An exceedingly short, juvenile piece.  I did note, however, the unorthodox use of the new term “Native American” for those typically called “Indians.”  Two stars.

Solomon’s Orbit, by William Carroll

Old coot shows up all those highfalutin eggheads by inventing an orbital drive out of space junk while all those rocket scientists can barely make a missile go.  A word of wisdom to the new author desperate to be published: this is the kind of tale Campbell loves.  Not me, though.  Two stars.

The Servant Problem, by Robert F. Young

At first, one is led to believe that this will be another story about an eccentric non-scientist coming up with the invention of the ages.  Instead, as the canny reader will pick up on, it’s far more.  That said, it’s not a great story, and the end is as expositional as they come.  Nevertheless, Young is always readable, even when he’s not brilliant.  Three stars.

The Educated Flatworms, by John Eric Holmes

Well, here’s a welcome surprise.  Normally, the slick pages devoted to non-fiction end up ruined by the monthly pseudo-science Campbell favors (psionics, reactionless drives, etc.) This time around, we have an absolutely fascinating piece on the training of flatworms, the common ancestor to most animals.  Not only can you teach these squishy creatures, but they pass on their knowledge to others in most surprising ways.

Normally, I’d expect stuff like this to be typical Analog bunk, but I’ve looked up the researchers in question, and their results appear to be legitimate.  The article’s only fault is a less than rigorous conveying of test scores; it’s not exactly clear what the significance of some of the numbers is.  Four stars.

Anchorite, by Johnathan Blake MacKenzie

The harsh living of the mining Belter, securing asteroids for precious metals and oxygen, makes for a hardy, reliable breed.  But is the resulting culture of rugged individualism a designed-for result or a happy side effect?  MacKenzie gives us both sides of the story, from the points of view of the rock-dwellers and a pair of Earthers.  Not an entirely unbiased view — there is more than a little condescension in the space-dwellers’ take, but there is also naivete, which I appreciated.

This should be a good story, but it’s not.  For one thing, MacKenzie, with his lurid descriptions of asteroids (he has been doing the Ship Named MacGuire series), flat attempts at puns, utter lack of women, and his begging the question like a highway mendicant, can be none other than Randall Garrett.  This is not a selling point.  For another, the scenes of asteroid mining are tedious, and what passes for dialogue even more so.  This could have been a fascinating tale if told by, I don’t know… Piper or Leinster or Reynolds.  In Garrett’s hands, it’s limp stuff.  Two stars.

Crucial Experiment #2, by Joseph F. Goodavage

Good gravy — Campbell had to include a three-page astrological weather forecast.  I guess we’ll have to see if there be any accuracy to it next month.  My money’s on “No.”

And so ends another readable but not outstanding issue of Analog.  I’m sure its intended audience would give it more stars than I do, and I wasn’t bored for much of it, but it’s only fair to middlin’ stuff right now.  Stay tuned for the last magazine of the month, this one from the other side of the Pond!




[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!)