[If you’re in in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]
by Victoria Silverwolf
Frederik Pohl must not be busy enough editing Galaxy and If. Now he’s added another bimonthly magazine to his roster with the appearance of the first issue of Worlds of Tomorrow.
There hasn’t been a new American science fiction magazine on the newsstands for about five years, and none of them survived for very long. (Anybody remember Saturn?) It’s been more than a decade since any magazine of SF which is still published in the USA was launched. If and Fantastic are the most recent success stories.
Given the death of so many periodicals in the field over the last ten years, the publishers are taking a risk. Let’s take a look at the contents of the premiere issue and see if the quality of fiction justifies their hazardous venture.
People of the Sea (Part 1 of 2) , by Arthur C. Clarke
The magazine begins in fine form with a new novel from this talented British writer. Set in the middle of the next century, it follows the adventures of a teenage boy as he stows away on a hovercraft bound for Australia. Barely surviving the sinking of the vessel, he winds up on a small island near the Great Barrier Reef. He encounters scientists who can communicate with dolphins, and plays an important part in their project. The first section of this installment is full of fast-paced action. The second section is mostly a travelogue of this part of the Pacific. However, the reader’s interest never fades, because the author’s descriptions are always fascinating. Clarke obviously knows and loves the Great Barrier Reef, and he writes about the sea as compellingly as he does about space. One minor quibble is the fact that this novel seems intended for younger readers. Much like Heinlein’s so-called juveniles, it is likely that adults will enjoy it as well. Four stars.
X Marks the Pedwalk, by Fritz Leiber
This is a brief account of a future war between pedestrians and drivers. The government steps in to keep the level of violence within certain limits. Although Leiber is incapable of writing a bad sentence, it’s a very minor piece. Two stars.
The Long Remembered Thunder, by Keith Laumer
A government agent investigates a mysterious transmission coming from a small town. It involves a recluse who is nearly a century old and the woman he loved at the turn of the century. The story begins as a realistic tale of intrigue, but eventually becomes an account of a vast conflict across dimensions. It held my interest, but the climax was too fantastic for my taste. Three stars.
Where the Phph Pebbles Go, by Miriam Allen deFord
Aliens play a game of throwing rocks. Some of the stones escape their low-gravity planet and wind up landing on other worlds. They realize this might draw unwanted attention, so they come up with a plan to eliminate the problem. This comic tale is inoffensive, but not very amusing. The author tosses in several silly words like the one in the title. Two stars.
Third Planet, by Murray Leinster
This story takes place in a future where humanity easily travels hundreds of light-years, but the Cold War is still going on. The Communists have the upper hand, as they are willing to start a nuclear war if the West ever refuses to give in to their demands. While this is happening, a starship discovers a planet much like Earth, but with no life. The reason for this involves a device located on another planet in the same solar system. The alien technology threatens to destroy the Earth, but also promises to save it. The author’s treatment of the Reds is heavy-handed, depicting them as gleefully plotting to destroy the opposing side without mercy. There’s mention of an implausible scientific law which states that all solar systems must be similar to our own. Two stars.
Heavenly Gifts, by Aaron L. Kolom
A housekeeper who works at a facility where scientists are attempting to contact other planets uses their equipment to broadcast what she thinks of as prayers. She asks for simple things like an electric blanket, and they miraculously appear from nowhere. Meanwhile, radioactive materials begin to disappear from Earth, leading to panic in the governments of the USA and the USSR. This is a trivial comedy with a weak ending. Two stars.
The Girl in His Mind, by Robert F. Young
A man purchases the services of an alien (but very humanoid) prostitute. She has a human girl living in her home, purchased as a slave when the child lost her parents. After this opening scene, the reader enters the bizarre landscape of the man’s mind, where he wanders through scenes of his past while pursuing a woman whom he believes murdered her father. Meanwhile, three women from his childhood chase him. The transition between these sections of the story is disorienting, but we eventually find out what’s really happening. Like many stories from this author, the plot involves a man’s obsessive love for a woman. It’s strange enough to hold one’s attention, but may be too Freudian for many. Three stars.
To See the Invisible Man, by Robert Silverberg
We end on a high note with this excellent story from a prolific author whose work has not often been distinguished. He creates a future society where a man guilty of the crime of being cold-hearted is sentenced to a year of symbolic invisibility. A mark on his forehead warns all who see him that they must act as if he does not exist. The author goes into a great deal of detail as to how this strange form of punishment might work. At first, the man enjoys the ability to commit petty crimes without consequences. He soon discovers the many disadvantages of invisibility, from the fact that he will not receive medical treatment, even if he is dying, to the intense loneliness of complete isolation. At the end of the story, he learns to reach out to his fellow human beings, even at great cost. This is a unique and compelling tale, with an important point to make. Five stars.
If the editor continues to publish stories of the quality of People of the Sea and To See the Invisible Man (while filling up pages with fair-to-middling work), we may still be reading Worlds of Tomorrow when we are living in the world of tomorrow.
[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo. Your ballot should have arrived by now…]