by Gideon Marcus
A long time ago, back in the hoary old days of the 1950s, there was a science fiction magazine called Satellite. It was unusual in that contained full short novels, and maybe a vignette or two. Satellite was a fine magazine, and I was sorry to see it die at the end of the last decade.
Novels still come out in magazines, but they do so in a serialized format. This can be awkward as they generally extend across three or four magazines. Several magazines have started publishing stories in two parts, a compromise between Satellite and the usual digests. Fantasy and Science Fiction does that, but it also hacks the novels to bits, and they suffer for it.
IF, which is Galaxy’s sister magazine, had not flirted with this format until this month’s, the November 1961 issue. This means a novella-sized chunk of a story and a handful of shorter ones. That makes for a briefer article than normal this time around, but I think you’ll still find it worth your time. Let’s take a look!
Masters of Space, the aforementioned two-part novel, is an interesting throwback, stylistically. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given its provenance: E.E. “Doc” Smith, possibly the brightest light in space opera of the 20s and 30s, is one of its two authors; the other is E. E. Evans, another old hand who passed away in 1958. Masters stars a crew of Terran colonist/scientists that encounters a race of androids, immortal servants of a prior offshoot of humanity that had once conquered the stars. The novel is told in a flippant sort of shorthand, a bunch of banter reminiscent of 1940s film dialogue. The colonists are evenly divided by sex, and much of the book is devoted to their romantic escapades. It’s weird and anachronistic writing, which I enjoyed for the first forty pages, but which is increasingly wearing thin. Two stars.
Albert Teichner brings us Sweet Their Blood and Sticky, a subtle mood piece about an atomically razed Earth and its one remaining monument to humanity: an automated taffy-making machine. It’s just long enough to make its point, and it’s a good sophomore effort for this new writer. Three stars.
At The End of the Orbit is the latest by Hugo-winning Arthur C. Clarke, who has been writing quite a lot lately. Orbit starts out like an episode of Michener’s TV show, Adventures in Paradise, featuring a South Seas pearl diver. Things go in a decidedly dark direction when said aquanaut discovers a Soviet capsule at the bottom of the ocean. Four stars, but it’s not a happy piece.
Patrick Fahy, like Teichner, turns in his second story (at least to my knowledge), The Mightiest Man. Alien race conquers humanity and, as in Wells’ classic, is laid low by microbes. But not before empowering one traitorous man with immortality and the ability to control minds. His fate, and that of those he encounters, comprise another unpleasant (but not unworthy) tale. Three stars.
Fortunately, for those who like happy stories, like me, the next story is Keith Laumer’s Gambler’s World. It’s another installment in the adventures of Retief, the Galaxy’s most irreverent and capable diplomat/super spy. Can Retief foil a coup attempt on a provincial planet? Can he best the most fiendish games of chance ever devised? Can he make you laugh with his antics? I think you can guess the answer. This is my favorite Retief story to date. Four stars.
All told, that’s 3.11 on the Star-o-meter, which is pretty good for IF these days. Pretty good for anyone, really, and good enough to remain among my subscriptions.
Stay tuned for an unusual super-powered article in just a couple of days…