Tag Archives: podkayne of mars

[February 6, 1963] Up and Coming (March 1963 IF Science Fiction)

[If you live in Southern California, you can see the Journey LIVE at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, 2 p.m. on February 17!]


by Gideon Marcus

I’ve complained from time to time about the general decline in quality of some of the science fiction digests, namely Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction.  On the other hand, Cele Goldsmith’s mags, Amazing and (particularly) Fantastic have become pretty good reads.  And IF is often a delight.  Witness the March 1963 issue.  Not only does it have a lot of excellent stories, but the new color titles and illustrations really pop. 

Speaking of which, Virgil Finlay provides most of the pictures in this issue.  While I think he’s one of the most talented artists in our genre (I gave him a Galactic Star last year), I find his subject matter increasingly dated.  His pieces would better fit a magazine from the 40s. 

The Time-Tombs, by J. G. Ballard

The Egyptians entombed their notables such that they might enjoy a rich and comfortable afterlife.  But what if they had preserved them with the intention of eventual resurrection?  Ballard’s tale features a trio of grave robbers — pirate-archaeologists who plunder tombs containing the digitized remains of the long-dead.  Each has their own motivations: scholarship, profit, romance.  Taken too far, they lead to ruin.  Ballard’s tales tend to be heavy, even plodding.  There’s no question but that he’s popular these days, and his stuff is worth reading.  It’s just not strictly to my taste.  Three stars.

Saline Solution, by Keith Laumer

My correspondence with the Laumer clan (currently based in London) continues, but I’d enjoy his work regardless.  The cleverly titled Saline Solution is one of my favorite stories involving Retief, that incredibly talented yet much put-upon diplomat/superspy of the future.  It’s also the first one that takes place in the Solar System.  Four stars.

The Abandoned of Yan, by Donald F. Daley

Daley’s first publication stars an abandoned wife on an autocratic world.  It’s a bleak situation in a dark setting, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it when I was done.  But it stayed with me, and that’s worth something.  Three stars.

The Wishbooks, by Theodore Sturgeon

Sturgeon’s non-fiction piece this month is essentially a better, shorter version of the article on technical ads in last month’s Analog.  Three stars.

The Ten-Point Princess, by J. T. McIntosh

A conquered people deprived of their weapons still find clever ways to resist.  When a Terran soldier kills his superior over an indigenous girl, is it justifiable homicide?  Self defense?  Or something much more subtle?  It’s up to an Earthborn military lawyer to find the truth.  This is a script right out of Perry Mason with lots of twists and turns.  Four stars (and I could see someone giving it five).

Countdown, by Julian F. Grow

Someday, our nuclear arsenals will be refined to computerized precision and hair-trigger accuracy.  When that happens, will our humanity be sufficient to stop worldwide destruction?  The beauty of this story is in the presentation.  I read it twice.  Four stars.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 3 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

At last, Heinlein’s serial has come to an end.  It only took five months and three issues.  Sadly, the plot was saved for the last third, and it wasn’t worth waiting for.  Turns out Poddy’s trip to Venus wasn’t a pleasure cruise, but rather served as cover for her Uncle’s ambassadorial trip.  Two unnamed factions don’t want this trip to happen, and they pull out all the stops to foil his mission.  Overwritten, somewhat unpleasant, and just not particularly interesting.  Two stars for this segment, and 2.67 for the aggregate. 

Between this and Stranger in a Strange Land, has the master stumbled?

I, Executioner, by Ted White and Terry Carr

Last up is a haunting piece involving a mass…but intensely personal execution.  Justice in the future combines juror and deathdealer into one role.  Excellent development in this short tale.  Four stars (and, again, perhaps worthy of five).

That comes out to eight pieces, one of which is kind of a dud, and four of which are fine.  I know I plan to keep my subscription up.

Speaking of subscriptions, drift your eyes to the upper right of this article and note that KGJ is now broadcasting.  Playing the latest pop, rock, mo-town, country, jazz, folk, and surf — and with not a single advertisement — I expect it to be a big hit from Coast to Coast… and beyond.  Tune in!

[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…]




[December 9, 1962] (January 1963, IF Science Fiction)

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


by Gideon Marcus

Ah, Winter.  That sleepy time of the year when the air gets chillier (such as it ever gets chilly in Southern California), work slows down a bit, and shopping for the holidays picks up.  The first night of Hannukah is the 21st, and then, of course, there’s the big mid-Hannukah holiday (named after Chris, the patron saint of presents). 

And it’s when I renew my subscriptions for science fiction magazines since they generally offer Christmas discounts!

December marks the new year, at least as far as periodicals go.  January-dated issues show up the month before, so I’ve already gotten a sneak preview into the next year.  First up is is the January 1963 IF, and if this be a harbinger, then next year will probably be a decent one:

The Five Hells of Orion, by Frederik Pohl

I have to wonder if Pohl gets paid the same rate as everyone else for stories he writes, given that he is the editor.  Of course, he should.  Pohl has been a writer for decades, and he produces good stuff.  Orion follows the tale of an young astrogator shanghaied across a thousand light years by aliens bent on forging an alliance with humanity.  The first half is very good.  The spaceman must navigate a set of intelligence tests and we gradually come to understand the intentions of the extraterrestrials.  The payoff is rushed, however; perhaps this would have made a better novel.  Three stars.

The Shipshape Miracle, by Clifford D. Simak

An atypical piece by Simak in which an incorrigible criminal crosses paths with the brother to The Ship Who Sang, to his ultimate dismay.  Well-written, like everything Simak does, but unexceptional.  Three stars for the story, but five stars for the excellent art!

This Way to the Egress, by Andrew Fetler

Fetler returns to IF with his second vignette, a subtle piece about the last hours of a social deviant.  I suspect Fetler has a day job given the paucity of work he’s published in our field.  Three stars.

Essay in Coherence, by Theodore Sturgeon

This piece on LASERs (single-wavelength light beams of incredible intensity) shows that Sturgeon may soon give Asimov a run for his money with science articles.  It’s witty and informative, and probably will be the genesis of countless short stories involving this brand-new technology.  Five stars.

Podkayne of Mars (Part 2 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

Part II of Heinlein’s new juvenile(?) about Miss Poddy Fries and her space jaunt from Mars is a bit more readable than the last one, but it’s still overwritten and gets bogged in detail.  This is the spiritual successor to The Menace from Earth I’d hoped to share with my daughter, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough.  Three stars for this installment.

Road Stop, by David Mason

A ghost story involving a haunted car…in a future when all cars are haunted by design.  The tale isn’t plausible, in and of itself, but the world it paints feels like a possible tomorrow.  Three stars.

Fortress Ship, by Fred Saberhagen

Now here’s an interesting one, by a newish author who’s already turned out some good stuff.  Fortress introduces the concept of the “Beserker,” giant automated robot ships created as doomsday weapons. They roam the galaxy, relics of a forgotten war, reducing populated planets into ashes.  It takes extraordinary courage and, more importantly, wit to defeat them.  But it is possible…  Four stars.

Captain of the Kali , by Gary Wright

The “IFirststory” competition netted a piece from freshly minted author Gary Wright.  A futuristic C.S. Forester is recruited to serve as guest admiral on an alien fleet of sail-driven warships.  A good first effort, though greater length and a few more sf trappings would have been nice.  Three stars.

When Whirlybirds Call, by Frank Banta

Last up is a satirical piece about a laconic big-game hunter and the coocoo-downdraft-peoplehawk-whirlybirds he is contracted to exterminate.  Cute while it lasts.  Three stars.

It’s rare that I go from beginning to end of a mag and find no lousy stories.  This month’s IF is solid (if not exceptional) entertainment, and as the cheapest of the digests (at 35 cents), it is definitely a bargain.




[October 9, 1962] Middlin’ middle sibling (November 1962 IF Science Fiction)

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


by Gideon Marcus

Another month, another load of science fiction digests delivered to my door.  Normally, they arrive staggered over several weeks (the various publishers know not to step on each other’s toes – the field is now pretty uncrowded, so there’s room for everyone to play), but since I was traveling the last week, I’d already accumulated a small pile upon my return.

Top of the month has been devoted to the magazines edited by famous author/agent Fred Pohl, e.g. Galaxy and IF — and starting next year, Worlds of Tomorrow!  The first two alternate every month, and odd months are IF‘s turn.  Thus, enjoy this review of the November 1962 IF Science Fiction, which was a bit of a slog leavened with bright spots:

Podkayne of Mars (Part 1 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein

A few years ago, Robert Heinlein wrote A Menace from Earth.  Unlike virtually every other story to date, it starred (in 1st Person, no less) a precocious teen girl, and it was perhaps the first blend of science fiction and romance.  My 11 year-old (the Young Traveler) adored it and asked me if there was any more like it.  Sadly, there wasn’t. 

Until this month. 

Heinlein’s new novel, Podkayne of Mars, is another 1st Person piece from the viewpoint of a brilliant young woman.  Young Podkayne (Poddy) Fries dreams of becoming a spaceship captain, maybe the first to lead an expedition to the stars.  But to realize her dream, she has to get off of the Red Planet, a sort of futuristic Australia colonized by the best and worst of Terra’s children. 

I tore into Podkayne with a gusto that slowly but inevitably waned.  Have you ever engaged in conversation with a promising raconteur only to find, after a few minutes, that her/his increasingly meandering tale doesn’t and won’t have a point?  And now you’re stuck for the long haul.  That’s Podkayne.  Heinlein simply can’t divorce his rambly, screedy persona from his work.  The result is disturbing, as if there is a creepy old man lurking behind Podkayne’s bright young blue eyes. 

The story is interesting enough to keep me reading, and I appreciate the somewhat progressive treatment of women, but this is a tale that would be served best if written by someone else.  Zenna Henderson might make it too moody; I suspect Rosel George Brown would render it perfectly.  Two stars for this installment, with some improvement at the end.

The Real Thing, by Albert Teichner

Value is determined by scarcity.  When the authentic article is easy to be had, and it is the counterfeit that is rare, we can expect the latter to climb in value.  Someday, we may find plastic to be more desirable than the material it emulates; or we may deem robots to be more human than people.  Teichner’s story explores the latter idea as fully as a few pages will allow, and he pulls it off.  Three stars.

The Reluctant Immortals, by David R. Bunch

Bunch, on the other hand, writing of an overcrowded Earth that has become a driver’s nightmare, does a less convincing job.  There’s good artsy weird, and then there’s tedious artsy weird.  Guess which one this is?  Two stars.

The Desert and the Stars, by Keith Laumer

IF has published a tale of Retief, that interstellar ambassador/superagent, every two months for the last year.  I’m glad Laumer will soon take a break from the character.  I won’t say that this particular piece, in which Retief diplomatically foils an attempt by the Aga Kaga to poach the new farming colony of Flamme, is a story too far – but I think we’re getting there.  Retief’s exploits are getting a little too easy, almost self-parodying.  On the other hand, there are some genuinely funny moments in Desert, and the bit where the diplomat communicates solely in proverbs for several pages is a hoot.  Three stars.

The Man Who Flew, by Charles D. Cunningham, Jr.

A murder mystery in which a telepathic detective puzzles out the how and the who of the untimely demise of his client’s wife; an event with which the detective seems to be uncannily familiar.  This is Cunningham’s first work, and it shows.  It tries too hard at too worn a theme.  Two stars, but let’s see how his next one goes.

Too Many Eggs, by Kris Neville

If the fridge you buy is sold at an unexplained deep discount, you may be getting more than you bargained for – especially if the thing dispenses free food!  I don’t know why I liked this piece so much; it’s just well done and unforced.  Four stars.

The Critique of Impure Reason, by Poul Anderson

Few things can ruin a bright mind like the field of modern literature criticism, and when the mind corrupted belongs to a highly advanced robot on whom the future of space exploitation depends, the tragedy is compounded manyfold.  Only the resurrection of a literary genre seemingly impervious to serious analysis is the answer.  Three stars, though the trip down grad school memory lane was a bit painful.

The Dragon-Slayers, by Frank Banta

A tiny, cute vignette of a simple Venusian peasant family with a dragon problem, and the gift from the boss that proves far more valuable than intended.  Three stars.

In all, 2.6 stars.  Once again, IF leaves the impression that it might someday be a great magazine if it ever grows up.  Nevertheless, no issue yet has compelled me to cancel the subscription, and several have made me glad of it.  May Galaxy’s little sister flower into the beauty of the elder and set a good example for the new baby due next January…