Tag Archives: rick raphael

[January 30, 1963] Escape Velocity (February 1963 Analog)

[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

The latter half of January was filled with fanac (Fan Activity), and oh what a joy it was.  The third weekend in January, the Journey once again attended ConDor, San Diego’s SFF convention.  And once again, we were guests, presenting on the state of current science fiction both Saturday and Sunday.  It was a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones.  ConDor is always a fun event.

The highlight of that weekend, however, was a Saturday night trip up to San Juan Capistrano to watch Dick Dale and his Del-Tones perform.  If you’re not familiar with the King of the Surf Guitar by now, he is easily the most exciting instrumental musician these days.  He puts on a hell of a show.

If the January’s fanac was superlative, the February 1963 Analog, though beautifully illustrated by Schoenherr, was anything but.  Not that the stories were bad, mind you.  They just all had some significant flaw that kept them from being truly good. 

Code Three, by Rick Raphael

For those not in the know, “Code Three” is police-speak for a high speed chase.  It’s an appropriate title for this Highway Patrol tale of the future, when North America is criss-crossed by mile-wide superhighways whose cars zoom at speeds of up to 400 miles per hour.  Raphael writes in a lovingly technical fashion that is oddly compelling but gives short shrift to its three human characters, who are so much cardboard.  I don’t find Raphael’s futuristic freeways particularly plausible, either, but they are fun to read about.  Three stars.

Hilifter, by Gordon R. Dickson

This is five sixths of a great yarn about a futuristic spaceship hijacker, who relies on daring and ingenuity to pull off a caper against all odds.  Dickson portrays his protagonist deftly and with subtlety, but the ending… hoo boy.  I’m not sure if Dickson wrote the expositional fatuity for editor Campbell, of if the editor sliced the original ending to bits, but it is the mustache on the Mona Lisa.  Three stars.

Something Will Turn Up, by David Mason

Stories with a lot of Beat jargon can often fall flat, but Mason does a good job of writing a poet/TV-repairman who pits forces against a hexed idiot box.  Cute.  Three stars.

“The Sound of Gasping”, by Mel Sturgis

If you read (as I do) Aviation Week, then you’re familiar with technical advertising.  It’s made with the slick standards of any Madison Avenue product, but the subject matter is abstruse engineering.  Sturgis’ piece is presumably on the growth and importance of technical advertising, as well as his experiences observing same at the recent convention, WestCon.  But if you get anything out of this article, you’re doing better than me.  One star. 

(The title is an obscure reference indeed — a riff on Isaac Asimov’s article The Sound of Panting in the June 1955 Astounding (that being this magazine’s name before it became Analog).  The article was on the difficulty of keeping up with current technical literature.)

The Topper, by Arthur Porges

Cockroaches made sentient by radiation?  It must be a joke… right?  Well, probably.  A bit of improbable fluff, just long enough to entertain rather than annoy.  Three stars.

With No Strings Attached, by David Gordon (Randall Garrett)

A fellow markets an amazing new power source as a battery (it isn’t, and you should know what it is right off) to prevent poaching and ensure exclusivity.  I’ve been around long enough to recognize most of Randy Garrett’s pseudonyms, so I cracked into “David Gordon’s” latest with trepidation.  Turns out Strings isn’t bad (just devoid of women, like most Garrett stories).  Three stars.

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

This last installment of Piper’s latest is arguably the best of the bunch.  It contains the payoff of Prince Trask of Tanith’s quest to forge a civilized empire out of the wreckage of the Old Federation.  Though Trask started as a Space Viking, plundering half-civilized planets, by the end of the book, his league of planets has surpassed the feudal Sword Worlds whence he came and is a local power center.

As I’ve stated in prior reviews, the problem with Viking is its sketchiness.  We hardly get to know any of the characters, interesting episodes are glossed over, giant spans of time are leaped without transition.  This is an epic series of books compressed to a novel-length outline.  I hope Piper gets a chance to expand on this genuinely interesting saga at some point, or perhaps open up his universe to collaborative efforts (has that ever been done before?)

As is, this is a four-star installment of a 3.25-star book.

Now it’s time for the best part of the month, where we get to add up the numbers!  Galaxy is a clear winner at 3.3 stars, followed by F&SF with 3.1.  All of the other mags fell below the 3-star mark with Fantastic at 2.9, Analog at 2.8, Amazing at 2.4, and New Worlds at 2.3. 

But all of the magazines, with the exception of New Worlds, had at least one four-star story.  In fact, if you collected all the four and five-star stories, you could almost fill two magazines — twice as much material as last month. 

Finally, women wrote 3.5 of 37 fiction pieces.  Not a good showing, but again — better than last month.

Speaking of showings, next week I’ll let you know if The Twilight Zone is worth watching in its new format (hint: so far, not so good…)

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[March 21, 1960] Conservation of Quality (April 1960 Astounding)

I believe I may have discovered a new physical law: The Conservation of Quality.

Last year, Galaxy editor Horace Gold decided to slash writer pay in half.  The effect was not immediately apparent, which makes sense since there was likely a backlog of quality stuff in the larder.  But the last issue of Galaxy was decidedly sub-par, and I fear Gold’s policy may be bearing bitter fruit.

On the other hand, Astounding (soon to be Analog) editor John Campbell has been trying to reinvent his magazine, and this latest issue, dated April 1960, is better than I’ve seen in a long time.  To be sure, none of the stories are classics for the ages, but they are all readable and enjoyable.


by Kelly Freas

Randall Garrett still pens a good quarter of the magazine, and you know how I feel about him, but he’s not bad this month.  For the lead serial, Out Like a Light, Garrett teams up again with Laurence Janifer under the pseuonym “Mark Phillips” in a sequel to That Sweet Little Old Lady.  FBI Agent Malone and Garrett look-a-like Agent Boyd investigate a series of Cadillac heists only to discover a ring of teleporting juvenile delinquents.  I had expected the story to drag, and it is occasionally too cute for its own good, but I found myself enjoying it.  We’ll see if they can keep up the interest through two more installments.

Next up is the enjoyable short story, The Ambulance Made Two Trips by ultra-veteran Murray Leinster.  Mob shake-down artist meets his match when he tangles with a psionically gifted laundromat owner who can alter probability to make violence impossible—with highly destructive results!  It’s a fun bit of wish fulfillment even if it (again) stars the Heironymous device, that silly psychic contraption made out of construction paper and elementary electronics.  I’m not sure whether Campbell inserts references to them after editing or if authors incorporate them to ensure publication.

Harry Harrison is back with another “Stainless Steel Rat” story featuring Slippery Jim diGriz (the first having appeared in the August 1957 Astounding).  My nephew, David, had rave reviews for The Misplaced Battleship, in which con man turned secret agent tracks down the construction and theft of the galaxy’s biggest capital ship.  I liked it, too: stories with lots of interstellar travel get extra points from me, and Harrison is a good writer.  Not as compelling as Deathworld, but then, that was a tour de force.


by John SchoenHerr

Wedged in the middle of Harrison’s tale, on the slick-paged portion of the magazine, rocketteer G. Harry Stine has an entertaining plug for model rocketry.  It is a hobby that has grown from a dangerous homebrew affair to a full-fledged pastime.  Safe miniature engines are now commonplace, and launches can be conducted in perfect safety—provided one observes all the rules.  Stine prophetically notes that the first person to walk the sands of Mars is already alive and in high school, and he (of course, he) probably cut his engineering teeth on model rockets.  Maybe so.

The story published under Randall Garrett’s name is The Measure of a Man, and it’s surprisingly decent.  The lone survivor in a wrecked Terran battleship must find a way to get the hulk back to Earth in time to warn humanity of an alien superweapon before it is used.  Again, I like stories with lots of planets and spaceships.  I also liked the direct reference to Leinster’s The Aliens, a really great story.

Finally, we have Rick Raphael’s sophomore effort, Make Mine Homogenized, a surprisingly good story about a tough old rancher, a cow that starts producing high octane milk, and hens that lay bomb-fuse eggs.  The first half is the superior one, in which the rancher discovers that her (yes her!) “milk” is highly combustible and that, when mixed with the fuse eggs, creates an explosion that puts Oppenheimer’s work to shame.  The second half, when the AEC gets involved, is still good, but it digresses and becomes more detached.  I really enjoyed the intimacy of the beginning.  I’m a sucker for accurately detailed farm stories, having grown up on a farm. 


by Kelly Freas

So, there you have it.  A perfectly solid Astounding from cover to cover.  Who’da thunkit?

Happy Spring everyone!




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[Oct. 24, 1959] Bleah! (November 1959 Astounding–the worst yet!)

I’ve found the bottom, and it isn’t the Mariana Trench.

They say fifty cents won’t buy you what it used to, and that’s certainly true of Astounding, a science fiction digest.  The November issue, which has a hastily pasted price of four bits on its cover (replacing the original 35 cents) is, without a doubt, the worst pile of garbage I’ve read in a very long time.

I’ll spare you the gory details and give you a quick thumbnail sketch of its contents.  Opening the ish is the first part of a two-part story, The Best Made Plans.  I didn’t even make it through the first half of this first part.  So dull was the tale, so linearly and prosaicly was it told, that I can’t even remember what it’s about.  I’ll read the summary next month and, perhaps, try again.

Eric Frank Russell’s Panic Button features two exploring aliens who happen across a lone Terran on an otherwise uninhabited planet.  Upon finding him, the human pushes a blue button, which frightens off the aliens.  This is all part of a brilliant human scheme to seed the planets of the universe with convicts equipped with panic buttons.  The assumption (proven correct, of course; aliens are so dumb, says editor Campbell) is that the button must do something and the lone humans must be there for a reason, and the overactive imaginations of the would-be conquering aliens do the rest. 

And this is one of the book’s better stories!

Then you’ve got A Filbert is a Nut, by newcomer Rick Raphael.  In this one, a crazy person makes atom bombs out of clay that work.  Or does he?  Passable–for 1953 Imagination, perhaps.

Randall Garrett’s The Unnecessary Man should have been titled “The Unnecessary Story.”  Young man learns that democracy is a sham and the galaxy is run by a dictatorship.  But it’s a benevolent one, so that’s okay.  Bleah.

I’ve never heard of Richard Sabia before, and if his I was a Teen-age Secret Weapon is any indication, I hope I don’t see him again.  Yokel causes harm to anyone around him.  He is eventually inducted into the army, dropped off to be captured by the enemy, and Communism’s collapse ensues.  Lousy.

Finally, we have Robert Silverberg’s Certainty, which is almost decent.  Alien ship lands on a human outpost planet, and the crew of the garrison ship is helpless against the intruders’ mind-control powers.  Again, it’s the sort of thing I’d expect from a decade-old lesser mag.

As for the Analytical Laboratory for the far-superior August issue, the readers’ results are well in line with mine, with Leinster’s The Alien’s a clear winner.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything cheery to report.  It took me most of the month to get through this awful, 1.5 star book.  I’m about ready to cancel my subscription…


Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.
P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns.  While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!



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