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[Nov. 30, 1960] Back and Forth (a p/review)

November is done, and the first chill of winter is upon us (for the rest of you, that happened about a month ago—we San Diegans are a happy lot).  As we head into the Christmas shopping season, it’s good to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Then we can dive into 24 commercially hectic days.

November Review

After months of hard campaigning, we have a new president.  The mantle has been returned to the Democrats, who had it for so long before 1952 that Eisenhower seems like a small splice in the tape.  He was practically a compromise candidate anyway—perhaps the Republican party, as we know it, is dead.  Or maybe there’s a new movement on the horizon, one that will surprise us. 

There was just one new book out this month, Store of Infinity by Robert Sheckley, and it was his best yet.  You definitely want to get yourself a copy.

On the magazine front, Analog took the prize for the first time since the July issue.  It garnered a solid 3.5 rating, a score it last secured in March.  Galaxy was in the middle of the pack, earning a decent 3 stars.  F&SF, made up of the turgid Rogue Moon and a mixed bag of vignettes barely merited 2.5 stars, a depth to which the normally fine magazine has never sunk (since I started charting it, anyway).  Well, there has to be a first time for anything.  Hopefully there won’t be a second!

It was tough selecting a favorite story for this month; both R. A. Lafferty’s Snuffles and Poul Anderson’s The Long Voyage were quite good.  In the end, I gave the nod to the former, which came out in Galaxy because I felt it was more memorable and unusual.

Finally, out of 22 fiction pieces, only two were written by women.  9% is about par for the course.  Perhaps 1961 will be better.

December Preview

Coming soon, I’ll be reviewing the next four episodes of The Twilight Zone–it’s gotten better recently.  There are no new movies on the horizon but I did received an advance copy of a new book, Murray Leinster’s The Wailing Asteroid, from the publisher in the mail this week.  I’ve been enjoying it thus far. 

Of course, there will be the Big Three: the January 1961 issues of F&SF, Analog, and IF (Galaxy and IF alternate months).  I’m sure there will also be some noteworthy space shots, too—the Mercury Redstone unmanned mission will likely be tried again, and there’s one last Atlas Able moon shot planned.  Fingers and toes crossed!

Speaking of space shots, NASA got up another weather satellite, TIROS 2, on November 23.  I didn’t mention it at the time for two reasons: 1) I couldn’t figure out how to work it in, thematically, and 2) whether or not it had been a success wasn’t known until the next day.  When the probe went up, it was initially pointed in the wrong direction, so all the Weather Bureau got was a lens full of blackness.  TIROS is now properly oriented, but it turns out there is some fuzz on the wide-angle camera blurring its pictures.  The other equipment, including a narrow-angle camera and sensors to measure Earth’s heat budget (solar input vs. planetary heat radiation), seem to be working fine, however.  If this new satellite can last until TIROS 3 goes up next Summer, we’ll have continuous weather pictures from outer space for the foreseeable future.  That’ll be exciting!