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[November 16, 1961] Made in Japan (Mothra)

Now here’s a special treat.  Not long ago, the Junior Traveler began contributing as a co-author.  This time around, she has decided to take center stage.  My little girl is all growed up!  Excuse me.  I have something in my eye…


by Lorelei Marcus

Recently, me and my family thought we should take a break from time traveling (in fiction and movies) and do some real traveling!  We decided to go to Japan!  I was sad because we weren’t going to be able to watch any Twilight Zone or new movies.  Luckily, we were treated to a new Japanese movie called Mothra.  Me and my father had the luxury to see it in theaters, in Japan!  It was a very similar (but intriguingly different) experience to an American movie in various ways.

Mothra, similar to many of the American movies we’ve watched, is a monster movie – in this case, about a giant moth that attacks Tokyo.  I noticed monster movies often start out the same, something or someone dear to the monster is taken from them to a big city, and the monster comes back to rescue it, destroying said city in the process.  It happened in Gorgo; this movie did not break the mold.

We start out with a ship crashing on an island that is being used as a nuclear test site by the Japanese.  A helicopter finds four survivors who were miraculously free of any radiation poisoning or side affects!  A team of scientists, including their sponsor Nelson, explore this mysterious island.  It turns out there have been natives living on this island the whole time!  Among these completely, naturally brown-skinned natives, are two foot-tall Japanese girls who communicate through song.  Nelson steals these girls thinking he can make a profit.  Of course the girls and the natives are distressed, so they call to Mothra for help, who at this point is still an egg.

After a ceremony and dance number, Mothra hatches as a little larvae and starts making her way across the ocean to Japan, where it wreaks havoc.  There was an exciting scene involving a baby and a bridge that had me on the edge of my seat.  I will not tell you how it ends, but I’m a real sucker when it comes to animals and babies in distress.  Anyway, after destroying many buildings, and killing many people, Mothra cocoons herself onto Tokyo Tower!  By this point, Nelson has now escaped to New Kirk City, in his native country of “Roliska.”  There, he is relieved to hear that Mothra has been defeated by Roliskan-provided heat rays. 

Or has she?

The movie goes on for quite a bit longer, but to avoid spoiling you of the ending, I will stop my summary there.  Now for my opinions!  I actually enjoyed the movie a lot; however after seeing so many of this type of movie, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t very bored at some parts.  The special effects were outstanding; it was hard to tell real from fake at some parts.  Though, by the second half they weren’t nearly as good, it was understandable considering it was supposed to be a remake of America, which Japanese would not have much knowledge of its architecture.  The sets of Japan though, those were completely realistic.  Even the tanks — the tanks were so good I couldn’t believe they were fake at first!  There is no doubt the effects in this movie had a high budget.

However, the story and acting at times were lacking.  I think the largest cases of terrible acting were Nelson and the incidental Americans.  Through the entire movie, Nelson’s poor Japanese accent bugged us so much — it was just so annoying!  There were certainly American actors who couldn’t do a proper Japanese accent to save their lives, but Nelson’s halfway-servicable accent was somehow worse.  There’s almost no way to describe how terrible it was! 

In contrast, the American dialogue, particularly that of one of the scientists, was probably the best part of the movie.  The emphasis on certain words was completely unnatural, and the words themselves were completely out of place!  Still it made my dad and I laugh every time one of these odd lines were just thrown into the background, simply for the heck of it!  “I wonder…a blood-sucking plant!”  Still gets me every time.

As I said before, the plot was your typical monster movie story. Though there were certainly exciting moments, with outstanding effects to complement them, I still found myself bored at times.  The story isn’t bad, and certainly isn’t weak, but I still find it lacking in a way that you can’t simply add something to fix.  You would need to re-write the story rather than add something to it to make it better.  The movie is a very specific genre, and I’m starting to get bored of that genre, so adding a twist or different plot all together would likely really help make it interesting.  I knew what I was getting into from the start, and how it was going to end.  I think the movie would’ve been better if it was just a little less predictable at least.

Overall I’d say this movie was solid, if unsurprising.  Similar to Gorgo, it did exactly what it was trying to do: be a disaster monster movie.  Clever characters as well as hyper realistic special effects and an adorable giant moth managed to keep me watching, despite the mediocre story and bad acting that made me (for lack of a better word) cringe at times, really tied it all together.  With all of these factors in mind, I’d give this movie a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

Now rather than me signing off, I’ll I have my father do the footer for a change!  Here are his thoughts on Mothra:


by Gideon Marcus

I don’t have much to add to Lorelei’s excellent report.  A few things elevated this movie above Gorgo for me, despite having a similar plot.  Firstly, I appreciated that the movie’s protagonist, “Zen-Chan” the journalist, was atypical.  A chubby, comedic type, his performance might have simply been played for laughs.  Instead, we got a competent, plucky fellow to root for.  Similarly, his colleague, the photographer Michi Hanamura, was not a love interest or an appendage.  Rather, she was a strong character with agency. 

The production values were exceptional, easily the match of a high budget American production like Journey to the Center of the Earth.  In particular, the aerial scenes when the beautifully organic Mothra larvae wriggles across the Japanese countryside are just exquisite.  The scenes with the little Mothra maidens were well done and as convincing as the miniature scenes in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

So all in all, I think this was a better movie than Gorgo and thus deserves a higher score.  Three and a half stars from me.

[November 8, 1961] Points East (Air Travel and the December 1961 Galaxy)


by Gideon Marcus

How small the world has gotten!

Less than a decade ago, trans-oceanic travel was limited to the speed of a propeller.  If you journeyed by boat, as many still do, it would take two weeks to cross the Pacific.  Airplanes were faster – with a couple of stops, one could get from California to the Orient in less than two days.  As a journalist and travel columnist, I spent a good amount of time in both hemispheres during the early 1950s.  I got to be quite seasoned at the travel game.

I have to tell you, things are so much faster these days.  The jet engine has cut flight times in half, taking much of the tedium out of travel.  Oh, sure, I always had plenty to do in the air, between writing and reading and planning my next adventures, but for my poor fellow travelers, there was little to do but drink, smoke, and write letters.  For hours and hours. 

These days, the Journey is my primary occupation.  I can do it from anywhere, and I often do, bringing my family along with me.  As we speak, I am writing out this article with the roar of the Japan Airlines DC-8’s jets massaging my ears, music from pneumatic headphone cords joining the mix.  It’s a smooth ride, too.  It would be idyllic, if not for the purple clouds of tobacco smoke filling the cabin.  But again, I suffer this annoyance for half the time as before.  I’ll abide. 

We’ve just lifted off from Honolulu, and in less than 8 hours, we will touch down at Haneda airport, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan’s capital.  We will be in the Land of the Rising Sun for two weeks, visiting friends and taking in the local culture.  I’ll be sure to tell you all about our adventures, but don’t worry.  I’ve also brought along a big stack of books and magazines so I can continue to keep you informed on the latest developments in science fiction.  Moreover, I’m sure we’ll see a movie or two, and we’ll report on those, too.

Speaking of reports, I’ve just finished up this month’s Galaxy Science Fiction.  I almost didn’t recognize this December issue as it lacks the usual fanciful depiction of St. Nick.  Instead, it features an illustration from Poul Anderson’s new novel, The Day After Doomsday, whose first part takes up a third of the double-sized magazine.  As usual, I won’t cover the serial until it’s done, but Anderson has been reliable of late, and I’ve high hopes.

The rest of the magazine maintains and perhaps even elevates Galaxy’s solid record.  The first short story is Oh, Rats!, by veteran Miriam Allen DeFord (the first of three woman authors in this book!) Rats reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone — I could practically hear Serling’s narrating voice as the story of SK540, a super-rat bent on world domination, unfolded.  Tense and tight, if not innovative.  Three stars.

Willy Ley has returned to original form with his latest non-fiction article, Dragons and Hot-Air Balloons.  Did the Montgolfier brothers get their lighter-than-aircraft ideas from the Chinese?  Have balloons been around since the Middle Ages?  Has the winged ancestor of the pterosaurs been discovered?  And, as an aside, did the Nazis really invent the biggest cannon ever?  Good stuff.  Four stars.

Satisfaction Guaranteed is a cute tale of interstellar commerce by Joy Leache.  Washed up salesman and his assistant try to figure out a profitable-enough endeavor for the elf-like denizens of Felix II such that they might join the Galactic Federation.  It’s a genuinely funny piece.  I’ve only one complaint: very early on, it is made clear that the woman assistant is the brains of the operation, yet she feels compelled to give credit the the fellow.  I prefer my futures looking a little less like the present!  Three stars.

Now, Algis Budrys, on the other hand, has no trouble breaking with the familiar entirely.  His Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night, involving a corporate executive whose plan to release television’s successor is thwarted by a seemingly immortal competitor, is a chilling mystery.  Just what gift did the Martians grant the businessman’s rival to make him so powerful?  And was it really a boon after all?  Four stars.

R.A. Lafferty tones his whimsical style down just a touch in his latest, Rainbird.  It’s a sort of biography of one Higgston Rainbird, an inventor who could have been, in fact was the greatest tinkerer in human history.  It just goes to show that a person’s greatest ally, and also one’s greatest impediment, is oneself.  Four stars.

An Old Fashioned Bird Christmas is Margaret St. Clair’s contribution, delivered in that off-beat, slightly macabre, but ever-poetic fashion that is her trademark.  A story of good vs. evil, of Luddism vs. progress, archaic religion vs. new, and with a strong lady protagonist to boot!  Four stars.

We’re treated to a second piece of science fact by Theodore L. Thomas, called The Watery Wonders of Captain Nemo.  Thomas praises the literary great, Jules Verne, for his writing skill, but then excoriates the French author’s use (or rather, lack of use) of science.  Every technical aspect of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is evaluated and picked apart.  To hear Thomas tell it, Verne knew about as much about science as his contemporary laymen…perhaps less.  An interesting blend of education and critique.  Three stars.

The issue is wraps up with a bang: The Little Man who wasn’t Quite, by William W. Stuart, is a hard-hitting piece about the horror that lies at the bottom of Skid Row.  A sensitive piece by a fellow who seems to know, it’s the kind of gripping thing Daniel Keyes might have turned in for F&SF.  Five stars.

And so Galaxy ends the year on a strong note.  Fred Pohl, now firmly in the editor’s seat, has done a fine job helming one of s-f’s finest digests into the 1960s.  This is the kind of magazine that could win the Hugo – it may well secure the Galactic Star this year.  It all depends on how F&SF is this month, the two are that close.

Next up… an article from our British correspondent, Ashley Pollard!

[Oct. 10, 1961] On the Edge of Tomorrow (Geek Girl Con… 2016?)


by Gideon Marcus

Seattle, one of my favorite towns, is about to become big news for it will be the home of the 1962 World Expo, and its futuristic “Space Needle” is under construction.  When it’s done, the city’s skyline will be distinctive, indeed!

But that’s not what brought us to the Emerald City in 1961.  In fact, we fly out each year to visit my sister-in-law and the dozen or so friends we’ve accumulated from visits past.  It is, if course, complete coincidence that our trips always seem to coincide with the annual gathering of female fandom affectionately nicknamed “Geek Girl Con.

Much smaller than the World Con held in Seattle just last month, it nevertheless is a tremendously fun event.  The dozens of attendees are passionate about their genre and deeply intellectual.  At any hour of the day, one might engage in a variety of discussions: on how to break into the pro market, the best techniques of illustration, the travesty of modern science fiction film.  I found myself at the center of one of these impromptu colloquia Sunday afternoon, opining on the current state of science fiction and fantasy and making tentative prophecies of the far future 55 years hence.

I brought my new color film camera, and for those who couldn’t attend (and those who just want to see themselves), please enjoy the following gallery:

First, the (more or less) conventionally dressed attendees:

Some good friends:

Here are the Hicks’, creators of adorable Gothic-monster themed art.

Here’s the radiant Beth, who we met at a similar gathering some four years ago!  She’s very up on the British sf scene.

And here’s The Journey’s very own Erica Frank, imperturbable copy editor and expert of things fannish!

This being a science fiction gathering, there was a good deal of technical tinkery in the works:

And, of course, the highlight of the event was the masquerade ball!

A trio of Peter Pan costumes!

Cinderella and her step-sisters!

Medieval and Renaissance costumes were popular…

As were uniforms from the War:

All in all, it was yet another tremendous time.  I do hope that all of my new friends will drop me a line.  Let’s stay in touch until next October!

[Oct. 7, 1961] That’s Super!  (Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four)


by Gideon Marcus

There’s no question that we are in the Space Age.  Our headlines are dominated with space flights, the movies feature missions to the Moon and invaders from other planets, and our comic books incorporate the very latest scientific discoveries delivered from beyond our planet.

Not that comics employ the most rigorous application of science, but it’s the thought that counts.  If you follow my column, you know that I am an unabashed fan of these junior pulps.  Call me a kid if you like, but I dig these mags.  The Westerns, the romances, the science fiction anthologies.

But what I fondly remember from the War Days are the superhero comics.  Though Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman are still around, it seems caped crusaders have fallen out of vogue with the populace.

Until now…

The other day at the local newsstand, a new comic book caught my eye.  It was a brand new one from Marvel Comics, the spiritual successors of Atlas Comics, which went under late last decade.  Called The Fantastic Four, and brought to us by the creator of Captain America (Jack Kirby), it features the first superheroes I’ve seen in a long time – four, in fact!  We are introduced to the quartet in media res on their way to answer a call to assembly: Sue Storm, who can turn invisible at will; her brother, Johnny Storm, who bursts into flame and can fly; Ben Grimm, a hulking, orange rocky beast; and Dr. Reed Richards, who possesses the power of extreme elasticity.

Whatever crisis they may be meeting to fight, it’s hard to imagine anything more destructive than this team, which manages to demolish just about everything in their way!  Once they are all together, we are treated to an expository interlude in which we learn how these four formerly normal humans became super.  They had been an ordinary set of astronauts out on an investigatory mission into orbit.  There, the savage radiation of the Van Allen Belts suffused their bodies, altering them irrevocably.  Upon their return to Earth, their powers manifested. 

They quickly determined that they must use their powers only for good (the above-described collateral damage notwithstanding).  Each chooses names appropriate to their talents – Sue becomes “The Invisible Girl,” Johnny dubs himself “The Human Torch,” Ben ruefully takes on the moniker of The Thing… and Reed Richards, for no apparent reason other than his expanded ego, chooses “Mr. Fantastic.” 

The story proceeds from there, introducing the Fantastic Four’s first villain: the Mole Man.  This sinister subterranean has developed complete control over the beasts beneath the Earth as well as a suite of advanced technologies; these allow him to terrorize almost any point on the globe with impunity – at least until the Fantastic Four arrived to put paid to the menace.

I note several points of interest.  First, the featuring of the deadly belts of radiation girdling the globe, which are quite real (though they likely won’t have quite the same effects on humans as shown in the comic).  Second, I was happy to see a woman member of the team.  Of course, her talent is already shared by most of her gender – that of being invisible.  On the other hand, it’s nice to see a female character who, by definition, cannot be objectified for her appearance!  Third, I liked the rationale for the Mole Man’s powers – plunged into the lightlessness of the Earth’s interior, he developed acute senses to replace his vision, much like the cave-dwelling humans of Daniel Galouye’s recent book, Dark Universe.

The Fantastic Four #1 is not great art by any means, but I enjoyed it.  It took me about 24 minutes to read, cover to cover.  At a cost of 12 cents the issue, that’s a half cent per minute of entertainment — more expensive than a book, but cheaper than a movie.  I’d say it was worth it!

Next up – a report from Seattle’s latest science fiction gathering!

[July 24, 1961] COMIC CON 1961!

by Gideon Marcus

1961 has definitely been a fine year for fan gatherings, thus far.  It doesn’t seem like a month goes by without one fan circle or another throwing a science fiction convention.  Some are tiny affairs, little more than an expanded club meeting.  Others, like WorldCon (coming up in a little over a month, in Seattle), clock in attendances of several hundreds.  It’s a great way to pass the time, learn inside dope on the doings of fans and writers, alike, and it sure beats the Summer reruns!

I’ve just come back from “Comic Con,” a San Diego convention of considerable size.  A good many notables from both the comics and science fiction genres were there including Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee and Allen Bellman (he drew Captain America during the Golden Years), D.C.’s Ramona Fradon (Aquaman), superfans Trina Robbins, Bjo Trimble and John Trimble, and Twilight Zone actor William Shatner (who you may recall from the excellent episode, “Nick of Time”). 

There were at least a hundred fans there, many of them in costume.  Guarding us all was the U.S.S. Midway, a modern aircraft carrier:

For your viewing pleasure, here are all the shots I managed to snap before my Kodak ran out of film:

Conventions, for me, are a place to meet folks and share my love of things scientifictional.  I’m hoping the friendships I made there will last a good long time.  See you next year…1962!  (Drop me a line if you’d like an original photograph…)

[April 30, 1961] Travel stories (June 1961 Galaxy, first half)

My nephew, David, has been on an Israeli Kibbutz for a month now.  We get letters from him every few days, mostly about the hard work, the monotony of the diet, and the isolation from the world.  The other day, he sent a letter to my brother, Lou, who read it to me over the phone.  Apparently, David went into the big port-town of Haifa and bought copies of Life, Time, and Newsweek.  He was not impressed with the literary quality of any of them, but he did find Time particularly useful.

You see, Israeli bathrooms generally don’t stock toilet paper…

Which segues nicely into the first fiction review of the month.  I’m happy to report I have absolutely nothing against the June 1961 Galaxy – including my backside.  In fact, this magazine is quite good, at least so far.  As usual, since this is a double-sized magazine, I’ll review it in two parts.

First up is Mack Reynolds’ unique novelette, Farmer.  Set thirty years from now in the replanted forests of the Western Sahara, it’s an interesting tale of intrigue and politics the likes of which I’ve not seen before.  Reynolds has got a good grasp of the international scene, as evidenced by his spate of recent stories of the future Cold War.  If this story has a failing, it is its somewhat smug and one-sided tone.  Geopolitics should be a bit more ambiguous.  It’s also too good a setting for such a short story.  Three stars.

Willy Ley’s science column immediately follows.  There’s some good stuff in this one, particularly the opening piece on plans to melt the Arctic ice cap to improve the climate of the USSR (and, presumably, Scandinavia and Canada).  Of course, if global warming happens on schedule, we won’t need any outlandish engineering marvels to make this happen; we can just continue business as usual.  Hail progress!

I also appreciated Ley’s reply to one of his fans, who asked why he rarely covers space launches anymore.  His answer?  They come too quickly!  Any reporting would have a 4-5 month delay – an eternity these days.  It’s hard enough for me to keep up.  Four stars.

The Graybes of Raath is Neal Barret, Jr.’s third story in Galaxy.  It should be a throw-away, what with the punny title, the non-shocker ending, and the hideous Don Martin art.  But this tale of a well-meaning immigration agency attempting to find the home of a family of itinerant alien farmers is actually a lot of fun.  Barrett is nothing if not consistent.  Three stars.

Now here’s a weird one.  Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth have a new duet out called A Gentle Dying.  Now, the two have worked together for many years; that’s not the surprising part.  Nor is the fact that the story, about an incredibly elderly and beloved children’s author’s last moments, is good.  No, it’s strange because Kornbluth has been dead for five years!  I can only imagine that Pohl (now de-facto editor of Galaxy, per last month’s F&SF) dusted this one off after having waited for the right venue/slot-size.  Three stars.

Last up is R.A. Lafferty’s absolutely lovely The Weirdest World.  Can a marooned alien blob find sanctuary, even happiness, among aliens so strange as those that live on Earth?  I’ve always kind of liked Lafferty, but this one is his best to date, with its gentle writing, and its spot-on portrayal of cross-species telepathy.  Five stars.

This column began with travel, and it ends with travel.  My wife and I are in Las Vegas for a weekend, enjoying the food and the sights.  Sinatra doesn’t seem to be at the Sands right now, but that’s all right.  We’ll catch Ol’ Blue Eyes another time.

While we were here, we ran into Emily Jablon, a famous columnist and Jet Setter who spends much of her time flitting across the world.  She gave us some tips on travel that were new even to us!  Of course, we introduced her to Galactic Journeying, and what better way than with this month’s Galaxy?

[March 27, 1961] What a Wonder! (WonderCon)


(from The LA Science Fiction Society (1939))

Comic book lovers, science fiction aficionados, and history buffs all share some characteristics, no matter how disparate their interests may seem on the surface: they are passionate about their pidgin, they plumb deeply into the lore of their fields, and they are all just a bit off-center from the rest of “normal” society.

Let’s face it–it’s 1961, and conformity is still the rule of the day.  We’re expected to wear suits and hats (though our new President seems to be a trendsetter in the “no hats” arena).  We’re supposed to abandon the frivoloties of youth and settle down to hard work and raising a family.  Heaven forbid our interests should stray outside the socially acceptable pasttimes of sports, religion, politics, and cocktail parties.

But for those of us who refuse to “grow up”, we still want to belong somewhere.  We don’t want to go it alone; we seek out others of our ilk.  The weird ones.  The creative ones.

The Fans.

So we form clubs, some associated with centers of learning, others with geographic districts.  We create fan circles that put out fanzines.  We form readers’ groups to share our self-penned works.

And…we hold conventions.

These are generally smallish affairs compared to their business-oriented cousins, with attendance running into the hundreds.  But for the fan who normally has a local community of just a half-dozen fellows (and perhaps many more as pen pals), going to a convention is like a pilgrimage to Mecca.  One meets people with completely different experiences, different perspectives.  There is the opportunity to get news from far and wide on exciting new projects, both fan and professional.  And the carousing is second to none, both in the heights of enthusiasm and creativity.

Take a look at my newly developed roll of shots from “WonderCon”, a sizeable affair held last weekend in Los Angeles.  These are some dedicated fans, some fabulous costumes, and some terrific times!

First off, a few attendees who came in street clothes:

A few inspired by the pulps of yesteryear:

Some fresh from the pages of the comics (the new character, Supergirl, appears to have an unusually red skirt…)

A pair of Snow Whites, one traditional, and one in 40s chic:

Speaking of the 40s, check out these spot-on duds–go Airborne!

And their most hated foe (this one made me double-take, but I understand it’s a minor character from an Atlas comics ish):

The Crown Princess, Anasatasia, last of the Romanovs:

Some great costumes I can’t quite identify (the Germans may just have been lost and wandered in):

The Sweep, from the Mary Poppins childrens’ book series:

Some cartoons come to life–Betty Boop and Fred Flinstsone (the latter is quite new, the 1st season not having yet ended!)

The inimitable Amy Spaulding–her art is amazing:

And, of course, The Traveler:

With Professor Elliot:

And making Archie cry:

That’s it for this time.  I loved seeing all of my friends and fans again, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for the review of this month’s (the April 1961) Fantasy and Science Fiction!  There are some excellent stories in there, three of them by woman authors–a new record!

[January 29, 1961] Take a little off the bottom (February 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction)

Greetings from sunny Kaua’i!  It seems like only yesterday I was reporting from this island’s idyllic shores.  Much has changed, of course–Hawai’i is now a state!  50 is a nice round number, so perhaps we won’t see any new entries into the Union for a while.

Accompanying me on this trip is the last science fiction digest of the month, the February 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  On a lark, I decided to read from the end, first.  In retrospect, I’m glad I did, but it certainly made the magazine a challenge.  You see, the stories at the end are just wretched.  But if you skip them (or survive them, as I did), the rest of the magazine is quite excellent.

Let’s get the drek over with straight-away, shall we?

Some unknown named C. Brian Kelly offers up the disgusting and sadistic The Tunnel, three pages about a vengeful cockroach that you need never read. 1 star.

Meanwhile, the normally excellent Robert F. Young offers the strangely prudish Storm over Sodom, which somehow rubbed me the wrong way all the way through.  2 stars.

Whew.  Now let’s go to the beginning and pretend the last 20 pages never happened. 

Brian Aldiss, who wrote the variable fix-up Galaxies like grains of sand is back with what I hope is the first in a series of tales about life on Earth in the very distant future.  Hothouse portrays a hot, steamy world dominated by vegetable life.  Indeed, a single banyan tree has become a global forest, and within it reside a myriad of mobile plant creatures that comprise almost all of the planet’s species.  Humanity is a savage race, clearly on the decline.  Their only hope, perhaps, will come from the outer space they once called their own domain. 

It’s a beautifully crafted world, the characters are vivid, and if the science stretches credulity, it does not entirely break it.  Five stars

Time was is a pleasant piece by Ron Goulart involving a homesick young woman, the trap that tries to lure her back to the 1939 of her childhood, and the dilettante detective of occult matters who tries to save her.  Four stars.

I’ve said before that Rosel George Brown is a rising star, and Of all possible worlds is my favorite story of hers yet.  A beautiful tale of an interstellar explorer and the almost-humans he meets on a placid, emerald-sand beach.  They seem to be primitives, but sometimes the end result of scientific progress is a pleasant, contemplative rest.  Anthropology, biology, love, and loss.  Five stars.

Marcel Ayme is back with his The Ubiquitous Wife, about a young woman who can multiply herself infinitely and thus live a thousand lives at once.  Like his other stories, it is droll and engaging.  The translator did a good job of conveying Ayme’s clever turns of phrase.  Three stars.

Theodore L. Thomas provides The Intruder, a subtle time travel story featuring a backpacker fishing trilobites at the dawn of the Devonian era.  In a nice touch, it turns out he is not the intruder; rather it is the little blot of algae that threatens to inevitably populate the fisher’s pristine, lifeless world.  Four stars.

Finally, we have Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction article, Order, Order!, on the subject of entropy (the amount of energy unavailable for work; or the amount of disorder in the universe). It’s a topic that everyone knows something about, but few have a real handle on.  The Good Doctor does an excellent job of explaining this esoteric matter.  Four stars.

What a pity–if not for the two lodestones at the end of the issue, this would be a rate 4-star magazine.  Still, even with them, the score is a comfortable 3.5 stars, which makes F&SF the best digest of the month.  It also has the best story of the month: Hothouse.  Finally, it features fully 50% of the month’s woman authors; sadly, there are just two. 

See you on February Oneth–if NASA’s hopes are fulfilled, I will have an exciting Mercury Redstone mission to talk about!

[July 29, 1960] Changing Landscapes (Japan, the Republican Convention, and the Journey Forecast)

The results of the Republican National Convention, held in Chicago this year, are in.  They should hardly come as a surprise to anyone: Vice President Richard M. Nixon is the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

I say that this news is unsurprising with good reason–namely, that Nixon essentially ran unopposed.  Oh, sure, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was putatively in the race, and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller has been front and center in the headlines over the past two months, but the former never had a chance, and the latter never formally threw his hat into the ring.  In fact, it appears that “Rocky’s” blistering rhetoric, put forth in print as a set of polemics, was intended to influence the Republican platform rather than propel him into the candidacy.  Well, Rockefeller can certainly boast this season–he got Nixon to come to his parlor on bended knee, and much of what Rockefeller espoused made its way into the platform and Nixon’s agenda.

In fact, given the rather moderate tone of the GOP platform, voters may have trouble choosing between the two parties’ men come November.  One thing I noted, comparing Nixon’s acceptance speech to Kennedy’s, I would give the inspirational and demagogic nod to the latter.  While Kennedy poetically described the New Frontier of the 1960s, challenging us all to become its pioneers to make the nation and the world a better place, the main thrust of Nixon’s message seems to be, “We’re better than the Communists.”  Well, no one doubts that, but as a wise person once said (this quote is attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, but it predates him), “There is no nobility in being superior to someone else; true nobility comes in being superior to one’s former self.” 

The only real mystery of the convention was Nixon’s choice for his running mate.  Interestingly, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate is Henry Cabot Lodge, the Massachusetts Senator whom Kennedy defeated in 1952 to begin his career in the upper division of Congress.  Now ambassador to the United Nations, and a strong advocate for that body’s peacekeeping capabilities, I believe he is a good selection for the No. 2 spot.  He will, however, not help Nixon sway the South from the Democratic grasp anymore than Nixon’s rather progressive stance on racial issues.  I expect this election to be a tight one, fought largely in the relatively liberal areas of the North East, the Great Lakes, and the West Coast.

For those who follow my travels, I am currently on the train to the industrial city of Nagoya, a few hours west of Tokyo.  Here are some pictures of the Shinjuku area of Japan’s capital, which is currently experiencing something of a revitalization in anticipation of the Olympics, time after next.  For anyone who was worried for our welfare, there were no signs of unrest, and we have been treated with courtesy, even warmth.  We had a great time in Kabukicho and Nihonbashi–in the latter, we supped at an excellent little jazz club where someone had set up a mobile projector and was showing old Felix the Cat cartoons.  The best part of travel is the serendipitous pleasures.

In other, Journey-related news, the month of July is over, and it’s time to see how the Big Three digests fared, quality-wise.  It’s a tough choice between Galaxy and F&SF this month. Both clock in at a little over three stars.  I think I’ll give the nod to the former, for being longer if nothing else.  My favorite story this month was probably Stecher’s An Elephant for the Prinkip, though none stood out prominently.  Only one female writer made an appearance this month: Rosel George Brown.

As for next month, I didn’t see any new books of interest, but I will be watching the films Dinosaurus and The Time Machine.  Also, expect coverage of a number of exciting, recently announced satellite launches, both military and civilian.  I’ve also just finished the final installment of Anderson’s The High Crusade, and it was excellent.  I’ll have a review for you next time around.

Stay tuned!

[July 12, 1960] Pages Come to Life! (Comic-Con ’60)

Two conventions in as many weeks!  What as I thinking?  And yet, despite the undoubted difficulty of the undertaking, it was well worth it.  San Diego’s intimate little science fiction and comic book convention, aptly titled “Comic Con,” was the most fun I’ve had at a convention in 1960. 

There was plenty to see and do, including a well-stocked exhibit hall, fascinating panels with opportunities to meet creators–like the new Marvel (formerly Atlas) Comics hotshot, Stan Lee, and, of course, people in costume.  There was a refreshing number of female and juvenile attendees–and not just Millie the Model fans, either! 

One could say that D.C. (Detective Comics) ruled the roost, with big exhibits devoted to perennial favorites like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, though there are rumbles that Marvel Comics may return to superhero comics next year.  I remember the brief revivals of Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, and Captain America with fondness, so here’s hoping they can pull it off.

Now, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s take a look at these lovely (color!) photos I took at the convention, speedily developed for my eagerly awaiting fans.

Note: On a lark, the convention organizers printed all of the badges to say “2015” on them.  I suppose that’s appropriate for a science fiction convention!

There was the contingent that came dressed in their everyday clothes:

These included a few of comic book creators:

Eric Shanover, creator of a comic retelling of the Trojan War.

Todd Nauck, an exciting new artist.

Joe Phillips, an artist of the “blue” variety.  Not for children…

Then you had the attendees who came in elaborate outfits.  Some were inspired by the pulps of the ’30s and ’40s:

Others came from a variety of venues–see if you can recognize them all!

And possibly the specialist of guests, Latin American revolutionary Che Guevarra!

Finally, we have The Traveler, himself:

It was lovely meeting so many like-minded fans, and I hope to run into all of you again in the years to come!