Tag Archives: willy ley

[March 8, 1961] Bland for Adventure (April 1961 Galaxy, 1st half)

As we speak, my nephew, David, is on the S.S. Israel bound for Haifa, Israel.  It’s the last leg of a long trip that began with a plane ride from Los Angeles to New York, continued with a six-day sea cruise across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and which currently sees the youth making a brief landing in the Greek port of Piraeus.  He’s about to begin a year (or two) in Israel on a kibbutz.  An exciting adventure, to be sure, though I will miss our discussions on current science fiction, even if his tastes were, understandably, a little less refined than mine. 

So I hope, dear readers, that you will make up for his absence by sending me even more of your lovely comments!

Of course, you can hardly prepare your posts until I’ve reviewed this month’s set of magazines.  First on the pile, as usual, is the double-large issue of Galaxy, the biggest of the science fiction magazines with 196 pages packed with some of the biggest names in the field. 

But is bigger always better?  Not necessarily.  In fact, Galaxy seems to be where editor H.L. Gold stuffs his “safe” stories, the ones by famous folks that tend not to offend, but also won’t knock your socks off.

So it is with the April 1961 Galaxy, starting with the novella, Planeteer, the latest from newcomer Fred Saberhagen.  It starts brilliantly, featuring an interstellar contact team from Earth attempting to establish relations with an aboriginal alien race.  Two points impressed me within the first few pages: the belt-pouch sized computer (how handy would that be?) and the breakfast described as, “synthetic ham, and a scrambled substance not preceded or followed by chickens.”

The race, however, is disappointingly human; the tale is a fairly typical conundrum/solution story.  On the other hand, the alien king does show some refreshing intelligence—no easy White God tactics for the Planeteers!  Three stars.

Fritz Leiber offers up Kreativity for Kats, an adorable tale of a feline with the blood of an artiste.  Now, any story that features cats is sure to be a cute one (with the notable, creepy exception of The Mind Thing…) It’s not science fiction at all, not even fantasy, but I read it with a grin on my face.  Four stars.

Galaxy’s science fact column, For Your Information, by German rocket scientist Willy Ley, continues to be entertaining.  This bi-month’s article is on the Gegenschein, that mysterious counterpoint to the Zodiacal Light.  There’s also a fun aside about the annexation of Patagonia by a bewildered German professor as well as silly bit on Seven League Boots.  Three stars.

Last up for the first half of the book is James Stamer’s Scent Makes a Difference, which answers the question on everyone’s mind: What if you could meet all the alternate yous—the ones who took different paths in life?  Would you learn from all of your possible mistakes?  Or would you merely commit the biggest blunder of all?  I didn’t quite understand the ending (or perhaps I overthought it).  Three stars.

That’s that for now.  Read up, drop me a line, and I’ll have the second half in a few days!

[January 6, 1960] Watch your tongue?  (February 1961 Galaxy, Part 1)

The old saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  As you know, I am rarely reserved when I don’t like a piece of work.  Every once in a while, I get a gentle chiding.  One reader said he didn’t want to hear about stories I don’t like–just the ones I do.  Another opined that my fans might tire of my consistently negative reviews of a certain author. 

I don’t want to discount these criticisms as I think they are valid.  On the other hand, if I am unreserved in my scorn, I am similarly effusive about what I like.  My columns are rarely completely negative.  Moreover, I recognize that even the works I don’t like often appeal to others, and I love receiving letters from folks who disagree with my judgments. 

Besides, you good folk likely come here to see me as much as to get reading recommendations.  Alfred Bester said in F&SF last month that he prefers English non-fiction to American as English authors will intrude into the text.  There are only so many ways to package facts; the only distinguishing character is the personality of the packager.  Certainly, I read Asimov as much for the science lesson as for the fun anecdotes.

So, enjoy all of me, even the kvetching.  And if you don’t, feel free to tell me just how much you dislike me.  I may even agree with you…

On to the task at hand–reviewing the first half of the February 1961 Galaxy!

Evelyn Smith (formerly Gold, same name as the editor, natch) takes up most of it with Sentry in the Sky, a story about a malcontent in a futuristic caste system who is enlisted to become a long-term spy mole on a more primitive world.  It’s not bad, but it is awfully simplistic, and the point meanders.  Moreover, it relies on awfully human aliens.  Of course, it’s satire as much as anything else–the primitive world has a culture that is immediately familiar to 20th Century people.  Let me know what you think.  Three stars.

Doorstep is a cute short by Keith Laumer about an overachieving general and the UFO he tries to crack open.  Sort of a poor man’s Sheckley; something I’d expect from 1952.  Three stars.

Willy Ley’s article is pretty interesting this month.  He covers the new science of “seeding” clouds to create rain in Let’s do Something about the Weather.  Three stars.

Finally, we have what may be the very first piece from a new writer, Volume Paa-Pyx by Fred Saberhagen.  It’s a fun twist on the future where those with specific aptitudes get placed in appropriate professions.  When is a police state not a police state?  Three stars.

It doesn’t take a slide rule to calculate this issue: Three stars across the board!  Nothing exceptional, nothing horrid.  Satisfying, but ummemorable.  Let me ask you–is it better to be delivered a dose of strong ups and downs or a steady, bland mean?

[Nov. 11, 1960] A Celebrated Veteran (December 1960 Galaxy)

Ten years ago, a World War Two vet named H. L. Gold decided to try his luck as editor of a science fiction digest.  His Galaxy was among the first of the new crop of magazines in the post-war science fiction boom, and it quickly set an industry standard. 

A decade later, Galaxy is down to a bimonthly schedule and has cut author rates in half.  This has, predictably, led to a dip in quality, though it is not as pronounced as I’d feared.  Moreover, the magazine is half-again as large as it used to be, and its sister publication, IF, might as well be a second Galaxy.  All told, the magazine is still a bargain at 50 cents the issue.

Particularly the December 1960 issue.  There’s a lot of good stuff herein (once you get past yet another senilic Gold editorial):

The reliable J.T. McIntosh leads off with The Wrong World, in which the Earth is conquered…accidentally.  There was some misunderstanding by our invaders as to the technological level of our world; for the more advanced planets, we’re supposed to get an invitation to interstellar society, not a savaging.  It’s kind of an oddball piece, but it kept my attention despite the late hour at which I began it.  Three stars.

Next up is brand-newcomer, Bill Doede with Jamieson, an interesting tale of teleporting humans whose talents are viewed as akin to witchcraft.  Not a perfect tale, but definitely a promising beginning to a writing career, and with a female protagonist.  Three stars.

For Your Information is interesting, if not riveting, stuff about a Polynesian feast involving thousands of mating sea worms.  I understand they’re a delicacy.  I’ll take their word for it…  Three stars.

Charles V. de Vet is back with Metamorphosis, a story about a symbiotic life form that makes one superpowered… but which also turns the host into a ticking time bomb.  You spend much of the story pretty certain that you know how to defuse the bomb, such that it strains the credulity that there should be anything to worry about.  The ending, however, addresses the issue nicely.  Three stars.

Finally (for today) we have Snuffles by the rather odd but compelling R.A. Lafferty.  He writes stories in a style that shouldn’t work but somehow does.  That’s either some innate talent or blind luck.  Given his track record, I’m betting on the former.  In any event, the novelette details the misadventures of a six-person planetary exploration crew (two women, life scientists–women are always cast as biologists for some reason) who are at first charmed and then menaced by a sexless Teddy Bear monster with delusions of Godhood.  A fascinating story.  Four stars.

Next time, we’ll have works by Ron Goulart, H.B. Fyfe, Jim Harmon, Patrick Fahy, and Daniel Galouye.  That’s a pretty good lineup!

[August 29, 1960] One shoe down (October 1960 Galaxy, 1st half)

There is an old saw: “Just when I got my mule to work without being fed, she up and died on me!”

At the end of 1958, Galaxy editor H. Gold announced that his magazine was going to a bi-monthly publication schedule.  He did not mention that he was also slashing writer pay rates in half.

Last issue, Gold crowed about his stable of fresh new authors who would carry the torch of science fiction creation.  And, of course, there is plenty of room for the new authors now that the old names have departed for greener pastures.

Is this how a great magazine dies?  Not with a bang, but with a whimper?  You may disagree with me, but the October 1960 issue of Galaxy feels like a throwback.  A lesser mag from the mid ’50s.  Let me show you the first half of the issue, and you’ll see what I mean.

Allen Kim Lang opens things up with his novella, World in a Bottle.  The premise is an interesting one: take a group of people with no resistance to diseases (such people exist today).  Put them together in a sort of commune.  What are the sociological and practical implications?  What kind of life can they expect to have?

Some of the story rings true, particularly the feeling of imprisonment and the lack of attraction for one’s fellow commune residents.  This isn’t science fiction–this is what’s happening right now on the kibbutzim in Israel.  What kills the story, for me, is the breezy style and the overly neat finish at the end.  It’s a pity–Lang has been good enough to get printed in F&SF.  I’m sure he could turn out better.

The Hills of Home, by Alfred Coppel, originally came out in Future Science Fiction back in 1956.  It reads like an inferior version of Sturgeon’s sublime The Man who lost the Sea, but I guess Coppel’s came first, so perhaps Sturgeon’s is a polish-up.  In any event, it’s a clunky piece, but not horrible.  It does show that Galaxy is now resorting to reprints to fill its pages.  That’s probably not a good sign. 

Marshall King is, as far as I can tell, a complete newcomer to science fiction.  His Beach Scene, about a cute little alien who can stop time, is rather engaging.  The creature’s encounter with a band of rapacious human colonizers is bittersweet.  Mostly bitter.

Willy Ley seems to be coasting these days.  His latest article, The Air on the Moon, is not a stand-out.

Then we’ve got James Stamers’ The Imitiation of Earth, positing a sort of planetary sentience that deliberately fosters the evolution of life.  This is Stamers’ fourth published story, and Gold has bought every one of them.  I’ve noted in my reviews of his last three that his work tends to be forgettable stuff with occasional interesting ideas mixed in.  He continues this trend with his newest story, which starts out in a quite compelling manner, but ends prosaically. 

That brings us to newcomer Andrew Fetler’s Cry Snooker, a satiric tale about the havoc wreaked on a suburban town by an experimental little flying machine.  It reads like a lesser Rosel George Brown story.  Heavy on the domestic banter, crude with the lampooning.

Now, things could turn around quite suddenly in the second half of this month’s issue, but thus far, we’re looking at a 2.5 star issue.  It would be a crying shame if Galaxy, once my favorite science fiction digest, ended up below Astounding!

In happier news, I met a lot of wonderful folks at the local science fiction convention last week.  One of them was dressed up as the new member of the family from Krypton, Supergirl.  Well, it turns out she is a local, and she sent me a photo to share with my fans.  Meet Janel, everyone!

[July 19, 1960] A New Breed (August 1960 Galaxy)

Last year, Galaxy editor Horace Gold bowed to economic necessity, trimming the length of his magazine and slashing the per word rate for his writers.  As a result (and perhaps due to the natural attrition of authors over time), Galaxy‘s Table of Contents now features a slew of new authors.  In this month’s editorial, Gold trumpets this fact as a positive, predicting that names like Stuart, Lang, Barrett, Harmon, and Lafferty will be household names in times to come.

In a way, it is good news.  This most progressive of genres must necessarily accept new talent lest it become stale.  The question is whether or not these rookies will stay long enough to hone their craft if the money isn’t there.  I suppose there is something to be said for doing something just for the love of it.

As it turns out, the August 1960 issue of Galaxy is pretty good.  I’m particularly pleased with Chris Anvil’s lead novelette, Mind Partner.  It’s a fascinating story involving a man paid to investigate a most unusual addictive substance, the habit of which its victims are generally unable to kick.  Those that manage to break free retreat into paranoid near-catatonia or explode into random streaks of violence.

Chris is a fellow who has churned out reliably mediocre tales for Astounding (now Analog) for years, yet I’ve always felt that he was capable of more.  Just as a good director can coax a fine performance out of an actor, perhaps Anvil just needs a better editor than Campbell.

William Stuart is up next with, A Husband for My Wife, a rather conventional, but not unworthy, time travel story involving the heated competition for affection and success between two friends/nemeses, one exemplifying brains, the other brawn.  The brainy one jumps off into the future with the brawny one’s girlfriend leaving the latter stuck with the brainy one’s domineering wife.  But the meathead and the shrew will be waiting when the brain returns… 

Stuart was the new author who penned the pleasant (though ultimately dark) Inside John Barth in the last issue.  His sophomore effort is not quite as good, but I can definitely see why Gold keeps him around, and he clearly has time to write!

Non-fiction writer Willy Ley is back to his old standard, I think, with his article on the origin of legends: How to Slay Dragons.  I was particularly interested to learn that the mythical dragon, at least in the West, only goes back to the Renaissance.  Apparently the notion of winged lizards cavorting with medieval princesses is anachronistic.

Back to fiction, The Business, as Usual is Jack Sharkey’s second story in Galaxy, and it’s about as bad as his first.  Set in 1962, it portrays, satirically, the top brass of our nation figuring out what to do with a new stealth aircraft.  It’s all a set-up for a groan-worthy last line.

Sordman the Protector is an interesting, ambitious novella by serviceman Tom Purdom about a class of psychically gifted “Talents” who are both prized and reviled for their abilities.  The story is praiseworthy both for its innovative portrayal of future culture and the taut whodunit it presents.  It is clear that the author put a lot into developing the tale’s background universe.  I wonder if he intends to expand it into a novel.

Neal Barrett’s first tale, To Tell the Truth, has a cute title and an interesting set-up.  In an interstellar war where security is of paramount importance, combatants are given pain blocks against torture and suicide triggers that trip if their owners are on the verge of divulging sensitive information.  This provides strong protection for secrets when soldiers get captured.  But what if the secrets were never true to begin with?

Finally, we’ve got L.J. Stecher’s An Elephant for the Prinkip, a rather delightful piece about the difficulties of transporting pachyderms across the stars.  It’s one of those stories that shouldn’t work, being all tell and no show (literally–its narrator is a salty old captain recounting the tale at a bar), but it does.  But then, I’ve always had a soft spot for stories involving interstellar freight.

That leaves the second and final part of Fred Pohl’s short novel, Drunkard’s Walk… but I’ll cover this one separately.

Stay tuned!

[April 27, 1960] Galactic on Galaxy (June 1960 Galaxy)

It’s that happy time of year when the sun is up late and the weather is perfect.  Of course, the weather is usually perfect here in the nicest unincorporated part of northern San Diego County (though there are rumors that our little farming community is going to vote on incorporation soon).

One of my favorite Spring-time activities is to lounge on the veranda (well, my daughter’s tree house) with a portable radio, a cup of coffee, and good book.  Today’s entree is the newest issue of Galaxy.  It’s a double-sized issue, so I’ll be breaking it out over two articles.  A body needs time to digest, after all. 

Fred Pohl has written a new serial evocatively titled Drunkard’s Walk I won’t go into too much detail as it’s only half published, but thus far, I’m enjoying it.  In an overpopulated Earth (12 billions, 6 of them in “The Chinas”), university education is the province of the elite.  One young mathematics professor appears to be the target for assassination.  He’s attempted to kill himself numerous times, always in that twilight between sleep and waking, as if in a trance. 

There are some neat technologies featured.  In particular, I liked Pohl’s depiction of education by television, broadcast via satellite and graded by computer.  As someone who has generally found the classroom stifling, I marvel at how nice it would be to get a college degree in the comfort of my own home.

Next on tap is L.J. Stecher’s Upstarts.  How can Earthers hope to parlay on a level playing field with a race that dominates the entire Galaxy?  By developing its own secret, starhopping technologies, of course.  The fascinating idea here is that though there are some 17 starfaring alien species, only two of them (one being humanity) clawed their way to sentience by natural evolutionary processes.  All of the rest were raised to sapience (“Uplifted,” to coin a phrase) by the slavering Vegans, who now find themselves a minority group in the new galactic order and want to enlist the assistance of the Terrans to get back on top.


by Dillon

Good stuff, and with a haunting ending.

The Good Neighbors is a fun, short Edgar Pangborn piece about the sudden appearance of an enormous winged beast that terrorizes the American skies for many days before the pitiful creature is harangued to death by a swarm of jet fighters.  Pangborn writes with a pleasant sense of whimsy that I appreciate.


by Wallace Wood

Rounding out the first half, Willy Ley has an interesting piece on rocket fuels and the comparative advantages of liquid vs. solid propellants.  He also answers some of his readers’ questions.  They must have been a better crop than usual as VeeLee seems pleasantly less peeved than he has been of late.

See you in two days with the other half.  Get yourself a copy and send me your thoughts!

[March 13, 1960] Shineless shoe (April 1960 Galaxy, Part 2)

Mediocre magazines are always the hardest to plow through.

When I’ve got a good issue in my hands, reading is a pleasure, and I generally tear through in nothing flat.  Bad issues are unpleasant, but I also feel no compunctions in skimming.

But it’s those middle-of-the-road, “C Minus” magazines that drag you down.  Each story is a chore, but none are so offensive as to register on the memory, even in their badness.

Had I known that this month’s Galaxy would be so lackluster (my apologies to those who favor the Bird), I might have skimmed faster and compiled my reviews into one article.  As it is, I have to devote an entire column’s space to the four remaining pieces, and they don’t deserve the energy.

Willy Ley’s column, entitled What’s Only Money, is an arid piece on the history and composition of coin currency.  As a numismatist, I found the subject matter interesting, but the presentation was lacking.  I miss the Dr. Ley of ten years ago.

Don’t Look Now, by Leonard Rubin, is a turgid tale about (I think) image projectors and the way they disrupt our lives in the future.  I tackled this story in small increments, and it left virtually no impression on me.

Then you’ve got the vignette, The Power, by veteran Fredric Brown.  It is neither remarkable nor offensive.

Rounding out the issue is George O. Smith’s, The Troublemakers, which starts promisingly but falls flat on its face.  It is really two intertwined stories.  The first involved a headstrong (read: “thinks for herself”) young woman who objects to being sedated into placidity, as is the norm in the overcrowded, genetically optimized future.  Note that Mr. Smith believes 6 billion souls will lead to cramped living conditions—see my thoughts on this issue in a prior article.

She also refuses to be paired with a somnolent drip of a fellow, who needs medication to act at an even minimal level of energy.

Then you’ve got the young spacer, who believes he has discovered an efficient hyperdrive that could open the stars to humanity.  He is told to cool his heels in a dead-end assignment until he discovers the error in his mathematics.  There, of course, isn’t one.

It turns out, as is telegraphed far in advance, that the seemingly unfair practices of the society, ostensibly designed to cull outliers, are really designed to find the few exceptional people so that they can be sent to far flung colonies and become the cutting edge of humanity.

I do find the idea of a crowded society a fascinating one, and rigid societal norms take on heightened importance in that circumstance.  Contrast the American expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” to the Japanese expression, “the nail that sticks out gets pounded.”  It makes sense that, on an overpopulated Earth, culture would favor conformity and sticking to the center of the bell curve.

But Troublemakers is boring, so even a good premise can’t save it.  And with that, the April 1960 Galaxy comes to an unsatisfying end.

Twilight Zone is on tonight.  Let’s see if that improves my outlook.  I’ve got a four-week summary coming up soon.

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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[Jan. 21, 1960] Siamese, if you please (February 1960 Galaxy, part 2)

I made fun of Galaxy editor Horace Gold for the slightly panicked tone in this month’s editorial.  It’s clear that he has concerns that the quality of his magazine might dip unless he can tap a reservoir of new talent.

That said, the February 1960 Galaxy finishes as it started (and as did its sister, the January 1960 IF)–on the good side of three stars, but not too far from the middle.  Let us see how Part 2 turned out.

I am sad to report that Willy Ley’s articles just aren’t as engaging as once they were.  They were what originally sold me on getting subscription, Galaxy being the first magazine I followed regularly.  The lovable ex-German just seems unfocused and a little cranky these days.

Zenna Henderson’s Something Bright, on the other hand, is that engaging mix of magic, grit, unease, and wonder that I have come to expect from her.  This one is told from the point of view of a Depression-era teen who has a close encounter with a peculiar, and rather frightening, neighbor.  It’s nice to see work by two woman authors in Galaxy, a sign that the genre as a whole is becoming more balanced.


Dillon

Simak’s Crying Jag takes place in a similar setting—he does enjoy those rustic tales, evocative of his home in rural Minnesota.  In this one, the rather soused protagonist becomes the friend and keeper of an alien for whom sad stories are an intoxicant.  Everybody wins in this one, as the storytellers thus find themselves free of their psychological pain.  Not stellar, but enjoyable.


Wallace Wood

For some reason, I really enjoyed David Fisher’s East in the Morning, about a intellectual prodigy who must wait until his very old age for his genius to bear fruit.  It is told in this detached yet gripping manner that I found engaging.  Perhaps there is a bit of identification, too—after all, I too blazed through my early life displaying signs of promise and even, perhaps, genius… but I’m still waiting to make my mark.  Someday.


Dick Francis

Sadly, the magazine has stumbles to an unimpressive finish.  Jim Wannamaker is a new face to the science fiction world, and his Death’s Wisher, about a psychokinetic who threatens to blow up the world by setting off its hydrogen bombs, is not an impressive first outing.  Truth to tell, I almost fell asleep. 


Dick Francis

Space news is up next.  All about a midget Mercury and its furry astronaut.  Stay tuned!

(all Galaxy magazines can be found here)

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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[Nov. 6, 1959] In someone else’s skin for a while (December 1959 Galaxy)

Whenever I read the book review columns by Floyd Gold, Damon Knight, Groff Conklin, etc., or the science articles by Willy Ley and Isaac Asimov, I’m always as fascinated by the little personal details they disclose as the information and opinions they provide.  It’s a glimpse into their lives that humanizes their viewpoint.  Anecdotes make fun reading, too.

Since I assume all of my readers (bless the five of you!) feel similarly, otherwise why bother reading my column, I thought I’d share a little bit about how information gets into my brain prior to article composition.

My issues all come by mail subscription now as it is significantly cheaper than buying them on the newsstand and more consistent.  It means I’m no longer hunting the newsstands for other magazines, but now that there are so few active digests, this seems the best way to go. 

I have an evening ritual that I’ve preserved since my teen years, particularly in the Fall and Winter when the sun sets early.  After coming home from work, the rays of sunlight slanted sharply against my driveway, I pull out my portable radio and a beverage, rest my back against a tree or lamppost, and read until the sun dips below the horizon.  Here in Southern California, we get a nice mix of White, Negro, and Latin stations, so I can listen to all the latest Rock ‘n Roll and Rumba as well as the insipid croonings of Paul Anka and Pat Boone.  It makes for a delightful half hour of escape from the real world better than M, reefer, or any other drug you’d care to mention.

What have I been reading, you ask?  This bi-month’s issue of Galaxy, of course—December 1959 to be exact.  Galaxy is the most consistent of the four magazines to which I have subscriptions, generally falling in the upper middle of the pack.


EMSH

As always, I started with Willy Ley’s column.  I’m impressed that after ten years of writing, he still finds interesting topics to teach about.  In this one, he discusses the (probably) extinct Giant Sloth and the efforts naturalists have made over the centuries to learn more about the creature.  I love paleontology, so it was right up my alley.  By the way, for the overly curious, this piece I read while soaking in a nice hot bath over the weekend.

Leading the book is Robert Sheckley’s newest, Prospector’s Special.  The setting is Venus , where a handful of hardscrabble miners brave the blazing heat and sandwolves of the Venusian deserts in the hopes of finding a vein of Goldenstone.  It’s one of those stories where the protagonist runs into worse and worse luck and has to use wits to survive to the end, which has a suitably happy ending.  Bob is invariably good, particularly at this kind of story, and I polished this one off in the same aforementioned bath. 


DILLON

Rosel George Brown continues to be almost good, which is frustrating, indeed.  Her Flower Arrangement is the first-person narrated story of a rather dim housewife and how the bouquet she and her kindergartener made turned out to unlock the secrets of the universe.  It comes from a refreshing female perspective, but it’s just a bit too silly and affected to work well. 


DILLON

Con Blomberg’s only written one other story, and that one appeared in Galaxy two years ago.  His Sales Talk is interesting, about two salesmen who try to sell a recalcitrant unemployed fellow on the joys of living vicariously through the taped memories of others.  The would-be mark makes a compelling argument against the dangers of becoming a worthless consumer.  There is, of course, a twist, which I half-predicted before the end. 

There’s an interesting point to the story.  In the first place, it predicts a “post-scarcity” economy.  Let me explain: There are three sectors to the economy.  They are Agricultural, Manufacturing, and Service.  Until a few hundred years ago, Agricultural was far and away the dominant sector, with most people relying on subsistence farming.  Then the Industrial Revolution hit, and the peasants moved to the city to work on the assembly line, while farming became more and more mechanized, requiring fewer people.  As industry became more efficient, the Service sector grew—waiters, courtesans, attorneys, doctors, advertisers, artists, etc. 

But what happens when industry and agriculture become fully mechanized?  What if robots take over the Service sector?  What is left for humans to produce?  The world only has so much need for art, music, politics, and religion.  In a post-scarcity economy, most of us will become consumers, so the more pessimistic predictions go.  And all we’ll do all day is lie around living other people’s dreams, predicts Blomberg.


MORROW

Is the idea that plugging oneself into a memory-tape machine, experiencing all five senses and the feelings of the original senser, all that different from watching a film or reading a good story?  After all, both take you out of reality for a while, make you feel along with the protagonists.  When full “Electronic Living” becomes possible, will it really be a revolution or just evolution?  Food for thought.

That’s what I’ve got so far.  Stay tuned soon for further reviews of this extra-thick magazine.  You’ll next hear from me in sunny Orlando, Florida!


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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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The momentum of quality (October 1959 Galaxy, first part; 8-11-1959)

Last year, Galaxy moved to a bi-monthly format.  Coincident with that was a drop in writer rates per word.  I had had concerns that there would be a corresponding drop in quality.  Thankfully, this year’s issues have been of consistently high quality.


All pictures by Dick Francis

Moreover, Galaxy really isn’t a bi-monthly anymore.  Inside the front cover of this month’s (October) issue is a full-page advertisement for IF magazine, which is now owned by the same publishers, has the same editors, and appears in Galaxy’s off months.  Quacks like a duck; sounds as if Galaxy is a monthly, and every other month, is an oversized issue, to boot.

One of the reasons Galaxy can still fill its pages is that both the editor (H.L.Gold) and his brother (Floyd Gold, known as Floyd Gale) are both fair writers in their own right.  Their opening novella, co-written under the pseudonym “Christopher Grimm,” is called Someone to Watch Over Me, and it is almost excellent.

Len Mattern is a space merchant, seasoned from decades of meandering from star to star in a tramp freighter.  His obsession is the high-class prostitute, Lyddy, and Len has spent his entire adult life amassing sufficient wealth to wed her, which he does at the story’s beginning.  The rest of the tale is told mostly in flashback.  In this universe, traversing hyperspace has the most unsettling effect on travelers: they become unnatural beasts with tentacles and extra eyes.  All but the most hardened spacer must knock her/himself out for the journey or suffer profound psychological trauma.

Mattern, however, has discovered that hyperspace is a destination, as well as a conduit, and it is inhabited.  Moreover, some items that are useless in our dimension become highly valuable in the other, and vice versa.  Mattern becomes the first to establish trade relations with the horrible but peaceful aliens.  One of them even accompanies Mattern for the next decade of highly lucrative commerce, becoming a combination best-friend and perpetual shadow.

If the story has any flaw, it’s a sort of dismissive view of women, though, to be fair, one of the best characters is the alien queen, at once beautiful and terrible.  My favorite line: “I see no reason…why a male should be deemed incapable of ruling, provided he is under careful supervision.” 

Worthwhile reading.  I’m glad the Gold brothers are writing as well as editing.

E.C. Tubb’s Last of the Morticians is short and unremarkable, about two undertakers weathering a lack of business resulting from the recent advent of immortality.  Their solution: bury something other than people!

Willy Ley’s article this month is a little scattered, but the latter two thirds (he has split the column in three this time) is quite good.  And bad Ley is still fine reading.  I especially liked his piece on “Zilphion,” a now-extinct Graeco-Roman spice plant.

Last for today is the very good “A Death in the House,” by Cliff Simak.  Simak is a very uneven writer, I have found, but when he’s on top of his game, he is a real stand-out.  Death is reminiscent in tone and subject of Dickson’s E Gubling Dow from May’s Satellite, but far better in in execution.  In this tale, Old Mose (whom, until I saw the illustration, I pictured as Black), is a lonely farmer whose heart is big enough to rescue a rather repulsive alien that he finds mortally wounded on his property.  It’s really quite a beautiful story with a rather happy ending.  In stark contrast to Garrett, Simak actually kept me up until I’d finished!

From what I can tell, the rest of the magazine is excellent, too.  This issue may well earn the coveted four star rating.  Only Galaxy has managed this feat of consistent quality in 1959, though excellent stories have appeared in other magazines, of course.
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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