The pen is mighty painful (August 1959 Galaxy, Part 1; 6-02-1959

Just what is this world coming to?

Reading this month’s edition of Galaxy, it was hammered home just how far our linguistic standards have fallen.  Have you ever read a letter from the last century?  Even the prose from the most humble of fellows is lyric and articulate.  And while the published fiction might sometimes be a bit purple, there’s no denying the facility the authors had with our language.

And now?  I’m only half-way through the August 1959 Galaxy, and I’ve spotted “there” for “their” as well as “effect” for “affect.”  I thought this magazine was supposed to be edited.

I’m overreacting, you say.  I know what the writer meant–what’s the big deal?  Here’s my deal: we pay a contractor to build a house properly, we pay a doctor to do an operation correctly, and we pay a wordsmith to write competently.  If our literary experts can’t be bothered to communicate clearly, that will inevitably lead to a trickle-down of linguistic sloppiness.  Half a century from now, who knows how far standards will decline?

That’s about my gripe quota for the month.  I’m happy to say that the actual content of the magazine is pretty good, malaprops aside.  I assume you’ve all picked up an issue so we can compare notes.

Cliff Simak hasn’t written anything I’ve loved since Junkyard, but his latest, No Life of Their Own is pretty solid.  Four kids, at least two of them quite alien, share a rural summer together several centuries in the future.  Their pastimes are pretty timeless, though with some notable exceptions, largely derived from the alien nature of the children and their families.  It’s not an entirely idyllic setting–all of the farmers in the area are suffering from a run of unmitigated bad luck, whereas the meanest cuss of them all seems to be blessed.  There’s a reason, and the kids find it out. 

Warning: There is a little bit of cruelty to a cat.  Rest assured, however, that the cat is not unduly damaged, and the malefactor gets a comeuppance.

Newcomer Michael Shaara contributes Citizen Jell.  If you were a fugitive with the ability to do tremendous good, but only at the cost of your freedom, what would be your tipping point?  That’s the subject of Shaara’s ultimately heartwarming story.

Willy Ley has another excellent article, this time on the solar orbit of Mechta, the Soviet lunar probe.  I must say, I have to admire a fellow who can remain the first item on my monthly science fiction read list for a decade.

Finally (for today), there is The Spicy Sound of Success, by the prolific Jim Harmon.  For some reason, interstellar explorers become afflicted with transphasia (the swapping of sensory inputs–taste for sound, etc.) when scouting a new world.  This story involves a daring rescue and an interesting first contact. 

Join me next time for a round-up of this double-sized, bi-monthly edition… unless the Air Force’s impending space shot stops the presses!

(Confused?  Click here for an explanation as to what’s really going on)


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3 thoughts on “The pen is mighty painful (August 1959 Galaxy, Part 1; 6-02-1959”

  1. By the iron laws of grammar, if you rail in print against someone for their grammatical mistakes you will, inevitably, suffer a grammatical failure of your own. To whit: “author’s” for “authors”.

  2. Michael Shaara isn’t a “new author,” though; he’s had well over a dozen stories published in the field going back to 1952.  Some of them were even in GALAXY, though the most recent such was in the October 1956 issue (“Man of Distinction”).  He even had an ASTOUNDING story (“2066: Election Day”) reprinted in the Dikty best-of-the-year anthology series last year.

    His stories have been well-written, but not necessarily ground-breaking; possibly he’d do even better in some field other science fiction (assuming one believes there *is* any other field than science fiction in these exciting days).  Perhaps his sf instincts and his mainsteam instincts are at war with each other, but if so, he’s keeping the war quite civil.

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