The article by Les and Es Cole in the October-November issue of Rhodomagnetic Digest makes me wonder. I wonder if they haven't slipped a cog or two. You see, they're running down Imagination, letting Fantastic Adventures, Amazing, Marvel, and many others go untouched by acid pen. They choose to pick a certain editor with guts enough to come out with his policy for their cutting remarks.
Mr. Hamling stated in his editorial of November, 1951, the following points: 1) the trend toward "intellectual type" stories is bad because it shows "lack of proper direction"; 2) science fiction should not "grow-up" because its only purpose is to entertain; 3) the trend is now toward the intellectual or adult type story and away from escapist adventure, suspense and solid action; and 4) a story may be defined good or bad, depending on its popularity with the public.
The Cole's go on to say they "find fearful...the incapability of Mr. Hamling's great brain to wrestle with such intellectual type stories as those appearing in Wonder, Startling, and Planet, to name a few."
Now I ask you, fans, does Planet produce an intellectual, adult-type story while Imagination does not? Or Startling? Or Wonder? How about Marvel, OOTWA and a few others? No! Yet the Coles, in admitting the prime purpose of science fiction being to entertain again criticize "the rather low level of editorial policy found in Imagination."!!
The Cole's say that aSF, Galaxy and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction are the "only science fiction magazines worth reading" and that "below this we find most of the magazines operating on a SSS policy: Sex, Sensationalism and Shallow Plotting." Yet they just finished praising Planet because of its "intellectual type" stories. Frankly, they seem a bit confused to me.
On the other hand, Mr. Hamling's feeling that the aforementioned three are deliberately showing up the rest and trying to educate them from Snobbish Heights is entirely reasonable. What more could one expect from editor Gold's conceited, bragging editorials, for example?
Hamling's "if it sells, it's good" policy has apparently been misconstrued by the Coles. Perhaps what he meant was "if it sells, it's good for fandom and good for us." Perhaps the Coles would care to tell us a better way of telling whether or not a story is good. On THEIR recommendation, perhaps?
The sad fact is that altogether too many editors are trying to feed us intellectual science fiction in place of the good old space-operas we used to have. Sure we like adult s-f, but we don't have to have some editor tell us what is adult and what isn't. Hamling says: "We don't intend to force intellectual nonsense on you, our readers. We're convinced you can do your own thinking and further that it would be an insult to infer you can't." Or perhaps the Coles resent an editor's policy of treating them as "grown-ups" and not spoon-feeding them all his stories.
S-f is drifting away from the old action-adventure theme. We are losing something when s-f moves away from escapist adventure, suspense and solid action for the pure intellectual story. The Coles feel that loss and are looking for a scapegoat to take it out on. Or perhaps it is their loss of Sam Merwin that prompts them to pick on Bill Hamling.
I think Hamling's right! He's made some very solid points there and a great deal of thought should be given to some of them. Are we willing to give up adventure for adultness, which, after all, is just a word? Should we scrap all but aSF, Galaxy and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction merely on assumptions made by the Coles? Should we let one editor or group of editors tell us what is good or bad science fiction, rather than the public?
Finish with Mr. Hamling's words: "Science fiction readers are mentally adult or they wouldn't be reading it." YOU take it from there.
Data entry by Judy Bemis
Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Updated June 28, 2015. If you have a comment about these web pages please send a note to the Fanac Webmaster. Thank you.