GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, November 1951 ................................................................. Reviewed by Gary Nelson
Galaxy is printing a type of fiction which, while it is not exactly the kind the New Yorker or Atlantic prints, should be called contemporary, not science, fiction. Some of the stories are good, others bad, and a few are spectacular, but they all have the common factor that they are not science fiction. Of course, every now and then a science fiction story creeps in by mistake; some of the contributing authors are under the false impression that Gold is printing science fiction.
The fiction in Galaxy falls into two main categories: the future and the sociological. In a sense both types are outgrowths of science fiction, but they have moved so far from the field that it is impossible to class them as such any longer.
The future story, which makes up the majority of those printed in Galaxy (and in most of the s-f magazines, for that matter), is the simplest kind to write and usually the most enjoyable to read. It is typically a story in which the author has taken a plot, which may be old and trite, and has the action take place in the future. Naturally, in such a story the author has to add some science because the science of the future is assumed to be more advanced than ours, but its inclusion is incidental and unimportant to the plot. Since a good writer can handle a future story extremely well, and even a mediocre writer passably, the type is prolific, embracing many stories widely acclaimed as great and spectacular. Contrary to Gold's protestations, these future stories are much the same as the advertisement on the back covers of Volume I, No. 1, and Volume III, No. 1, but on a slightly higher writing level. I am not so hidebound, however, that I still cannot enjoy them from the standpoint of pure entertainment.
The sociological story, the second major type published in Galaxy, is much harder to write, and very few authors have any success with it. In the sociological story the author tries to describe a society different from our own; it can be either a future society of this world, a different world of if, or a different planet with different beings and cultures. It is obvious that it is hard to class this type outside of science fiction, but I think some new category could be found. If the story is related to the science of this different society, then obviously it is a science fiction story. But if the plot revolves around the results of the society's differing environment, it becomes another piece of contemporary fiction, not science fiction. There are frequent borderline cases, and Galaxy manages to keep on the wrong side of the border most of the time.
Fritz Leiber has been writing stories of this class very successfully of late. His stories have been laid in the future of our world when the moral values have changed radically; in most of our opinions, it is a change for the worst. I have liked his fiction, but I still do not class it as s-f. William Tenn tried a sociological story with his "Venus is a Man's World" and produced a rather poor excuse for anything. The trouble with sociological stories is that an author has to fit his story into a background of a civilization which he has made up in his head, or a good trick if you can do it, and few can.
Any writer has to have a complete background for every story that he writes, or else the end product will seem extremely two dimensional But most writers utilize our present civilization or past eras about which the reader is already fairly well informed, and can fill in a large amount of the background material himself. Also the author can do research on any points he is not sure of. The author of a sociological story cannot do anything like that; he has to keep the whole society in his head, remembering all the details, or he can write a long brief on it, which is not always practical for a short story. To base a narrative on a made-up society is no easy task, especially if everything is to be consistent. However, the fiction in Galaxy of this type is in general the best I have seen.
Consistently the stories in Galaxy have been of high quality. And I enjoy them; my only quarrel is that I like science fiction better. It is actually surprising how high the quality has been, for the writers have been experimenting with new techniques which are not easy, and with the exception of a few stories on the level of "Tyrann", which was pure space opera, they have been successful.
Gold is actually changing the fiction which is being written from science to contemporary fiction by his editorial policy. He has found that better stories can be written if the science is ignored, and he pays more for his fiction, so the authors are writing the kind of stories that he will accept. Hence we are loosing the science from the fiction. I do not think that Gold is aware of what he is doing, but he might be He is virtually calling such fiction as "Odd John" science fiction.
Getting back to this month's issue, I find that the stories are about on the average with the rest of the issues. "Sealegs" by Frank Quattrocchi is a fair, not spectacular, sociological story, about the super-regimented state vs. the poor non-conformist who doesn't know he isn't conforming.
"Self Portrait", the other novelette of this issue, was -- well, you might try and classify it as a general satire on cybernetics, government secret projects, and all scientists. I am afraid the author, Bernard Wolfe, missed the conversion. "Tiger by the Tail", by Alan E. Nourse, is a fair handling of a trite idea.
If Gold is trying to include a humorous story in each issue, he is not making very good choices, but this month's plum, "Zeritsky's Law", by Ann Griffith, is better than last month's attempt.
"Psychotennis, Anyone?" by Lloyd Williams, is a queer one; It is a sociological story which is on the very border of science fiction. The author took a science fiction idea (telekinesis) and then based his story on the social effects of such a force in sports; that is, a special sport. Not as well handled as it might have been; however, its originality still keeps it interesting. In his conclusion, there were too many loose ends left dangling.
And, of course, there is Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters", which has been out in hard covers for two months. Naturally, it is good, but I did not like the epilogue which almost ruined the story for me.
If only for its cover, the magazine is worth the purchase price. Apparently the cover drawing is a Bonestell, but the credit lines have been missing from the last two issues. Presumably Mr. Gold will correct this oversight as the magazine becomes stabilized under its new ownership.
ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, November 1951 .................................................... Reviewed by Paul H. Finch
This issue is heavily overweighted with non-fiction. I think the best way for ASTOUNDING to remain or become the leader in the s-f field is to print more and better fiction, not have more and bigger non-fiction departments.
The long story is Frank M. Robinson's The Hunting Season, an unconvincing tale about a member of a future police state who transgresses and is condemned to be hunted for 72 hours in one of our cities by 500 contemporaries. If he escapes, he lives. An element of philosophizing on police state vs. "freedom" doesn't help one bit. If a feeling of reality is the best criterion for readability, this story is below average.
H. B. Fyfe has another of the Bureau of Slick Tricks pieces -- a novelette called Implode and Peddle. The plot is ho-humish; an exotic planetary version of Il Duce's sawdust empire is maneuvered into an internal turn-over, by means of slick tricks. A minimum number of sillyisms in dialogue and action, and pretty good stuff if you like your reading very light and fluffy.
Philip Latham (R. S. Richardson) carries the short, with To Explain Mrs. Thompson. "Mrs. Katzenjammer" appears in the Andromeda nebula and she causes, among other things, a recent widower to demand how his wife got up there. The story seems to say that science is better at satisfying our practical needs than trying to answer our metaphysical questions.
The second part of Hal Clement's Iceworld does not sustain the pleasant suspense of the first installment -- too much needless detail. This is another story which could benefit by liberal cutting. As is, it does not pack the wallop of Needle.
R. S. Richardson contributes what is possibly meant to be the feature piece of this issue, the article Making Worlds Collide. Sounds good, but conveys little information.
The Editor's Page attempts an intellectual definition of what is essentially a feeling matter: "justice." One might legitimately ask, "What has this to do with a science fiction magazine?"
ASTOUNDING , December 1951 .......................................................................................... Reviewed by Paul H. Finch
A novelette, two shorts, the conclusion of a serial and an article comprise this month's bill of fare. The novelette, Dune Roller by J. C. May is light but rather good. Its theme is another alien life-form from outer space, and has been more conclusively done, I think, by Campbell's Who Goes There? and Sturgeon's Killdozer! However, if you like the idea, done leisurely and somewhat lightly, this will provide a few minutes pleasant reading.
Irving E. Cox, Jr., has a short called Hell's Pavement which is a curious thing in one way; is it serious stf or satire? Personally, I think the latter, with the whole gamut of Galactic Empires, gadgetry, and other high-pressure stf in for a panning. But its opposite, or beyond-machine-civilization doesn't escape either. Reminiscent of Russell's recent " ... And Then There Were None."
The we-humans-are-being-watched-and-judged idea is presented by Chad Oliver in The Edge of Forever. Very well done, too. You should like it whether this idea interests you or not.
The conclusion of Hal Clement's Iceworld picks up the better qualities of the first installment, lacking in the second part. A good story and good Clement. As an aside, however, I think that Clement has about exhausted the detective-stf combination; a third one will sound more like the first two than they did.
The article deals with the First Atomic Pile by Allardice and Trapnell. It gives a good account of the development of the first nuclear fission reactor in Chicago in 1942.
This issue makes me feel more strongly that more attention should be paid to the FICTION in the magazine's title.
NEW WORLDS, Winter 1951 ................................................................................................... Reviewed by L. E. Brandt
The more I see of New Worlds the more I must admit that it is a fine little magazine. The one detracting item is that it is too small and, therefore, the stories too short to be fully developed. This could be overcome if the editor would only drop one or two stories.
To date, I have not read a bad story, nor have I read an exceptionally good one. The overall quality is high, but the outstanding story is still lacking.
The new issue is no exception. However, for good stories, well-written read New Worlds. As time goes by, the editor may develope the outstand-writer or the excellent story into the usual thing. All in all, much better than its American competition, with the exception of the big three.
FANTASTIC ADVENTURES, January 1952 ........................................................................ Reviewed by L. E. Brandt
The current FA is a perfect example of how low a magazine can sink. It has come a long way from when -- a few years ago -- good fantasies graced its pages.
This issue shows indifferent editing, insipid writing, jazzed up with sexy illustrations and an even sexier cover -- which epitomizes the theory that you can sell anything if you package it garishly enough. There is a passable short-short with a neat kicker, but hardly worth buying the magazine for.
Recommended for the sex-starved, children under ten, and microcephalics.
AMAZING STORIES, January 1952 .................................................................................... Reviewed by Roger Fowlks
This magazine has established a pattern of old plots, phoney gimmicks, and trick endings. This is typified by two of the stories in this issue, The Reluctant Traitor and C'mon-a My Planet. The first one had the following plot and gimmick. An Earth Colony on Mars is being misruled by a commission, which, having control of the organs of propaganda, makes the colony think they aren't being misruled, An Earth-like race on Mars (with those beautiful Martian women and beastlike Martian men) is about to be enslaved by the colony. Inevitably the young hero comes forth and saves the colony from the commission, and the Martians from the colony. He uses for the gimmick, some huge bats to which he has strung seats, and some weapons left with the Martians by some older, wiser race. The other story doesn't have a plot, just a trick ending; a rocket ship comes to Mars, the Martians have previously adopted Earth customs and language. The Captain is given the Martian President's daughter in marriage and finds out she has two heads. So what? The kind of superficial writing found in this magazine is not worth getting. I will admit that one of the short stories, No Greater Wisdom by Rog Phillips wasn't too bad; it had an idea, but it wasn't developed well. The Clubhouse, a regular feature by Rog Phillips, is good. It has a good idea, well developed. Conclusion; the magazine is still bad and definitely not worth the quarter it costs.
IMAGINATION, January 1952 ......................................................................................... Reviewed by Wallace Liggett
"The Most Horrible Story" by John W. Jakes is the one excellent story in this issue, and is also the shortest, about 1,500 words. Also worth reading is Sherwood Springer's "Alias a Woo-Woo." Plot (taken from C. S. Lewis' "The Hideous Strength?") concerns a perverted civilization about 200 years from now where people are so sensitive -- or rather so decadent -- that they can love only cleverly made replicas of the opposite sex. Except for our hero. Unfortunately the story is too brief and too superficially written to do justice to this theme and the complications thereof.
Aside from the above, an undistinguished cast of stories and letters best forgotten.
OTHER WORLDS, December, 1951 ................................................................................ Reviewed by Bernd Lambert
There are only one and a half readable stories in the December issue. The whole story is The Big Dealer, a short by William Bailey. It's an intelligent and funny yarn in which a natural born capitalist upsets the utopian economy of a world in which almost all things in life are free. The half of a readable story is a fine short-short, George O. Newman's Quandary.
The other two shorts and the two serials belong in a comic book. Just for the record, the serials are Act of Godd, Perpetrated by Richard Ashby, and Editor Palmer's own I Flew in a Flying Saucer, which is all about an ancient race in the moon that has the power of doing practically anything.
In an editorial done in his usual modest style, Palmer claims that fan groups include OTHER WORLDS in a list of the four top prozines. If he's right, then this issue certainly can't be representative.
MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, December, 1951
Reviewed by W. W. Wagner
This is a very difficult magazine to review -- if you like it, and I do. It is easy enough to say, if you like the space opera type of science-fiction, that most of the stories in most of the issues are fantasy, and it is equally easy to claim the reverse. My considered opinion is that this is a magazine for those who have considerable experience in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, and who like both the old and the new in both fields. Furthermore, I think that the reader who enjoys this magazine is one who prefers a certain degree of literacy in his fantasy and/or science fiction. This attitude can be called snobbery, and undoubtedly will be, and I have no defense to offer to such a charge, at least none that I can include here.
But, to get to the stories in this issue. In the science fiction category, they range from the excellent The Rats by Arthur Porges, a sort of up to date version of the immortal Leiningen versus the Ants to the rather silly The Universe Broke Down by Robert Arthur. In between there are the two humorous stories, Built Down Logically and The Hyperspherical Basketball, and the borderline tale, When the Last Gods Die.
Of the fantasy stories, The Haunted Ticker and The Earlier Service are definitely first class, and for those who dote on Americana, Wellman's O Ugly Bird is something not to be missed.
I am a bit puzzled by the inclusion of the self-styled pictoral essay Ganymedeus Sapiens, by Kenneth R. Deardorf. This might be in place in one of the southern California fan magazines, but seems far out of place in Fantasy and Science Fiction.
However, I like the magazine very much. I realize that there are some who disagree with me, and to them I can only point out that it is not mandatory to buy or read Fantasy and Science Fiction. I do both.
THRILLING WONDER STORIES - December, 1951 ............................................................. Reviewed by Hans Rusch
If this is, as we suspect, Merwin's last assembly, he must have been rather tired; the issue is rather uneven. The Fletcher Pratt novel, The Wanderer's Return (now available in hard cover under the title Double in Space (Doubleday: $2.75) wanders through 41 pages that are readable, but like water without Scotch, rather tasteless. Keyhole by Leinster is the best short in the issue.
GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL NO. 6 -- THE ALIEN -- ............................................ by Raymond F. Jones
Reviewed by Patrick Spens
Recently Raymond F. Jones has been called, "the poor man's Van Vogt." This reviewer cannot agree with that title, although he, too, feels powerful influences in Mr. Jones' works. Here, in The Alien, the models seem to be John Taine and E. E. Smith. This rather surprising dichotomy is possible since the novel consists of two distinct parts of almost equal length.
The first part, which is far more carefully written than the second, presents a most intriguing picture of future archeology among the artifacts of long dead aliens, along with several other features of interest. The second is a routine production, completing the plot situation set up in the first part in space epic style; lovers of Deaton and Kinnison take notice.
Here I wish to comment on a factor common to both parts. Semantics, Korzybskian General Semantics, to be exact. Not that this is to be construed as negative criticism. Science fiction may justifiably employ any undiscredited theory, even one I consider balderdash. But I wish to reiterate that a discipline, linguistics, exists and it treats just such knots as Semantics is employed to cut in The Alien.
Clearly, if any semantic theory is ever successfully applied to language problems, it will be as a tool of linguistics. Second, I might say, the bent of modern linguistics is toward the utter disassociation of meaning from language analysis. To the morbidly curious I refer Trager's review of Nida's Morphology in a recent issue of Language which says, in part, "... this is about as far as morphological analysis based on meaning can go, now ..." Those who are familiar with Nida's book will not notice any particular appeal to semantics in it. Of course, there is nothing to prevent modern linguistics from entering into the less productive of two alternate approaches, but ...
Anyone who has struggled with an even slightly exotic language, for example, Russian, will agree with me that the statement, " ... a true semanticist should be able to understand and converse in any alien language the first time he heard it," is pure wish fulfillment; far too many factors are randomly different from familiar language situations. With this I do not pretend to have demolished Jones' idea, but merely to have pointed out to the faithful that it is a low probability sort of prediction.
Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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