Mag Review: Galaxy (December, 1961)

Greetings all

This week I’m reading through the Galaxy, Vol. 20, No. 2, of December, 1961. It’s got a story by Poul Anderson that I’m looking forward to, and I always wonder what Willy Ley had to say. Also of note is that Frederik Pohl is the editor, and of course I always think of him as a writer. I loved the Heechee series.

As I grabbed the links for Pohl and the Heechee series, I noticed that Gateway was also originally published in Galaxy starting in November of 1976. That issue was edited by Jim Baen. Ah, the fascinating trail of science fiction publishing.

Galaxy (December, 1961)
Cover of Galaxy (December, 1961)

Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58679

Anyway, the initial editorial is by Pohl. It’s a fun one about the size of the galaxy and the possibility of alien life. Also, he talks about some planetary conjunctions.

There are all sorts of time capsule moments when reading these books and Pohl provides one. He says that Jupiter is “monarch of more than a dozen moons. (p. 7)” Right now we know of 79 moons around Jupiter. Yep, that’s definitely more than a dozen.

The issue’s first story is The Day After Doomsday by Poul Anderson. The story begins with a starship returning after a three-year mission to find the Earth destroyed. Carl Donnan is the one man who keeps his head, barely, and he tries to lead the 300 men of the ship’s crew to find those who killed his world and maybe even find some of humanity’s other spaceships. If he gets dead lucky he can find one with women on it and humanity can survive.

The story is fantastic. I’d be on pins and needles waiting for the next issue to show up in my mailbox. There are a couple of data dumps, but the rest of it is fast-paced and full of action. Aliens and politics. Ship battles. A mystery. Clues hidden here and there. And the possibility of answers more deadly than the crimes.

Fun stuff. I’m looking forward to the conclusion.

Next we have Miriam Allen deFord’s Oh, Rats. DeFord is not an author I’ve read before, though she wrote in both of my two favorite fictional areas, SF/F and mystery.

This is a twist on the Flowers for Algernon idea. SK540 is a super-rat engineered in a lab. Unfortunately, the engineering was too successful. He understands what is going on, leads an escape from the lab of his choice of the other rats, and then takes them to the house of one of the scientists.

Then he leads a fairly diabolical campaign against the scientist and his wife. He tricks them into befriending him and keeping him secret for the moment. Then he reveals that he has impregnated two other lab rats and the scientist realizes that it’s a war.

But he realizes it too late. SK540 has used rat poison (nice irony from deFord there) to kill the scientist and his wife. The story ends with the note that it’s the tale of the founder of their race and the end of humans.

This is a great story in many ways. I love the twist at the end. Yet, I’ve sat here for a bit to figure out why I detest it and I think I have the answer. SK540 wins because the wife recognizes him as a person and treats him nicely. I don’t like characters that take advantage of people being nice, so I simply can’t want him to win, not that way.

However, despite my dislike of the result, I can’t help but admire the quality of the work.

We move on to Willy Ley’s monthly essay. This one focuses on Dragons and Hot Air Balloons. In it, he talks about the possibility that the Chinese candle balloons are ancient. His argument is that they are not because Western travelers would have spoken about them prior to the 18th-century. I’m not sure I buy his argument completely, but that’s mostly because I wonder what research has occurred since 1961. He talks about the possibility that dragon banners might have been early balloons, but dismisses that too. He does so based on weight/volume ratio of the long tail.

His last segment discusses some of the biggest guns in history. He details the ones we know of and if they fired. Interesting stuff.

Then we move to Joy Leache’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. I don’t know much about her. She only had three stories published and I can’t find much about her on the internet.

This is a cute little story that where an account administrator from a promotions company is sent to a small planet to figure out something it can export so it can join the Galactic Empire. They have to have something they can contribute before getting accepted.

The problem is they have no resources. They aren’t artists. Their planet isn’t terribly attractive. As a species, the Felicians are attractive. They look like leprechauns, and they could get by setting up a tourist industry to take advantage of that. However, that would be demeaning and likely to lead to their extinction.

The get the promoter drunk, and while he’s drunk his steno, the real hero of the story, manages to figure out that the Felicians are excellent cobblers. So they set up a method to sell the shoes and it seems like the problem is at an end.

However, the Felician shoes don’t wear out and they only produce one style per species. Any others would be inefficient and demeaning for the leprechauns. That means the sales dry up within a few years.

So they go back to Felix to figure out a new plan. While there, the steno breaks a tooth. The Felicians don’t have teeth, ergo no dentists, so she has to go elsewhere. When she comes back she realizes that the Felicians, with their small size and skilled, dexterous fingers, would make excellent dentists.

It’s a cute story, but limited. It’s the kind of thing that suggests a promising author-in-training. Unfortunately, the was Leache’s last published story that I know of. Too bad.

Next is Algis Budrys’s Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night. All I can say is wow! This was an amazing story about a media mogul getting to the top of the heap, so he thinks. However, his rival has gotten advanced tech from the ancient and dying Martian race to ruin him.

The tech essentially creates a sort of virtual reality, but with less on the virtual and more on the reality. It allows someone to essentially program a person’s future within broad guidelines. In this case, the mogul’s rival curses him with an adventure that will end with sorrow and pain.

Much of the story is the mogul trying to escape this doom. He kills his rival, sort of. However, the Martian tech keeps him alive as a sort of zombie to follow the mogul and push him into wilder and wilder bad decisions. To ruin his life. Very Shakespearean.

The Martian tech succeeds and the mogul dies at the end of the story. However, he leaves behind the seeds of his revenge by using the tech on the guild agent who eventually kills him. These agents are surgically altered to make incorruptible by removing their ability to feel, or taste, or enjoy much of anything. It’s sort of like a Blade Runner thing where they are changed into replicants and can’t ever go back to being human.

The mogul’s revenge is to change this one back. Suddenly, he can feel centuries of things he’s seen and done. And now he goes back to get his vengeance and the mogul’s.

Fantastic. Would make a great movie. And, as you can see from the ISFDB, it’s been republished a number of times. Find it if you can.

To fill out the final page of Wall of Crystal, there’s an ad for one of those book clubs. I could get 6 books for $2, including stuff from Asimov, Leinster, Farmer, Anderson, Aldiss, van Vogt, and a bunch of others. Here, take my money.

The next story is Rainbird by R.A. Lafferty. Lafferty’s an inventive writer, and this is a good example.

“Inventive” jumped to mind as this story is about an inventor who is greater than da Vinci. At the end of his life, he laments about all the things he meant to improve but never did. He has done amazing things, like wiring Philadelphia for electricity in 1799, but there’s some much else to do. So, he invents a time machine and goes back to himself while his younger self was hawking.

He lays out to his younger self a huge amount of information, to which that version of himself listens intently. The younger version puts away the joys of hawks and falcons, and invents at an incredible pace. Even gets us to Mars by 1830. However, when he is 85, he curses himself for being an idiot as he has never quite gotten around to corporeal immortality. He decides to go back to yet another younger version and impress upon him the importance of immortality to allow him to achieve all that he wants and needs to.

But this younger version is distracted by the hawk and the falcon and the joys of life. Now he is remembered for a number of useful things like a safer nutmeg grater and better wedge for splitting logs. And this one never figures out the time machine and never can do anything about all the things he meant to do someday.

Very good story, but with a limitation. It’s oddly structured in that it is almost pure exposition. This structure works, though, and you get caught up into it. It needs more of the main character doing, though, to become great.

Next we get to Floyd C. Gale’s review section. The most interesting review is that of The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes. As far as I can tell, it’s the first SF version of Holmes and includes authors like Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Anderson, and H. Beam Piper.

I had never heard of this anthology before, and it’s no wonder. It’s not published anymore, and the only places I found it was ABEBooks where I could get it for $75 or $150. No Amazon or ebook.

I’m not a huge collector of things, but this may just happen anyway.

The next story is An Old Fashioned Bird Christmas by Margaret St. Clair. St. Clair is another author I haven’t been exposed to much, which is too bad. She’s an interesting person and writer.

But I don’t think this was her best story. She was Wiccan, and this story is a melange of Christian, Norse, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, Native American, and other mythologies combined with an evil time traveling company from 3000 AD fighting over when and how to use electricity.

The main character is a reverend who wants to return to simpler, more traditional Christmas’s. One way to do that is to avoid using electric lights and rely on candles, firelight, etc. His wife is beautiful, but she was a spy implanted by the electric company to get him to stop preaching against using electrical lights after dark.

If that all seems complex, it is, and the melange has too many elements. She loves Easter Eggs, and I’ll bet most of what’s in here exists because “So-and-so will love this!” I’m not unfamiliar with the vast majority of the mythology she uses, but it whizzes by so fast I can’t quite connect all the pieces together to make the story really work for me.

I’m also not entirely fond of the ending. In the end, he wins, and a great beings says, “You want an old-time Christmas, you can have it.” The last scene is the reverend, now converted to a Druid, getting ready to sacrifice a number of Christians in honor of the winter solstice. The main character, who is a good man that you root for, then becomes evil. I love endings that aren’t happy.

Had he been the Christian sacrificed and faced his ending with pride and honor, I’d have loved it. He’d have won, though he’d have died. In this case, he’s corrupted into evil through no fault of his own, only the great evil deus ex machina making him murderous. That’s too heavy-handed for me to enjoy.

Next we get to The Watery Wonders of Captain Nemo by Theodore L. Thomas. This is actually a long form review of 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaThomas’s main criticism is that Jules Verne’s science is awful. He didn’t look for the technology given the submarine advances that had already been made when he wrote the story in 1870. He didn’t double-check the viability of the scientific-sounding things he says in the novel. Furthermore, we may think he advanced submarine science with his ideas, but Thomas points out that what readers think is there is not, actually, there. Batteries for the Nautilus, for example.

However, Thomas loves the way Verne tells stories. He might have missed some tech that was available to him, but he captures us in such a way that even an expert glosses over things. He calls it “non-science,” though a good story.

The last story is William W. Stuart’s The Little Man Who Wasn’t Quite. I don’t know anything about Stuart and there’s not much to find about him. I will say I wish he’d written more.

This story is about a guy who pulled himself up from the gutter, but he goes back from time to time to remind himself what he once was. While there, he meets two men, one large and obvious, and the other so withdrawn as to be almost invisible.

Turns out the withdrawn man is sliding from this universe to the next. He’s not really a part of this place, and this place is not really a part of him. That means that only people who are out of touch of this place, like those on skid row, can even see him. The main character can only see him when he’s visiting skid row, but not when he’s back at his job and real life with a newspaper.

The withdrawn man leaves, saying he’s found some other friends, so he disappears. He comes back to introduce his friend and the friend is terrifying. He has a form that seems to embody a sort of Platonic Ideal of the viewer’s greatest terror. Spiders, snakes, heights, whatever.

The terrifying creature says that’s the way it always goes and the withdrawn man promises to come back with more of them. The main character and the large man hope that the withdrawn man is so connected to the large man that if he cannot connect to the large man, he can’t get back. So the main character helps the large man succeed in society and escape skid row, where the terror lies.

Great story that catches you almost immediately even though there’s not much action, just a vague hint that yanks at your curiosity for a time until you can’t get away.

This was a very good issue. The worst story might simply be the worst because of my taste, and others might find it excellent. To me, that’s a great compliment for magazine.

Next Week’s Issue:  Astounding Science Fiction of March 1961.


If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: rob@robhowell.org.

If you want to see previous reviews, the Mag Review category is here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=432.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: A.M. Freeman

Greetings all

This week’s interview is A.M. Freeman, a really sharp cookie who likes to dress up like a cow every once in a while. Don’t let that fool you, she’s udderly brilliant.

Interview: A.M. Freeman

What is your quest?

To share the stories that build up in my head and preserve my sanity. (or whats left of it)

What is your favorite color?

My color is green. Green is the color of growth. I like to take a spark and work and mold it until it is a fire that others can be warmed by and enjoy. I’ve found my way to do that is to list the ideas from the spark, do research to get more ideas, then organize them. I think over the setting, the people, the conflicts, what motivations goals there are. I group them into rough scenes, like making a skeleton. I keep molding, filling out and adding flesh to the scenes, until the story and actions are clear. Then I form it, adding the skin, hair, eyes, the details so that everyone else can see and understand. Then I beat it over and over and over again, until the shape and textures are just right. At last my Golem is complete! And I set it out on the masses! Muhahaha!!!

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Sloooooow. I like to say I can’t read or write, I’m just good at telling stories. In truth, I couldn’t read until I was 10. That hasn’t stopped me much, just provided some hilarious spelling mix-ups. I’m not too slow at writing, just reading. There was also the time I lost ALL the editing on a novel I was trying to write. I’m talking months spent going over the entire 100 pages. Then, the very day I finish the edits, the file goes corrupt. This was before I started constantly saving my projects in multiple places. So the last saved version of the story I had was before I started editing. So I lost all that work, plus about ten pages off the end. That was cripplingly painful. But after taking a break I got back to it and pushed on.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

It bursts forth characters. They like to pop into myself. I feel like I can translate emotions pretty well, giving others a chance to feel them. The most emotional story I’ve written is probably my most well known (relatively speaking since I’ve only got short stories out so far) I’m not even sure how much credit I can take for that story. It was a very strange and inspired story that came to me late one night when I was 15. But my technique was strong enough to convey it, so I’ll take that. It was my first publication, at the age of 18. Came out in a little (and by little I mean epic) anthology called Forbidden Thoughts. Look it up!

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Miss Piggy! That sass tho….
  • Favorite Sports Team? Pink Panthers! I was the star goalie back in my glory days.
  • Cake or Pie? Piecaken It’s a pie baked into a cake.
  • Lime or Lemon? Limon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? The tasty kind, just nothing too spicy.
  • Wet or Dry? Depends on the weather
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ellie Lawrence!!! We grew up in the same neighborhood. She was on season 9 of the voice. Has a real cool voice and style, and has an EP out somewhere called “If you Knew Me”
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Underaged!
  • Favorite Superhero? Wonder Woman
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? …. I don’t know any.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Anything that isn’t winter! I’m  Florida born, and my skinny body can’t handle the cold.
  • Favorite Pet? My mustang! She’s a pretty buckskin. Got her at 10 months old, from the wild and untouched by humans, and trained her myself. She’s about 5 now. We like to ride around the pasture bareback.
  • Best Game Ever? Ugh! You just made me lose it!
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, even through it makes me crazy sometimes.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Both, at the same time, rolled into a big ball of awesome, with cool technology and fantastic people/creatures.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Have you ever seen a chicken run around without it’s head? (I have, it’s pretty funny, almost cartoonish)

Rob’s Answer: Nope. For a guy who’s mostly a Kansas boy, I haven’t spent much time on farms. My headless chickens have all involved BBQ sauce, sesame oil, or and/or rosemary.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

  • LibertyCon Spring of 2019. I’ll be legal to drink then! So things should get interesting. (Rob’s Note: The Four Horsemen Universe party at LC is going to get lit! And her too!)

 

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked how Muse is today. My imaginary cat gets very cranky when people don’t give him attention. (Rob’s Note: Cats don’t have to be imaginary to get cranky without attention. My office cat has been biting me as I type this entry. Like now! Ouch!)


Thanks to A.M. for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

Interview: RJ Ladon

I’m way behind in doing interviews. Blame it on #FourHorsetober and the dozens I did during the month.

But it’s time to get back on the horse. This week, R.J. Ladon is joining me. She, too, is part of the 4HU, but I couldn’t squeeze her interview in during the month. My apologies to her for the delay.

Interview: RJ Ladon

What is your quest?

To cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring! When I was young (8-9ish) Gary Gygax purchased our family Arabian horse ranch. He gave my siblings and I, “Dungeons and Dragons” books and modules. He even played a short game with us noobs so we could understand what D&D was all about. I learned from him that some of the most interesting and entertaining stories, creatures, and environments come from your mind. Years later, I learned who that Gygax fellow was, and how important he was to my journey, er quest.

What is your favorite color?

Yellow, no blue. You know the adage “write what you know”? Well, I had to sacrifice many children to my Nerf Guns to make the “foam dart scene” come to life. I try to learn the “how” of the things I write about. The hands-on experiences of the SCA and Rendezvous groups have been excellent. Write what you know–if you don’t know–go learn, go experience. (Rob’s Note: I really appreciate how my SCA experience helps me add touches to my writing, especially with medieval materials and food).

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Would that paint brush be male or female? Where do I start. My biggest challenge was, and to some extent still is–finding time. The only way for me to get over this copout was to schedule time into my busy day. In effect treat writing like a job–you have to do this or you won’t get paid.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’ve been told my scenes are easy to read and understand. Like watching a movie inside my brain. Not sure that is a success or not but it makes me happy.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?   Sweetums
  • Crunchy or Creamy? sure
  • Favorite Sports Team? I don’t have time for sports.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake
  • Lime or Lemon?  Why not both
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Hot salsa
  • Wet or Dry?  TMI
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Ofhttps://www.tartanic.net/ Drums, Bagpipes and Belly Dancers – what else do you need?
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Not without Tango and Foxtrot
  • Favorite Superhero? The Tick
  • Steak Temperature? How about some chicken?
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Fantasy Island – no M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Yes please. All seasons have their merits.
  • Favorite Pet?  Too many to choose from–someone would get jealous.
  • Best Game Ever? Blood of Heroes!!!! (Rob’s Note: Somewhere, my friend Pavel is smiling at this response. Then he’s punching an angel and saying, “The level of violence in this heaven is too low).
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Wait…is there a difference?

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

I understand you are a wealth of knowledge of the Myth and Culture of Renaissance and Medieval time periods. Where did you learn this information? School? Books? Other? Please explain.

Rob’s Answer: Yes to all of it. I loved Bullfinch’s Mythology as a kid and prowled through every Arthur thing I could find. At around 10 I read Tolkien, then stumbled on Susan Cooper’s The Tide Is Rising series. Somewhere along the way I realized that reading Beowulf and epic poetry out loud was magical and amazing.

So when I had the choice of what to study in grad school, I chose Anglo-Saxon England. Not only was wallowing in Beowulf, the Wanderer, Anglo-Saxon riddles, and all the rest fun, but there’s good solid historical evidence hidden in them. That meant reading more and more myth and legend to find small nuggets of cultural gold. I still do that.

And yes, that helps me build worlds, both because it gives me extra tools and because it’s so much fun. Shijuren is a deep, rich world that I’ve barely started to show to all my readers.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And where can we find you?

  • Liberty Con 2019– May 31st to June 2nd at the Read House in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Do you have a creator biography?

My name is RJ Ladon. I’m a Design Engineer by trade. I’m also an author. I have contributed one Military Science Fiction story to the best-selling Science Fiction Anthology ‘Tales from the Lyons Den: Stories from the Four Horsemen Universe’, and two horror stories to ‘Sha’Daa Toys’. Currently, I’m writing ‘Bloodstone’ a Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel. ‘Bloodstone’ will be the first in a series, and released in early 2019.

I’m a native of Wisconsin, where I still live today, with my husband, daughter, two adult sons, and a menagerie of animals. I also maintain a vast garden, and a fruit and nut orchard.


Thanks to RJ for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell