Galaxy v01n03, December 1950


ISFDB listing

Other Reviews:
Matthew Wuertz: Black Gate
Lähettänyt Tpi Klo: Tpi’s Reading Diary

Second Night of Summer • novelette by James H. Schmitz ♥♥♥
Judas Ram • short story by Sam Merwin, Jr. ♥
Jaywalker • short story by Ross Rocklynne
A Stone and a Spear • novelette by Raymond F. Jones ♥♥
The Waker Dreams • short story by Richard Matheson
Time Quarry (Part 3 of 3) • serial by Clifford D. Simak

Second Night of Summer • cover by Don Hunter
Interior artwork • by Don Hunter, James Vincent, Don Sibley, John Bunch, Paul Pierre, David Stone
Let’s Talk It Over • editorial by H. L. Gold
Galaxy’s Five Star Shelf • book reviews by Groff Conklin
Twenty-Foot Miss • essay by Willy Ley
Next Month’s Contents

I didn’t like Don Hunter’s cover for the first issue of Galaxy and I like this one even less. Not only is it as flat as its predecessor but it has badly drawn figures—look at the the faces of both of them, or the arms of the old lady. The dopey looking dinosaur at the back doesn’t help either. Hunter’s internal illustrations are better, i.e. they are OK, as are the rest; the best are by James Vincent.

The fiction opens with Second Night of Summer by James H. Schmitz. This was the third of his ‘Agent Vega’ stories, the first two of which had appeared in Astounding.1
The story itself concerns the colony planet of Noorhut, where strange blue lights have been appearing at night. After an initial section about this phenomenon the story cuts to Grimp, one of the colony children who is on the road waiting for ‘Grandma’ to arrive. She is ostensibly a travelling saleswoman, and her trailer is pulled by a rhinocerine ‘pony’—essentially a small armour-plated dinosaur. Unfortunately he meets a policeman, one of his many cousins, who has orders from the Guardian to stop her entering the community due to the upset the nocturnal lights has caused. After discussing—and disagreeing—on this, the talk turns to other matters. This section reminded me a little of Michael G. Coney:

“Some people,” Grimp said idly, staring down the valley road to the point where it turned into the woods, “would sneak after a person for days who’s caught a big werret, hoping he’d be dumb enough to go back to that pool.”
The policeman flushed and dabbed the handkerchief gingerly at his nose.
“Some people would even sit in a haystack and use spyglasses, even when the hay made them sneeze like crazy,” continued Grimp quietly.
The policeman’s flush deepened. He sneezed.
“But a person isn’t that dumb,” said Grimp. “Not when he knows there’s anyway two werrets there six inches bigger than the one he caught.” p.9

What neither of these two knows is that the blue lights are the prelude to an alien invasion that will have horrific consequences for the planet if it succeeds, and that Grandma isn’t who she seems:

She belonged to a powerful human organization whose activities extended throughout most of those sections of the Galaxy where Terra’s original colonies, and their branch-colonies, and branches of the branches, had grown down the centuries into new and independent civilizations. The role of the organization was that of watchdog for the safety of all, without regard for the often conflicting rulings and aims of individual governments; and sometimes that wider view made it necessary to take some very grim risks locally. Unfortunately, this was one of the times. p.17

If Grandma and her (talking) rhinocerine fail to prevent the invasion by the alien Halpa, there are eight spaceships in orbit that will incinerate the planet.

Judas Ram by Sam Merwin, Jr. is the first of three short stories and it is not an entirely successful mix of melodramatic adult relationships and an alien program to capture humans for breeding. The story starts with Roger and one of his three female mates arguing in the alien ‘cage’ they are kept in, a house with three wings.2 At the end of this section is the inference that the aliens are controlling their sexual urges:

He stood over her and looked down until she turned away her reddening face. He said, “So it’s going to be you again, Dana. You’ll be the first to come back for a second run.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she replied angrily. She sat up, pushed back her hair, got to her feet a trifle awkwardly because of the tight-fitting tubular gown. “If I could do anything about it . . .”
“But you can’t,” he told her. ‘‘They’re too clever.”
“Is this crop rotation or did you send for me?” she asked cynically. “If you did, I wish you hadn’t. You haven’t asked about your son.”
“I don’t even want to think about him,” said Tennant. “Let’s get on with it.” He could sense the restless stirring of the woman within Dana, just as he could feel the stirring toward her within himself—desire that both of them loathed because it was implanted within them by their captors. They walked toward the house. p.34

Later, after Roger has been with Dana and also had a meal with the three women, he is sent for by Opal, one of the aliens. It takes him back to Earth to help capture another male.
The next section finds him back at his marital home with his wife and her new partner, Cass. After his eighteen-month absence much melodrama ensues. Roger subsequently attempts to draw Cass to the alien gateway, but as they are travelling there he realises his wife’s new partner is going to try and kill him. Roger tries to use this fact to his advantage against Opal as they arrive at the gateway.
None of this is very convincing but the story is perhaps notable for its early adult take on human sexual mores, and the use of the word ‘bastard’ twice on page forty-five.
Jaywalker by Ross Rocklynne follows the domestic melodrama of the last story with… more domestic melodrama. Not a very good example of magazine construction.
This one reads like a 1950’s idea of a 2050’s womens’ magazine story. It focuses on Marcia, who is married to a spaceship captain. They are going through a rough patch so to get his attention she boards one of his flights but using someone else’s medical validation. A medical examination is required as free-fall with certain medical conditions can be fatal:

“Apparently some instinctual part of the mind reacts as if there were a violent emergency, when no emergency is recognized by the reasoning part of the mind. There are sudden floods of adrenalin; the 17-kesteroids begin spastic secretions; the—well, it varies in individuals. But it’s pretty well established that the results can be fatal. It kills men with prostate trouble—sometimes. It kills women in menopause—often. It kills women in the early stages of pregnancy—always.” p.59

Marcia is pregnant, needless to say, and is informed of these perils after she reveals her identity and condition to Sue the stewardess. Her husband is informed and returns to the cockpit to perform calculations to spin up the ship to provide artificial gravity. Meanwhile, Marcia spends her time being jealous of Sue and listening to her info-dumps:

“But I haven’t told you the toughest part of it yet,” Miss Eagen went on inexorably. “A ship as massive as this, spinning on its long axis, is a pretty fair gyroscope. It doesn’t want to turn. Any force that tries to make it turn is resisted at right angles to the force applied. When that force is applied momentarily from jets, as they swing into position and away again, the firing formulas get—well, complex. And the ship’s course and landing approach are completely new. Instead of letting the ship fall to the Moon, turning over and approaching tail-first with the main jets as brakes, Captain McHenry is going to have to start the spin first and go almost the whole way nose-first. He’ll come up on the Moon obliquely, pass it, stop the spin, turn over once to check the speed of the ship, and once again to put the tail down when the Moon’s gravity begins to draw us in. There’ll be two short periods of free-fall there, but they won’t be long enough to bother you much. And if we can do all that with the fuel we’ve got, it will be a miracle. A miracle from the brain of Captain McHenry.” p.60

With passages like this, and its idiot The Cold Equations passenger, this should really have been an Astounding story.
Finally, there is no explanation as to why they didn’t heavily sedate her instead of putting themselves in jeopardy: not as exciting I suspect.3
The third short story is The Waker Dreams by Richard Matheson. A man is woken from sleep in the far-future to go and battle aliens that would otherwise destroy the machinery of his city. After a briefing, and accompanied by his own personal nurse in case he is stung by the aliens, he sets off to do battle. Three-quarters of the way through (spoiler) it turns out that this is only a dream induced by a doctor: the only way the future state can get people to maintain the city is if they disguise routine activities such as rust-removal in drug-induced adventures.
The first section is told in the second person, which adds nothing to what is an unconvincing ‘then I woke up and found it was all a dream’ story.

The other novelette is A Stone and a Spear by Raymond F. Jones. This story has a Dr Curtis Johnson visiting Dr Dell, an old colleague from his bio-weapons team who has become a fruit and vegetable farmer for pacifist reasons. When Curtis and his wife arrive they meet a cadaverous retainer called Brown and there are other unusual signs, odd-coloured soil, etc. When Curtis and Dell talk later on, the latter refuses to come back to the team and describes his work at the farm. He goes to bed early as he is feeling unwell and later that night collapses, letting Curtis know he has more to tell him. He sends Curtis for help.
On the back road out of the farm Curtis comes to a building and is detained by a strange group of men. It materialises (spoiler) that they are scientists from a catastrophic future who have been sent back to alter the past by changing the nature of mankind:

“We operate hundreds of gardens and farms such as Dell’s. We work through the fertilizing compounds we supply to these farms. These compounds contain chemicals that eventually lodge in the cells of those who eat the produce. They take up stations within the brain cells and change the man—or destroy him.”
“Certain cells of the brain are responsible for specific characteristics. Ways of altering these cells were found by introducing minute quantities of specific radioactive materials which could be incorporated into vegetable foods. During the Third War wholesale insanity was produced in entire populations by similar methods. Here, we are using it to accomplish humane purposes.”

Of course the plot of this story is a little ridiculous, and for most of its length it felt as if it was going to be a ‘null points’ rating. What saves it from this is a particular bleakness of vision about the thinly disguised Cold War arms race depicted in the story and its ultimate result. This is evident from the very start of the story with an explanation of the title:

“That crack about the weapons after the next war. He—whoever it was—said there may be some doubt about what the weapons of the next war will be like, but there is absolutely no doubt about the weapons of World War IV. It will be fought with stones and spears. I guess any one of us could have said it.” p.68

The last of the fiction, and taking up quite a chunk of the magazine, is Time Quarry, the serial by Clifford D. Simak.4 Although I was reasonably entertained by the first couple of parts, the synopsis shows how ridiculous the plot is although, I admit, this can be said for a lot of magazine serial synopses.
In this final part, our hero spends a decade in the twentieth century, then goes to the future for a chat with the megalomaniac Trevor (more a name for an accountant than a villain, but perhaps it was strange and exotic in the early 1950s) before being knocked unconscious/killed for the third time. There is the a lot more talk about the human/android conflict until Sutton eventually leaves to write his book about Destiny.
Not only does this novel not bear rereading nowadays, I doubt that much was thought of this when it was originally published.

The non-fiction is the usual triptych of editorial, book review and science column. Horace Gold’s editorial, Let’s Talk It Over, reports on sell-out sales and also on the reader’s yeas and nays from their letters. This seems a strange way for this particular editor to put a magazine together—one would have thought that he had as strong a view on this as he did on the fiction. One reader comment concerning the cover artwork made me smile though: ‘One lone and evidently lonely man wanted nudes. Outvoted.’
Galaxy’s Five Star Shelf by Groff Conklin is short but informative. Amongst other things it includes a recommendation of Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+:

I admit that I approached the book with some trepidation, fearing that the writing and the concepts would be so amateur and so hoary with age that it would be unreadable. True enough, the plot is old-hat and the style is awkward—and even so “Ralph” is thoroughly delightful.
It is more like the last of the Jules Verne novels than the first of the modern period of science fiction, and in that lies its greatest merit, I believe. It has the genuine charm of a sound, workmanlike antique, plus the often astonishing survival value of successful prophecy. You will not be disappointed with this tale.

It also entertainingly ridicules Frank Scully’s Behind the Flying Saucers, #9 on the October 8th, 1950 New York Times’ list of best sellers:

The spice in Scully’s barbecue is an analysis of what he believes to be the saucers’ motive power, which turns out to be interplanetary magnetism. This is the product of a new science which has learned how to cut the magnetic lines of force holding the planets and the Sun in position and “thus” (says Scully) makes possible travel in space at speeds as high as 282,000 miles per second—and the back of the Scully hand to Dr. Einstein. p.64

Twenty-Foot Miss by Willy Ley is another warmongering article, this time on mines, shells, missiles and the different type of proximity fuzes in them.

In conclusion, a fairly mediocre issue, and more evidence to support the proposition that Galaxy got off to a slow start as a magazine.

  1. ‘Agents of Vega’ at ISFDB.
  2. I wonder if Kurt Vonnegut read this before writing Slaughterhouse Five.
  3. The other option would be for Captain McHenry to put his pregnant wife out the airlock and take up with Sue the stewardess, but that is probably the misogynist in me talking.
  4. Time Quarry had its book publication as Time and Again, 1951. The book version has a slightly different ending.

Leave a Reply