Galaxy Science Fiction v01n06, March 1951


ISFDB link:

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

The Wind Between the Worlds • novelette by Lester del Rey
The Other Now • short story by Murray Leinster ♥♥
Good Night, Mr. James • novelette by Clifford D. Simak ♥
Socrates • short story by John Christopher ♥♥
Tyrann (Part 3 of 3) • serial by Isaac Asimov

The Wind Between the Worlds • cover by Don Sibley
Interior artwork • Don Sibley, Phil Bard, Peter Burchard, John Bunch
Consensus • editorial by H. L. Gold
Missiles Over the Sea • essay by Willy Ley
Next Month’s Contents Page

After last month’s issue I was hopeful that this might have signalled a sea-change in the general quality of the fiction in Galaxy but it was not to be. This is probably one of the poorest issues yet, so let me be as brief as I can.

The Wind Between the Worlds by Lester del Rey starts off with Vic and Pat, male and female matter transmission engineers on a repair job. After a page of them we the get a two and a half page data dump about the discovery of matter transmission and a subsequent contact with, and admission to, a Galactic Council of many alien worlds. Shortly after we rejoin Vic and Pat, one of the transmitters gets stuck open and the Earth’s air starts vanishing. This is a difficult problem to sort:

Continuous transmittal had never been used, to her knowledge; there was no certainty about what would happen. Once started, no outside force could stop a transmitter; the send and stop controls were synchronous, both tapped from a single crystal, and only that proper complex waveform could cut it off. It now existed as a space-strain, and the Plathgolians believed that this would spread, since the outer edges transmitted before matter could reach the center, setting up an unbalanced resonance that would make the force field grow larger and larger. Eventually, it might spread far beyond the whole building. p.14

Del Rey subsequently runs through a number of contrived situations until, I guess, he got tired of typing or had produced enough to fill the hole that Horace Gold had in this issue or whatever: they drive tanks into the storm force winds at the transmitter but cannot reach the jammed portal, bombs are dropped, trips to alien worlds are undertaken, Vic and Pat get together romantically, etc. Eventually (spoiler) they link a whole lot of transmitters round in a loop.
Although this is all cheerily enough done, not for one moment does this feel like anything other than a potboiler written to pay the bills, which is fine, but at almost forty pages he more than outstays his welcome.1 I note in passing a couple of cultural changes: when the bureaucrat in charge of the matter transmitter answers the videophone he has a bottle of liquor on his desk; when Vic suffers from tiredness during the emergency he resorts to Benzedrine to keep himself awake.

The Other Now by Murray Leinster is about Jimmy, who has lost his wife in a car accident. One night as he enters his house there is a slight dislocation and it seems to him that he has to open the door twice. Later there are other phenomena: he finds cigarette stubs in an ashtray—of the kind his wife used to smoke, and there is a recent diary entry by her that he reads but which later disappears. As you have probably guessed this is a story of two parallel worlds temporarily merging and ends up having the twists you would expect. It is competently done.

The other novelette in this issue is Good Night, Mr. James by Clifford D. Simak. This starts with a man waking up not knowing who he is or how he got there. After a slow couple of pages he eventually remembers who he is and what he is supposed to be doing:

The puudly had escaped and that was why he was here, hiding on the front lawn of some unsuspecting and sleeping citizen, equipped with a gun and a determination to use it, ready to match his wits and the quickness of brain and muscle against the most bloodthirsty, hate-filled thing yet found in the Galaxy. p.68

Despite hunting something that sounds like a child’s toy he eventually finds the ‘puddly’ in a zoo and kills it. Before it dies the creature reveals to him that he is a ‘duplicate’ person who will be disposed of when he returns to ‘his’ house. He returns there to assesses the situation nevertheless, and there is a twist ending and a subsequent twist beyond that.
All the ‘duplicate’ stuff is completely unconvincing—as if you could just bring another human being into the world and snuff them out when you were finished with them.

I have a bit of a soft spot for John Christopher so I probably scored Socrates higher than I should have given it has a contrived end and a horrific, off-putting beginning:

I heard the squeals from the direction of the caretaker’s cottage. I’m fond of animals and hate to hear them in pain, so I walked through the gate into the cottage yard. What I saw horrified me.
Jennings, the caretaker, was holding a young puppy in his hand and beating its head against the stone wall. At his feet were three dead puppies, and as I came through the gate he tossed a fourth among them, and picked up the last squirming remnant of the litter.

The narrator senses potential in this unusual dog, one of a litter that has been inadvertently exposed to X-rays, and offers to buy him. Jennings agrees but later reneges on the deal when he learns of Socrates’ intelligence. Later, the dog is used by Jennings in a music hall act. Once the narrator tracks down Socrates it regularly leaves Jennings and comes to the narrator who learns it can speak. The narrator reads to it between efforts at convincing him to leave the abusive Jennings.
It all comes to a rather pat ending (spoiler) with a drunk Jennings at a raging waterfall. I liked the middle section, which references Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, but it is really one of those creaky stories you can find in earlier issues of New Worlds magazine. I think Christopher was probably Galaxy’s first UK contributor and the British voice is quite distinctive.

Tyrann by Isaac Asimov comes to a conclusion in this issue, thank Ghod. The first couple of chapters drag as they organise themselves to go to the rebel planet and subsequently depart. The pace is not helped by snippets of cosmology and sexual tension like this:

Approximately 95% of habitable planets in the Galaxy circled stars of spectral types F or G; diameter from 750 to 1500 thousand miles, surface temperature from five to ten thousand centigrade. Earth’s sun was G-0, Rhodia’s F-8, Lingane’s G-2, as was that of Nephelos. F-2 was a little warm, but not too warm. p.117

Her dress was a smooth, unfigured white which folded in a smooth drape that fled before the wind. The semi-transparent sleeves whipped back against her arms, turning them to silver.
For a moment, Biron melted dangerously. He wanted to return quickly; to run, leap into the ship, grasp her so that his fingers would leave bruises on her shoulders; feel his lips meet hers—

They eventually arrive at an oxygen bearing planet where they go down to the surface. Here there is some physical and info-dump/talking head action. Eventually (spoiler) the Tyranni Commissioner Aratap turns up and there is an interestingly gruesome scene where The Autarch/Jonti is killed:

But the Autarch’s right shoulder and half his chest had been blasted away. Grotesquely, the forearm dangled freely from its magnetized sheath. Fingers, wrist and elbow ended in black ruin. For a long moment, it seemed that the Autarch’s eyes flickered as his body remained in crazy balance, and then they were glazed and he dropped and was a charred remnant upon the floor.
Artemisia buried her face against Biron’s chest. Biron forced himself to look once, firmly and without flinching, at the body of his father’s murderer, then turned his eyes away. Hinrik, from a distant corner of the room, mumbled and giggled to himself.
Only Aratap was calm. He said, “Remove the body.”
They did so, flaring the floor with a soft heat-ray for a few moments to remove the blood. Only a few scattered char-marks were left.

There is more shuffling of characters after this but the only thing of interest in the last part is that Hinrik explains he has the missing document mentioned earlier:

And with Rhodia’s sun bright on the visiplate, Hinrik began with those words that were older, far older, than the civilization of any of the planets in the Galaxy save one: “ ‘We, the people of the United States’—but substitute the United Galaxy—‘in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . .’ ” p.160

The idea that a set of principles on a piece of paper could bring down a galactic empire probably wasn’t as parochial or ridiculous in 1950’s American as it is now.2

As for the non-fiction this issue, the cover by Don Sibley is quite bland, and of the interior artwork my favourites are by Phil Bard.3
The editorial by Horace Gold, Consensus, is quite an interesting one as he gives a breakdown on what active fans versus the more general readership want from the magazine, noting that policies have historically been influenced by the former group. The characteristics of the magazine they agree on include the size (90%+, ‘the pulp format is a relic of the 1920s and should properly be displayed alongside illuminated manuscripts’), articles (87%, every other issue 79%), editorials (‘all but 0.03% and myself for’), serials (no percentage but Gold will run a ‘complete stories issue’ between them); the divergences are on letters (83% want no letter department, ‘this is not minimizing the value of fandom,’ ‘letters of special interest will be discussed editorially’), story ratings (wanted by fans and writers, and to keep the latter group happy he will rate them in editorials twice a year with his comments), fan coverage (‘almost a 100% of the vote was against’). He finishes with a note about the introduction of halftone reproduction of photographs and wash drawings.
The other piece of non-fiction in this issue (Groff Conklin is ill) is Missiles Over the Sea by Willy Ley, which is an article that uses a film called The Flying Missile to discuss missile technology, in particular a US development of the German V1 rocket called the ‘Loon,’ which is capable of submarine launch. These military technology articles, while interesting, seem a bit at odds with the rest of the magazine.

An issue to miss, even if you have started the serial.

  1. Needless to say The Wind Between the Worlds was anthologised once in 1954 and never again seen except in author collections.
  2. This ‘missing document’ sub-plot is probably the one that was foisted on Asimov by Gold:
    Galaxy asked me for a story and I wrote one Called “Darwinian Poolroom”.” It appeared in the October 1950 issue, its very first. It was a very weak effort, but the magazine wanted more stories. In the second issue, a stronger story appeared, which I called “Green Patches,” but the title was changed by the editor to “Misbegotten Missionary,” which I disliked.
    Then Galaxy serialzed my novel The Stars, Like Dust—, which the editor retitled Tyrann, something I disliked even more. What’s more the editor made me insert a subplot that I disapproved of, and when I wanted to take it out prior to book publication, Brad [Doubleday editor, Walter I. Bradbury] decided he liked it and insisted that it stay. Because of this I have never liked the novel as much as I might have. Isaac Asimov, I, Asimov: A Memoir, Chapter 62: Horace Leonard Gold.
  3. Phil Bard’s artwork:Galaxy195103i1x600Galaxy195103i2x600

Leave a Reply