Editor, Robert P. Mills
The Garden of Time • short story by J. G. Ballard ♥♥♥
Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XLVIII • short fiction by Reginald Bretnor [as by Grendel Briarton]
The Singular Events Which Occurred in the Hovel on the Alley Off Eye Street • short story by Avram Davidson ♥♥
One Into Two • reprint short story by J. T. McIntosh
Pirate Island • short story by Josef Nesvadba (translation by unknown) ♥♥♥
The Traveller • reprint short story by Richard Matheson ♥♥♥+
Rebel • short story by Ward Moore
Window to the Whirled • novelette by Barry Stevens ♥♥
The Snake in the Closet • short story by Matthew Grass ♥♥
The Golden Horn • novelette by Edgar Pangborn ♥♥♥♥
The Garden of Time • cover by Emsh
In this issue . . . Coming next month . . .
Gruesome Discovery at the 242nd St. Feeding Station • poem by Walter H. Kerr
Superficially Speaking • science essay by Isaac Asimov
Books • by Alfred Bester
Excerpts from the Latterday Chronicle • poem by Lewis Turco
For Life . . .
The Garden of Time by J. G. Ballard is a story I first read when I was quite young. I think I found it in an anthology borrowed from the local library (Introducing SF edited by Brian W. Aldiss, 1964, perhaps) and I’m not sure that I liked it that much at the time, but it was one of those stories that rattled around inside my head for some time afterwards, changing my appreciation of what a story was.
It is about a Count and his wife who, from a vantage point in the garden of their villa, observe an advancing horde on the horizon. As it draws nearer the Count plucks the time-flowers that grow in their garden: the blooms evaporate, and the horde reverts to its earlier position. Eventually the time-flowers run out, the villa is overrun and falls to ruin: the last scene describes the stone statues of the Count and his wife. The allegory is perhaps more obvious to me now than it was when I was young.1
Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XLVIII is another pun by Reginald Bretnor, this time about angels playing baseball—which I didn’t get.
The Singular Events Which Occurred in the Hovel on the Alley Off Eye Street by Avram Davidson is a short piece set in what would seem to be an alchemical version of the country during a Presidential inauguration. One of the attendees is kidnapped by a woman who wants him to surrender a spell:
“Slip me the Formula for the Transmutation of Borax Without the Use of Cockatrice-egg,” she said (speaking with some difficulty, her tongue, as we have already noted, you clod, being between her teeth), “and we’ll be back in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower in lots of time to see Ed Finnegan made a K.T.V.; afterwards we can tiptoe up to any of the thirty-odd double rooms which my Company keeps rented at all times, and you may have your wicked will o’ me without fearing the House-Dick, because I’ll put a Cheese-it spell on the door, see, which it’s proof against Force, Force-Fields, Stealth, Mort-Main, Nigromancy, Mopery, and Gawk: so give, Cully, give.” p. 15
There isn’t much of a story here so most of the pleasure is in the style of its telling, its archaic prose and odd terms, etc.
Whatever possessed the editor to reprint the dreadful gimmick story One Into Two by J. T. McIntosh (as Then There Were Two, Science Fantasy #3, Winter 1951) we will never know. This would have been a poor story to find in that early fifties issue of Science Fantasy, never mind here.
A man called Ross uses a matter transmitter to send himself to two places. The first copy goes to Moonpool to create an alibi for the second, who goes to Mars to kill the husband of a former female associate who he will subsequently blackmail after she inherits.
This is completely contrived and unbelievable, not to mention the fact it dodges fundamental questions of identity the story itself raises:
You stood in a cubicle, a hundred thousand inquisitive beams analyzed you to the last atom and sent your complete specification, down to the motes of dust on coins in your pocket, on a carrier wave to your destination. There a receiver duplicated you. You didn’t actually move an inch; the installation on Earth dissolved you into water and dust and swept the rubbish away, but not until you were at your destination, complete and in good working order. You or somebody exceedingly like you.
The designers had been very careful indeed to ensure that people arrived in one piece at one place, and that there was nothing left at the Transmission Center except useless, disorganized atoms. Otherwise certain smart people would get very rich very quickly by duplicating money and jewels and other valuables, and some of them might even devote their agile minds to the possible advantages of being in two places at one time. p. 20-21
It finishes with a gimmick ending involving the police, who are cleverer than Ross, of course.
Pirate Island by Josef Nesvadba (translation of Ostrov Piratu, Kultura 1958) is an ironic tale of an eighteenth century man who goes to sea and discovers Utopia on an island. Homesick he later returns home but finds the island is threatened when its location becomes known. He assembles a ship and crew and returns. His attempts to save the natives do not work out as he expects (spoiler) when his crew end up fighting the locals and do as much damage as the Pirates would have.
The Traveller by Richard Matheson (Born of Man and Woman, 1954) is quite a dark story that has a sceptical professor time-travelling back to the crucifixion of Jesus to observe what happens. The story is largely a grim description of the harrowing event and is quite powerful as a result.
A couple of associational points: first, one wonders whether Michael Moorcock ever read this story and, if so, whether it had any influence on Behold the Man; second, the time the professor departs from and returns to qualifies it as a grim Xmas story.
Rebel by Ward Moore is as bad as if not worse than the McIntosh story. It is a heavy-handed future satire about two parents trying to convince their son to do all the things that adults expect: drink, smoke, grow and dye their hair, go into the arts rather than business, etc. I’m not joking, there are several pages of this kind of talking heads nonsense:
“I knew a girl who used to shave mustaches off collages. She had to go to I don’t know how many analysts,” reminisced Mrs. Smith.
“—to become mature, responsible people, fit to be parents. Perhaps you think I never had a nostalgic thought for double-entry or an adding machine—”
“Or I for a crescent wrench,” put in his mother in a gay parenthesis.
“—but we recognized these for the immature daydreams they were and put them behind us. I don’t say the mirage of columns of figures hasn’t been transmuted into a splash of color here or a bit of draftsmanship there, or that the movement of pistons and wristpins hasn’t entered into your mother’s symphonies, but so have longings for other solaces we left behind in childhood or adolescence. We grew up, son . . . We faced the world. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but being an adult has its rewards, believe me.” p. 54
Window to the Whirled by Barry Stevens is a story that is quite hard to describe. Superficially it’s about a grandmother who disappears to another land, and how subsequently her daughter Anne uses a peddle sewing machine to follow her by manufacturing a cape that lets her travel there too. Along the way Anne encounters a fifty-year-old professor called Stan who, after he loses touch with her, also manages to travel there as well. It later materialises that the land they have all gone to is in the future.
As you can probably tell, the plot is rather irrelevant and the main thrust of the story would appear to be the battle between convention and free thought. You can get a vague feel for the story from the following passage where Stan reflects on his academic life, but it’s something you really need to read to appreciate:
For what he had taught was courage, but what he had lived was bowing to ‘the rules.’ Once he had heard one student say to another. “And another stone idol topples into the steaming jungle,” and they both had turned away. How had he got into this mess? At first he had submitted to the rules to get through grad school, so that he would have a degree and people would listen to what he had to say. But when he got his Ph.D., he saw that he would have to get into the upper brackets: then people would listen. But when he had got a Name, by sacrificing most of himself for twenty years, people listened only when he said what they expected him to say. Any deviation was dismissed as brought on by age or overwork. The holidays when he met Anne were the only time he could remember when he had truly spoken from himself—out of his own knowledge. p. 73
The Snake in the Closet by Matthew Grass is about an unassuming, ordinary man who finds a snake coiled up in the corner of his closet. Over a period of time, he becomes increasingly obsessed by it. I presume, from the story’s ending, that the snake is a metaphor for his purpose in life, but I’m probably as wrong about that as I was about the allegory in the Ballard story.
The Golden Horn by Edgar Pangborn is a novelette in his ‘Tales of a Darkening World’ series. Moreover, this piece and another that appeared in the next issue (A War of No Consequence, F&SF, March 1962) formed part of the novel Davy (1964).3
It is a very good piece about the titular Davy, a bonded 14-year-old in a rural post-holocaust world, skipping work and going to a cave in the forest where he has some money and a bow hidden: one day he intends running away to find the source of the sun. On this occasion his fantasies are interrupted when he sees someone else has been in his cave:
When I found the trouble at last, far at the back on one of the cave walls where sunlight didn’t reach, and where my glance must have touched it unknowingly while I was looking at my gear, I was no wiser. It was simply a small drawing made by the point of some softer, reddish rock. I goggled at it, trying to imagine it had been there always. No such thing. That cave was mine, the only place on earth I’d ever felt I owned, and I knew it like the skin of my body. This had been done since my last visit, in December before winter set in.
Two stick-figures, circles for heads with no faces, single lines for legs and arms and bodies, both with male parts indicated. I’d heard of hunters’ sign-messages. But what did this say that a hunter could want to know? The figures held nothing, did nothing, just stood there.
The one on my right was in human proportion, with slightly bent elbows and knees in the right places, all his fingers and toes. The other stood to the same height, but his legs were far too short without a knee-crook, and his arms too long, dangling below his crotch. He had only three toes for each foot, a big one and two squeezed-up little ones. His fingers were blunt stubs, though the artist had gone to a lot of trouble drawing good human fingers for the other jo.
No tracks in the cave or on the ledge. Nothing left behind. p. 103
Later, Davy meets the artist in the forest:
My visitor was there, a short way up the ledge, and he smiled.
Anyway I think he smiled, or wanted to. His mouth was a poor gash no longer than the mid-joint of my forefinger, in a broad flat hairless face. Monstrously dirty he was, and fat, with a heavy swaying paunch. Seeing his huge long arms and little stub legs, I thought I knew who he was.
He did have knees but they scarcely showed, for his lower legs were as big-around as his thighs, blocky columns with fat-rolls drooping from the thigh-sections. Baldheaded as a pink snake, hairless to the middle, but there at his navel a great thatch of twisty black hair began and ran all the way down his legs to his stubby three-toed feet. He wore nothing at all, poor jo, and it didn’t matter. So thick was that frowsy hair I had to look twice before I was sure he was male. He had no ears, just small openings where they should have been. And he had no nose—none at all, you understand? Simply a pair of slits below the little sorrowful black eyes that were meeting my stare bravely enough. He said: “I go away?”
I’d been about to draw my knife and shriek at him to go away. I didn’t. I tried to move slowly, getting on my feet. Whatever my face was doing, it made him no more frightened than he was already. In spite of those legs he stood tall as I, maybe five feet five. He was grief and loneliness standing in the sun, ugly as unwanted death.
In Moha, and all countries I’ve since known, the law of church and state says flat and plain: A mue born of woman or beast shall not live. p. 106
The story continues with the pair’s journey to the mutant’s dwelling. As they travel there Davy thinks about killing him: this is in line with the Church’s teaching and will improve Davy’s status, not least with Emmia, a village girl he is infatuated with. However:
The mue halted and turned to me. “Bad place,” he said, pointing at some of the enormous trees, to remind me how anything might lurk behind them. “No fear, boyman. Bad thing come, I help, I.” He tapped the bulges of his right arm. “Fight big, you, I. You, I—word?—fra—fre—”
“Friends,’’ I said, or my voice said it for me.
“Friends.” He nodded, satisfied, turned his broad back to me and went on.
I pushed my knife into its sheath and did not draw it again that day. p. 111
Once they arrive at the mutant’s well-protected tree lair, the mutant tells Davy about his upbringing and shows him a golden horn from pre-holocaust times. Davy listens in amazement as the mue plays some notes on it and (spoiler) determines to own it.
The rest of the story deals with the theft of the horn and Davey’s subsequent return to his village, where he is treated by Emmia for a spider sting that has nearly incapacitated him. After his recovery and a conversation with Emmia about growing up—setting himself a difficult task and, for once, completing it—he leaves the village again to return the horn. When he arrives at the mue’s lair he finds a dead wolf at the base of the tree. Above, Davy finds him dead of his wounds.
I liked a lot about this novelette: the rural post-holocaust setting, the guilelessness of the mutant, Davey’s acceptance of him, the betrayal and the attempted restitution, the golden horn—a wondrous symbol of the pre-holocaust age, the coming-of age issues, its humanity in general, and its timelessness. This is a very good piece.
There isn’t much to say about the non-fiction this issue. The Garden of Time cover by Emsh has some interesting background detail but I thought the face of the woman in the foreground spoils it by being rather flat.
In this issue . . . and Coming next month . . . take up a single page: the former is mostly bibliographic and biographical detail about Josef Nesvadba, and the latter promises an All-Star Issue with a Mel Hunter wraparound cover. The fiction contents will include another Edgar Pangborn story as well as a ‘People’ novelette from Zenna Henderson, amongst other big names.
Superficially Speaking by Isaac Asimov is an example of one of his science essays where he would produce little more than several pages of monotonous number crunching. Here he calculates the amount of living space the planets and asteroids of the solar system could provide for humanity.
There is a very short Books column by Alfred Bester and a couple of not very good Poems.
Finally, there is a For Life . . . subscription offer. This offers a life sub to the magazine for $50 (approximately eleven times the $4.50 annual rate) and mentions that actuarially ‘this is a good buy for any male of fifty or younger and an even better buy for any female of fifty or younger.’
Overall, this is not a bad issue: standout stories by Edgar Pangborn and Richard Matheson, and there are a couple of other good stories here too.
- Perhaps Ballard’s The Garden of Time is not as simple an allegory as I thought: the philosopher John Gray’s analysis is here.
- I had thought this might be a mid-life crisis story, but it appears as if Barry Stevens was a sixty-year-old female therapist and one-shot writer: her Wikipedia and ISFDB pages.
- A cursory examination of a copy of Edgar Pangborn’s Davy indicates that The Golden Horn makes up the bulk of Chapters 1-4 & 6-7.