Honeymoon in Hell • novelette by Fredric Brown
Misbegotten Missionary • short story by Isaac Asimov ♥♥♥
Transfer Point • novelette by Anthony Boucher ♥♥
Coming Attraction • short story by Fritz Leiber ♥♥♥♥
To Serve Man • short story by Damon Knight ♥
Time Quarry (Part 2 of 3) • serial by Clifford D. Simak ♥♥
It’s All Yours • editorial by H. L. Gold
Interior Artwork • Don Sibley, Don King, Paul Pierre, Paul Callé, David Stone
Lands of Yesterday • essay by L. Sprague de Camp
Galaxy’s Five Star Shelf • book review by Groff Conklin
Flying Saucer Contest
This second issue of Galaxy has a much better cover than the first, this time from Don Sibley. Illustrating the Frederic Brown story, it shows an attractive female astronaut caulking a shelter on the moon. A future B&Q advertisement if you will (US: Home Depot). More seriously, note the difference from other covers of the time, the woman has the task in hand while the man is in the background: no damsel being menaced by bug eyed monsters here. The interior artwork is unexceptionable, but one or two illustrations show some promise.
Gold’s editorial is rather surprising. He says that whatever the readers want the magazine to be it will become: size, design, contents, artwork, etc.1 I’m not sure that mob rule is the best way to run a magazine, and it is hard to reconcile this with the control Gold exercised over the fiction.
Honeymoon in Hell by Fredric Brown leads off the fiction and this novelette, the first of two, starts with no male babies being born on Earth during a period where the Cold War is in danger of turning hot. The powers that be and their cybernetic machines (computers) decide this phenomenon must be caused by an alien ray coming from the moon—well, you would, wouldn’t you? Enter our 27 year-old ex-rocket pilot protagonist who is told he must fly to the moon to conceive a baby with a Russian pilot to prove this theory. Apart from this cringe inducing plot there is also some toe-curlingly bad writing and naive politics in this. An example of the former:
He bit her shoulder gently, snorting away the scented short hair. “Dammed right we will, you gorgeous, wonderful, brainy creature.”2
A couple of cybernetic plot twists later, all is well and they end up together. This is so bad in places that it is probably worth reading.
Misbegotten Missionary by Isaac Asimov (a variant of Green Patches) is a solid enough story, albeit with a gimmicky ending, about an alien from a planet where all life is interconnected smuggling itself aboard a spaceship to attempt to do the same to the life of Earth.
The second novelette, Transfer Point by Anthony Boucher, tells of two survivors of a future apocalypse where the air is poisoned: subsequently yellow-hoop aliens arrive. The male of the two reads stories in ancient pulps: Galaxy and the coyly titled Surprising. These are completely prescient about what is happening to them. They escape back in time. No prizes for guessing what he takes up as an occupation. OK, I guess, but far-fetched. It is also rather cliquey in its in-crowd references, which no doubt made it wildly popular with fans of the time.
The highlight of this issue is Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber. This is a pretty impressive story about an Englishman in a nuked future USA. He becomes in involved with a masked woman after men in a car try to rip her dress off with car mounted hooks. It is a vivid and nightmarish look at what American society has become. I would imagine this was way, way ahead of its time and unpublishable in Astounding. It still has an edge even now.
The last of the short fiction is To Serve Man by Damon Knight. Probably too well known to require description: a race of seemingly benevolent aliens appear on Earth. The half dozen pages of narrative are a set up for a joke punch line, and not a very good one at that, although I may have felt differently when I was 12. However, given the extensive reprinting of this and its (to me, perplexing) retro Hugo award, one man’s weak joke is obviously another’s mordant wit.
The non-fiction this issue includes Lands of Yesterday by L. Sprague de Camp. I found this article about palaeontology rather dry, and a few weeks later can remember nothing at all about it. Galaxy’s Five Star Shelf by Groff Conklin leads off with a review of The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon. Conklin mentions it has been reworked from its magazine appearance, and then takes to task a couple of other books that haven’t been. The Flying Saucer Contest page is reprinted from last issue.
In the second instalment of Time Quarry by Clifford D. Simak, our hero Sutton gets killed, is resurrected, and generally time-travels around trying to find out more about the book he is going to write. There is also a hand-waving description of ‘Destiny’, and how it is a part of all life but suppressed in humans. I am not sure I actually know what is going on now but it is an OK enough read if you stop thinking.
To summarise, two issues in and I am still not impressed. With the notable exception so far of the Sturgeon and Leiber stories, I suspect the rest is largely interchangeable with what was being published elsewhere at the time. Looking forward, it seems I may be in for a few issues like these before this second Golden Age gets going.
- “In that first issue I invited the readers to tell me what they wanted, saying, “What you want goes.” The results were a surprise, and made me change direction in several instances. Among other things, I had thought I wanted a letter column. The readers didn’t. We drew six thousand letters, and something like eighty-five percent of them said no letter column. A lot of people simply wouldn’t believe that this was so; I was accused of doctoring the figures. Actually, I missed the column. I like letters from readers. They are the first thing I read in other magazines. What the readers wanted was editorials. I didn’t want to write them, but the readers insisted, so I did. And they wanted a science department, and that was how Willy’s For Your Information came to be. It turned out the readers also wanted book reviews, but not the incisive, in-depth sort of essays that critics like to write. What they wanted was a shopping list: what’s worth buying and what isn’t. Groff Conklin found that a strain, but he went along with it.” Horace Gold, Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction, ed. Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander p.7
- What concerns me about this quote is that surely the shorter hair is, the harder it is to snort away? But I digress…