Glory Road (Part 1 of 3) • serial by Robert A. Heinlein ♥♥
Success • short story by Fritz Leiber ♥♥♥
With These Hands • short story by Kenneth Smith ♥
As Long as You’re Here • short story by Will Stanton ♥♥
McNamara’s Fish • short story by Ron Goulart ♥♥
Glory Road • cover by Emsh
In this issue… Coming next month…
The Respondents • poem by Doris Pitkin Buck
The Isaac Winners • science essay by Isaac Asimov
Books • by Avram Davidson
Emsh’s cover is for Robert Heinlein’s three-part serial Glory Road and shows three of the characters: Astar, Oscar and Rufo. Emsh would provide two covers for this serial.
The serial dominates this issue by reason of size if nothing else: its eighty or so pages are almost two-thirds of this 128pp. issue, which makes it quite unbalanced.1 It would have been better, probably, to run it in four parts. It is mentioned in the In this issue section and there is also a lengthy introduction—a full page—that includes some material that does not augur well:
Among Heinlein’s attitudes and conjectures, his social and political tones have not been the least evocative of comment—“comment,” indeed, is perhaps too mild a word for the reaction to some of them—and he says of this new novel, “It will outrage all those who were outraged by STARSHIP SOLDIER [F&SF, Oct.-Nov. 1959], and will upset all those who were upset by STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND [G. P. Putnam’s, 1961]; therefore I have great hopes for it…” p.5
Glory Road tells of Evelyn Cyril Gordon, later Oscar, an ex-Vietnam veteran who ends up in a fantasy world with a stunningly beautiful woman called Astar and her companion Rufo in a quest for the Egg of the Phoenix. However it starts quite differently to what you would expect with a discursive, interesting and pacey three or four chapters where Gordon leaves the Army and travels in the south of France. In a parallel universe there is probably an interesting sixties mainstream novel that springs from this.
Whatever: he is a restless man in search of adventure, as the following, almost stream of consciousness passage, shows:
I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur—I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moonwhite arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be—instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled up mess it is. p.24
If only we had gotten that novel. What happens next is that he meets Astar, and they are soon transported—by what seems like magical means—to another world where they meet up with Rufo, who becomes his squire. Oscar would seem to be destined to be a Hero in this world. Unfortunately after this things slow down, and in chapters five to nine much less happens: a couple of fights, one with an ogre and another with strange animals beside a musical waterfall (The Singing Waters). Then Oscar has a misunderstanding about the sexual mores of this world when they stay over at an ally’s house which causes them to have to depart rapidly in the morning.
The main reason for the slowdown is that the characters endlessly talk to each other. The worst example of this is on p.76 where a long anecdote about Strong Muldoon goes on for a page and never comes to a conclusion. There are many other examples of endless chatter, and this is because Heinlein has now reached the stage in his career where he doesn’t want to tell a story, he wants to endlessly lecture the reader about myriad subjects.
Other problems are evident as well. There appears to be some sloppy editing (if, at this stage of his career, Heinlein was edited at all) when Rufo appears for the first time. There appears to be an altercation between him and Oscar but we only find out about this after they have had several verbal exchanges.
Further, some of the comments about and behaviour towards women are just irritating. I know that attitudes have changed in the last fifty years but, at one point, Oscar threatens to take down Astar’s tights and spank her when they start arguing, at which point she immediately becomes submissive.
You will always—always!—address me politely and with respect. One more word of your nasty rudeness and I’ll spank you until the tears fly.”
‘‘You wouldn’t dare!”
“Get your hand away from that sword or I’ll take it away from you, down your pants right here on the road, and spank you with it. Till your arse is red and you beg for mercy. Star, I do not fight females—but I do punish naughty children. Ladies I treat as ladies. Spoiled brats I treat as spoiled brats. Star, you could be the Queen of England and the Galactic Overlord all rolled into one but ONE MORE WORD out of line from you, and down come your tights and you won’t be able to sit for a week. Understand me?”
At last she said in a small voice, “I understand, milord.’’ p.79
I would have thought this risible when reading it for the first time as a teenager in the seventies, never mind now.
What makes this issue even more unbalanced is that all the remaining fiction is fantasy too. Success by Fritz Leiber is a fairly good allegory about a Hero trying to get past a huge Wall with an Eagle and a Bull. I’m not quite sure what to make of With These Hands by Kenneth Smith. With its account of an university student’s strange acquaintance, who turns out to be far stranger than expected, it seems to start off bemoaning the latter’s lack of artistic ability before veering off into a cry of pain about his alien home. I am not sure this adds up to much really; it is also uneven and obviously the work of a new writer.
As Long as You’re Here by Will Stanton appears to be an intriguing modern fantasy to begin with. It tells of a couple who start building a fall-out shelter, but once they get started digging they just keep going… The hoary ending is disappointing. Finally, McNamara’s Fish by Ron Goulart is the longest short story in the issue. This is one of his ‘Max Kearny’ series—an adman who freelances as a psychic investigator. He visits a couple who both suspect the other is having an affair. The significant difference is that the wife, Joan, thinks her husband is having an affair with a mermaid. This slick but unconvincing story resolves with water elementals and statues.
The non-fiction is as uninspiring as the fiction. Davidson contributes an eclectic book review column that has as many non-fiction reviews as fiction ones. Asimov contributes a sensationally boring science column in which he lists the top seventy eight scientists (he found creating a top ten too difficult)2 and describes their achievements in three or four lines each. Half-way through this I had to stop and have a nap. The poem did nothing for me either.
All in all, quite a disappointing issue, especially after such a promising cover.
- This first installment seems to run to about 36,000 words, which is a similar length to the same section in the book version. An unabridged serial for once?
- He does eventually whittle them down to an upside-down list on the last page.