Saturday, April 2, 2016

Magazine issue review: SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, May 1959

from the FictionMags list, 6 January 2004:

issues/year (monthly without April or June issues), digest. 132pp 
including covers; 35c ($3/yr). Robert A. W. Lowndes, editor; 
published by Columbia Publications.

Cover features two interior illustrations by Ed Emshwiller and what 
looks like a spot illo of a rocket, uncredited. Cover is in three 
colors, white, purple, and yellow. Readers are asked within if they 
like this new (and presumably economical) sort of cover.

6 * Robert Silverberg * There's No Place Like Space * ss (illus. 
Wallace Wood)(cover has it with exclamation point; title on text, in 
contents and in running heads do not)
24 * Basil Wells * Utility Girl * ss (illus. Ed Emshwiller)
42 * Kate Wilhelm * Android, Kill for Me! * ss (illus. Ed Emshwiller)
49 * Kit Reed * Here, Kitty Kitty * ss
57 * A. L. Caramine * Weapon Master * ss
63 * (Silverberg as) Calvin M. Knox * Readin' and Writhin' * book reviews:
Algis Budrys MAN OF EARTH (Ballantine)
Donald Wollheim, ed MEN ON THE MOON/Murray Leinster CITY ON 
C. L. Moore DOOMSDAY MORNING (Doubleday)
Lester del Rey ROBOTS AND CHANGELINGS (Ballantine)
Wilmar H. Shiras CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (Avon)
Leo Margulies, ed. THREE TIMES INFINITY (Fawcett Gold Medal)
69 * Ward Moore and Robert Bradford * CADUCEUS WILD, Conclusion of 
Four Parts * sr (illus. Uncredited, probably reprinted from earlier 
117 * R. A. W. Lowndes and others * The Last Word and the Reckoning 
* combined editorial, reader poll, and letter column, including 
letters from:
118 * F. M. Busby
119 * Murray King
121 * Alma Hill
124 * J. Martin Graetsz

The three-color cover, with three small illustrations not 
reproducing all that well under those circumstances, probably didn't 
help sales; clearly one gets the sense that Lowndes was being 
instructed not only to economize but to WW Scott-up his magazines, 
at this point..."Eight Crewmen and One UTILITY GIRL," the cover 
teases, and one doubts that "Android, Kill for Me!" was KW's first 
choice of title. (I'll also remind the assembled of James Blish's 
little poke at the magazine's title, labelling SFS as if it was a 
neighborhood bar...not just McGinty's, but the Original McGinty's.)

"There's No Place Like Space" (which sounds like it should be the 
label on an early acetate by the Sun Ra Arkestra) is a smooth, minor 
effort with a reasonably deft handling of the breast-fetish would-be 
eroticism of its story of the colony-planet technician forced by 
those darn bureaucrats into taking a vacation in NYC. Much as Knox 
will later in the issue (justly) complain about MAN OF EARTH, this 
could pretty easily be rewritten to describe the wearying effect of 
NYC's crowding and groupthink in the 1950s as much as the 2650s 
(when $7500--whose dollars not quite specified--is a fine wage), and 
how much more fine a house in Woodstock is. Wood's illustrations 
are very recognizably Woodish, and cartoonishly handsome for it (one 
may make obvious puns); the erotism of this late issue of the 
magazine definitely suggests to me the influence of both MANHUNT and 
VENTURE, going beyond even the somewhat more submerged yearning of 
BEYOND and the other '50s magazines.

"Utility Girl" (Irish ballad, or neo-retro recording by the Roches, 
this one) betrays rather more debilitatingly hidebound thought, or 
lack of it ("It was too bad [Utility Girl] Ellson was a woman. A man 
could be groomed to take [first mate] Alpergen's place. [...] But a 
woman--no!"). However, I like the phrase, "the needle gun was 
sewing" a lot. Wells, to judge by his ISFDb entries, contributed 
most often in the '40s to PLANET and in the '60s to Pohl's magazines 
(and to IF when not the Lowndes magazines in the '50s), and as late 
as the early '90s to SPACE AND TIME. Emsh's illo is appropriately frantic, if not quite representative.

"Bored Faculty Wife with Android" (as might've been Wilhelm's 
working title for this near-vignette) is an early example of KW 
turning women's-magazine-fiction tropes to her own purposes, if only 
just so; a biter-bit plot out of every other contemporaneous episode 
of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and every issue of either MANHUNT or AHMM, to say nothing of the lesser CF magazines then, and some 
nicely turned phrases...and the creepy fun of the lustful robot, 
made slightly more suburban (and telegraphed by Emsh's utterly 
appropriate illustration, well-rendered and the Kind Men Like). A 
bit of genuine melancholy seeps through in that the protag is a 
writer caught in a loveless marriage, I gather not a completely 
alien situation to the author at the time.

The Reed story is cute, almost too cute, and not as redeemed as are 
most of her later humorous stories by what could be called 
Bradburyan detail (and usually less romantic than RB), and it posits 
that no one was getting their cats fixed in 1959. True, that? Fun 

A. L. Caramine...I knew I'd come across that by-line before, and 
ISFDb reinformed me that it was on a guest editorial in one of Barry's issues of FANTASTIC, which leads me to suspect [incorrectly, as it turned out] that this one is also Robert Silverberg  sorry if no, Mr. S.  A twist ending hard not to see coming, although a point for giving the swindler a slightly more amusingly corrupt reason than usual, even if also a point or two off for his relentless "g"-dropping from gerunds and the utter foolishness of his marks.

I have not yet read the synopsis and conclusion of the serial, 

though it seems to be in the GALAXY tradition, this time with MDs in 
charge of society and just waiting to fall on their own scalpels.  
Apparently, this one may not've gotten a US book publication, at 
least, till a 1978 Pinnacle paperback, so clearly this was not a 
robust moneymaker for Moore nor Bradford; I don't know if the latter 
has done anything else notable in sf or otherwise. Since I like 
Moore, I'll probably read it soonish, and may seek out the Pinnacle edition [or the Armchair reprint pictured above] and hope it isn't too bad a job of republishing.

The most interesting assertion, to me, in Knox's reviews is Silverberg's 

crediting FURY primarily to C. L. Moore. Was there some confusion at that time that has since been resolved toward crediting it mostly or entirely to Kuttner? [Silverberg soon told me he doesn't know why he was so certain of this, though he still suspects Fury was mostly Moore's work.] I idly wonder if Margulies actually edited THREE TIMES INFINITY (since it's comprised of Brackett and Bradbury's "Lorelai of the Red Mist," Sturgeon's "The Golden Helix," and Heinlein's "Destination Moon," it presumably wouldn't take anyone too long to assemble), and am pleased to be pointed toward our much-missed-here Frank Robinson's "The Reluctant Heroes" as the best story in the Wollheim antho. I also wonder how the various reviewers (including Damon Knight) felt about that "Readin' and Writhin'" column-title, and if Silverberg might now be the most frequent column-holder in sf-magazines, with however many of these he did, "The Spectroscope" book reviews in AMAZING in the '60s, the 
"Opinion" columns in AMAZING and ASIMOV'S later, "The Observatory" in 
the last AMAZING inpulpation so far, and possibly others I'm overlooking ...not that Damon Knight wasn't pretty widely-dispersed in this regard, as well...

The ads are a reasonably insane bunch; aside from unsurprising house 

ads for DOUBLE ACTION MYSTERY AND DETECTIVE STORIES (the one led off by Wilhelm's "Murderer's Apprentice" and detailed in the FM Index), and FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION, there are the usual pulp-holdover RUPTURED? ads, offers of "spot-reducing" anti-flab handheld vibrators, BOYS! GIRLS! SPECIAL OFFER TO ZOOM YOUR POPULARITY! through the wonders of personalized stationery, with a menu of suggested self-inflicted nicknames you, too, could have included on your letterhead..."Spook" or "Goldbrick Harry" for boys, "Hep Cat" or "Slick Chick" for the XX chromosome crowd, hoo doggie. Also, an offer for unisex hooded sweatshirts emblazoned "U. S. Drinking Team" just to remind us College Humor was already very much with us by 1959. John Boston's much-beloved "You Traveled Through Time for FORBIDDEN LOVE..." SFBC ad would actually be an improvement, on balance...but perhaps not if it nudged the ILLUSTRATED SEX FACTS ad out. For a magazine printed by the reasonably-rated folk in Holyoke, there's unusually dark ink on the relatively large-charactered, uncrowded pages. I wonder how Lowndes might've done with a budget...but, we can wonder this about 
so many editors, eh?


Richard Moore said...

Very much enjoyed your detailed look at this issue of a magazine I liked. Although the first SF mag I read was Amazing but the first I bought new at a news stand was this one and its sister Future. I collected all 4 issues with the Moore/Bradford novel but never read it even though I loved everything I've read by Ward (no relation) Moore. I've also have the pub somewhere in my stacks. Time to rectify this oversight. When the serial began the mag still had color pictorial cover. I always included the "Original" in the title back then even though I learned later that even the digest incarnation began without it.

Great fun reading your analysis.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Rich, very kind of you! Robert Lowndes did more with less than just about anyone else editing fiction magazines, and certainly some of the folks and some of the work he published in his Columbia and Health Knowledge magazines compare favorably with that in any other magazine...I understand the novel is pretty weak tea for Moore, Just Another Comic Inferno, but I haven't, a dozen years later, tried to read it yet. I was gratified by the esteem in which Edward Hoch still held Lowndes, when I met Hoch in 2001...Hoch and Carol Emshwiller being perhaps the primest "discoveries" of RAWL in his Columbia magazines...

Todd Mason said...

...Stephen King and F. Paul Wilson being among the beginners he published in STARLING MYSTERY STORIES at HK...

Paul Fraser said...

Hi Todd, where did Blish make that comment? Was it in print or just a verbal remark?

Todd Mason said...

It's probably collected in MORE ISSUES AT HAND, though it might be in THE ISSUE AT HAND, and might well have been originally in a speech that was transcribed, or just as likely in, say, one of his Atheling columns in SKYHOOK.