Wednesday, November 16, 2022

SSW: Guest Post: Paul Di Filippo on STARTLING STORIES, January 1952, edited by Samuel Mines

I was reading--literally only a few pages a night--an issue of Startling Stories, January 1952.  I finally finished it last night.  Let me see if I can cast my memory back over the weeks and see what I thought of these stories in a few words. 
cover by Earle K. Bergey(?)

•  6 • The Ether Vibrates (Startling Stories, January 1952) • essay by The Editor, Samuel Mines
• 10 • Journey to Barkut (Complete Novel) • serial by Murray Leinster (book publication as Gateway to Elsewhere 1954)
• 10 •  Journey to Barkut (Complete Novel) • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
• 15 •  Journey to Barkut (Complete Novel) [2] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
• 21 •  Journey to Barkut (Complete Novel) [3] • interior artwork by Virgil Finlay
• 80 • The Great Idea • short story by Raymond Z. Gallun
• 80 •  The Great Idea • interior artwork by Paul Orban [as by Orban]
• 94 • Lost Art • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler
• 94 •  Lost Art • interior artwork by Peter Poulton
• 115 • The Wheel • short story by John Wyndham
• 115 •  The Wheel • interior artwork by Peter Poulton
• 121 • How Green Was My Martian • short story by Mack Reynolds
• 121 •  How Green Was My Martian • interior artwork by Vincent Napoli [as by Napoli]
• 127 •  Letter (Startling Stories, January 1952) • [Letters: L. Sprague de Camp] • essay by L. Sprague de Camp
• 140 • Review of the Current Science Fiction Fan Publications (Startling Stories, January 1952) • essay by Jerome Bixby
• 145 • Science Fiction Movie Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still • essay by uncredited
[can be read here]

The inside front cover ad is for a noir film, The Racke
t. Very nicely eclectic ad. Where are such ads in today's printzines? Asimov's SF getting income from some Amazon Prime advertising for Knives Out? Why not?

The big editorial news is the start of monthly publication. The rest of the editorial is a meditation on the state of SF sales and audience appeal. The letter column starts here, but the bulk of it is at the back of the book. The quality of the letters and the earnest effort and sense of camaraderie is of course impressive, and, I think, hardly equalled by the social media commentary that dimly substitutes for such correspondence today. de Camp has a letter here.
The Leinster piece runs for almost 80 pages and is a de Camp & Pratt (with echoes of Thorne Smith) fantasy romp about a staid fellow who finds his way to a magical Middle Eastern land full of djinn, and gradually becomes the Top Dog there. The humor of course might seem antiquated nowadays--lots of silliness around naked girl djinns--but the tale is light and frothy, going down easy, and even possessed of a few scenes of surreal estrangement.  Reprinted.

The Gallun story concerns a couple of dodgy conmen on Mars. A rube arrives with a lot of cash and an idea on how to revolutionize Mars-Earth transportation.  They seem to rook him, but eventually reveal benign intentions, and the rube is acclimated to Mars. Reprinted just once in a non-English publication.

The Chandler story concerns another scammer who can find any lost artwork a buyer can name. The trick is to travel in time to find the original piece. Our hero is an innocent rocket jockey they need for their mission. Much danger ensues, in present and past, but our hero emerges okay. Chandler, not a writer I would have previously deemed conversant with sex, devotes quite a few lines to the porn collection of one buyer. "There was a painting of what, at first glance, could have been some gorgeous tropical flower. At second and subsequent glances it wasn't." Whoa, ABC, does Commander Grimes know that his adventures are coming out of such a filthy typewriter?!? Reprinted just once in a non-English publication.

The Wyndham tale is post-apocalypse. The very notion and sight of any wheel is forbidden tech. A boy reinvents it, and is sentenced to death, but a wise elder claims the crime and punishment, allowing youth to survive for a perhaps better future. Much reprinted.

The only quasi-stinker is the Mack Reynolds story about a Martian advisor to some cardboard Hollywood guys who want to sell movies--excuse me, "wires"--on Mars. The tale is so full of silly Martian words that it makes for tough slogging. Never reprinted.

I was surprised to see Jerome Bixby reviewing fanzines, as I had not thought of him as a fanzine fan. [I noted to Paul that Bixby's column would've been written about when he was leaving his editorial post at Planet Stories and Jungle Stories, and briefly (iirc) taking one on at Galaxy magazine--so while perhaps no too much Of fan culture, certainly Aware of it--TM]

The art was very fine, making me miss any such illos in modern genre publications.

All in all, with the Leinster as standout, a very pleasant reading experience. I envy the readers of 1952, who got installments of SS and other zines monthly.

reprinted with permission from the FictionMags discussion list.
Copyrigh© 2022 by Paul Di Filippo (on LJ)
for more of today's Short Story Wednesday entries, please see Patti Abbott's blog


Diane Kelley said...

I love stories like these: Leinster and Chandler and all the others! Sadly, magazines like STARTLING STORIES went under in the big pulp magazine meltdown in the 1950s.

Todd Mason said...

George, there, writing under Diane's login. STARTLING made it into 1955, absorbing its two fantastic-fiction companions to do so, but their publisher was much more interested in the more profitable world of paperback books at that point, as publisher of Paperback Library (which published an irregular series of annual volumes reprinting from STARTLING, THRILLING WONDER STORIES and their stablemates, along with a similar series devoted to western fiction, while continuing to publish the pulp-sized RANCH ROMANCES into the earliest '70s).