Saturday, September 12, 2009

Amazing Stories, November 1954

I've mentioned before, I'm sure, my youthful tendency to read the low-rent SF magazines. While I very much enjoyed the stories in F&SF, Galaxy, and Astounding, my real affection was for the stuff in Amazing, Fantastic, Original Science Fiction Stories, Imagination, and Imaginative Tales. So the other day I pulled this mag off the shelf to see how the stories held up.

Big mistake. While I still love the cover, I have to admit that the stories are pretty dreadful. Most of them would never see print today. Maybe all of them. The lack of sophistication, the wretched science, the poor writing would all doom them. I can see why a naive kid in East Texas 55 years ago would love them, but not now.

"Blessed Are the Murderous" is still fairly entertaining. It's narrated by a post-apocalyptic teenage boy (great hook for me back in '54), and while it's a brutal story, it has a good bit of humor, not that the narrator realizes it. It's the old Huck Finn approach, with the reader seeing things a lot differently from the way he does. Okay, it's not The Road, but you know what? It has a lot of the same themes. I'm glad I re-read this one. Note: I have no idea who was behind the Ivar Jorgensen pseudonym this tie.

The "challenging new fiction" is a laughter. The earth is being invaded, this time by aliens who look just like us but who are different on the inside. They have, for example, two brains, one of which is located where we have an appendix. The rest of the story is equally goofy, with an invasion of privacy that reminds me of nothing so much as current airport security.


Richard Robinson said...

Sometimes I wonder if ANYTHING measures up to our good memories of it.

Then I recenly read some Chandler and yes, it does happen - sometimes.

Since I was primarily an Astounding reader, I had much better luck than you did here when I went back to those issues.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Richard, when it was an Everett B. Cole or L. Ron Hubbard story in those 1950s ASTOUNDINGs, I'm not sure your luck was all That much better.

Bill, it was all new to you then, though I'm surprised still that a brain as appendix story was all that gosh-wow even to you as highschooler (perhaps I got lucky in my early horror reading, running to hacks like Henry James and Shirley Jackson and Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch, so I had a good grounding when faced at a similar age by dreck such as Stephen King's "The Cat from Hell" or any number of late Robert F. Young stories).

However, I think if you look closely at (THE ORIGINAL) SCIENCE FICTION STORIES issues, you'll see a rather different animal for the most part from what you'd find in AMAZING during the Paul Fairman years; Fairman was interested in routinized adventure fiction, ground out as steadily as possible primarily by the four writers he depended upon most (Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Randall Garrett, and Milton "Stephen Marlowe" Lesser, none doing their early best so much as their It's Ready Friday), augmented only slightly by anything more ambitious that Cele Goldsmith was able to push in as Fairman's assistant, while SCIENCE FICTION STORIES was an impoverished magazine run with a microbudget by Robert Lowndes, who published no little interesenting work mixed in with what filler he could afford that wouldn't be Too hard to take. Carol Emshwiller, James Biish, and other game-changers were doing some of their best work for part because it was sometimes too avant-garde for most or all the other magazines in the field. It's rather comparable to what I faced in 1979 magazine reading...Ted White's relatively adventurous but poorly-financed AMAZING vs. Hank Stine's dire GALAXY, the latter filled with imitation STAR WARS fiction, aside from the very short segments of Frederik Pohl's serialized novel JEM, in desperate attempt to build an audience for the failing magazine.

wv: monophyd (the villain in at least one of the AMAZING stories, I'm sure)

Todd Mason said...

Ivar Jorgensen was usually Silverberg or Fairman, I gather, but not always, by any means. If it was any good, I'd bet Silverberg.

Richard Robinson said...

Todd, you're right about the Everett B. Cole or L. Ron Hubbard stories.

Still, the authors I really enjoyed - to many to mention, but P. Anderson, Leinster, Heinlein, Anvil, Clement E.F Russell, Mack Reynolds stand out in my memory - seemed to outweigh the lackluster efforts in Astounding, plus the illustrations, especially by Kelly Freas were great.

I enjoy reading your posts on this topic, I always learn from them, Thanks for sharing.

George said...

I love the cover!