I decided to break out this issue of F&SF because of a comment I read about one of the stories, Dean McLaughlin's "The Voyage Is Ended," which was described as a Clifford Simak pastiche. Simak being one of my favorites, I felt I needed to have a look. It's a pretty good story that does capture some of the nostalgic feel of a Simak tale and maybe a little of the style.
After reading that one, I figured that I'd just read the rest of them. I should preface this by saying that in the 1950s, F&SF was one of my favorite digests. But then all the digests were my favorites. Even then I could tell that there were different magazines published different kinds of stories, and when it came to literary SF, F&SF led the way for me. Which is why I was a bit disappointed in most of this issue. Fritz Leiber's "The Secret Songs" is New Wave before the New Wave. Sex, drugs, a different kind of writing style, all the elements are there. "The Golden Flask" struck me as the kind of story that might've appeared in a 1950s issue of Fantastic. I knew where it was going from the first and didn't care if it got there. Dickson's "Shalmanzar" is a fantasy that gave me a smile or two but nothing more. "Mumbwe Jones" is short and well-written, but not memorable. "The Top" is an amusing story about bureaucracies. "Fruiting Body" is an entertaining magic mushroom story. "The Roper" is a poem about love and death, like something John the Balladeer might sing. "Spacial Relationship" is a punning title that answers the question about female companionship for men in space and turns out to be something of a joke that's not very funny. "The Stupid General" is about a stupid general who turns out to be not so stupid, after all. In a way, that is. "What Price Wings" is the only story here that I'd read before. I can't remember where. It's a warning about being to angelic. "Harlan Ellison's "Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman" was his first story in F&SF, and it's about ghosts and music. Slight, but shows Ellison moving away from his earlier work. "The Gumdrop King" is about a boy in an unhappy home. He encounters an alien who likes gumdrops. I liked this one. The Feghoot will challenge your love of puns, if you have one. I didn't read the Asimov article.
Overall, a kind of average issue. The editor was Avram Davidson, and maybe his tastes and mine just don't agree.
Table of Contents
The Secret Songs · Fritz Leiber
The Golden Flask · Kendell Foster Crossen
Salmanazar · Gordon R. Dickson
The Voyage Which Is Ended · Dean McLaughlin
Mumbwe Jones · Fred Benton
The Top · George Sumner Albee
Science: The Light Fantastic · Isaac Asimov
Fruiting Body · Rosel George Brown
The Roper · Theodore R. Cogswell & John Jacob Niles
Spatial Relationship · Randall Garrett
The Stupid General · J. T. McIntosh
What Price Wings? · H. L. Gold
Paulie Charmed the Sleeping Woman · Harlan Ellison
The Gumdrop King · Will Stanton
Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: LIII · Grendel Briarton