Monday, December 28, 2015

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1953: A Retro-Review

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1953: A Retro-Review


SteveHL said...

I think that some of the stories in the February, 1953 Galaxy are so good that this is one of the best issues of Galaxy and, furthermore, of all the SF magazines of the 1950's. "Four in One", "Watchbird", and "Saucer of Loneliness" are all generally regarded as being among the best short SF stories of that time.

In What If? Volume 1, Richard Lupoff picks Damon Knight's "Four in One" as the best SF story of 1953 and writes, "Philip K. Dick has praised this story as one of the most important and original to appear in the past 30 years." Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg also chose "Four in One" as one of the best SF stories of that year in Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 15. Asimov wrote that,"It seems to me that no one can read this story without having it pounded into his consciousness for the rest of his life."

Asimov and Greenberg named "Saucer of Loneliness" as another of the best SF stories of that year. Spider Robinson wrote in Locus magazine that, "A Saucer of Loneliness" kept me from suiciding when I was 16." (Galaxy had the name of the story as "Saucer of Loneliness"; Sturgeon subsequently changed this to "A Saucer of Loneliness." When I was around that age, I also thought that "Saucer" was a genuinely great story. I now think it is quite a good, but somewhat flawed, story.

Robert Sheckley was the perfect 1950's Galaxy author, smart, slick, tricky and very funny. (That description would apply to Damon Knight as well.) Kingsley Amis referred to Sheckley as "science fiction's premier gadfly." "Watchbird" is an excellent cynical and funny story.

Most of Algis Budrys's work appeared in Astounding / Analog . "Protective Mimicry" was intended to be an amusing story but in my opinion, except for a really funny last sentence, it doesn't work well. (Budrys's reviews were generally much funnier than his fiction. In addition to Benchmarks, which Wuertz discusses in this article, there are 3 other collections of Budrys's reviews, all with the word "benchmark" in the title.)

I have nothing to add to Wuertz's comments about Elizabeth R. Lewis's "Know Thy Neighbor". As Wuertz says, this is pretty much a straight horror story. I think it is good but in no way outstanding.

I also can't say much about Clifford Simak's serialized novel, Ring around the Sun . It's been years since I read this. Simak is usually a reliably good author.

As for the features in this issue, Willy Ley's "For Your Information" science column was always good. I liked it best when he wrote about dodoes, sea monsters, or other off-trail subjects. The column in this issue is primarily about causes of ice ages.

Groff Conklin's book reviews in the "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf" column were about as good as this kind of thing gets without featuring the in-depth discussions that Damon Knight and James Blish brought to science fiction. In this issue, my favorite line in his column is about Green Fire by John Taine, which Conklin calls "just about the worst [science fiction] yet." The reason I like this is that there is a full page ad in this issue for another book by John Taine. Conklin evidently didn't worry about alienating advertisers.

The "Editor's Page" by H. L. Gold was usually short and light. This issue's "Buy Me That!" is typical. I liked most of these columns and this one was fine.

As for the artwork, I like Mel Hunter's cover. None of the interior illustrations seem particularly good to me.

In balance, a very good issue, in my opinion.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the excellent review the issue, Steve!