Birthday Reviews: Raymond Z. Gallun’s “Magician of Dream Valley”

Birthday Reviews: Raymond Z. Gallun’s “Magician of Dream Valley”

Cover by Howard V. Brown
Cover by Howard V. Brown

Raymond Z. Gallun was born on March 22, 1911 and died on April 2, 1994.

Gallun was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1979. He wrote during a period when many authors focused on short fiction, and he did, although he also published several novels, including The Planet Strappers, Skyblaster, and Bioblast. His short fiction has been collected in two volumes, The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun and Anthology of Sci-Fi V4: Raymond Z. Gallun.

Gallun has collaborated with Robert S. McReady, Jerome Bixby, and he based a story on an outline by fan John B. Michel. In 1936, he participatws in a series novel with Eando Binder, Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, and John Russell Fearn. Gallun has also used the pseudonyms Dow Elstar, William Callahan, and Arthur Allport.

“Magician of Dream Valley” was first published in the October 1938 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, edited by John W. Campbell. Forrest J. Ackerman and Pat LoBrutto included it in Perry Rhodan #71: The Atom Hell of Grautier in 1975 and in 1978 it was reprinted in The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun. In 1982, the story was translated into Italian for inclusion of a short collection of Gallun stories.

Jack Vickers in a reporter who had traveled to the moon to interview a recluse, Clyde Athelstane, also known as the “Magician of Dream Valley.” The valley, near Mare Imbrium, has a strange phenomenon known as Hexagon Lights. Vickers wants to learn what they are and what Athelstane might have to do with them.

Athelstane isn’t what Vickers was expecting and the hermit immediately presses the newsman into his service to care for the Hexagon Lights, which Athelstane claims are being threatened by human lunar mining and may, in fact, be sentient beings. Even as Vickers realizes the Athelstane is insane, he works with him to try to protect the Hexagon Lights against possible destruction. In the end, however, Vickers breaks free from Athelstane’s spell, believing the Lights to be more dangerous than endangered.

While the story has a strong ending, the set up requires the reader to suspend any belief that the characters are acting in a rational manner. Vickers acceptance of the situation Athelstane describes even when he can tell there is something wrong doesn’t add up, especially for a reporter, and his ultimate actions are out of character with everything Gallun has shown leading up to that point. The story might engage a sense of wonder, but it doesn’t exhibit a sense of reality.

Reprint reviewed in the collection The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun, Del Rey Books, 1978.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

Gallun wrote stories that I think are better than we expect from a writer of his era and reputation — implausible, yes, and certainly not great stories — but some rather nice ones.

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