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Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1954: A Retro-Review

Sunday, May 17th, 2020 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction October 1954-small Galaxy Science Fiction October 1954-back-small

Cover art by Mel Hunter

My apologies for an extended absence from posting reviews. Personal matters took my focus and drive, but I’m back again for another retro-review of Galaxy Science Fiction — in this case the October, 1954 issue.

Mel Hunter’s cover art is titled “The Latest in Dugout Canoes.” At least, I think that’s the title. It’s listed inside as “Lastest”, which I think is a typo, given that lastest isn’t a word. But even in a prestigious magazine like Galaxy, mistakes happen. I like finding reminders that professionals of all sorts make mistakes from time to time. I think it lets all of us relax a bit more when we make our own mistakes.

“A World of Talent” by Philip K. Dick — Tim and his parents live among a colony of people who have talents beyond normal humans, including precognition, teleportation, and telepathy. The colony watches vigilantly for attacks from the Terrans, knowing people on Earth have a persistent fear — not only because people on the colony are different but because they’re powerful.

There’s no romantic relationship between Tim’s parents; their union was solely for the benefit of the colony — to try to create a new level of powers through parents who are both precogs. But Tim lives in his own world, remaining in silence much of the time and seeing Others (as he thinks of them) that no one else perceives. What these Others represent slowly unravels the puzzle of Tim’s talent, and it could protect the colony both from Terrans and itself.

This is a story that you must commit to. It’s a bit confusing at first, but the plot and terminology will become clear as Dick weaves things together. I think he also does a remarkable job in bringing passion and emotion into the characters.

The Variable Man and Other Stories-small The Variable Man Sphere paperback-small The Father-Thing

The Variable Man and Other Stories (Ace, 1957 and Sphere, 1977),
and The Father-Thing (Grafton, 1990). Covers by Ed Emshwiller, Peter Elson, and Chris Moore

“A World of Talent” was included in half a dozen Dick collections, including The Variable Man and Other Stories, The Father-Thing, and Second Variety: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 3.

“Ghost V” by Robert Sheckley — The AAA Ace Planet Decontamination Service is desperate for business. Since opening three months ago, Frank Arnold and Richard Gregor have yet to encounter any customers. Fortunately, Mr. Ferngraum offers them a decontamination job; unfortunately, it’s only offered to them because no other companies want it. The planet isn’t infested with any dangerous creatures or contaminated water. Instead, it’s haunted. At least, that’s what everyone says, given that any crew that lands on the planet eventually dies gruesome deaths with no trace of who or what killed them. Arnold reasons that they wanted the difficult jobs and that this could establish them as a business, and while Gregor agrees, he’s concerned by the fact that Arnold will stay behind to analyze data while Gregor is the one who will be on the planet to encounter the ghosts.

This story adds to the series of stories related to the AAA Ace Planet Decontamination Service. It’s humorous and inventive with good tension.

The People Trap Pan-small The-Wonderful-World-of-Robert-Sheckley-smaller The Monster Book of Monsters-small

The People Trap (Pan, 1972), The Wonderful World of Robert Sheckley (Bantam, 1979)
and The Monster Book of Monsters (Bonanza Books, 1988). Covers by Chris Foss, Paul Lehr, and Hannes Bok

“Ghost V” has been reprinted at least nine times in various collections and anthologies, including The People Trap, The Wonderful World of Robert Sheckley, The Monster Book of Monsters, and The World Treasury of Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell.

“Idiot’s Crusade” by Clifford D. Simak — Jim is a young man living with his mother in a small town. People think of him as the village idiot, given his lower intelligence, and his only friend is a dog named Bounce. One day while fishing, Jim gains an awareness — he can see dandelions with a type of clarity he never had before, and he can influence the fish to take his bait. When he returns to town, he finds he can see as deeply into people as he could the dandelions. And more than that, he can give them thoughts to reshape who they are… or even kill them.

I felt an empathy for Jim, even at the point that he commits murder. He has his own logic as he begins changing people, and although it’s a bit twisted, I understand his motivations and pity him.

“$1,000 a Plate” by Jack McKenty — Astronomers on Mars struggle with the light pollution caused by the casinos. The casinos are fond of shooting fireworks as part of their customer appeal, and they refuse to stop simply to improve celestial observations. Moving the observatory is too costly, but the costs in ruined images is mounting.

It’s a light tale that works in its brevity. This is McKenty’s second story in Galaxy. And as far as I can tell, these were his only two publications.

“Jebaburba” by Daniel F. Galouye — Ever since Jebaburba and his father moved into the neighborhood, Clara hasn’t found any peace. Some children can pester adults at times, but Jeb is from Dartha, and he has the ability to appear and disappear at will, removing all sense of privacy. His father is apologetic, but their race has no way to discipline children since timeouts or spanking would be ineffective, given their children can dematerialize at will. But Clara’s determined to bring stability to her family, even if her own children find Jeb’s actions entertaining.

The characters felt believable, but I didn’t feel overly interested in the plot. It felt more like an idea than a story.

“Spy” by J. T. McIntosh — Ken Corvey is a spy for the Jernam system. Posing as a reporter on Earth, he’s trying to learn what he can in case it could be useful to his home world in the future. Not that there are plans for a military conflict; it’s just a precaution. Unfortunately, Ken is suffering from an illness called ritany, which causes hallucinations that continually increase in intensity. On his world it can be treated, and on Earth, he could treat it if he could simply rest for a prolonged period. But prolonged rest would bring a mandatory doctor visit, per the law, and such an examination would quickly reveal that he’s not human, ending his mission. So Ken must continue his mission, struggling to maintain his sanity and sift out what is real and imaginary, hoping he doesn’t accidentally kill someone or himself.

McIntosh does an excellent job of maintaining the tension of Ken’s struggle. The invented illness of ritany feels very real and continues to take its toll upon the protagonist. This is a great example of how to continually and slowly raise tension without going completely over the top.

The non-fiction articles were the traditional “For Your Information” by Willy Ley and “Galaxy’s Five Star Shelf” by Jeff Conklin.


Matthew Wuertz’s project to review every issue of Galaxy magazine in order of publication began with the January 1950 issue. See all his reviews here.

2 Comments »

  1. Great recap as usual, but what inquiring minds really want to know is…how do you get atomic power from beans?

    Comment by Thomas Parker - May 18, 2020 12:14 am

  2. Thomas, I think there’s a song about that… something kids sing about beans. :-)

    Comment by Matthew Wuertz - May 18, 2020 7:50 am


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