A three-dimensional montage effect — but it’s not a montage… All the objects in the picture are assembled at one time, illuminated by projected colored lights… and are shot by a number of cameras placed on different planes.
To me, it looks a little odd — or at least this particular use of the technique looks a little odd. (Click the image at right for a bigger version.) Seeing an image online doesn’t quite match up with what you see on an actual copy of the magazine; I can’t quite explain the difference. But however you view it, the cover still doesn’t connect with me.
Ring Around the Sun (Part 1) by Clifford D. Simak — It started with a few inventions — a cigarette lighter, a razor blade, and a light bulb. These items would last forever, the manufacturers claimed. Additionally, another group supplied synthetic carbohydrates for consumption, helping humanity’s food supply. Each had its own effect on the economy, in both subtle and obvious ways.
Jay Vickers learns of the newest arrivals — the forever car and the forever house — with indifference. He doesn’t need a new car and doesn’t like the idea of a new house, no matter how reasonable the financing may be, even if it seems like they’re being given away.
A group of industry leaders, represented by a heavy man named Mr. Crawford, focuses on Vickers as someone to write a book about the new inventions. They’re concerned about each sector being closed down by these anonymous groups, which are more than likely part of the same organization. The industry leaders need the public to avoid the new products, but they can’t come right out and advise people to support their own substandard products simply to keep their businesses around.
Vickers has little interest in the project, even with as much money as they’re willing to pay him. But Crawford reveals that it’s not just his skills as a writer they’re interested in. Crawford thinks the anonymous gadget-makers are advanced forms of human life, and he believes Vickers is one of them, though he may not yet realize it.
Ring Around the Sun was published in book form in 1953, and as an Ace Double in 1954 (see our survey of the various editions here). Part 1 reads well, but I’m not sure I care much about Vickers. He’s not a flat character; he’s just self-absorbed.
“Homesick” by Lyn Venable — A small crew of space travelers sit together with sullen moods. Their mission is long complete, yet they remain aboard their ship. Having spent so many years in space in an extremely sterile environment made them unable to live in Earth’s environment.
So they remain on Earth in their grounded ship, living the rest of their days in confinement, isolated and miserable. I’m not sure how plausible the story is, but it’s an interesting premise.
Lyn Venable is a pseudonym for Marilyn Venable. She didn’t write a lot of stories, but the one she’s known best for is “Time Enough at Last” (published in If: Worlds of Science Fiction in January, 1953, cover below right), which was used as the basis for the Twilight Zone episode of the same name. Burgess Meredith starred as bookworm Henry Bemis who just wants to find more time to read. And if you’re thinking, “I don’t remember any such episode,” then drop everything and find this episode somewhere, somehow. It’s one of the best TZ episodes ever.
“The Reluctant Weapon” by Howard L. Myers — Earth has become a minor threat to the Hovans, who rule the universe. Rather than sending their own military to attack, their leader decides to consult the Weapon, an ancient artificial intelligence with the power to destroy entire worlds. The Weapon, however, wants to speak with a human first, in order to gain a hatred toward the entire race and fuel its attack. So the Hovans choose one of the worst ones in captivity — a man named Jake, who is a farmer from Tennessee. Jake wastes no time in irritating the Weapon, simply by being himself.
I liked this story; it had humor and interesting characters. Myers contributed a lot of science fiction in his career, mostly in short form. Unfortunately, he died in 1971 at age 41.
“The Leech” by Phillips Barbee — A speck of cosmic dust lands on Earth. The speck is actually the seed of an organism with a voracious appetite. It can devour anything it contacts, converting the matter to energy and then converting that energy into enlarging its body. As it grows, it draws the attention of scientists and the military, who attack with weapons that only serve to feed the creature, adding to its mass.
This was my favorite store of the issue. Had this been written a bit differently, it could have been classified as horror. The story has suspense, good pacing, and a surprising end. Barbee was actually a pseudonym for Robert Sheckley. This is another Galaxy issue with two stories from the same author (in this case back to back), but Gold obviously thought he should disguise that a bit.
“Cost of Living” by Robert Sheckley — On Carrin’s day off, he meets with the Avignon Electric finance man. AE has offered many products — the shower, the Auto-towel, the Wall-reminder, and more. Life is so convenient, yet to continue in such luxury, Carrin needs to sign 30 years of debt to his son. It’s hardly anything, compared to what one of his neighbors is doing — pushing debt down to his grandchildren. Besides, Carrin inherited his father’s debt; it’s simply what people do.
There are some obvious remarks about consumerism in the story, told in a tongue-in-cheek manner. And though it’s an exaggeration of consumerism, it’s actually not off the mark at all when considering the national debt of the United States that literally is being passed from one generation to the next.
If I were Sheckley and had a pick which story to put my name to (between “The Leech” and “Cost of Living”), I would have picked “The Leech.” Or maybe just be smug and put my name on both.
“The Deep” by Isaac Asimov — A planet orbits a dying star, and the inhabitants have few choices. There’s no other planet in the system to flee to, and no other system close enough to travel to. They choose instead to burrow toward the planet’s core, drawing from its heat as long as it lasts. After thousands of years and accumulated knowledge and planning, the race decides to transport themselves to another world that’s now within reach. But to do so, one of them must make telepathic contact with someone on the remote world and activate a device they can use for transportation.
The plot and alien race worked well together, and I think this is one of the better Asimov stories I’ve read in Galaxy so far. He found a way to connect something alien to something deeply ingrained in humanity without overdoing it emotionally.
Matthew Wuertz’s last retro review for us was the November 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.