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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1962

Edited by Avram Davidson, British Edition, Atlas Publishing and Distribution by arrangement with Mercury Press, 112 p.

Note: the cover painting shown right is the one on my copy but the contents differ from those listed on the image which was for the US edition for April 1962. The British editions obviously did not match the US ones.

In those days the magazine had no Editorial column nor was the text of its stories – except the title page for Uncle Arly here – laid out in two columns as it would be in later years.

Isaac Asimov’s SCIENCE column was going strong. Here in Hot Stuffa he considers the highest* temperature possible in the universe (the interior of a star about to go supernova.)

Saturn Rising by Arthur C Clarke.1 A veteran of the first two trips to Saturn on a lecture tour is buttonholed by the hotel owner, an enthusiast for that planet, eager for commercial opportunity.

Brown Robert by Terry Carr2 is both SF and a horror story. Arthur Leacock assists young Robert Ernsohn, brown Robert, to make the first trip through time. This is one of the few SF stories to deal with the fact that time travel must also involve space travel.

My Dear Emily by Joanna Russ is a vampire story set in 1880s San Francisco. As well as the Emily of the title another of its characters is named Charlotte; two names obviously chosen to invoke thoughts of the Brontë sisters. Yet the overall effect is far from that template.

The Man Without a Planet by Kate Wilhelm.3 The titular man carried on with a space voyage despite that meaning the death of his companions. The sympathies of the story’s narrator are somewhat like the protagonist of Robert Silverberg’s To See the Invisible Man.

Darfgarth by Vance Aandahl. The titular character is a wandering minstrel whose mandolin has a magical effect on the locals he stops to serenade. Until he goes too far.

Stanley Toothbrush by Carl Brandon.4 One morning, while shaving, viewpoint character Herbert thinks the word ‘shelf’ is ridiculous and all his shelves disappear. Later his girtlfriend teases him about a (non-existent) new boyfriend and he turns up on her doorstep. The have great problems with him – till she imagines him away.

In Uncle Arly by Ron Goulart5 the uncle of an ex-girlfriend has begun to haunt Tim Barnum’s television set, every Tuesday evening for half an hour. He also pops up on the radio.

Subcommittee by Zenna Henderson.6 Talks to end the war between humans and the alien Linjeni are going nowhere. Serena’s husband Thorn is on the talks committee. Their son Splinter finds a way through the fence between the two communities and makes friends with Doovie, a Linjeni child. The rest of the story more or less writes itself but 60 years on it is striking how the cultural assumptions of the time were entrenched even in SF: the Linjeni females in this story are as bound to their families as human women were in those days. Of course it may not have been possible to get anything else past a male editor.

*as known then.

Pedant’s corner:- awave length (now is one word, wavelength.) Centigrade (that unit of temperature is now designated Celsius,) “56 hydrogen nuclei … are converted into 1 helium nuclei” (the nuclei is plural, so the ‘1’ is wrong. Context and the subsequent text suggests ‘14 helium nuclei’.) Later we have 19 helium nuclei where again 14 makes more sense.
1Ingalls’ (Ingalls’s,) “It took me awhile” (a while.) 2Mr Lewis’ assistant (x 2, Lewis’s.) 3zombi-like (zombie-like.) 4focussing (focusing,) “‘An what do you mean’” (And,) a miising full stop at the end of a sentence, a double quote mark at the beginning of a piece of direct speech when elsewhere there are only single ones. 5 “and pointing at the fat man on the set who was singing again. ‘And who’s this guy?’” (is missing a ‘said’ before ‘And who’s this guy?’) “before go to the bank” (before I go to the bank.) “Jean left them” (elsewhere she is Jeanne.) 6 “and felt of the knitting” (and felt the knitting.)

Women of Wonder, Edited by Pamela Sargent

THE CLASSIC YEARS. Science Fiction by women from the 1940 to the 1970s
A Harvest Original, Harcourt Brace, 1995, 446 p, including 20 p Introduction by Pamela Sargent, 14 p “About the Authors”, 1 p “About the Editor”, 13 p Recommended Reading: Science Fiction by Women 1818-1978, and 2 p Permission Acknowledgements.

 Women of Wonder: The Classic Years cover

Since it covers some of the same ground it was odd reading this at the same time as All that Outer Space Allows. (I tend to read short fiction during the day and novels in the evening.)
In the Introduction Pamela Sargent traces the history of women writing SF which goes back a long way even if you discount Mary Shelley. It is true, though, that the profile of female SF writers certainly became more prominent in the 1970s. The stories in the book are listed on the contents page by the date when they were first published. I have included those dates below.
No Woman Born by C L Moore (1944) explicitly riffs on the Frankenstein story. Here a female dancer who died in a theatre fire has had her brain preserved and placed in a wonderfully supple metallic body so that she (it?) can continue performing. “‘The whole idea was to re-create what I’d lost so that it could be proved that beauty and talent need not be sacrificed by the estruction of parts or all of the body.’” The usual philosophical considerations apply.
In the war-ridden, radiation-raddled world of That Only a Mother by Judith Merril (1948) there has been an increase in the mutation rate, but the worst cases can be predicted and prevented. Infanticide committed by fathers is also on the rise. Margaret gives birth to a daughter while her husband is away on war service. The child is precociously gifted as regards cognitive development and speech. The father does not realise anything else might be amiss till he returns.
Contagion by Katherine McLean (1950) is set on a planet where a newly touched down expedition discovers previous settlers, who it turns out were severely affected by a disease they called melting sickness. Only certain genetic strains are able to survive.
In The Woman from Altair by Leigh Brackett (1951) the title character has been brought back from Altair as his wife by, David, one of the famous spacefaring MacQuarrie family. His brother Rafe, never eager to go into space, and his girl-friend Marthe begin to have suspicions when odd things start happening in the MacQuarrie household.
In a time of cold-war stress Short in the Chest by Margaret St Clair (1954) features the curious military custom of dighting, sexual encounters between members of the various armed services in order to relieve inter-service tension. Marine Major Sonya Briggs takes her problems with it to a huxley – a philosophic robot.
The box of Zenna Henderson’s The Anything Box (1956) is the invisible possession of Sue-lynn, a pupil in the narrator’s class. It nevertheless has weight and is where she goes to retreat from the world and find herself.
Death Between the Stars by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1956) is the tale of Helen Vargas, forced by circumstance and against all Terran norms and expectations to occupy the same cabin as a telepathic alien on her way back to Earth to avoid the outbreak of a war. The treatment of the alien by the prejudiced crew dismays her but its telepathic intrusions are equally disturbing. In death – brought on by its inhumane treatment – the alien finds a way to prolong its life, and study humans in secret.
The Ship Who Sang 1 by Anne McCaffrey (1961) is the story of the brain of a child malformed at birth but taken and grown inside a metal case eventually to become the controlling entity of a spaceship. She finds she can sing at any pitch and register.
The aliens in When I Was Miss Dow by Sonya Dorman Hess (1961) – who started her writing career as plain Sonya Dorman – can take various shapes at will and are able to be reconstituted in tanks. However, some of them are dependent on sulfadiazole which they can earn by working for humans. Our narrator reconstitutes as Miss Dow (recquiring her to have two brain lobes) and finds she is attracted to Dr Proctor, the human colony’s head biologist, whose assistant she becomes.
The Food Farm by Kit Reed (1966) is where our narrator is now in charge. Sent there by her parents to get over her addiction to binge-eating, a habit encouraged by hearing the singing of Tommy Fango on the radio, she rebelled when Fango visited and she was not allowed to see him, sought him out and discovered his main predilection, which she now seeks to fulfill.
The Heat Death of the Universe by Pamela Zoline (1967). “Sarah Boyle is a vivacious and witty young wife and mother, educated at a fine Eastern college, proud of her growing family, which keeps her happy and busy around the house, involved in many hobbies and community activities, and only occasionally given to obsessions concerning Time/Entropy/Chaos and Death.” Yeah, right. More like, “a woman’s work is never done” – and sometimes undoes her.
The Power of Time by Josephine Saxton (1971) uses the word Negro, likely to be frowned upon nowadays. It reverses the usual way of cross-Atlantic transactions. An English woman buys the whole of Manhattan island (previously owned by a descendant of native Americans) and transfers it to Leicestershire.
False Dawn by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1972) is set after an environmental apocalypse. A woman armed with a crossbow makes her way across the devastated landscape, trying to avoid the Pirates and mutant hunters. This contains the usual violent scenes accompanying such tales.
Nobody’s Home by Joanna Russ (1972) posits a future time of resource plenitude where people can travel the world at whim via transmission booths and hold parties willy-nilly. Leslie Smith turns up at one of these and puts a downer on it.
In The Funeral by Kate Wilhelm (1972) all non-citizens are the property of the state. This is a dystopia, with pre-echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale, where Carla has been brought up under the educational tenets of Madame Westfall. The funeral of the title is Westfall’s. She had hidden some secret knowledge the powers that be want to uncover. Carla finds the hiding place.
Vonda N McIntyre’s justly award-winning Of Mist and Grass and Sand (1973) tells of an incident in the life of a healer whose medicines are incubated by snakes before they bite the sufferer to “inject” the cure. Her clients of course fear her reptilian companions.
Another celebrated piece of feminist SF is The Women Men Don’t See2 (1973) published by Alice Sheldon under her pen name of James Tiptree Jr. Given that at the time of publication many thought “Tiptree” was a man, the story’s title is deliciously ironic. In it a plane with three passengers, our narrator Don plus a mother and daughter, goes down off the Yucatán peninsula. Don’s fantasies about female abilities are soon disabused as Ruth Parsons turns out to be very capable indeed. Also when he mentions women’s rights she tells him, “Women have no rights, Don, except what men allow us. Men are more aggressive and powerful, and they run the world. When the next real crisis upsets them, our so-called rights will vanish like … smoke. We’ll be back where we always were. Property. And whatever has gone wrong will be blamed on our freedom, like the fall of Rome was. You’ll see.” Sadly, probably only too true. However, the intrusion of aliens near the end into felt like it came from another story altogether.
The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons by Eleanor Arnason (1974) tells how a cigar-smoking, tea-drinking, silver-haired maiden of thirty-five in a world where the usual bad stuff is on the news writes the story of the title, a somewhat schlocky enterprise which will read as bad as it sounds.
In Ursula K Le Guin’s The Day Before the Revolution (1974) an old anarchist, inspiration to her followers remembers her life of struggle and ruminates on what it all means. “Favouritism, elitism, leader-worship, they crept back and cropped out everywhere. But she had never hoped to see them eradicated in her lifetime, in one generation; only Time works the great changes.” She also comments on how people see her. “How brave of you to go on, to work, to write, in prison, after such a defeat for the Movement, after your partner’s death, people had used to say. Damn fools. What else had there been to do? Bravery, courage – What was courage? She had never figured it out. Not fearing, some said. Fearing going on, others said. But what could one do but go on? Had one any real choice, ever?” Human and humane.
The Family Monkey by Lisa Tuttle (1977) is an oddly constructed tale told from four different viewpoints of the adoption by a couple in Texas of an alien who crashlands in their graveyard. He is effectively part of the family down several generations. The concept of sleep is alien to him but when he finally achieves that state he experiences the humans’ dreams – and some of them experience his. The story contains the word “nigger,” reflecting the time and place in which that scene was set.
A totally immune-compromised woman is the ideal choice for the first interstellar human traveller in View from a Height by Joan D Vinge (1978.) Her trip gives her a perspective on life.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“When they were forced to, Central Worlds shrugged its shoulders” (either ‘it was forced to’ or, ‘their shoulders”,) “sound issued through microphones rather than mouths” (microphones take in, they do not emit sound. Loudspeaker is the appropriate word,) “her throat microphone” (her throat loudspeaker,) “spoke to Jennan only through her central mike” (through her central speaker.) 2“A flock of ibis are circling us” (a flock of ibis is circling us.)

The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Gollancz SF Masterworks, 2010, 209 p, plus 5p epigraph and Introduction. Originally published in 1975.

The Female Man cover

One day a woman called Janet Evason appears on a street in the US. She is from the future, from a planet named Whileaway where a cataclysm wiped out all men hundreds of years before Janet’s birth. Her appearance makes her a celebrity and occasions disbelief at the mere possibility of a manless society. This US is in a parallel timeline to ours where the Great Depression is still ongoing and the Second World War never happened. She is, of course, Janet Evasdaughter but as the book tells us, Evason “is your translation.” Her path crosses that of Jeannine Dadier, who is in an unsatisfactory relationship with a man called Cal but feels pressurised to marry – especially by her mother. “Someone is collecting J’s” as we also meet Joanna, a woman from something very like our own 1970s who may indeed be a representation of the author, and Jael Reasoner from a world where men and women are at war.

This set-up gives Russ opportunity to elaborate on the many iniquities which men pile upon women. In the intervening forty or so years since the novel was first published many things have changed but others have not. Russ’s strictures still have power. Of motherhood Joanna says, “This is the most important job in the world. That’s why they don’t pay you for it.”

The book’s structure is disjointed and bitty, though, the many asides a distraction from the unfolding of story but these asides are one of the means by which Russ is pointing up her concerns.

Science Fiction is the perfect medium for thought experiments; SF is never really about the future. In its particular highlighting of how things might (still) be different in terms of sexual equality The Female Man was – and remains – an important book in the history of SF and in its evolution.

Curiosity corner. We had “waked” for “woke.” Is this a US usage? Also gay appeared in the sense of homosexual – as long ago as 1975!

Frederick Pohl

Another of Science Fiction’s prominent authors, Frederick Pohl, has died.

His contribution to the genre started early in its history, mostly pseudonymously at first but later notably in collaboration with C M Kornbluth. His writing career also developed under his own name and he won four Hugo and three Nebula awards overall.

It was not just as a writer that Pohl was important to the field. He was an influential editor of the magazines Galaxy and If in the 1960s and for Bantam Books in the 1970s where he took a punt on Samuel R Delany’s Dhalgren and Joanna Russ’s The Female Man.

Pohl also wrote an autobiographical account of his early years in the SF field and his meetings with the group of SF fans (many of whom were writers) known as “The Futurians” in The Way The Future Was.

In later years he adapted this title to take up blogging, at The Way The Future Blogs, an unfailingly entertaining and informative blog which I shall miss.

Frederik George Pohl, Jr. 26/11/1919-2/9/2013. So it goes.

Despatches From the Frontiers of the Female Mind edited by Jen Green and Sarah Lefanu

The Women’s Press, 1985, 248 p.

Despatches From the Frontiers of the Female Mind

This is an anthology from a time when it was thought there had to be a Women’s Press and a collection of SF stories by women writers only. Given the relative rarity, still, of published SF written by women – though the barriers are no longer so high and the practitioners are at least on a par with and often surpass their male counterparts – arguably the desideratum is as important now as it ever was. The avowedly feminist perspective, the didacticism, of a lot of these stories dates them though. Then again most SF from the 80s would be similarly dated.

Big Operation on Altair Three by Josephine Saxton
On a regressive colony world an advertising copywriter describes the unusual procedure devised to illustrate the extreme stability of a new car.

Spinning the Green by Margaret Elphinstone
A fairy tale. It even begins, “Once upon a time.” A treacle merchant on his way home from a convention encounters a group of green-clad women in a wood. They demand a price for the rose he has picked for his youngest daughter. Curiously this world has computers, televisions and round the world cruises but the merchant travels on horseback.

The Clichés from Outer Space by Joanna Russ
Satirises the portrayal of women in the typical slush-pile SF story of pre-enlightened times – like the 1980s – with four overwrought, overwritten examples. (As they no doubt were.)

The Intersection by Gwyneth Jones
Two space dwellers from an environment where privacy is impossible, “SERVE sees all, SERVE records all,” take a holiday to observe the indigs of the underworld. Bristling with acronyms and told rather than unfolded this is more an exercise in information dumping than a story as such. (And de rigeur ought to be spelled with a “u” after the “g”.)

Long Shift by Beverley Ireland
A woman who is employed to use her mind to demolish buildings safely is given a priority assignment monitoring a subsidence which turns out to be worse than expected.

Love Alters by Tanith Lee
Women only have babies with women, and men only with men. This is the right, the straight way to do it. Our female narrator is married to Jenny but then falls in love with someone else. A man.

Cyclops by Lannah Battley
A space-faring archaeologist discovers Earth was not the cradle of humanity by uncovering an ancient manuscript written by “Aeneas.” It has a clever explanation of why the Cyclops appeared to have one eye. The story’s balance is out of kilter, though.

Instructions for Exiting this Building in Case of Fire by Pamela Zoline
A remedy for the world’s ills involves the kidnapping, and resettlement, of children.

A Sun in the Attic by Mary Gentle
In Asaria, women take more than one husband. Roslin, head of House Mathury, is married to a pair of brothers one of whom has gone missing. The Port Council does not like his scientific investigations.

Atlantis 2045: no love between planets by Frances Gapper
In a repressive future society letters are too dangerous to write. Jene is a misfit, earning her family penalty points to the extent that they have her classified as a Social Invisible. Then one day her equally invisible aunt returns from being Ghosted.

From a Sinking Ship by Lisa Tuttle
Susannah works trying to communicate with dolphins. She is happier with them than with humans; so much so that she is unaware of the impending nuclear war. The dolphins understand the danger; and have an escape plan.

The Awakening by Pearlie McNeill
In a heavily polluted future world Lucy has doubts about her daughter’s participation in the Breeding Roster.

Words by Naomi Mitchison
Is about the inadequacy of language to describe new experiences – especially those induced by a device to stimulate brain synapses.

Relics by Zoë Fairbairns
A woman’s visit to a Greenham Common type peace camp is overtaken by the beginning of a nuclear war. She is placed in a freezing cabinet and woken decades later to be part of an exhibition illustrating her times. The future people get it hopelessly wrong of course.

Mab by Penny Castagli
A post-menopausal woman who takes a yoga class gives birth – from a lump on her head – to a tiny child. This apparently prefigures the demise of the male.

Morality Meat by Raccoona Sheldon*
A simple morality tale. Droughts and grain diseases have killed off the supply of meat but as always the rich still manage to get their share. Meanwhile every pregnancy is forced by law to go to full term. Adoption Centres provide a service for those who do not want or otherwise cannot keep their babies. But parents cannot be found for all the children.

*Raccoona Sheldon (Alice Sheldon) is also known as James Tiptree Jr.

Apples In Winter by Sue Thomason
People from another world interfere with a native culture.

Joanna Russ

I’ve just caught up with the news that Joanna Russ has died.

She was one of the first women to break into the male dominated world of 1960s Science Fiction and used feminism as her main theme, explicitly critiquing sexism and women’s perceived role in society. In this respect SF was, of course, a perfect vehicle with its ability to take a fresh look at how things are and how perhaps they ought to be.

I do not recall reading The Female Man, perhaps her most famous novel, but may have done so in my teens when most of my reading came from the local Library. I do have Picnic On Paradise (1968) on my shelves and certainly read that but must admit I don’t remember much of it from this distance in time.

What is undeniable is the impact Russ had in promoting women and feminism in SF.

Russ also took a great interest in slash fiction and seems to have been a force in it beginning to be taken more seriously than when it first appeared.

Joanna Russ 22/2/1937-29/4/2011. So it goes.

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