infinity plus - sf, fantasy and horror non-fiction: reviews, interviews and features
infinity plus home pagefictionnon-fictionother stuffa to z

Son of Space Opera

an extract from History of the Science Fiction Magazine

by Mike Ashley


This is an extract from Chapter 8 of volume 2 of my Time Machines coverrevised History of the Science Fiction Magazine, being published by Liverpool University Press. Volume 1, The Time Machines was published eighteen months ago. That covered the years from 1926 to 1950. Volume 2, Transformations, is finished and awaiting publication. This volume covers the years 1950 to 1970, so it follows through the end of the pulps, the end of the sf boom of the 1950s, the New Wave and the start of the Space Age. This extract deals with the start of the phenomenon of Star Trek and the relationship between the visual media and sf magazines which will form a significant element on the third and final volume of this study, Gateways to Forever, which I hope to finish towards the end of 2003.

Mike Ashley, December 2002

Son of Space Opera

Although television occasionally flirted with science fiction in the 1950s, the lack of a big enough budget to allow for proper costumes, scenery and special effects, always made science fiction look weak and immature. The best remembered programmes had been produced in Britain by the BBC, especially the Quatermass series, scripted by Nigel Kneale, which ran through three series in the fifties, Quatermass (18 July-22 August 1953), Quatermass II (22 October-26 November 1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (22 December 1958-22 January 1959). [FOOTNOTE: A fourth series, Quatermass, did not appear until May 1984.] BBC followed this with A for Andromeda (3 October-14 November 1961) and its sequel, The Andromeda Breakthrough (28 June-2 August 1962), both scripted by John Elliott from a storyline by noted astronomer Fred Hoyle. All of these were serials, based on a single storyline. It was only in June 1962 that British commercial television started an anthology series, Out of This World (30 June-22 September 1962), with individual stories for each episode. Most of these drew upon a core of good quality genre fiction, starting with 'Dumb Martian' by John Wyndham and including 'Little Lost Robot' by Isaac Asimov, 'The Cold Equations' by Tom Godwin, 'Impostor' by Philip K. Dick and 'Pictures Don't Lie' by Katherine Maclean. The series included several scripts by Terry Nation, including an original story by him, 'Botany Bay'. Nation would soon establish a memorable reputation in British television sf with his creation of the Daleks, a race of conquering aliens who live in robot bodies, for the series Doctor Who, which started on 23 November 1963.

Out of This World, which was introduced by Boris Karloff, utilized the format of the highly successful American anthology series, The Twilight Zone. This series, created and hosted by Rod Serling, who also wrote many of the scripts, had started on the CBS network in the United States on 2 October 1959 and ran through five seasons until September 1964. Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont also contributed to the series, which was always slick, sophisticated and quality. It never pandered to the baser aspects of science fiction, but was really the television equivalent of radio's X Minus 1. It was a few years before an equivalent series came along to rival it, although The Outer Limits, which began on ABC on 16 September 1963, was never the equal of The Twilight Zone. Initially, it relied too heavily on monsters and make-up, which detracted from otherwise capable scripts. In the second season, Harlan Ellison contributed two original scripts, of which 'Demon With a Glass Hand', directed by Byron Haskin, won a Hugo Award. Nevetheless The Outer Limits was closer to sf than The Twilight Zone which often teetered on the edge of fantasy or the unknown.

Unfortunately as other tv series came along, especially those produced by Irwin Allen, their quality deteriorated, the nadir being reached with Lost in Space, which began a three-season run from 15 September 1965. A space equivalent of Swiss Family Robinson, the basic idea was ruined by poor scripts, bad studio sets and pompous acting -- the same flaws that ruined the BBC's Dr Who series (though this also seemed to make it compulsive viewing).

Compared to Lost in Space, the NBC series Star Trek, first broadcast on 8 September 1966, was invigorating. Indeed both Isaac Asimov and John W. Campbell, Jr., endorsed its values, Campbell calling it 'the first really adult, consistently high-level science-fiction show that's appeared on TV.' [FOOTNOTE: Campbell used this phrase in the introductory blurb to G. Harry Stine's article 'To Make a 'Star Trek'', Analog, February 1968, p. 73, but he used almost the same wording in a letter to Gene Roddenberry on 23 January 1968, see The John W. Campbell Letters, Volum 1 (AC Projects, 1985) p. 525. Asimov's comments are summarized in I. Asimov (Doubleday, 1994), p. 369.] Yet, no one could have perceived at the time what a significant influence Star Trek was to have -- indeed, the series was going to be dropped after the first year because of low ratings and was only continued for three seasons because of an outcry by science fiction fans. It was cancelled by NBC in 1969 because of low audience figures with a high proportion of teenagers and children as viewers.

Star Trek was the brain child of Gene Roddenberry, a former fighter pilot and police sergeant who turned tv scriptwriter in 1953. He wrote for a variety of shows including Dragnet and The Naked Citył although he was best known for his western scripts, especially for Have Gun, Will Travel, where he was head writer. Indeed when Roddenberry came to conceive Star Trek, he thought of it as 'Wagon Train to the Stars' [FOOTNOTE: Stephen E. Whitfield, & Gene Roddenberry, The Making of Star Trek (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968) p. 23.]. This comment was meant to reassure sceptics at MGM that Star Trek was a natural extension of other popular programmes, but the unfortunate links with the origins of space opera in the early thirties and its imagery as 'wild west in space' are only too obvious, and shows that Star Trek firmly had its roots in space opera. However Roddenberry did take the matter seriously and was determined to make the series as technically accurate as possible, with adult scripts and plots. Roddenberry had first encountered science fiction at High School when he read a copy of Astounding Stories and remained interested in the subject even if not a die-hard fan. Apparently he drew some of his inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future [FOOTNOTE: Neil McAleer, Odyssey: The Authorised Biography of Arthur C. Clarke (London: Gollancz, 1992) p. 183.]. He also took advice from John W. Campbell and other science-fictioneers. Roddenberry commissioned a number of sf writers to produce scripts, amongst them Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad and Harlan Ellison. Ellison's first episode, 'The City on the Edge of Forever' (1967) received a Hugo Award. Fredric Brown's classic story 'Arena' was adapted for the series. David Gerrold, was the first of several scriptwriters for the series who later went on to establish himself as an sf writer. His first sale was the episode 'The Trouble With Tribbles' (29 December 1967). When the scripts were adapted into stories for book publication the author commissioned by Bantam Books was no less than James Blish.

Moreover Roddenberry for once had a sufficiently large budget ($300,000 for the second pilot in 1966) to make the special effects passable. Although previous television series had each had its effect on attracting people to science fiction, none had the same impact as Star Trek. It wasn't instant, and indeed the fans at the outset were not especially vocal. It was not until the series was cancelled in 1969 that NBC began to get shoals of letters seeking the revival of the series. A Star Trek fandom emerged which held its first convention in January 1972.

I mention all of this to show the continuing interaction between the sf community and television. In Volume 3, I plot the divergence of television and film sf fans away from the core of sf -- indeed there was less and less overlap between the two. Damon Knight reports a reader's comment when learning of James Blish's death in 1975.

On the day the news of Blish's death reached America, a fan at the Star Trek convention in Philadelphia picked up one of Blish's Star Trek books from a dealer's table and asked, 'Is this the guy that died?' When the dealer said yes, the fan asked, 'Is he going to be doing any more of these?' [FOOTNOTE: Damon Knight, The Futurians (New York: John Day, 1977) p. 241]

At the outset the popularity of these television series, but especially Dr Who and Star Trek, demonstrated that there was a significant readership for science fiction adventure with a more juvenile slant. This had once been catered for by the comics, and before that by some of the pulp magazines like Planet Stories, but by the sixties the gap between the comics and sf magazines had grown too large. There was no intermediary sf magazine that met the need of the adolescent reader wanting to discover more about science fiction. Their interest in science fiction was also being fanned by the space race and America's plan to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

It was into that niche that If slipped. Not entirely, and not overnight. If still published adult sf, but it became far more adventure orientated and was more approachable by younger readers than the other magazines, especially Analog or even Galaxy.

If was a slim magazine. It looked the smallest of all of them, though it ran to 160 pages, the same as Amazing and Analog, but was printed on a less bulky stock. But it looked cheap. The contents page was printed in black but with story titles in red (sometimes blue) which looked like someone had set them with a child's block printing kit. This practice was dropped from the May 1966 issue. It was one of the few magazines to still run a personalized, more fannish letter column. Analog's was always full of highly technical discussion, whilst neither Galaxy nor F&SF ran a column, and those in Amazing and Fantastic were sporadic and limited to a few brief comments on stories. It helped give If a friendly feel which encouraged younger readers. One reader commented on the matter. 'As of right now, I feel that If is the only reader-oriented sf magazine.' [FOOTNOTE: Jim Armstrong, letter in If 15 (12) December 1965, p. 160.] Recognising that If appealed to younger readers Frederik Pohl instigated a new series, 'Our Man in Fandom', run by Lin Carter, which introduced readers to the many aspects of sf and fantasy fandom. The series ran from April 1966 to March 1968.

Above all, If's covers were far more juvenile-orientated. Richard McKenna's paintings in particular were often full of monsters or aliens. John Pedersen's cover for C.C. MacApp's 'Prisoners of the Sky' (February 1966) is especially alluring, showing an old-fashioned dirigible being attacked by a huge air serpent. Most showed action scenes. One could never accuse If of looking sophisticated, but it did look fun, and it did publish a wide range of enjoyable stories, much of which fell into the space opera category. No more so than 'Skylark DuQuesne' by the man who started it all, E.E. Smith. Originally scheduled as a three-part serial this final romp in the Skylark series eventually spread out over five issues, from June to October 1965. If was full of stories by old-time writers. In addition to E.E. Smith were Jack Williamson, Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Murray Leinster, Robert Moore Williams, Hal Clement, Isaac Asimov, even Harl Vincent. Not that any of these stories were old-fashioned, more to the contrary. But they were authors who used traditional story-telling techniques and who knew how to tell a strong, character-centred action story. There were plenty of new writers doing just the same, especially Keith Laumer, Larry Niven, C.C. MacApp and Fred Saberhagen, plus British authors like Kenneth Bulmer and John Brunner.

Some serials in If were attuned to the teenage market. James Blish's 'The Hour Before Earthrise' (July-September 1966; in bookform as Welcome to Mars!, Putnam, 1967) has a teenager trying to invent an anti-gravity device who becomes stranded on Mars, with his young girlfriend. If was the leading purveyor of new space opera in the late sixties, too many to list. A few examples will suffice. With 'Edge of Night' (September-October 1966), A. Bertram Chandler's series about Commodore John Grimes moved to If in a fast-paced adventure where Grimes encounters an alien spaceship that shows all the signs of being created by Terrans, but from an alternative universe. The Grimes series, also known as the Rimworlds stories, have almost exactly the same premise as the Star Trek series and would certainly have been enjoyed by both sets of fans. There were also the Retief stories by Keith Laumer, the Gree stories by C.C. MacApp and the Berserker stories by Fred Saberhagen (in fact one could almost imagine the Berserkers as a prototype of the Borg in Star Trek). Piers Anthony began a new, humorous series, about Dillingham, a dentist who had to come to terms with all kinds of alien teeth.

Frederik Pohl continued to encourage new writers in his 'If first' section. Gardner Dozois, who will feature heavily in Volume 3 of this history, made his first sale with a story of a deadly weapon, 'The Empty Man' (September 1966), before entering the army curtailed his writing for a few years. May 1967 saw the appearance of the enigmatic Burt K. Filer with the truth of mankind's origin in 'The Hole'. Other first appearances included Perry Chapdelaine, with a long tale about mankind's evolution, 'To Serve the Masters' (September 1967); Thomas J. Bassler (who became better known as T.J. Bass), a doctor who, not surprisingly, explored the medical issues of space exploration in 'Star Itch' (September 1968); George Scithers, long active in fandom and who would emerge as an important editor in the 1970s, with 'The Faithful Messenger' (March 1969) which served to emphasize the immensities of space; and Robert Weinberg, who would also become active in both fannish and professional circles in the next thirty years, with 'Destroyer' (May 1969).

Although not billed as an 'If first', one of Pohl's most significant discoveries was Gene Wolfe. Technically he had already appeared elsewhere -- one of his fable-like tales, 'The Dead Man' had been sold to the men's magazine Sir! where it appeared in October 1965. But an earlier story, 'The Mountains are Mice', had been acquired by Pohl for If. An early example of Wolfe's cryptic story-lines, it tells of adapted humanity re-established on Mars but already, within a few generations, forgetting their origins. Pohl published it as 'Mountains Like Mice' in the May 1966 issue. Amusingly, Wolfe later recounted how he had first submitted the story to Galaxy where Pohl had rejected it. Wolfe then mailed it out again to If, not realizing that was also edited by Pohl. Pohl bought it saying, 'I feel the rewrite has improved it quite a bit!' [FOOTNOTE: see Gene Wolfe, 'The Profession of Science Fiction', Foundation #18, January 1980, p. 5.] It only shows what many of us have realized since, that you get even more out of one of Wolfe's stories on a second reading.

Two other discoveries are worthy of passing reference. 'The Edward Salant Letters' (April 1968) marks the only appearance in an sf magazine by Jerry Juhl, who subsequently became far better known as one of the masterminds behind the highly successful television Muppet Show. 'Operation High Time' (January 1969) was the first professional sale by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and also the first in her Sime/Gen series about the relationship between two mutated species of humans. More pertinent to the issue at hand is that Lichtenberg, a long-time reader of sf, went on to become one of the primary writers of Star Trek fan fiction.

With the August 1967 issue Worlds of Tomorrow was merged with If. Worlds of Tomorrow was frequently maligned, classified by many as a reject magazine, with stories not suitable for If or Galaxy. In fact it had carried many good stories. These included, in its later issues, 'The Ultra Man' by A.E. van Vogt (May 1966), 'Seventy Light-Years from Sol' (November 1966), the first of the Stardust space-exploration series by Stephen Tall, and 'The Star-Pit' by Samuel Delany (February 1967). The magazine did in fact sell at a small profit. The sudden decision to discontinue it was not to do with sales but was a tactic employed by publisher Robert M. Guinn to allow Frederik Pohl to reinstate Galaxy on a monthly schedule. In fact that did not happen for another year. In the meantime, Worlds of Tomorrow was merged with If with the result that If picked up some of its companion's features and series.

Of most importance here was Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series. Three episodes had already been run in Worlds of Tomorrow but now If ran the short novel 'The Felled Star' (July-August 1967). One could argue that Riverworld is only tenuously science fiction. It relies heavily on Clarke's Third Law, in that we have god-like aliens who have somehow created a planet with a million-mile long river and have resurrected on this planet all the souls of everyone who has ever lived. It is, in fact, closer to fantasy than sf, and it is a good example of how If was now featuring the best of both worlds. Not only was it running space opera to appeal to the Star Trek fans and those enthused by the moon-landing programme, but it was also running stories closer to the weave of fantasy. If was able to boast publication of a new novella by Andre Norton, noted for her Witch World quasi-fantasy series. 'Wizard's World' (June 1967) was a rare magazine appearance by Norton at that time, and a one-off fantasy about a planet where psi-powers operated like magic. In subsequent issues Virgil Finlay's beautiful fantasy artwork enhanced many a borderline story to give them an aura of the fantastic, such as C.C. MacApp's 'Winter of the Llangs' (October 1967) and David Redd's exotic far future tale, 'Sunbeam Caress' (March 1968). The magazine also ran several episodes from Roger Zelazny's forthcoming novel drawing upon Egyptian myth, Creatures of Light and Darkness [FOOTNOTE: 'Creatures of Light' (November 1968), 'The Steel General' (January 1969) and 'Creatures of Darkness' (March 1969).], but perhaps its most blatant fantasy was the serialisation of James Blish's 'Faust Aleph-Null' (August-October 1967). Later expanded as Black Easter (Doubleday, 1968), it tells of the magician, Theron Ware, who allows all Hell to literally break loose when he summons up all the demons. Blish's approach to the subject was entirely scientific, and many authorities on occult lore have commented upon the accuracy of his detailed descriptions, but it was fantasy nonetheless.

So popular was fantasy in If that Guinn was even able to put out a trial issue of a new magazine, Worlds of Fantasy, which appeared in September 1968. It was a way of testing the market and to relieve If of some of the build-up of fantasy submissions. Pohl did not feel his knowledge of fantasy was sufficient to compile the issue so it was edited by Lester del Rey. The issue was of good quality. There was a Brak story by John W. Jakes, a new Conan story by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp, a previously unpublished story by Robert E. Howard, a feature on Tolkien, and stories by Robert Silverberg, Mack Reynolds, Robert Hoskins and others. It sold well, and might have become a regular magazine, but looming internal problems caused Guinn to shelve the magazine temporarily. [FOOTNOTE: In passing I should note that Guinn had also launched and then shelved another magazine, International Science Fiction, which saw just two issues in November 1967 and June 1968. It consisted entirely of translations of stories from all round the world, but sales were poor. Nevertheless it was at last a recognition that science fiction was appearing in other countries, and a full rundown of non-English sf magazines is given in Appendix 1.]

If's ability to reflect the reader's fascination for space adventure and fantastic fiction, much in the line of the old pulps Planet Stories and Startling Stories, won If the Hugo Award as the Best Science Fiction Magazine three years running, 1966 to 1968. In that same period several stories first published in If won Hugo awards. 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' (December 1965-April 1966), Robert A. Heinlein's parallel of the American War of Independence applied to the Lunar colonies, won the Best Novel award in 1967. Larry Niven's 'Neutron Star' (October 1966), the first serious treatment of the likely impact on an astronaut of venturing too close to such a stellar object, won the best short story in 1967. Harlan Ellison's pyrotechnics of sentience and creation, 'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream' (March 1967), won the short story award in 1968. Interestingly none of these stories won or were even nominated for the Nebula Award, presented by the SFWA, suggesting that If received the more popular vote from the reader than the critical vote from the authors. During this same period If's circulation rose steadily from around 64,000 to over 67,000, an increase of almost 5%, beaten only by Analog (whose circulation rose by over 13%).

Some of this same energy in If ran over into Galaxy. Despite the popularity of If, Galaxy continued to outsell it throughout the sixties, and it contained the more superior stories. Galaxy, by the mid-sixties, bore little comparison with the Galaxy of ten years earlier. Science fiction was finding new forms, and Galaxy gave sf scope to broaden and explore without letting it run rampant as it was in New Worlds. It may not have been as exciting or as much fun as If, but there was a feeling of awe in Galaxy that here the future of sf was being channelled, capturing and taming the new-wave sparks spinning out of Britain and the anthologies.

Frederik Pohl's trump cards in Galaxy had been Cordwainer Smith and Jack Vance, but in fact he lost both of them by the mid-sixties. It was tragic that Cordwainer Smith died on 6 August 1966, aged only fifty-three, and after an sf writing career of a little more than eight years. His last appearance was with 'Under Old Earth' (February 1966), one of the pivotal stories in the Instrumentality series. Smith's work had added a layer of intensity to science fiction in the early sixties which challenged readers and encouraged writers to develop more complex and far-thinking stories set in different yet believable worlds because they have a past and a future. Jack Vance was another working in exactly the same vein, and the issue of Galaxy after Smith's swansong published his 'The Last Castle' (April 1966). This was another of his far future quasi-fantasies with complex names and social structures. Pohl felt that it might be over the head of some readers so he commissioned Jack Gaughan to provide some explanatory artwork and included a chart to show the relationship between the various individuals. A year later, not only did 'The Last Castle' win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, but Gaughan also won the Best Artist Hugo, primarily for his work in Galaxy and If. However, after 'The Last Castle', Vance worked in longer forms and sold predominantly to other markets, chiefly F&SF and Amazing. The last work Pohl was able to publish was 'The Palace of Love' (Galaxy, October 1966-February 1967), the last in the Demon Princes series which had started in Galaxy with 'The Star King' (December 1963-February 1964), and which followed Kirth Gersen (or Keith in the magazine version) across the galaxy in pursuit of the murderers of his parents. [FOOTNOTE: The second novel of the trilogy, The Killing Machine was a paperback original (Berkley, 1964) and had no prior magazine serialisation.]

With Smith and Vance gone, Pohl needed to build up other mainstay authors. He missed out on developing Anne McCaffrey, and only secured the third of her Helva series about a sentient space-ships, 'The Ship Who Killed' (October 1966). The first of these stories had appeared in F&SF and the second in Analog, and it was in Analog that McCaffrey made her name with her Pern stories. Pohl did acquire one more Helva story, 'The Ship Who Disappeared' which he ran in If (March 1969). He published stories by a number of authors who, for a while, looked like they might establish a greater reputation, but who faded before their full glory was seen. C.C. MacApp, Hayden Howard, H.H. Hollis, Sydney Van Scyoc and others all contributed regularly to Galaxy and became closely associated with the magazine, yet never made it into the big time.

He did have occasional stories by Roger Zelazny, including one of his best, 'Damnation Alley' (October 1967). Subsequently novelized, and later still filmed, this skilled piece of story-telling sustains the pace and excitement as Hell Tanner makes a death-defying 'Ghent-to-Aix' journey across a nuclear devastated North America. It appeared in Galaxy's seventeenth anniversary issue, which also included a rare new story by H.L. Gold, 'The Transmogrification of Wamba's Revenge', a quaintly old fashioned story of diminutive humans, which was as much fantasy as it was sf. Galaxy did flirt with the fantastication of sf at this time -- Pohl was clearly receiving more stories than he could cope with at If, even with the new Worlds of Fantasy. The April 1968 issue saw the start of both Clifford D. Simak's fantasy-slanted serial, 'Goblin Reservation' and Damon Knight's occasional series about the strange world of Thorinn who sets out to explore his surroundings. Readers remained mystified for a long time as Knight's series remained incomplete until the publication of The World and Thorinn in 1981.

Pohl welcomed a few other old-timers to Galaxył much like he had been doing in If. Ross Rocklynne reappeared after a hiatus of fourteen years with a cluster of stories, starting with 'Touch of the Moon' (April 1968), which showed that the author had lost none of his old flair, even though it was an old-style story. Raymond F. Jones had one of his last stories, 'Subway to the Stars' (December 1968), about an inter-dimensional doorway, which would have been well at home in a 1950s Astounding. John Wyndham made a rare magazine appearance with 'A Life Postponed' (December 1968). It dealt with the issue raised by Robert Ettinger in his Worlds of Tomorrow feature. A man goes into cold storage to escape to the future only to find that his wife follows him. It was a minor story but marked the last appearance by Wyndham, who died on 10 March 1969, aged only sixty-five.

It was important, however, for Pohl to build up a new stable of regular, reliable contributors. One of his stars was Larry Niven, who Pohl had discovered and first published in If. If remained Niven's primary territory, although Pohl started to shift him more to Galaxy. Virtually all of Niven's fiction here fitted into his generic Tales of Known Space sequence. These ranged from the relatively straightforward 'At the Bottom of a Hole' (December 1966), which depicts the predicament of a 'Belter' (a spaceman who works on the asteroid belt) trapped in the higher gravity of Mars, to the highly complex 'The Adults' (June 1967; expanded in bookform as Protector, 1973), which considers mankind's place in the Galaxy.

Poul Anderson became almost as regular a contributor to Galaxy at this time as he was to Analog. Like Niven, his stories were predominantly technological extravaganzas ideal for the devotee of hard-core science fiction. 'To Outlive Eternity' (June-August 1967; expanded in bookform as Tau Zero, 1970) is a space opera on a grand scale where a near light-speed ship accelerates uncontrollably until all on board outlive the Universe and survive through the next Big Bang. Anderson also wrote a series of loosely connected stories at this time, all within the framework of his Technic Civilisation, but set in the distant realms of space after the fall of the Terran Empire and the onset of what Anderson calls 'the Long Night'. These began with 'Outpost of Empire' (December 1967), chronicling one of the wars, and includes 'The Sharing of Flesh' (December 1968), a study of moral interplay between two races. This story won Anderson his third Hugo Award.

Perhaps Pohl's most reliable author, however, was Robert Silverberg. Silverberg had moved away from science fiction at the end of the fifties, producing, in addition to a mass of pseudonymous erotic novels, a number of reference books, mostly for younger readers. He never lost touch with sf, although he ceased to produce stories at the conveyer-belt pace of the fifties. After a few years however he was keen to return to the field, this time with a more mature view. He made a gentleman's agreement that Pohl would get Silverberg's work exclusively, provided he buy all of his stories. The agreement could be cancelled at any time if Pohl disliked any particular story. The deal was a positive one on both sides, for during the decade starting in 1964, Silverberg's work was both potent and imaginative and made significant advances in the field, and Galaxy published virtually all of it.

The march began with 'Blue Fire' (June 1965) which ushered in Silverberg's Vorster series, later published as To Open the Sky (Ballantine, 1967). A new religion is established by Noel Vorst, drawing on man's inner powers, rather like Scientology. But Silverberg takes it further as, over a period of nearly a century, the Vorsters began to adapt humans for immortality and for life on other worlds. In reviewing the book P. Schuyler Miller noted that the non-fiction books Silverberg had written on archeology and history had given Silverberg a better perspective for a future history allowing him to write this sequential book tracking cause and effect.

'Hawksbill Station' (August 1967) was a one-off novella set in a penal colony constructed on Earth two billion years in our past, and there was only a one-way ticket. Although this was more in the vogue of the traditional Silverberg, the story was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards and picked up by the 'Year's Best' selections. 'Going Down Smooth' (August 1968) is, in a strangely shallow way, a revolutionary story. It was written around the cover painting by Vaughn Bodé, showing a set of giant periscopes looking down on a battleship. Silverberg wanted to break the editorial taboo on obscene language -- which had already been broken by anthologies and in New Worlds -- and wrote a story about a computer's fascination with procreation. In the course of the story Silverberg converted the phrase 'fuck you' into the binary '10000110 you', without causing a ripple of concern amongst the magazine's readers. It doesn't seem much of a breakthrough today, but it was a delicious in-joke at the time.

'Nightwings' (September 1968) was the first in another series of novellas that made up the novel Nightwings (Avon, 1969), all of which appeared in Galaxy. Set on a far future, dying Earth, which is conquered by aliens, the stories have a lyrical, almost fantastic aura about them, similar to the works of Vance. 'Nightwings' itself won the Hugo Award for the best novella, and was runner-up for the Nebula.

At the end of the sixties and early seventies Silverberg produced a series of astonishing novels which remain amongst his best work. Galaxy published all but two of these, running through into 1972. Although they will be considered in more detail in Volume 3, it is worth making reference to a few of them here, because it demonstrates the peak to which Silverberg was working at a time when a new editorial openness allowed Silverberg a greater freedom. His last two novels serialized in the sixties were 'Up the Line' (Amazing Stories, July-September 1969) and 'Downward to the Earth' (Galaxy, November 1969-March 1970). 'Up the Line' was acquired by Amazing's new editor, Ted White, whilst 'Downward to the Earth' was bought by Galaxy's new editor, Ejler Jakobsson. Both novels show the influence of new-wave techniques but, more importantly, both explore humanity's interference with other cultures. 'Up the Line' is a complex time-travel story with strains of new-age freedom. A time courier has to face the implications of trans-temporal incest and even temporal suicide in ancient Byzantium. 'Downward to the Earth' has a man return to a former colonial planet, now independent, only to discover his ability to empathize with the native intelligence. The novel, which explores mankind's hositility to other races, and how mankind is perceived, is a crucially introspective work on guilt and repentance, and has been alikened to Joseph Conrad's enigmatic 'Heart of Darkness.'

Silverberg would be one of the heralds who took this new-found creativity in science fiction through into the seventies.

For Galaxy it was also a time of change and 1969 proved to be a watershed year. In March 1969 Robert M. Guinn finalized a deal to sell Galaxy to Arnold Abramson of Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation (UPD). The deal went through while Pohl was at an International Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro, so it took him a little by surprise, but it provoked him into an action he had long been considering. Rather than go with the magazine to the new publisher, Pohl quit and decided to return to writing. From deep within the bowels of UPD's book department emerged Ejler Jakobsson. By one of those strange twists of fate Jakobsson had succeeded Pohl as editor of Super Science Stories over twenty years before. Jakobsson was keen to take on Galaxy. Lester del Rey, who had joined Guinn in 1968 as Managing Editor stayed on as Features Editor, while his wife-to-be, Judy-Lynn Benjamin, became the new Managing Editor.

The change should have been effective from the June 1969 issue but printing problems caused a slippage and the June issue became the July issue. This issue was effectively still Pohl's. He wrote the editorial and had selected the stories. The coup for that issue was the start of Frank Herbert's serial, 'Dune Messiah' (July-November 1969), the latest in the Dune saga which was already starting to take on mythic proportions. The serial was too mystical for John W. Campbell, but ideal for Galaxy.

A few days after that issue went on sale Galaxy lost its most consistent contributor. Willy Ley, who had run the 'For Your Information' department since the March 1952 issue, died on 24 June 1969, at the age of only 62. Ley had been one of the driving forces that had helped create the American space programme, and he had been one of the major players who had turned round public opinion, changing their fear of rockets as machines of war, into their aspirations for the future. It was therefore doubly tragic that Ley died less than one month before Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin stepped onto the Moon on 20 July 1969. Galaxy never seemed quite the same without Ley.

And indeed, for a while science fiction would not seem the same after the Moon landing. To many science fiction had achieved one of its primary goals. What was left to be said?

Transformations, Volume 2 of Mike Ashley's History of the Science Fiction Magazine is to be published by Liverpool University Press. Volume 1, The Time Machines, was published in 2001.

Mike Ashley's books are widely available in the shops.

Order online using these links and infinity plus will benefit: / Internet Bookshop.

Elsewhere in infinity plus:

Let us know what you think of infinity plus - e-mail us at:

support this site - buy books through these links:
A+ Books: an insider's view of sf, fantasy and horror (US) | Internet Bookshop (UK)