13. ‘Galaxy Magazine’ – May 1970

Prepare yourself for the most hipster sentence I’ve ever written.

I picked up the May 1970 edition of science-fiction magazine Galaxy at a secondhand book fair on London‘s Southbank. (Phew, we got through it together.) I was drawn to it first because I’m on a massive sci-fi kick at the moment, second because the title on the spine is ‘The Best in Pertinent Science Fiction’ (‘pertinent’!), and third because I flicked through it and found a story that began, “Teacher told my parent that I am the slowest youngster in my class, but today I made a star in the third quadrant of kindergarten.” I mean, come on.

galaxy magazine sci-fi

Galaxy was a science-fiction magazine that ran from 1950 to 1980, and it published such illustrious sci-fi giants as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein. In fact, it was in this magazine that Ray Bradbury published ‘The Fireman’, which later became his iconic novel Fahrenheit 451. A quick look at the magazine on Wikipedia tells me that my edition, from May 1970, was published during Eljer Jakobsson’s reign as editor, and saw a “decline in quality” from its earlier years. Fortunately, I’ve also found a website that offers every edition of the magazine online for free, so if I ever fancy reading Galaxy in its golden years (and I’m sure I will) then they’re all right there!

I found this edition to be something of a mixed bag. At first, I loved it. I read ‘Kindergarten’ first (the story I quoted above), and I thought it was brilliant. It’s a pretty short story, divided into seven days, over the course of which the slowest child in the class creates a galaxy, a solar system, a planet… and us. I also loved ‘Allison, Carmichael and Tattersall’ by Stephen Tall and ‘Discover a Latent Moses’ by Michael G. Coney (that title alone vying for first place as Most Hipster Sentence Ever Written). The former story is about scientists discovering life in empty space, and the latter is about a post-apocalyptic world, buried in snow, in which small groups of survivors must burrow through ice tunnels and sail around on snow boats to find food, all while avoiding vicious ‘flesh hunters’. I thought the ending to ‘Discover a Latent Moses’ was just brilliantly moving.

galaxy magazine sci-fi

The majority of this magazine is dedicated to the first instalment of a serial, Robert Silverberg’s ‘Tower of Glass’, about a world in which ‘androids’ (ie. synthetic humans) work for and worship humans, and where one man is attempting to build a fantastically tall tower to communicate with alien races. I read the whole of the first instalment, but I didn’t love it and so I won’t be seeking out the rest.

It was in the last couple of articles that the magazine lost me, and really showed its age. First, there was a cartoon – one instalment of many, so I had no idea what was going on – which featured a phallic spaceship and a naked woman who just seemed to be there to be felt up. Second, there was a book review about a story featuring (in a minor way) a public rape, about which the reviewer said it “worked out all right” because the rapist married his victim. And finally, the last story went completely over my head, but it did seem to be advocating sending a physically mutated person with a low IQ to live on a planet with animals rather than be accepted by his fellow humans. Hmm.

All in all, I think this is a great magazine and I’m really inspired to read more. It mixes short stories with longer serials, poetry and book reviews, all within a genre which I’m growing to love more and more. Some of the stories do come across as quite dated in their attitudes, but I definitely think it’s worth sifting through them to find the gems.

“He felt that mankind’s continued sanity depended on awakening from this dream of uniqueness, for the dream was sure to end.” – The Tower of Glass, Robert Silverberg

Have you read this magazine? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Want to read it? You can read every issue here.

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What do you think?