Visions of Paradise

Sunday, December 07, 2008

a WORLDS OF IF mystery

After discovering science fiction on Christmas Day, 1962, I read Worlds of IF, Galaxy and Worlds of Tomorrow until early in 1964 at which time I stopped reading all three of them (for reasons not worth discussing here). I resumed reading all three in early 1966 and continued to do so until, one by one, they all ceased publication.

In the mid-1970s I completed my collections of the three magazines by buying used copies of the missing issues, but in the crush of new magazines I kept buying until the mid-1990s, I never read those issues. So recently I have been slowly doing so. I have been mostly reading Worlds of IF because I have also been reading the 1950s issues of Galaxy which I got from Chester Cuthbert about a decade ago to complete my collection of that magazine. IF is a good magazine to read when I want light reading without any deep involvement, since it printed mostly adventures. This weekend I have been reading the November and December, 1964 issues.

I started with the serial, Keith Laumer’s The Hounds of Hell, and I quit about 25 pages into it. I never particularly liked Laumer’s fiction. His Retief stories, which appeared in more than half the issues of IF, were unfunny, somewhat insulting in their stupidity and, without seeming too politically correct, almost racist in how they belittled every alien race Retief encountered. The Hounds of Hell was not a Retief story, but it was a military adventure–which mentioned Bolos, so I assume it was the start of that series–which bored me considerably.

The novelettes in the two issues were better, by such writers as Thomas M. Disch–then a newcomer in the field–Frederik Pohl, the underrated Robert F. Young, and J.T. McIntosh, another Galaxy/IF regular. But what most struck my eye was the announcement on the bottom of page 39 in the December issue announcing the feature story in the January, 1965 issue, “the great new novel by Hugo-winning Jack Lance”, The Killing Machine. The author’s name was obviously a misspelling of Jack Vance, since the novel was the second Demon Princes novel, following closely after The Star King, which was serialized in the December 1963 and February 1964 issues of Galaxy. I’ve read all the Demon Prince novels in book form which, at their best, are among Vance’s best novels. The third novel in the series, The Palace of Love, was serialized in Galaxy from October 1966 through February 1967.

The most interesting part of the announcement is that The Killing Machine never appeared in Worlds of IF. So why was it advertised there? Neither did it appear in Galaxy as the other two Demon Prince novels did. Did Vance withdraw the novel for some reason, perhaps because it was not scheduled to appear in Galaxy, the flagship of the magazines, but in the lesser Worlds of IF instead? Or perhaps he did not complete it on time? Or might there have been something in it offensive to either editor Fred Pohl or the publisher of Worlds of IF?

Replacing it in the next few issues of IF was the serial Starchild, by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, which might have been available as an emergency replacement for The Killing Machine since it was editor-co-written

If any of my readers correspond with Frederik Pohl, you might want to ask him about that situation. Just another of science fiction’s little unsolved mysteries.


  • I envy you for your time traveling back to the 1960s and reading those great magazines. I too read If, Galaxy, WOT, F&SF, Fantastic and Amazing back in the 1960s. I also read Analog, but the others were my favorites.

    You should edit an anthology of stories from back then. The Forgotten 60s.

    I never liked Keith Laumer either, although I have a vague memory of liking a book he wrote with a woman named Brown called Earthblood.

    I was very fond of Cele Goldsmith's Fantastic and Amazing from the early 1960s and Ted White's late 60s and early 70s issues.

    By Blogger Jim Harris, At 5:59 AM  

  • Earthblood was one of the few Laumer serials I recall fondly too.

    I have daydreamed of editing an anthology from the 60s, a kind of New Wave reminiscence. I wonder if I should write up a proposal for one of the small sf presses?

    By Blogger adamosf, At 1:17 PM  

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