Visions of Paradise

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Worlds of IF, July, September 1952

Continuing my slow reading of 1950s issues of Galaxy and IF brought me to the July and September, 1952 issues of If. The July 1952 issue had a lead novella by Walter M. Miller, Jr. “Let My People Go,” his second story in the first three issues of the magazine. While these two stories were not quite at the level of his 1950s masterworks as “Crucifixus Etiam,” “Conditionally Human,” and the deserved Hugo-winner “The Darfstellar,” they are still the best stories in the early issues of IF, which makes me wonder why there has never been a collection of his complete short fiction. He only published about 30 stories besides his two novels A Canticle For Leibowitz (which was really a fix-up of three novellas) and the long-delayed sequel St. Leibowitz and The Wild Horse Woman (which took Miller the rest of his life to write, and had to be finished by Terry Bisson after his death).

The September issue also had a novelette by Philip K. Dick entitled “The Skull,” one of his very earliest published stories whose plot should seem very familiar to anybody who read sf in the late 1960s. In the future, a repressive government is having difficulty dealing with the devoted members of a vast religion who believe in peace without war, which goes counter to the needs of the government. So they send a killer two hundred years back in time to find the spiritual source of the religion, a mysterious man who appeared in a midwestern town and gave a talk which had such an impression on his listeners that they formed a religion around his ideas.

Part of the mystique of the founder was that several of his followers saw the man again a few months later after he had been seized and executed by government officials. So when the killer arrives a few months later than intended, and his appearance stuns the first people he meets, anybody who doubted where this story was headed knew immediately. My immediate thought at that point was that Michael Moorcock must have read “The Skull” at some time before he conceived the idea for his masterpiece “Behold the Man.”


  • Even when Philip K. Dick is not at his best, it is still an interesting story. He is an author who tries to make you think.

    Walter M. Miller has had various collections published but I have never seen a definitive one. I agree that it is past due.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 9:21 PM  

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