Satellite, October 1956
I’m inaugurating a new “time warp” category with this magazine that I found at the flea market. I haven’t been able to find much about this magazine on the ‘net, except that its entire run was 18 issues from 1956 to 1959.
The inaugural issue starts out with some big names: Asimov, de Camp, and Clarke. A Philip K. Dick story at the time didn’t merit listing on the cover.
Satellite‘s gimmick was “a COMPLETE science fiction NOVEL in every issue!”. In this premier issue, that complete novel is “The Man from Earth”, by Algis Budrys. I mostly bought the magazine because I’ve been hearing Budrys’ name a lot recently, so I thought I’d give him a read. This is basically a story of its time — a milksop financier loses everything and opts for a complete “personality change” by medical means, to escape prosecution. This rebuilds his personality into a classic SF super-man, although there is some amusement as the protag himself doesn’t realize what he’s becoming. The new super-man is able to defeat the space aliens who have locked humans up in our own solar system, and double cross organized crime, and get the girl. A good retro story, but nothing exceptional.
Isaac Asimov’s entry, “The Watery Place”, is a classic twister. First contact is rejected because the aliens choose to land on tax filing day and make their overtures to an official who is too preoccupied with accounting to take them to his leader.
“Publicity Campaign”, by Arthur C. Clarke’s, is similar — in this case the first contact turns out badly for earth when the aliens land in the middle of a promotional campaign for a movie about alien invaders.
L. Sprague de Camp’s story, “The Egg”, is lighter in tone, about a babysitting job (for the dinosaur-like alien ambassador) gone awry, and ages better than the others so far, but still carries few surprises today.
Craig Rice (I’m not sure this is the same author written up in Wikipedia) presents “The Golden Flutterby”, a story similar to Eugene Mirabelli‘s recent “Falling Angel” (F&SF, Dec. ’08), but of course told much more sedately. Dal Stivens’ “The Iconoclastic Koala” is forgettable, but probably wouldn’t take much freshening up to make it into print today.
But the standout story, at least as read 40 years later, is the Dick. This story shows Dick in development, with most of his characteristic staccato surrealist style in place; but with the disconnected, schizophrenic themes of his other work only a shadow beneath the surface. In a post-nuclear-armageddon America, society has been held together by benevolent aliens who can “print” or reproduce the artifacts of civilization. Now the aliens are dying and only a few people have the wherewithal to relearn the skills of actually building things for themselves. Although the message is somewhat transparent, its also still relevant today.
The blurbs for issue two promise Dick’s “A Glass of Darkness” as its COMPLETE NOVEL. I’ll be looking out for more Satellite‘s when I’m browsing the used racks.