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Astounding Stories, May 1935






ASTOUNDING STORIES, MAY 1935 - FULL REVIEW

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John Russel Fearn
"Earth's Mausoleum"
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ awesome scale
--/ rare find


The Sun is destroyed and the Moon transformed into a miniature sun... Stupendous stuff. Every chapter leads to something larger and more exciting in a good old Doc Smith tradition. It does not shine in literary qualities, but for the pure "summer blockbuster" of pulp entertainment, this is a very good pick. This novelette also describes the process of terra-forming with wonderful detail for 1935. Some memorable scenes will stay with the reader: for example, the energy tower, depicted on the pulp cover, designed to turn our Moon into a small star. (let's not go into the science of it here)



----------------------------------------------



John W. Campbell
"The Escape"

(as by Don A. Stuart)
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
Cloak of Aesir, 1952
--/ cool sf story

"An odd love story forms the core of "The Escape," where a brave new world relies on neural coercion to enforce matings." I found this story not to the usual Campbell standards, but still engaging. "The Cloak of Aesir" collection in general left me unmoved, mostly because Campbell adopts a more dry, academic, flat narrative style in these stories. Which is strange, considering that he usually chose the pen-name Don A. Stuart to go with his more emotional, atmospheric pieces, such as "Twilight" or "Night".

----------------------------------------------



Eando Binder
"Set Your Course by the Stars"
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award
--/ rare find


This is a strange story based on a simple "what if" premise, played out between two space explorers: what if there was no diffusion of light in open space, and light from the infinite Universe could effortlessly add up before reaching our eyes? In this story the space pilot explains why he could not set course by the stars: the space around him was WHITE from a lot more stars than anybody expected... Remember the vision of "inverted" star-fields that astronaut Dave Bowman sees at the end of "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Black stars strewn over white space? Well, it seems that Earl and Otto Binder brothers beat Arthur Clarke to such a spectacular sight by 30 years at least.

According to the story, this crazy notion of "white space" could prove why our Universe is not eternal or infinite, because if that was true, then the combined light from all infinite and eternal stars would hit us from the heavens, and there could be no darkness. Maybe in some alternative world, with different set of physics... Certainly not in our case, but that fact should not prevent you from enjoying this simple "what-if" thought-variant story (perhaps a precursor to Isaac Asimov's classic "Nightfall"?).

--------------------------------

Stanton A. Coblentz
"An Episode In Space"
© Astounding Stories, Sep 1935
--/ fourth place space sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ rare find


Standard fare for the pulps of the Thirties, but in no way easy to find today. When did you last read a very straightforward story about landing on a forbidding planet, meeting creepy inhabitants in caves, being attacked by them, and shooting them all to hoobenajeebies, or smithereens, whichever you prefer. Kind of a computer game without a monitor or a joystick. As such, it is colorful, with good "resolution" graphics, logical and satisfying script. They DID stop writing such stories as early as the Forties, so this sub-genre is fast receding into literary oblivion, leaving behind crumbling pulp pages instead of red-shift.



--------------------------------



Donald Wandrei
"The Whisperers"
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
Avon SF Reader, Feb 1947
Strange Harvest, 1965
--/ cool apocalyptic sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


Another strange tale. The world is experiencing the worst plague in history (described quite vividly, including some Soviet propaganda press-releases). Something infects people and makes a strange whispering sound in their bodies as it kills them off... It turns out that this sound is the full blast of microscopic civilizations of sentient aliens who also have a much faster time rate, so after entering the human body they evolve, have an epic history and an apocalyptic finish - all in a matter of hours! As though this idea was not wild enough, Wandrei tells us about the remedy - getting drunk and making these industrious "virus" civilizations finish themselves sooner; in other words, stressing out these little buggers with a totally mad (drunk) rat race. Do you sense an irony here?



--------------------------------

Raymond Z. Gallun
"N'Goc"
© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find


This is an uninvolving planetary tale about a strange civilization, and a quest of a particular being toward... greater heights of... I did not really care much for this character, but the story environment is professionally told and weird, as usual.



--------------------------------

David R. Daniels
"Stars"

© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story

Average stuff. Two marooned spacemen debate should they go on to the stars; being in a hopeless situation, they choose exploring over slow death.

----------------------------------------------

J. George Frederick
"The Einstein Express"

© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story
--/ awesome scale

A curious debate over how a superior being (the size of a Galaxy or larger) would see the surrounding Universe and travel in it by macroscopic "steps". Such movements would surely defy the "speed-of-light" limit, just like our cars would seem to move with stupendous speed from "a tiny molecular being's" viewpoint. Size does matter; with another scale come another laws of physics (if you doubt that, observe completely different laws of quantum and astro-physics, and the bridge between them that is, well, missing). As for how our Universe might look "from an outside point of view", a series of amazing extrapolation pictures were published recently, showing the clusters of clusters of Galaxies, which seem to join together in strands, knots - weirdly similar to... neurons and structures inside a human brain. Think about that.



This is the recent NASA computer model of the "Large Scale Structure" - meta-clusters of Galaxy Superclusters, in other words the view of our Universe from the "outside". Is this the ultimate shape of our cosmos, or just "neurons" in an even larger-scale order?..

----------------------------------------------

John Taine
"Twelve Eighty-Seven"

© Astounding Stories, May 1935
--/ cool sf story


Simply a future-warfare story... but considering the direction human history was going in 1935, this story carries a creepy premonition. The tank war (see illustration) and the bomber squadrons depicted in the story bear an uncanny resemblance to the ones from WWII, but also to their Cold War era variants. Such "dark military optimism" often appeared in the pre-war pulps, and was supposed to stir up patriotism, because the war in general needs as much patriotism, ideology and propaganda as it can possibly gobble up.



----------------------------------------------

In general, this is a great issue, a veritable "Who's Who" in the Thirties Pulp Scene: just look at the contents: Campbell, Binder, Wandrei, Coblentz, Gallun, Fearn ! Harl Vincent does not have a story in this issue, but - surprise! - his name can be plainly seen on the cover! Looks like somebody goofed up (making this issue more collectible, I suppose), or he got pushed out in order to make way for the "bigger guns".

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