Science Fiction Adventures: January 1958

Sunday , 1, August 2021 Leave a comment

The January 1958 issue of Science Fiction Adventures had a new cover artist. This very pulpy looking cover was the very first cover by John Schoenherr for a science fiction magazine. He would go on to many a cover for Analog and science fiction paperbacks in the 1960s.

The lead short novel was “Hunt the Space Witch!” by Robert Silverberg as “Ivar Jorgenson.”

“The blood-bond between Barsac and Zigmunn meant more than life itself, and Barsac would go through the fires of Hades to find his lost friend. But the fires of Hades were like cool breezes compared to the soul-searing forces of the Witch’s Cult!”

As I wrote in my overview of the paperback Great Science Fiction Adventures, this is a classic for this sort of fiction. Silverberg has a sense of the supernatural within the story despite its interstellar background. You are never quite sure if the Witch’s powers are supernatural or psychological. With some changes, “Hunt the Space Witch!” could have been a sword & sorcery story. It has that sort of scary adventure feeling about it. It captures what the magazine was about. One of the best stories to appear in Science Fiction Adventures.

Jerry Sohl (1913-2002) is a writer that you know, though you may not know it. He wrote the Star Trek  episodes: “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “This Side of Paradise,” and “Whom Gods Destroy.” He also wrote the screenplay adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” as Die, Monster, Die! His one entry in Science Fiction Adventures was “One Against Herculum.”

“The machine was never wrong, and the machine said that Alan Demuth had failed in his tests. With the entire planet against him, there was only one way for him to prove that even the machine was the testing chief’s slave; he had to become a murderer!”

As the blurb said, the test determines your position and pay. The head of the department will make a deal skimming money if he gives you the true score. You can get around this by becoming a criminal. Demuth decides to kill the testing chief Bohannen. What follows is a cat and mouse game with a showdown climax. This was a crime novel with some science fiction trappings. I wanted to like it but didn’t. Sohl expanded the story into a short novel published by Ace as a double in 1959.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction had this to say about Sohl:

“Sohl’s use of science, though enjoyable, seems in hindsight somewhat opportunistic, and several of them fail ultimately to make much sense of the premises they dramatize.”

I could not have said it better myself.

“Man Overboard” by Alex Kirs is one of these 1950s “what is reality” stories.

Walter L. Kleine’s “The Girl was Dangerous” is kind of interesting. A female alien agent for the Brotherhood of Arcturus Area Planets is captured by organized crime figures. They don’t believe her story.  It turns out the Brotherhood is an inter-galactic syndicate and moving in on Earth.

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