Friday, September 22, 2017

Review of "Fantastic Science Fiction: September 1957"

Review of
Fantastic Science Fiction: September 1957

Five out of five stars
 The lead story in this collection is “The Cave of Miracles,” by Harlan Ellison. In it, Ellison proves once again that he is more a writer of stories about human behavior than science fiction. Craig Dent is a loner that loves the solitary exploration of caves, in this case he goes far beyond the last warning markers into a region where no one has ever gone.
 While in this region, he encounters a bizarre combination of materials that pulse with light and knock him unconscious for an extended period of time. When he regains consciousness, Dent discovers that he has acquired the ability to heal human ailments. At first, things go well, but over time Dent is recruited by a man looking to exploit him and he turns to the bottle. When he loses his powers to heal, the public turns on him as a fraud, despite all his previous miracles.
 This story is similar to other Ellison stories in that the conclusion is based on a cynical view of humanity. It portrays yet another idealistic human that is corrupted by their own weaknesses in combination with assistance from the unscrupulous. It is a great story, by itself it makes the magazine worth acquiring.
 While the other stories are not as powerful, they are still first rate. The best is “The Breeder” by P. F. Costello and is based on the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust that killed almost all people and of those alive, few are capable of reproducing. The situation is complicated by the fact that ants have mutated into creatures the size of dogs, a single one is capable of killing a human. In order to keep making babies, social conventions regarding marriage were dramatically altered.
 One interesting and somewhat unusual feature of this magazine is the subject matter of the cartoons, they are far more risqué that one would expect in a magazine published in the fifties. For example, on page 48 there is a cartoon that has a woman in a dress looking out from a ledge. A man is behind her and looking through a screen that renders her clothing invisible, exposing some major crack.

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