Marvel Science Stories


The Test Tube: Renascence

Page 120A final word on Marvel Science Stories, May 1951:

“The Test Tube: Renascence” is a one-page summary of the magazine’s editorial goals and guidance. “Here is our answer—in action—to the hundreds of requests we have received from our readers, to go small size, to get the best authors in the field, to get higher quality illustrations and covers, to become, in fact, the leading science-fiction magazine.”

Their story criteria: mature, lively, and above all, a good story.

Although Marvel Science Stories never achieved its lofty goal to become the leader in its field; if this issue is indicative of its third volume series, it is a title worth seeking out.

Milton Lesser’s The Circle

Story splashpageThe final story in Marvel Science Stories, May 1951:

In “The Circle,” Milton Lesser explores immortality through a husband and wife who, after traveling from one end of the universe to the other, settle on Earth. An Earth with no other humans and with the couple’s immortality contingent on their abstinence from procreation. A well-crafted story built on too many illogical contingencies.

Milton Lesser (1928–2008) wrote science fiction under his given name and his detective stories, including the Chester Drum series, under the pseudonym Stephen Marlowe.

The Dianetics Question

The special feature in Marvel Science Stories, May 1951, on “The Dianetics Question” begins with the following introduction:

“CONTROVERY is the life-blood of intellectual development, and all too often, publications take one side or the other, from bias, advertising pressure, or just plain fear. MARVEL dedicates itself to the honest presentation of those arguments which rage throughout the science-fiction field. Each issue will see a forum by leading writers in the field, presenting their opinions on the issue. It is up to you, the readers of MARVEL SCIENCE, to let us know which topics you would like to see your favorite writers battle out. Get those letters in now!”

The pro stance is supplied by L. Ron Hubbard himself in “Homo Superior—Here We Come.” Hubbard devotes about half of his four pages in offense to Lester del Rey’s essay and half on the improvements in confidence and emotional well-being of several Dianeticists.

A noteworthy endorsement interrupts Hubbard’s presentation in bold text:

Forest Ackerman quote

Theodore Sturgeon’s neutral stance is addressed only in passing by Hubbard, “. . . all we ask
 is the kind of honest skepticism which you display, Mr. Sturgeon.”

Sturgeon’s contribution, “How to Avoid a Hole in the Head” is mostly an admonishment to keep an open mind until you understand a subject well enough to criticize or endorse it.

It’s clear from Lester del Rey’s “Superman—C.O.D.” that he’s highly skeptical of Dianetic’s claims. But his criticism is presented logically and he’s open to proof if only the organization will provide it.

After nine pages, none of the arguments changed anything for me, but I did learn a bit more about the still controversial subject . . . .

Arthur C. Clarke and Captain Wyxtpthll’s Flying Saucer

As featured in Marvel Science Stories May 1951:

Arthur C. Clarke provides the seventh story in this issue of MSS, a light-hearted adventure about an alien scouting party sent to Earth to size things up before they take over. The title, sets the tone: “Captain Wyxtpthll’s Flying Saucer.”

Marvel Science Stories May 1951 cover

In addition to Clarke’s fame as a writer, he also hosted several documentary television series in the 1980s (Mysterious World, World of Strange Powers, and Mysterious Universe), available today on DVD.

Opening Lines

Selected from a digest featured in The Digest Enthusiast book five:

“A most singular case.” mumbled Dr. Pertinnet, walking a dignified hopskotch among the checkered tiles of the sanitarium waiting room. “Can’t be unique, of course—nothing’s ever unique: must have been someone like Hallock in medical history. Just never recorded.”
“Hallock’s Madness” by William Tenn Marvel Science Stories May 1951

Marvel Science Stories May 1951 cover

Bryce Walton’s Polyoid

As featured in Marvel Science Stories May 1951:

Marvel Science Stories May 1951 cover

You’d think Sam Forbes had won the lottery when he passes “the test” in Bryce Walton’s story “Polyoid.” He soon becomes a Blue Light Worker in the Great Computer, where all of the Plan’s most complex problems are solved by the integration of human minds and computer technology. Perfection for the futuristic society; temporary for the individual, whose mind, sooner or later, burns out under the load.

Illo from Polyoid

In addition to his numerous science fiction yarns, Bryce Walton (1918–1988) wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers and three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His novels include Cave of Danger, Harpoon Gunner, Hurricane Reef and The Fire Trail.

Science Marvels circa 1951

As featured in Marvel Science Stories May 1951:

A special feature called “Amazing Science Adventures” includes three short articles. “The Problem of Atomic Waste” by H.R. Jamison presents two ideal solutions. Encase the stuff in a block of concrete and drop it into the ocean; or turn a certain type of bacteria loose on it and they will absorb it. “The result is nullified radioactivity, and once again man is safe.”

“Simple Simon: Newest Mechanical Brain” by Milton Williams informs readers, “. . . Simon and his fellows will relieve mankind of the drudgery of applying his science. Man will be able to explore, to theorize, to ponder, to develop—Simon and company will do the rest!”

Better yet, with “Stimulation for the Brain” by William L. Taylor, a simple bath in Kappa radiation “. . . would stimulate the mind in such a way that any sensory data registered deep within the tissues of the brain can be brought to the surface.” Quick and easy, problems solved!