Vintage Science Fiction
Date Finished: January 6, 2018
A wealthy amateur archaeologist and map collector has long been seeking a torn map in a tourist guide book. As a child, he and his family had used this map on a touring journey and ended up going through some sort of foggy dimensional barrier into a strange work, The Land Beyond The Map! Ta dah! Having been unsuccessful in his search for many years, a young woman, seeking her own missing cousin, shows up at his house with clues indicating that the map may be in Ireland. Their search leads them there, where they eventually find the map and the strange land, despite the efforts of a sinister character.
The other side of Ace Double M-111 was a bit tough to get through. Bulmer’s style includes a lot of descriptive adjectives and similes that tend to clutter up the place more than they help move the story along. The rather realistic search through Ireland takes up 75 pages before the last 50-some go into the bizarre land beyond the map. I’m not sure I’ll seek out any more of Bulmer’s works, other than finishing off the other half of these doubles.
The magazine version of this story appeared in the British publication Science Fantasy, No. 45 in February 1961 as “The Map Country.” The text is essentially the same for the first 30 pages, missing only small paragraphs here and there for the next 30, and then wraps up the plot in the final five pages, just after entering the map country. The explanation for the land and its relationship to earth is changed, and the final battle between our map collector and the sinister figure is dropped, leading to a rather anti-climactic ending.
The second story in this issue is “Studio 5, the Stars” by J.G. Ballard. A poetry magazine editor at a beach artist community is working on his next issue while the mysterious woman next door advocates against the use of IBM Verse-Transcriber machines. It seems that all poetry is now written by machine with the user only adjusting the dials for meter, rhyme, etc. Somehow various “poets” still exist, all operating their own VT machines, rather than having one machine that the editor could use to produce the entire issue. With this amazing advance in technology, no one has yet created a machine for magazine layout, as it is still done by pasting down paper proofs. The mysterious woman is revealed a fantastical Muse of Poetry, helped by the smashing of all VT machines one night, which forces the various poets learn again how to write on their own, intermixed with a strange sequence of the poets hunting down sand rays, which seem to be poisonous flying sand creatures. And thus poetry is saved. A strange mix of science and fantasy that doesn’t quite work for me. Ballard was just starting out here, but apparently used this Vermilion Sands setting for a number of stories. I think I prefer space opera.