Memoir by R. A. Lafferty
Galaxy was the golden magazine of science fiction. At its best, there were nuggets in at least half its issues. No one else came close to that.
Let the hills leap like little lambs at the memory!
“About a Secret Crocodile” was a shot in a war (since lost) against a cabal that was forcing “trendiness,” whose other name is “unoriginality,” on the world.
Oh rise again and fight some more, dead people!
Galaxy died several times from embracing this trendiness or unoriginality. The “magazine-that-is-different” became quite like all the other “magazines-that-are-different.” And it died because it spent all its retrospection on things past.
The newest Galaxy editor, Hank Stine, is an experienced resurrectionist. He brought a dead and rotting Louisiana alligator back to life by laying his reanimating hands on it and breathing into its nostrils. Later he brought back to life a dead rabbit, a dead goat, and a little dead boy.
(He has not told these things himself. Others have told them of him.)
Now he will, probably raise the magazine from its second or third death. You’ve got to have faith!
(If he isn’t still at the helm when this appears, that just means that good guys move around a lot.)
Never trust a retrospectionist who isn’t two-faced. A little of that retrospection for the future, please!
Galaxy, esto perpetua: Thou art forever! (I hope.)
But, for all that, the way-it-used-to-be was quite extraordinary.
The editors (Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander) introduce Lafferty’s memoir piece, which is followed immediately by his collected short story ‘About a Secret Crocodile’, this way:
Raymond [sic] Aloysius Lafferty began writing science fiction when he was well past forty, producing a large body of work that can only be described as wonderful, wild, and often bewildering. His is an original voice, and his contributions to sf are only now becoming apparent. Lafferty also meant a great deal to Galaxy in the 1960s, with something like 20 stories, including such major works as “Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas” (December 1962), the fabulous “Slow Tuesday Night” (April 1965), “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne” (February 1967), and “Primary Education of the Camiroi” (December 1966) and its “sequel” “Polity and Custom of the Camiroi” (June 1967).
“About a Secret Crocodile” is one of his best and most famous stories, one that rewards rereading time and time again. Lafferty’s agent, Virginia Kidd, tells us that whent eh story appeared in Galaxy, she received an indignant call from the editors of Playboy magazine wanting to know why they hadn’t seen it first. Virginia says, “Frankly, it had never occurred to me that it was anything but a Galaxy story, so that is where I sent it.”
[I for one can vouch that this particular story has hit me with new and profound depths of both artistry and significance every time I’ve read it over the years. It is of keen relevance to our current meta-culture of opinion-forming social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google +, Buzz Feed, and so on. Lafferty did oddly fit the usual projected role of an SF writer being a ‘prophet’, but he did so, as Neil Gaiman has recently remarked, in an uncanny social, cultural, psychological, and philosophical way rather than in a technological way. Then again, his social ‘predictions’ are all about current information technology. So really, he fit that aspect of the role too.]