Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. LXI (James E. Gunn x 5)

I loved James E. Gunn’s The Joy Makers (1961) and found the collection Station in Space (1958) quite solid…  Thus, I snatched up a lot of Gunn’s fix-up novels and short story collections from ebay…. It is often difficult to distinguish Gunn’s short story collections from his novels due to the fact that his favorite form tended to be the novella and novelette — after their original magazine publications they were combined into “proper novels” or existing novellas, for example ‘The Listeners’ (1968), were expanded to novel length.

Regardless, I cannot wait to read these.  Which ones to do you recommend?

And some intriguing covers….

1. The Burning, James Gunn (1972) (MY REVIEW)


(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the inside flap: “Death to the scientists!  The cry for blood vengeance went up all over the world.  Too long had the people been ruled by the power of science.  Now they would have their freedom, even if it mean plunging into a new age of barbarism… even if it meant destroying every man who threatened their ignorance with his knowledge.  John Wilson was a scientist, a great one.  Only yesterday he had been famous, admired, secure.  Now he was a hated enemy of society, a man on the run in a primitive, murderous world.  And his brilliant intellect was at once his inescapable mark of fatal guilt, and his one slim, desperate chance for survival….”

2. Future Imperfect, James Gunn (1964)

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 1.33.57 PM(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1964 edition)

From the back cover: “Wild: the planet where your wealth is measured by what you don’t own! Weird: The zoo of the future with a meat-craving beast from Vega who can open a door into the present  — when he is hungry!  Wonderful: The Venusian factory in Passaic, New Jersey, which manufactures beautiful, ardent girls — who have only one slight flaw!”

3. Breaking Point, James Gunn (1972)


(Michael Gilbert’s cover for the 1973 edition)

No summary of the collection’s contents.  Includes the famous story, ‘The Listeners’ (1968) — novelized in 1972.

4. The Listeners, James Gunn (1972)


(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “Voices from the stars — For the fifty years Earth’s “Little Ear” was tuned to the static of the stars.  For fifty years the Project scientists and their director, Robert MacDonald, tried to make sense out of the universal silence.  In the fifty-first year of the Project, a message came from Capella.  Man had contact intelligent life!  But what kind of life called to man from the stars?  Was it peace or war, friendship or conquest they offered to mankind?  And how should Earth respond?  Only Director MacDonald could decide, and with him rested the future of the Project and the fate of mankind…!”

5. The Immortals, James E. Gunn (1962) (MY REVIEW)


(Mitchell Hooks’ cover for the 1962 edition)

From the back cover: “Their golden blood.  It was a world of utter peril and crippling fear with one bright threat running through it — the golden blood of the Immortals.  And they were cruelly pursued by rulers, rich men and medics because their previous blood was a specific for all of mankind’s ills — including death.  Beautiful and young, aged and wise, the Immortals lived a subterranean existence, hiding from those who would batten on them and bleed them white.”

13 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. LXI (James E. Gunn x 5)

  1. James Gunn was also one of the pioneers in teaching SF at the university level.

    I’ve read “The Burning” (society turns against technology, ushering in a new dark age with science as witchcraft) and enjoyed it, but I thought “The Immortals” was also quite good. It spawned a 1970s made-for-tv movie pilot and TV series starring Christopher George, Gunn wrote an novelization of the pilot as well. The original novel (actually, a linked series of novellas) was extremely dark.

    • Most definitely. I’ve explored his articles on his website about sci-fi at length….

      I’m excited about The Immortals — and The Burning, and just about anything he’s written. I’ve found his work dark and satirical and inventive….

  2. Joachim, I have the same edition of THE IMMORTALS but haven`t read it. Have a hardcover of THE LISTENERS and loved it. It has a technique I loathe–expanding a novel with fake articles and journal entries and such–but the actual source novella is one of my favorites. It belongs in one of my favorite sub-categories, the novel of `quiet speculation,` no violence or action-adventure, yet humanistic speculation. Carl Sagan wrote an introduction and anyone familiar with CONTACT knows he actually read the book before writing the intro.

    • Why do you dislike that technique? I love it when it’s well done — for example, John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. But yes, often it’s a little too much like an opportunity to info dump instead of world build. I like that term — “quiet speculation” — sounds something (perhaps less philosophical) along the lines of Stanislaw Lem’s masterful His Master’s Voice — about potential communication with aliens, but in this case, a human error….

  3. Joachim, I used to dismiss Lem but now he`s one of my favorites; EDEN is on my to-read stack, have enjoyed SOLARIS, MEMOIRS FOUND IN A BATHTUB, PIRX THE PILOT, FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS…..I dislike the technique because the author might as well label it `Here`s where I need to impress on you that this is a significant incident and create a sense of scale while slipping in boring data`. It`s like he/she has stopped telling the story and directly addressed you to bring you up to speed before jumping back in. In this case, Gunn is just blatantly padding by showing us how the papers would report on incidents; when I reread LISTENERS I skimmed those parts.

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