Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXVIII (Varley + Cherryh + Cummings + et. al)

Some fun finds!  Perhaps surprisingly, I still haven’t read Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (1951) so I was happy to find it in a collection collated by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest — Spectrum 3 (1963).  Even more appealing are the famous Poul Anderson, J. G. Ballard, and Murray Leinster tales in the same volume…  The entire Spectrum collection (I-V) brings together some fantastic works.

John Varley is one of the important 70s writers that I still haven’t read. Thus, despite the egregious cover, I snatched his collection of 70s stories, The Persistence of Vision (1978)…  I look forward to diving into this one.

Also, C. J. Cherryh was one of my favorite authors as a teen so it’s always nice to come across one of her works I hadn’t devoured yet — in this case, her second novel Brothers of Earth (1976).

1. The Persistence of Vision, John Varley (1978)

(Jim Burns’ cover for the 1979 edition)

From the inside flap of an earlier edition: “These nine stories show the best work of the decade’s most exciting new writer of science fiction.  His Quantum novel The Ophiuchi Hotline established the “Eight Worlds” setting of many of these tales — a bizarre future in which genetic engineering, sex changes, and arcane pleasures and trades are commonplace.  Take, for instance, the plight of the hero of “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank.”  All he wanted was a relaxed weekend as a lion; but a meddlesome kid switched a circuit, and his psyche was trapped inside a computer…  And what creative spirit wouldn’t envy the artist in “The Phantom of Kansas” who composes storms?

Most of us feel pretty negatively about skyjackers, but “Air Raid” shows an unexpected rational for it; “Retrograde Summer,” The Black Hole Passes,” and “In the Bowl” are (among other strange things) unique and confusing love stories; “In the Hall of the Martian Kinds” is a new and enthralling twist on the planetary castaways theme; and “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance” shows what a Tin Pan Alley of the centuries to come might be like.

The title story, nominated this year for a Nebula award by the Science Fiction Writers of America, is a haunting treatment of communication beyond our normal senses, an unusually enriching and absorbing work.

Wide-ranging imagination, fascination with human and parahuman potential, and an unsurpassed talent for rendering what the future might feel like characterize John Varley’s stories — and are nowhere better displayed than in this first collection of his short fiction.”

2. Spectrum 3, ed. Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest (1963)

(Uncredited — Lehr? — cover for the 1965 edition)

From the inside flap of an earlier edition: “Strikingly diversified through they are, the eight stories brought together by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest in this their theird anthology of science fiction possess a theme in common.  Ideas in one story echo or extend those in another, and their effect, taken together, is to exalt the importance of human beings over machines, of men over robots.

The range is wide, from the Pacific island of Theodore Sturgeon’s extraordinary “Killdocer!” to our own moon in Arthur C. Clarke’s small classic “The Sentinel,” to Jupiter in Poul Anderson’s brilliantly imagined “Call Me Joe,” to the strange and conceivably remote planet Loren Two in Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team.”  There is, as well, great variety in mood.  J. G. Ballard’s beautifully written “The Voices of Time” is subtle and puzzling, Mark Rose’s “We Would See a Sign” is horrifying as it is brief.  And Alfred Bester’s “Fondly Fahrenheit” and Peter Philipps’s “Dreams Are Sacred” manage to blend humor, terror, and ribaldry with great ingenuity.

These for novellas and for short stories demonstrate the scope and excitement of science fiction.”

3. Brothers of Earth, C. J. Cherryh (1976)

(Alan Atkinson’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the inside flap of an earlier edition: “Stranded for life on a remote planet, Kurt knew he had to either adapt quickly to the strange terrain and even stranger inhabitants… or face extinction.  But would it be possible for him to learn the ways of this totally alien culture… to entirely adapt his human reactions to their fabulous civilization and complex mores?  Kurt didn’t know it yet, but before long he would be completely enveloped by this alien race and become the key figure in their great civil war.  And it would take all of Kurt’s brace determination and keen resources just to keep himself alive…”

4. Tama, Princess of Mercury, Ray Cummings (serialized 1931)

(Jerome Podwil’s cover for the 1966 edition)

From the back cover: “Guy Palisse, space-explorer, returned to Earth in the Bolton Flying Cube after ten years on the SUn’s first planet, Mercury.  He returned to report that he had warded off war between the two worlds, and to wed before an admiring planet his beautiful fiancee, Tama, winged princess of mercury’s Light Country.  But following on Palisse’s orbit was a new wave of terror, as barbarian hordes from Mercury’s Cold Country descended to launch their conquest of Earth.  And Palisse’s triumph turned to near-disaster as the frenzied Mercurians plotted to kidnap Tama and bring Earth to ruin.”

17 Replies to “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXVIII (Varley + Cherryh + Cummings + et. al)”

  1. “Call Me Joe” by Anderson is quite good.

    I read Varley’s Ophiuchi Hotline I guess over 5 or 6 years but within 10 or 11 years ago. I remember finding it enjoyable, but I can’t recall much of the plot or characters or anything, and I was certainly not inspired to run out and grab all the Varley books at the library and used bookstores.

    I had the edition of Ophiuchi Hotline with Boris Vallejo’s “Attractive Woman from Three Angles” cover, but I think I sold it to Half Price Books before or after a move.

    Just this weekend i was looking at the flap of Varley’s Titan and I mentally put it on a list of things to try soon.

    1. Yeah, perhaps you’ve mentioned Call Me Joe before? One of the reasons I bought the collection…

      I’ll read his Varley’s short story collection soon…. I saw that that Vallejo cover — yikes. Not my style of art for sure.

  2. You will like the Varley, I think. His writing style is very lucid, flowing, and his themes of choice run the gamut of counter-culture ideology–not all unlike Silverberg. I don’t know which stories are in the collection, but I’ve read the titular novella and it is as Lennon-Ono ‘love-in’ as story gets.

    1. The collection contains:

      The Phantom of Kansas (1976)
      Air Raid (1977)
      Retrograde Summer (1975)
      The Black Hole Passes 1975)
      In the Hall of the Martian Kings (1976)
      In the Bowl (1975)
      Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance (1976)
      Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (1976)
      The Persistence of Vision (1978)

      I dunno about reading a “Lennon-Ono ‘love-in'” hahaha

      1. And do please forgive the implication that you are slavering for love-ins in your literature. That was not my intention. 🙂 I was referring to Varley’s competent prose and penchant for including counter-cultural thematic material as probable points of interest…

  3. I loved “Air Raid” but was really put off by the rest of the collection which felt bloated with gratuitous sex… then there were some eyebrow raising scenes and general the, IMHO, pedestrianism. Having consumed a large amount of short fiction recently and loving a number of stories, I still don’t understand why Persistence of Vision is so revered. Since it’s still in my library, perhaps it’s due for a re-read.

    1. I feel somewhat obligated to give it a shot — not only is he from my favorite city — Austin, Texas (haha) — but he’s one of the 70s “greats” I haven’t read yet…

  4. A year or so ago I came across the Spectrum series. I was surprised to see that Robert Conquest was listed as one if the editors. I knew him only as a historian of Soviet era Russian history. At 96 years old, he still writes and is a research fellow at Stanford.

      1. His biography of Stalin is very good. I have a recent book of his, a long essay on Economics and Politics, which is unfortunately meandering and dry.

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