Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVIII (Matheson + Tenn + Priest)

Adored An Infinite Summer (1979), had to procure more Priest…

I want to give Matheson another chance—although some of the stories in Third From the Sun (1955) were worth reading…

William Tenn, great short story author—needed more! I had previously read both Of Men and Monsters (1968) and his collection The Human Angle (1956).


1. The Shores of Space, Richard Matheson (1957)


(Uncredited cover for the 1957 edition)

From the back cover: “Shocking— Startling — Incredible.  13 strange and unusual stories set against the background of new worlds and fantastic futures—

A woman is terrorized by the strange creatures she carries in her womb.

A man substitutes for a robot in a new kind of prize fight.

A vampire decides to have a funeral for himself.

A little girl gets lost in another dimension.

And many, many more exciting stories by the talented author of THIRD FROM THE SUN, I AM A LEGEND [sic], THE SHRINKING MAN.

2. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1980) (MY REVIEW)


(Tyler Stalman and Julyan Bayes’ cover for the 2011 edition)

From the back cover of an earlier edition: “Peter Sinclair is tormented by bereavement and failure.  In an attempt to conjure some meaning from his life, he embarks on an autobiography.  Soon he finds himself writing the story of another man in another, imagined, world whose insidious attraction draws him forever further in.  a major work of fiction from one of Britain’s most exciting authors.”

3. The Seven Sexes, William Tenn (1968)


(Stephen Miller’s cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “THE SEVEN SEXES is almost entirely dedicated to the cynicism of nature’s prime conman, homo sapiens, in such a variety of stories that it is difficult to believe they all derive from the same source, capped by a hilarious piece of nonsense in which a has-been producer cons the seven variable sexes of Venus into starring in a “typical” Hollywood love epic—with results that defy description.  This book is part of a simultaneous six volume publication celebrating William Tenn, and featuring his first full-length science fiction novel, OF MEN AND MONSTERS.”

4. The Wooden Star, William Tenn (1968)


(Stephen Miller’s cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “Of the six volumes of William Tenn’s work now made simultaneously available, THE WOODEN STAR comes closest to being a pacifist collection, the general theme being an ironic and sometimes bitter comment on man’s stupidity to man.  But Tenn’s humor is irrepressible and bursts forth in a joyous satire on the ways of the sexes titled “The Masculinist Revolt”—which may yet bring codpieces back into fashion.”

51 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVIII (Matheson + Tenn + Priest)

  1. I still say the influence of Philip K.Dick on this novel was unmistakable,but I’ve changed my opinion about the quality of the influence,and in this case,It was exemplary.From it emerged a very readable,strange,haunting and polished novel.Priest is obviously one of the most skilled authors of the English language writing in sf,and a great contempory writer.It’s a shame I haven’t read it for nearly nine years,and my memory of it isn’t that clear now.

    I’m sorry I haven’t read more William Tenn.He’s supposed to be very humourous in the vein of Robert Sheckley.The only one I read I’ve read was “The Men in the Walls” in an anthology,but was rather serious as I remember.

  2. I have five of the six Tenn volumes… Great art, but I have yet to read them aside from a few excellent stories in magazines of the age. (Tenn could give Sheckley or Kornbluth a run for their money.) The Matheson is on my buy list, but I’m not sure it will be up your alley given your response to Third from the Sun. Chris Priest, though, I think you’ll like his best stuff.

      • Yes,as I said,it was great.As I remember,quite mesmerising and mysterious,with no definite conclusion.I’m sorry I only read a library copy.

        Like “Dying Inside” by Bob Silverberg,it contained no obvious sf tropes and was set in the present day.Both novels also contained an ingenuity of thought however,that is at the core of great sf.

        • Dying Inside did have a SF trope — telepathy. Last time I checked this was an impossible skill 😉 As for The Affirmation, yeah, all the fantastical elements are part of a psychological landscape, the Dream Archipelago… As for “an ingenuity of thought” — that might characterize some SF but is obviously a cornerstone of literature!. If anything, SF is mostly the opposite — i.e. lacking great ingenuity of thought as it is very convention bound (again, most of the time and not the best authors). I try to avoid carbon copy SF!

          • Yes I know it did Joachim,but I meant to say it appeared entirely naturalistic,rather than some gaudy explanation such as being a mutant.The setting helped and yes,it was skillfully done as I remember within an otherwise entirely mainstream setting.Also,the fact that he was losing his power,suggests that it was something abnormal and perhaps not what it seemed within the ordinary reality it was set.

            “The Affirmation” is rather cerebral,but the concept of inner space that pertains to it,is not an unknown territory in sf of course,and he seemed to navigate it well.By ingenuity of thought,I was trying to say that exciting and inventive sf can take place in the mundane contemporary world,but yes it’s also essential to literature,that is at the roots of modern sf.

      • I read a bunch of Robert Sheckley shorts many years ago and one of his novels too – Immortality Inc. When I was much younger I was a big fan of Douglas Adams. I also read the novelizations of Red Dwarf written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. But in truth I am wary these days of humourous fiction.

          • I’ve only read The Sirens of Titan and that 20 years ago. I liked it a lot at the time but strangely didn’t move on to any more of his work. I haven’t read Sladek. Which Harrison are you speaking of?

            • I’m not sure why I haven’t. It’s one of those strange vaguely embarrasing lacunae we all seem to suffer from in those realms which we love.

            • I;ve read”The Sirens of Titan”,but longer ago than that.”Bill the Galactic Hero” and “The Stainless Steel Rat”,but the only other one of his I read,was “Captive Universe”.That was mediocre sf slush I thought.

            • I don’t know HHs work that well. I read West of Eden back in the 80s but never felt the need to check out more of his work. I did listen to an early short story of his recently and thought it was good.

            • It’s was published in 1984. I read it in 1985. It’s an alternate history story, on an Earth where the dinosaurs didn’t die out and one branch becoming sentient. However humans also evolved in isolation and the two meet in the New World when the dinosaurs arrive from the Old… I liked it at the time though I don’t remember the particulars. It spawned sequels but I haven’t read any.

            • He has written a lot so far as I know.I think his earlier stuff is his best;the best of it I mean.I did want to read his “Make Room!Make Room”,partly because David Pringle chose it for his book,”Science Fiction:The 100 Best Novels”.

            • I’ve wanted to read this as long as I’ve known that it was the loose basis for Soylent Green. Also his (proto steam punk?) A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!

      • Thanks for the link.You did a post on her earlier in the year.It’s difficult to judge from the review what it would be like.Didn’t know what to make of it really.I might like it though.It depends upon the craftsmanship.

        I did think years ago,that I’d like to read her “Canopus in Argos” novels,that Brian Aldiss was so keen on and describes lovingly in “Trillion Year Spree”.She had a fondness for earlier non-generic sf,and she did read the first series of Gollancz paperback classics,with her appreciative review of them appearing on their backs.

        She also wrote the introduction to Olaf Stapleton’s “Last and First Men” in the Millenium classics,that she read when a very young woman.

  3. Yes I believe she did now you mention it,as did William Golding,another British author,whose books I’ve read and admired.

    I don’t doubt she posseses great craft by her reputation,but hope it’s applied thoughtfully to the perhaps more difficult task of writing speculative fiction.

    I might read her next year.I’ll probably look at your post on her again.

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