Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CL (Ballard + Lafferty + Aldiss + Budrys)

My first David Pelham cover graces a peerless Ballard collection.  I’ve reviewed the following Ballard collections: Billenium (1962) and The Voices of Time and Other Stories (1962).

And Aldiss’ most radical work (Barefoot in the Head (1969) might be the other choice for this distinction)?

In the past Budrys has not intrigued in the slightest—The Falling Torch (1959) was a bland alien invasion novel with a contemporary political message and Michaelmas (1976) turned a promising premise into a naive vision of absolute power wielded for absolute good.  But, short stories often give another avenue into an author’s oeuvre…

And more Lafferty—never pass them up in used bookstores, even if you do not appreciate his odd brand of SF, they are certainly worth a pretty penny…

Thoughts on this selection?

1. The Terminal Beach, J. G. Ballard (1964)


(David Pelham’s cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “The crystal world of J. G. Ballard where the white light of reason bends and breaks into every shade of fear… 12 chill splinters of unreality.”

2. Report on Probability A, Brian Aldiss (magazine publication, 1967)


(Steele Savage’s cover for the 1970 editon)

From the back cover of the 1980 Avon edition: “DON’T EVEN TRY TO HIDE.  Mr. and Mrs. Mary have dismissed three of their servants.  Now G(ardener) is hiding out in a one-room bungalow nearby.  S(ecretary) is keeping vigil in the coach house.  C(hauffer) is holed up in the garage.  Each one owns a black and white reproduction of a 19th century painting that holds the key to something important.  Each one is observing Mr. and Mrs. Mary.

But in a world of spies, no one can escape the eyes of the watchful.  Caught in a prison without bars or locks, G, S, and C are in turn being watched, trapped in a mystery of time and space with no key, no answer—a mind-shattering infinity of watching and waiting…”

3. Budrys’ Inferno, Algis Budrys (1963) (MY REVIEW)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition)

From the back cover: “Budrys’ Inferno is a choice selection of hair-raising moments in worlds where anything can happen and does

A race of people in the far distant future has raised a monstrous brood of children—children who know their parents don’t belong in a world and who one day will kill them for it…

An Android has very strange dreams about the Humanoid world he is forced to inhabit…

4. The Devil is Dead, R. A. Lafferty (1971)


(Robert LoGrippo’s cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover: “R. A. Lafferty is a spinner of grand fantasies, a creator of fine lies, one of the great storytellers of science fiction.

Here he tells of an astonishing brand of adventurers seeking the Devil himself.  It is a tale of demons and changelings, monsters and mermaids—and of how it is not always serious to die, the first time it happens…”

36 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CL (Ballard + Lafferty + Aldiss + Budrys)

  1. Lafferty is one of the many great SF/Fantasy writers whose work is neglected chiefly because he didn’t write too many novels and didn’t get his work in too many major markets other than Damon Knight’s “Orbit” series. Which is extremely similar to my position as a writer right now. As it is as well with Howard Waldrop, another oddball guy who mostly writes short stuff that’s hard to find on its own. I admire both of them because they were guys who did their own thing and succeeded in gaining enviable reputations among certain quarters, which is what I hope for with my things.

    Thankfully, Lafferty’s work is now being assembled into definitive volumes by Centipede Press, and Waldrop has had a lot of his assembled into collections. I have one collection of my short fiction out and another on the way. So sometimes the oddballs win.

    • David, I’m scratching my head — Lafferty wrote 20+ novels (at my quick count) — way more than “he didn’t wrote too many novels.” A more apt statement might be that his dense + sometimes obtuse style was more suitable for the late 60s/early 70s and thus he fell out of fashion in the late 70s (which makes sense if you look at the presses which published his early novels vs. later ones).

      And as for your comment about his short stories were not in “many major markets” is also patently wrong — please look through his listing on isfdb.org!


      • All right, Joachim. You have totally and completely rubbed my ignorance of this part of his brilliant career in my face. There is obviously a lot more to R.A.’s oeuvre I need to familiarize myself with than I thought he did.

        I tend to use my public library as a gauge for how much an author wrote, when they tend to weed things out a lot, so maybe it’s better I use Abebooks or something like that for assembling an accurate bibliography of these people. Winnipeg’s public library has absolutely nothing of Lafferty except “It’s Down The Slippery Cellar Stairs”. And they may be getting rid of that, too, since it’s so old.

        They do have a function where you can request additions to the catalogue. I’m going to do that with the Centipede Press books and the novels listed if they’ve been reissued, because they tend only to care about them if they’re recent reissues and not older copies.

        It’s the least I can do for that guy and his ilk. We have even the most minor Canadian people in that collection, but only a select few of the real heavy hitters in SF and Fantasy like him.

      • I public library isn’t an indication of anything other than (perhaps) the reading habits of the majority in that environ.

        This is the type of publication history many of his stories received:

        “Slow Tuesday Night ” (1965): A Nebula nomination… A Galaxy Magazine first publication, best of the year collection, an individual author collection, a vast spectrum of anthologies from the 60s to the present….


        I don’t mean to belabor the point, but, even before the era of The Internet Speculative Fiction Database there were tons of bibliographies and SF encyclopedias which give publication histories and substantive impressions of an author’s career. I recommend checking out SF Encyclopedia’s entry: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/lafferty_r_a

        • I really need to use the Internet more with some of these things, I guess. The paper versions of the older encyclopedias I have are useful, bu they only go up to the point they were published. And people keep writing new things and getting them published.

          • The online SF encyclopedia is great in this regard as John Clute and his fellow writers update it frequently. That said, some entries really do need an update — for example the one on French SF. My French author/critic friend was horrified by it! haha

  2. J.G.Ballard inspired cover illustrators to do some very haunting and evocative covers.I read that collection before the two volume “Collected Stories”.The titular title of the short story inside,is a masterpiece of the effects of technology and isolation on the human mind.I was also fond of “The Drowned Giant” and “The Illuminated Man”,also to be found within,among others,.

    I’m tempted to go for “Barefoot in the Head” for the next Aldiss novel to read,as it was “new wave”.”Greybeard” was the best one I’ve read by him,but I would hope this one is better.

    I’ve only read one Budrys short story,in a 1976 1950s anthology by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison.I didn’t think it was all that good.The same holds true for Larry Lafferty,which was the one in “Dangerous Visions,although I remember very little about it.I feel I should read his stuff though.It will come gradually in time I suppose.

    • Larry Lafferty?! His name is R. A. Lafferty (i.e. Raphael Aloysius Lafferty). Is it a nickname or something I’ve never heard of? haha

      I read Greybeard as well but never wrote a review. I enjoyed it! It had a surreal touch and focused on old people — quite ingenious in a way.

      • Sorry….so it is! I was getting him confused with someone else with a similar name.

        Yes it could be called a pastoral disaster novel.Something like Ballard’s “The Drowned World”,without the dimension of inner space.

        • Maybe you’re confusing him with Larry Niven — but there couldn’t be two more different authors in SF, haha… (I must confess, I sort of like Niven’s early stories).

          • No it wasn’t an SF author…..somebody entirely different.I couldn’t read his “Ringworld”.The only other stuff of his I’ve read is in anthologies,but the best one of those,was the “Not Long Before the End”,which was fairly good I think.He’s a stalwart of hard,traditional genre SF,which I’m not fond of.

            • I was not a fan of the delivery of Ringworld although I thought the actual structure was quite interesting.

              “He’s a stalwart of hard,traditional genre SF,which I’m not fond of.” — exactly!

            • Well, I was 15-17 when I read it… so. Who knows what my opinion would be now. I did think that the story itself was really dull. The only thing that kept any of it afloat was the underlying scientific idea.

            • The only Clarke that really holds up in my view is the wonderful Imperial Earth (1975) (I’ve since reread it). I remember reading it originally at my grandfather’s house, and how it really was a masterclass at thoughtful self-reflection, and world building. Quite enjoyable (no plot to speak of!).

            • I only ever read five books by Robert Heinlein.I quite enjoyed “Starship Troopers,despite the political and social bloopers it’s accused of.I found it sprightly and readable,but that was a long time ago.

              I’ve only read two short pieces by Clarke in anthologies.I couldn’t read “Childhood’s End”.He’s out of range now.

              About the time I attempted to read “Ringworld”,I read Bob Silverberg’s “Dying Inside”,Harlan Ellison’s “The Time of the Eye” and Philip K.Dick’s “A Maze of Death”,all of which I got through easyly.I was also still reading Philip J.Farmer’s stuff.

  3. HI

    Interesting, normally I am a big Powers fan but I prefer the three covers by the other artists in your post. The Robert LoGrippo and the Steele Savage are wonderful.

    All the best

  4. I think you will like the Aldiss. It is very “new wave”. When I read it some years back it reminded me more of contemporary French nouveau roman writers (Robbe-Grillet, Butor, etc.) then 60s sf. Now there is an association that needs more research…

    • I’ve already read portions of the Aldiss in various collections over the years. I have not read more contemporary French nouveau roman writers — although my wife probably has…

  5. I think “Report on Probability A” is a masterpiece. But it’s a masterpiece that I have never finished. Very skillfully constructed, but I just might not have the patience for it. Aldiss wrote it purposely trying to make it as boring as possible. And yes the endless descriptions are successfully boring, but the story is so unique, so memorable, that I’d argue that he did not succeed in making the book ‘boring’ at all.

  6. I’m almost finished Budrys’ first collection Unexpected Dimension, and am quite impressed. Budrys really unpacks an idea–sometimes in a direction not entirely on-point, but the fact he perpetually keeps a humanist perspective automatically puts him above writers indulging in eye-candy and other such entertainments… Looking forward to your review of Inferno.

Comment! Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.