Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIII (Priest + Davidson + Scott + Tate)

1) Barry N. Malzberg’s back cover blurb for Jody Scott’s 1977 novel suggests a worthwhile, or at least intriguing (and satirical), read: “What Paganini did to four strings and three-and-a-half octaves, Jody Scott does for our dear, undead genre.”

My first The Women’s Press edition!

2) My Christopher Priest collection nears completion. Has anyone read his early novel Fugue for A Darkening Island (1972)? Although I adore the short fiction and novels of his I’ve read so far, this premise has the potential to be deeply problematic (racist, etc). That said, I discovered my copy is signed! Purchased it for $4 with shipping off of Abebooks — it’s a $50+ book with signature.

christopher priest_Page_2.jpg

For more on his work: The Affirmation (1981), Real-Time World (1974), An Infinite Summer (1979), and Indoctrinaire (1970).

3) A collection of Avram Davidson stories. The title story “Or All the Seas with Oysters” won the 1958 Hugo for Best Short Story. The two works of his I’ve read so far disappointed: The Enemy of My Enemy (1966) and “Rife of Spring” (1970).

4) Peter Tate’s stories mostly appeared in various New Worlds publications. Although hailing from the UK, his novels were almost entirely published by Doubleday Press in the US. In the past I read “The Post-Mortem People” (1966) and found it a functional New Wave experiment. As is my wont, I tracked down a collection of his short fictions.

As on all posts, thoughts and comments are welcome!


1. Passing for Human, Jody Scott (1977)

new books scott, davidson, tate_Page_2.jpg

(Miss Moss’ cover for the 1986 edition)

From the back cover: “Introducing Benaroya, a well-meaning hedonist from Interstellar Station 8, who visits Earth, as Emma Peel, Virginia Woolf, Brenda Starr. Her mission: to sow wild oats, save Earth from alien invasion, sort out the human race and generally have a good time. With an all-star cast including Abraham Lincoln, Heidi’s Grandfather, General George S. Patton, The Prince of Darkness, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and several hundred Richard Nixons.”

2. Fugue For a Darkening Island, Christopher Priest (1972)

(Mike Ploog’s cover for the 1978 edition)

From the back cover: “‘Set in a Britain in the near future. In power is a strong Right-wing Government struggling in vain against rising prices and unemployment. Then the African refugees begin to arrive… Africa has been devastated by a brief atomic war. Its people are fleeing all over the world. Within a year two million of them have landed in Britain. Before long the situation is completely out  of hand. Desperation gives way to violence, violence to anarchy, anarchy to civil war… Stark, provocative and disturbing.’ SUNDAY EXPRESS.

‘In the Wyndham tradition; but Wyndham’s mellow sunsets have faded and the dark night of the soul is coming down…’ BRIAN ALDISS/GUARDIAN.

‘Highly Recommended… a book like this hits hard.’ TIME OUT.”

3. Or All the Seas with Oysters, Avram Davidson (1962)

new books scott, davidson, tate_Page_1.jpg

(Ed Soyka’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “Fantastic creations, out of time, space, and mind! Past and present intermingle in these spellbinding stories; reality and illusion rub shoulders and the results are terrifyingly logical and utterly incredible!”


“Or All the Seas with Oysters” (1958), “Up the Close and Doun the Stair” (1958),  “Now Let Us Sleep” (1957), “The Grantha Sighting”(1958), “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper” (1957), “The Sixth Season” (1960), “Negra Sum” (1957), “Or the Grasses Grow” (1958), “My Boy Friend’s Name Is Jello” (1954, “The Golem” (1955), “Summerland ” (1957), “King’s Evil” (1956), “Great is Diana” (1958), “I Do Not Hear You, Sir” (1958),  “Author, Author” (1959), “Dagon” (1959), “The Montavarde Camera” (1959), “The Woman Who Thought She Could Read” (1959)

4. Seagulls Under Glass and other Stories, Peter Tate (1975)

new books scott, davidson, tate_Page_3.jpg

(Richard Mantel’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “‘…laughter and fancies, outlandish people and breath-taking schemes’ are all to be found in this collection of fantastical tales by Peter Tate. Take for example:


About an “omnipotent” computer housed in a shining steel tower that bears the curious resemblance to a structure once raised in Babylon…

Daylength Talking Blues

About the secret life of falling leaves…


About the meeting between a U.S. agent and a Russian agent in Venice, where they discuss a certain world-wide lightning epidemic…

Dear Witch Hazel

About a little girl who makes a rather disquieting observation about the new migration pattern of swifts…

Same Autumn in a Different Park

About two paradise infants in a transmutable Eden, whose parents are waiting outside the gates…

Seagulls Under Glass

About a hotel for aging folk, and a traveler whose nightmare premonition about the place is only slightly less frightening than the reality…

There are twelve bizarre visions in all—twelve tales of fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, and various dark speculations about the future present…”

Contents: “Mainchance” (1970), “Daylength Talking Blues” (1975), “Skyhammer” (1975), “Mars Pastorale” (variant title: “Mars Pastorale or I’m Fertile, Said Felix”) (1967), “The Gloom Pattern” (1966), “Welcome to the Land of Smiles” (1973), “The Post-Mortem People” (1966), “Seagulls Under Glass” (1975), “The Day the Wind Died” (1969), “Same Autumn in a Different Park” (1967), “Dear Witch Hazel, My Birds Won’t Fly” (1974), “Crumbling Hollywood Mansion, Crumbling Hollywood Man” (variant title: “Protest” (!974).

36 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIII (Priest + Davidson + Scott + Tate)

  1. The Women’s Press books were great at the time and gave a well needed boost to female SF authors. I have most of the essential authors in that series already, though there are a few I still haven’t got – mostly a type of inferior ‘Fantasy’ type novel – as opposed to more straight SF – which seemed to sometimes be used as ‘filler’ for T.W.P., probably because there weren’t enough genuine SF classics by women – for whatever reason (the inbred misogyny of the SF field at the time, probably being the main offender) – to keep the line going.

    A fabulous cover image by Mike Ploog for the Christopher Priest book! I was – and still am – a big fan of his artwork, and still have some of his early-to-mid 70s Marvel comics, like Man-Thing, The Monster of Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night, bought excitedly when I was a nipper (English slang for ‘kid’). He was an amazing, very original and inventive artist, and still relatively under-rated.

    I have never read this particular Priest, and must dig it out soon, as it is incredibly relevant, in terms of the humanitarian crisis of the refugees in Europe, at the moment. Very prescient. I would have thought, though, given that it is by Priest, that it will be reasonably ‘fair’, morally, and not racist in any way. Though, of course, you never know when dealing with ANY type of author from decades ago, with the prevailing problems of racism/sexism, etc then (and which seem to be coming back in full force, these days – but it’s probably not a good idea to get into politics on here!)

    And what a great surprise for you with the signed copy – as they say on this side of the pond (and quite apt in this case): ‘a real turn up for the books’. On an aside – it reminds me of the time when I bought on old video tape (‘officially’ manufactured, not recorded off the TV) in a charity/thrift shop in London, for the trifling sum of 50p. (Incredibly, I was still occasionally watching the odd video-tape, a few years ago, on my old, and still working, video machine.) It was a 1980s video edition of the Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who – the superb (pre-Matrix) ‘Carnival of Monsters’ virtual reality storyline, from 1973. However, when I got home and looked at it properly I saw that it had been signed – quite fittingly, in glitzy, flamboyant, silver marker pen – by the good gent, himself! I was over the moon to think that my own ‘First Doctor’ had handled that very video cassette, himself. I still haven’t checked how much it is worth online, but I am sure it will be a lot more than 50 pence, now.

    I’ve not yet read anything by the two other authors, but the Avram Davidson looks good…

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ll respond later to the rest of your points. I should point out that The Women’s Press hardly published a large range of earlier works by women (they did reprint a few feminist classics)– many other famous novels by women were still being reprinted in the 80s by other presses (Le Guin, Wilhelm, etc).

      I don’t know enough about the Press to speak to their modus operandi, but, they also targeted newer authors of varying quality. My point is that the press published a weird mix of works and probably shouldn’t been considered indicative of all the larger strands of SF by women at the time or earlier.

      Here is what SF encyclopedia says (from “feminism in SF” http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/feminism):

      “Part of the problem may lie in the kinds of books publishers think will appeal to readers. While some are more open to feminist and other overtly political texts, there have been few publishing companies which have explicitly associated themselves with feminist products. A crucial role in this regard was played by the sf imprint of the UK publishing house, The Women’s Press. Under the direction of Sarah Lefanu the imprint brought together an eclectic range of texts, some reprints of classic feminist sf texts by Russ, Charnas and Gearhart, others originally published as straightforward sf, as for example A Door into Ocean (1986) by Joan Slonczewski, or as mainstream literature, like The Book of the Night (1984) by Rhoda Lerman (1936- ). The Women’s Press also published books by writers who had not necessarily been seen as feminist writers, such as Josephine Saxton, Tanith Lee and Carol Emshwiller, and reprinted the nineteenth century utopia, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (January-December 1915 The Forerunner; 1979). The imprint also included the work of lesser known authors such as Rosaleen Love from Australia, and Elisabeth Vonarburg and Candas Jane Dorsey from Canada.”

  2. I was very surprised to see Mike Ploog’s art on a cover by a British publisher.If I hadn’t of known he’d done it,I wouldn’t have recognised the style,but that grotesque face is reminiscent of his ghoulish but cartoonish signiture style I remember from when he was at Marvel in the 1970s.

    As I remember,he left Marvel the previous year.

  3. I haven’t read Priest’s book yet but I bought it recently and in the intro he says it has been revised.

    It’s not so much that the theme was racist but that the cold, ironic tone (heavily influenced by Ballard and the New Wave) could be read that way.

    • I wonder why he felt the need to revise it. And what did he take out…

      I had a debate with a few readers on twitter and they suggested that portions are difficult to read due to the potentially racist content. We shall see! But yeah, I don’t get that impression from the rest of Priest’s work so far!

  4. I’ve got almost all of the Women’s Press Science Fiction novels.

    Naomi Mitchell’s Memoirs of a Space Woman has the rare distinction of being part of that series and New English Library’s earlier SF Masters series (the Seventies equivalent of Gollancz SF Masterworks).

  5. Hi

    I have not read a lot of Davidson’s but I enjoyed the title story “Or All the Seas with Oysters” it had sort of musing on the world, Charles Fort vibe I remember liking a lot.

    Happy Reading

  6. I’m surprised you wouldn’t even have Joanna Russ. Even in New Zealand’s second hand bookshops she was always there, along with one or maybe two others popping up in The Women’s Press.

    I found an original copy of Davidson’s Or All the Seas with Oysters. I think, like Guy, I enjoyed the title story. Don’t remember much else, but there was this general sense of “not really Science Fiction”

    • Did you read the sequel to Passing for Human?

      Maybe a bit later I’ll scan in my Spinrad signature in a copy of Bug Jack Barron. It looks like a child scrawl…. easily missed by the used book store staff!

      • My best find was a signed copy of Nigel Kneale’s Tomato Caine & Other Stories.

        The book’s a rare enough find as it is but he signed it under with his real name, Thomas.

        Kneale is remembered almost entirely for TV work such as Quatermass and the live BBC production of Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, as well as the play The Year of the Sex Olympics.

        It’s a pity he wrote so little ‘literature’.

  7. I first became aware of Naomi Mitchell through one of Harry Harrison’s anthologies, and I remember liking it, but it was a long, long time ago. Was always a fan of Ploog’s, nifty cover, when I think of his work I always think of his contempories Bernie Wrightson, Mike William Kaluta, and Jeff Jones. He has done a lot of movie work. I believe Peter Tate was English which is why I never saw much of his work, although his story The Thinking Seat enjoyed a brief spate of popularity. I remember reading it when it was reprinted in Fantastic with a particularly garish cover. He was, like Langdon Jones, one of sf’s shooting stars.

  8. Saying Jones’ her dad leads me to believe that he’s still alive. Maybe he can get his stuff re-released on Print-on-Demand. It would also be interesting to find out why he stopped writing (sf, at least). That was 45yrs ago. Maybe you can wrangle a short interview.

    I think if we talk much more about commix of any kind Joachim is likely to tear out his hair and ban us from his site, but Jones did a few, by accident or by intent , black-and-white comic magazine covers. And check out Kaluta’s work on the Madame Xanadu weird comic series before it folded.

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