Updates: New Website Look and New Projects (Towards a Favorite SF Novels of the 1970s List, Barry N. Malzberg Resource, Guest Post Series Ideas)

(From the uncredited cover for the 1975 edition of The Invincible (1964), Stanislaw Lem)

I’ve updated the website template (and purchased the domain name) and would like to know if it is easy to navigate (especially on mobile devices). Obviously I can’t please everyone but hope that it is more streamlined and 2017 than before.

I started Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations way back in 2010. My first post bashed John Brunner’s Born Under Mars (1967) in vaguely substantive terms (sometimes I think about deleting my earliest reviews). Since then I have written some 300 odd review reviews, 114 cover art posts, and various film reviews, indices, lists, guest post series, an interview, etc. With all of this in mind, I thought I’d give you a sense of what is on the horizon.

Reminder: If you’re the emailing rather than commenting sort I can be reached at ciceroplatobooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

The Three Major Projects

1) I’m in the process of compiling a resource page for Barry N. Malzberg that would include links to reviews/interviews/academic articles from around the web. Let me know if there are any links you would like me to include. Even if you aren’t a Barry N. Malzberg fan, if you happen to come across in your SF perambulations any relevant information I’d be very appreciative if you’d send them my way.

Resource/article INDEX 

2) This will appeal to far more readers. Over the last few years I’ve been slowly working my way towards a “My Favorite 1970s SF Novels List.”  Let me be clear—this is not a “Best Of” list but rather my personal favorites. A good sense of what I enjoy and don’t enjoy can be gleaned quickly with a glance at my ratings INDEX. I’ve read all of the Hugo Award Best Novel winners for the 1970s other than Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (1978) (*hangs head in shame*) and have piles of other potential novels to read before I put together the list.

If you have any suggestions of books I might like—if they’re not listed on the review INDEX there’s a chance I read them before my site or never got around to reviewing them—please let me know.

A handful of the novels I KNOW I still need to read before I put the list together: J.G. Ballard’s Crash (1973), Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (1979), Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass (1970) and A Time of Changes (1971), Gene Wolfe’s The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972), Thomas M. Disch’s 334 (1972). There are many others!

3) A new Guest Post series? (three previous installments) Perhaps this time thematic rather than author or topic driven—I would restrict the publication years to c. 1945-c. 1980. Surprising to none of my regular readers, themes along the lines of memory, storytelling, trauma, and mythologizing all come immediately to mind. And yes, I’d ultimate pick a theme that resonates with me.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions.

25 thoughts on “Updates: New Website Look and New Projects (Towards a Favorite SF Novels of the 1970s List, Barry N. Malzberg Resource, Guest Post Series Ideas)”

    1. Thanks Guy for the kind words. I enjoy all your comments (and of course your blog posts).

      Do you have any suggestions for the various projects? (1970s novels I MUST read, etc.).

  1. Hi

    I will give it some thought. A quick scan of some 1970 titles many I suspect you have already read, led me to wonder if you had read
    The Deep by John Crowley 1975 a short novel I found quite interesting. I was going to suggest CJ Cherryh’s Wave Without a Shore but I see it was from 1981 but a rare short single novel, for her, dealing with reality and identity. And no ray guns or giant cats.

    I may chip in again if I think of something else.

    Guy

    1. Crowley’s The Deep (1975) is fantastic. Would definitely be on my list — torn whether Beasts is a better novel though….

      I have reviews of both.

      Beasts (1976): https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2013/05/06/book-review-beasts-john-crowley-1976/

      The Deep (1975): https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2013/09/01/book-review-the-deep-john-crowley-1975/

      I used to be a huge C.J. Cherryh fan as a teen and in my early 20s. I haven’t read anything by her in years but I grabbed a copy of Wave Without a Shore a year ago or so.

  2. Not from the seventies, but I just finished Boris Vian’s Red Grass from the late 40s and I wondered several times if you’d read it — it could easily have been published, unchanged, in late 60s New Worlds.

    1. I read a Boris Vian short story (a surrealist/absurdist story about a boy who plays with matches and burns down his house as his parents—if I remember any of this correctly—don’t want to disturb him) as a graduate student in a French class but haven’t returned to him. The Red Grass, from what I can find about it online, seems interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Is there any chance of having the comments numbers back under each post on the main page? I swing by every 2-3 days, so it would give me some idea as to whether new comments have been added rather than having to open every recent post to see if anyone has added anything.

    Scott Edelman interviewed Malzberg earlier this year in a podcast:

    http://www.scottedelman.com/2017/02/17/nosh-on-deli-with-barry-n-malzberg-in-episode-29-of-eating-the-fantastic/

    1. That does not seem like an option unfortunately — as I am still not paying the higher rates for the templates that allow coding to modify in addition to what can be already be customized… There are always going to be downsides unfortunately. Unless, but some stroke of magic, I receive the funds to not only pay the higher rates but also pay someone to do the coding as my skills are rather average.

      Thanks for the link!

  4. Who doesn’t love a top ten list? Isn’t that half of what the internet is for? I know you admire Christopher Priest and if I were to make my own top 70s list I’d probably put his 1974 Inverted World in there, though I did read it 20 years ago, but thought it very inventive at the time. And since you have a vast knowledge of SF cover art why not a top ten SF covers from the 70s to boot…and no, you can’t choose ten Powers’ covers!

    1. Yes, everyone loves lists!

      My mental process: There is a difference between “My Favorite 70s SF novels” and “Top Ten 70s SF novels.” So often the later category is created either by people who haven’t read enough to actually come up with some general assessment of the genre and/or are repeating the Hugo/Nebula list. I think there are some serious issues about regurgitating and mindlessly promoting canon. I’ve been struggling with those issues while thinking about lists. And I am not yet in a position, like Pringle for example, to have read enough to proclaim “The Best.” And I’m not sure I want to. The better I know something the more I tend to be cautious….

      The Inverted World definitely goes in the I must read it soon pile. I’ve read a lot of Priest but not that one yet.

      A while back I did put together a favorite SF covers lists — it was years ago and I’ve looked through thousands and thousands more since then. https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2012/06/18/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-my-15-favorite-science-fiction-covers/

    1. At some point I should read through more of his criticism — I must confess, a lot of his views on SF and genre frustrates me.

      But perhaps I’m coming around to this view via MPorcius of his commentary:

      Source: http://mporcius.blogspot.com/2017/06/after-judgment-day-pro-and-castaway-by.html

      “Malzberg himself, with his grand self confidence, his obsessions, his varied career as writer and editor in several genres, and his view that his own life and that of genre writers and maybe even that of all 20th century people is a tragedy, is a fascinating character. A lot of his work lacks compelling characters, but every thing he writes is like a little episode in the saga of, or maybe a tile in the mosaic portrait of, Barry N. Malzberg himself. So I am willing to read anything he writes, or is written about him, to gain insight into and entertainment from his ideas or his antics.

      One of the weird things about Malzberg is that he will often say how most SF is crummy and so many SF writers and editors are incompetent and all that, but I rarely read anything by him attacking a specific writer for a specific reason. He attacked Lovecraft in a 1989 short story, “O Thou Last and Greatest!” but, as I remember it, his criticism of Lovecraft was oblique (he wouldn’t refer to Lovecraft by name) and insubstantial.

      http://mporcius.blogspot.com/2015/02/three-stories-by-barry-n-malzberg-at.html

      If I can do a little psychoanalyzing, I think Malzberg, who sees himself as a struggling writer and editor, identifies with all SF writers and editors and so is inspired to praise them and defend them. On the one hand I find this endearing, but on the other hand the iconoclastic recklessness of a Thomas Disch, who will not hesitate to attack universally loved icons like Ray Bradbury or a darling of the academic set like Ursula K. LeGuin, is exciting and provides new ways of looking at authors who have enjoyed a (perhaps ossified and obscuring) positive critical consensus. “

  5. Joachim, I hope your new website works out as I always find the content of reviews, art and comments very interesting. They have inspired me to seek out new authors I hadn’t read before and explore their strange new worlds, civilizations and life forms…. I was listening to the theme of the original Star Trek series so my thoughts somewhat merged with my keyboarding, ha ha.

    I think favorite lists are far easier to do because they reflect the interests of the compiler as opposed to the effort of applying critical criteria to make a best of list. From the lists I’ve seen I can usually tell whether someone is in my age group and has been reading SF for over 50 years in comparison to someone who disregards the classics as dated stories for the excessively prolix efforts that’s been published in the last 20 years. The trend towards fantasy in the early 1980s is what minimized my reading in the genre for nearly 25 years.

    Anyway, keep up the great content!

  6. Gray type on a white background. Trendy, but not eye friendly. Lots of white space. Also trendy, and also not eye friendly. (Can you imagine trying to read a book with low-contrast type and this much white space around every sentence or paragraph?) The layout looks like a dedicated phone site, instead of a multi-platform site. My PC is not happy. On the other hand, the larger thumbnails of cover art are nice.

    1. Unfortunately wordpress has moved away form three column templates that tended to take up more screen space (and certainly made organization easier). I can change the background. A darker one might make it easier to read. I don’t have the funds to pay for more customizable template or hosting. Alas.

  7. I have also thought about going back and deleting my early reviews, but like you, for whatever reason, haven’t done it. Maybe it’s more honest that way?

    I like the new look, and I also liked the look of the old template. For certain one of the advantages of sticking to sf in the range of years you enjoy is the relatively higher quality of covers, which makes for good wallpaper. I don’t think the earliest or the most contemporary sf offers the same relative consistency.

    The Barry Malzberg resource, talk about a labor of love… Good luck with that. 🙂

    Ideas regarding a themed guest post series, I don’t know. Maybe meta-fictional stories?

    1. Yes, the template is conducive to the gorgeous cover art — it does require me to scan in my own copies for higher resolution images. But I end of posting them on twitter anyway so they have their use.

      My first course of action is to review my massive book backlog (the reviews should start appearing soon after July 15th — occupied at the moment).

      which includes….

      Emma Tennant’s Hotel De Dream
      Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (I promised to review that one 6 months ago)
      Matin Bax’s The Hospital Ship
      J. G. Ballard’s The Terminal beach
      Adolfo Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel
      Keith Roberts’ Pavane
      Alan Burns’ Dreamerika!
      Arno Schmidt’s The Egghead Republic

      But yes, the metafictional theme seems to be where I’m heading — memory being a close second.

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