Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCV (Leiber + Goulart + Wolf + Anthology edited by Bryant)

1. Why more Fritz Leiber (you might ask) considering your scattered negative comments about his most beloved series of stories, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? In short, I enjoy his non-sword and sorcery short fiction—notably the stories in A Pail of Air (1964).

And of course his bizarre (and most famous) 50s novel The Big Time (1958)… (read long before I started my site).

2. This looks like a fascinating collection “celebrating” America’s 300th future anniversary! I did not know that Edward Bryant edited volumes of short stories. He includes a wide range of authors—including those by Marge Piercy, Harlan Ellison, Jo Ann Harper (unknown to me), Carol Emshwiller, Vonda N. McIntyre, et al.

3. I finished Gary K. Wolf’s Killerbowl (1975) a few days ago and was blown away. Absolutely one of my favorite novels I’ve read so far this year! The bad taste left by The Resurrectionist (1979) is completely washed from my mouth. I snuck on the computer…. late at night…. and purchased the last of his three 1970s novels I didn’t own–A Generation Removed (1977).

4. A gift from a family friend…. with an otherworldly (and early) Vincent Di Fate cover.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

Note: Images are hi-res scans from my personal collection.

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1. The Book of Fritz Leiber, Fritz Leiber (1974)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “Author’s prospectus: ‘There will be over sixty thousand words in all. The stories will make up two-thirds of them. There will be ten stories, all of them previously un-anthologized, most of them of recent origin. All the chief types of story I do will be represented: hard science fiction, Fafhrd-Mouser (sword & sorcery), romantic science fiction, Change War stories, cat stories, Lovecraft-related stories, supernatural-horror stories. The non-fiction will amount to about ten items. They will be of all sorts and closely related to the fiction. There will be book reviews, a pop. science article in the Asimov vein, my ‘Monsters and Monster Lovers,’ and so on. The stories and articles will alternate in the book, illuminating each other.’

And that’s the way it worked out, proving that Anthony Boucher was right when he said, ‘Fritz Leiber stands very firmly in the front rank of modern science fiction writers,’ and that Lin Carter was correct in saying, ‘Fritz Leiber is probably the finest living writer of sword & sorcery.'”

Short story contents: “The Spider,” “A Hitch in Space,” “Kindergarten,” “Crazy Annaoj,” “When the Last Gods Die,” “Yesterday House,” “Knight to Move,” “To Arkham and the Stars,” “Beauty and the Beasts,” “Cat’s Cradle.”

2. 2076: The American Tricentennial, ed. Edward Bryant (1977)

(Uncredited cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “America, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!

After the last 200 years, what could the United States of America possibly do for an encore?

In this unique collection of spellbinding accounts you’ll:

Attend the nation’s 300th birthday celebration–the one where the people take a vote on which cities will live and which will die.

Learn the fate of today’s cryogenic “sleepers.”

Witness the fatal beauty of an “aerosol sunset.”

Meet a beautiful bionic female who has fallen in love and discovered it is–was–to be a woman.

Roar down a deserted interstate in a forbidden Chrysler with a 106 year-old man who remembers America’s Bicentennial.

And explore in dozens of other ways the America in which your grandchildren will live.

Seventeen of America’s most gifted writers extrapolate today’s far-out notions into tomorrow’s everyday reality–and add some daring concepts that nobody has thought of before. It all adds up to a fascinating exercise in imaginative futurology that will keep you marveling.”

Contents: Karl Hansen’s “A Red, White, and Blue Fourth of July,” Carol Emshwiller’s “Escape is No Accident,” Jo Ann Harper’s “Feminine Demystification,” Robert Crais’ “The Dust of Evening,” Marge Piercy’s “The Death of Sappho,” William Jo Watkin’s “Like Snow-Humped Fields Afraid of Rain,” James Stevens’ “And I for an Eye,” Harlan Ellison’s “Emissary from Hamelin,” Sonya Dorman’s “Corruption of Metals,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Aztecs,” Peter Dillingham’s “X-2076,” Robert E. Vardeman and Jeff Slaten’s “The Biological Revolution,” James Sallis and David Lunde’s “One Road to Damascus,” Patrick Henry Prentice’s “Welcome to the Tricentennial.”

3. A Generation Removed, Gary K. Wolf (1977)

(Margo Herr’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the inside flap: “In America of the near future a youth-worshiping culture has franchised all teen-agers… and set in motion a frightening revolution. The all-powerful young have enacted laws that set a mandatory retirement age of fifty-five, at which time all “Gerrys” are forced to undergo physical examinations, all medication for illness is withheld, and euthanasia is prescribed for all infirm elders.

civilization’s deliverance from this hideous brave new world depends on an idealistic fifty-year-old, Hershel Lichter, a man chosen by the government to infiltrate and destroy the ranks of the underground Old People’s Army, a man who soon realizes that his only hope–and his country’s–is to join forces with the very “revels” he has been sent to eliminate.

In the same violent, riveting style of his first novel, Killerbowl, Gary Wolf has imagined an all-too-possible horror story that culminates in an eerie, futuristic Battle of Dunkirk.”

4. Plunder, Ron Goulart (1972)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover: “Nuthatch on Noventa. A zombie factory.. a mad slasher… lecherous lizards… Was this any way to run a planet?

Muckrake magazine didn’t think so. They sent their ace reporter Jack Summer to rake up a little much about the corrupt government of Noventa.

They even gave him a rake: Palma, the horniest photographer this side of Alpha Centauri…”

21 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCV (Leiber + Goulart + Wolf + Anthology edited by Bryant)”

  1. Glad you liked Killerbowl. I thought it superior to Rollerball, and a very believable extrapolation of a mid-70s USA into the early 21st century. Too bad it’s out of print…………and consequently very expensive.

    1. Yeah, not terribly concerned with the “believable extrapolation” angle…. That said, I agree with your statement that it was superior to William Harrison’s “Roller Ball Murder”– I’m positive that he read “Roller Ball Murder” — right? It definitely feels like he’s picking up on many similar angles.

      I adored the structure of the work! And the citations from fake academic articles, the city plan where Super Bowl XXI is played, and all that is said by implication rather than laborious exposition! A brilliant little work… and yes, I paid $9 for a hardback copy. Needs a reprint ASAP.

      1. I’m also glad you liked Killerbowl, and agree that it really deserves a reprint. I’m glad that I was able to get it cheap on my Kindle with the knowledge that Wolf got at least a few cents from it.

        You could use it as a master class in how to effectively tell a story.

        1. It took me a few moments to grasp the structure — for any potential readers, pay attention to the dates! But, again, it’s a testament to his ability to tell a story that the weird structure is not a hinderance in the slightest.

      2. I ordered Killerbowl on Amazon for $10 and it appears to be a print to order book since the printing date was the same day I ordered it and there was no publisher listed.

  2. The Wolf cover put me in mind of Murray Tinkleman’s work that appeared (most similar to this) in a bunch of Ballantine editions of John Brunner, especially the books like Shockwave Rider and Squares of the City. Similar technique, maybe. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Margo Herr (the artist for the Wolf book) was an art director at Doubleday — looking through her own covers makes it clear what general style/look she was going for the SF line!

  3. And I’ve been slowly and randomly working my way through Leiber’s short stuff. I did re-read Big Time recently and was less impressed than I remembered being. Now I’m wondering if I’ll feel the same if I re-read books like The Wanderer or A Specter is Haunting Texas.

    1. I have a strategy — I don’t reread! Sometimes a book is especially poignant due to a particular moment in your life… For me, I read Leiber’s work and thought, “wow, even 50s SF can be downright strange.” And you know, that was an important moment and I’m not sure I want to reread it as a result…

  4. I’m with you on Leiber’s sword-and-sorcery — just can’t get into it. But his other stuff is interesting.

    The Tricentennial looks like great fun. Didn’t even know it existed. I’ll keep an eye out for the next trip to the specialty store.

    Killerbowl sounds like it has that modernistic, Dos Passos style I like. Keep an eye out for that one.

    I sigh when I see the Goulart. I liked Goulart once but returning to him as an adult has not been satisfying.

    1. Unlike Dos Passos, Killerbowl is streamlined — the other “media” inserted into the narrative is infrequent yet powerful. It’s a distillation of New Wave structural invention into a riveting plot facilitated by all its parts. Check it out (as others have said, it’s hard to find — you might have to buy it online).

      The Goulart was part of a series of books I received from a family friend as a gift. I would not have picked up a copy myself — although I do have a soft spot for the cover!

  5. Your comment on De Fate is interesting, I’ve never really liked his stuff, it’s either bland, or his depictions of people come across as stiff and wooden, or both. I also get the impression at times that he is rather color blind. I’m also rather strange in that I’ve pretty much liked everything that Leiber ever wrote that I have read, including his fantasy, and especially his horror. But like you, I’ve always had a fondness for A Pail Of Air and its relentless optimism. As far as rereading goes, you can never go home again, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Besides, sometimes I like stories and authors I didn’t like the first time around.

    1. I prefer his early 70s work — like the cover above. I find his “stiff and wooden” portrayal of people and landscapes part of his surreal qualities… Like Guaghan, Di Fate swung wildly in quality….

  6. There IS a kind of early steampunkish quality about it. Ron Goulart is an author, I suspect, that is best discovered when the reader is young. I wonder if the book could live up to the cover. However, while under the influence of Saturday morning creature features I did consider the cover to http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/a/af/VMPRSTRS8E1974.jpg one of my favorites. By the way, this book might interest you as it has THREE stories by Malzberg in it. You should really take a good look at Elwood’s anthologies as he published at least one Malzberg story in every one of his anthologies.

  7. I remember years ago, when William Shatner was having novels published under his name, he had a series featuring a detective called Jake Cardigan. I had almost no interest in it but noticed that the first in the series was actually written by Goulart. As it happened, because Shatner sold at the time, we did also have the audiobook of it as well. One slack day, I decided to give it a go and put it on. It wasn’t the now more common ‘complete text’ style of audio but a 3 hour condensed edit on 2 cassettes.
    This meant that a huge amount of the 400-ish(?) pages of text was edited out! I assume complete scenes and even plot lines disappeared but the remainder was also tightened up, resulting in the audio version racing along with almost no extraneous detail and sounding just like a properly zany all action 180 page ‘Ron Goulart’ adventure, as published frequently by DAW! I’ve little doubt the Beagle book above by him fits the formula too…

    1. Of the Goulart novels I own, I suspect I’ll read After Things Fell Apart and if it doesn’t resonate I probably won’t explore his SF further…. other than short fiction if it pops up in various collections.

  8. Awhh. When I saw the “The American Tricentenial” anthology, I naturally assumed it would include Asimov’s “The Tercentenary Incident” – but no, that was for a different tercentenial anthology… maybe Asimov didn’t like the Latin of “tricentenial”.

    [Of course, “The Tercentenary Incident” isn’t exactly essential Asimov, so isn’t a great loss. It’s just mildly disappointing to think for a moment that I may have read something from one of your books, but narrowly miss…]

  9. Although I prefer novels, I understand reading collections is preferable as a way to survey more science fiction stories, ideas and authors. The Bryant anthology looks very interesting. My lingering feelings on the Leiber collection, however, are negative since I recently reread, or should I say, slogged my way through both The Wanderer and The Big Time. The former I found preposterous because the cataclysm of two planets that close together was absurdly light and the latter a gossipy tale about nothing much. I have to admit I didn’t get much humor from the opposition forces being called spiders and snakes either because I kept thinking about 70’s motorcycle gangs. I read A Pail of Air probably nearly 50 years ago, the only things I recall are the title of the book and Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee. As for Plunder, this is Goulart’s typical effort. It’s fast reading, but shallow and somewhat repetitive so I’m guessing you might be bored by it, similar to Mack Reynolds and his lengthy explanations. The blurb makes Wolf’s A Generation Removed sound worth getting in order to compare it with other dystopian ageist futures such as Marya Mannes’ They and Nolan & Johnson’s Logan’s Run. However, I just ordered Killerbowl so will give that a whirl first.

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