Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCI (Le Guin + Van Herck + Leinster + High + Analog Anthology)

1. I’ve acquired quite a few vintage SF novels and short story collections in translation over the last few weeks–here’s one from Paul Van Herck, a Belgian author who wrote in Dutch. Not the cheapest DAW books edition I’ve encountered….

2. I always want more Le Guin…. Here, a series of linked short stories set in a fantasy world.

3. This Analog Annual anthology contains the only publication of P. J. Plauger’s novel Fighting Madness. Plauger won the John Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer before fading from the scene.

4. I love vintage SF. I do not love Ace Doubles. Yes, they published a few PKD novels that are worth reading, but, on the whole, I find their quality quite low. This was a gift from a family friend and one of the very few Ace Doubles I’ve been looking for — mostly due to Philip E. High’s city-themed novel.

As always, enjoy the covers! (they are hi-res scans of my personal copies — click for larger image)

Are any other the works worth reading? Let me know in the comments!

EDIT: I was too harsh on my Ace Doubles comment. I realized, and mentioned in the post and comments below, that they also published early PKD, Samuel Delany, and Barry N. Malzberg novels and short story collections, etc. Due to my low tolerance of pulp, I still find the vast majority of them uninteresting.

1. Where Were You Last Pluterday?, Paul Van Herck (1968, trans. 1973)

(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “THE DAY THEY BANNED SCIENCE FICTION was the day that Sam, sf writer, encountered the enigma of Pluterday. Looking for a new way of making a living, he had met the daughter of a millionaire and made a date with her. She said, ‘Meet me next Pluterday.’

But when was Pluterday? Sam’s efforts to find out became a quest that turned his world upside down several times over. For it took him back and forth in time, it took him through several incarnations, it made him the biggest laughingstock of the little green Martians that infested the Earth.

WHERE WERE YOU LAST PLUTERDAY? by Paul Van Herck is a wildly satirical novel, different from any science fiction you have ever read, yet sure to delight every science fiction reader. It’s no wonder that it won the Europa Award in 1972 for the best sf novel from its part of the world.”

2. Orsinian Tales, Ursula K. Le Guin (1976)

(Pauline Ellison’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “Dr. Keth loses his freedom, finds his soul…

Galven Ileskar commits a pardonable crime…

The Lady of Moge dies through her living….

The place is Orsinia, a land of medieval keeps standing guard above walled cities, and of railways stretching across karst to vanish in mountains where the old gods still live. A country of harsh realities and gentle dreams whose people feel torn apart by massive forces and fight courageously to remain whole.”

3. Analog Annual, ed. Ben Bova (1976)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “THIS YEAR’S MOST EXCITING SCIENCE FICTION. For readers of the popular Analog magazine, hailed for many years as the leading science-fiction monthly, as well as far new audiences, this exciting annual introduces original works by the freshest, most-applauded talents of the year. Included are a complete novel, three masterful short stories, and a illustrated science-fact article, chosen for their excellence by the editor of Analog magazine to be published first in ANALOG ANNUAL:

FIGHTING MADNESS, by P.J. Plauger, winner of the 1975 John W. Campbell Award.

MALF, by Dean Ing, one of Analog’s leading contributors.

THIS TOWER OF ASHES, by George R.R. Martin, winner of the 1975 Hugo Award.

HALF AN OAF, by Spider Robinson, winner of the 1974 John W. Campbell.

THE CLIMACTIC THREAT, by John Gribbin, co-author of the best-selling book, THE JUPITER EFFECT.

ANALOG ANNUAL will be published each year to bring readers the best of the new science fiction…”

4. The Mad Metropolis, Philip E. High and Space Captain, Murray Leinster (1966)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1966 edition))

From the inside page: “Given: Earth 400 years from now–a rotten society in which mankind is doomed to die out. A solution to the problem–an ultra-intelligent computer to govern humanity. One man of seemingly average intelligence, but with an incredible I.Q. potential.

And you have: A corrupt society turned into a world where there is no corruption, because Mother Machine knows what’s best for her human children and does it. Where that same all-powerful computer is rapidly turning men into zombies.

And where the world’s only hope turns out to be one outlawed not-average man.

Result: An unusual science-fiction thriller.”

(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1966 edition)

From the inside page: “BOMMERANG SPACESHIP. Trent, captain of space freighter Yarrow, came of a long line of spaceship commanders… and all of them had been troubled by pirates. Due to the nature of the space drive, which permitted flight to the stars past the speed of light, ships in flight were in more danger to each other than from anything else. It was this ability of one ship’s drive to blow out any drive near it that made space pirates so difficult to eradicate.

But this time Trent went into overdrive with a special device aboard—one that would turn the tables and make space permanently barred to pirates.

Trent was skeptical himself–and his skepticism stood him in good stead when he found himself more pirate bait than pirate baiter–and his secret weapon a space-warping double-edged boomerang.”

16 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCI (Le Guin + Van Herck + Leinster + High + Analog Anthology)

    • I look forward to your review!

      I want to like them. They look lovely on a shelf with their blue and white spines…. and often have delightful art (for example, I find the one above one of Gaughan’s more dynamic covers). But so often the stories are bland and forgettable…. (A few Malzberg novels were published as Ace Doubles — but I have yet to read them and suspect they are some of his “lesser” works).

      • The half of this particular double that I’m not reading this week is an interesting-looking John Brunner that I’ll get around to (I Speak for Earth). The other half, it turns out, is the sequel to a Ray Cummings book that I already reviewed and didn’t like…

  1. In a good article in the December ’70 Fantastic, Alexei Panshin (in the course of applying Thomas Kuhn’s theories of paradigm shifts to SF and the New Wave) says that Ace would publish just about anything but this gave innovators a place to get published. I myself love the Ace Doubles, and I know I’m not alone!

    I own Ace Double M-135 and have read both novels, one in 2016 and the other in 2017, but can’t say I remember much from either without prompting. Luckily I wrote about both and can thus prompt myself:



    • There’s a reason I gave you a handful (if I remember correctly)!

      Of the two in the Double, I think High’s novel interests me the most due to my similar interest in (futuristic) urbanism (although, I love rural life as well as city life). That said, I remember your ambivalent review well and probably won’t get to the book anytime soon.

      I was too harsh in my comments about Ace Doubles though — I glanced over my shelves and remembered that they published Samuel Delany’s first novels….

  2. Hi

    I have the same Paul Van Herck but have not read it yet, the story of my over booked life. I actually like Ace doubles and have enjoyed a number of the John Brunner’s even though I know he complained bitterly about the cuts ACE made to shorten the length at the expense of continuity. I have also read some, like Silverberg’s The Thirteen Immortal which had a lovely Ed Valigursky robot on the cover and absolutely nothing else to commend it. I have read a number of Philip E. High’s books including the The Mad Metropolis, and enjoyed them, but don’t ask me the details of the plots

    Happy Reading

    • Hello Guy, I struggle with unabashed whimsy in SF (of the Ron Goulart brand). And I feel like Paul Van Herck’s novel, at first glance, seems to be in that camp… I really appreciate the levitas of some authors, for example Sheckley, but he balances his whimsy with deep and often disturbing undercurrents and sheer inventiveness….

  3. I would beg to differ on the author’s evaluation of Ace Doubles, with an author list that includes P. K. Dick, Andre Norton, Robert Silverberg, Robert Bloch, Gordon R. Dickson, Donald Wollheim, Henry Kuttner, more – I would not dismiss them as blanket low quality, not in the least.

    • Thank you for visiting. See above comments — I clarified some elements of my point and also mentioned one of the authors you indicated as quality as a highlight of the series (PKD).

      Note: early Silverberg, Andrew Norton, Block, and most Dickson are not authors I enjoy because I have little to no interest in pulp. So, if you understood what I am interested in reading, then perhaps my comment makes a tad more sense.

      • Also, I went ahead and added this edit to my original post: “EDIT: I was too harsh on my Ace Doubles comment. I realized, and mentioned in the post and comments below, that they also published early PKD, Samuel Delany, and Barry N. Malzberg novels and short story collections, etc. Due to my low tolerance of pulp, I still find the vast majority of them uninteresting.”

  4. That edition of Orsinian Tales is (hilariously) riding hard on Earthsea’s coattails, from reusing the cover artist and design from from that Bantam edition of the Earthsea trilogy right down to cover copy working hard to make it sound like a collection of fantasy stories. I came to Orsinia and Malafrena very late, not thinking that I had much interest in whatever Ruritanian shenanigans Le Guin was up to in them, only to discover with quite a bit of surprise that they’re lovely faux Slavic literature filtered through Le Guin’s values and sensibilities. I don’t know who to compare them to, really, because many of them are set in the more eventful years of the 20th century but have a distinctly 19th century Russian vibe – think a gentler Turgenev, or Pushkin by way of John Sayles. Or maybe they’re more in line with French realism, in particular Balzac. In any case, I hope they’re as pleasant a surprise for you as they were for me, but there’s very little of genre interest to them.

    • Perhaps the covers were conceived of as a set as they’re all the work of Pauline Ellison and were published by the same publisher in the same year?

      I am definitely more interested in her SF. But, I have been tempted to reread the Earthsea trilogy (and my editions have the Pauline Ellison covers!)

      • For Christmas, I received a copy of the new Book of Earthsea that compiles all six books of the Earthsea series, with illustrations by Charles Vess. It’s a beautiful, heavy book (a couple kilograms at least) that will go well on the shelf with the recent American Library editions of the Hainish novels and their Orsinia omnibus. Earthsea was my introduction to UKL as a child, and I found her recomplication and revisionism applied to that world and its characters in the last three books of the series to be one of the most fascinating acts of its kind in the history of fantastic literature. It really made a lot of fans angry, which I think satisfied UKL immensely.

        • That sounds like a wonderful gift. I suspect it has a high quality map of Earthsea? Is it more detailed/ornate than the ones in the original editions?

          As with a lot of Le Guin, I read her long before I had my site. I remember only vague elements of the trilogy– although I remember enjoying it!

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