Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIV (Ely + Abe + Coulson + Malec)

1. Overpopulation + an author I’ve not encountered before? Can there be a better combo? I’ve long been a fan of the subgenre–and I’ve gathered a substantial number of both read and unread overpopulation-themed SF into a list. And yes, I know Laser Books has a reputation for publishing low-quality crud…. I am not expecting a masterpiece!

2. I’ve been on a Kobo Abe kick as of late! Secret Rendezvous (1977, trans. 1979) is, as of now, my favorite read of the year–I hope to have a review up soon. Back cover blurb here.

I went ahead and purchased another “SFish” Abe novel… I’ve seen Abe’s 1966 film adaption of his own work (directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara) and it’s a brilliant cinematic experience. I’m hoping the novel has some of the same magic!

3. Another source material novel for one of my favorite SF films–Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966)… I’m 50 odd pages through the novel and some of the scenes in the movie are identical. The book and movie diverge as the story unfolds…. I look forward to finishing Ely’s disconcerting SF thriller.

4. And finally, a complete and utter unknown quantity…. Scroll down to find out.

Note: the hi-res scans are of my personal collection. As I am not a “collector,” I tend to go with cheaper copies even if it means they have substantial imperfections.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.



1. Unto the Last Generation, Juanita Coulson (1975)

(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “Population Zero has accomplished its mission only too well. Not only has the world’s population ceased to mushroom, it has ceased to reproduce… because it cannot. Wholesale application of population control technology has rendered man infertile. In the Life Sciences Building, a team of doctors and scientists is trying everything imaginable in their frantic efforts to produce life artificially… when in their midst walks a little girl. “I’m eight,” the girl announces proudly. But mankind has been sterile for more than 15 years!”

2. The Face of Another, Kobo Abe (1964, trans. 1966)

(Still from the 1966 film adaption for the 1980 edition)

From the back cover:”The Face of  Another is a masterful psychological study by one of Japan’s greatest living writers. After a laboratory explosion disfigures a scientist’s face, he feels cut off from everyone around him; even his wife is repulsed. He decides to make the perfect masks–which will allow him to be undetectable–and to acquire a new personality. Is this persona his inner self, or is it only superficial? He tests the mask in various situations–even seducing his wife without revealing his identity–with astonishing consequences. Comparable to the works of Kafka and Beckett, The Face of Another is one of the classics of modern literature.”

3. Seconds, David Ely (1963)

(Uncredited cover for the 1963 1st edition)

From the inside flap: “Seconds is the story of a man caught up in a nameless organization that uses advanced managerial and technological methods to achieve its singular aim–lifting the moral and physical barriers to personal liberty and self-indulgence.

What are these barriers–and how are they being removed? The answers are embodied in a plot idea both logical and shocking, the full implications of which are not apparent until the novel has been carried to its conclusion.

Seconds is simply and directly written, and yet cannot readily be placed into a conventional category of prose fiction. The story combines the familiar and the irregular so naturally that is is often impossible–as in life–to be sure of which is which.

This fusion of reality and distortion extends to the meaning of the novel as a whole; so, whether Seconds bears a message of hope or despair–or perhaps of both together–is a question to which the answers will differ from one reader to the next.”

4. Extrapolasis, Alexander Malec (1967)

(Donald and Ann Crews’ cover for the 1967 edition)

From the inside flap: “Twelve science fiction stories by an exciting, newly-discovered writer. Only three have appeared elsewhere; nine others are published here for the first time. Among the twelve:

DIEHL, a wild and funny, marvelously written satire about an odball inventor who comes up with an anti-gravity device. After an unsuccessful attempt to sell it to Washington, Diehl mails the plans to Egypt… with disastrous results.

MONSIGNOR PRIMO MACHINEO is a praying computer who offers indulgences by mail for a penny and a prayer. The overwhelming success of the operation causes an overload and the machine ‘burns in the flame of its own devotion.’

OPAXTLY is about a fantastic little green amoeba-like creature who immediately outdates the vacuum cleaner by efficiently gobbling up dirt. Not for long though, as man once again triumphs over the forces of unreason and chaos.

Plus Nine Other Stories.

44 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIV (Ely + Abe + Coulson + Malec)

  1. John Frankenheimer movie Seconds is one of my favorite sci-fi thrillers too. I really should pick up the David Ely novel.
    Never heard of The Face of Another (1966) before but one split second of seeing the images I know that film is right up my stratosphere and looks essential. Not going to read anything about that plot and hope to see it soon.
    Great collection of interesting books again Joachim

    • Kobo Abe’s screenplay adaptations of his own novels are absolutely brilliant — the best known of the four Hiroshi Teshigahara and Abe collaborations is Woman in the Dunes. A fascinating film and book!

      I’m partial to Face of Another (in movie form) of the 3 I’ve seen — still haven’t seen The Man Without A Map (1968) which adapts Abe’s The Ruined Map.

      Too bad they didn’t adapt Secret Rendezvous! Now that would be a crazy movie!

      • Wow I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of any of them or even the director. Looks like I have some seriously deep movie watching to do. I have added them to my “to watch list” mountain. And I doff my cap to you for enlightening me to Teshigahara and Abe. Fist bump

        • As for Ely’s Seconds — I’m finding it an odd reading experience as I’ve seen the movie relatively recently. Some sections are identical (for example, the first dream sequence). Apparently, it is quite different in later portions — as is often the case with adaptations, I wish I read the book first. I tend to conjure images from the film rather than create my own visualizations of the narrative.

    • Yes.

      “10:01 A.M.” appeared in Analog, 1966.

      “Project Inhuman” appeared in The Colorado Quarterly (Spring, 1965)

      “Matayama” also appeared in The Colorado Quarterly (Summer, 1966)

      I don’t have high hopes…. But I like exploring Doubleday’s lesser known volumes!

      • That’s a very unusual volume–a virtual unknown who manages to sell a collection of mostly original work. I may dig out the Analog story and have a look (even though SFE says they are “sometimes awkward but frequently sharply pointed work”).

        • I know, right? I “found” the collection while hunting for more covers by Ann and Donald Crews — I put together a post of their art here: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2016/07/14/adventures-in-science-fiction-art-the-diagrammatic-minimalism-of-donal-and-ann-cres/

          Here’s Malec’s author blurb from the back of the collection:

          “Alexander B. Malec is thirty-eight and a brakeman for the Niagara Junction Railway Company. Mr. Malec has had forty-one jobs in which he has been “electrocuted, had my arm fractured in an acetylene explosion, been involved in two small scale shipping disasters, got splashed with burning toluene, and in Korea almost got swept beneath an ice flow in the Gang Gao River, went over an embarkment with a jeep, and got involved in a train wreck in Yong Dong Po.” Laregely self-educated, Mr. Malec’s literary models are Melville, Mencken, Hecht, and Time Magazine. His stories have appeared in The Colorado Quarterly, Analog, and Judy Merril’s 11st Annual Edition, The Year’s Best Science Fiction. This is his first book and he is presently working on an epic novel about railroading.”

  2. Hi

    I am not sure who Laser Books target market was but they seem to make their cover/packaging as unappealing as possible. I have to say if I pull one off the shelf in the used book store it normally is pushed back in right away. You are very brave. I have started a number of Abe’s books including The Box Man and Kangaroo Notebook but just wasn’t in the mood to finish them. I have his Inner Ice Age 4 here so I should give it was spin.

    Happy Reading

  3. Joachim,
    I hope the latter book works for you, but I don’t have high hopes from the blurb text, “Only three have appeared elsewhere; nine others are published here for the first time.” Usually there’s a reason for lack of publishing…

    The majority of the Laser books I’ve read, probably around 30 odd, have kept the remainders securely pinned to the bottom of the TBR pile. One exception might be Pournelle’s West of Honor, but I don’t have that book…

    The Kobo Abe stuff seems interesting so I’ll keep my eyes open for them during my travels.

    The Ely book not so much from blurb text such as, “This fusion of reality and distortion extends to the meaning of the novel as a whole,” makes me think of something written by a heavy drug user that might get reviewer’s approval, but is not meant to be actually read and enjoyed by most people. I’ve gotten to the point that I distrust most advertisements and associated verbiage.

    • I bought the Malec’s collection as it has a short story “…To Relieve the Sanity” (1967) about writing in the future — and, I’ve been thinking of putting together a list of stories/novels about how we might write in the future (aided by machines, using preset plots, etc.).

      As for Ely, lots and lots and lots of books I enjoy have some discussion of “what is real” — Malzberg, Abe, etc. That said, I highly highly highly recommend Frankenheimer’s film Seconds (1966) which adapts the novel. One of the great SF movies…. And of course, Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate also plays with the notion of what is real. It doesn’t have to be a super druggy type of exploration!

  4. Well, I’ve always loved Freas work, although his Laser work wasn’t his best. The Laser’s are best looked at as juveniles, although several have been re-written for later reprinting. The inventory of authors are interesting: long time second stringers (J. F. Bone, Raymond F. Jones, Joe L. Hensley, J. Hunter Holly), hacks (Robert Coulson, Augustine Funnell, Zach Hughes, Dean Koontz) and up coming writers (David Bischoff, Tim Powers, K. W. Jeter, Jeffrey A. Carver, Jerry Pournelle, George Zebrowski). In many ways, Laser novels were much like the early years of Ace Books.

    What’s interesting about Malec is that as far as I know, he published nothing after this collection. Were did he go? The cover for his collection is cool, and miles better than the paperback version (which I have).

    • Yeah, I find it so strange that Jeter got started in this series — when he went on to write such subversive tales as Dr. Adder. Is his book for Laser, Seeklight (1975), any good?

      As for Malec, I have no idea!

  5. I have’t read Seeklight (good name for metal band, eh?), but I did read The Dreamfields, his other book for the Laser line. If I remember correctly Jeter once stated that The Dreamfields was semi-autobiographical, and was based on his experiences while working in a mental hospital. Still, don’t quote me, it’s been twenty-five years. Still, I remember it being a breezy, interesting read. Nothing for the ages, mind you, but it didn’t embarrass Jeter.

  6. The Face of Another, Kobo Abe – The cover reminds me of the Bogie film “Dark Passage” (or, I suppose, the Invisible Man).

    Hmm. Wonder if the book/plot was some influence on that strange Liam Neeson flick, “Dark Man.”

    • Wasn’t Dark Man a “super hero” film though? Or am I thinking of the wrong thing….

      I get the sense this is radically different — a moody and more restrained vision…

      • Yeah, it was a superhero movie, but – not having read the Abe book – the plot just reminded me of “Darkman” (i.e., as though the director, Raimi, might have been influenced by it). But it’s just as likely that it was influenced by Wells’s “The Invisible Man.”

        • Keep in mind, Abe only had access to so much in Japanese translation (I bet Invisible Man was available though)… I suspect Abe was far more inspired by Kafka, Beckett, etc — those existential premises that he applied a SFish take to….

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