Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXVII (Bear + Elgin + Lee + Clingerman)

1. Years ago I read and reviewed Suzette Haden Elgin’s provocative At the Seventh Level (1972)–I praised the use of linguistics, the formulation of societal ideologies, and critiqued the ramshackle plot and Orientalism. Native Tongue (1984) is supposedly her strongest work. I look forward to reading it.

2. I have yet to ready any of Greg Bear’s work. This late 70s novel was signed so I snatched it up. I don’t track down signed copies–all the ones I owned were accidentally mislabeled or inexpensive volumes I wanted anyway. Bear’s signature joins the ranks of Christopher Priest, D. G. Compton, Karen Joy Fowler, and Norman Spinrad.

Hegira itself draws inspiration from the Ringworld and Riverworld-style SF novel.

3. My Tanith Lee collection grows and grows. This one more fantasy than SF (although SF elements crop up at the end). In case you missed it, I reviewed Don’t Bite the Sun (1976) recently and procured a copy of Electric Forest (1979).

4. Mildred Clingerman was regularly featured in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 50s and early 60s. I have finally found an inexpensive copy of her only collection published during her life (an omnibus edition with never before seen stories was recently self-published by her descendants). As it’s a Ballantine Books volume, it has a wonderful Powers cover.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Hated?

1. Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)

(Jill Bauman’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “With the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982, the women’s movement received its first serious setback. In 1991, with the passage of the 25th Amendment, the women’s movement received its death blow. Because that incredible amendment rolled back women’s rights two hundred years and assured the supremacy of males in every aspect of life.

This is a novel of the cold war between the sexes as it developed in the centuries that followed. It is a highly controversial novel, sure to arouse charged emotions in readers of both sexes. Suzette Haden Elgin, science fiction author and professor of linguistics, combines her talents to tell a vivid story of people in a future society where interplanetary trade had made language-study a necessity–and thereby handed the so-called ‘weaker’ sex a weapon for liberation… if they dared use it.”

2. Hegira, Greg Bear (1979)

(James Fox’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “Almost three-quarters of a million miles around, Hegira had, against all the laws of physics, Earth-normal gravity; its different races had a common history, graven on giant Obelisks that rose out of sight to the sky, beyond men’s powers to reach and read. As knowledge advanced, Hegira grew more impossible to explain or understand.

The strange trio who set off in search of the legendary Land Where Night Is a River–a disguise soldier fleeing the wrath of those his army had oppressed, a bewildered religious fanatic, and a slave who held a secret he dared not think of–knew little of their planet’s oddities and cared less… until Hegira’s changeless mysteries began to alter, threatening the existence of all life on its surface.”

3. The Birthgrave, Tanith Lee (1975)

(Peter Jones’ cover for the 1979 edition)

From the back cover: “She woke from a sleep of countless years, reborn form the heard of a raging volcano. Her baby was a masterpiece all men desired, her face a monstrosity that must go masked.

Warrior, witch, goddess and slave, she was doomed to travel through a world of barbaric splendor, helped and betrayed by her lovers, searching for escape from the taint of her forgotten race, and the malice of the demon that haunted her.”

4. A Cupful of Space, Mildred Clingerman (1961)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1961 edition)

From the back cover: “RECIPE: Recommended


A few well-chosen characters—human or otherwise

A sprinkle of suspense

A dash of suspense

A dash of danger

A pinch of peculiarity

One tablespoon of terror

Blend the above with the bygone and beyond, sifting in the supernatural. Mix at the high speed of magic, then season to the taste of science-fiction lovers.

Now, cook over a low flame of fantasy and allow to cook.

YIELDS: An measurable serving of pleasure in A CUPFUL OF SPACE.”

Contents: “First Lesson” (1956), “Stickeney and the Critic” (!953), Stair Trick” (1952), “Minister Without Portfolio” (1952), “Birds Can’t Count” (1955), “The Word” (1953), “The Day of the Green Velvet Cloak” (1958), “Winning Recipe” (1952), “Letters from Laura” (1954), “The Last Prophet” (1955), “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” (1956), “The Wild Wood” (1957), “The Little Witch of Elm Street” (1956), “A Day of Waving” (1957), “The Gay Receiver” (1961), “A Red Heart and Blue Roses” (1961).

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For adventures in cover art consult the INDEX

35 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXVII (Bear + Elgin + Lee + Clingerman)

  1. I’ve read a few books by Greg Bear: Moving Mars, City of Angels and Blood Music. Blood Music is probably the most interesting, though I think I found the main character annoying. The other two were more conventional ’90s sci-fi.

    I just picked up the first and third books in Elgin’s Ozark trilogy; I’ll have to keep my eyes open for the second one.

    I started The Birthgrave a few days ago. I’ve enjoyed Lee’s books so far (especially the collection Red as Blood). She tends to hit on a bunch of things I like in books: dark takes on folklore/fairy tales, bizarrely drawn worlds, (often) woman-centered, heavy gothic vibe.

    • I have yet to read anything by Bear. I am intrigued by Hegira as it’s his first novel. As you know, I’ll probably stick to his 70s and early 80s novels. The only other one I own is Beyond Heaven’s River (1980)

      Have you read anything by Elgin?

      I enjoyed Don’t Bite the Sun (1976) — and look forward to reading Electric Forest (1979). The latter seems far darker than the former. I’m all for ” dark takes on folklore/fairy tales, bizarrely drawn worlds, (often) woman-centered, heavy gothic vibe!”

      Thanks for visiting! Let me know your thoughts on the Ozark trilogy when you get around to reading it.

      • I read the first one. Left too much of a gap before getting round to the second so I’ll have to reread that before continuing.

        The fact the later books came out after the date when the law is supposed to have been passed made the series outdated before it was completed, but I suppose it might be considered more topical now if you ignore the dates entirely, plus The Handmaid’s Tale on TV has increased interest in Feminist SF.

      • I’m a subscriber so I get notifications but I don’t always comment. Almost did last time around because I have that same edition of John Christopher’s The World in Winter, as well as the Penguin World’s edition which is absolutely beautiful but looks like it belongs on Logan’s Run

        • No worries! I love comments and discussions so I always wonder when my more regular commentators disappear — my site is my personal book club but I get to make all the reading choices! hah.

  2. Hi As for the covers the Powers is lovely, I think I have her book and have yet to read it. The other cover I love is the Peter Jones, a friend gave me Solar Wind about his work so when ever I see his somewhat oddly sytlized people I think of Rod. I have read Birthgrave but cannot remember anything i was reading a lot of Lee at the time and except for Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine they tended to merge. I really liked the novella version of Blood music. Everyone tells me I have to read Native Tongue, so I will one day.

    Happy Reading

    • I really really love Powers… his SF art was my first SF art love. And it hasn’t dissipated. I am not convinced this is close to his best 50s work — it’s on the murky/mucky side. But it’s intriguing for sure!

      Not sure what to think about the Peter Jones cover. It’s a wraparound cover, but the book seller put a large destructive sticker on the back (at least it’s on the back) and the cover tore a bit. So I decided not to scan it…


      • I’ve got almost all of the Macmillan Best of Soviet SF books that Fred Pohl promoted: translations of Boris & Arkady Strugatsky, Alexei Tolstoy, and others less well known in the West.

        Richard Power did the covers for those.

        • I have a bunch of those — but not all (some of the Strugatsky volumes are INCREDIBLY expensive — for 70s/80s paperbacks). And yes, the larger format covers the more Powers gorgeousness you can look at!

          • I’m missing a few Strugatsky’s too (some are about £350 on Amazon) but fortunately SF Masterworks have brought out new editions so maybe they’ll bring out Prisoners if Power and the price of second hand copies will come down and I can compete the set.

            I don’t have the Macmillan Aelita either. I have a different print of that but it’s just not the same.

            • You are far more of a collector than me. I do not buy duplicates or try to get all in a set. Or even replace broken editions of my favorite novels (I’m looking at you Silverberg’s The World Inside) — I buy to read…

            • I tend to collect whole series (SF Masterworks, Fantasy Masterworks, Women’s Press SF, Best of Soviet SF, etc) and occasionally there are books which are part of more than one series so I end up with duplicates (eg Book of the New Sun is a Fantasy and SF Masterwork). I might buy different translations of the same book too (eg The Master & Margarita, Kafka’s work or Lem)

              It’s rare that I deliberately seek out multiple copies of the same book because of the book itself, rather than just ending up with multiple copies because I’m collecting the series. I have six different copies of A Clockwork Orange, for instance, just because it is A Clockwork Orange.

              And sometimes I might pick up a second copy of something because it’s cheep and I can’t be bothered looking for my previous copy (eg HP Lovecraft).

              I have Asperger’s and I get a bit obsessed with things, then I get obsessed with something else. A year ago I was reading everything I could get my hands on about brain parasites; now it’s embryology and genetics.

            • Yes, I have Ballad of the Stars. It’s in hardback. Just checked my Amazon history and my copy was £9.99.

              As far as I know this was the only series dedicated to Soviet SF translated into English. I keep intending to write a feature on Soviet SF but I haven’t even read most of them. I get obsessed with things for a while and then get obsessed with something else.

              I started collecting them around the time I read an academic study on Marxist SF that conveniently ignored any SF written in the USSR or China by people who understood communism from the inside.

  3. The Birthgrave was, I think, Lee’s first novel for adults and was first published by DAW and kicked off her whole fantasy career.
    In fact. it’s still published by DAW as uniform editions of at least a dozen of her early fantasy titles are being re-issued by them. They have retitled the dreadfully named Vazkor, Son of Vazkor as Shadowfire though!
    Anyway, I read The Birthgrave, and the next 18 (or so) of her books after that before eventually hitting a run of 2 or 3 that I wasn’t that gripped by, so I gave up on her. I’ve dipped in a few times since but nothing’s clicked so far.
    Enjoy the sacrificial sex scene! (or not!)

    The only books of hers that have survived my various book culls over the years are the first 2 or 3 of the Flat Earth series…

    Greg Bear was never really a fully fledged cyberpunk author but Blood Music usually makes the list of key cyberpunk novels. I quite enjoyed it, but found his much fatter best sellers like Aon and Eternity unappealing. The much later Dinosaur Summer (sequel to Conan Doyle’s Lost World) was fun though!
    I don’t recall how well the original Dell edition of Hegira sold for us but the later Uk edition from Gollancz sold reasonably well.

    • Yeah, The Birthgrave is her first published novel. Don’t Bite the Sun is second — and I find it humorous as it is clearly a far lighter work.What did you enjoy so much about The Flat Earth sequence? (I have a secret fascination with fantasy but despise all the Tolkein clones and simple good vs. evil plots)

      SF Encyclopedia is quite vehement that Greg Bear only comes into his full powers later in his career: “[He] began to write full-time in 1975, his first stories and novels being auspicious but not remarkably so; his work did not hint at all strongly that he would become one of the dominant writers of the 1980s. Between 1985 and 1990, however, he published six novels whose importance to the realm of Hard SF – and to the world of sf in general – it would be hard to overrate.”

      As always, I look forward to exploring some of his early works — Hegira, despite its flaws, included.

      • My recollection from back around then is that I was told she had had a couple of childrens/YA plays on the radio in the UK, and a children’s book or two, before the Birthgrave.came out, which is why I said ‘first adult novel’. Think I read the same thing later on, too.
        Where I know my memory is wrong though is the order I must have read her books in. I know I would have read them in publication order, but I had ‘remembered’ that she started off with The Birthgrave and 3 or 4 similar epic fantasy books before Don’t Bite the Sun & Drinking Sapphire Wine came out…

        I think the Flat Earth books appealed because, although I had been exploring the roots of modern Western fantasy – Eddison, Morris, MacDonald, Lindsay, etc. – I hadn’t really read any fantasy novels with such an exotic, ‘Eastern’ flavour as Lee created, so it seemed a strange, wonderful brew!

        • It looks like Lee’s The Dragon Hoard was published a few years before The Birthgrave; I read it not that long ago. It’s a spoofy children’s fantasy with a few cute moments but it’s uneven and not very memorable.

          A very long time ago, I read East of Midnight and liked it a lot. Another children’s story (pub 1977 according to isfdb), and I’m a little afraid to reread it now. Both of these books were printed (or reprinted?) under the MagicQuest children’s imprint — my hometown library had a bunch of them when I was young, and I enjoyed many of them.

          • Thinking back on my childhood, I read so few children’s books — other than Redwall, on repeat… and all the sequels. I kept a log at one time, I read Redwall almost 10 times, and the immediate sequels 6 times. I read everything up to Loamhedge (2003) (16th in the sequence) over and over again… I often joke that Redwall was my childhood–I lived on hundreds of acres of rural Appalachia and invented my own Redwall stories that my sister and I would reenact in the woods, and streams, and hills, and dusty barns, and abandoned hunter shelters. I moved into Tolkein and other fantasy sequences (like Tad Williams and his ilk) after that. SF came later, in my late teens…

  4. Hi

    I wanted to chip in on the Macmillan Best of Soviet SF, I have a few of these, they do tend to be pricey. The one I read and was blown away by was World Soul by Mikhail Emtsev and Eremei Parnov, which I have been meaning to reread so I can do a post on it.

    Happy Reading

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