Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXIX (Elgin + Oliver + Shiner + Worlds of Tomorrow Magazine)

1. My exploration of the early 80s continues with an intriguing Mars mystery. I had not heard of the author—Lewis Shiner—until browsing SF Encyclopedia recently. It’s also graced with a stirring, if rather simple, Di Fate spaceship.

2. Giants in the Dust  (1976) might be Chad Oliver’s least known SF novel. Clute describes it thus: “Giants in the Dust (1976) argues the thesis that mankind’s fundamental nature is that of a hunting animal, and that our progress from that condition has fundamentally deracinated us.” I reviewed another one of Oliver’s 70s visions—The Shores of Another Sea (1973)—a few years ago.

I’m positive that this is Di Fate’s cover as well although it’s uncredited. One of his clunkier works…. His figures are always slightly off.

3. I picked up one of the later volumes of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Coyote Jones sequence. Did not care for At the Seventh Level (1972).

4. And finally, I bought a large pile (20?) magazines for less than a dollar each. People might be obsessed with the aesthetic of old SF but the magazines and paperbacks are cheap as dust at some of the stores I frequent…. I’ll post them slowly over the coming months.

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


1. Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984) (MY REVIEW)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition)


A lot of dreams died when NASA went belly-up. One was Frontera, the first permanent Mars settlement. Though almost a hundred colonists refused to board when the last shuttle left for Earth, they were ghosts now.

At least, that’s how Kane figured it—until the giant conglomerate Pulseystems mounted the first space flight in ten years, destination Mars. The hardware was again, the mission high-risk and low-redundancy. But for Kane, corporate mercenary in Pulseystem’s hire, there was no backing down.

And conditions at Frontera were stranger than anyone could have guessed. There was treasure on Mars, treasure that Pulsystems wanted—and that Kane found himself programmed to bring home. Whether he willed it or no, he was a weapon…in a war he’d never joined.”

2. Giants in the Dust, Chad Oliver (1976)

(Vincent Di Fate’s (?) cover for the 1st edition)


To make it his own, he had only the power of his limbs and his desire to wrest this primeval land from the beasts.

He was Varnum, last vestige of strength in the jaded race of men. Adrift in a land untouched by technology, he found himself with the chance for which all men dream—to shape history!

A novel of primitive passion, danger and death.”

3. Star-Anchored, Star-Angered, Suzette Haden Elgin  (1976)

(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1984 edition)

From the back cover: “Coyote Jones, secret agent for the Tri-Galactic intelligence service, had a strange handicap. In a universe where every normal being is telepathic, he suffered from almost total mind-deafness. He can project, but he can’t receive. When the social system of the planet Freeway began to reel under the force of an alleged female Messiah, Coyote’s handicap made him the perfect choice for the assignment: find, is she a face or isn’t she?

If Drussa Silver is projecting telepathic illusions instead of performing miracles, Coyote would be immune to them. Since using religion to defraud is a criminal act, he could bring her back to Mars-Central for trial. She she’s the real thing however, the situation would be different.”

4. Worlds of Tomorrow, ed. Ejler Jakobsson (Summer 1970)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover)

Contents (all published in 1970): George H. Smith’s “In the Land of Love,” Keith Laumer’s “Of Death What Dreams,” Piers Anthony’s “The Bridge,” James Bassett’s “Serum-SOB,” Noel Loomis’ “The State vs. Susan Quod,” Mark Power’s “Histoport 3939,” K.H. Hartley’s “The Mallinson Case,” Rachel Cosgrove Payes’ “Private Phone.”

For more book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXIX (Elgin + Oliver + Shiner + Worlds of Tomorrow Magazine)

  1. Lewis Shiner has never really gotten the break he deserved, honestly.

    I read his FRONTERA when it came out in the mid-1980s. I remember it being good enough that some people were dropping Shiner’s name alongside those of William Gibson (NEUROMANCER was 1984, like Shiner’s novel) and Bruce Sterling (Sterling’s SCHISMATRIX was 1985) as one of the cyberpunk heavy-hitters.

    I don’t recall it actually being in Gibson’s and Sterling’s league, mind you, but it’s good — certainly a more serious effort than, say, Walter Jon Williams who, while an intelligent and adept entertainer, switched from being a Zelazny and Patrick O’Brian(!) clone to being a cyberpunk clone, banging out novels with titles like HARDWIRED.

    To tell the truth, too, FRONTERA ain’t that cyberpunky, But it was different from the interplanetary-themed SF existing before the cyberpunks and if you had asked me based on the evidence available in the mid-1980s I would have rated Shiner as a better, more promising writer than, say, Michael Swanwick, who at that time had had only the relatively weak IN THE DRIFT published. Of course, Shiner’s and Swanwicks subsequent careers haven’t played out that way.

    As for the Chad Oliver cover, as you say: there is no doubt that is a Vincent Di Fate piece..

    • Thanks for the comment. I am very intrigued by Frontera… and suspect I’ll get to it soon.

      I recently procured a copy of John M. Ford’s Web of Angels (1980) — it too seems like an early Cyberpunk novel. However, one that didn’t dictate the influence aesthetic of Cyberpunk (noir, decadence, Asian cultural influence) like Gibson…..

      I haven’t read Sterling’s Schismatrix (1985) yet. I need a copy. I read, but only partially enjoy Sterling’s first novel Involution Ocean (1977). https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2016/10/24/book-review-involution-ocean-bruce-sterling-1977/

      I read, but no longer own, Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988) but remember little. I’m currently reading Sterling’s The Artificial Kid (1980) and think it’s a hoot!

  2. I had no idea this Shiner book even existed, was familiar with him primarily from reading (the non-sf) book “Slam” back in 1990 when I was in high school. He’s an odd one for sure, can definitely see how his general tone/style may have been briefly associated with cyberpunk.

    Great blog btw

  3. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Di Fate simply can’t paint people. His cover for Giants in the Dust is not only cluttered, but the male model looks the various parts of his body have been dislocated. He also looks like he’s fighting through a bad case of constipation. As usual, I like the sparkling psychodelia of Freas, although his backgrounds need work. I’m convinced that Jack Gaugham remains a vastly under-rated artist. Maybe because he was so prolific.

  4. I’m a bit of a fan of Lewis Shiner but had never read Frontera until recently – I started with Deserted Cities of the Heart and never looked back. 😉
    And I have to say, it’s probably one of the best SF novels I’ll read this year! It’s certainly in the top 2 or 3 so far. Parts of it remeinded me a bit of Martian Time-Slip, which happens to be my favourite PKD novel…

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