Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVII (Two themed anthologies on space habitats and sports, Irene Schram, Ralph A. Sperry)

As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Habitats, ed. Susan Shwartz (1984)

Robert Andre’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “HABITATS. Where people live determines their cultures and ambitions. What then of times to come: the fabulous days of star flight, the furious days of interplanetary competition, the horrendous days of world disaster, or the weirdly wonderful days of epic changes undreamed of? In this astonishingly original anthology eleven brilliant science fiction writers have created eleven scenes of high adventure in future human habitations.

Here is Stan Schmidt with an eternally downhill ski resort. Here’s Ian Watson with a new Alexander the Great in the Arizona desert. Here’s a starship of the Faithful bowing to a long lost Mecca. Here’s a cosmic tree nourished by a comet. Here’s marvels galore.

Come, move in, you’ll have a fantastic time!”

Contents: Stanley Schmidt’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill, Tanith Lee’s “A Day in the Skin (or, The Century We Were Out of Them,” Ian Watson’s “We Remember Babylon.” Dean R. Lambe’s “In a Cavern,” Russell M. Griffin’s “Government Work,” Graham Diamond’s “Outcasts,” Rachel Pollack’s “Tree House,” Jeffrey A. Carver’s “Life-Tides,” Scott Russell Sanders’ “Quarantine,” Shariann Lewitt’s “Ramadhan,” J. P. Body’s “Earthflight.”

Initial Thoughts: This original anthology as a brilliant thematic core — how future living environments influence a society and how people live. I’m excited to explore this one. Especially Tanith Lee’s short story as one of her novels ranks among my best reads of the year…. Electric Forest (1979). As read Rachel Pollack’s Alqua Dreams (1987) recently, I’m also intrigued by her earlier short fictions–and this one takes place in a Dyson tree!

2. Status Quotient: The Carrier, Ralph A. Sperry (1981)

Uncredited cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “IMMORTAL… AND ALONE.

On the entire planet of Ath, there is only one building left, and inside it is the last human being, Ancil, the only man to escape the horror which destroyed the human colonists who come to Ath thousands of years ago. Ancil is a regenerative. He can never die, but will live to see everything change with time.

Ancil is utterly, utterly alone except for the haunting legacy of the imitators, man-like creatures whose planet this once was before the humans came and annihilated them.

Suddenly, a strange and beautiful cat arrives at Ancil’s home, the first living creature he has seen for many years. But the cat is just the first of the extraordinary phenomena about to enter Ancil’s life—and before his story’s over, you will wonder where the mind ends and reality begins….”

Initial Thoughts: I periodically search the entire catalogs of the major SF presses to see if I missed any lesser known authors, etc. And Ralph A. Sperry’s sole novel popped up. A new one for my Immortality in Science fiction list!

3. Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down, Irene Schram (1972)

Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “‘Out whole class of students was on the grass, in the park, for a picnic: it was April and time for a picnic after a long winter full of weeks and months of rain, boring rain.” From this innocent opening Irene Schram builds a terrifying fable about a concentration camp for children. Like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, with which it will undoubtedly be compared, Ashes, Ashes, We All fall Down, creates an extreme situation—half nightmare, half histroy—to reveal the anxieties and terrors of children growing up today.

The children are fifth-graders in a typical city; they are forced by a storm of pollution to take shelter in a park building, where they are captured, then transported and imprisoned by robot-like guards. Their struggle to survive in their new environment—which has many parallels to the world they are growing up in—is told mainly through the children’s eyes and imaginations. Ashes, Ashes is a spellbinding fantasy that is based on the real lesson city children must absorb daily form their immediate surroundings (drugs, welfare hotels, pollution, random terror, abandonment) and from the menacing world beyond it, where geography is blight and hunger, and arithmetic is body count. This is a novel about how children perceive, struggle against, and adjust to the nightmare of our history.”

Initial Thoughts: Sounds like a incredibly disturbing nightmare of holocaust. Not sure what to expect with this one–it’s seldom read and the author wrote nothing else to the best of my knowledge. The composition notebook cover is a nice touch.

4. The Infinite Arena, ed. Terry Carr (1977)

Frank Kalan’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “Will there be sports in man’s future? Science fiction says, “Well, yes and no.” Yes, there will be sports—of a sort. No, they won’t necessarily be the same sports we know today. Editor Terry Carr has collected the views of seven science-fiction veterans on this subject and present them here in an anthology about the ways in which men may compete in centuries to come.

In “Joy in Mudville,” the bear-face natives of Toka defend their baseball championship of the interbeing League.

In “Bullard Reflects,” the Dazzle Dart champions turn their athlectic gifts against the crew of murderous invaders.

In “Body Builders,” a fighter exchanges his own heavyweight frame for the body of a jockey, and is promptly challenged to fight.

In “The Great Kladnar Race,” bored earthmen try to get a morning line from among the low-slung, six-legged kladnars of Gorik VII.

In “Mr. Meek Plays Polo,” a visitor to Saturn finds his game of space polo being masterminded by a group of educated bugs.

In “Sunjammer,” space vehicles are powered only by their vast, mile-high plastic sails which are propelled by the sun.

In “Run to Starlight,” earthling footballers are faced with a team of squat, super-powerful Brish-diri.

Sports fans or not, readers will enjoy this engaging compendium, fantastic athletes, frantic coaches, and all.”

Contents: Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson’s “Joy in Mudville” (1955), Malcolm Jameson’s “Bullard Reflects” (1941), Keith Laumer’s “The Body Builders” (1966), Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg’s “The Great Kladnar Race” (1956), Clifford D. Simak’s “Mr. Meek Plays Polo” (1944), Arthur C. Clarke’s “Sunjammer” (variant title “The Wind from the Sun” (1964), George R. R. Martin’s “Run to Starlight” (1974).

Initial Thoughts: I recently put together an extensive resource on Sports in Science Fiction. I was inspired to track down a few more from my own list! I’ve read Clarke’s story of solar sail ships in the past.


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22 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVII (Two themed anthologies on space habitats and sports, Irene Schram, Ralph A. Sperry)”

        1. Me neither, as I reiterate in my review of Wolfe’s brilliant novel, my interest in sports-themed SF has little to do with the actual sport: “‘As I mentioned in my review of William Harrison’s fantastic “Roller Ball Murder” (1973) — ‘I’m a proponent of sports as a SF vehicle for social commentary on commercialism, trauma, alienation, and violence.'”

          The sport itself has zero bearing on my mental metric… anyway, the “football” of his future is played across an urban landscape with guns, so, only tangentially related to the contemporary sport. hah.

      1. That’s probably where I came across mention of the novel as I had that anthology – well, still have, but in storage. It might have been in flashback. It was way back in 2003 when I read it.

  1. Forgive me, but the cover art for Ralph A. Sperry’s novel looks kinda like Vincent DiFate’s work. Sports sf stories popped up frequently on early sixties television like the episodes of The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Star Trek. Terry Carr didn’t reprint Matheson’s Steel? Like Robert Andre’s cover the best. Look forward to your review of this book.

    1. Hello Mark, I’m not sure. I go with the isfdb.org listing for cover art (unless I know an artist is that artist and isfdb.org refuses to change their listing). Di Fate’s humans always look strange — and this guy doesn’t really have the Di Fate vibe. I could be wrong of course!

  2. I read two of Scott Russell Sander’s novels recently (The Engineer of Beasts & Terrarium) and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I hope you like his story Quarantine in the Habitats anthology.

          1. When you do get around to reading Habitats, I’d love to know what you thought of Sanders’ story. He was a professor in the English department at my college and taught a class on SF that was great. He published Terrarium and a number of short stories in a short period of time. It seemed like he was starting to make a name for himself in the field, and then he just stopped. I don’t know why. I remember enjoying Terrarium, but I don’t remember a thing about it. Thankfully, I didn’t have the edition pictured above. Ye gods, that cover!

            1. One of my favorite authors Michael Bishop, who also published a spectacular domed city sequence of stories (check out Catacomb Years if you haven’t already), also seems to have mostly stopped writing SF. People stop for a variety or reasons. Even professional writers used to prolific novel publication stop periodically (Silverberg’s 1976-1980 come to mind after a period with more than one novel a year). Knowing academia first hand, I suspect writing SF wasn’t Sanders’ number 1 focus…. teaching is life-consuming! hah.

              Hello Scott, thanks for stopping by. I went ahead and purchased Terrarium but I made sure to have the slightly better Tor edition.

              It apparently was a short story first…. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1980

  3. The Infinite Arena looks interesting. I, too, read the Clarke story elsewhere. It is typical of him, good but no cigar. Bullard Reflects is also found in Bullard of the Space Patrol, one of the favorite books from my fifties/sixties childhood. It is one of the lesser stories in that fine collection. Malcolm Jameson needs to be categorized as “should not have been forgotten”.

    A point of sheer trivia: Bullard of the Space Patrol appears in most of the lists of the works of Andre Norton. She may or may not have written the brief introduction — it is uncredited but sounds like her — but it seems most likely that she edited it during the brief time she worked for a publisher.

  4. Saw that Ashes Ashes cover here, so I ordered the book and read it in a day. Reminds me of William Sleator’s House of Stairs. (Dunno if you’re familiar w/ that one. It was aimed at YA readers, published around the same time as Ashes.) Anyway, looking forward to you take. Schram was quite active in ’60s poetry journals, but I’d never heard of her until now, and I guess she produced no other books.

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