Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIV (Ben Bova, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, Robert Wilfred Franson, Barry N. Malzberg and Edward L. Ferman edited anthology)

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

Ben Bova (1932-2020) passed away a few weeks ago due to Covid-19 complications (and a stroke) (Tor Remembrance Article). While I haven’t had the best luck with his work, if you have any fond memories of him or reading his SF, let me know in the comments. I purchased his first collection Forward in Time (1973) (below) in his honor.

1. Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974)

David Pelham’s cover for the 1975 edition

From the back cover: “Thirteen fantastic new stories on the classic themes of Science Fiction.” See below for author list. Here are the themes: First contact, the exploration of space, immortality, inner space, robots and androids, strange children, future sex, space opera, alternate universes, the uncontrolled machine, after the holocaust, and time travel.

Contents (all published 1974): Frederik Pohl’s “We Purchased People,” Poul Anderson’s “The Voortrekkers,” Kit Reed’s “Great Escape Tours, Inc.” Brian W. Aldiss’ “The Girl in the Tau-Dream,” “The Immobility Crew,” and “A Cultural Side-Effect,” Isaac Asimov’s “That Thou Art Mindful of Him!” Dean R. Koontz’ “We Three,” Joanna Russ’ “An Old-Fashioned Girl,” Harlan Ellison’s “Catman,” Harry Harrison’s “Space Rats of the CCC,” Robert Silverberg’s “Trips,” Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Wonderful, All-Purpose Transmogrifier,” James Triptree, Jr.’ “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,” Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”

Initial Thoughts: Denizens of the twitter-scape claimed, when I posted an image of Pelham’s disturbing cover, that this was indeed “The Ultimate Science Fiction” anthology.  I’m fascinated by the thematic framework of the anthology. And knowing Malzberg, I suspect many of the stories take a more contrarian look at the theme.

I purchased the collection as I did not own PKD’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts” (1974) and needed it for my series on negative depictions of astronauts and the space race. PKD wrote the story to convey “a vast weariness over the space program, which had thrilled us so at the start” (wikipedia).

2. A Rumor of Angels, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (as M. Bradley Kellogg) (1983)

Keith Eugene Johnson’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “THE WARDS—the maximum security prisons where Earth permanently disposes of its most troublesome citizens. Jude Rowe has survived six years in the Wards, and now Earth intelligence is offering her a way out. The price—a one-way trip to Arkoi, an Eden-like planet, with its childlike, primitive natives and its thriving human colony. But there is something terribly wrong with this picture of paradise.

Every expedition sent beyond the colony’s borders has disappeared. The few survivors who eventually straggle back are totally, permanently insane. Are Arkoi’s natives not as docile as they seem? Or are there some Other out there ready to destroy any humans who stumble into their territory? Can Jude alone succeed where whole expeditions have failed? Or will she too vanish without a trace while two worlds whirl closer and closer to a final cataclysmic confrontation?”

Initial Thoughts: Another unknown author and book to me. Tarbandu reviewed (and disliked) it on his The PorPor Books Blog. As we don’t always see eye-to-eye on books, I am willing to give it a shot. He emphasizes that it will “appeal to those who prefer a character-driven narrative that explores the necessary journey through various psychological crises” — sounds like my cup of tea.

3. Forward in Time, Ben Bova (1973)

Jack Faragasso’s cover for the 1974 edition

From the back cover: “TOMORROW when the ultimate in computers begins to mysteriously destroy its masters.

AND TOMORROW when a pair of rival artificial satellites duel to the death while spinning around the earth.

AND TOMORROW when a lone spaceman in the furthest reaches of the universe finds himself humankind’s sole hope for survival.

AND ALL THE TOMORROWS AFTER THAT with electrifying new science fiction by Ben Bova, editor of Analog magazine and one of today’s top S-F talents, as he invites you to unleash your imagination and take a tight hold of your nerves for a shattering journey — FORWARD IN TIME.”

Contents: “Zero Gee” (1972), “Test in Orbit” (1965), “The Weathermakers” (1966), “A Slight Miscalculation” (1971), “Fifteen Miles” (1967), “Stars, Won’t You Hide Me?” (1966), “The Next Logical Step” (1962), “Men of Goodwill” (1964) (written with Myron R. Lewis), “The Perfect Warrior” (variant title: “The Dueling Machine”) (1963) (written with Myron R. Lewis).

Initial Thoughts: As I mentioned above, Bova’s novels haven’t faired well on my site. Sometimes the short story format gives another angle–and I’m excited to read this one.

RIP Ben Bova.

4. The Shadow of the Ship, Robert Wilfred Franson (1983)

David B. Mattingly’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “RUMOR HAD IT… that out there, somewhere, a starship lay abandoned along the airless subspace trail that was the only means of travel between planets for the primitive trailside peoples.

And Eiverdein needed a ship if ever he was to return to known space and the culture of Earth Humans.

But many things stood in his path–murderers, strange physics, and alien whose speech could kill, and a girl who was, at best, never all there…”

Initial thoughts: I’ve never heard of the author or novel! According to SF Encyclopedia, The Shadow of the Ship is “set in a universe where interstellar travel is accomplished through a kind of Parallel World desert, by caravans; a disparate group of human-like voyagers trek across this desert” [link]. Seems on the surreal side… we shall see!


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32 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIV (Ben Bova, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, Robert Wilfred Franson, Barry N. Malzberg and Edward L. Ferman edited anthology)

  1. FINAL STAGE was famously messed over by an arrogant copy-editor in the hardcover first edition, who was quite certain she was the one to teach these hacks how to suck eggs, and no one chose to check with Ferman or Malzberg, much less the contributors. The paperback editions were corrected by the writers involved.

  2. Ah, Shadow of the Ship! It reads like an intermediate volume in a series of fairly stand alone related adventures. In fact, it was until 2018 the author’s only published novel.

  3. My favorite Bova is the Sam Gunn series about the “lovable rogue” and sharp trader because nostalgia. The idea of re-reading them fills me with dread. The likelihood of my still enjoying them seems remote.

    #4’s cover looks familiar, but the title and author have me verschmeckeled.

    • I wonder if I would have enjoyed his The Grand Tour series as a kid — I was into the epic colonization-type SF (i.e. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars sequence that I also dare not return to).

  4. The Philip K. Dick piece in the anthology, was written following a gap of two and a half years of not writing. The concept is exciting and topical, but it isn’t as quirky and humourous as his earlier fiction and don’t think it’s among his best short stories or novels. His next one, “The Pre-Persons”, is much better I think.

    I’ve read but don’t remember what the James Tiptree [Alice Sheldon] one was about. Her hard style has failed to leave any real impression on me, even though I think she’s a very good author.

  5. Very sad to hear of Ben Bova’s passing.
    Grew up in the UK reading Analog when Ben was at the helm and still subscribe. Reading Analog, Bova’s novels and other SF writers like Pournelle are part of the reason I decided as a youngster the USA was the only place to be. So immediately after graduating I crossed the pond and in due course became an American citizen.
    I believe Ben lived in Florida and glad he lived long enough to see SpaceX begin our journey to becoming an inter-planetary species.
    Two favorite works by Bova are Colony and his Voyagers series.
    The SF world has lost a major talent.
    Ben Bova (RIP)

    • Thank you for sharing your memories/observations.

      As his work has not resonated with me, I often wonder if it’s because I read him at the wrong time. At one point in my life his Grand Tour novels would have satiated my desire for epic “let’s colonize the universe” type SF.

      If you haven’t already, check out the article by the Hugo-nominated James Nicoll Davis (who commented above) on the authors Bova “discovered” while an editor — https://www.tor.com/2020/12/15/five-sff-authors-discovered-by-ben-bova/

      • Thanks for the link, just read it. Those authors, with one exception, are familiar to me and a reminder of the contribution Bova made to the field as an editor. I need to read Ford’s “Growing up Weightless”, missed that one. James Tiptree Jr’s first published short story (Birth of a Salesman) also appeared in the March 1968 issue of Analog when Bova was editor so, despite his and Analog’s reputation for hard SF, his literary tastes were more eclectic than some realize.

        I enjoy hard SF but my other major literary interest is the work of PKD. I didn’t discover PKD until I was at university. At school I don’t recall my local public library having any of his books and I pretty much read everything SF they had, though admittedly it was a small library. It’s difficult to appreciate just how obscure a writer PKD once was, totally unknown outside the field. It took me around ten years to collect and read everything he wrote. Now he’s totally in print and I often see him quoted in mainstream publications.

        Watching PKD’s trajectory, from totally obscure author to acceptance and recognition as a serious writer in his own right, has been one of the most astonishing events of my life. It’s a shame just as that fame and Hollywood (plus $$$) came knocking he died. His three kids own the literary estate and must have made out like bandits, the movies made from his short stories (sold for around $50) and novels have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. Like Frank Zappa, he’s an American original, there’s no one else remotely like him.

        • I no longer write about PKD on my site due to his fanatical following. I enjoyed reading him in my early 20s (about a decade ago). I read almost everything of his — maybe half of his short fictions and 20+ novels (and bits of the Exegesis)… Whenever I suggest I might write about work (like in this post!), my brain then returns to my previous reluctance. In grad school I felt the same when I was asked to write about Beowulf. What can I say about Beowulf that hasn’t been said? I love Beowulf, but goodness, nothing is more agonizing than writing about it.

          He’s great and justly applauded. But his popularity prevents me from writing systematically about his work — so many have already. Like Evan Lampe’s magisterial podcast that chronologically went through (almost?) all his work. https://hundredpages.podbean.com/?s=philip+k.+dick

        • “James Tiptree Jr’s first published short story (Birth of a Salesman) also appeared in the March 1968 issue of Analog when Bova was editor”

          John Campbell was still editor in 1968. He did not relinquish the position until a few issues after his death in July, 1971.

          • My error.
            Seems Campbell had more eclectic tastes than I thought at the end of his stewardship of Analog, even though I think at that point he had driven most of his earlier proteges away or fallen out with them.

  6. ‘A Little Something for Us Tempunauts’ was inspired by PKD’s “vast weariness” with the space program. But it’ll be something of a stretch to fit into your negative depictions of NASA, etc., because it’s actually another Dick take on the time trap/paradox trope and nothing to do with the space program, really.

    I bought FINAL STAGE when it came out. The cover appears to be Penguin trying to follow up in the wake of Alan Aldridge’s airbrushed pop art SF covers — which Aldridge had recently ceased doing for them — by recruiting this fellow David Pelham to do something similar. Unfortunately, Pelham’s effort seems merely thuddingly clumsy and of its time, since he entirely lacked Aldridge’s flair and wit.

    Re. the book’s contents, I felt I got my money’s worth. The Tiptree, “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever,” is one of the great Tiptree/Sheldon stories, but probably not for everybody in its nihilist bleakness. It wasn’t a total surprise when the person who wrote it blew her husband’s and her own brains out some years later. Personally, I liked it (the story, I mean, not the double suicide).

    The Dick is also good, also bleak, and also what Richard Fahey says — Dick was just easing himself back (after a suicide attempt while in Vancouver!) into writing and writing short stories in particular. This and ‘The Pre-Persons’ aren’t like earlier Dick shorts, and are more in line with what you’d expect from the author of A SCANNER DARKLY.

    The Pohl and most of the other stories in the book were above the average quality of what I expected from original SF anthologies then, IIRC, with only Harlan Ellison’s ‘Catman’ striking me as deeply stupid and actively bad.

    Yeah, I saw that ‘Catman’ didn’t strike you the same way. It would be a boring world if we all thought and felt the same. On that note ….

    Ben Bova and FORWARD IN TIME.

    Bova was always so clearly a mensch and intelligent, and as editor at ANALOG and OMNI did great things to open up the field to a wide variety of strong writers who weren’t at all like him (and this included pushing female writers; I think he did an all-female issue of ANALOG somewhere in the mid-1970s). Consequently, I felt slightly bemused that I found Bova’s own stories to be flat, bare-bones, and schematic ANALOG-type fare, such as someone like Jack Wodham (who?) would produce.

    And so when he died this week, I thought ‘maybe it was just me and I hadn’t read the right Bova stories. Accordingly, I downloaded the kindle sample for FORWARD IN TIME and three pages in….

    I felt just like I always felt. Blah. So I’m interested if you have a take on it that’ll persuade me to download and read the whole book.

    Still, Bova was a great guy and sustained a career for a half-century because, like ubik’s testimonial demonstrates, he had devoted readers. It would be a boring world if we all thought and felt the same.

    • Pelham > Aldridge. Maybe not that particular Pelham, hah. Pelham tended to focus on a single striking image, which I appreciate (his Ballard covers for example). Again, not this particular one….

      I will confess that I’ve disliked every work of Bova’s I’ve read. So, like you, I greatly appreciate his editorial contribution — I know the perpetually Hugo-nominated James Davis Nicoll who commented above wrote an article on authors Bova “discovered” while an editor — https://www.tor.com/2020/12/15/five-sff-authors-discovered-by-ben-bova/

      And, like you, I’m glad that Bova’s SF inspired a bunch of readers, like Ubik above.

      Yes, I have that issue of Analog on the shelf. One of only a handful of SF magazines I own (~30).

    • PKD’s output around 1974 appeared to have slowed to all but a halt (his personal circumstances didn’t help) though, in actuality, he was scribbling away furiously at his “Exegesis” in an attempt to understand the Valis experience.

      • John wrote: “James Tiptree Jr’s first published short story (Birth of a Salesman) also appeared in the March 1968 issue of Analog when Bova was editor”

        Nope. That was still John Campbell.

        Indeed, Campbell gave Tiptree her first cover story (IIRC) for ‘Your Haploid Heart’ in the September, 1969 ANALOG. Kelly Freas was the artist —

        http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57215

  7. Rich Horton wrote: “…besides Tiptree Campbell published first stories by Stepan Chapman ….”

    Campbell published this Stepan Chapman?
    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?3833

    Huh. I’d never have guessed. This is a writer solidly off in the Jeff VanderMeer-approved New Weird/horror zone these days.

    J. Clute says —
    http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/chapman_stepan
    … Chapman’s novel THE TROIKA in the 1990s featured three characters, of which, one is “a jeep which/who has slowly evolved from traumatic beginnings as a human being; one is an escapee from Aztec sacrifice; the third has evolved from Cryogenic storage into a Dinosaur in interstellar space.”

    As one does, of course.

    Chapman apparently had stories in four of Damon Knight’s later ORBIT volumes, but I don’t remember them. (Which means nothing, as I read much less SF in the latter 1970s through to 1984, when the cyberpunks and other folks — L. Shepard, K.S. Robinson, M. Swanwick — started making waves.)

    • Never understood the fuss and acclaim re Gibson’s Neuromancer and it’s many derivatives, but to each his own. K.S. Robinson’s early work is great, especially The Wild Shore, loved that novel. His doctoral thesis on PKD’s novels is also very interesting.

      • I have found Gibson a very solid prose writer — at that made Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and the stories in Burning Chrome appealing when I read them a bit more than a decade ago in my late teens. Not sure what I would think now.

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