Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVIII (Sakyo Komatsu, Women of Wonder anthology, Arsen Darnay, and interviews with SF authors)

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

1. Japan Sinks!, Sakyo Komatsu (1973; trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976)

From the back cover: “WORST DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!

A FISSURE in a wall–a land survey mysteriously out of true–a small island disappearing overnight–and one of the worst disaster in the history of the world is born. Only one man suspects the truth, but his theory is so unprecedented, his predications so horrifying that even his fellow scientists ignore him.

Earthquakes

Then a series of devastating earthquakes strikes, and suddenly the authorities are prepared to listen. But time is short and as they frantically try to ward off the disaster the crust of the earth begins to shift…”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve read little Japanese SF from this era so I’m quite excited to explore.

2. The New Women of Women, ed. Pamela Sargent (1978)

From the back cover: “Today, science fiction writers have begun to create more realistic women characters than they did in the past, and more women are writing science fiction than ever before. The most innovative of their stories, in addition to being engaging science fiction, not only treat women convincingly, but explicitly address feminist concerns and emphasize future possibilities. This collection of science-fiction stories represents the best of the new women writers.”

Contents: Sonya Dorman’s “View from the Moon Station” (1977), Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Screwtop” (1976), Eleanor Arnason’s “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons” (1974), Josephine Saxton’s “The Triumphant Head” (1970), Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1967), Kit Reed’s “Songs of War” (1974), James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Women Men Don’t See” (1973), Carol Emshwiller’s “Debut” (1970), Joanna Russ’ “When It Changed” (1972), Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “Dead in Irons” (1976), Sonya Dorman’s “Building Block” (1975)

Initial Thoughts: What a lineup of greats! I adored Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1967) and Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Screwtop” (1976) in the past so I’m eager to read the rest in this anthology. Joanna Russ’ “When It Changed” (1972)–originally appeared in Again, Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison (1972)–won the Nebula and was a Hugo finalist. Sections of the The Female Man (1975), which I read but never got around to reviewing, take place in the same world as “When It Changed.”

3. The Splendid Freedom, Arsen Darnay (1980)

From the back cover: “Sentient missiles, telepathic rabbits, consciousness-expanding machines, and soul-catching nets: these are just a few of the elements Arsen Darnay conjures up with his special blend of fantasy and technology—from the torture camps if the Third Reich to the corridors of contemporary Washington, D.C. and into a variety of possible futures where religious cults worship atomic wastes; where decent folk live in ordered harmony while Peacefreaks and other dangerous elements of society are sealed off and left to exterminate each other in the war for dwindling food rations; where Earth is the tourist center of the galaxy, even though it has nothing left to offer, nothing at all except — THE SPLENDID FREEDOM.”

Contents: “The Splendid Freedom” (1974), “The Eastcoast Confinement” (1974), “Plutonium” (1976).

Initial Thoughts: Way back in 2014, I snagged a copy of Arsen Darnay’s A Hostage for Hinterland (1976) but have yet to get around to reading it. As longtime readers know, when I can’t convince myself to tackle an author’s novels, I read short stories first. That’s the plan!

4. Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers, ed. Larry McCaffery (1990)

Authors interviewed: Gregory Benford, William S. Burroughs, Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Thomas M. Disch, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Bruce Sterling, Gene Wolfe

Initial Thoughts: I recently read Gwyneth Jones’ monograph Joanna Russ (2019) in the University of Illinois Press’ Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. I’d previously read the Ballard volume as well. Both are highly recommended! In the back of the Russ volume there was a fascinating interview–and I wanted to read more of her non-fiction and interviews. Hence this collection…


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22 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVIII (Sakyo Komatsu, Women of Wonder anthology, Arsen Darnay, and interviews with SF authors)

      • I love Charles Platt’s interviews in the “Dream Makers” books, which are very deft sketches of each author and written with the insight of a fellow SF writer. McCaffery is a literature academic and the style of the interviews seems more conventional ‘lit crit’. However he does seem to give the interviewees space to talk about themselves and so there’s useful stuff about life histories and general motivations. The audio tapes are raw recordings of the interviews and so you can hear the unedited voice of each author.

  1. The New Women of Wonder looks great. Sonya Dorman is a favorite of mine. About that time she abandoned fiction for poetry … she was a very good port.

    I read Darnay’s stories in Galaxy with enjoyment but I’m not sure they have lasted.

    • Sonya Dorman, as you know, is favorite of mine as well. I’ve read “Splice of Life” (1966) and “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966) and should read more. Maybe I should investigate if she wrote anything that might fit my current SF media series….

  2. …Arsen Darnay…? I remember Victor Szebehely introducing him to me once but other than that nothing. Why that even occurred I can’t recall. He must’ve been in Austin for something SF related in the late 70s. The only bell rung, though.

  3. I like the first book, Japan Sinks. I am assuming it is a translated work. I realize it is a longshot for a book of that time, but is there any indication who the translator is?

  4. All of the ‘Women of Wonder’ series looks great. I’ve got the first three. (‘Women of Wonder’, ‘More Women of Wonder’ and ‘The New Women of Wonder’). “When It changed” by Russ is a great story. And Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” is truly one of the masterpieces of the New Wave.

    I’m getting very excited about the New Wave at the moment, as I traipse merrily through the back catalogue. So many surprises, such greatness and idiocy side by side. Sturgeon’s Law at work!

    • I have the first three as well. Still haven’t posted the third in my purchase posts — yet.

      I look forward to everything in the collection. I’ve long been fans of Kit Reed, Russ, etc. and want to explore the early SF stories of Arnason whose first novels were fantasy.

      I agree with you on Zoline — I gave “The Heat Death” a 5/5.

  5. “Japan Sinks” is sitting patiently in the midden of my wishlist, but I’ll say that Komatsu’s “The Savage Mouth” was a highlight of the Apostolou/Greenberg “Best Japanese SF” anthology, and would have fit in well in an issue of late-60s New Worlds.

      • Oddly enough given the dates of composition, it’s a theme that’s pretty much absent from the whole collection — reporters show up to an odd event in a couple stories, but only as bystanders doing the expected. (There are some fine stories in there, and only a couple misfires.)

        • Thank you for letting me know. I wanted to pull in a few non-English language stories — hence why I started with Lino Aldani’s fabulous Italian-language tale “Good Night, Sophie.” The vast majority I’m finding crop up in the 50s — with the explosion of TV, post-Korean War fears of brainwashing, etc. If any come to mind from your various reading adventures, let me know!

  6. I read Japan Sinks after watching the excellent 1973 film adaptation, 2.5 hours of high melodrama and epic Toho SFX. The book is much quieter and reminds me of those spare American thrillers of the time, before all novels had to be 500 pages long. It’s been a while, looking forward to your review.

      • There’s five! With a TV series that ran concurrent with the first film adaptation, and another film version in 2006. I haven’t watched any of the other versions though, except the cut down and dubbed “Tidal Wave” US cut put out by Roger Corman, which was worth seeing as a curiosity. It had new shots of Lorne Greene in a studio made up like the UN, “interacting” with the story a la Raymond Burr in Godzilla 1985. The film adaptation of Virus from 1980 is also tops for disaster drama, with a gorgeous theme by Janis Ian.

        I just wrote a capsule review of the sci-fi/disaster thriller Tsunami from 1984 by Crawford Kilian, if you’re interested: https://paperbackgods.blogspot.com/2022/02/tsunami-by-crawford-kilian.html

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