Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCXCII (Jack Vance, Craig Strete, Cherry Wilder, Giorgio De Maria)

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

1. The Brave Free Men, Jack Vance (magazine 1972)

From the back cover: “The Faceless Man was a prisoner in his own palace and his power over the people of Durdane was in the hands of another–the hands of Gestel Etzwane, a youth whose thirst for vengeance against the dreaded Roguskhoi would slacken only in oceans of their blood.

But to destroy the Roguskhoi, Gastel would have to unite a world that survived by its separateness. To do this was more than dangerous, but Gestel had little choice. He would return to the people control of their lives–and send them to fight to their death…”

Initial Thoughts: I don’t think I own volume I in this series! Sometimes, while browsing the shelves of local book stores, I end up buying a series out of order. Alas.

I’ve reviewed the following Jack Vance works over the years:

2. The Twenty Days of Turin, Giorgio De Maria (1977, trans. by Ramon Glazov 2017)

From the inside flap: “In the spare wing of a church-run sanatorium, some zealous youths create ‘the Library,’ a space where lonely citizens can read one another’s personal diaries and connect with like-minded souls in ‘dialogues across the ether.’ But when their scribblings devolve into the ugliest confessions of deviancy, the Library’s users learn too late that a malicious force has consumed their privacy and their sanity. As the city of Turin suffers a twenty-day ‘phenomenon of collective psychosis,’ culminating in nightly massacres that hundreds of witnesses cannot explain, the Library is shut down and erased from history. That is, until a self-driven sleuth decides to investigate these mysterious events, which the citizenry of Turn fear to mention. Inevitably drawn into the city’s occult netherworld, he unearths the stuff of modern nightmares: what’s shared can never be unshared.

An allegory inspired by the grisly neo-fascist campaigns of its day, The Twenty Days of Turn has enjoyed a fervent cult following in Italy for forty years. Now, in a fretful new age of “lone-wolf” terrorism fueled by social media, we can find resonances in Giorgio De maria’s vision of mass fear: a mute, palpitating dread that seeps into every moment of daily existence. With its apocalyptic repercussions of oversharing, this bleak story is more disturbingly prescient than ever.

Brilliantly translated into English for the first time by Ramon Glazov, The Twenty Days of Turin establishes De Maria’s place among the literary ranks of Italo Calvino and beside classic horror masters such as Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. Haunting imaginative, with visceral prose that chills to the marrow, the novel is an eerily clairvoyant magnum opus, long overdue but ever timely.”

Initial Thoughts: A complete unknown author and novel to me. I look forward to any translated SFF from the 70s.

3. The Luck of Brin’s Five, Cherry Wilder (1977)

From the back cover: “CLASH BETWEEN TWO WORLDS… One a cold winter night in the ancient land of Torin, a messenger from Earth fell from the sky. Discovered by Dorin, eldest son of the family of Brin’s Five, Earthling astronaut Scott Gale was taken under the wing of Dorn’s family and called Diver, the Luck of Brin’s Five.

From the peak of Hingstull Mountain to the cities of Rintoul and Tsagul, Diver led his adopted family to the peaks of fortune–and the depths of peril–fighting telepathic battles and navigating narrow escapes, with Nantgeeb, the mystical sorcerer from across the sea, his only aid against the evil forces of Strangler Tiath Pentroy, the feared ruler and oppressor who wants to destroy Torin….”

Initial Thoughts: Back in 2020, I purchased a copy of Cherry Wilder’s Second Nature (1982). I picked it up at least three times and put it down after fifty pages. “Did you not like it?” you might ask. It’s a dense exercise in complex worldbuilding and alien creation that I was not in the mood for despite its promise. I’ll return to it soon! According to SF Encyclopedia, the Torin sequence that starts with The Luck of Brin’s Five (1977) is “well realized” despite its “Young Adult market” label. I plan on featuring Wilder soon in my first three published short fictions by female authors series.

4. Dreams that Burn in the Night, Craig Strete (1982)

No inside flap or back cover blurb

Contents: “Secret of the White-Head Hawk” (1982), “Dancing the Dead Safe Into Their Beads” (1982), “Love Life of the Leglorn” (1976), “Mother of Cloth, Heart of Cloth” (1975), “I’m a Spy in the House of Love” (1982), “Menstruation Taboos: A Women’s Studies Perspective” (1982) (with Jim Morrison), “Love Affair” (1982), “Last Wish Fulfillment and Testament” (1982), “Into Every Rain, A Little Life Must Fall” (1975), “Gods Who Could Not Stay” (1982), “Closely Watched Urinals” (1982), “A Wounded Knee fairy Tale” (1982), “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” (1982), Three Dream Woman” (1978) (with Michael Bishop), “A Sunday Visit with Great-Grandfather” (1974), “Sleep Is the Only Freedom” (1982), “Report on the Recent Outbreak of Entertainment from Earth” (1982), “Red Beauty” (1982), “On the Way Home” (1982), “White Brothers from the Place Where No Man Walks” (1974), “We All Lived in the Warm Aquarium” (1982), “Nocka-Nocka and the Dirty Old Man” (1976), “The Night Xenex Sanurian Took a Wallflower to the Prom” (1982), “The Second Team” (1982)

Initial Thoughts: If I were asked to identify the greatest lesser known (whatever metric that might be) SF authors, Craig Strete would be near or at the top of my list. One of the few Native American SF 8authors active in the decades I study, Strete picked up three Nebula Award nominations for short SF over the 70s and early 80s (“The Bleeding Man” in 1976, “Time Deer” in 1976, and “A Sunday Visit With Great-Grandfather” in 1981 although it was withdrawn). I’ve reviewed two collections of his short fiction–The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories (1977) and If All Else Fails… (1980)–and was blown away by the searing visions in both.

I will return to “A Horse of a Different Technicolor” (1975) for my SF media landscapes of the future series as my short review of If All Else Fails… (1980) did not cover it in detail.


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27 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCXCII (Jack Vance, Craig Strete, Cherry Wilder, Giorgio De Maria)

  1. #2 sounds really, really good. Considering the Red Brigade was terrorizing the whole of Italy at that time, it doesn’t exactly shock me that this was a big deal.
    #3 I actually own this on Kindle! I don’t remember if it was you, struggling with Second Nature, that inspired the purchase, but I’m entirely sure I’d’ve given it wide berth in 1979.

    Happy Sunday’s reading!

  2. We had a Swedish version of Galaxy (58-60); very high level of translation quality.
    Well it became 19 booklets before the TV revolution appeared…
    I recently read Ullwards Choice by Vance; it appeared in The january 59 issue; the original in the dec. 58; thats fast working!
    One Swedish original drawing was published in Gal; it was Hans Arnold illustrating Börje Cronas debut short story. (“An Evening at Gröna Lund”).
    But it was a sensational quality of this magazine; some “old school” SF fans wrote and was very angry!

      • Yes , the Swedish Galaxy had a Swedish editorship; it was in Swedish; it published stories from all those years Gal had existed; a sort of ” Best of” if You want.
        And containing original Swedish texts; (sometimes), both by “mainstream” and genre writers; but only this HA original drawing.
        So it contained stories up to 1960; those last 5 issues was more than 300 pages each.

          • Our first (“real”), SF magazine was Häpna! (“Get Stunned!”). It existed between spring 1954 and the last issue appeared 1966.
            In the fifties it had a profile very near Mr Campbells mag of the forties ; Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and so on.
            So those “old school” fans came from that world.
            Well, in the late fifties Häpna! started working with F&SF and New Worlds; as ex Ballard made his debut in Swedish in the early sixties in Häpna! = something had happened!
            Around Häpna! the Swedish SF fandom appeared; folks like Sam J. Lundwall, Bertil Mårtensson and others made their debut.
            Yes, You got it; its a pity Grisjakten are not available in English! Jersild has always got much attention from the swedish SF World; in fanzines our SF mags etc; Shame otherwise!

  3. I just picked up Wilder’s Signs of Life, the 1996 sequel to Second Nature, but I haven’t read it yet. Wilder has been on my radar for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve read anything of hers.

    • While I might not get to this particular novel or try Second Nature (which I think is very good despite putting it back on the shelf multiple times) again anytime soon, I do hope to have her first three short stories reviewed in the coming weeks for the series I mentioned.

      • I enjoyed her collection Dealers in Light & Darkness a lot although I don’t remember much about the stories now. None of them are early enough to be among her 1st three though; the earliest are 1979.

  4. The Vance is one of his less-remembered series but I enjoyed it! I actually read v3 before tracking down the first two, but it’s almost like a sequel to the much closer pair before it. I would suggest that it is better to read v1 first in this case.

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