Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCIII (William S. Burroughs, Chester Anderson, Pat Cadigan, Donald Kingsbury)

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

1. Courtship Rite, Donald Kingsbury (1982)

From the inside flap: “Gaet, Hoemei and Joesai are three clone brothers, survivors of the rigorous and deadly process of nurture and weeding that produces people of high kalothi, people worthy of surviving on the inhospitable planet of Geta. Geta was settled many thousands of years ago by human starships, but only legends of the people’s origins remain, memories that have become myths.

Geta is not a friendly place for humanity, but mankind, true to its immemorial instincts, has adapted. There is almost no metal, so technology remains primitive, but bioengineering has developed incredibly. The natural vegetation is poisonous to man, and the hot climate and recurring droughts lead to crop failure for the Earth grains that are the staff of life. In times of famine the people turn to the only other available crop: themselves. The religion and the social institutions are based on a belief that species survival is more important than the individual, and ritual cannibalism based on a form of directed natural selection dictates that the weak and less worthy must feed the strong so that life will continue.

The three brothers joined forces as children and have saved one another’s lives and become a powerful influence in their city-state of Clan Kaiel. Their union has been strengthened by joint marriage to two wives, Now and Teenae, but they seek to form a Six by courting Kathein, an important biologist. Prime Predictor Aesoe is also attracted to her, however, and instead orders the brothers to court and wet Oelita the Heretic. Oelita lives in a neighboring province, preaches against the accepted practices of human sacrifice, and works ceaselessly to find ways of making the practices unnecessary by developing native foods that will not poison the eater.

Joesai, the warrior brother, is dispatched to commence the courting but peremptorily commences a mating ritual, the Courtship Rite, which consists of an increasingly difficult series of seven deadly trials. If Oelita survives all the trials, then the final result will be either marriage of the death of the brothers.

The story of courtship is worked out against the detailed creation of a world that will rival Frank Herbert’s Dune, Niven and Pournelle’s Mote world and the planet of Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen. A vast alien landscape and a human culture based on our own yet evolved in strange and wondrous ways by the forces of an inimical nature provide a panoramic backdrop for the romantic adventures of a large cast of memorable and attractive characters.”

Initial Thoughts: Donald Kingsbury (1929-) is not an author I’ve read. His first SF work appeared in Astounding in June 1952—and his next in 1978! Courtship Rite (1982) was nominated for the 1983 Hugo Award for Best Novel. From the blurb it sounds dense and vast. SF Encyclopedia praises the novel’s worldbuilding.

2. Patterns, Pat Cadigan (1989)

From the back cover: “‘Cardigan knows the difference between what’s real and what matters. Crank it up, and play it loud.” Michael Swanwick

‘When you read Pat Cadigan’s stories, you’ll swear she’s been a 1) a psychopath, 2) a pimp, 3) a junkie, 4) to Mars, because she can write so well of places you don’t ever want to visit and people you nevereverever want to meet. She hasn’t been any of those things; what she is is another typical beautiful genius Supermom from K. C. whose works cause me to bite holes in my desk every time I read a new one.’ Howard Waldrop

‘I can’t think of another writer who makes such exacting work look so easy. She is the master of the arched eyebrow, the hoarse whisper, the cut that takes a very long time to bleed.’ Lewis Shiner”

Contents: “Patterns” (1987), “Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie” (1983), “Vengeance Is Yours” (1983), “The Day the Martels Got the Cable” (1982), “Roadside Rescue” (1985), “Rock On” (1984), “Heal” (1988), “Another One Hits the Road” (1984), “My Brother’s Keeper” (1988), “Pretty Boy Crossover” (1986), “Two” (1988), “Angel” (1987), “It was the Heat” (1988), “The Powers and the Passion” (1989).

Initial Thoughts: I’d previously read and enjoyed Cadigan’s “Rock On” (1984) for my media in SF series and thought I might as well track down more of her early short fiction.

3. The Butterfly Kid, Chester Anderson (1969)


And good ole Chester Anderson—sometime poet, rock’n’roll singer and self-proclaimed king of the Village—strolled along, content.

Content, that is, until he saw a kind make butterflies.

Real butterflies. The kind with pretty wings that flutter.

What at first seemed amusing, if a little strange, quickly changed. Chester and his ragtag pack of singers, groupies and street-wise prophets had stumbled onto a mind-blowing phenomenon that threatened the whole world.

And only Chester and his ragamuffin crew could save it.

From what? The six-foot, blue lobsters from outer space.

How? With a horrifying plan that hinged on the innocence of… The Butterfly Kid.”

Initial Thoughts: Chester Anderson (1932-1991) sounds like a fascinating individual. He was a beatinik, science fiction author, and founded “Communications Company (ComCo), the ‘publishing arm’ of the anarchist guerrilla street theater group The Diggers” (Wikipedia). The Butterfly Kid is the first in shared world trilogy of recursive SF novels: “The trilogy stars all three authors who become involved in the attempts of a pop group to fight off a more than merely psychedelic Alien invasion menace: Greenwich Village is being threatened by the distribution of a “Reality Pill” which actualizes people’s fantasies. Anderson’s contribution, with its jokey, slightly gonzo melancholy, was probably the most memorable of the three” (SF Encyclopedia).

4. The Soft Machine, William S. Burroughs (1961)

“The Interstellar War of the Sexes

In The Soft Machine, William S. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, turns the sexy, “scientifically” controlled mass-media society inside out. With biting use of the American vernacular, Burroughs makes a devastating attack on the power structure, violence and hypocrisy in contemporary society.”

Initial Thoughts: I am eager to read William S. Burroughs’ The Soft Machine (1961) due to its experimental “cut-up” techniques that influenced authors in the SF New Wave movement.

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

29 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCIII (William S. Burroughs, Chester Anderson, Pat Cadigan, Donald Kingsbury)

  1. Cadigan’s short fiction is always great and Patterns is a good collection.

    Whilst I liked Naked Lunch I was disappointed by Soft Machine. I found it dull in comparison and too sex obsessed.

    I haven’t read the other two but high on my list to try.

    • Hello and thanks for stopping by!

      I’ve only read “Rock On” (1984) (linked in the post) for my media landscapes of the future series and thoroughly enjoyed it. I look forward toe exploring more. Do you have a favorite short story of hers? I’m pretty sure I read Mindplayers (1987) and/or Synners (1991) when I read post-1985 SF. Maybe in 2006 or so. They have faded into the general cyberpunk memory morass…

      I haven’t read any Burroughs… and I should considering my interest in New Wave SF and his substantial impact on authors like Brunner, etc.

  2. I really love these quick reports on newly acquired fiction works, I already own “Courtship Rite” but haven’t read it yet. The Pat Cadigan book has me curious, too. Thanks!

  3. Pat Cadigan is truly an excellent writer of short fiction, and this is a strong early collection. “Pretty Boy Crossover” is a personal favorite of mine.

    I remember being very impressed by COURTSHIP RITE when it came out. That said, I honestly can’t remember it well, and I don’t know how it would hold up. Donald Kingsbury can be compared to Chan Davis in some intriguing ways: They are two of the oldest living SF writers (Davis turns 96 in a couple of weeks, and Kingbsury 93 not long after), they both began writing for John W. Campbell, neither has published a whole lot (though Kingsbury more than Davis), and they were both born in the US but their primary professional positions were as Mathematics professors at Canadian universities. All that said, they are very very different writers, and extremely different politically.

    I’ve had my eye on that “Greenwich Village Trilogy” for a long time. My understanding is that the Anderson and Kurland novels are pretty good, and the Waters can be skipped. Kurland, of course, is the more significant writer. But I haven’t read any of the books. Nor have I read the Burroughs.

    • From my impressions of the only story I’ve read, “Rock On” (1984), I agree — so far.

      Thank you for reminding me about Chan Davis. I know you’ve promoted his work and I should sit down and knock out most of the short stories. I know Davis’ political position but what’s Kingsbury’s?

      I doubt the Greenwich Village trilogy is much good — but as a window into the collision of 60s Counterculture (which I find relentlessly intriguing) with SF I suspect they’re illuminating.

      • So to inject further weirdness into this — beyond Burroughs being in here with THE SOFT MACHINE — the cover art on the Kingsbury, while no Abdul Mati Klarwein, is by Saddam Hussein’s favorite artist, Rowena Merril. When US troops went into one of Saddam’s palaces during the post-Gulf 2 occupation of Iraq, they found Rowena’s original paintings or sedulous copies thereof hung on the walls —

        (The Burroughs in this case being Edgar Rice, not William; though there’s a Philip Jose Farmer story from one of Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS anthologies — ‘Riders of the Purple Wage,’ IIRC — that has fun in a kind of tiresome shaggy-dog way with fusing the two Burroughs’s styles and preoccupations)

        ‘Saddam’s love shack: American soldiers agree it’s `shagadelic”

        ‘Soldiers find Saddam’s ‘love shack”

        And so on.

        As for the Cadigan ….

        Cadigan’s ‘Angel’ and ‘Pretty Boy Crossover’ are even better stories than ‘Rock On’ and they’re in PATTERNS. I think I’ll buy it and read/re-read the stories in it, as currently I’m over in the UK and a whole bunch of things are available on kindle on Amazon UK for great prices (forex, everything by Tiptree) that either aren’t available in the US or are much more expensive there.

        • I definitely agree with Mark about both “Angel” and “Pretty Boy Crossover”.

          I think Rowena was pretty embarrassed by the Saddam thing.

          As for Kingsbury, he is (as I recall) your basic Analogish libertarian, with a harder right edge than say Vernor Vinge. And sometimes worse, as in the pro-eugenics essay for Astounding, “The Right to Breed”. (Though Kingsbury claimed Campbell pushed him to revise it multiple times, asking for “more fanaticism”.)

          He’s actually an interesting guy. Spent a lot of time as a kind in New Guinea. And his stories are reliably interesting reads. Supposedly he’s still working on a novel he started in the early ’50s, THE FINGER POINTING SOLWARD.

          • Sometimes I wish I didn’t know about something an author wrote. And a eugenics essay for Campbell is high on the list. yikes! I found Robert Sawyer’s interview with him here which is what I assume you’re referencing: https://www.sfwriter.com/kingsbur.htm

            Here’s the relevant passage for anyone else who comes across this:

            “Sawyer: Your published output was quite small in those early years, wasn’t it? The only other thing was the article “The Right to Breed.”

            Kingsbury: Campbell kept sending that back for revisions. “No fire,” he’d say. “Give me fanaticism!” I re-wrote it but he sent it back again. “Worse. Now you’re slyly winking at the reader saying I’m not this fanatic; these aren’t my real opinions.” So I wrote it the way he wanted and it was a great success. While a student at McGill University in Montreal, I tried to write the Great American Novel. I had a story in my files about a pregnant girl running away to a hot, sandy Venus. My agent said, “What’s Venus doing in this story? Put it back on Earth.” Well I did and I made a novel out of it. I got lost, disappeared from the SF scene, doing it, but it never sold. I didn’t keep up my connections with Campbell. That was a bad, bad mistake.”

            So let me get this straight… the bad mistake is that he didn’t keep up with Campbell… it isn’t that he wrote an article on eugenics for him…

        • Farmer’s other fusion of ER Burroughs and W Burroughs styles and preoccupations is “The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod,” which is considerably shorter than “Riders of the Purple Wage” and fairly funny rather than tiresome. I forget where it originated but it’s in Norman Spinrad’s anthology THE NEW SF.

          • Barrington J. Bayley apparently wrote one as well — “The Four-Color Problem” (1971) in New Worlds Quarterly 2, ed. Michael Moorcock (1971). I have that one on the shelf somewhere. I haven’t read “The Jungle Rot” but I read “Riders” in some anthology a while back but never ended up reviewing it.

            • I never much liked “Riders of the Purple Wage” (tiresome is a fair description), but then I realized long ago that Philip Jose Farmer (despite being from my home state and once having worked for the same company I worked for) just isn’t to my taste. I was too ignorant to recognize the Burroughs connection.

              Same for “The Four Color Problem” — I just read it as Bayley being weird, as Bayley often (almost always) is. But I think “The Four Color Problem” is a good story.

            • Still waiting on your assessment of those 50s Farmer tales I keep on waxing lyrical about in Strange Relations (1960)! They feel soooo distinct from other 50s stuff…

        • Mark: I had forgotten about Saddam’s obsession with her art. I won’t lie, Rowena Morrill might me my least favorite prolific SF author of that era. I don’t care for her work at all. Or Foss, or Angus McKie, or any of the other Foss clones (Elson, Tim White, etc.) [there are exceptions of course, a few individual covers by those artists do tickle my fancy]

          I look forward to reading more of the Cadigan collection! I might break my pre-1985 line to do so.

  4. As others have said, there are some great stories in the Cadigan collection. Aside from those mentioned above, I love “The Power and The Passion” for a clever take on vampire hunting.

  5. I think that Burroughs’s Cut Up technique was a mistake, and I tend to skip over those sections when I read him. That aside, I love his work and he is a major influence on my fiction–my Book Of Lost Doors series is based largely on the Nova Express Trilogy in terms of the cosmology. (With bits of Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and Delany thrown in for flavor.)

    • As I mentioned to Tarbandu below, in this instance I feel like I need to actually read some of Burroughs’ work to understand how other authors interacted with his ideas and techniques. I am interested in charting a moment and his impact on the New Wave movement is immense. As you might know, Moorcock and Ballard devote large sections of New Worlds SF (May-June 1964) to Burroughs. Which you can read here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ENe8UGYd0psEOwo8sS_SABBE9VbyItVP/view

      I am curious to read some of the SF pastiches of his work — John Boston mentioned the Farmer pastiche above. And Barrington J. Bayley wrote one as well.

  6. ‘The Butterfly Kid’ is a real find, as you know, copies of the 1980 Pocket Books paperback are dearly priced. I found ‘Courtship Rite’ to be an exemplar of how self-absorbed and dull sf had become on the eve of the publication of ‘Neuromancer’, and I gave it a one-star score. But that’s just my opinion………

    • Wasn’t the cheapest used SF novel I’ve procured — for sure. Or I snagged it at a used book store on my travels this summer, can’t remember which. It always takes me a while to go through my purchases pile and post them on the site and I forget the provenance of some of the books.

    • I am aware of Burroughs’ murder of his wife, the scandals, the occult experiments, the drugs, the alcohol, etc. etc. That does not diminish his influence on a period of SF that perpetually fascinates me — the New Wave Movement. And if I want to say anything about it in an intelligent manner, I feel like I need to actually read some of Burroughs’ work to understand how other authors interacted with his ideas and techniques. I am interested in charting a moment and his impact is, without doubt, immense.

  7. I tried reading the Soft Machine as part of my new wave journey and found it too vulgar and repetitive for my taste. It’s definitely the definition of arthouse in literature. Still, I’d like to check Naked Lunch, which I hear is a little more coherent.

Comment! Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.