Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXIV (Harlan Ellison, Gillian Freeman, Mick Farren, Fritz Leiber)

A new year and new books!

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

1. From the Land of Fear, Harlan Ellison (1967)

From the back cover: “SCIENCE FICTION STORIES by Award Winning Author

WHERE DID HARLAN ELLISON COME FROM?

At 13 he ran away from home in Ohio and joined a carnival. At 15 he was driving a dynamite truck in North Carolina. At 19 he was thrown out of college and at 21 had sold his first novel. Today he is 33 and is considered one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood. Fairly ordinary background? True.

But somewhere along the way, Harlan Ellison made a strange detour. He vanished into a country of the mind where time and space ceased to exist, where strange ideas and wild adventures were commonplace. He came back from that dark world, carrying away with him its richest treasures: stories unlike any ever told before. In this unusual book you will sample these “stray dreams.”

FROM THE LAND OF FEAR!”

Contents (fiction only): “The Sky Is Burning” (1958), “My Brother Paulie” (1958), “The Time of the Eye” (1959), “Life Hutch” (1956), “Battle Without Banners” (1964), “Back to the Drawing Boards” (1958), “‘We Mourn for Anyone…'” (1957), “The Voice in the Garden” (1967), “Soldier” (1957), “Soldier” (1957) (screenplay).

Initial Thoughts: I recent finished over my winter break a fascinating monograph on Harlan Ellison–Ellen Weil and Gary K. Wolfe’s Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever (2002). It inspired me to track down more of his fictions. I snagged the monograph as I thoroughly enjoyed the two stories of his I reviewed for my series on subversive accounts of space travel.

What are your favorite stories from this collection?

2. The Feelies, Mick Farren (with illustrations by Chris Welch) (1978)

From the back cover: “Some time in the future in a world of gleaming glass and megastructures, interspersed with slum remains, society is set in rigid economic groups. The ultimate goal has become a lifetime in The Feelies–hooked up to sensory input machines, entombed in coffin-like structures, living out private fantasies manufactured to order. For most it remains an impossible dream: drink, drugs and 24-hour TV blur the edges of a reality they seek to erase. Only the rich and powerful can afford the ultimate luxury of eternal feelie time. But a few like Wanda Jean have just once chance in a lifetime–to win the TV contest Wildest Dreams and take her place in the lifer vaults. Yet even a mechanical dream can turn into a technician’s nightmare–the results are literally mind blowing.”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve only read one Mick Farren novel–The Texts of Festival (1973). It was average. But due to my media series I thought this short-ish novel might be something I cover (albeit it has focused on short fiction so far). I deliberately tracked down the first UK edition as it was revised for the 1990 US edition. Personally, I’m far more interested in 70s dystopic visions of media nightmare vs. late 80s/early 90s.

3. The Leader, Gillian Freeman (1965)

From the back cover: “Vincent Wright, as he comes to call himself, fancies that he is different from the other clerks in the bank. In the privacy of his own apartment, standing on the sofa to look in the mirror, he invents a new salute and dreams a dictator’s dreams… THE LEADER.”

Initial Thoughts: I buy far more near future rise of fascism in the UK novels then I’ll ever read… BUT. I know little to nothing about this novel so it might it might be a hidden gem. Gillian Freeman seems best known for her novel The Leather Boys (1961)–one of many novels about juvenile delinquency and early swinging London i.e. Only Lovers Left Alive (1964). The Leather Boys was adapted into a film in 1964. The Leader seems mostly forgotten…

4. The Second Book of Fritz Leiber, Fritz Leiber (1975)

From the back cover: “Have a literary cocktail with writer Lin Carter calls ‘probably the finest living writer of sword and sorcery,’ and whose five Hugos prove his equal status in the realm of science fiction. Here’s what Fritz Leiber is offering, in his own words”

Contents (fiction only): “The Lion and the Lamb” (1950), “Trapped in the Sea of Stars” (1975), “Belsen Express” (1975), “Scream Wolf” (1961), “The Mechanical Bride” (1954)

Initial Thoughts: Three Fritz Leiber short stories appeared on my favorite 20 short fictions I read in 2022. The only other author to appear three times in the favorite read categories was Vonda N. McIntyre. And I plan on continuing my explorations of his work in 2023.


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For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

32 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXIV (Harlan Ellison, Gillian Freeman, Mick Farren, Fritz Leiber)

  1. I’ve read and enjoyed some of the stories by Harlan Ellison from the sixties, including some of those in the above collection. I’ve only read a few stories by Fritz Leiber, and would like to read more.

  2. You’ve got a number of works I don’t know by authors I like, which is always interesting to see. I can recommend The Long Orbit, Necrom, and The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys if you want to read more Mick Farren.

  3. Honestly I haven’t read any of these books. The Ellison seems minor relative to his oeuvre — the only one I remember reading is “Life Hutch” which is a competently executed gimmick story. I do suspect, however, that this is an attempt to collect some of the best of his ’50s fiction — that said, I don’t personally think he really got good until roughly 1964 or 1965 — coincidentally about the same time Silverberg and Brunner got good!

    The Leiber also seems a collection of lesser stories, though to be honest I’ll happily read minor Leiber before I read anything but the best of Ellison.

    I have heard of Farren but haven’t read him, and Freeman is completely new to me.

    • But there are many Silverberg and Brunner 1950s short stories worth reading! I think Ellison’s 50s stories are completely worth picking through (I enjoyed the two I reviewed recently) — and yes, I suspect many are clunkers. I’m looking at you “Glowworm” (1956).

      I tracked down the Leiber collection for one story alone — one of his other attempts (I reviewed better known “The Moon is Green” recently) to parse the patriarchal forces that dictate the paths women can take: “The Mechanical Bride.” I then realized I already owned the story in another collection… alas.

      • Oh, undoubtedly there are a number of stories by all three writers written in the ’50s that I worth reading — just not quite at the level of their best work which they began producing in the early to mid-60s.

  4. That’s a Farren I’ve heard of but never come across! I read the first three DNA Cowboys books decades ago (as I may have mentioned before) but haven’t revisited for some time. I suspect I might find some of the elements troublesome nowadays…

  5. I’ve already mentioned “Life Hutch”. I hadn’t read “The Time of the Eye” for very many years. It’s a much better piece than than the other one, being a more uncertain but bitter and terrifying account about loss, sacrifice, morality and gain.

  6. I read The Leader a bit over a decade ago and liked it a lot. The cultural context is very 60s England (the “protagonist” is of a mid-century upbringing/class position that I’m not sure still exists precisely, but somehow there manage to be plenty of Brexiters who would have gone for him). Happy to see that Valancourt’s put it back into print, it deserves a new audience.

  7. The only Harlan Ellison collections I dug into were I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream and Deathbird Stories, the latter of which I enjoyed more. I’m always iffy about short stories from the 50s because I keep thinking they’ll be too ‘clean’ and dated in their subject matter, which is why I prefer the more mature stuff (new wave especially) from the 60s onwards. Knowing Ellison, it might be different.

    As for the other books, I’m not aware of them, so it’ll be fun to go in blind.

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