Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCVII (Poul Anderson, Kingsley Amis, Eleanor Arnason, Roger Elwood anthology of SF plays)

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

1. Strangers from Earth, Poul Anderson (1961)

From the back cover: “A SENTIENT ROBOT

THE COLONISTS WHO LEFT A PERFECT WORLD

A MADDENING HUNT FOR A MARTIAN

A MAN-MADE ANIMAL

A GALACTIC SWINDLER

These are some of the ingredients Poul Anderson chooses to mix and blend into this first-class collection of stories: and his ability is as wide as the range of his interests.”

Contents: “Earthman, Beware!” (1951), “Quixote and the Windmill” (1950), “Gypsy” (1950), “For the Duration” (1957), “Duel on Syrtis” (1951), “The Star Beast” (1950), “The Disintegrating Sky” (1953), “Among Thieves” (1957)

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Future Media Short Story Review: Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell)

Today I’ve reviewed the thirteenth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Here, I finally return to the nightmarish embrace of Barry N. Malzberg.

Previously: Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” in Light Years and Dark: Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time, ed. Michael Bishop (1984). You can read it online here.

Up Next: Walter F. Moudy’s “The Survivor” in the May 1965 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Lalli (Goldsmith). You can read it online here.

3.5/5 (Good)

Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” first appeared in In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell). I cannot find the story online. Please contact me if you do not own a copy and want a PDF of the story. I recommend you procure the fantastic anthology TV: 2000, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh (1982) which “The Idea” also appears in. I’ll be returning to this volume in coming weeks for this series.

Reading a Barry N. Malzberg story is like returning to a familiar embrace–an embrace of the blackest satire conveyed via terrifying existential traps. Ever since I read his masterpiece Beyond Apollo (1972), a metafictional destruction of America’s obsession with space exploration, Malzberg joined the pantheon of my favorite authors.

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Short Fiction Reviews: Algis Budrys’ “Forever Stenn” (variant title: “The Ridge Around the World”) (1957), Basil Wells’ “Sole Survivor” (1957), Helen McCloy’s “The Unexpected” (1957), and John D. Odom’s “The Word is Law” (1957)

Preliminary note: I never can pinpoint exactly why I read what I read when I read it as I am a creature of impulse and whim. While browsing lesser known authors, I came across Helen McCloy (1904-1994). She’s best known for her post-apocalyptic novel The Last Day (1959) (as Helen Clarkson)—which you read online as paper copies are incredibly scarce and expensive–and wrote a handful of speculative short stories of which three appear to be science fiction. Mysteries and non-genre fiction made up the majority of her output.

The Last Day led me to McCloy’s “The Unexpected” (1957) and that in turn lead me to the December 1957 issue of Satellite Science Fiction, ed. Cylvia Kleinman. As I recently read the short novel in the issue, Jack Vance’s solid The Languages of Pao (1957), I decided that I might as well read the rest of the stories in the magazine. And I hadn’t read a Budrys short in a bit… And I’d never heard of Basil Wells (1912-2003) or John D. Odom (unknown dates).

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Updates: Recent SF Purchases No. CCXCVI (Harry Harrison, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Bisson, Star Anthology)

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

1. Planet of the Damned, Harry Harrison (serialized 1961)

From the back cover: “Brion Brandd of the Galactic CRF had a problem. It was the planet Dis. Brion’s assignment was to salvage it.

Dis was a harsh, inhospitable, dangerous place and the Disans made it worse. They might have been a human once–but they were something else now.

The Disans had only one desire–kill! Kill everything, themselves, their planet, the universe if they could–

BRION HAD MINUTES TO STOP THEM–IF HE COULD FIND OUT HOW!”

Initial Thoughts: Smells like a variation of Harrison’s Deathworld (1960), which I never managed to review, from a year earlier. Which isn’t a good sign… Planet of the Damned was a finalist for the 1962 Hugo for Best Novel. It lost to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

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Short Book Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s Monitor Found in Orbit (1974) and Ron Goulart’s After Things Fell Apart (1970)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before my memory and will fades. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.


1. Monitor Found in Orbit, Michael G. Coney (1974)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I’ve long enjoyed Michael G. Coney’s science fiction–check out Friends Come in Boxes (1973), Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975), “Those Good Old Days of Liquid Fuel” (1977), and my recent rumination on “The Mind Prison” (1971) (which appears in this collection) for my Generation Ship Short Story Review series. Unfortunately, the majority of the stories in Monitor Found in Orbit (1974), his only published short story collection, are middling at best. I waited far too long to review this one! Despite the presences of some solid to good stories, I can only provide brief summaries at this point without a reread.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCV (Andre Norton, Alfred Bester, Kendell Foster Crossen, Mark Clifton, Frank Riley)

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

1. They’d Rather Be Right, Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (1954)

Inside page blurb: “They’d rather be right!

They tried to smash ‘Bossy’ the super-computer. Joe Carter and his strange friends saved the machine–but that really wasn’t necessary. You can’t smash an idea–and the idea was bound to grow again anyway. But people can hate an idea….

They’d rather be right!

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Book Review: Universe 12, ed. Terry Carr (1982) (Kim Stanley Robinson, Howard Waldrop, Nancy Kress, R. A. Lafferty, et al.)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

My fifth sojourn to Terry Carr’s Universe series of original anthologies (17 volumes published between 1971-1987) embodies the reasons I gravitate towards the medium: I discover new authors, I reassess old opinions, and deepen my understanding of my favorites. Recommended for Nancy Kress’ rumination on a childhood wrecked by insanity; Kim Stanley Robinson’s character piece on Mars transforming; Howard Waldrop’s account of obsession in an apocalyptic past; and Bruce McAllister’s tale of an astronaut returning home and the lies we tell.

Recommended for fans of more introspective early 80s SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“A Pursuit of Miracles” (1982), George Turner, 3/5 (Average): The Australian author and SF critic George Turner (1916-1997) published his first science fiction at 62! It’s never too late to start. A few years ago I read Turner’s first novel Beloved Son (1978) in the Ethical Culture trilogy. While the details have faded from memory as I never got around to writing a review, I remember how fascinated I was by the exploration of a post-Holocaust world by a returning expedition in the first half of the novel. The second half faded and grew increasingly ponderous and I’m not sure I finished….

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Updates: Recent SFF Purchases No. CCXCIV (Theodore Sturgeon, Edgar Pangborn, Patricia A. McKillip, Ludovic Peters)

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

1. Not Without Sorcery, Theodore Sturgeon (1961)

Back cover blurb: “In 1948, Theodore Sturgeon published his first collection of short stories, titled, either from modesty or irony, WITHOUT SORCERY. Mr. Sturgeon’s firm conviction that, in his own world at least, absolutely anything is possible (and therefore whatever happens does so ‘without sorcery’) is an obviously specious argument and certainly no excuse. The fact is that anything which Theodore Sturgeon writes is the result of an extraordinary alchemy–the sorcery of his own talent, a talent that is peculiar to himself, unidentifiable but unmistakable, elusive yet always there. This is sorcery, and there is no point boggling it.

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” (1940)

This is the 14th post in my series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Today I return to the 1940s with a story that feels like the progenitor of so many later visions of the generation ship. Along with Robert A. Heinlein’s “Universe” (1941) and “Common Sense” (1941) (novelized in 1963 as Orphans of the Sky), Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Laster 600 Years” (1940) maps out a commonly followed path for the subgenre.

Previously: Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1974), ed. Edward L. Ferman. You can read it online here.

Next Up: TBD


3.5/5 (Good)

Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” first appeared in the October 1940 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Raymond A. Palmer. You can read it online here.

According to SF Encyclopedia, Don Wilcox (1905-2000) taught creative writing at Northwestern University and started writing pulp science fiction for Ray Palmer’s Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures in July 1939. He remains best known for his pioneering generation ship story “The Voyage that Lasted 600 Years” (1940).

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