Preliminary note: This review is a slightly different version of the article I wrote for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction‘s “Curiosities” column in the recent March/April (2021) issue. I received permission from C. C. Finlay to post it on my site after the magazine hit shelves. You can read the article on the publisher website here. An index of earlier installments of the column can be found here. It makes fun browsing if you are interested in the more esoteric reaches of the genre.
Josephine Young Case (1908-1990), the daughter of pioneering industrialist and the first chairman of General Electric Owen D. Young (1874-1962), crafts a novel in blank verse. Released in the ninth year of the twentieth century’s worst economic crisis, this speculative epic poem is a strident call to return to the soil and reaffirm the value of work.
As if hermitically sealed, the town of Saugerville—a distillation of rural Americana newly electrified—remerges in a pre-Beringian wilderness of loneliness and endless trees. Roads evaporate into forests, electricity flickers off. A new cartography intrudes with its center on the clustered houses, two steeples, and roughhewn fields. Tracing an ensemble cast over one year, Case unearths a traumatic tapestry of severed horizons and grim survival.
As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. The Heads of Cerberus, Francis Stevens (1919)
Uncredited cover for the 1984 edition
From the back cover: “Francis Stevens’ fast-paced, imaginative novel is probably the first science-fiction work to deal with the concept of parallel worlds. Five young friends inhale the dust of Purgatory, pass through the Gateway of the Moon and enter the marvelous Alternate Earth where time flows at a far faster pace than her own. To their horror and amazement, by stepping over the bank of the unknown, they have left their world of Philadelphia in 1917 and have entered into a mystifying and dangerous “Philadelphia” of 2118. How they attempt to escape from the oblivion that threatens to swallow them is an unforgettable journey into the fantastic.”
Initial Thoughts: Pre-WWII SF and I don’t mix. I’ve tried. I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), C. S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy (1938-1945), David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), and plenty of others…. That said, the historian in me itches to have Continue reading →
1. Mick Farren, of the “protopunk” and rock band The Deviants fame, wrote SF: drug-addled SF about the cult of musicians in a post-apocalyptical England. At least it’ll be a crazy romp! And probably not very good….
2. I’ve been slowly posting all the New Dimensions anthologies edited by Robert Silverberg that I purchased a few months ago. Inspired by my enjoyment of New Dimensions 3(1973).
3. A gift from a family friend… Definitely not a book I’d look for but, who knows, sometimes I get a hankering for pre-WW II science fiction of the pulp sort.
It comes with a solid Paul Lehr cover.
4. Huge fan of Geo. Alec Effinger (that should go without saying if you following this site). I want ALL his short story collections.
I’ve reviewed the following Effinger novels/collections:
1. More Strugatsky? Of course. One can never have enough.
2. Anthony Burgess’ overpopulation novel… color me intrigued. Huge fan of overpopulation SF — > I’ve compiled a list here. And as diligent readers of my site might know, John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968) is my favorite SF novel.
3. I recently read Dino Buzzati’s SF novel Larger than Life(1960) and decided to pick up his graphic novel… An enjoyable visual and textual experience. Not sure I’ll write a review but worth picking up!
4. I’d heard of Macedonio Fernández (1874 – 1952) only due to his relationship with Borges…. The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) (1967) is a fascinating experience (and experiment). Need a while to collect my thoughts….
1. Hard To Be a God, Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (1964)
(Cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis)
Art Sussman produced a remarkable corpus of SF and other pulp covers (mysteries, crime, etc). He could easily shift gears between Richard Powers-esque surrealism—although distinctly his own take—to covers that suited an Agatha Christie mystery (browse the range here). I would be wary comparing him to Powers until you skim through the latter’s late 50s early 60s art (definitely an enjoyable activity!). Although Powers is still far superior, both were part of the SF art movement increasingly experimented with surreal/metaphoric and experimental art (there are still spaceships lurking around the edges, and futuristic cities, and other pulpy moments).
There is a precision of vision with Sussman’s art—his cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis places the astronauts in an outline of a vessel with strange hints at alien planets and experiences scattered gem-like in the distance. Sussman’s focus on the human form — often surrounded by surreal forms and humanlike membranes — showcases agony and despair. A great example (and my favorite of the bunch) pairs jagged black fields with a bloodied man, the 1960 Continue reading →
On twitter [my account here — please follow! I post interesting things!] I posed the following question:
Which SF author—for the purposes of this site’s focus, an author starting pre-1980—deserves a new (or reprint) single author collection?
GUIDELINES (please read): Said author cannot have a single author collection published within the last 10 years (you can fudge this a bit). It also should be noted that many eBooks aren’t available in the United States (SF Gateway for example). If the recent eBook edition isn’t available in the US, I guess the author fits the bill (*cough* — John Sladek).
Note: If you are thinking about doing some checking before you make your choice (see guidelines) I recommend using isfdb.org as it has mostly up to date publication histories for all but self-published authors.
My vote: Miriam Allen deFord (active from — SF Encyclopedia LINK
Published collections: Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971)
Reason: Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975) was one of the major voices in SF magazines from 1946 – 1978. She never made the transition to novels and thus might have lost some readership as a result. The stories in Xenogenesis (1969) shows an often radical voice right from her first story in 1946. Although they might not be as polished as some of her more Continue reading →
(Richard Weaver’s cover for the 1972 edition of Dreadful Sanctuary (1948), Eric Frank Russell)
THE SKULL. The bones of the dead, the empty sockets gazing at us, a deathly gaze…. I have collected for your [horror filled] enjoyment a vast variety of SF skulls: the moon mutated into a skull, the half-skinned skull as part of mysterious contraptions, photographs of real human skulls interspersed with statuary and wigs, bizarre pink skulls pulsating with green radiation-esque Continue reading →
The rest are fun but not high on my list of must reads. I’ve never been a fan of A. E. Van Vogt (could not tolerate the inarticulate labyrinth of a novel The World of Null-A) but the Powers cover on The War Against the Rull (1959) was fun.
I’ve heard good things about Edgar Pangborn, although people seldom discuss West of Eden (1953), perhaps with good reason.
Fletcher Pratt’s Invaders from Rigel (1932) is one of those AMAZING covers but incredibly dubious reads. Even the back cover is rather non-sensical.
1. Transfigurations, Michael Bishop (1979) (MY REVIEW)