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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Future Media Short Story Reviews: Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (1949) and “A Bad Day for Sales” (1953)

The fifth and sixth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Fritz Leiber imagines a sinister conjuration of the Girl behind the advertisement and a robot who wanders a post-nuclear landscape selling soda to the charred victims.

Previously: Brian W. Aldiss’ “Panel Game” in New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell (December 1955). You can read it online here.

Next Up: Tomorrow’s TV, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles Waugh (1982). Stories by Isaac Asimov, Jack C. Haldeman II, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Ray Nelson. Links to each short story can be found in the review.

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (1949) first appeared in The Girl with the Hungry Eyes, and Other Stories (1949). I read it in his collection The Secret Songs (1968). You can read it online here.

“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” explores the post-WWII economic boom as television and rapidly growing suburbs expanded the reach and power of advertising. Cold War rhetoric promoted consumerism as a key component of the American Way of Life (source).

A tale of erotic obsession and terror, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” imagines a fantastical conjuration of the archetypal advertising Girl selling every conceivable product. Her face appears on billboards across the urban expanse. Her torso or limb holds the object to be marveled at. And her eyes, “the hungriest eyes in the world” (131), tear into the soul and take something away with their gaze. Fritz Leiber’s terrified narrator, the “poor damned photographer” (129) who unleashed her on the world and fell for her spell, confesses “there are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood” (128).

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Short Story Review: Theodore Sturgeon’s “Memorial” (1946)

I recently finished David Dowling’s Fictions of Nuclear Disaster (1987) and thought I’d review a handful of the short stories discussed in the monograph. The first on my list is Theodore Sturgeon’s haunting “Memorial” which first appeared in the April 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.


“Memorial” (1946), Theodore Sturgeon, 4/5 (Good): Grenfell has a plan to create a war memorial to end all memorials—The Pit. It will writhe with lava. It will shine forth with a ghastly glow. Created by nuclear explosion a thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb (161). Like some grotesque manifestation of the Darvaza gas crater, it will be a “living reminder of the devastation mankind has prepared for itself” (161). And the message will be the most “useful thing in the history of the race—a never-ending sermon, a warning, an example of the dreadful” possibilities of nuclear war (161).

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Otto Binder’s “Son of the Stars” (1940)

This is the 8th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. As this series has a real chance to cover every pre-1985 generation ship short story available in English, I’ve bitten the bullet and stepped back to the pre-WWII SF landscape to track down a generation ship story by Otto Binder. I tend to be far more interested in post-WWII US and European SF history and have geared most of my site towards those decades.

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” in the July 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Next Up: Leigh Brackett’s “The Ark of Mars” in Planet Stories (September 1953), ed. Jack O’Sullivan. You can read it online here.

Otto Binder’s “Son of the Stars” first appeared in the February 1940 issue of  Famous Fantastic Mysteries, ed. Mary Gnaedinger. 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average). You can read the story online here. As always, I will have spoilers.

First, a note about authorship and pseudonyms: According to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Otto Binder is the sole author of “Son of the Stars.” “Eando Binder” was a joint pseudonym used by American brothers Earl Andrew Binder (1904-1966) and Otto Oscar Binder (1911-1975). After 1934, the elder brother Earl stopped writing SF and Otto continued to sign his work under the shared name. For more on their SF, check out their SF Encyclopedia entry.

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Short Story Review: Kris Neville’s “Cold War” (1949)

The following review is the 7th post in my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay! I relish the act of literary archaeology.

Thank you Antyphayes, “Friend of the Site,” for bringing this story to my attention!

Today: Kris Neville’s “Cold War” (1949) in the October 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Previously: Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959) in the July 1959 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read the story online here.

Up next: Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” in Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974) [You can borrow this anthology online in one-hour increments]

“Cold War” (1949), 3.5/5 (Good). You can read it online here. I read it in First Step Outward, ed. Robert Hoskins (1969). Now let’s dive into the psychological hellscape that is militarized SPACE!

“The Government needs YOU!

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Book Review: Survival Ship and Other Stories, Judith Merril (1974)

Derek Carter’s cover for the 1st edition

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

Ever since I read Judith Merril’s “Daughters of Earth” (1952), I’ve been fascinated by her subversive takes 1950s-60s gender roles and classic SF tropes. Survival Ship and Other Stories (1974) contains twelve short stories and a never-before-published poem selected by the author.

In addition to the merits of the tales within, I found Merril’s brief reflections on her early work fascinating. For example, she ruminates on the failure of her planned novel based on the generation ship launched by The Matriarchy in “Survival Ship” (1951), “Wish Upon a Star” (1958), and “The Lonely” (1963). She also describes a magazine “cover story” commission. The author would be provided with the cover art and asked to write a story containing its elements! The following three in this Continue reading

Generation Ship Short Story Review: A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947)

Preliminary note: This is the sixth post in a series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. All of the stories I’ll review are available online (see links below). You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already.

Previously: J. G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centaurus” (1962) in the April 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith

Next up: Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” in the July 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme with links to all my reviews.

(Charles Schneeman’s cover for the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr.)

4/5 (Good)

A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947)* (story link) first appeared in the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Together with two later stories—“Rogue Ship” Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIX (de Camp + Farren + Effinger + Silverberg Anthology)

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:

As always, I look forward to your comments/tangents!

Note: Scans are of my personal copies. Click to enlarge.

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1. The Texts of Festival, Mick Farren (1973)

(Peter Jones’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading