Tag Archives: 1950s

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

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

1. Blakely’s Ark, Ian MacMillan (1981)

Tom Hallman’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: THE CEPH… A parasitic virus. Invariably lethal. In two generations, it had reduced the population of America to 10 million people.

New Jersey is populated by roving gangs of children, savage and insane. New York City is a sealed-off Dome.

America is a wasteland. And Dave Blakely just may be the last whole man in the world.”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been in a post-apocalyptic mood for the last year or more. I’ve started (and much to my surprise, enjoyed) my watch through of Survivors (1975-1977). And devoured Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955).

This is Ian MacMillan’s only SF novel. And SF Encyclopedia describes rather than appraises it… As I often Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

Book Review: Doctor to the Stars, Murray Leinster (1964)

John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1964 edition

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

I am fascinated by medical-themed science fiction. While my tendencies gravitate towards  the more meta-fictional/experimental takes of this theme, for example William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) and Elizabeth Baines’ The Birth Machine (1983), I wanted expand my horizons by reading earlier incarnations of the subgenre.

Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars (1964) gathers three stories published in the late 50s and early 60s in the Med Series sequence. As a whole, the stories are positivist, pro-peace, anti-big business, pro-science, and pro-service. Our hero Calhoun, Continue reading Book Review: Doctor to the Stars, Murray Leinster (1964)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLII (James White, Patricia A. McKillip, John Maddox Roberts, and an Original Anthology)

As always which books/covers intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Fool’s Run, Patricia A. McKillip (1987)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1988 edition

From the back cover: “Terra Viridian is a young woman who obeyed a vision, took a laser assault rifle, and turned fifteen hundred innocents into light. She was captured, convicted, and sentences to the orbital prison called the Underworld. Forever.

Seven years later: a bar-band pianists Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLII (James White, Patricia A. McKillip, John Maddox Roberts, and an Original Anthology)

Book Review: The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett (1955)

(Darrell K. Sweet’s cover for the 1974 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“No city, no town, no community of more than one thousand people or two hundred buildings to the square mile shall be built or permitted to exist anywhere in the United States of America” (Thirtieth Amendment of the United States Constitution) (1)

Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955) not only clocks in as the best of her work I’ve read so far but also joins my pantheon of favorite 50s SF visions (*).  At first glance Brackett’s novel appears to traverse standard SF juvenile territory where a teenage boy, in a religiously and socially oppressive society, encounters an object  and memories of the past that opens up a path to self-discovery. But memories are memories. And dreams are Continue reading Book Review: The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett (1955)

Book Review: The Dead Astronaut, ed. uncredited (1971) (J. G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, et al.)

(Pompeo Posar’s cover for the 1st edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

“The dead astronaut: The phrase is filled with anxiety, the words themselves evoking the tension and anguish that gripped the whole world in that fateful month of April 1970, when a technical malfunction came close to costing the lives of astronauts Lovell, Swigert and Haise” (5).

The Dead Astronaut (1971) contains a range of 50s and 60s SF stories—from Ursula K. Le Guin to J. G. Ballard—on the broad theme of astronauts, that appeared in Playboy Magazine. For a  reader of genre for only the last decade (and a bit), it’s shocking to consider that Playboy, at one point, contained top-notch science fiction! That aside, The Dead Astronaut contains a range of soft and hard science fictional accounts of astronauts Continue reading Book Review: The Dead Astronaut, ed. uncredited (1971) (J. G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, et al.)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIX (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Alan Dean Foster, E. Everett Evans, Ron Montana)

(Back cover detail for the 1959 edition of E. Everett Evans’ Man of Many Minds)

1. Looks like a fun adventure from Alan Dean Foster! And who can resist the crashed spaceship visual trope? I compiled three art posts on the topic: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

2. Of the bunch, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hyacinths (1983) appeals the most. I’m a sucker for SF stories about the dream state—i.e. Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master (1966)—and commentaries on media and advertising. And of course, I’m fascinated Philip K. Dick’s dystopian formulations of the future of advertising which Hyacinths seems to expand on…..

I’ve previously reviewed Yarbro’s terrifying post-apocalyptic novel False Dawn (1978)

3. An alternate history where Native Americans defeat the colonizers? Intrigued but suspect it’s on the pulpy side of things. I wish I could find out more about Ron Montana. Was he of Native American descent? His first SF publication, “We the People” (1974), appeared in Craig Strete’s fanzine Red Planet Earth. Here’s his publication listing. Unfortunately, I assume he’s best known for his later copyright conflict with Craig Strete.

4. And finally, this one was hiding in a pile… I can’t remember how long I’ve had it or why I purchased it. Not an author I know and SF encyclopedia isn’t more than lukewarm in its assessment.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

~

1. Icerigger, Alan Dean Foster (1974)

(Tim White’s art for the 1976 UK edition reused for the 1978 US edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIX (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Alan Dean Foster, E. Everett Evans, Ron Montana)

Guest Post: The Last Video Store on Earth

And now for something completely different… While an undergrad at The University of Texas (Austin) (2005-2009), my saved dollars went to Vulcan Video—a purveyor of cult films (science fictional, foreign, unusual). Between Vulcan Video and the university audio visual library, I spent the majority of my free time transported to unusual worlds. I asked a friend, Christopher Giles, who returned to Austin after college to work at the store to write a guest post on the intersection of science fiction cinema/fiction and Vulcan’s last days, a victim (at least partly) of Covid-19.

Enjoy!

And as always, I look forward to your thoughts.

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The Last Video Store on Earth

Christopher Giles

Vulcan Video was an independently owned video rental store located in Austin, Texas. Enjoying a stock of literally thousands of titles, with a focus on classic, foreign, and rare genre oddities, Vulcan stood as a beloved cinematic hub in a town uniquely suited for such a space, one of the few remaining businesses of its kind left standing. Unfortunately, recent years dealt Vulcan with the twin blows of increased rent prices and decreased customer traffic in the age of digital streaming, and the unavoidable realities of COVID-19 forced the store to permanently shut its doors in early April 2020.

Working at a video store, one grows accustomed to seasonal rushes on particular genres: lots of romcom rentals in February; the Horror section picked dry by the end of October; frantic, last-minute requests for It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) the week before Christmas. It’s to be expected, and can often lead to opportunities for customers to discover overlooked gems. When all copies of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) are predictably checked out weeks prior to the titular holiday, a slasher-starved customer might instead leave the store with Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (1971) in hand, none less the richer for the alternative. As video store clerks, we looked forward to these days on the calendar and prepared for them accordingly.

Even the occasional curveball of unexpected news could be met with quick action, like, say, the untimely death of a beloved actor; when Burt Reynolds passed in 2018, the Vulcan Video staff quickly put together a tribute section for the mustachioed icon. This allowed for grieving customers to easily locate and snatch up copies of tried and true favorites like White Lightning (1973) and Continue reading Guest Post: The Last Video Store on Earth

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

1. More post-apocalyptic fictions…. I dunno about exclamation points in titles! More seriously, I’ve yet to read any of Philip Wylie’s novels—this one is at the top of the list.

2. Before I explore an author’s best known fictions, I enjoy nosing about the periphery first. Here’s Mary Gentle’s first collection of short fiction (I’m most interested in the SF stories).

3. I might have read Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988) in my late teens. I know I had a copy that I gave away. I can’t remember anything about it other than the cover–if there’s a cover that screams 80s cyberpunk it’s that one!

I’ve previously reviewed Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977).

A little research reveals the female figure was repurposed (sans the original spaceship background) from an earlier Luis Royo cover—Mike Resnick’s The Dark Lady: A Romance of the Far Future (1988) (cover link).

4. I adored Robert Silverberg’s original anthology New Dimensions 2 (1973) — I’m a bit closer to owning the entire series.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

~

1. Tomorrow!, Philip Wylie (1954)

(Uncredited cover for the 1954 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXL (Melissa Scott, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, Sheila MacLeod, and Albert J. Guerard)

1. I have yet to read anything by Melissa Scott — as is my habit, I start with a lesser known novel (in this case, her first one).

2. SF in translation from Brazil! Looks terrifying.

3. And I’m yet again the owner of another one of the worst SF covers. That said, Sheila MacLeod’s Xanthe and the Robots  (1977) seems to be an intriguing take on androids and the the nature of humanity.

4. A complete unknown author (wrote more mainstream lit than SF) and novel… According to SF encyclopedia, Albert Joseph Guerard’s only SF novel Night Journey (1950) “depicts an idealistic soldier against the background of a useless Near-Future European Future War. The loss of his illusions is rendered with psychological acuity, though the narrative itself is dithery.”

Count me intrigued.

Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

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1. The Game Beyond, Melissa Scott (1984)

(Alan Gutierrez’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXL (Melissa Scott, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, Sheila MacLeod, and Albert J. Guerard)