Tag Archives: 1950s

Updates: My 2020 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

I’m not sure what I can add about the general sentiment of 2020. It was awful in every way. Here’s to a better 2021.

Reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—was a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!

I also have one (hopefully more) review coming out in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (the Curiosities column) in the spring. I’ve not included my reviews of those esoteric SF novels in this particular post.

Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2020 (with bonus categories). Tempted to track any of them down?

And feel free to list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.


My Top 10 Science Fiction Novels (click titles for my review)

Tim White’s cover for the 1983 edition

1. Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979), 5/5 (Masterpiece): Tanith Lee spins a gauzy, sinister, and terrifying tale of manipulative resurrection. A brilliant inventor projects the mind of a grotesque social outcast into a new transcendent Continue reading Updates: My 2020 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

Short Story Review: Edmond Hamilton’s “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952)

This is the second post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.

Today: Edmond Hamilton’s “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952), 5/5 (Masterpiece). First appeared in the December 1952 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Hines. You can read the story online here.

Thank you “Friend of the Site” Jennifer Jodell for alerting me to the existence of this gem, our discussion, and for providing a summary  of  Damon Knight’s 1962 introduction.

Previously: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s  “Death of a Spaceman” (variant title: “Memento Homo”) (1954)

Up next (maybe): Barry N. Malzberg’s “Two Odysseys into the Center” (1972) in Nova 2, ed. Harry Harrison.

Walter Popp’s cover for the December 1952 issue

In the December 1952 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Samuel Hines (the editor) presents “What’s It Like Out There?” as the culmination of Edmond Hamilton’s Phoenix-like evolution from a “primitive period” of writing extravagant pulps to Continue reading Short Story Review: Edmond Hamilton’s “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952)

Short Story Review: Mari Wolf’s “The Statue” (1953)

Anton Kurka’s cover for the January 1953 issue

I thought Mari Wolf’s “The Statue” (1953), a rumination on mortality, might find a home in my series on SF stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. However, due to its overall positivism–despite the blue-collar grit and focus on death–it didn’t fit. I would like to thank “Friend of the Site” Mark Louis Baumgart (see comments) for pointing me towards a new author!


Mari Wolf (1927-), best known for her contributions to fandom including the Fandora’s Box column (1951-1956) in Imagination, published seven short stories between 1952 and 1954, six of which appeared in If. Unfortunately, after her divorce in 1955 from fellow SF author Rog Phillips (1909-1966), she stopped publishing SF. Here is a brief bibliographic blurb on her life, career, and SF endeavors. Ted White Continue reading Short Story Review: Mari Wolf’s “The Statue” (1953)

Short Story Review: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Death of a Spaceman” (variant title: “Memento Homo”) (1954)

This is the first post in a loose series on SF short stories I’ll be reviewing that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.

If you know any stories that might fall into this category published before 1980, let me know in the comments! I have compiled an extensive list (from Barry N. Malzberg to John Sladek) but my encyclopedic tendencies are mere delusions of completeness…

Today: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Death of a Spaceman” (variant title: “Memento Homo”) (1954), 5/5 (Masterpiece): First appeared in the March 1954 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Howard Browne. You can read the story online here.

Up next: Edmond Hamilton’s “What It Like Out There?” (1952) in the December 1952 issue Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Hines


Amazing Stories, March 1954
Clarence Doore’s cover for the March 1954 issue

Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1923-1996), best known for his Hugo-winning fix-up novel A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959), wrote a fascinating range of short fictions between 1951-1957. I’ve previously reviewed a handful in The View From the Stars (1965). However, “Death of a Spaceman” (1954), a complex exploration of death and the delusions we tell ourselves and ones we love, might be the best of his I’ve Continue reading Short Story Review: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Death of a Spaceman” (variant title: “Memento Homo”) (1954)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (Elizabeth A. Lynn, Romanian SF Anthology, Eastern European SF Anthology, and Barry N. Malzberg)

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

1. Other Worlds, Other Seas, ed. Darko Suvin (1970)

Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1972 edition

From the back cover: “Darko Suvin was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1930. An internationally known critic of literature and theater, he is the author of seven books of criticism including POSSIBLE WORLDS—An outline of Science-Fiction and Utopias.

Stanislaw Lem of Poland, author of SOLARIS, is only the most famous of a burgeoning group of Eastern European writers. His contribution to OTHER WORLDS, OTHER SEAS—four brilliant stories—is a treat to his hundreds of thousands of American admirers. But a whole body of first rate s-f is now being produced in the socialist countries by equally gifted writers such as Josef Nesvadba, Anatoliy Dneprov, and Anton Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (Elizabeth A. Lynn, Romanian SF Anthology, Eastern European SF Anthology, and Barry N. Malzberg)

Book Review: S.O.S. From Three Worlds, Murray Leinster (1967)

Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1st edition

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

In times of stress, positivist stories about spacemen devoted to selfless service solving medical crises with their friendly tormals (think furry mobile petri dishes) bring a bit of warmth to my bitter heart. While a medical mystery to be solved with logic and resolve forms the core of each story, Murray Leinster hints at the future history of this decentralized spacescape–a product of chaotic often business-driven expansion.  As limited contact exists between distant colonies, The Interstellar Continue reading Book Review: S.O.S. From Three Worlds, Murray Leinster (1967)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXI (Algis Budrys, Gwyneth Jones, Russell M. Griffin, Dino Buzzati)

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

1. Some Will Not Die, Algis Budrys (1961, rev. 1978)

Frank Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1978 edition

My 1978 revised edition contains no inside flap or back cover blurb. Instead, here’s the brief description of the novel and its complex publication history from SF Encyclopedia: “Budrys’ first novel has a complex history. As False Night (March 1954 Galaxy as “Ironclad”; much exp. 1954) it was published in a form abridged from the manuscript version; this manuscript served as the basis for a reinstated text which, with additional new material, was published as Some Will Not Die (1961; rev 1978). In both versions a Post-Holocaust story is set in a plague-decimated Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXI (Algis Budrys, Gwyneth Jones, Russell M. Griffin, Dino Buzzati)

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)