Future Media Short Story Review: Lino Aldani’s “Good Night, Sophie” (1963, trans. 1973)

In the history of my website, I’ve reviewed and adored countless fictions that tackled future formations of the media landscape. Spurned in part by the explosion of television ownership in the 50s, pop art’s obsession with filmic iconography, and popular studies on advertising, science fiction compulsively explored futuristic formulations of media performance and manipulation, exploitation and paranoia (SF Encyclopedia). I’ve decided to put together a review series of short fiction that will continue my exploration of the theme.

It is devilishly difficult to organize all that I’ve reviewed so far but here are a few of the highlights that suggest different routes I might traverse. As I do not plan on rereading stories I’ve covered in the past, feel free to track down some of the gems below.

Christopher Priest’s “The Head and the Hand” (1972), John Brunner’s “Nobody Axed You” (1965), Robert Sheckley’s “The Prize of Peril” (1958), D. G. Compton’s The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973), and Robert Silverberg’s “The Pain Peddlers” (1963) explore the intersection of media and the spectacle of suffering. Pain recorded. Deaths televised. Media as death blow.

Kate Wilhelm’s “Baby, You Were Great” (1967), Carol Emshwiller’s “This Thing Called Love” (1955), and James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” (1973) scrutinize the emotional bifurcation between the audience and their love of the starlet or influencer as presented and constructed. And the ways in which the audience controls the construction…. and by extension the performer.

Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s “Well of the Deep Wish” (1961), Keith Roberts’ “Sub-Lim” (1965), and Kit Reed’s “At Central” (1967) speculate on the methods media can be used as social control. Of course, in the both the Biggle and Reed, the real world outside has utterly transformed since the audience has slipped into new worlds.

And, of course, I have to include Barry N. Malzberg’s extensive oeuvre–such as Revelations (1972) and Screen (1968). His work often demonstrates the pernicious addiction and desperation audiences and participants project into the media landscape hoping for truth and real experience. The media landscape is yet another mechanized artifice pandering to our obsession with dark spectacle.

I hope you enjoy this series. Feel free to join in (I include a link to the first story below)!

And we have a doozy to start with!


4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

Lino Aldani’s short story “Good Night, Sophie” first appeared under the pseudonym N. L. Janda in Futuro, no. 1 (March/April 1963). Futuro, edited by Aldani along with Giulio Raiola and Massimo Lo Jacono, was the first entirely Italian science fiction magazine (it contained some translations of Polish SF) (contents). I read it in Franz Rottensteiner’s anthology of European science fiction in translation View from Another Shore (1973). You can read it online here.

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Book Review: The Siege of Harlem, Warren Miller (1964)

2/5 (Bad)

Over the last year, I acquired three near-future SF novels exploring issues of race conflict in New York City written by authors of different racial backgrounds (White, African American, and Chicano): Warren Miller’s The Siege of Harlem (1964); John A. Williams’ Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light: A Novel of Some Probability (1969); and Enrique Hank Lopez’s Afro-6 (1969). I’ve decided to review them in chronological order.

Warren Miller (1921-1966), best known for The Cool World (1959) and Looking for The General (1964), wrote fiction that often dealt with issues of race. The Cool World attempted to “capture the argot of the streets of Harlem in the late 50s” and give a sympathetic look at the realities of black urban life. Considering his output, I was excited to track down a copy of The Siege of Harlem (1964), his final novel before his premature death.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

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

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Updates: My 2021 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

2021 was the best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers! I suspect this increasingly has to do with my twitter account where I actively promote my site vs. a growing interest in vintage SF. I also hit my 1000th post–on Melisa Michaels’ first three published SF short stories–in December.

As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!

I read very few novels this year. Instead, I devoted my attention to various science short story reviews series and anthologies. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2021 (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. I look forward to reading your comments.


My Top 7 Science Fiction Novels of 2021 (click titles for my review)

1. Where Time Winds Blow (1981), Robert Holdstock, 5/5 (Masterpiece): Holdstock’s vision is a well-wrought cavalcade of my favorite SF themes–the shifting sands of time, the pernicious maw of trauma that threatens to bite down, unreliable narrators trying to trek their own paths, a profoundly alien planet that compels humanity to construct an entirely distinct society… It’s a slow novel that initially masquerades as something entirely different. Just like the planet itself.

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Book Review: To Die in Italbar, Roger Zelazny (1973)

3/5 (Average)

Roger Zelazny described To Die in Italbar (1973) as the one novel he would “kill off” if he could! Here’s a bit of context for his condemnatory statement. In early 1969, Zelazny quit his U.S. Social Security Administration job to become a full-time writer. Yes, he wrote Lord of Light (1967) and This Immortal (1966) among many others after work! He quickly wrote To Die in Italbar in May 1969 to complete a contract but the novel was rejected by the press. Years later Zelazny added new material and finally published the novel in 1973 (citation). Haste and filler characterize the final product. That said, if action-packed SF adventure with bizarre ideas is something you are looking for and you already enjoy Zelazny, pick this one up.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXV (Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Lester Del Rey, Peter George, and Adrien Stoutenburg)

1. Nerves, Lester Del Rey (1956)

From the back cover: “THIS IS NO STORY OF SPACE SHIPS AND MARTIANS. THIS IS A STORY ABOUT OUR WORLD RIGHT NOW.

‘In 1942, three years before the general public had ever heard of nuclear fission. Lester del Rey wrote a brilliantly detailed novella of disaster in an atomics plant, which now appears, skillfully expanded to book length, as NERVES. A wholly admirable blend of prophetic thinking (in medicine as well as atomics), warm human values and powerful narrative suspense, this novel is strongly recommended…’ –N.Y. Herald Tribune.”

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Updates: Recent Purchases No. CCLXXXIV (Ray Bradbury, H. R. F. Keating, Judith Moffett, New Dimensions anthology)

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

1. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (1950)

From the back cover: “A MAGNIFICANCTLY ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES WHICH MASTERFULLY ENHANCES THE CLASSIC WONDER AND TERROR BY THE WORLD-RENOWNED AUTHOR OF THE ILLUSTRATED MAN RAY BRADBURY.

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The Introduction to Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985, ed. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (2021)

I’ve recently conducted a binge read of my ARC of Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985, ed. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (2021). It is a must buy for any SF fan of the era interested in exploring the larger world behind the texts. Considering the focus of my website and most of my reading adventures over the last decade, I can unabashedly proclaim myself a fan of the New Wave SF movement–and this edited volume is the perfect compliment to my collection and interests.

The editors and PM Press have graciously provided me with the introduction to the volume. Perhaps it’ll convince you to purchase your own copy!

Relevant links: Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and the publisher website.


Dangerous Visions and New Worlds

An Introduction

The “long sixties,” an era which began in the late 1950s and extended into the 1970s, has become shorthand for a period of trenchant social change, most explicitly demonstrated through a host of liberatory and resistance movements focused on class, racial, gender, sexual, and other inequalities. These were as much about cultural expression and social recognition as economic redistribution and formal politics. While the degree to which often youthful insurgents achieved their goals varied greatly, the global challenge they presented was a major shock to the status quo.

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Book Review: Casey Agonistes and Other Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Richard McKenna (1973)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Richard McKenna (1913-1964) spent the majority of his adult career (1931-1953) “not very happily” in the US Navy. He was forced to leave college and join the service due to his lack of opportunities in rural Idaho during the Great Depression. Many of his science fiction stories explore the homosocial world of the military–the comradery through shared trauma and battle, the corrosive effect on those who struggle to fit in, and the destructive culture of machoism. After his military service, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina in English. Only a handful of SF short stories appeared during his lifetime, the majority were published posthumously. McKenna considered SF to be his “training ground” before a planned career in mainstream literature. Right before his early death in 1964, he hit it big with the non-SF novel The Sand Pebbles (1962), which was turned into a famous 1966 movie by the same name.

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