Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXV (John Brunner, Connie Willis, Cynthia Felice, Philip Wylie, and a themed anthology)

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

1. The Shockwave Rider, John Brunner (1975)

From the back cover: “Future shock!

In the obsessively technological, paranoidally secretive and brutally competitive society depicted by John Brunner, even personal identities are under threat. But one man has made it his mission to liberate the mental prisoners, to restore their freedom in a world run mad.

Nickie Haflinger, the only person to escape from Tarnover–where they raise hyper-intelligent children to maintain the political dominance of the USA in the 21st century–is on the run, dodging from loophole to crevise to crack in the computerised datanet that binds the continent like chains. After years of flight and constant changes of identity, at the strange small town called Precipice he discovers he is not alone in his quest. But can his new allies save him when he falls again into the sinister grasp of Tarnover…?”

Initial Thoughts: I read John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider (1972) before I started my site–along with his other masterpieces Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Sheep Look Up (1972), The Jagged Orbit (1969), The Whole Man (196), etc. Of his best known novels, I remember the least about The Shockwave Rider. However, I cannot find my copy for a rare reread! For all I know I gave it to a friend or lost it in a move. I sought out this UK edition due to the intriguing urban arcology background of the cover.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXIV (Harlan Ellison, Gillian Freeman, Mick Farren, Fritz Leiber)

A new year and new books!

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

1. From the Land of Fear, Harlan Ellison (1967)

From the back cover: “SCIENCE FICTION STORIES by Award Winning Author

WHERE DID HARLAN ELLISON COME FROM?

At 13 he ran away from home in Ohio and joined a carnival. At 15 he was driving a dynamite truck in North Carolina. At 19 he was thrown out of college and at 21 had sold his first novel. Today he is 33 and is considered one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood. Fairly ordinary background? True.

But somewhere along the way, Harlan Ellison made a strange detour. He vanished into a country of the mind where time and space ceased to exist, where strange ideas and wild adventures were commonplace. He came back from that dark world, carrying away with him its richest treasures: stories unlike any ever told before. In this unusual book you will sample these “stray dreams.”

FROM THE LAND OF FEAR!”

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Updates: My 2022 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

2022 was the single best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers!

As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Whether you are a lurker, occasional visitor, or a regular commenter, thank you for your continued support.

Continuing a trend from 2021, I read only a handful of novels this year. Instead, I devoted my obsessive attention to various science short story review initiatives (listed below), anthologies, and histories of the science fiction genre. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2022 with bonus categories. Descriptions are derived from my linked reviews.

Check out last year’s rundown if you haven’t already for more spectacular reads. I have archived all my annual rundowns on my article index page if you wanted to peruse earlier years.


My Top 5 Science Fiction Novels of 2022 (click titles for my full review)

1. Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (1978), 4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece): Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Snake journeys across the post-apocalyptic wastes of a future Earth with three serpents healing the sick and caring for the dying. She is a member of the healers, who adopt orphans and rescue the oppressed and train them how to use the serpents. Mist and Sand are genetically modified vipers of terrestrial origin. But Grass comes from another alien world. Snake uses Mist and Sand’s venom to create vaccines, treat diseases, and cure tumors. Grass, the rare dreamsnake, with its alien DNA is the most important of them all–it provides therapeutic pleasure and dreams that facilitate conquering one’s fear and healing in the ill. In Snake’s voyages, she encounters prejudice and violence. A joyous sense of sexual freedom permeates the proceedings. A powerful and different take on a post-apocalyptic worldscape in every possible way.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCCXIII (John Wyndham, Keith Roberts, Fredric Brown, Naomi Mitchison)

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

1. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (1951)

From the back cover: “WHAT WERE THEY–

THESE HIDEOUS TRIFFIDS ROAMING THE RUINS OF THE EARTH?

Until a few short hours ago–before the sky exploded into a shower of flaming green hell–triffids had been regarded as merely a curious and profitable form of plant life. Now these shadowy vegetable creatures became crawling, killing nightmare of pain and horror.

Madness hung in the air, fear lurked in every side street, death hovered in every doorway. Stripped of civilized veneer by terror and desperation, the handful of surviving humans began to turn on each other.

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Short Fiction Reviews: Norman Spinrad’s “The Weed of Time” (1970) and William Morrison’s “The Addicts” (1952)

Today I’ve decided to do something a bit different. Over the past year or so I’ve been compiling short stories on various themes and I put three of the themes to vote on the hellscape that is Twitter (I’m @SFRuminations). And science fictional drugs won out!

If this topic is interesting, let me know. My notebook contains a substantial list of stories I haven’t yet read on the topic. If you know of other short stories from the decades of my interest (1945-1985), leave a note in the comments.


4/5 (Good)

Norman Spinrad’s “The Weed of Time” first appeared in Alchemy and Academe, ed. Anne McCaffrey (1970). You can read it online here. I read it in his collection No Direction Home (1975) above with its striking Charles Moll cover.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m relentlessly drawn to New Wave movement because there was a serious and conscience attempt to tell stories in artful ways replete with “literary” prose, radical structure/politics, non-standard SF characters/perspectives. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But it’s all fascinating. This one works.

Now let’s enter the landscape of a transformed mind… At birth, the nameless narrator emerges “an infant-child-youth-man-ancient, in a government cell in a mental hospital dying in clean white sheets” (1979). He sees immediately the “gestalt painting of [his] lifespan, a pattern of immutable events painted on the stationary and external canvas of time….” (78). He experiences all the actions of his life simultaneously (79). No knowledge can effect any “action performed in any particular time-locus” (79). He babbles incessantly about the effects of consuming tempis ceti, an alien plant accidentally released on earth before the astronauts had even returned from their journeys. Of course, all prophesized occurs… and all businesses want to exploit prophesy even if the oracle already knows the irrelevancy of it all.

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Exploration Log 2: Al Thomas’ “Sex in Space: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” (1976)

Today I have the second post in my new Exploration Log series. Some posts will be a brief survey of the various SF-related non-fiction I’ve read. Other posts, I hope, will be a jumping off point for my own research. In this instance, I’ll share the elements of an article that resonated with me.

Check out my previous post on publishing Ursula K. Le Guin behind the Iron Curtain here.


Al Thomas’ “Sex In Space: a Brief Survey: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” first appeared in Gay Peoples Union News, Vol. 5, N. 12 (September 1976). You can read it online here.

In 1971, inspired in part by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that brought national attention to the gay liberation movement and Wisconsin’s earlier and lesser known LGBTQ riots, the Gay Peoples Union (GPU) was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as “a social service agency dedicated to the needs of the gay community” and “concurrently dedicated to educating the community at large about gays and lesbians” (source). An offshoot of the Gay Liberation Organization at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, the GPU was the “‘first’ at many things” including community center, gay health clinic, and published a monthly periodical called GPU News (source). The publication soon gained national recognition for its broad coverage of topics to the gay and lesbian community. GPU News produced the “first regularly scheduled, scripted gay and lesbian [radio] program in the nation” between 1971-1972 and collaborated on multiple programs with the mainstream Milwaukee news sources. For recordings and other pieces of ephemera check out the University of Wisconsin-Madison digital collection. For a brief oral history of attending a GPU meeting, check out this fascinating interview with Don Schwamb and other early members.

The article I’ll cover today–Al Thomas’ “Sex In Space: A Brief Survey of Gay Themes in Science Fiction” (September 1976)–appeared in the publication’s heyday in the 70s before it folded due in the early 80s due to lack of volunteers (source).

Al Thomas, about whom I’ve been able to find nothing about, surveys the state of science fiction on gay (and occasionally lesbian) themes up to 1975. While the article itself is riddled with errors that impact the conclusions he reaches, “Sex In Space” is a fascinating look at how science fiction was viewed by the gay liberation movement of the day. I’ve provided each work with gay and lesbian themes covered in the article below.

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Exploration Log 1: Sonja Fritzsche’s “Publishing Ursula K. Le Guin in East Germany” (2006)

I devour a massive quantity of scholarship on science fiction (authors, culture, fandom, etc.) and history topics that intersect with my SF interests. Some weeks I spend more time reading historical fanzine debates and magazine articles than fiction. I thought that I would share some of what I’ve found most transfixing with you all! In the past I’ve tweeted the most intriguing bits I’ve come across (Michael Moorcock burning John Brunner novels for example) but with the impending implosion of the platform I thought it best to post more on my site which is on track for a banner year.

Thus, I inaugurate the first in what I hope are many future Exploration Logs! Some posts will be a brief survey of the various SF-related non-fiction I’ve read. Other posts, I hope, will be a jumping off point for my own research. In this instance, I’ll share the elements of an article that resonated with me.

Today I’ll cover an absolutely transfixing piece by Sonja Fritzsche on how two Ursula K. Le Guin novels went through an “elaborate approval process” before appearing print in Communist East Germany (GDR). Read more to learn more about the Stanislaw Lem Club’s stash of illegal western SF and how The Dispossessed‘s Shevek was incorporated in the East German national myth!


Sonja Fritzsche’s article “Publishing Ursula K. Le Guin in East Germany” appeared in Extrapolation, vol. 47, Iss. 3 (Winter 2006). As I could not find a copy online, I requested it through my university’s Interlibrary Loan system. If you’re desperate to get your hands on a copy, reach out!

“Publishing Ursula K. Le Guin in East Germany” reveals three fascinating intersecting threads–1) the mechanisms of the censorship program according to the “official literary policy of Socialist Realism,” 2) status of genre within the GDR and 3) how Le Guin’s complex takes were interpreted and rationalized in order to see print for the growing number of East German SF fans in the 70s and 80s.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXI (Phyllis Gotlieb, John D. MacDonald, Robert Onopa, and Peter George)

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

1. Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)

From the back cover: “In the hideous aftermath of the atomic sunburst. The people of Sorrel Park had been written off. Now they were nothing but a kind of human garbage, festering and hopeless.

In the center of town lived the worst of the human garbage–and by far the most dangerous. They were a breed of terrible children, possessed by terrifying supernormal powers. They were a new race of monster bred out of the sunburst, and if they ever broke loose they would destroy the world…”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCX (R. A. Lafferty, Jan Morris, Star anthology, and an August Derleth anthology)

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

1. Strange Ports of Call, ed. August Derleth (1948)

From the back cover: “‘Begotten of Imagination, on the body of Technology, there springs forth the wild child Science Fiction.’ –Clifton Fadiman

The above is one of the many attempts that have been made to describe a department of fiction which, in spite of some sniping critics, continues to increase its followers. Recently Bertrand Russell observed that science fiction consists of ‘intelligent anticipation–much more intelligent than the expectations of statesmen.’

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