Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXX (Michael Moorcock, Dean Ing, Vonda N. McIntyre, John Hersey)

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

1. Pulling Through, Dean Ing (1983)

From the back cover: “DOOMSDAY. ARE YOU READY?

HARE RACKHAM, bounty hunter, race-car driver. His best friend is a hunting cheetah. Harve has turned his California home into a survival shelter. He intends to pull through.

SHAR MCKAY, Harve’s little sister. Shar’s latest fad is nuclear survival. She intends for her husband and kids to all pull through.

ERNEST MCKAY, engineer. He has the knowledge and skills to save his family. With his help they’ll all pull through.

KATE GALLOW, runaway, forger, a tough street survival. She’s trouble–but when real troubles come down, Kate will always pull through.

Dean Ing has thought a lot about survival, and he wants as many of you as possible to pull through inevitable disaster of nuclear war. That’s why he’s written this more-than-a-novel. Dean Ing lays all the cards on the table in this one. The story tells why. The articles and blue-prints tell how. PULLING THROUGH won’t save your hide all by itself, but it sure will give you a head start on pulling through by yourself.”

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Book Review: Fireflood and Other Stories, Vonda N. McIntyre (1979)

4.25/5 (Collated Rating: Very Good)

After Vonda N. McIntyre’s passing in 2019, I made a promise to finally tackle her spectacular array of 70s fictions, including her Hugo and Nebula-winning Dreamsnake (1978). Her stories appeal to so many of my sensibilities. Her perceptive eye resides in interior spaces, the moody psychological landscapes of society’s pariahs and traumatized. Her work reflects the best of the New Wave. The prose rarely flashes with excessive experimental exuberance but relies on the poetic moment hinting at internal sadness, decay, and the inability to truly escape.

Despite her often depressed narrators, the stories are not all without hope. In “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” (1973), horrific misunderstanding reinforces a healer’s calling. In “Wings” (1973) and “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” (1974), the transformed find meaning in interpersonal connection as the unknown spins closer.

There’s a running theme in the collection of technology prematurely and cruelly unleashed. In “Spectra” (1972), a girl is enslaved to a machine that causes others pleasure. In “Aztecs” (1977), the choice–the physical reworking of the body–to become a Pilot servers all possibilities of love. And in “The Genius Freaks” (1973), the mental workings of genetically modified are harvested by cruel overlords unable to confront the lives they have ruined.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXIX (Kim Stanley Robinson, Pamela Sargent, Greg Bear, and René Barjavel)

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

1. The Wild Shore, Kim Stanley Robinson (1984)

From the back cover: “Seventeen-year-old Henry wanted to help make America great again, like it had been sixty years ago, before all the bombs went off. But for the people of Onofre Valley, just surviving was challenge enough. Then one day the world came to Henry, in the shape of two men who said they represented the American Resistance…”

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Short Fiction Reviews: George R. R. Martin’s “The Second Kind of Loneliness” (1972) and Tom Godwin’s “The Nothing Equation” (1957)

The following reviews are the 21st and 22nd installments of 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. Many are far from the best. And that is okay. I relish the act of literary archaeology.

I’ve paired a take by Tom Godwin (1915-1980) and George R. R. Martin (1948-) on the psychiatric impact of isolation in the bleak emptiness of space. Both explore the interior landscape of the mind alone with itself and all its memories, and delusions, and terrors. There are no heroes in these pages.

Previously: Harlan Ellison’s “Psycho at Mid-Point” (1956) and “The Discarded” (variant title: “The Abnormals”) (1959)

Up Next: Philip K. Dick’s “The Infinites” (1953) and James Causey’s “Competition” (1955)

4/5 (Good)

George R. R. Martin’s “The Second Kind of Loneliness” first appeared in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, ed. Ben Bova (December 1972). You can read it online here.

At the Edge of the Vortex We Tell So Many Lies

The location: the Cerberus Star Ring, six million miles beyond Pluto (10). The manmade station, “a circle whose diameter is more than a hundred miles” (12), surrounds a nullspace vortex (think wormhole) to an unknown location across the universe. Humanity sends ships through the brightly colored swirling eddies of the portal to establish colonies somewhere beyond. A single man operates the machinery on the ring from a featureless white control room via a holograph helmet (11). The story follows the journal entries of an unreliable narrator ostensibly counting down the days until his relief arrives from Earth: “It will be at least three months before he gets here, of course. But he’s on his way” (10). It’s a mantra he tells himself. Relief is on its way. Relief is on its way. But does he want relief?

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXVIII (Eric Frank Russell, Christine Brooke-Rose, Colin Kapp, and a Mars-themed anthology)

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

1. Somewhere A Voice, Eric Frank Russell (1965)

From the back cover: “A band of shipwrecked spacemen making their way across a world so fierce that all Earth’s jungles tame by comparison…

A future euthanasia agency with a double-barreled scientific secret…

The unexpected problem of a lone astronaut with an entire ocean world to himself…

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Short Story Reviews: Robert Silverberg’s “The Seed of Earth” (1958) and Doris Piserchia’s “Pale Hands” (1974)

I’ve decided to reframe my series on 50s sex and sexuality to include my entire area of SF interest (1945-1985). Thus, I’ve paired Robert Silverberg’s “The Seed of Earth” (1958), a rumination on colonization and human/alien sex, with Doris Piserchia’s “Pale Hands” (1974), a distressing dissection of a future society designed to fixate all sexual desire on masturbation stalls.

Here are the earlier installments in the series:

  1. Philip José Farmer’s “The Lovers” (1952)
  2. Sherwood Springer’s “No Land of Nod” (1952)
  3. Wallace West’s “Eddie For Short” (1953)
  4. Fritz Leiber’s “The Ship Sails at Midnight” (1950)
  5. Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Sex Opposite” (1952)
  6. Ward Moore’s “Lot” (1953)
  7. Langdon Jones’ “I Remember, Anita…” (1964)
  8. Damon Knight’s “Not With a Bang” (1950)

If any short stories published between 1945-1985 on sex and sexuality come to mind that I haven’t reviewed yet, let me know in the comments. I have a substantial list waiting to be covered but it’s far from comprehensive.

3.5/5 (Good)

Robert Silverberg’s “The Seed of Earth” (variant title: “Journey’s End”) first appeared in Super-Science Fiction, ed. W. W. Scott (April 1958). You can read it online here. It is also available in his collection Dimension Thirteen (1969) that I plan on reviewing in the near future.

A preliminary note about publication: Silverberg reused the title “The Seed of Earth”–chosen by W. W. Scott over “Journey’s End”–for a later unrelated novella and a novel.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXVII (Roger Zelazny, Philip José Farmer, Steve Wilson, and an anthology with Ursula K. Le Guin)

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

1. My Name is Legion, Roger Zelazny (1976)

From the back cover: “HE DID NOT EXIST… OR DID HE? He had destroyed his punch cards and changed his face. There was no credit card, birth record, or passport for him in the International Data Bank.

His names were many… any he chose.

His occupation was taking megarisks in the service of a vast global detective agency.

His interworld assignments were highly lucrative, incalculably vital, and terrifyingly deadly.

And more often than not, his life was a living hell!”

Contents: “The Eve of RUMOKO” (1969),” “‘Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k” (1973), “Home Is the Hangman” (1975)

Initial Thoughts: In the early days of my site read I reviewed the first in the Nemo sequence–“The Eve of RUMOKO” (1969). At the time I did not care for it. However, I recently read F. Brett Cox’s monography Roger Zelazny (2021) and retrospectively I’m not sure that I understood the character or what Zelazny was trying to accomplish with the story sequence. Often after I read a monograph, I end up making a few impulsive purchases and this is one of them! I hope, at the very least, it gives me a deeper understanding of Zelazny’s SF project. And “Home Is the Hangman” (1975) is a Hugo and Nebula-winning novella that I have not read.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXVI (Gore Vidal, Pat Murphy, Kris Neville, and J. T. McIntosh)

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

1. 200 Years to Christmas, J. T. McIntosh (1959)

From the inside flap: “For almost two centuries the huge spaceship had speared its way through the stars, bound for another two hundred years of travel before it would put down on a new planet, a new home for the Earth people.

On board the metal-enclosed worldlet were four hundred people; the last survivors of Earth. It was up to them to start life anew, to correct the mistakes their ancestors had made.

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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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