Updates: Podcast Interview and Vintage Science Fiction Discussion Extravaganza

I appeared in my first ever podcast–Postcards from a Dying World with David Agranoff–last week. Organized around a series of interview questions, David and I ended up discussing vintage SF for a good hour. I cover how studying history has inspired my project, reasons for my focus on SF from post-WWII to the mid-1980s, favorite authors and themes, etc. Please check out his twitter and website as well. I have gathered together a list of the SF works I mention in the interview with links to my reviews when applicable.

I hate listening to myself as I am far too excited about vintage SF! (but is that a surprise?)

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCCII (C. L. Moore, Marc Laidlaw, Fredric Brown, Mack Reynolds)

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

1. Dad’s Nuke, Marc Laidlaw (1986)

From the back cover: “BARBECUE THE NEIGHBOURS. In post-collapse suburban America, keeping up with the Joneses has got a little out of hand. Fallout shelters used to be the ultimate status symbol–until Mr. Johnson had his baby daughter’s digestive system adapted to consume radioactive waste.

Now Jock Smith has the edge on his neighbours–he has installed his very own tactical nuclear missile in the back yard.

After all, these are dangerous times..”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCCI (Angela Carter, Keith Roberts, J. L. Hensley, and a Leo Margulies Anthology)

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

1. Heroes & Villains, Angela Carter (1969)

From the back cover: “The Barbarians had attacked the village, looting and burning. And when they left, Marianne, a daughter of the scientists, went with them. Now she followed Jewel, leader of the barbarians, and lived with him as his captured bride…”

Initial Thoughts: A few years ago I read, and was blown away, by Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972). I placed it on my best reads of 2016 list but never managed to write a review. Inspired by the novel, I wrote an article derived from a fascinating 1979 interview on Angela Carter’s views on science fiction–including her inspirations and the state of the British SF scene, Michael Moorcock’s prodigious production and New Worlds editorship, and the unescapable influence of J. G. Ballard.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCC (James Blish, Norman Spinrad, R. M. Meluch, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

My 300th purchase post!

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

Preliminary Note: As I’m currently on vacation, the images in this post are photographs of my volumes rather than my normal hi-res scans. I’ll replace them when I get home.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1969)

From the inside page: “TAKE A TRIP WITH BILLY PILGRIM

-To the cellar of a slaughterhouse in Dresden, a city about to be destroyed by the greatest man-made catastrophe of all time.

-To happy marriage and mating with the sweet and willing daughter of one of the finest citizens of Illium, New York.

-To a luxurious zoo on the planet Tralfamadore for the public exhibition of lovemaking with the famous Earthling blue-moviestar, Montana Wildhack.

All in an amazing novel that could only have been written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a writer whose wildest flights take you straight to the hear and now.

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Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCIX (Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Jack Williamson, Jacob Transure, Star Anthology)

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

1. Ahead of Time, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1953)

From the inside page: “A brain in a box fights a criminal plot

A visitor from the future turns out to be peculiar even for his society

An eternal hillbilly family survives the centuries and gets into political trouble

A sick electronic calculator catches a psychosis from its operator

…these are some of the highly original and vividly written stories you will find in this selection of a master’s work.

Science fiction and fantasy grow constantly in popularity. Writing of this quality and imagination is the reason. Henry Kuttner demonstrates again in his book why more and more readers are becoming devotees of that intriguing fiction which is not content to stay in the world as we see it and know it, which takes us to the farthest reaches of space and time, to the farthest reaches of the human mind.”

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Book Review: Moon-Flash, Patricia A. McKillip (1984)

3.5/5 (Good)

As Patricia A. McKillip (1948-2022) recently passed away (obituary), I decided to pick up one of her few science fiction novels. And I’m glad I did! Channeling (and reworking) the conceptual breakthrough-style premise of Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night (serialized 1948) and countless generation ship novels, Moon-Flash (1984) is an achingly beautiful coming-of-age story of a young woman who sets out to map the geography of her restrictive world.

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Book Review: After the Flood, P. C. Jersild (1982, trans. 1986)

4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

P. C. Jersild’s After the Flood (1982, trans. 1986), a relentlessly bleak and incisive analysis of humanity’s death drive after a nuclear event, hits harder than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). Possessed by a deceptively powerful prose, Jersild maps out the apocalyptic bodyscapes of this new and dying world with merciless strokes.

P.C. Jersild (1935-), a Swedish physician and author, wrote a handful of novels that can be classified as science fiction. According to SF Encyclopedia, he’s “a central figure in modern Swedish literature, both a favorite among critics and, with some of his novels, a major bestseller.” Until recently, as is typical for many mainstream authors, Jersild tried to distance himself from SF despite writing a range of works that are set in the future. Of these works, unfortunately only three have been translated into English–The Animal Doctor (1973, trans. 1975), A Living Soul (1980, trans. 1988), and After the Flood (1982, trans. 1986).

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Updates: Recent SF Purchases No. CCXCVI (Harry Harrison, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Bisson, Star Anthology)

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

1. Planet of the Damned, Harry Harrison (serialized 1961)

From the back cover: “Brion Brandd of the Galactic CRF had a problem. It was the planet Dis. Brion’s assignment was to salvage it.

Dis was a harsh, inhospitable, dangerous place and the Disans made it worse. They might have been a human once–but they were something else now.

The Disans had only one desire–kill! Kill everything, themselves, their planet, the universe if they could–

BRION HAD MINUTES TO STOP THEM–IF HE COULD FIND OUT HOW!”

Initial Thoughts: Smells like a variation of Harrison’s Deathworld (1960), which I never managed to review, from a year earlier. Which isn’t a good sign… Planet of the Damned was a finalist for the 1962 Hugo for Best Novel. It lost to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

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Book Review: Universe 12, ed. Terry Carr (1982) (Kim Stanley Robinson, Howard Waldrop, Nancy Kress, R. A. Lafferty, et al.)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

My fifth sojourn to Terry Carr’s Universe series of original anthologies (17 volumes published between 1971-1987) embodies the reasons I gravitate towards the medium: I discover new authors, I reassess old opinions, and deepen my understanding of my favorites. Recommended for Nancy Kress’ rumination on a childhood wrecked by insanity; Kim Stanley Robinson’s character piece on Mars transforming; Howard Waldrop’s account of obsession in an apocalyptic past; and Bruce McAllister’s tale of an astronaut returning home and the lies we tell.

Recommended for fans of more introspective early 80s SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“A Pursuit of Miracles” (1982), George Turner, 3/5 (Average): The Australian author and SF critic George Turner (1916-1997) published his first science fiction at 62! It’s never too late to start. A few years ago I read Turner’s first novel Beloved Son (1978) in the Ethical Culture trilogy. While the details have faded from memory as I never got around to writing a review, I remember how fascinated I was by the exploration of a post-Holocaust world by a returning expedition in the first half of the novel. The second half faded and grew increasingly ponderous and I’m not sure I finished….

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