Future Media Short Story Reviews: C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Advent on Channel Twelve” (1958) and Alice Eleanor Jones’ “The Happy Clown” (1955)

Today I’ve reviewed the eighteenth and nineteenth stories in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Alice Eleanor Jones and C. M. Kornbluth conjure a media-saturated world and cartoon characters that generate cultish adoration. Both authors respond to the rapid growth of television in the United States over the 1950s and multimedia conglomerates like Disney.

Previously: John Brunner’s “Fair” in New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell (March 1956) under the pseudonym Keith Woodcott. You can read it online here

Up Next: Frederik Pohl’s “The Wizards of Pung’s Corners” in Galaxy Magazine, ed. H. L. Gold (October 1958). You can read it online here.


4.5/5 (Very Good)

C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Advent on Channel Twelve” first appeared in Star Science Fiction Stories No. 4, ed. Frederik Pohl (1958). You can read it online here if you have an Internet Archive account. Nominated for the 1959 Hugo for Best Short Story. Lost to Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train” (1958).

In the short intro to the story in The Best of C. M. Kornbluth (1976), Frederik Pohl explains that Kornbluth’s two young sons (and their father) never missed an episode of the The Mikey Mouse Club (1955-1958). The iconic Disney TV show generated a “national mania” with kids everywhere singing the Mouseketeer song and wearing mouse-ear hats. In 1955, the wider Disney craze would see the creation of their first theme park–Disneyland. Expanding on earlier ruminations on media and the masses in The Space Merchants (1953), “The Advent on Channel Twelve” imagines the dystopic elevation of cartoon character to an altogether new pedestal in the American consciousness.

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Short Story Reviews: Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” (1955) and Katherine MacLean’s “Interbalance” (1960)

Today I’ve selected two post-apocalyptic visions by female authors. I needed an antidote to the creepy last man/woman stories I’ve been reading recently. Alice Eleanor Jones spins a masterpiece about a housewife attempting to keep the entropy of a crumbling world and an abusive husband at bay. Katherine MacLean imagines a moment where the last representative of the American Empire, after all the rhetoric of progress and exceptionalism came crashing down in a nuclear war, interacts with a persistent and well-meaning native girl.

The links to the stories can be found in the reviews. Both are recommended reads for fans of 50s and 60s science fiction.


5/5 (Masterpiece)

Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher (June 1955). You can read it online here.

Sometimes there are stories that transcend their short length with lasting power. This story has resided within me as if freshly read for weeks. Like some corrosive lozenge of love and hate, “Created He Them” eats you up from the inside.

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Guest Post: From Pulp to New Wave: “Space Episode” (1941), Leslie Perri, “Recruiting Officer” (1955), Alice Eleanor Jones, “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966), Sonya Dorman

Ian Sales (twitter) over at It Doesn’t Have to Be Right…—BFSA-winning SF author for Adrift on the Sea of Rains (2012), reviewer, and curator of the indispensable review-collating site SF Mistressworks—provides the seventh guest post in my SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 series (original announcement and list of earlier posts).

Head over to his blog posthaste.  Although most of his more recent SF reviews are published in Interzone, his website offers older reviews and many useful resources: a list of the 100 Best SF short stories by women authors; SF Mistressworks Best Novels List; and SF women-only anthologies.

As is his wont, Ian selected two lesser-known pulp SF works by women authors—Leslie Perri and Alice Eleanor Jones—who did not have lengthy SF writing careers. His third selected story is by the masterful Sonya Dorman from one of my favorite periods of SF—the New Wave.

Thank you for contributing!

Enjoy!

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future_combined_with_science_fiction_194112

(“Space Episode” first appeared in Future Combined with Science Fiction, December 1941, cover: Hannes Bok)

Review of “Space Episode” (1941) by Leslie Perri, “Recruiting Officer” (1955) by Alice Eleanor Jones, “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966) by Sonya Dorman

By Ian Sales

“Space Episode”, Leslie Perri (1941)

Leslie Perri was the pen-name of Doris Marie Claire Baumgardt, a member of the Futurians, who was married, at different times, to two sf writers, Frederik Pohl and Continue reading

Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of A Handful of Time (1963), Rosel George Brown)

The time has come for a new Guest Post series on SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969. My reasons are two-fold: 1) to showcase a deserving and fascinating topic in line with my goal to feature lesser known SF from a range of viewpoints and traditions 2) to feature posts from reviewers in the vintage SF blogsphere and beyond (in any combination of the following) that attempt to move past standard lists and grand narratives of canon, tackle fiction from evidence-based analytical and academic perspectives, or are simply darn good writers whose sites I cannot help but return to compulsively.

Why pre-1969? Although most endpoints are arbitrary in nature, 1969 saw the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s magisterial The Left Hand of Darkness. Considered a watershed moment in the history of women writers as it was the first to win a Hugo Award for best novel, Le Guin among many others were part of a rich (albeit oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors reaching back to Mary Shelly. My focus on short stories will allow exploration of many authors who did not write novels, whose novels overshadow their short fiction, and those whose rich body of early work focused predominately on the short form.

Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects along with new voices. The first guest post series covered the work of Michael Bishop and the second Kate Wilhelm.

Topics in the queue: Robot therapists, French and Soviet SF, a range of speculative fictions from the 19th Continue reading