Tag Archives: apocalyptic

Book Review: Hyacinths, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1983)

Al Nagy’s cover for the 1st edition

4.25/5 (Very Good)

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hyacinths (1983) is an unsettling dystopian tale of a future where even the unregulated creative world of Dreams is harnessed and controlled. On another level, Hyacinths lays bare the dangers of unregulated industry and the ingrained sexism within western capitalism. There’s a deep sadness within these pages, a sadness at the lack of progress for equal rights in the workplace, a sadness at our collective inability to help those who need Continue reading Book Review: Hyacinths, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1983)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

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

1. Blakely’s Ark, Ian MacMillan (1981)

Tom Hallman’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: THE CEPH… A parasitic virus. Invariably lethal. In two generations, it had reduced the population of America to 10 million people.

New Jersey is populated by roving gangs of children, savage and insane. New York City is a sealed-off Dome.

America is a wasteland. And Dave Blakely just may be the last whole man in the world.”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been in a post-apocalyptic mood for the last year or more. I’ve started (and much to my surprise, enjoyed) my watch through of Survivors (1975-1977). And devoured Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955).

This is Ian MacMillan’s only SF novel. And SF Encyclopedia describes rather than appraises it… As I often Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

SF TV Episode Reviews: Survivors (1975-1977): Season 1, Ep. 2, “Genesis”

Preliminary Note: I’ve decided to try Terry Nation’s post-apocalyptic drama Survivors (1975-1977). For the background and history of the show check out the Wikipedia entry. Terry Nation might be best known as the creator of the Daleks in Dr. Who and Blake’s 7 (1978-1981).

You are welcome to watch along with me (episode 2 is on YouTube). I cannot promise how many episodes I’ll get through or at what rate I’ll watch the show.

This will not be a formal review but rather an informal/brief collection of ruminations.

Previously on Survivors (episode 1)…

In the first episode “The Fourth Horseman” (full review), the narrative followed the flight of two women, Abby and Jenny, in the immediate aftermath of “The Death.” This disease wipes out 4,999 out of every 5,000 humans on the planet within a few weeks. Abby, who lives a normal upper middle-class life outside London, contracts the disease and miraculously survives. Her husband is less fortunate. She sets off to find her son Peter, who might have survived the pandemic at his boarding school. When she arrives, the school is empty but for one elderly teacher, Dr. Bronson, who warns her of the horror to come. Abby resolves to find new survivors and sever herself from her previous life: she cuts her hair, burns the her house with her husband’s body, and sets off to find her son. Jenny, a working class London dweller, flees the city after the death of her roommate and the warnings of a kindly doctor. She encounters a range of fellow survivors—from street hooligans to money hoarders waiting for it all to end.

Take-away line/thematic thread:

Dr. Bronson: “The real survivors will be those who will come through what will follow.”


Jenny, Grant, and Abby

Season 1, Episode 2: “Genesis”

Basic Plot

Greg Preston, an engineer, arrives from mainland Europe (also devastated by “The Death”) to discover his wife dead. He encounters Anne, an upper class Continue reading SF TV Episode Reviews: Survivors (1975-1977): Season 1, Ep. 2, “Genesis”

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCL (Worlds of If and Galaxy magazines)

(David A. Hardy’s cover art detail from the September 1974 issue of Galaxy)

I am not a collector. “But Joachim Boaz you post recent purchases all the time!” Let me revise: I am a reader who procures a lot of science fiction novels, collections, and anthologies that I may never read. As a general rule, I only buy science fiction that I want to read. There’s a logic behind the handful of duplicate copies I own—for example, both the 1952 and the 1969 editions of Wilson Tucker’s fantastic The Long Loud Silence (1952) grace my shelf. Editors sliced and diced the 1st edition and Tucker Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCL (Worlds of If and Galaxy magazines)

Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“[He] maintained that it was in fact essential to conceal what could be concealed; indeed, an inspired lie could be preferred to a malignant truth” (24).

Sven Holm’s Termush (1967, trans. 1969) depicts, with stark minimalism, the psychological state of wealthy survivors holed up in a hotel shelter after an apocalyptic nuclear event. This brief work, a mere 110 pages, is not an adventure story. It is not an exercise in nightmarish brutality like The Road (2006) or an account of humanity’s turn towards evil as the gauze of “civilization” falls away like The Death of Grass(1956).

Rather, Sven Holm (1940-2019) (SF Encyclopedia entry), a Danish author of mainstream literature, delves into the psyche of the survivors, their isolation and inability to grasp the immensity of the changes beyond their walls, and their Continue reading Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

Book Review: The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

(Detail from Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “One” (1998), Seven of Nine, unaffected by a nebula’s subatomic radiation, must care for the crew while they’re placed in stasis. Alone on the ship, Seven experiences the prolonged effects of isolation including disturbing dreams and hallucinations. Ever since I saw “One” as a child, I’ve become fascinated with the strategies that humans might use in space to cope with isolation and the rituals they might enact to preserve sanity. Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey’s The Black Corridor (1969) (see note below), explores Continue reading Book Review: The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

Guest Post: The Last Video Store on Earth

And now for something completely different… While an undergrad at The University of Texas (Austin) (2005-2009), my saved dollars went to Vulcan Video—a purveyor of cult films (science fictional, foreign, unusual). Between Vulcan Video and the university audio visual library, I spent the majority of my free time transported to unusual worlds. I asked a friend, Christopher Giles, who returned to Austin after college to work at the store to write a guest post on the intersection of science fiction cinema/fiction and Vulcan’s last days, a victim (at least partly) of Covid-19.

Enjoy!

And as always, I look forward to your thoughts.

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The Last Video Store on Earth

Christopher Giles

Vulcan Video was an independently owned video rental store located in Austin, Texas. Enjoying a stock of literally thousands of titles, with a focus on classic, foreign, and rare genre oddities, Vulcan stood as a beloved cinematic hub in a town uniquely suited for such a space, one of the few remaining businesses of its kind left standing. Unfortunately, recent years dealt Vulcan with the twin blows of increased rent prices and decreased customer traffic in the age of digital streaming, and the unavoidable realities of COVID-19 forced the store to permanently shut its doors in early April 2020.

Working at a video store, one grows accustomed to seasonal rushes on particular genres: lots of romcom rentals in February; the Horror section picked dry by the end of October; frantic, last-minute requests for It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) the week before Christmas. It’s to be expected, and can often lead to opportunities for customers to discover overlooked gems. When all copies of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) are predictably checked out weeks prior to the titular holiday, a slasher-starved customer might instead leave the store with Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (1971) in hand, none less the richer for the alternative. As video store clerks, we looked forward to these days on the calendar and prepared for them accordingly.

Even the occasional curveball of unexpected news could be met with quick action, like, say, the untimely death of a beloved actor; when Burt Reynolds passed in 2018, the Vulcan Video staff quickly put together a tribute section for the mustachioed icon. This allowed for grieving customers to easily locate and snatch up copies of tried and true favorites like White Lightning (1973) and Continue reading Guest Post: The Last Video Store on Earth

Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

(Patrick Woodroffe’s cover art for the 1973 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

The Candy Man wanders from place to place in a crumbling mega-city with his sole companion, a mechanical dog named Wolf who comes with a handy handle. Candy Man instigates the lobotomized, with primal speeches and drugged sugar floss tinted with pulverized beetles, to revolution. His reward for turning in those he encouraged deviate from the will of the Deep Machine and their Teachers? Vials of drugs. Enter the hypnagogic world of Vincent King’s Candy Man (1971), an unsettled landscape inhabited by the degenerate remnants of humankind and the arcane workings of a computer program that cannot escape its original perimeters.

Fresh off Vincent King’s short story “Defense Mechanism” (1966), I tracked down a copy of his second novel. Occupying a similar space as “Defense Mechanism” (conceptual breakthrough in a decaying world city), King pushes the narrative Continue reading Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Spectral Visions of Terry James, Part I

(The 1967 edition of Mindswap (1966), Robert Sheckley)

A few weeks ago I reviewed Clifford D. Simak’s The Werewolf Principle (1967) and came across Terry James’ cover (below) for the 1969 Science Fiction Book Club (UK) edition. The spectral shedding/transforming of the human figure matched the uncanny vibe of the novel. And I headed immediately to isfdb.org to browse his ouvre (note: a few volumes in the pub. series are clearly his but remain uncredited)! And I decided to put together a series of posts showcasing his work.

His art, the entire catalog of SFBC editions between 1968 and the mid-way point of 1971, works with little Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Spectral Visions of Terry James, Part I