Tag Archives: avant-garde

Updates: My 2020 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

I’m not sure what I can add about the general sentiment of 2020. It was awful in every way. Here’s to a better 2021.

Reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—was a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!

I also have one (hopefully more) review coming out in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (the Curiosities column) in the spring. I’ve not included my reviews of those esoteric SF novels in this particular post.

Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2020 (with bonus categories). Tempted to track any of them down?

And feel free to list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.


My Top 10 Science Fiction Novels (click titles for my review)

Tim White’s cover for the 1983 edition

1. Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979), 5/5 (Masterpiece): Tanith Lee spins a gauzy, sinister, and terrifying tale of manipulative resurrection. A brilliant inventor projects the mind of a grotesque social outcast into a new transcendent Continue reading Updates: My 2020 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

Short Book Reviews: M. John Harrison’s A Storm of Wings (1980), Algis Budrys’ Some Will Not Die (1961, rev. 1978), and William Greenleaf’s The Tartarus Incident (1983)

James Gurney’s cover art detail for the 1st edition of William Greanleef’s The Tartarus Incident (1983)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. A Storm of Wings, M. John Harrison (1980)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1982 edition

4.5/5 (Very Good)

A Storm of Wings (1980) is the second volume, after The Pastel City (1971), of the Viriconium sequence. Far more dense and oblique than its predecessor, A Storm of Wings revels in the creation of a surreal urban tapestry–redolent with decay and decadent excess. Two Reborn Men (Fay Glass and Alstath Fulthor) attempt to animate the somnolent city of Viriconium Continue reading Short Book Reviews: M. John Harrison’s A Storm of Wings (1980), Algis Budrys’ Some Will Not Die (1961, rev. 1978), and William Greenleaf’s The Tartarus Incident (1983)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Cosmic Glimpses of Luciana Tom Matalon

Luciana Tom Matalon, “Untitled” (1971)

Non-English language science fiction presses present a fascinating territory to explore. Their volumes provide not only a window into what SF was available to read but also the distinct visual language used to convey those works. Italian SF cover art remains a firm favorite–from Karel Thole’s Philip K. Dick covers to the haunting landscapes of Mariella Anderlini.  And a new artist joins the ranks!

Luciana Tom Matalon was born in 1937 near Venice and studied art in Milan.  Her paintings, sculpture, and jewelry have appeared in exhibitions around the world. She has a short biography on her eponymous foundation website. You Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Cosmic Glimpses of Luciana Tom Matalon

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIV (Ben Bova, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, Robert Wilfred Franson, Barry N. Malzberg and Edward L. Ferman edited anthology)

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

Ben Bova (1932-2020) passed away a few weeks ago due to Covid-19 complications (and a stroke) (Tor Remembrance Article). While I haven’t had the best luck with his work, if you have any fond memories of him or reading his SF, let me know in the comments. I purchased his first collection Forward in Time (1973) (below) in his honor.

1. Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974)

David Pelham’s cover for the 1975 edition

From the back cover: “Thirteen fantastic new stories on the classic themes of Science Fiction.” See Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIV (Ben Bova, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, Robert Wilfred Franson, Barry N. Malzberg and Edward L. Ferman edited anthology)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (Elizabeth A. Lynn, Romanian SF Anthology, Eastern European SF Anthology, and Barry N. Malzberg)

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

1. Other Worlds, Other Seas, ed. Darko Suvin (1970)

Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1972 edition

From the back cover: “Darko Suvin was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1930. An internationally known critic of literature and theater, he is the author of seven books of criticism including POSSIBLE WORLDS—An outline of Science-Fiction and Utopias.

Stanislaw Lem of Poland, author of SOLARIS, is only the most famous of a burgeoning group of Eastern European writers. His contribution to OTHER WORLDS, OTHER SEAS—four brilliant stories—is a treat to his hundreds of thousands of American admirers. But a whole body of first rate s-f is now being produced in the socialist countries by equally gifted writers such as Josef Nesvadba, Anatoliy Dneprov, and Anton Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (Elizabeth A. Lynn, Romanian SF Anthology, Eastern European SF Anthology, and Barry N. Malzberg)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXI (Algis Budrys, Gwyneth Jones, Russell M. Griffin, Dino Buzzati)

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

1. Some Will Not Die, Algis Budrys (1961, rev. 1978)

Frank Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1978 edition

My 1978 revised edition contains no inside flap or back cover blurb. Instead, here’s the brief description of the novel and its complex publication history from SF Encyclopedia: “Budrys’ first novel has a complex history. As False Night (March 1954 Galaxy as “Ironclad”; much exp. 1954) it was published in a form abridged from the manuscript version; this manuscript served as the basis for a reinstated text which, with additional new material, was published as Some Will Not Die (1961; rev 1978). In both versions a Post-Holocaust story is set in a plague-decimated Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXI (Algis Budrys, Gwyneth Jones, Russell M. Griffin, Dino Buzzati)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Surrealism of Carlos Ochagavia, Part I

Canvas for the 1977 edition of Universe 7, ed. Terry Carr (1978)

The covers for Pocket Books and Popular Library tend not to scream “visual zeitgeist of the 70s” like the catalogs of DAW, Ace, and Del Rey/Ballantine Books (note 1). But amongst the former’s primarily forgettable stable of artists who are often uncredited (2), a few gems emerge–notably the work of Carlos Ochagavia (1913-2006) (3).

I cannot find more than a few sentences of biographical material on Ochagavia online. He was born in Spain and moved at a young age to Argentina. He arrived in the United States Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Surrealism of Carlos Ochagavia, Part I

SF Film Rumination: Chronopolis, dir. Piotr Kamler (1982)

A cabal of immortal beings

8/10 (Very Good)

Piotr Kamler’s SF film Chronopolis (1982) is a hypnotic exercise in sinister science whose imagery is lifted from an archaic stone vault (1). Against an unsettling patina of musique concrète composed by Luc Ferrari, we are plunged into a far future existence where immortal beings ensconced in a celestial city perform apathetic conjurations of matter. An external force, explorers climbing the pillars (?) that hold up the city, presage a deliverance from the languor that afflicts all.

Science as Ritual, Scientist as Priest Continue reading SF Film Rumination: Chronopolis, dir. Piotr Kamler (1982)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVI (Joan Slonczewski, Barrington J. Bayley, James E. Gunn, Per Wahlöö)

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

1. The Mind Master (variant title: The Dreamers), James E. Gunn (1981)

Lisa Falkenstern’s cover for the 1982 edition

From the back cover: “IT IS THE 22ND CENTURY… IT IS THE AGE OF ECSTASY… Man has perfected the chemical transfer of information. Pop a pill and experience the Garden of Eden, the knowledge of centuries, or the vicarious thrill of someone else’s life. And in this world, one man—The Mnemonist—holds the task of keeping society Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVI (Joan Slonczewski, Barrington J. Bayley, James E. Gunn, Per Wahlöö)