Book Review: Alternities, ed. David Gerrold and Stephen Goldin (1974) (Malzberg, McIntyre, Bunch, Bear, Sallis, et al.)

2.5/5 (collated rating: Bad)

David Gerrold and his associate editor Stephen Goldin collect a bizarre range of SF oddities including an epistolary nightmare from Vonda N. McIntyre’s pen and a one-sentence “sign” by Duane Ackerman. Gerrold argues that he wants “science fiction to be fun again” without “literary inbreeding and incestuous navel-studying” (8). With a more than pungent hint of hypocrisy, he spouts “I’m tired of the kind of bullshitting that creates false images in the readers’ minds” (8). Alternities (1974) reads like the cast off stories from a New Wave (i.e. deliberately literary) Judith Merril or Harlan Ellison anthology with heavy dose of erotic comedy and shock value. A few–including E. Michael Blake’s “The Legend of Lonnie and the Seven-Ten Split,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Recourse, Inc.,” and Edward Bryant’s “Cowboys, Indians”–rise above the dross.

To be clear, I enjoy devouring anthologies like Alternities. The stories are originals and few are anthologized elsewhere. I adore reading authors I wouldn’t otherwise encounter (Robert Wissner, E. Michael Blake, et al.). Gerrold’s nonsense of an introduction aside, the anthology with its deliberate attempts at the “literary” (Greg Bear’s “Webster” and James Sallis’ “The First Few Kinds of Truth”) and “edgy” (Steven Utley’s “Womb, with a View”) firmly fit in the passing mid-70s foam of the New Wave movement.

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Book Review: First Step Outward, ed. Robert Hoskins (1969) (Asimov, Silverberg, Sturgeon, Heinlein, et al.)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Published a few months before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Robert Hoskins’ anthology First Step Outward (1969) charts an imagined future history of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy. The stories, gathered from some of the big names of the day (Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc.), are grouped as if part of the same future with headings such as “To the Planets” and “To the Stars.” As with most anthologies, this contains a range of gems (such as Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea”) and duds (Ross Rocklynne’s “Jaywalker”).

I’ve previously reviewed five of the thirteen stories in their own posts–linked for easy consultation.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“Cold War” (1949), Kris Neville, 3/5 (Average): Previously reviewed in its own post here.

“Third Stage” (1963), Poul Anderson, 3.5/5 (Good): Previously reviewed in its own post here.

“Gentlemen, Be Seated!” (1948), Robert A. Heinlein, 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average): My first return to Robert A. Heinlein in around a decade is exactly like I thought it would be–thoroughly disappointing. Yes, yes, yes, I know this is far from what he was capable of. The number of reprints this misfire of a story receives mystifies (it appeared in the regularly reprinted The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow).

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Book Review: Infinity One, ed. Robert Hoskins (1970) (Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Miriam Allen deFord, et al.)

This anthology contains the 4th post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. I decided to review the entire anthology!

Today: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo” (1970), 3.75/5 (Good). The entire anthology is available online here

Previously: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954)in the June 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Up Next: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959) in the October 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills. You can read the story online here.

Jim Steranko’s cover for the 1st edition

3/5 (Collated rating: Average)

Robert Hoskins “resurrected” Infinity Science Fiction magazine (1955-1958) as a five volume anthologies series between 1970-1973. The first volume, Infinity One (1970), contains sixteen original stories and one reprint from the original magazine–Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” (1955). SF Encyclopedia describes the anthology series as “a competent but not outstanding series.”

Eight of the seventeen stories fall into the “good” category. While none are masterpieces, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Barry N. Malzberg co-writing with Kris Neville, Katherine MacLean, Gene Wolfe, and Poul Anderson 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)

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. 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

Short Book Reviews: Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965), Barry N. Malzberg’s The Last Transaction (1977), and Philip McCutchan’s A Time for Survival (1966)

My “to review” pile is growing and my memory of them is fading… hence short—far less analytical—reviews.

1. The Ballad of Beta-2, Samuel R. Delany (1965)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1982 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

As I’ve been on a generation ship kick as of late, I was excited to pull out my copy of Samuel R. Delany’s early novel The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965). Delany subverts the standard (and infuriating) trope of cultural stasis—for the sake of societal stability—that authors suggest will occur between the colony ship’s departure and arrival. Instead, Delany explores the intermediary generations by examining a series of ballads Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCV (Farmer + Simak + Effinger + New Dimensions Anthology)

1. I recently read and reviewed enthusiastically New Dimensions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973). Inspired, I procured quite a few more in the series… Here is number 1. Looks like an absolutely spectacular lineup — Le Guin, Ellison, Malzberg, Lafferty, etc.

2. One always needs more Clifford D. Simak, right?

3. Huge fan of George Alec Effinger’s novels and short stories. Here’s what I’ve reviewed so far…. Heroics (1979), Irrational Numbers (1976), and What Entropy Means to Me (1972).

4.  Philip José Farmer, despite multiple masterpieces, churned out a lot of crud… I expect this will fall in that category.

Note: The hi-res scans are of my personal copies — click to enlarge.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Enjoy!

~

1. New Dimensions 1, ed. Robert Silverberg (1971)

(Uncredited cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: New Dimensions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973) (Le Guin + Tiptree, Jr. + Lafferty + Malzberg + Effinger + et al.)


(Dennis Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4/5 (Collated rating: Good)

For an anthology, bound to contain a filler story or two, this one is spectacular. Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions 3 (1973) lives up to his claim to contain “stories that demonstrate vigorous and original ways [often experimental] of approaching the body of ideas, images, and concepts that is science fiction” yet do not sacrifice “emotional vitality, or clarity of insight.” Ursula K. Le Guin, with her rumination on utopias, and James T. Tipree, Jr.’s proto-cyberpunk tale of commercialism and performing gender, deliver some of their best work.

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Book Review: The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972) doesn’t feel like a “best of” collection. The majority of the contents are unspectacular space operas and hard SF in the Analog vein. Amongst the chaff, a few more inventive visions shined through—in particular, Joanna Russ’ mysteriously gauzy and stylized experiment replete with twins and dream machines; Michael G. Coney’s evocative overpopulation story about tourist robots; Christopher Priest’s “factual” recounting of human experimental subjects that isn’t factual at all; and Barry Malzberg’s brief almost flash piece about differing perspectives all tied together by the New York metro.

On the whole, I give it a solid recommendation although the best can be found in single-author collections.

Brief Analysis/Summary

“The Fourth Profession” (1971), novelette by Larry Niven, 3/5 (Average): Nominated for the 1972 Continue reading