Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

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

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Updates: My 2021 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

2021 was the best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers! I suspect this increasingly has to do with my twitter account where I actively promote my site vs. a growing interest in vintage SF. I also hit my 1000th post–on Melisa Michaels’ first three published SF short stories–in December.

As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!

I read very few novels this year. Instead, I devoted my attention to various science short story reviews series and anthologies. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2021 (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. I look forward to reading your comments.


My Top 7 Science Fiction Novels of 2021 (click titles for my review)

1. Where Time Winds Blow (1981), Robert Holdstock, 5/5 (Masterpiece): Holdstock’s vision is a well-wrought cavalcade of my favorite SF themes–the shifting sands of time, the pernicious maw of trauma that threatens to bite down, unreliable narrators trying to trek their own paths, a profoundly alien planet that compels humanity to construct an entirely distinct society… It’s a slow novel that initially masquerades as something entirely different. Just like the planet itself.

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Short Book Reviews: Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn (1987), Robert Holdstock’s Where Time Winds Blow (1981), and Philippe Curval’s Brave Old World (1976, trans. 1981)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before the new year and my memory/will fades. Unfortunately, I left two of my favorite reads of the year for last. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

I cannot properly review Where Time Winds Blow (1981). Sometimes, while perambulating the interwebs, I encounter a singular encapsulation of a text’s brilliance that defeats all my own attempts to write constructively about a book. I blame Andrew Darlington’s brilliant review/article on Robert Holdstock contextualizing the novel within his early oeuvre. The short paragraph below–an attempt to convince you to procure a copy–is indebted to his review. Please read his review! There are fan writers and then there are fan writers. Darlington should receive a Hugo nod.

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Book Review: To Die in Italbar, Roger Zelazny (1973)

3/5 (Average)

Roger Zelazny described To Die in Italbar (1973) as the one novel he would “kill off” if he could! Here’s a bit of context for his condemnatory statement. In early 1969, Zelazny quit his U.S. Social Security Administration job to become a full-time writer. Yes, he wrote Lord of Light (1967) and This Immortal (1966) among many others after work! He quickly wrote To Die in Italbar in May 1969 to complete a contract but the novel was rejected by the press. Years later Zelazny added new material and finally published the novel in 1973 (citation). Haste and filler characterize the final product. That said, if action-packed SF adventure with bizarre ideas is something you are looking for and you already enjoy Zelazny, pick this one up.

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Updates: Recent Purchases No. CCLXXXIV (Ray Bradbury, H. R. F. Keating, Judith Moffett, New Dimensions anthology)

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

1. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (1950)

From the back cover: “A MAGNIFICANCTLY ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES WHICH MASTERFULLY ENHANCES THE CLASSIC WONDER AND TERROR BY THE WORLD-RENOWNED AUTHOR OF THE ILLUSTRATED MAN RAY BRADBURY.

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Short Book Reviews: Jack Vance’s The Languages of Pao (1958), Kit Reed’s Fort Privilege (1985), and John Shirley’s Transmaniacon (1979)

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


1. The Languages of Pao, Jack Vance (1958)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

Since I started my site in 2011, I’ve soured a bit on Jack Vance’s brand of planetary adventure in richly realized and exotic worlds. I doubt I’d currently rate novels like Showboat World (1975) or The Blue World (1966) as highly as I did back then. One of more appealing elements of having a single project for so long is my ability to track my evolving views on genre. That said, I’d classify Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978) and The Languages of Pao (1958) amongst his most conceptually ambitious novels I’ve read so far and worth tracking down. For a full list consult my index. Note: I read but never reviewed Dying Earth (1950).

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Short Story Reviews: Melisa Michaels’ “In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See” (1979), “I Have a Winter Reason” (1981), and “I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes” (1982)

My 1000th post!

Every morning for the last few years, I post on Twitter the birthdays (pre-1955) of artists, authors, and editors involved in some way with science fiction. In the last year, a singular compulsion has hit and I’ve started to include even more obscure figures like Gabriel Jan (1946-) and Daniel Drode (1932-1984). On May 31st, while perusing the indispensable list on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, I came across an author unknown to me–Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) (bibliography). She’s best known for the five-volume Skyrider sequence (1985-1988) of space operas “depicting the growth into maturity of its eponymous female Starship-pilot protagonist” (SF Encyclopedia).

As I’m always willing to explore the work of authors new to me, I decided to review the first three of her six published SF short stories. Two of the three stories deal with my favorite SF topics–trauma and memory.


In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See” (1979), 3.5/5 (Good): First appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Marvels of Science Fiction (1979). It was reprinted in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (January 1979). You can read it online here.

On a terraformed Mars, Allyson Hunter and her two clone sisters, Rebecca and Kim, are societal outcasts. They spent their lives trying to be “real people” yet were “reminded, every day in a dozen little ways, that they weren’t real people” (87). Clones retain their first usage as replacement body parts. Permitted to live only due to indications of telepathic potential (needed to guide spaceships), the sisters attempt to live meaningful lives and develop useful skills. The sisters charter two identical twins, Frank and Todd, to convey them across the Martian landscape. A horrific crash kills Kim and forces the survivors to work together and move past the deep resentment and hatred the brothers hold.

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The Introduction to Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985, ed. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (2021)

I’ve recently conducted a binge read of my ARC of Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985, ed. Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (2021). It is a must buy for any SF fan of the era interested in exploring the larger world behind the texts. Considering the focus of my website and most of my reading adventures over the last decade, I can unabashedly proclaim myself a fan of the New Wave SF movement–and this edited volume is the perfect compliment to my collection and interests.

The editors and PM Press have graciously provided me with the introduction to the volume. Perhaps it’ll convince you to purchase your own copy!

Relevant links: Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and the publisher website.


Dangerous Visions and New Worlds

An Introduction

The “long sixties,” an era which began in the late 1950s and extended into the 1970s, has become shorthand for a period of trenchant social change, most explicitly demonstrated through a host of liberatory and resistance movements focused on class, racial, gender, sexual, and other inequalities. These were as much about cultural expression and social recognition as economic redistribution and formal politics. While the degree to which often youthful insurgents achieved their goals varied greatly, the global challenge they presented was a major shock to the status quo.

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Short Story Review: Theodore Sturgeon’s “Memorial” (1946)

I recently finished David Dowling’s Fictions of Nuclear Disaster (1987) and thought I’d review a handful of the short stories discussed in the monograph. The first on my list is Theodore Sturgeon’s haunting “Memorial” which first appeared in the April 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.


“Memorial” (1946), Theodore Sturgeon, 4/5 (Good): Grenfell has a plan to create a war memorial to end all memorials—The Pit. It will writhe with lava. It will shine forth with a ghastly glow. Created by nuclear explosion a thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb (161). Like some grotesque manifestation of the Darvaza gas crater, it will be a “living reminder of the devastation mankind has prepared for itself” (161). And the message will be the most “useful thing in the history of the race—a never-ending sermon, a warning, an example of the dreadful” possibilities of nuclear war (161).

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