Future Media Short Story Review: Walter F. Moudy’s “The Survivor” (1965)

Today I’ve reviewed the fourteenth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Walter F. Moudy relays the coverage of the 2050 Olympic War Games between the United States and Russia with harrowing effect.

Previously: Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” first appeared in In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell).

Up Next: TBD

3.5/5 (Good)

Walter F. Moudy’s “The Survivor” first appeared in the May 1965 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Lalli (Goldsmith). You can read it online here.

Recently James Harris highlighted the truncated writing career of Walter F. Moudy (1929-1973) with a focus on No Man on Earth (1964), his only science fiction novel. Inspired by his comments on “The Survivor” (1965) and relentlessly intrigued by authors who have fallen from contemporary memory, I placed the slick future televised Cold War conflict tale at the top of my media landscapes of the future review list. For those expecting a masterful Henry Kuttner tale, stay tuned! In the meantime, let’s plunge into Moudy’s coverage of the 2050 Olympic War Games between the US and Russia.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCVIII (Harlan Ellison, Edward Bryant, Murray Constantine, Sayko Komatsu, and an automobile-themed anthology)

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

1. Car Sinister, ed. Robert Silverberg, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander (1979)

From the back cover: “MAN AND HIS MACHINE. The car is man’s most personalized machine; for teenagers it is a rite of passage and a statement of freedom; for adults it is a reflection of success, taste, and hopes; and for an entire culture it is a great and industrious mode of transportation–driving, perhaps, on the road of destruction. And the automobile–thrilling, honking, speeding, nerve-shattering–haunts us with the dark possibility that when our age of motoring innocence is over, we may no longer be the masters… CAR SINISTER–a splendid, imaginative vision of what lies down the road for all of us.”

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Book Review: The Grain Kings, Keith Roberts (1976)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Keith Roberts (1935-2000) was an influential, if underread and underappreciated, English author (and cover artist) best known for his alternate history fix-up novel Pavane (1968) and powerful short fictions evocative of the English countryside. He won four BSFA awards in various categories (novel, short story, and artist) yet did not achieve the same critical success in the United States. According to his obituary, his difficult personality, like his common male main characters unable to form steady professional or personal relationships, and propensity to refuse to deal with major publishers impacted his popularity.

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Book Review: After the Flood, P. C. Jersild (1982, trans. 1986)

4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

P. C. Jersild’s After the Flood (1982, trans. 1986), a relentlessly bleak and incisive analysis of humanity’s death drive after a nuclear event, hits harder than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). Possessed by a deceptively powerful prose, Jersild maps out the apocalyptic bodyscapes of this new and dying world with merciless strokes.

P.C. Jersild (1935-), a Swedish physician and author, wrote a handful of novels that can be classified as science fiction. According to SF Encyclopedia, he’s “a central figure in modern Swedish literature, both a favorite among critics and, with some of his novels, a major bestseller.” Until recently, as is typical for many mainstream authors, Jersild tried to distance himself from SF despite writing a range of works that are set in the future. Of these works, unfortunately only three have been translated into English–The Animal Doctor (1973, trans. 1975), A Living Soul (1980, trans. 1988), and After the Flood (1982, trans. 1986).

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Future Media Short Story Review: Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell)

Today I’ve reviewed the thirteenth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Here, I finally return to the nightmarish embrace of Barry N. Malzberg.

Previously: Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” in Light Years and Dark: Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time, ed. Michael Bishop (1984). You can read it online here.

Up Next: Walter F. Moudy’s “The Survivor” in the May 1965 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Lalli (Goldsmith). You can read it online here.

3.5/5 (Good)

Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” first appeared in In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell). I cannot find the story online. Please contact me if you do not own a copy and want a PDF of the story. I recommend you procure the fantastic anthology TV: 2000, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh (1982) which “The Idea” also appears in. I’ll be returning to this volume in coming weeks for this series.

Reading a Barry N. Malzberg story is like returning to a familiar embrace–an embrace of the blackest satire conveyed via terrifying existential traps. Ever since I read his masterpiece Beyond Apollo (1972), a metafictional destruction of America’s obsession with space exploration, Malzberg joined the pantheon of my favorite authors.

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Short Fiction Reviews: Algis Budrys’ “Forever Stenn” (variant title: “The Ridge Around the World”) (1957), Basil Wells’ “Sole Survivor” (1957), Helen McCloy’s “The Unexpected” (1957), and John D. Odom’s “The Word is Law” (1957)

Preliminary note: I never can pinpoint exactly why I read what I read when I read it as I am a creature of impulse and whim. While browsing lesser known authors, I came across Helen McCloy (1904-1994). She’s best known for her post-apocalyptic novel The Last Day (1959) (as Helen Clarkson)—which you read online as paper copies are incredibly scarce and expensive–and wrote a handful of speculative short stories of which three appear to be science fiction. Mysteries and non-genre fiction made up the majority of her output.

The Last Day led me to McCloy’s “The Unexpected” (1957) and that in turn lead me to the December 1957 issue of Satellite Science Fiction, ed. Cylvia Kleinman. As I recently read the short novel in the issue, Jack Vance’s solid The Languages of Pao (1957), I decided that I might as well read the rest of the stories in the magazine. And I hadn’t read a Budrys short in a bit… And I’d never heard of Basil Wells (1912-2003) or John D. Odom (unknown dates).

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Book Review: Universe 12, ed. Terry Carr (1982) (Kim Stanley Robinson, Howard Waldrop, Nancy Kress, R. A. Lafferty, et al.)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

My fifth sojourn to Terry Carr’s Universe series of original anthologies (17 volumes published between 1971-1987) embodies the reasons I gravitate towards the medium: I discover new authors, I reassess old opinions, and deepen my understanding of my favorites. Recommended for Nancy Kress’ rumination on a childhood wrecked by insanity; Kim Stanley Robinson’s character piece on Mars transforming; Howard Waldrop’s account of obsession in an apocalyptic past; and Bruce McAllister’s tale of an astronaut returning home and the lies we tell.

Recommended for fans of more introspective early 80s SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“A Pursuit of Miracles” (1982), George Turner, 3/5 (Average): The Australian author and SF critic George Turner (1916-1997) published his first science fiction at 62! It’s never too late to start. A few years ago I read Turner’s first novel Beloved Son (1978) in the Ethical Culture trilogy. While the details have faded from memory as I never got around to writing a review, I remember how fascinated I was by the exploration of a post-Holocaust world by a returning expedition in the first half of the novel. The second half faded and grew increasingly ponderous and I’m not sure I finished….

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Updates: Cora Buhlert interviews Joachim Boaz

Hello everyone! Thank you for the immense support over the last twelve years (!) of my website. I keep doing what I do in part due to all the wonderful comments you leave, discussions you participate in, and suggestions you make. I can’t emphasize how much I appreciate it. I was recently interviewed by Cora Buhlert over on her website. She’s a three-time Hugo-nominated fan writer and a wonderful reviewer of vintage SF (often at Galactic Journey). Check out the interview here.

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Future Media Short Story Review: Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” (1984)

Today I’ve reviewed the twelfth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future–and the first from the early 1980s. Pat Cadigan howls a ghastly punk scream into the vastness of the night.

Previously: Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (August 1953). You can read it online here.

Up Next: Barry N. Malzberg’s “The Idea” in In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories (1971) (as K. M. O’Donnell).

3.75/5 (Good)

Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” first appeared in Light Years and Dark: Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time, ed. Michael Bishop (1984). You can read it online here.

Whenever I delve into the nihilistic streets of cyberpunk, I enter the mental soundscape and acute estrangement imbued by the seminal 80s goth/post punk band The Cure: “scarred, your back was turned / Curled like an embryo” (“Cold” from Pornography, 1982). Robert Smith’s incantation of “a shallow grave / A monument to the ruined age” almost personifies cyberpunk’s fleeting but terrible power and apocalyptic conceptions of dark streets and conglomerates stamping out the last individuals finding their way across the net.

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