Future Media Short Story Reviews: C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Advent on Channel Twelve” (1958) and Alice Eleanor Jones’ “The Happy Clown” (1955)

Today I’ve reviewed the eighteenth and nineteenth stories in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Alice Eleanor Jones and C. M. Kornbluth conjure a media-saturated world and cartoon characters that generate cultish adoration. Both authors respond to the rapid growth of television in the United States over the 1950s and multimedia conglomerates like Disney.

Previously: John Brunner’s “Fair” in New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell (March 1956) under the pseudonym Keith Woodcott. You can read it online here

Up Next: TBD


4.5/5 (Very Good)

C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Advent on Channel Twelve” first appeared in Star Science Fiction Stories No. 4, ed. Frederik Pohl (1958). You can read it online here if you have an Internet Archive account. Nominated for the 1959 Hugo for Best Short Story. Lost to Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train” (1958).

In the short intro to the story in The Best of C. M. Kornbluth (1976), Frederik Pohl explains that Kornbluth’s two young sons (and their father) never missed an episode of the The Mikey Mouse Club (1955-1958). The iconic Disney TV show generated a “national mania” with kids everywhere singing the Mouseketeer song and wearing mouse-ear hats. In 1955, the wider Disney craze would see the creation of their first theme park–Disneyland. Expanding on earlier ruminations on media and the masses in The Space Merchants (1953), “The Advent on Channel Twelve” imagines the dystopic elevation of cartoon character to an altogether new pedestal in the American consciousness.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVI (John Brunner, Phillip Mann, Shepherd Mead, and a Frederik Pohl anthology)

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

I planned to have a review up today. Unfortunately, August is always my least productive month writing as it marks the return to work after a much needed summer break. It’s been a rough few weeks! Stay tuned.

1. The Squares of the City, John Brunner (1965)

From the back cover: CHECHMATE IN PARADISE. Ciudad de Vados was a Latin-American showplace, a paradise…a flourishing supercity designed and run nearly to perfection.

But not quite. They had a traffic problem.

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Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCIX (Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Jack Williamson, Jacob Transure, Star Anthology)

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

1. Ahead of Time, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1953)

From the inside page: “A brain in a box fights a criminal plot

A visitor from the future turns out to be peculiar even for his society

An eternal hillbilly family survives the centuries and gets into political trouble

A sick electronic calculator catches a psychosis from its operator

…these are some of the highly original and vividly written stories you will find in this selection of a master’s work.

Science fiction and fantasy grow constantly in popularity. Writing of this quality and imagination is the reason. Henry Kuttner demonstrates again in his book why more and more readers are becoming devotees of that intriguing fiction which is not content to stay in the world as we see it and know it, which takes us to the farthest reaches of space and time, to the farthest reaches of the human mind.”

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Updates: Recent SF Purchases No. CCXCVI (Harry Harrison, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Bisson, Star Anthology)

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

1. Planet of the Damned, Harry Harrison (serialized 1961)

From the back cover: “Brion Brandd of the Galactic CRF had a problem. It was the planet Dis. Brion’s assignment was to salvage it.

Dis was a harsh, inhospitable, dangerous place and the Disans made it worse. They might have been a human once–but they were something else now.

The Disans had only one desire–kill! Kill everything, themselves, their planet, the universe if they could–

BRION HAD MINUTES TO STOP THEM–IF HE COULD FIND OUT HOW!”

Initial Thoughts: Smells like a variation of Harrison’s Deathworld (1960), which I never managed to review, from a year earlier. Which isn’t a good sign… Planet of the Damned was a finalist for the 1962 Hugo for Best Novel. It lost to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

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Book Review: Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection, ed. Lester del Rey (1975) (R. A. Lafferty, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Vonda N. McIntyre, et al.)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Lester del Rey’s Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection (1975) is a mystifying read. For an anthology series claiming to contain the best stories of 1974, del Rey completely misidentifies all the hard-hitters of the year. For example, it does not include a single Hugo– or Nebula-nominated story.

My advice: Ignore the title. Instead, if you have an unnatural obsession with anthologies like myself, then contemplate picking up a copy for the Vonda N. McIntyre, F. M. Busby, John Brunner, and Gordon R. Dickson stories. The rest are average to poor.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“If This Is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy” (1974), F. M. Busby, 4/5 (Good): Until I read this story, I assumed F. M. Busby’s SF from the 70s was as blunt and imprecise as Cage a Man (1973) and “Tell Me All About Yourself” (1973). With the emotional strokes reminiscent of Silverberg’s masterpiece Dying Inside (1972), Busby spins an ingenious time-travel tale about a man who lives his live in non-sequential sections.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXIV (Kornbluth + Goldin + Charnock + Harrison edited Anthology)

1) A 1970s SF short story anthology. How could I resist? Could you? As with Judith Merril’s anthology I posted recently, Harry Harrison applies a very wide-ranging lens (publication venue, non-English language authors, etc) to the notion of “SF.”

2) Occasionally I procure (but more often than not, fail to review) a handful of newer SF novels by authors who haven’t yet received the spotlight they deserve. I listened to Anne Charnock’s A Calculated Life (2013) as an audible audiobook and found it rather brilliant. In a recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I went out for beers with Mike at Transreal Fiction and snagged a copy of Charnock’s newest novel from his store. I apologize in advance if no review appears—I must have a mental block when comes to reviewing books published in the last three decades. hah.

3) Today (July 23rd) is C.M. Kornbluth’s birthday! He’s long been one of my favorite 50s short fiction authors—I’ve reviewed The Marching Morons and Other Famous Short Stories (1959)The Explorers (1954), and Gladiator-At-Law (magazine publication 1954) with Frederik Pohl.

Another one of his short fiction collections — edited after his death by James Blish.

4) I’ve never read anything by Stephen Goldin. MPorcius over at MPorcius’ Fiction Log spoke highly of Goldin’s Assault on the Gods (1977). I don’t know what to expect.

As on any and all posts, thoughts and comments are welcome.

1. Best SF: 1970 (variant title: The Year’s Best Science Fiction No. 4), ed. Harry Harrison (1971)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Futuristic Cities of Lima de Freitas, Part I

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(Cover for the 1967 edition of vol. 1 of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965), Robert A. Heinlein)

The Portuguese painter and illustrator Lima de Freitas (1927-1998) created a vast number of covers for the Portuguese press Livros do Brasil.  For more on the range of art he produced in his career consult his wikipedia page [here].

A while back I reviewed Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959) and discovered de Freitas’ amazing cover (below).  More than any of the US editions, it evokes the claustrophobic tone of the novel (and even some of the surreal elements).

As the son of two architects, architecturally inclined SF covers always fascinate. Thus, as an introduction to his art (if you do not know it already) I have collected a handful of his cityscapes.  They are surreal masterpieces.  Lima de Freitas’ covers emphasize the city as a canvas, the textures of human Continue reading

Book Review: The Marching Morons and Other Famous Science Fiction Stories, C. M. Kornbluth (1959)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1959 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

C. M. Kornbluth has long been one of my favorite short story authors of the 50s due to his first collection The Explorers (1954).  The Marching Morons (1959) contains two novelettes and seven short stories including some of his most famous works: namely, “The Marching Morons” (1951) and my personal favorite of his oeuvre so far, “MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” (1957).

Ultimately, this is a more uneven collection than The Explorers (1954).  Despite duds such as “I Never Ast No Favors” (1954), I still recommend the collection to fans of 50s SF and satirical masterworks such as Kornbluth’s co-authored Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CX (Kornbluth + Pohl + Cowper + Hersey + Asimov anthology of short SF)

A nice batch—some more from the $1 hardback sale at my local bookstore, one procured via abebooks, and one from a friend.  I grabbed Cowper’s The Road to Corlay (1978) after seeing two solid reviews from my friends at Speculiction… [review here] and Porpourri of Science Fiction Literature [review here].  I enjoyed Cowper’s later  novel Profundis (1979).

I had no idea the Pulitzer-winning writer and journalist John Hersey from dystopic SF allegories…

And, a collection of early work from the fruitful partnership of Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth…  With a gorgeous Richard Powers cover!

I’ve always enjoyed really short SF stories so I look forward to devouring Asimov and Conklin collection (perhaps in stages due to its length).

Enjoy the covers!

Thoughts?

1. The Wonder Effect, C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl (1962)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 edition) Continue reading