Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXX (Brian W. Aldiss, Judith Merril, Brian M. Stableford, and Chad Oliver)

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

1. Barefoot In the Head, Brian W. Adliss (1969)

From the back cover: “AFTER THE ACID WAR…. Rising from the dust and ashes of a Europe still reeling from the effects of the great Acid War comes Colin Charteris, a futuristic Don Quixote riding the mechanized brontosaurus of the times.

Charteris tries desperately to make sense of the drugged, chaotic world he lives in, and finds himself hailed as the new Messiah. Stranger still, Charteris himself comes to believe this.

His adventures as he tries to save the world from its insanity are brilliantly told, a satiric science fiction comment on the future of mankind.”

Continue reading

Generation Ship Short Story Review: Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” (1952)

This is the seventh post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. I have returned to the author and anthropologist Chad Oliver (1928-1993) whose “The Wind Blows Free” (1957) inspired me to start the series. All of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online and linked.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II”in the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Next Up: Otto Binder’s “Son of the Stars” in the February 1940 issue of  Famous Fantastic Mysteries, ed. Mary Gnaedinger. You can read the story online here.

As the last post was way back in January 2020, here’s a reminder of what I’ve covered so far:

I’ve also reviewed five additional generation ship works (two novels and one short story) since I started the series that I didn’t include:

Chad Oliver’s “Stardust” first appeared in the July 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. 3.5/5 (Good). You can read it online here.

In the 1974 paper “Two Horizons of Man” for the American Anthropological Association, Chad Oliver identified the “larger theoretical and social contexts” in which his two professions (SF and anthropology) were subsumed: “The problems of cultural contact and culture conflict, the discussions of cultural relativism, the idea of cultural evolution, the whole emphasis on looking at things from different perspectives, the questions about what it meant to be human–all of these were as characteristics if science fiction as they were of anthropology” (note). “Stardust” (1952) exemplifies this intersection of concerns. The new generation of explorers encounter the first generation, trapped for hundreds of years on sabotaged generation ship on their way to colonize Capella.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVI (Pamela Sargent, Warren Miller, Robert Thurston, and a Themed Anthology on Deep Space)

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

Preliminary Note: I’ve made two big changes to the site. My revamped review index now contains every single short story and novel I’ve reviewed on the site listed by author. In the past, you had to sift through the anthologies to find short stories. Hopefully this is easier to navigate [you better say yes — it took me more than eight hours — hah]. Let me know if it is a useful change.

I’ve also updated the site template to make it easier to navigate on a mobile device. I still like my old template but this seems functionally identical and visually similar.

Now to the science fiction!

1. Deep Space, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973)

John Berkey’s cover for the 1976 edition

From the back cover: “Beyond the rim of the solar system, past the orbit of Pluto, far into uncharted space, a man in a life hutch is held prisoner by a deranged robot. A galactic agent learns that there is a cosmic reason for his distasteful, dangerous job. A man discovers he is the only human being not controlled by an analogue—an invisible guardian. And the planet Centaurus holds Continue reading

Generation Spaceship Short Story Review: Chad Oliver’s “The Wind Blows Free” (1957)

Initial note: This is the inaugural post in a series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. You are welcome to read and discuss along with me–all of the stories I’ll review will be available online–as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage!

Next up: Clifford D. Simak’s “Spacebred Generations” (variant title: “Target Generation”) in the August 1953 issue of Science-Fiction Plus (Internet Archive link).

I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme.

(Bob Layzell’s cover for the 1980 edition of A Sea of Space (1970), ed. William F. Nolan)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Chad Oliver’s “The Wind Blows Free” (1957) first appeared in the July 1957 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher (Internet Archive link). Despite the simple premise, Oliver’s powerful delivery and imagery reaffirmed my love for generation ship stories and their common tropes: generational change, the science of survival, the architecture of arks Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXIX (Elgin + Oliver + Shiner + Worlds of Tomorrow Magazine)

1. My exploration of the early 80s continues with an intriguing Mars mystery. I had not heard of the author—Lewis Shiner—until browsing SF Encyclopedia recently. It’s also graced with a stirring, if rather simple, Di Fate spaceship.

2. Giants in the Dust  (1976) might be Chad Oliver’s least known SF novel. Clute describes it thus: “Giants in the Dust (1976) argues the thesis that mankind’s fundamental nature is that of a hunting animal, and that our progress from that condition has fundamentally deracinated us.” I reviewed another one of Oliver’s 70s visions—The Shores of Another Sea (1973)—a few years ago.

I’m positive that this is Di Fate’s cover as well although it’s uncredited. One of his clunkier works…. His figures are always slightly off.

3. I picked up one of the later volumes of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Coyote Jones sequence. Did not care for At the Seventh Level (1972).

4. And finally, I bought a large pile (20?) magazines for less than a dollar each. People might be obsessed with the aesthetic of old SF but the magazines and paperbacks are cheap as dust at some of the stores I frequent…. I’ll post them slowly over the coming months.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Hated?


1. Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984) (MY REVIEW)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLI (Wilhelm + Oliver + Coney + Anthology)

Prepare for a glut of “Recent Science Fiction Acquisition” posts!

From my recent travels and a gift from a friend (@SFPotpourri)….

Michael G. Coney is an odd bird.  If you’re curious what I might mean, check out my reviews of Friends Come in Boxes (1973) and Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975).  In short, I had to procure a short story collection!

Chad Oliver, an early proponent of anthropological SF, intrigues yet frustrates—I need to read more than The Shores of Another Sea (1971) to come to a firm conclusion about his fiction.

And Kate Wilhelm, my views are firmly established — in the spring of last year I put together a Kate Wilhelm guest post series.  Check it out!  I’ve posted reviews for the following: her early collection (for fans of 50s SF only) The Mile-Long Spaceship (1963), her spectacular collection with numerous award-winning stories (for fans of experimental SF) The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fiction (1968), her solid SF + psychological horror novel Margaret and I (1971), and her even better novel Juniper Time (1979).

And New Dimensions IV (1974), an anthology edited by Silverberg—with a story from one of the unsung SF greats, David R. Bunch.  I have discussed but not reviewed his collection Moderan (1972).  I placed it on my top 10 SF works (pre-1980) for inclusion in the Gollancz Masterwork series list.  And, has anyone read Felix C. Gotschalk?  It contains two stories by this unknown (at least to me) author.  An overall fantastic lineup (Malzberg, Lafferty, Dozois, Bunch, etc.)….

Thoughts? comments?

[does anyone know the artist for the Silverberg edited anthology?]

1. Monitor Found in Orbit, Michael G. Coney (1974)


(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVIII (Lafferty + Shaw + Wilhelm + Thomas + Anthology)

A nice range of 60s/70s SF….

A wonderful Richard Powers cover and another by Don Punchatz which grows on me ever day (hauntingly surreal in its illustration of the book’s plot)….

Bob Shaw is Mr. Perpetually Average–see my reviews of Ground Zero Man (1971) and One Million Tomorrow (1971)—but MPorcius claims Night Walk (1968) is worth the read [here]—I took a peek at the first few pages and it shows promise.  But SF Potpourri’s lengthy rundown of his other work casts a shadow [here]!

Who can pass up Lafferty?  I have to admit, the premise of this particular novel does not appeal to me in the slightest.  But, I purchased the book for less than $2 and it’s a $25+ (with shipping) paperback online!

Another Ted Thomas and Kate Wilhelm collaboration—one of my Kate Wilhelm’s SF guest posts [here], by Mike White, argues convincingly that it is not one of her better novels…. alas.

And an anthology edited by Robert Hoskins.


Some great covers!

1. The Reefs of Earth, R. A. Lafferty (1968)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1968 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The Shores of Another Sea, Chad Oliver (1971)

(Michael Booth’s cover for the 1984 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

Suppose that one day man landed on some distant planet.  Why would he have come, what impulse would have driven him across the darkness and the light-years?  Could he explain, and would he even try?  If he set out to explore that fearful world, if he trapped some specimens, what would he do if he were attacked by monstrous beings he could not understand? (135)

Chad Oliver is a well-known proponent of anthropological science fiction.  John Clute (of SF encyclopedia) proclaims him “pioneer in the application of competent anthropological thought to sf themes.”  Despite being relatively prolific between the 50s-70s (a handful of short stories appeared in the 80s), The Shores of Another Sea (1971) retains a distinctly 50s tone, Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXIX (Haldeman + Chalker + Oliver + Anderson)

Some Chicago finds from Powell Books (Hyde Park)…  I own too many SF novels in my to read pile (I have close to 300 waiting to be read so I am going to try to put a stop on rampant — yes, they are cheap — purchases).

Last one of these for a while?  Should I take bets?

Some titles definitely not my normal fare — I’ve read Haldeman’s The Forever War (1975), Forever Peace (1999), and Forever Free (1999) but not a single one of his short stories so Infinite Dreams (1978) is a welcome addition to my collection.

Chad Oliver is one of the “second-tier” greats whom I’ve not read…. And Chalker falls in that category as well.  Poul Anderson’s The Byworlder (1971) is generally not considered one of his best but it did snag a Nebula award nomination.


1. Infinite Dreams, Joe Haldeman (1978)

(Clyde Caldwell’s cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading