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).

Continue reading

Short Story Review: Frederik Pohl’s “The Hated” (1958)

The following review is the 9th post in my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay. I relish the act of literary archaeology.

As always, feel free to join the conversation!

Today: Frederik Pohl’s (as Paul Flehr) “The Hated” (1958) in the January 1958 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Previously: Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” in Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974) [You can borrow this anthology online in one-hour increments]

Up next: Roger Zelazny’s “Halfjack” in the June 1979 issue of Omni, ed. Don Dixon. You can read it online here.

3.75/5 (Good)

Frederik Pohl’s “The Hated” (1958) first appeared in the January 1958 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. He wrote it under the pseudonym Paul Flehr. You can read it online here.

“The Hated” (1958) postulates that astronauts will require psychological conditioning to survive the confines of space travel to Mars. In Pohl’s future, the Mars-craft crams six men in a space the size of a Buick (51). The continuous sounds of machine and crew, the fetid taste of the air filled with sweat, the omniscient fear of crushing your oxygen line while sleeping, the free fall, the dreams of drowning, generates an intense drive to kill your crewmates. Byron, the narrator, wants a knife for Sam, to strangle Gilvey with his bear hands, gun Chowderhead with one bullet to the belly, turn a tommy gun on Wally, and cage the captain with hungry lions. The conditioning is “like a straightjacket”–Byron elaborates: “You know how to make a baby cry? Hold his hands […] What they did to us so we couldn’t kill each other, it was like being tied up, like having out hands held so we couldn’t get free” (50).

Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCLXVIII (Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, Jacquetta Hawkes, and Frederik Pohl)

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

1. Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories, J. G. Ballard (1976)

There’s not a back cover or inside cover blurb on my edition

Contents: “The Ultimate City” (1976), “Low-Flying Aircraft” (1975), “The Dead Astronaut” (1968), “My Dream of Flying to Wake Island” (1974), “The Life and Death of God” (1976), “The Greatest Television Show on Earth” (1972), “A Place and a Time to Die” (1969), “The Comsat Angels” (1968), “The Beach Murders” (1966)

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been on a weird (for me) music kick as of late. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s post-punk/new wave/goth music (Bauhaus, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc.) and I came across the British band The Comsat Angels. And they’re named after a J. G. Ballard story! If you don’t know of the band but enjoy any of the bands in the above list, check out Sleep No More (1981) (cold, paranoid, hypnotic). This led me back to Ballard’s catalog to track down the remaining anthologies of his I don’t own.

Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCVII (Moorcock + Pohl + Leinster + Morressy)

1. Frederik Pohl short stories? I’ve collected volumes and volumes and volumes for years—I suspect I should get around to reading one!

An effective Dean Ellis cover….

2. I acquired the second volume in Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time sequence at my local used bookstore down the street. I read An Alien Heat (1972) in 2016.

3. A few days ago I reviewed John Morressy’s wonderful Frostworld and Dreamfire (1977) — I was intrigued enough that I tracked down another volume in the Del Whitby sequence—Under a Calculating Star (1975). I’ll have a review up in the next few days.

4. The second Murray Leinster Med Service collection I’ve acquired–as a huge fan of medical-themed SF…. I should put together a list.

Other lists: Immortality in SF, Generation Ships, and Overpopulation in SF.

Do you have a favorite cover?

As always, I look forward to your comments!

~

1.  Alternating  Currents,  Frederik  Pohl  (1956)

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr (1967)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1970 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Philip K. Dick. Roger Zelazny. Bob Shaw. Michael Moorcock. R. A. Lafferty. Seldom do I say that a “best of” anthology includes a large number of the best stories of the year. From PKD’s artificial memories to Bob Shaw’s slow glass,  World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (1967) contains both fascinating technological marvels and serious character-centered storytelling. While not all the stories are successful, I highly recommend this collection for fans of 60s SF.

Note: I reviewed both Roger Zelazny stories elsewhere—I have linked and quoted my original reviews.

Brief Analysis/Plot Summary

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXVIII (Carter + Boyd + Platonov + Anthology with Sturgeon, Bradbury, Budrys, et al.)

1) Can’t resist a beautiful Richard Powers cover even on a rather standard 60s anthology of short stories—includes Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Theodore Sturgeon, Wyman Guin, Algis Budrys, etc.

Relevant reviews: Algis Budrys’ collection Budrys’ Inferno (1963) and Wyman Guin’s superb collection Living Way Out (variant title: Beyond Bedlam) (1967).

2) A SF novel by Angela Carter — enough said…

3) One of the great (and lesser read) Soviet dystopias! Can’t wait!

4) Another bargain bin find by John Boyd… with some incredibly hyperbolic cover blurbs on the back about his earlier (and lackluster) novel The Last Starship from Earth (1968).

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome!

1. Beyond, ed. Thomas A. Dardis (1963)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Artists Behind the 1st ed. Cover of John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972)

thshplkpff1972

(Irving Freeman and Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1st ed. of The Sheep Look Up (1972), John Brunner)

John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972) would easily make my top fifteen SF novels of the 1970s—it’s far better than anything else he produced in the decade, although some might argue that The Shockwave Rider (1975) comes close.  Other than the novel’s unforgettable power, the first edition cover by Irving Freeman and Mark Rubio for Harper & Row remains seared in my memory.  The  1973 Ballantine first edition paperback also used the same art.

The harrowing nature of the story, decaying bodies/pollution, matches perfectly the ram-horned figures on human torsos, gas masks upturned… The distance to the horizon line, rendered via black horizontal lines, results in Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLIX (Pohl + Clarion Anthologies)

The Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, started in 1968, continues to this day as one of the successful workshops for authors with instruction by the best the genre has to offer.  The alumni list is massive including Vonda N. McIntyre, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, etc.  For more on the workshop consult the SF Encyclopedia entry.  Robin Scott Wilson, the original director, published three anthologies decked out with the distinctive art of Gene Szafran.  I am now the proud owner of all three!

Stories by Ursula Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, Octavia Butler, George Alec Effinger, Edward Bryant, among others and reflections by the greats of the day, Frederik Pohl, Joanna Russ, Harlan Ellison, etc.

And many many many less familiar authors whose stories I will be keen to explore.

And, last but not least, A Frederik Pohl collection with a stunning Richard Powers cover.  He was in fine form in the early 60s.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

1. The Abominable Earthman, Frederik Pohl (1963)

mlo613

(Richard Powers cover for the 1963 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLIII (Two themed anthologies: Election Day 2084 and TV: 2000 + Harrison + Gary)

Two themed anthologies—one in “honor” of the election [*cough* I mean, well, I won’t go all political] year cycle…  Another on one of my favorite SF themes, television of the future!

That said, both Asimov edited collections (from the 80s but with stories from only earlier decades) have a serious fault: out of the combined 35 stories there is not a single story by a woman author.  I’ve read a vast number of 60s/70s collections which do not fall into this trap…. Orbit 1 (1966) almost manages gender parity!  I can think of numerous stories by women authors that fit both themes.  For example, Kit Reed’s wonderful “At Central” (1967) fits the TV anthology!

A hard to find for cheap early M. John Harrison novel…. Unfortunately I only found a much uglier edition that the one I show below as the rest were out of my price range….

And, a complete shot in the dark—a SF novel by the mainstream French/Lithuanian novelist/screenwriter Romain Gary, the author of White Dog (1970)..

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts + comments.

1. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

THCMMTTDMB1971-1

(Chris Yates’ cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading