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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Book Review: Fellowship of the Stars, ed. Terry Carr (1974) (Ursula K. Le Guin, John Brunner, George Alec Effinger, Pamela Sargent, Fritz Leiber, et al.)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

Terry Carr’s anthology Fellowship of the Stars (1974) collects nine original short stories by luminaries of the genre, Ursula K. Le Guin and Fritz Leiber, to lesser known authors such as Alan Brennert and Mildred Downey Broxon. As the title suggests, Carr commissions stories on the “theme of friendship between human and alien beings” (vii). In a bit of a twist, in more than one instance “friendship” might be code for something far more sinister.

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Updates: Recent Purchases No. CCLXXIX (James Tiptree, Jr., George Zebrowski, Murray Leinster, International Science Fiction Magazine)

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

1. Macrolife, George Zebrowski (1979)

From the inside flap: “A novel of epic scope, Macrolife opens in the year 2021. The Bulero family owns one of Earth’s richest corporations. As the Buleros gather for a reunion at the family mansion, an industrial accident plunges the corporation into a crisis, which eventually brings the world around them to the brink of disaster. Vilified, the Buleros flee to a space colony where the young Richard Bulero gradually realizes that the only hope for humanity lies in macrolife—mobile, self-reproducing space habitats.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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