2021 was the best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers! I suspect this increasingly has to do with my twitter account where I actively promote my site vs. a growing interest in vintage SF. I also hit my 1000th post–on Melisa Michaels’ first three published SF short stories–in December.
As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!
I read very few novels this year. Instead, I devoted my attention to various science short story reviews series and anthologies. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2021 (with bonus categories).
Tempted to track any of them down?
And feel free to list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. I look forward to reading your comments.
My Top 7 Science Fiction Novels of 2021 (click titles for my review)
1. Where Time Winds Blow (1981), Robert Holdstock, 5/5 (Masterpiece): Holdstock’s vision is a well-wrought cavalcade of my favorite SF themes–the shifting sands of time, the pernicious maw of trauma that threatens to bite down, unreliable narrators trying to trek their own paths, a profoundly alien planet that compels humanity to construct an entirely distinct society… It’s a slow novel that initially masquerades as something entirely different. Just like the planet itself.
This anthology contains the 4th post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. I decided to review the entire anthology!
Today: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo” (1970), 3.75/5 (Good). The entire anthology is available online here.
Previously: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954)in the June 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.
Up Next: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959) in the October 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills. You can read the story online here.
Jim Steranko’s cover for the 1st edition
3/5 (Collated rating: Average)
Robert Hoskins “resurrected” Infinity Science Fiction magazine (1955-1958) as a five volume anthologies series between 1970-1973. The first volume, Infinity One (1970), contains sixteen original stories and one reprint from the original magazine–Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” (1955). SF Encyclopedia describes the anthology series as “a competent but not outstanding series.”
Eight of the seventeen stories fall into the “good” category. While none are masterpieces, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Barry N. Malzberg co-writing with Kris Neville, Katherine MacLean, Gene Wolfe, and Poul Anderson Continue reading →
1. Gene Wolfe’s first novel—purchased for the Peter Elson cover alone…. Wolfe disowned the book, which apparently underwent substantial editorial amputation.
SF Encyclopedia‘s description: “Wolfe’s first novel, Operation ARES (1970), where a twenty-first-century America which has turned its back on Technological advance is propagandized and benignly infiltrated by its abandoned Martian colony, was heavily cut by the publisher, and reads as apprentice work. Nevertheless it is very characteristic of Wolfe that his protagonist, having pretended membership of the pro-Mars underground called ARES, should unwillingly become its effective leader.”
2. Another The Women’s Press publication joins my shelf.
3. The unknown quantity of the post…. Clute over at SF Encyclopedia describes it as follows: “[Chris] Boyce’s most important work was the sf novel Catchworld (1975), joint winner […] of the Gollancz/Sunday Times SF Novel Award. Catchworld is an ornate, sometimes overcomplicated tale combining sophisticated brain-computer interfaces […] and Space Opera; the transcendental bravura of the book’s climax is memorable.”
4. I recently read (but haven’t yet reviewed) C. J. Cherryh’s Port Eternity (1982). My exploration of her early 80s novels continues!
Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. This looks like a splendid New Worlds Quarterly anthology replete with book reviews, articles, and interior art by John Clute and James Cawthorn. When I review it (hopefully soon), I’ll include a few examples of the art. The quantity of authors I’ve not read in this anthology is high—for example, A.A. Attanasio, Harvey Jacobs, Rachel Pollack, among many others. See content lists below.
2. Gene Wolfe’s novels are a major hole in my SFF knowledge. Here is an early fantasy work that I might in the near future. I tend to take perambulatory paths before tackling an author’s great works. Thoughts on this lesser known one?
(From the uncredited cover for the 1975 edition of The Invincible (1964), Stanislaw Lem)
I’ve updated the website template (and purchased the domain name) and would like to know if it is easy to navigate (especially on mobile devices). Obviously I can’t please everyone but hope that it is more streamlined and 2017 than before.
I started Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations way back in 2010. My first post bashed John Brunner’s Born Under Mars (1967) in vaguely substantive terms (sometimes I think about deleting my earliest reviews). Since then I have written some 300 odd review reviews,114 cover art posts, and various film reviews, indices, lists, guest post series, an interview, etc. With all of this in mind, I thought I’d give you a sense of what is on the horizon.
Reminder: If you’re the emailing rather than commenting sort I can be reached at ciceroplatobooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
The Three Major Projects
1) I’m in the process of compiling a resource page for Barry N. Malzberg that would include links to reviews/interviews/academic articles from around the web. Let me know if there are any links you would like me to include. Even if you aren’t a Barry N. Malzberg fan, if you happen to come across in your SF perambulations any relevant information I’d be very appreciative if you’d send them my way.
Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.
Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.
…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).
Scans are from my collection.
1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)
1) Brian M. Stableford has not faired particularly well on this site: I’ve reviewed The Florians (1976) andJourney to the Center (1982) (I apologize in advance for the rather slight reviews—they are years old). But I found a copy of the second volume of The Daedalus Mission series in a clearance bin, and depending on my mood, I have a soft spot for conflict-less “solve the biological mission” Star Trek-type SF. But The Florians (1976) was forgettable…
Jesse reviewed Stableford’s Man in a Cage (1975) and calls it an intelligent psychological exploration. I am more likely to read my copy before Critical Threshold (1977). Check out his review if you are interested in Stableford’s most mature work!
2) Emma Tennant’s The Crack(variant title: The Time of the Crack) (1973) was a compelling satire of the cozy apocalypse…. And I cannot resist snagging a copy of Hotel De Dream (1976), where residents of a seedy hotel start dreaming each other’s dreams.
4) I now own one of the worst SF covers of all time! I purchased Pilgrimage (1981), Drew Mendelson’s only SF novel, due to SF Encyclopedia’s positive assessment and the fact I’m a sucker for futuristic cities, even if they’re heavily indebted to Christopher Priest’s Inverted World (1974): “[it] grippingly presents a vision of a bleak Ruined Earth environment, long abandoned by most humans except for those who inhabit the planet’s one remaining artefact, a vast City that moves slowly across the devastated land.” For more on the novel consult the entry here.
Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…
2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”
And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.
Recently reminded of Fritz Leiber’s beautiful story “A Pail of Air” (1951) which I reviewed a few years ago in the eponymous collection, I was delighted to come across another one of his short story collections. Thankfully, no Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories are in sight. And of course, another Richard Powers cover…
On twitter I mentioned my ignorance regarding the work of Isidore Haiblum, the author of the “the first Yiddish SF novel” according to the blurb on The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders (1971). I have not come across a copy of that particular novel yet, but, another even lesser known quantity joins the books arrayed in piles across my library.