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.
- The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1981)
- The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (variant title: The War of Dreams), Angela Carter (1972). Review forthcoming
- The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)
- The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)
New books join the ranks of their happy brethren on my shelves…
Let’s start with Arno Schmidt’s 1957 SF parable (English translation 1979)–The Egghead Republic : A Short Novel from the Horse Latitudes… First, before you are tempted to buy the novel check out this fascinating series of images via Biblioklept from Schmidt’s later behemoth 1970 novel + rumination on James Joyce, Bottom’s Dream. You must be able to tolerate this level of experimentation. Although The Egghead Republic is far less intense and much shorter, it is not for the fainthearted (and probably not for fans of “SF only” or those who are frustrated with “artifice” or “literary” or “the author in the story”). There is a reason he wasn’t translated into English for a long long time! Here’s an image (with some of my notes) for demonstration purposes [click to enlarge]
And more experimentation in the SF fold via Moorcock and his then wife Hilary Bailey. Graced with a gorgeous Leo and Diane Dillon cover, as always.
Added to the mix is one of George Alec Effinger’s lesser known novels–I do not have high hopes despite how much I loved Heroics (1979) and his masterpiece What Entropy Means to Me (1972).
An early Kate Wilhelm novel, although I’ll be sticking to her late 60s/early 70s short stories for a while–they are that good! See my review of Abyss (1971) and The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fictions (1968).
As always comments/thoughts are welcome.
Has anyone read Schmidt? I read a review where this particular novel was compared to Lem.
Enjoy the covers!
1. The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)
(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition) Read More
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)
(Richard Powers cover for the 1963 edition) Read More
(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1979 edition)
George Alec Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me (1972), a complex and intense homage to the act of literary creation, ranks among my favorite SF novels. Heroics (1979), a deconstruction of myth and heroic quest, treads similar ground but in a more light-hearted manner. The sheer intensity elevates the former while the latter’s sincere examination of old age and loneliness strikes still strikes with elegiac power. Both are highly recommended but What Entropy Means to Me or his short story collection Irrational Numbers (1976) might be the place to Read More
(Michael Flanagan’s cover for the 1976 edition)
4.5/5 (collated rating: Very Good)
George Alec Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me (1972) exemplifies the elements of the New Wave movement that continue to fascinate me, i.e. a fascination that compels my endless Orbit, Nebula, Universe, etc. anthology purchases! Effinger’s short fiction holds the same allure—he tackles a vast variety of subjects and themes: trauma, commercialization, sports, and biological apocalypse are paired with the daily experience, the mundane. Interested in SF about a man obsessed with his fish tank confronting his disintegrating relationship and the end of the world? A regimented cult, or psychological experiment (?), organized around Mithraic ritual and the memorization Read More
(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1971 edition)
3.75/5 (Collated rating: Good)
Won the Locus 1972 Award for Best Original Anthology.
The Universe series of anthologies contained original SF that had not yet appeared in print. And, the inaugural volume Universe 1 (1971) ed. by Terry Carr certainly hit critical pay dirt: Robert Silverberg’s minimalist the first robotic pope tale won the Nebula for Best Short Story, George Alec Effinger’s anti-war black comedy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, Joanna Russ’ alt-history (sort of) fable was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and Edgar Pangborn’s sentient “alien” animals look for a caretaker mood piece was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
On the whole the quality is fairly Read More
Two remaining books from the $1 hardback sale at my local bookstore….
A collection of Malzberg stories!
Another novel by one of my favorite SF authors, George Alec Effinger (i.e. his amazing metafictional novel What Entropy Means to Me (1972) blew me away)…
And finally an overpopulation/ecological disaster themed collection containing some great authors–Pamela Zoline, J. G. Ballard, Katherine MacLean, Kit Reed, Zelazny, etc.
1. The Unreasoning Mask, Philip José Farmer (1981)
(Artifact’s cover for the 1981 edition) Read More
With the sole novel of his I’ve read, What Entropy Means to Me (1972), George Alec Effinger has entered the pantheon of my favorite authors—the novel is that brilliant. So, with a birthday gift card from my sister I procured a copy of Irrational Numbers (1975), a collection of short fiction. Will read soon….
I know very little about John Varley’s work. I have a copy of his collection The Persistence of Vision (1978) but had no idea that his first novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) was as well known as the Goodreads ratings make it out to be (1,476 votes!). I am positive that Boris Vallejo’s horrid cover prevented me from even considering the novel in the past.
More Wilhelm! (Juniper Time)
More Blish! (Midsummer Century)
All first edition hardbacks for a mere $1-2 each.
1. The Ophiuchi Hotline, John Varley (1977)
(Boris Vallejo’s cover for the 1977 edition) Read More