Generation Ship Short Story Review: J. G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centaurus” (1962)

Preliminary note: This is the fifth post in a series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. All of the stories I’ll review are available online (see links below). 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.

Previously: John Brunner’s “Lungfish” (1957) appeared in the December 1957 issue of Science Fantasy, ed. John Cornell.

Next up: We’re stepping back almost two decades! A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II”in the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. (story link).

I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme.

(Lloyd Birmingham’s cover for the April 1962 issue, ed. Cele Goldsmith)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

J. G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centaurus” (1961) first appeared in the April 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. Due to the twists in Ballard’s short story, I feel the need to indicate spoilers. My reviews are uninterested in avoiding spoilers as I am here to analyze and uncover secrets, and secretive commentaries, and metaphoric layers—and there are a lot of fascinating and unnerving elements in “Thirteen to Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXIII (J. G. Ballard, Fred Saberhagen, Richard A. Lupoff, Garry Kilworth)

1. I have yet to read any of J. G. Ballard’s late 70s and early 80s short fiction.  Myths of the Near Future (1982) seems to contain some fascinating gems. I’ve previously reviewed two collections of his 50s and 60s fiction on the site—both are highly recommended!

2. My exploration of 60s/70s SF takes me to an another author I’ve only read about– Fred Saberhagen. I enjoy post-apocalyptical landscapes and balkanized and decayed far future societies–but, is there anything original in this take on the theme?

3. I’m proud owner (*cough*) of one of the worst vintage covers ever created. The premise was the sole reason I snatched up Kilworth’s The Night of Kadar (1978)—malfunctions create unusual growth in the seeded human colonists on an alien planet.

4. A fix-up novel (with substantial rewritten and added material) from Richard A. Lupoff…. not an author I’m too familiar with, but this one is endorsed by Harlan Ellison and definitely screams 70s!


1. Myths of the Near Future, J. G. Ballard (1982)

(James Marsh’s cover for the 1984 edition) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Yves Tanguy and Penguin SF Cover Art

(Yves Tanguy’s cover for the 1963 edition of Mission of Gravity (1954), Hal Clement)

On the birthday of French-American surrealist Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) (January 5th), I always take a minute to browse his art online. I faintly recalled seeing his art on various 1960s Penguin edition covers…. And lo and behold, J. G. Ballard’s  New Wave masterpiece The Drowned World (1962) and Hal Clement’s pioneering work of hard SF, Mission of Gravity (1954) were both graced with Tanguy’s canvases. Penguin regularly used the work of famous mainstream artists–for example, Max Ernst (I identified ten covers). China Miéville’s novella “The Last Days of New Paris” (2018) also uses a Tanguy/Lamba/Breton exquisite corpse collage (I’m focusing primarily on earlier covers in this post).   Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCVI (Ballard + Lessing + Wilson + Nebula Awards Anthology)

1. A Ballard novel that had previously escaped my grasp… Too bad I don’t own the visually fun 1981 1st edition (Bill Botton’s cover screams Damnation Alley).

2. Unfortunately my 1st edition copy of Angus Wilson’s satirical 1961 SF novel The Old Men at the Zoo did not come with a dustjacket (damn sellers who incorrectly list books online!). The novel itself appears interesting! Has anyone read it?

3. A spectacular Paul Lehr cityscape cover + Nebula award winners = what is not to love?

4. And finally, my sole Brooklyn, NY book purchase from my summer trip — the fifth in Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos: Archives sequence of SF novels.

As always, comments (and even tangents) are welcome.

Note: His-res images of all but Angus Wilson’s novel are my personal copies.


1. Hello America, J. G. Ballard (1981)

(James Marsh’s cover for the 1985 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXIX (Ballard + Tennant + Guin + Anthology)

The move into my first house—with my ridiculous quantity of books—is nearly complete….

1. ….and so is my collection of 60s and 70s J. G. Ballard!

2. Currently reading this peculiar Emma Tennant vision… My third of her books — I never got around to reviewing Hotel de Dream (1976) as I grew disenchanted with the second half but thoroughly enjoyed The Crack (variant title: The Time of the Crack) (1973).

3. Not personally a huge fans of sports but enjoy when SF authors (for example Robert Sheckley, Barry N. Malzberg, and George Elec Effinger) take on future sport… A perfect topic for satirical commentary and sinister undercurrents….

4. I while ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed Wyman Guin’s short story collection Living Way Out (variant title: Beyond Bedlam) (1967). I found this in a thrift story for less than a 1$ so it ended up on my shelf.


1. Concrete Island, J. G. Ballard (1974)

(Richard Clifton-Dey’s cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXII (The Anthology Edition) (Best SF Stories from New Worlds 5, Orbit 6, Alpha 3, Best SF 1972)

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)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXX (The Scotland Edition No. 2) (Ballard + Wyndham + Shaw + Aldiss)

Still abroad. Need my desk and familiar surroundings to write book reviews. Alas.

That said, more books from my Scotland travels. Here’s Part I in my Scotland series.

1) I need to read more John Wyndham. I often find short stories are the best place to start. And as I was journeying around the UK, Penguin editions are plentiful!

2) One of J.G. Ballard’s best known novels. The one Cronenberg got his hands on…. Relevant reviews: Billenium (1962), High-Rise (1975), and The Voice of Time and Other Stories (1962).

3) A late 70s Brian W. Aldiss collection. He’s long been a favorite on this site—especially his short fiction. I’ve reviewed the following collections: Starswarm (1964), No Time Like Tomorrow (1959), Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960), and Who Can Replace a Man? (variant title: Best Science Fiction Stories of Brian W. Aldiss) (1965).

4) And finally, another Bob Shaw novel. I’ve heard that The Palace of Eternity (1969) is one strange read.

Note: As I am still abroad and without my handy scanner, I’ve had to include cover images of two of the books which I do not own. At some later point I might replace the images with high-res scans.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments!

1. The Seeds of Time, John Wyndham (1956)

(Uncredited cover for the 1966 edition) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Body as Landscape

(František Muzika, Z Českého ráje V (Ležící torzo), 1944)

František Muzika (1900-1976), a key member of the Czech New Wave scene, created haunting paintings that blended human form with the surrounding landscapes. His painting that heads this post inspired me to collect various science fiction covers (from a mix of English and non-English language presses) that showcase the interlacing of human and landscape — the body (or body parts) as landscape. There are many many many more covers on this theme and perhaps I’ll gather them for a later post. I am torn over my favorite! Leigh Taylor’s cover for the 1967 edition of J.G. Ballard’s The Disaster Area (1967) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Three early David Pelham covers in honor of his birthday

(Cover for the 1971 edition of Fifth Planet (1963), Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle)

On twitter I occasionally post the birthdays of important figures in SF history (artists, authors, and editors). Every morning I scan The Internet Speculative Fiction Database’s birthday list on their main page and lo and behold a name immediately popped out for May 12th–the iconic 70s SF artist David Pelham (1938-present).  Enough has been written about his distinctive and surreal covers for Penguin that I won’t go into detail here. Instead I’ve included a few links if you wish to learn more below.

I invite my readers to link in the comments their favorite articles and tidbits about David Pelham and I’ll include any links I receive in my list as well.

I’ve chosen to include in this post his first three SF covers, which happen to be stylistically and thematically similar. Continue reading