2022 was the single best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers!
As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Whether you are a lurker, occasional visitor, or a regular commenter, thank you for your continued support.
Continuing a trend from 2021, I read only a handful of novels this year. Instead, I devoted my obsessive attention to various science short story review initiatives (listed below), anthologies, and histories of the science fiction genre. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2022 with bonus categories. Descriptions are derived from my linked reviews.
My Top 5 Science Fiction Novels of 2022 (click titles for my full review)
1. Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake(1978), 4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece): Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Snake journeys across the post-apocalyptic wastes of a future Earth with three serpents healing the sick and caring for the dying. She is a member of the healers, who adopt orphans and rescue the oppressed and train them how to use the serpents. Mist and Sand are genetically modified vipers of terrestrial origin. But Grass comes from another alien world. Snake uses Mist and Sand’s venom to create vaccines, treat diseases, and cure tumors. Grass, the rare dreamsnake, with its alien DNA is the most important of them all–it provides therapeutic pleasure and dreams that facilitate conquering one’s fear and healing in the ill. In Snake’s voyages, she encounters prejudice and violence. A joyous sense of sexual freedom permeates the proceedings. A powerful and different take on a post-apocalyptic worldscape in every possible way.
It’s been more than a decade since I’ve read James Blish. I’ve long been a fan of his Hugo-winning novel A Case of Conscience (1958) and individual stories in collections like The Seedling Stars(1957) and Galactic Cluster (1959). Unfortunately, So Close to Home (1961) is an uneven collection with more duds than hits. The three worthwhile stories–“The Oath” (1960), “Testament of Andros” (1953), and “The Masks” (1959)–can be found online at the links below. Almost all the stories in the collection are set in the near future and chart humanity’s fear of the end and how one might navigate the strange new worlds that emerge.
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Strange Ports of Call, ed. August Derleth (1948)
From the back cover: “‘Begotten of Imagination, on the body of Technology, there springs forth the wild child Science Fiction.’ –Clifton Fadiman
The above is one of the many attempts that have been made to describe a department of fiction which, in spite of some sniping critics, continues to increase its followers. Recently Bertrand Russell observed that science fiction consists of ‘intelligent anticipation–much more intelligent than the expectations of statesmen.’
(Cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis)
Art Sussman produced a remarkable corpus of SF and other pulp covers (mysteries, crime, etc). He could easily shift gears between Richard Powers-esque surrealism—although distinctly his own take—to covers that suited an Agatha Christie mystery (browse the range here). I would be wary comparing him to Powers until you skim through the latter’s late 50s early 60s art (definitely an enjoyable activity!). Although Powers is still far superior, both were part of the SF art movement increasingly experimented with surreal/metaphoric and experimental art (there are still spaceships lurking around the edges, and futuristic cities, and other pulpy moments).
There is a precision of vision with Sussman’s art—his cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis places the astronauts in an outline of a vessel with strange hints at alien planets and experiences scattered gem-like in the distance. Sussman’s focus on the human form — often surrounded by surreal forms and humanlike membranes — showcases agony and despair. A great example (and my favorite of the bunch) pairs jagged black fields with a bloodied man, the 1960 Continue reading →
(Cover for the 1972 edition of Recalled to Life (1958), Robert Silverberg)
“I think the 60s and 70s were probably one the most creatively interesting periods for everyone. Art, music, film all pushing the envelope. New York City was affordable and fun, fertile in its influences. Book cover art, book jacket art was fun concept art, a bit more free than other illustration work” — Emanuel Schongut
Back on May 19th, I showcased Emanuel Schongut’s 1960s SF covers [link]. His nephew found my post and put me in touch. Over the last few weeks I have had a wonderful discussion via email about his time creating covers for Doubleday under the direction of Margo Herr (art director + cover illustrator/artist). Emanuel graciously agreed to a short interview. He gives a behind-the-scenes look at SF cover illustrating in the 60s/70s, reflects on his own career, and discusses his artistic process. If you have any questions, I will be more than happy to relay them to the artist.
Also included after the interview is a delightful selection of his 1970s covers–a double post! I also recommend visiting his online portfolio for his more recent non-SF work.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.
Note: I have made only minor edits for clarity and inserted publication dates where necessary.
Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview on your 60s/70s science fiction covers. Over more than two decades of producing SF covers for Doubleday, you put together an impressive body of work. They graced novels by some of the most esteemed authors of the genre, including Kate Wilhelm, John Brunner, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Silverberg, Keith Laumer, among others.
Max Ernst (1891-1976) has long been one of my favorite artists. I had no idea, until browsing through the Penguin SF cover images from the 60s, that his art appeared on a variety of SF/F novels and related literature/nonfiction…. Yes, I had seen the memorable cover for J. G. Ballard’s The Crystal World (1966) [below] but I had not put the two together.
My favorite is without a doubt the use of Ernst’s awe-inspiring Europe After the Rain II (1940-42) for J. G. Ballard’s collection of stories, Memories of the Space Age (1988). The malaise generated by his landscapes of decay combined with the sheer power of Ballard’s visions evoke are almost palpable shudders of joy…
There are a handful more but I have included most of the 50s to early 80s examples.
And today, April 2nd, is Max Ernst’s birthday! So, share, if you are so inclined, your favorite of his works of art. And, feel free to identify any that might appear on the covers below… Too bad more publishers don’t latch onto the joy that are his collages (do a google search and you will understand).
(Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain, cover for the 1988 edition of J. G. Ballard’s Memories of the Space Age, 1988) Continue reading →
Thanks to my frequent commentator Peter S, I followed up on his suggestion to take a peek at Jack Gaughan’s 1969 cover for the Walker & Co. edition of James White’s All Judgement Fled (1968)—and was blown away by some of the other works in his art sequence for the press.
Jack Gaughan’s covers for Walker & Co. between 1969-1970 showcase some of his more surrealist inclinations. Beautiful, often minimalistic, evocative… Some famous novels are graced by his covers: James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958), Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (1961), Silverberg’s Nightwings (1968), Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron (1969).
Titles in this art sequence without suitable images online: A Gift from Earth (1968), Re-Birth (1955), All Judgement Fled (1968), Trouble with Lichen (1960), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). If you have any in your collection I’d love to see them!
Many of these covers have wrap-around illustrations. If you have one at home I’d love to see a photo of what the back looks like! (post in comments).