Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVI (John Brunner, Phillip Mann, Shepherd Mead, and a Frederik Pohl anthology)

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

I planned to have a review up today. Unfortunately, August is always my least productive month writing as it marks the return to work after a much needed summer break. It’s been a rough few weeks! Stay tuned.

1. The Squares of the City, John Brunner (1965)

From the back cover: CHECHMATE IN PARADISE. Ciudad de Vados was a Latin-American showplace, a paradise…a flourishing supercity designed and run nearly to perfection.

But not quite. They had a traffic problem.

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Future Media Short Story Review: John Brunner’s “Fair” (1956)

Today I’ve reviewed the seventeenth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. John Brunner explores how total immersion media, one organ in a vast futuristic fair designed to satiate the masses, can transform fear within the broken.

Previously: John D. MacDonald’s “Spectator Sport” in Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Sam Merwin, Jr. (February 1950). You can read it online here

Up Next: C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Advent on Channel Twelve” in Star Science Fiction Stories No. 4, ed. Frederik Pohl (1958). You can read it online here.

Alice Eleanor Jones’ “The Happy Clown” in If, ed. James L. Quinn (December 1955). You can read it online here.

4.5/5 (Very Good)

John Brunner’s “Fair” first appeared in New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell (March 1956) under the pseudonym Keith Woodcott. You can read it online here. It also appeared in his first collection No Future In It (1962).

I recently devoured Jad Smith’s short monograph John Brunner (2012) in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series for Illinois University Press. Not only did the book rekindle my desire to tackle more of Brunner’s short fiction but I also bought copies of The Squares of the City (1965) and Quicksand (1967). I might even reread The Shockwave Rider (1975) in the near future. If you are at all interested in John Brunner’s science fiction I recommend acquiring a copy.

Smith identifies “Fair” (1956) as Brunner’s “finest achievement during this [early] period” (Smith 28). I’d rank it right under his spectacular generation ship short story “Lungfish” (1957). As with many of Brunner’s best works, “Fair” had a contested publication history–in this instance John Carnell only accepted it under the pseudonym “Keith Woodcott” to “fill out an issue” (Smith 29). The identity of the consummate wordsmith didn’t last long as Carnell accidentally revealed his identity in next issue when the story came in second in the reader’s poll!

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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 Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLV (John Brunner, Marta Randall, Brian Herbert, Amanda Hemingway)

1. A complete unknown! As is frequently the case, I discovered it during a lengthy Internet Speculative Fiction Database browse a few weeks back. I’m not sure what to expect. Although the back cover is problematic –“In danger of losing her sanity, her virginity, and even her life”–is her sanity less important than her virginity? Who knows.

2. John Brunner short stories! He’s a favorite and I buy his collections on site.

A few John Brunner short fictions I’ve particularly enjoyed:

3. In my late teens I read every Dune novel I could get my hands on—including those written by Frank Herbert’s son Brian (I don’t remember being impressed). And yes, I’ve decided to read some of Brian Herbert’s non-Dune related SF.

4. I’ve enjoyed the two Marta Randall novels I’ve reviewed.

Might as well grab the last one I didn’t own? Right? It’s the sequel to Journey (1978).

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Pzyche, Amanda Hemingway (aka Jan Siegel) (1982)

(Uncredited cover for the 1982 edition) Continue reading

Generation Ship Short Story Review: John Brunner’s “Lungfish” (1957)

Preliminary note: This is the fourth post in a series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. All of the stories I’ll review are available online. 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: Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon a Star” in the December 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills

Next up: J. G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centaurus” in the April 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith (link).

I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme.

(Brian Lewis’ cover for the December 1957 issue of Science Fantasy, ed. John Cornell)

4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

Our generation ship short story series continues with a gem! John Brunner’s “Lungfish” (1957) appeared in the December 1957 issue of Science Fantasy, ed. John Cornell. It also appeared in the 1972 collection Entry to Elsewhen which I reviewed back in 2010. “Lungfish” was the only worthwhile story in the collection and I was eager to give it a reread!

John Brunner wrote thought-provoking Continue reading

Updates: My 2018 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Catagories)

Post-academia depression hits hard…. While completing my PhD (defended in the summer of 2017), reading SF and writing about SF was the way I kept sane. After multiple mostly unsuccessful years on the academic market, I have changed gears career-wise (although I’m still affiliated with a university and teaching college-level history courses but without the research component) and it has been a liberating experience. My history obsessions remain, even stronger in many ways, and academic monographs on all the topics that I wanted to read about but never could—Hellenistic successor states to Alexander, Early Islam, Late Antique and Medieval Persia, etc.–have dominated my time and pocketbook 2018 (don’t ask how much I’ve spent). I have included a “Best Academic History Reads of 2018” section for the curious.

At the beginning of November, I was moments from announcing that I was on hiatus for the foreseeable future. However, I have fallen back in love with SF and writing about SF and the new year beckons!

All of this is to say, I read little SF this year–until last month. However, there were a handful of stand-out SF novels and short stories that I managed to squeeze in.

And please list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. I look forward to reading your comments.

Enjoy!

…and read lots of good books in 2019. I will.

Best SF Novels Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Art: A Nostalgic Piece of Space Art + Rumination

(Don Dixon’s cover art for the 1st edition of The Crucible of Time (1983), John Brunner)

This post is about a Don Dixon SF space art cover that gives me nostalgic chills. But first, a rumination….

As with so many new readers, my first science fiction adventures–almost a decade and a half ago–followed the Hugo Awards closely and the back catalogue of the established male “masters” (often those whom my dad remembered reading in his childhood–Heinlein, Clarke, Brunner, Herbert, Pohl, Anderson, etc.). And boy did John Brunner feature heavily! I read everything of his I could get my hands on. From the genius that STILL is Stand on Zanzibar (1968)–my first New Wave SF novel–to the half-hearted pulpy adventures (Born under Mars, Meeting at Infinity) that scream paycheck. These novels were some of my first reviewed works on my site (John Brunner review list below). As my readers know, my tastes have changed radically as my willingness and knowledge of lesser known authors and/or “unpopular” authors expands as I read more along the edges. Brunner’s radical  New Wave SF (and at some degree his short fiction) remains a constant.

All of this is to say that it’s unsurprising that Don Dixon’s cover art Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: French comic book style 70s SF art by Serge Clerc

(Serge Clerc’s cover for the 1977 edition of The Dramaturges of Yan (1972), John Brunner)

Joachim Boaz compiling a post about SF comic book art? Wait. Wait. That can’t be, I remember reading in a comment months ago that he hasn’t opened a comic book once in his entire life. Oh, that makes more sense, the French artist Serge Clerc, who worked for Métal Hurlant early in his career, also created SF covers….

…and they are quite fun in their wacky way. In 1977 for the French Presses de la Cité – Futurama, Serge Clerc created eight covers–gracing works by Brunner, Octavia Butler, E. C. Tubb, and James Gunn–of which I’ve included seven in this post. My favorite is his 1977 edition of John Brunner’s  Continue reading