Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Ahead of Time, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1953)
From the inside page: “A brain in a box fights a criminal plot
A visitor from the future turns out to be peculiar even for his society
An eternal hillbilly family survives the centuries and gets into political trouble
A sick electronic calculator catches a psychosis from its operator
…these are some of the highly original and vividly written stories you will find in this selection of a master’s work.
Science fiction and fantasy grow constantly in popularity. Writing of this quality and imagination is the reason. Henry Kuttner demonstrates again in his book why more and more readers are becoming devotees of that intriguing fiction which is not content to stay in the world as we see it and know it, which takes us to the farthest reaches of space and time, to the farthest reaches of the human mind.”
Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before my memory and will fades. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.
1. The Chrysalids (variant title: Re-Birth), John Wyndham (1955)
John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (1955), my first exposure to his science fiction, transpires in a standard post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe scenario with a deeply emotional core. The narrative follows David’s childhood in the backwater territories of Labrador, Canada hundreds of years after a nuclear war. The Church, inspired by Nicholson’s Repentances—which along with the Bible are only surviving books–imposes a draconian theology that “only God produces perfection” (51). Mutations, a visual sign of diabolical influence, must be destroyed. David, the son of the local strongman and preacher, discovers a young girl with a terrifying secret–she has six toes. David starts to accumulate secrets including his own mysterious telepathic abilities and recurrent dreams of a city in a world without cities. He shares them with his sympathetic Uncle Axel, who attempts to protect him from the forces narrowing in.
There are some nice touches throughout. Uncle Axel recounts his travels and knowledge of the world as a seaman and the effects is that of a medieval map, filled with pseudo-legendary beings, historical fragments, and “real” flora and fauna that, at first glance, seems too fantastic to exist (54-57).
Post-PhD job takes over… and books are not reviewed. But reading and buying still happens!
1. A supposed cult classic republished by Picador Press….. Has anyone read Smallcreep’s Day (1965)? Near the top of my “to read” pile. And I love Barbara Costall’s cover.
2. Early in the year I reviewed Conway’s short story “Mindship” (1971) in Universe 1(1971), ed. Terry Carr. It was pretty solid. I tracked down the novel version which included the short as the prologue.
3. I was obsessed with Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia (1942) as a kid. Not with the novel per se, which I never owned, but the lengthy and descriptive entry in Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi’s spectacular (and wonder inducing) The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (1987). And of course, the idea of Wright slowly creating an imaginary world that could exist within our own and only “discovered” after his death resonated with a young me…
I’ve included the map from the entry in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.
4. And finally, another John Wyndham novel… although the premise sounds downright bland and trite. But then again, I still have not read a lot of his work and I know he was a formative voice in SF.
(Mati Klarwein’s 1970 cover for Miles Davis’ album Bitches Brew)
Mati Klarwein (wikipedia link) was a German artist of Jewish origin who fled the Nazis to British Palestine. After the fall of the Nazis, he received an art education in Paris and gained French citizenship. Famous for his album covers—notably Miles Davis’ famous Bitches Brew (1970) (above) and Santana’s Abraxas (1969) (below)—Klarwein also created (or his art was used for) SF covers. Characterized by an obsessive eye for the detail (click and zoom in on Lafferty’s Arrive at Easterwine scan I included from my collection), Klarwein’s almost mandalic covers draw on a wide range of artistic influences. Unfortunately, quite a few are uncredited or credited to the incorrect artist—his cover for the 1972 edition of The World’s Desire (1890) by H. Rider Continue reading →
(Cover for the 1973 edition of The City in the Sea (1951), Wilson Tucker)
Mariella Anderlini, under the pseudonym Allison, produced a vast number of surreal and masterful SF covers (between 1969-1988) primarily for the Italian SF publisher Libra Editrice. Apparently, she went under the pseudonym to avoid damaging her professional painting career. She was the wife of Ugo Malaguti, editor and author, who founded Libra Editrice and edited Galassia.
As I celebrate the birthdays of a range of SF authors/illustrators/editors from multiple language traditions on twitter (@SFRuminations), I came across Allison’s work while researching her husband’s untranslated SF output. However, only through the diligent research of a twitter follower, whose Italian is far better than mine, were we able to come across her real name.
*preliminary note: I am on something of a semi-hiatus—PhD writing and the like. However, I have a Malzberg review of Scop (1976) nearly complete and might do a rundown of the SF I’ve been unable to review over the past few months in a more informal format (one paragraph reviews or something of that ilk)—Phillip Mann’s Wulfsyan (1990), M. John Harrison’s The Machine in Shaft Ten (1975), etc.
In my recent travels, I stopped in Nashville, Tennessee and picked up three of the four novels for under a dollar each. McIntyre’s novel is the sole Hugo Award Winner for best Novel between the years 1953 to 1990 I’ve not read. I should remedy that immediately as I’ve enjoyed her other work—for example, the novella “Screwtop” (1976).
Budrys’ novel actually sounds like I’d enjoy it despite my dislike of some of his work (and views)…. It certainly is my type of SF story concept-wise. The last Delany novel missing from my collection and everyone loves Wyndham and immortality SF, right?