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.
In the past year or so I’ve put together an informal series on the first three published short fictions by female authors who are new(ish) to me and/or whose most famous SF novels fall mostly outside the post-WWII to mid-1980s focus of my reading adventures. So far I’ve featured Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), Nancy Kress (1948-), Melisa Michaels (1946-2019), Lee Killough (1942-), and Eleanor Arnason (1942). I do not expect transformative or brilliant things from first stories. Rather, it’s a way to get a sense of subject matter and concerns that first motivated authors to put pen to paper.
Today I’ve selected Josephine Saxton (1935-), an author whom I’ve long known about–I reviewed The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969) back in 2012–but never read any more of her work. Due to Rich Horton’s review of Saxton’s Vector for Seven (1970), my interest in an important voice of the English New Wave movement suddenly rekindled. Her 60s and 70s stories appeared in many of the influential New Wave (and adjacent) anthologies–including Judith Merril’s England Swings SF (1969), Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions 1 (1971), Samuel R. Delany and Marilyn Hacker’s Quark/3 (1971), and Damon Knight’s Orbit 9 (1971).
In her first three stories, Saxton deploys sculpted landscapes as metaphysical traps that allegorize the internal struggles of her characters. In the language of the New Wave, inner space manifests as a nightmarish landscape that one must try to traverse. Her prose, even in her weakest tales, is measured and poetic. See SF Encyclopedia for discussion of her later fiction.
Let me know which Josephine Saxton fictions–perhaps from much later in her career–resonate with you.
“The Wall” first appeared Science Fantasy, ed. Kyril Bonfiglioli (November 1965). You can read it online here. It also appeared in Saxton’s collection The Power of Time (1985), which is where I read it.
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Japan Sinks!, Sakyo Komatsu (1973; trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976)
From the back cover: “WORST DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!
A FISSURE in a wall–a land survey mysteriously out of true–a small island disappearing overnight–and one of the worst disaster in the history of the world is born. Only one man suspects the truth, but his theory is so unprecedented, his predications so horrifying that even his fellow scientists ignore him.
Then a series of devastating earthquakes strikes, and suddenly the authorities are prepared to listen. But time is short and as they frantically try to ward off the disaster the crust of the earth begins to shift…”
2. Side 1 of an Ace Double. Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Communipaths is the first in her Coyote Jones sequence. I had mixed views on the third volume: At the Seventh Level (1972).
3. Side 2 of an Ace Double. Back in 2012 I reviewed Louis Trimble’s intriguing SF allegorical city tale The City Machine (1972). It was a competent work that, in the hands of a more polished writer, could have been so much more. Not sure what to expect from this one…. the zany nature of the blurb is off-putting.
1. This looks like a splendid New Worlds Quarterly anthology replete with book reviews, articles, and interior art by John Clute and James Cawthorn. When I review it (hopefully soon), I’ll include a few examples of the art. The quantity of authors I’ve not read in this anthology is high—for example, A.A. Attanasio, Harvey Jacobs, Rachel Pollack, among many others. See content lists below.
2. Gene Wolfe’s novels are a major hole in my SFF knowledge. Here is an early fantasy work that I might in the near future. I tend to take perambulatory paths before tackling an author’s great works. Thoughts on this lesser known one?
Procuring SF paperbacks never gets old! I have started scanning in the covers (two of the four below) in order to provide higher quality images (click to zoom)— especially if they are hard to find images online and/or I find them aesthetically pleasing (Powers + Lehr in this post).
Let me know if the change is worth it!
Josephine Saxton: Despite reading The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969) years ago, my mind still traces the imprint of its strange ritualistic beauty . Her short fiction was published in a range of SF magazines and collections from 1965 to 1992. I have tracked down a copy of her first collection. Despite its 1985 publication date, eight of the fourteen stories were published in the 60s/70s.
Harry Harrison: A “classic” author whose work I need to explore more: I’ve read Deathworld (1960), attempted to read Make Room! Make Room! (1966) and A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah (1972) at least three times, and Lifeship(1976), which he co-wrote with Gordon R. Dickson. I’ve encountered his short fiction here and there and found “By The Falls” (1970) a satisfying New Wave endeavor. Time for more short fiction!
New Worlds Anthology: I want all of them, end of story.
And finally, the selection bound to surprise and confuse my regular readers…. Aliya Whiteley: Despite my various protestations, I have not stopped reading new SF entirely. And I couldn’t resist finding a copy of Whiteley’s well-received fungal nightmare…. If you’re curious see Jesse’s review over at Speculiction.
A person with the initials K.W.G ditched their entire SF collection at my local Half Price Books. So many books that the store made a new SF anthology section that did not exist a few months ago and the “vintage” SF books made up more than half the non-vintage SF section. I spent too much money. One of many future SF Acquisitions posts featuring books from the mysterious K. W. G….
A famous anthology important for showcasing UK authors in America! I’ve included the lengthy description of the collection by Ace and their position vis-à-vis New Wave SF. I find it humorous that the publisher has to defend their position!
An often praised 1950s post-apocalyptical novel by Wilson Tucker…. My 1969 edition was “rewritten” by the author–unfortunately, I have already started reading it (not sure how much it will tell me about its position in 1950s SF if it were rewritten in the 60s). Perhaps someone knows how much was changed? Admiral Ironbombs wrote a worthwhile review here.
Fred Saberhagen’s best known work.
And one of the few Frank Herbert novels I have not read…
Thoughts and comments are always welcome.
1. England Swings SF: Stories of Speculative Fiction, ed. Judith Merril (1968)