Derek Carter’s cover for the 1st edition
3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)
Ever since I read Judith Merril’s “Daughters of Earth” (1952), I’ve been fascinating with her subversive takes 1950s-60s gender roles and classic SF tropes. Survival Ship and Other Stories (1974) contains twelve short stories and a never-before-published poem selected by the author.
In addition to the merits of the tales within, I found Merril’s brief reflections on her early work fascinating. For example, she ruminates on the failure of her planned novel based on the generation ship launched by The Matriarchy in “Survival Ship” (1951), “Wish Upon a Star” (1958), and “The Lonely” (1963). She also describes a magazine “cover story” commission. The author would be provided with the cover art and asked to write a story containing its elements! The following three in this Continue reading
1. I have yet to read any of Jack Dann’s SF — this surreal (?) post-apocalyptical novel looks promising! And a strange Jim Burns cover to boot…
2. I recently reviewed Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon a Star” (1958) for my generation ship short story read-through (i’ll have a new installment soon). I decided to track down another one of her short fiction collections….
I’ve reviewed the following collections so far:
3. The title of Anne McCaffrey’s collection Get Off the Unicorn (1977) was derived from a humorous misprint. According to the collection’s introduction: “The title was derived by accident: McCaffrey’s working title had been “Get of the Unicorn” but this was misprinted as “Get Off the Unicorn” in Ballantine’s roster of unfilled contracts. After McCaffrey’s editor, Judy-Lynn del Rey, was repeatedly asked what “Get Off the Unicorn” was, del Rey asked McCaffrey what she could do about that theme.”
The collection itself contains a wide-range of her short fictions—from the Pern sequence (a childhood favorite) to the earliest story in the Catteni Sequence. I DEVOURED Freedom’s Landing (1995), Freedom’s Choice (1997), Freedom’s Challenge (1998), and Freedom’s Randsom (2002) as a kid! How to survive and thrive on an alien planet was my “go-to” SF device.
4. I’ve only read a handful of John Shirley’s short stories. It’s time for a novel. Eclipse (1985), set in a future a cyberpunk dystopia, tells the tale of anti-fascist resistance. We shall see!
Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!
1. The Man Who Melted, Jack Dann (1984)
(Jim Burns’ cover for the 1986 edition) Continue reading
Preliminary note: This is the third 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!
Next up: John Brunner’s “Lungfish” in Science-Fantasy, December 1957, ed. John Carnell (PDF link).
Previously: Clifford D. Simak’s “Spacebred Generations” (variant title: “Target Generation” (1953).
I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme.
(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the December 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills)
In Judith Merril’s “Daughters of Earth” (1952), she refashions the classic pulp SF tale of male exploration of the galaxy by tracing, in biblical fashion, one family of female explorers. In “Wish Upon A Star” (1958), Merril reworks another trope—the male hero on a generation ship who discovers the true Continue reading
(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1970 Ace edition)
I must confess, I generally skip the introductions to anthologies—even if they are written by my favorite authors who happen to be notable anthologists (Judith Merril, Robert Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg, etc.). While paging through various collections hunting for stories, I encountered Judith Merril’s micro-introduction to her famous New Wave anthology England Swings SF (1968). Here’s a list of the contents.
Although it is spread across three pages, it is only a few lines of text–a poetic beckoning, itself a condensed version of what the New Wave embodied. Merril’s intro as poem demonstrates literary invention, the blend of old (“scout ship”) and new (“heading out of sight into the multiplex mystery of inner/outer space”) images, and references to both high (“surrealism) and pop culture (“Beatles”). Continue reading
1) What a bonkers cover from Carol Inouye (her only credited piece according to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database)! I do not have high hopes for the novel. T. L. Sherred published little SF in his career–he was a technical writer for the Detroit auto industry. Clute over at SF Encyclopedia describes Alien Island (1970) as “comic but fundamentally melancholy.”
2) Another SF novel from Aldous Huxley. I’ve wanted a copy of Ape and Essence (1948) for a long time. I’ve always preferred Brave New World (1931) to both Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Yvengy Zamyatin’s We (1921). Excited! Thoughts?
3) A wide-ranging SF anthology from Judith Merril. I am especially interested in reading her intro… and Ward Moore’s “The Fellow Who Married the Maxill Girl” (1960) as Admiral.Ironbombs has been reviewing and enjoying a lot of his work as of late: Bring the Jubilee (1953), “Lot” (1953), and “Lot’s Daughter” (1954).
4) A Jack Vance fix-up novel/short story collection containing seven additional stories in the Dying Earth sequence. Confession time: I read half of the stories in The Dying Earth (1950) recently and could not finish it. There was a certain half-hearted attempt to create a future mythology that slips all too easily into bland fantasy mode. Conflicted.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.
Note: I’ve finally settled on a new look for my site. There are a few minor issues (not showing comment numbers at the top of the post etc.) but I think the look is more professional and focuses on showcasing content.
1. Alien Island, T. L. Sherred (1970)
(Carol Inouye’s cover for the 1970 edition of Alien Island (1970), T. L. Sherred) Continue reading
(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
1) Lafferty collections are notoriously hard to find and tend to be on the expensive side—at least for 60s/70s paperbacks. I’ve already read two or three stories in the one below in different anthologies over the years—I remember “Continued on Next Rock” (1970) most clearly. The Jack Gaughan cover evokes the sheer oddness of Lafferty’s visions. Does it illustrate a story in the collection?
2) Readers have spoken highly of this particular Leiber novel. So I found a copy… not cheap. Alas. See, I sometimes listen to suggestions!
3) I always buy Soviet SF collections. The editor is uncredited but Judith Merril provides a five page introduction I’m eager to read. Maybe she’s the editor? EDIT: According to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Judith Merril holds the copyright — indicating that she is the uncredited editor.
4) My first Olaf Stapledon. Someone whose influence I’ve read widely about and been aware of for years. It’s about time I added a few of his works to my collection. I love Paul Klee, but not the art used for the Penguin cover! (In the Land of the Precious Stone, 1929).
All images are scans from my own collection (click image to zoom).
As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.
1. Strange Doings, R. A. Lafferty (1972)
(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading
Megan (twitter) over at From Couch to Moon—who, with boundless wit and intelligence, enjoys exploring the turbulent seas of lesser known SF both vintage and contemporary—provides the sixth guest post in my SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 series (original announcement and list of earlier posts). Head over to her blog—do not miss her review of Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968) written in his style and more recent rundowns of various award slates, the 2015 Kitschies for example.
Here are three reviews of 1950s short fiction by Judith Merril, Margaret St. Clair, and Kit Reed.
As always, the required exhortation, find copies!
(“Survival Ship” appeared in the May 1955 issue of New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell, cover: Gerard Quinn)
Reviews of “Survival Ship” (1951) by Judith Merril, “Short in the Chest” (1954) by Margaret St. Clair, and “The Wait” (1958) by Kit Reed
Not being much of a short fiction reader, these were all new-to-me stories that I thought I might appreciate. A selection of fifties SF, all of which are dark and strange and rebellious, and examine the social and political pressures that are often Continue reading
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of A Handful of Time (1963), Rosel George Brown)
The time has come for a new Guest Post series on SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969. My reasons are two-fold: 1) to showcase a deserving and fascinating topic in line with my goal to feature lesser known SF from a range of viewpoints and traditions 2) to feature posts from reviewers in the vintage SF blogsphere and beyond (in any combination of the following) that attempt to move past standard lists and grand narratives of canon, tackle fiction from evidence-based analytical and academic perspectives, or are simply darn good writers whose sites I cannot help but return to compulsively.
Why pre-1969? Although most endpoints are arbitrary in nature, 1969 saw the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s magisterial The Left Hand of Darkness. Considered a watershed moment in the history of women writers as it was the first to win a Hugo Award for best novel, Le Guin among many others were part of a rich (albeit oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors reaching back to Mary Shelly. My focus on short stories will allow exploration of many authors who did not write novels, whose novels overshadow their short fiction, and those whose rich body of early work focused predominately on the short form.
Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects along with new voices. The first guest post series covered the work of Michael Bishop and the second Kate Wilhelm.
Topics in the queue: Robot therapists, French and Soviet SF, a range of speculative fictions from the 19th Continue reading