My series on 1950s stories on sex and sexuality finds itself relentlessly drawn back to the well-trodden post-apocalyptic wasteland. New moralities are inscribed and ritualized in the wreckage. As Paul Brians points out in Nuclear Holocaust: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984 (1987), authors in the 1950s and 60s demonstrate an obsession with the sex in the post-holocaust landscape as if they are “feverishly battling atomic thanatos with eros” [note 1]. Here I have paired two moments that dance around either side of the nuclear nightmare. Langdon Jones’ “I Remember, Anita…” (1964), the most controversial story from the early issues of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, explores an intense love affair in the moments before and after impact. Ward Moore’s shocker “Lot” (1953) charts the moments after impact as the masses flee from the city.
If any stories on 1950s stories on sex and sexuality come to mind that I haven’t read yet let me know in the comments. I have a substantial list waiting to be covered but I suspect it’s far from comprehensive.
4.5/5 (Very Good)
Ward Moore’s “Lot” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (May 1953). You can read it online here.
Welcome to a postmodern museum of disordered landscapes. J. G. Ballard paints a cratered England as a new Vietnam. Langdon Jones reduces the operation of the world to a series of sculptural machines. Hilary Bailey weaves a dystopic England changed beyond recognition in mere years. M. John Harrison’s characters interact with cardboard cutouts on an imaginary set. And Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius flits between India and Pakistan’s present and past.
Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.
Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.
…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).
Scans are from my collection.
1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)
First we must honor the book sacrificed in the making of this post: the spine of my Picador 1977 edition of Martin Bax’s The Hospital Ship (1976) needs some drastic surgery (glue) after I attempted to scan its dark interior….
Whatever form it takes, pseudo-knowledge—perhaps derived from our world or even “real” knowledge in our world modified and inserted into another imaginary one—adds, at the most basic level, a veneer of veracity. The most obvious category, and the one I am least interested in, is scientifically accurate Continue reading →
Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…
2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”
And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.
Fresh off of Langdon Jones’ wonderful New Wave collection The Eye of the Lens (1972) I decided to see if any of my unread anthologies contained his work—queue The Best SF Stories From New Worlds (1967). Unfortunately, Jones’ contribution is far from the best in this absolutely stellar collection.
This 1967 volume was the first in a series of eight Best Of New Worlds anthologies edited by Michael Moorcock between 1967-1974. I reviewed The Best SF Stories From New Worlds 3 (1968)—i.e. the one with Pamela Zoline’s must-read “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1967)—a while back.
The takeaway: The majority of stories in are required reading for fans of New Wave SF and New Worlds magazine. Find a copy of the anthology with its fantastic Paul Lehr cover or track down Continue reading →
Langdon Jones is best known for his involvement in New Worlds Magazine: he contributed stories (published 16 in various New Worlds venues), cover art, and edited the April-July 1969 issues. One of his stories, “To Have and To Hold,” was slated to appear in the never published Last Dangerous Visions, and languishes unread and unknown. Why Ellison doesn’t relinquish control of the copyright is beyond me… Sadly, Jones’ output had all but dried up by 1969. If anyone knows why, please let me know.
Three of the seven stories in the collection—“The Hall of Machines” (1968), “The Coming of the Sun” (1968), and “The Eye of the Lens” (1968)—form a loose triptych (the religious connotations of the term is purposeful).
*NOTE: Recommended only for fans of the most radical New Wave SF that graced the pages of New Worlds magazine. Experimental, allegorical, and occasionally Borgesian, all the stories revolve around our perception of time and memory. Even in the collection’s weakest moments—the Continue reading →
A collection by Yarbro—did not care for False Dawn (1978)…
A wonderful anthology with Robert Silverberg, Joanna Russ, Ron Goulart (whom I have never read), Gregory Benford, Gordon Eklund, Wilson Tucker, Edward Bryant, R. A. Lafferty, George Alec Effinger, Barry N. Malzberg, Gerard F. Conway, Edgar Pangbon…
And finally, the sole collection by one of the important (but lesser known) proponents of the New Wave…
Two (guess which!) are gifts from my wife who definitely knows my SF tastes…
Cautionary Tales, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)
(Uncredited cover for the 1983 edition)
From the back cover of an earlier edition: “A bizarre and haunting journey through inner and outer space—to alien worlds where an aging playwright is in danger of losing his soul to a monstrous organic computer…. a charming teeny-bopper ghoul solves the problem of hunger in the town morgue… a member of the patrol squad on a dreary, useless planet is lured by the sucking darkness of evil Scranton’s marsh… the frozen steerage passengers on a floundering space ship share a gruesome fate… malevolent forces on the other side of death are held at bay by a huge black swan… and other strange and wondrous events Continue reading →
New Worlds was one of the premier British SF magazines under the editorship of Michael Moorcock. It features some of the most experimental works of the era and was important in the growth of the New Wave movement. Many of the frequent contributors went on to make a name as premier SF authors (Ballard, Aldiss, etc).
This best of collection (1964-1967) is on the whole uneven. Its big name authors—such as Keith Roberts and Moorcock himself under a pseudonym—disappoint. The most evocative stories are by rather lesser known voices, Langdon Jones, Charles Platt, and Pamela Zoline. Zoline’s brilliant entropic vision, “The Heat Death of the Universe” is not to be missed. The second best work in the collection is (surprisingly) an early story by Barrington J. Bayley (as P. F. Woods) whose novels I have reviewed Continue reading →