I’m not sure what I can add about the general sentiment of 2020. It was awful in every way. Here’s to a better 2021.
Reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—was a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!
I also have one (hopefully more) review coming out in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (the Curiosities column) in the spring. I’ve not included my reviews of those esoteric SF novels in this particular post.
Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2020 (with bonus categories). Tempted to track any of them down?
And feel free to list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.
My Top 10 Science Fiction Novels (click titles for my review)
Tim White’s cover for the 1983 edition
1. Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979), 5/5 (Masterpiece): Tanith Lee spins a gauzy, sinister, and terrifying tale of manipulative resurrection. A brilliant inventor projects the mind of a grotesque social outcast into a new transcendent Continue reading
Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1971 edition
3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)
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.
While there are a few duds, the cream Continue reading
(Detail from Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1973 edition)
4.25/5 (Very Good)
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “One” (1998), Seven of Nine, unaffected by a nebula’s subatomic radiation, must care for the crew while they’re placed in stasis. Alone on the ship, Seven experiences the prolonged effects of isolation including disturbing dreams and hallucinations. Ever since I saw “One” as a child, I’ve become fascinated with the strategies that humans might use in space to cope with isolation and the rituals they might enact to preserve sanity. Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey’s The Black Corridor (1969) (see note below), explores Continue reading
(Interior art for the 1975 French OPTA edition of The Death of Grass (1956) and The Long Winter (1962), John Christopher)
I cannot ascertain the identity of Cathy Millet. There is a well known Catherine Millet—a French writer, art critic, curator, etc. However, I do not think they are the same. If you know more information about who she might be, please please please let me know! (French articles are fine — I can read them easily).
Cathy Millet created a handful of covers and larger number of interior illustrations for the French publisher OPTA. Here’s her incomplete isfdb.org listing which I used as a jumping off point. The ones which caught my eye are her spectacular interior illustrations for two John Christopher post-apocalyptic Continue reading
1. DAW Books published quite a few of Pierre Barbet’s pulpy French SF adventures in translation (SF encyclopedia points out some similarities between Barbet and Poul Anderson) in the 1970s. I found a copy for a dollar at a local Half Price Books — the premise of The Napoleons of Eridanus (1970, trans. 1976) sounds utterly silly but fun! I might sneak it in between heavier novels….
2. More Larry Niven short stories + nonfiction–A Hole in Space (1974)… With the oddest dedication ever—“thank you great-grandfather for the trust fund that allowed me to become a published author.”
3. Michael Moorcock’s Rituals of Infinity (serialized 1965) was originally published in New Worlds under the name James Colvin as The Wrecks of Time. It was abridged without Moorcock’s consent to fit in an Ace Double–the complete version was published by Arrow Books in 1971. I made sure to track down the complete edition. I do not have high hopes for this early Moorcock novel— hopefully it reads like one of his experimental stories.
4. I spent a tad too much for this one! The Animal Doctor: A Novel of the Future (1973, trans. 1975): SF in translation from Scandinavia… and an author I’ve never heard of. From the inside flap blurb (reproduced below) it seems like my cup of tea.
Thoughts? Tangents? A book that intrigues or stands out?
Let me know!
Note: scans are of my personal copies. Click to enlarge.
1. The Napoleons of Eridanus, Pierre Barbet (1970, trans. 1976)
(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading
1. Frederik Pohl short stories? I’ve collected volumes and volumes and volumes for years—I suspect I should get around to reading one!
An effective Dean Ellis cover….
2. I acquired the second volume in Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time sequence at my local used bookstore down the street. I read An Alien Heat (1972) in 2016.
3. A few days ago I reviewed John Morressy’s wonderful Frostworld and Dreamfire (1977) — I was intrigued enough that I tracked down another volume in the Del Whitby sequence—Under a Calculating Star (1975). I’ll have a review up in the next few days.
4. The second Murray Leinster Med Service collection I’ve acquired–as a huge fan of medical-themed SF…. I should put together a list.
Other lists: Immortality in SF, Generation Ships, and Overpopulation in SF.
Do you have a favorite cover?
As always, I look forward to your comments!
1. Alternating Currents, Frederik Pohl (1956)
(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading
For my readers who do not have twitter I’ve decided to post every few weeks links to articles/reviews/and other resources that particularly interested me. Predominately vintage SF/F related, a few might dally in more diverse directions—German avant-garde art for example.
It’s always worth supporting fellow bloggers!
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the books/articles.
(New Worlds, #197 January 1970, ed. Charles Platt)
1) A fascinating article: SF New Worlds and Savoy Books: Michael Butterworth via Andrew Darlington on his indispensable site Eight Miles Higher.
“Michael Butterworth was an integral part of the ‘New Worlds’ SF New Wave, just as he was perpetrator of the sensationally iconoclastic ‘Savoy Books’ revolution in Manchester, and his fiction is never less than challenging. Andrew Darlington charts his evolution as a literary activist…”
(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1970 edition)
3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)
Philip K. Dick. Roger Zelazny. Bob Shaw. Michael Moorcock. R. A. Lafferty. Seldom do I say that a “best of” anthology includes a large number of the best stories of the year. From PKD’s artificial memories to Bob Shaw’s slow glass, World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (1967) contains both fascinating technological marvels and serious character-centered storytelling. While not all the stories are successful, I highly recommend this collection for fans of 60s SF.
Note: I reviewed both Roger Zelazny stories elsewhere—I have linked and quoted my original reviews.
Brief Analysis/Plot Summary
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) Continue reading
1) Early Elric stories from Michael Moorcock’s pen. Confession: I bought it in Scotland due to the disquieting cover rather than any love of heroic fantasy—albeit M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) was pretty darn good.
The fantastic cover is uncredited: thoughts regarding the artist?
2) I adored Dino Buzzati’s magical realist novel The Tartar Steppe (1940). And the movie adaptation The Desert of the Tartars, dir. Valerio Zurlini (1976) inspired by the aesthetics of Giorgio de Chirico —I even wrote a half-baked and cursory review of the movie many years ago. While browsing I discovered that Buzzati wrote what is considered the first serious Italian SF novel—Larger than Life (1960). I can’t wait to read it!
3) More Theodore Sturgeon short stories….
Relevant reviews: A Way Home (1956), The Cosmic Rape (1958) and Venus Plus X (1960).
4) A while back I watched, and struggled to enjoy, the 1975 film adaptation of William Harrison’s short story “Roller Ball Murder” (1973). Time to read the source material. Copy snagged in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts.
1. The Stealer of Souls, Michael Moorcock (1963)
(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition) Continue reading