Published a few months before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Robert Hoskins’ anthology First Step Outward (1969) charts an imagined future history of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy. The stories, gathered from some of the big names of the day (Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc.), are grouped as if part of the same future with headings such as “To the Planets” and “To the Stars.” As with most anthologies, this contains a range of gems (such as Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea”) and duds (Ross Rocklynne’s “Jaywalker”).
I’ve previously reviewed five of the thirteen stories in their own posts–linked for easy consultation.
Brief Plot Summary/Analysis
“Cold War” (1949), Kris Neville, 3/5 (Average): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Third Stage” (1963), Poul Anderson, 3.5/5 (Good): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Gentlemen, Be Seated!” (1948), Robert A. Heinlein, 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average): My first return to Robert A. Heinlein in around a decade is exactly like I thought it would be–thoroughly disappointing. Yes, yes, yes, I know this is far from what he was capable of. The number of reprints this misfire of a story receives mystifies (it appeared in the regularly reprinted The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow).
In times of stress, positivist stories about spacemen devoted to selfless service solving medical crises with their friendly tormals (think furry mobile petri dishes) bring a bit of warmth to my bitter heart. While a medical mystery to be solved with logic and resolve forms the core of each story, Murray Leinster hints at the future history of this decentralized spacescape–a product of chaotic often business-driven expansion. As limited contact exists between distant colonies, The Interstellar Continue reading →
As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Blakely’s Ark, Ian MacMillan (1981)
Tom Hallman’s cover for the 1st edition
From the back cover: THE CEPH… A parasitic virus. Invariably lethal. In two generations, it had reduced the population of America to 10 million people.
New Jersey is populated by roving gangs of children, savage and insane. New York City is a sealed-off Dome.
America is a wasteland. And Dave Blakely just may be the last whole man in the world.”
Initial Thoughts: I’ve been in a post-apocalyptic mood for the last year or more. I’ve started (and much to my surprise, enjoyed) my watch through ofSurvivors (1975-1977). And devoured Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955).
I am fascinated by medical-themed science fiction. While my tendencies gravitate towards the more meta-fictional/experimental takes of this theme, for example William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) and Elizabeth Baines’The Birth Machine(1983), I wanted expand my horizons by reading earlier incarnations of the subgenre.
Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars (1964) gathers three stories published in the late 50s and early 60s in the Med Series sequence. As a whole, the stories are positivist, pro-peace, anti-big business, pro-science, and pro-service. Our hero Calhoun, 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.
1. I’ve acquired quite a few vintage SF novels and short story collections in translation over the last few weeks–here’s one from Paul Van Herck, a Belgian author who wrote in Dutch. Not the cheapest DAW books edition I’ve encountered….
2. I always want more Le Guin…. Here, a series of linked short stories set in a fantasy world.
3. This Analog Annual anthology contains the only publication of P. J. Plauger’s novel Fighting Madness. Plauger won the John Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer before fading from the scene.
4. I love vintage SF. I do not love Ace Doubles. Yes, they published a few PKD novels that are worth reading, but, on the whole, I find their quality quite low. This was a gift from a family friend and one of the very few Ace Doubles I’ve been looking for — mostly due to Philip E. High’s city-themed novel.
As always, enjoy the covers! (they are hi-res scans of my personal copies — click for larger image)
Are any other the works worth reading? Let me know in the comments!
EDIT: I was too harsh on my Ace Doubles comment. I realized, and mentioned in the post and comments below, that they also published early PKD, Samuel Delany, and Barry N. Malzberg novels and short story collections, etc. Due to my low tolerance of pulp, I still find the vast majority of them uninteresting.
1. Where Were You Last Pluterday?, Paul Van Herck (1968, trans. 1973)
(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 →
Some fun finds! Perhaps surprisingly, I still haven’t read Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (1951) so I was happy to find it in a collection collated by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest — Spectrum 3 (1963). Even more appealing are the famous Poul Anderson, J. G. Ballard, and Murray Leinster tales in the same volume… The entire Spectrum collection (I-V) brings together some fantastic works.
John Varley is one of the important 70s writers that I still haven’t read. Thus, despite the egregious cover, I snatched his collection of 70s stories, The Persistence of Vision (1978)… I look forward to diving into this one.
Also, C. J. Cherryh was one of my favorite authors as a teen so it’s always nice to come across one of her works I hadn’t devoured yet — in this case, her second novel Brothers of Earth (1976).