Updates: My 2021 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

2021 was the best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers! I suspect this increasingly has to do with my twitter account where I actively promote my site vs. a growing interest in vintage SF. I also hit my 1000th post–on Melisa Michaels’ first three published SF short stories–in December.

As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!

I read very few novels this year. Instead, I devoted my attention to various science short story reviews series and anthologies. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2021 (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. I look forward to reading your comments.


My Top 7 Science Fiction Novels of 2021 (click titles for my review)

1. Where Time Winds Blow (1981), Robert Holdstock, 5/5 (Masterpiece): Holdstock’s vision is a well-wrought cavalcade of my favorite SF themes–the shifting sands of time, the pernicious maw of trauma that threatens to bite down, unreliable narrators trying to trek their own paths, a profoundly alien planet that compels humanity to construct an entirely distinct society… It’s a slow novel that initially masquerades as something entirely different. Just like the planet itself.

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Short Book Reviews: Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn (1987), Robert Holdstock’s Where Time Winds Blow (1981), and Philippe Curval’s Brave Old World (1976, trans. 1981)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before the new year and my memory/will fades. Unfortunately, I left two of my favorite reads of the year for last. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

I cannot properly review Where Time Winds Blow (1981). Sometimes, while perambulating the interwebs, I encounter a singular encapsulation of a text’s brilliance that defeats all my own attempts to write constructively about a book. I blame Andrew Darlington’s brilliant review/article on Robert Holdstock contextualizing the novel within his early oeuvre. The short paragraph below–an attempt to convince you to procure a copy–is indebted to his review. Please read his review! There are fan writers and then there are fan writers. Darlington should receive a Hugo nod.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVII (Octavia E. Butler, Harlan Ellison, James White, Poul Anderson)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Dawn, Octavia E. Butler (1987)

From the back cover: “XENOGENESIS: The birth of something new—and foreign.

Lilith Iyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep—and found herself aboard the vast living spaceship of the Oankali. Alien creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased human strength and disease resistance, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth.

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Brothers Quay and SF covers

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(Cover by the Brothers Quay for the 1977 edition of A Scanner Darkly (1977), Philip K. Dick)

While looking through the cover catalogue to celebrate Octavia E. Butler’s birthday on twitter (@SFRuminations), I found that her first novel Patternmaster (1976) was graced with a cover by Stephen and Timothy Quay—as in, the famous stop-motion (and more recently, live action) film directors know collectively as Brothers Quay!  If you’ve never seen their work, check out The Street of the Crocodiles (1986).

Brothers Quay—along with Guy Maddin, Jan Švankmajer, Wojciech Has, Juraj Herz (for The Cremator, 1969) among others—have long been among my cinematic cornerstones, and to discover that they created SF covers certainly made my day!  I have included a series of stills from their films below—creepy, gorgeous, incredibly well-crafted, (the adjectives could continue for pages).   Continue reading