Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVIII (Brian W. Aldiss, D. G. Compton, and Shirley Jackson)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Sundial, Shirley Jackson (1958)

From the back cover: “THE SUNDIAL is a chilling, suspenseful, bloodcurdlingly macabre novel of twelve strange people awaiting the end of the world in a fantastical house like no other on earth.” SF Encyclopedia describes The Sundial as “the closet to SF she came.”

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Short Story Reviews: Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” (1955) and Katherine MacLean’s “Interbalance” (1960)

Today I’ve selected two post-apocalyptic visions by female authors. I needed an antidote to the creepy last man/woman stories I’ve been reading recently. Alice Eleanor Jones spins a masterpiece about a housewife attempting to keep the entropy of a crumbling world and an abusive husband at bay. Katherine MacLean imagines a moment where the last representative of the American Empire, after all the rhetoric of progress and exceptionalism came crashing down in a nuclear war, interacts with a persistent and well-meaning native girl.

The links to the stories can be found in the reviews. Both are recommended reads for fans of 50s and 60s science fiction.


5/5 (Masterpiece)

Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher (June 1955). You can read it online here.

Sometimes there are stories that transcend their short length with lasting power. This story has resided within me as if freshly read for weeks. Like some corrosive lozenge of love and hate, “Created He Them” eats you up from the inside.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVI (John Brunner, Phillip Mann, Shepherd Mead, and a Frederik Pohl anthology)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

I planned to have a review up today. Unfortunately, August is always my least productive month writing as it marks the return to work after a much needed summer break. It’s been a rough few weeks! Stay tuned.

1. The Squares of the City, John Brunner (1965)

From the back cover: CHECHMATE IN PARADISE. Ciudad de Vados was a Latin-American showplace, a paradise…a flourishing supercity designed and run nearly to perfection.

But not quite. They had a traffic problem.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCIV (Philip José Farmer, Keith Roberts, Pauline Ashwell, Stephen Minot)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Lovers, Philip José Farmer (1961)

From the back cover: “In 1952, Philip José Farmer excited instant acclaim in the science fiction field with the publication of a short story, THE LOVERS.

In 1961, he wrote and published the full-length novel based on that short story.

And in 1972, Ballantine Books is proud to bring this classic work back into print.

Mr. Farmer, who is known for his explorations into the psychological byways of odd relationships, here postulates a love affair which might well have surprised even Haverlock Ellis. but words such as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ simply have no application in the original concepts to which Mr. Farmer’s imagination gives rise. The book remains unique and fascinating.”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCIII (William S. Burroughs, Chester Anderson, Pat Cadigan, Donald Kingsbury)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Courtship Rite, Donald Kingsbury (1982)

From the inside flap: “Gaet, Hoemei and Joesai are three clone brothers, survivors of the rigorous and deadly process of nurture and weeding that produces people of high kalothi, people worthy of surviving on the inhospitable planet of Geta. Geta was settled many thousands of years ago by human starships, but only legends of the people’s origins remain, memories that have become myths.

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Book Review: The Alien Condition, ed. Stephen Goldin (1973)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Stephen Goldin gathers together twelve original short stories–including six by women authors and two co-written with women–on the theme of the alien condition [1]. Despite the “Average” overall rating, The Alien Condition gathers a fascinating range of science fiction with three spectacular visions by Vonda N. McIntyre, Kathleen Sky, and James Tiptree, Jr. I was also pleasantly surprised by Alan Dean Foster’s take on the theme considering my previous exposure to his fiction.

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Updates: Podcast Interview and Vintage Science Fiction Discussion Extravaganza

I appeared in my first ever podcast–Postcards from a Dying World with David Agranoff–last week. Organized around a series of interview questions, David and I ended up discussing vintage SF for a good hour. I cover how studying history has inspired my project, reasons for my focus on SF from post-WWII to the mid-1980s, favorite authors and themes, etc. Please check out his twitter and website as well. I have gathered together a list of the SF works I mention in the interview with links to my reviews when applicable.

I hate listening to myself as I am far too excited about vintage SF! (but is that a surprise?)

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Book Review: I Am Legend, Richard Matheson (1954)

3.5/5 (Good)

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) is an influential SF vampire/zombie novel that spawned three film adaptations (I’ve watched the first two) and inspired directors such as George A. Romero and Danny Boyle, game designers such as Tim Cain (Fallout), and countless authors. The subject of the novel–man attempts to survive an onslaught of vampires, caused by bacterial infection, that act like smart(er) zombies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland–normally isn’t my cup of tea. I’m the first to admit that I picked up the novel entirely due to its historical importance. And I’m somewhat glad I did! While the physical onslaught of vampiric zombies didn’t interest me, the main thrust of the narrative concerns the mechanisms of grief and sexual frustration in the burning wreckage of one-time domestic bliss.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCC (James Blish, Norman Spinrad, R. M. Meluch, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

My 300th purchase post!

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

Preliminary Note: As I’m currently on vacation, the images in this post are photographs of my volumes rather than my normal hi-res scans. I’ll replace them when I get home.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1969)

From the inside page: “TAKE A TRIP WITH BILLY PILGRIM

-To the cellar of a slaughterhouse in Dresden, a city about to be destroyed by the greatest man-made catastrophe of all time.

-To happy marriage and mating with the sweet and willing daughter of one of the finest citizens of Illium, New York.

-To a luxurious zoo on the planet Tralfamadore for the public exhibition of lovemaking with the famous Earthling blue-moviestar, Montana Wildhack.

All in an amazing novel that could only have been written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a writer whose wildest flights take you straight to the hear and now.

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