The following review is the 8th post in my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay! I relish the act of literary archaeology.
Today: Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” in Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974) [You can borrow this anthology online in one-hour increments]
Previously: Kris Neville’s “Cold War” (1949) in the October 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.
Up next: Frederik Pohl’s (as Paul Flehr) “The Hated” (1958) in the January 1958 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.
Philip K. Dick wrote “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” (1974) after a two-year hiatus. He explains that a friend brought by a copy of John T. Sladek’s brilliant “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966) that spurred him to write again: “the first sf story in years that galvanized me into new life—like Kant reading Hume.” He further explains that Sladek’s satirical deconstruction of the cult of the astronaut “can stand in the ranks of the all-time great short stories in the English language” and that it “changed in a flash my entire conception of what a good sf story is” (source). I, too, adore Sladek’s story. Along with Barry N. Malzberg’s general characterization of astronauts and the space agency, it inspired this series.
As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Clans of the Alphane Moon, Philip K. Dick (1964)
From the back cover: “Holding a precarious liberty as the result of an interstellar stalemate, the human survivors of Alpha Centauri’s hospital moon readied themselves for their war of independence.
Naturally, the Pares, always suspicious and sunning, assumed the leadership, leaving it to the Manses to provide the super weapons out of their sheer love of violence. Propaganda and other details would have been left to the Skitzes, the Heebs, and Polys, and the Ob-Coms.
1. As I read the vast majority of Philip K. Dick’s novels pre-blog (i.e. pre-2010), many of the details have faded into a general morass of surreal fragments and paranoiac dreams. I know for certain Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) remains one of only a handful of unread works in his vast oeuvre.
This UK edition has a bizarre cover….
2. I thoroughly enjoyed Tanith Lee’s Don’t Bite the Sun (1976) and snatched another one of her early SF works—Day by Night (1980)…. the premise intrigues! A storyteller spins tales on a popular TV network that might not be stories at all…. but true accounts of the denizens from the other side of the planet.
3. A candidate for the worst cover of all time? The book by Gordon Eklund and Poul Anderson might not be much better. Certainly the risk purchase of the batch!
4. And finally, a riff on Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia formula? I can’t wait to read this one.
Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick (1974)
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)
“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…”
(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1957 edition of Eye in the Sky (1957), Philip K. Dick)
As the mapmaker in Russell Hoban’s The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973) who creates a map that shows the places of inspiration, I too like to guide people towards voices that are worth the listen. I encountered the writings of Evan Lampe (@EvanLampe1) while perusing various SF articles on WordPress—his site gave an encyclopedic look at the stories and thought of Philip K. Dick. And now he’s following up with a podcast read-through (mostly chronological) of PKD’s fiction.
“My main podcast is based on the idea of looking at American writers. I just wanted to podcast. I would have done it on Youtube but I do not really have the video editing skills to pull that off. Mostly, in that series I am driven to make a full-throated defense of America in these bizarre times. Perhaps its therapy. I guess you are more interested in my Philip Dick series. I think I talk about my motivations for that in my episode on “Stability”. It comes down to Dick being more culturally relevant than ever, with new TV series and a new Blade Runner film. I also never stopped believing that his writing is a useful tool in talking about many of our contemporary political and social dilemmas. The systematic approach will ensure that the stories and early novels will get the love that they deserve. There are a handful of aspects of Dick’s writing that need special attention (the frontier, post-scarcity, work, automation). I am trying to keep these most contemporary questions in mind as I re-read these works.”
(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1986 edition of The Divine Invasion (1981), Philip K. Dick)
Following close on the heels of my post on European (Italy, France, and Spain) editions of Robert Silverberg’s SF I present fifteen Italian covers for Philip K. Dick’s novels and short story collections. Karel Thole, as always, puts in the best shift. But there are some other gems—for example Libero Vitali’s cover for the 1974 edition of PKD’s wonderful (and terrifying) novel A Maze of Death (1970). My favorite Thole cover of the bunch is for Urania #897 (1981), which contains contains various PKD short stories gathered by the Italian editors. Thole’s delightful ability to interject uncanny surrealist elements in his art matches perfectly PKD’s own stylistic tendencies.
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)
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.
I’ve read only one Ron Goulart story in Universe 1 (1971), ed. Terry Carr. It was marginally funny but slight. I assume his novels are similar. This is supposedly one of his best… It has an intriguing Diane and Leo Dillon cover.
New Worlds Anthologies? Answer: always yes!
Gary K. Wolf, not Gene Wolfe or the SF scholar Gary K. Wolfe in case anyone is confused… Gary K. Wolf remains best known for the Roger Rabbit sequence of novels (Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981) and 1991’s Who P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?). He started his writing career with three SF novels for Doubleday—Killerbowl (1975), A Generation Removed (1977), and The Resurrectionist (1979). I look forward to exploring his work.
And one of the few PKD novels I do not own (I might be missing four or five others). Not supposedly one of his best books, but his brand of surrealism is always fun. It’s for my collection rather than to read anytime soon. I’m more in a PKD’s early short stories mood!
All images are scans from my own collection (click image to zoom).