Short Fiction Reviews: Phyllis Gotlieb’s “A Grain of Manhood” (1959), “Phantom Foot” (1959), and “No End of Time” (1960)

Since 2021, I’ve put together a series on the first three published short fictions by female authors who are new(ish) to me and/or whose most famous SF novels fall mostly outside the post-WWII to mid-1980s focus of my reading adventures. So far I’ve featured Josephine Saxton (1935-), Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), Wilmar H. Shiras (1908-1990), Nancy Kress (1948-), Melisa Michaels (1946-2019), Lee Killough (1942-), Betsy Curtis (1917-2002), and Eleanor Arnason (1942-).

I do not expect transformative or brilliant things from first stories. Rather, it’s a way to get a sense of subject matter and concerns that first motivated authors to put pen to paper and to further map the territories that fascinate me.

Phyllis Gotlieb (1926-2009) was one of a legion of authors who received a debut under the influential editorship of Cele Goldsmith (1933-2002). Goldsmith fostered the early careers of Ursula K. Le Guin, Keith Laumer, Thomas M. Disch, David R. Bunch, Roger Zelazny, among many others. For a fascinating look at her years at Amazing Stories, check this later reflection article. Goldsmith writes: “My greatest pleasure was developing and publishing new, talented writers. I was not a writer and never aspired to be. But I was an editor who loved to help writers adapt their ideas and copy for the audience. My requirements: credible (or incredible), well-plotted, care- fully developed stories. My criteria for acceptance: ‘goose flesh’ while reading a submission.” For more on her contribution to the field, check out “Friend of the Site” John Boston and Cora Buhlert’s article over on Galactic Journey. Barry N. Malzberg also interviewed her in 2003.

Gotlieb, also known for her poetry, was born in Canada and received an M. A. in English from the University of Toronto. Her first novel–which I acquired recentlySunburst appeared in 1964. Her novella “Son of the Morning” (1972) received a Nebula Award nomination. Here’s her complete bibliography. I have read none of her work until now!

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXI (Phyllis Gotlieb, John D. MacDonald, Robert Onopa, and Peter George)

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

1. Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)

From the back cover: “In the hideous aftermath of the atomic sunburst. The people of Sorrel Park had been written off. Now they were nothing but a kind of human garbage, festering and hopeless.

In the center of town lived the worst of the human garbage–and by far the most dangerous. They were a breed of terrible children, possessed by terrifying supernormal powers. They were a new race of monster bred out of the sunburst, and if they ever broke loose they would destroy the world…”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVI (Asimov + Farmer + Gotlieb + Morressy)

It has been so long since I have read Asimov…  Currents of Space (1952)—or Bradbury’s 1953 masterpiece Fahrenheit 451)—was the very first SF novel I ever read.  And I did not enjoy it.  In my later teens I read quite a few of Asimov’s works including the average The Gods Themselves (1972) in a Hugo-winning novel marathon that really got me into SF.  He has never blown me away.  But, I have a soft spot for the robot stories!

Gotlieb’s novel has simply the worst back cover blurb ever.  Suspicious.

I do like Philip José Farmer stories although I wish the inside blurb would not give away the entire plot of two of the seven stories.  I have never read the original “Riverworld” (1966) short story—perhaps it’s much better than the later novel version.


1.  Eight Stories from The Rest of the Robots, Isaac Asimov (1966)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading