Short Story Reviews: Phyllis MacLennan’s “A Contract in Karasthan” (1963), “Thus Love Betrays Us” (1972), and “A Day in the Apotheosis of the Welfare State” (1975)

Between 1963 and 1980, American SFF author Phyllis MacLennan (1920-1912) published one novel and seven short stories (bibliography and obituary). She served as a translator and linguist in Military Intelligence during WWII.  As I can find little about her work online, I decided to review three of her SFF short fictions. Perhaps they’ll inspire me to pick up her sole novel Turned Loose on Idra (1970), which I bought in 2014.

Vincent Di Fate’s cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1972

“Thus Love Betrays Us” (1972), 4.5/5 (Very Good): First appeared in the September 1972 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Edward L. Ferman. Read the story here.

Deirdre, a night-less and oppressive world filled with thick mists and layers of moss, had only just been Continue reading

Book Review: Doctor to the Stars, Murray Leinster (1964)

John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1964 edition

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

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

Book Review: The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett (1955)

(Darrell K. Sweet’s cover for the 1974 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“No city, no town, no community of more than one thousand people or two hundred buildings to the square mile shall be built or permitted to exist anywhere in the United States of America” (Thirtieth Amendment of the United States Constitution) (1)

Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955) not only clocks in as the best of her work I’ve read so far but also joins my pantheon of favorite 50s SF visions (*).  At first glance Brackett’s novel appears to traverse standard SF juvenile territory where a teenage boy, in a religiously and socially oppressive society, encounters an object  and memories of the past that opens up a path to self-discovery. But memories are memories. And dreams are Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCL (Worlds of If and Galaxy magazines)

(David A. Hardy’s cover art detail from the September 1974 issue of Galaxy)

I am not a collector. “But Joachim Boaz you post recent purchases all the time!” Let me revise: I am a reader who procures a lot of science fiction novels, collections, and anthologies that I may never read. As a general rule, I only buy science fiction that I want to read. There’s a logic behind the handful of duplicate copies I own—for example, both the 1952 and the 1969 editions of Wilson Tucker’s fantastic The Long Loud Silence (1952) grace my shelf. Editors sliced and diced the 1st edition and Tucker Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIX (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Alan Dean Foster, E. Everett Evans, Ron Montana)

(Back cover detail for the 1959 edition of E. Everett Evans’ Man of Many Minds)

1. Looks like a fun adventure from Alan Dean Foster! And who can resist the crashed spaceship visual trope? I compiled three art posts on the topic: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

2. Of the bunch, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Hyacinths (1983) appeals the most. I’m a sucker for SF stories about the dream state—i.e. Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master (1966)—and commentaries on media and advertising. And of course, I’m fascinated Philip K. Dick’s dystopian formulations of the future of advertising which Hyacinths seems to expand on…..

I’ve previously reviewed Yarbro’s terrifying post-apocalyptic novel False Dawn (1978)

3. An alternate history where Native Americans defeat the colonizers? Intrigued but suspect it’s on the pulpy side of things. I wish I could find out more about Ron Montana. Was he of Native American descent? His first SF publication, “We the People” (1974), appeared in Craig Strete’s fanzine Red Planet Earth. Here’s his publication listing. Unfortunately, I assume he’s best known for his later copyright conflict with Craig Strete.

4. And finally, this one was hiding in a pile… I can’t remember how long I’ve had it or why I purchased it. Not an author I know and SF encyclopedia isn’t more than lukewarm in its assessment.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?


1. Icerigger, Alan Dean Foster (1974)

(Tim White’s art for the 1976 UK edition reused for the 1978 US edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVII (Candas Jane Dorsey, Michael Elder, Garry Kilworth, Sterling E. Lanier)

1. Sterling E. Lanier is best known for Hiero’s Journey (1973), which I procured in 2012 but haven’t yet read. Here’s the second of his singleton novels—Menace Under Marswood (1983). SF Encyclopedia describes it as “tamely repeat[ing]” (SF Encyclopedia) material from his earlier novels.

I’m a fan of the Darrell K. Sweet cover! Especially the mysterious creature decked out in scepter, robe, and hat.

darrell k. sweet Menace Under Marswood

(Darrell K. Sweet’s original canvas for the 1st edition)

2. A discussion on twitter about female authors of cyberpunk yielded a name unfamiliar to me — Candas Jane Dorsey. I procured a collection of her best known short fictions, which “polemically re-use and rework sf and fantasy tropes from a Feminist perspective, engaging most memorably, and fascinatedly [sic], in the title story of the first volume, “(Learning About) Machine Sex”, with the phallocentrism of much Cyberpunk” (SF Encyclopedia). Count me in!

3. My Garry K. Kilworth exploration series continues with Gemini God (1981). I must confess my enthusiasm has waned a bit after I read In Solitary (1977). See my review of The Night of Kadar (1978) for what he’s capable of.

4. This cover…. the gauze… the sheen…. the cheesiness. Explorations of media in SF is always something I gravitate towards—even when “graced” which such dismal artist failures.

Haven’t read anything by Michael Elder. I do not have high hopes!

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?


1. Menace Under Marswood, Sterling E. Lanier (1983) Continue reading

Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

(Patrick Woodroffe’s cover art for the 1973 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

The Candy Man wanders from place to place in a crumbling mega-city with his sole companion, a mechanical dog named Wolf who comes with a handy handle. Candy Man instigates the lobotomized, with primal speeches and drugged sugar floss tinted with pulverized beetles, to revolution. His reward for turning in those he encouraged deviate from the will of the Deep Machine and their Teachers? Vials of drugs. Enter the hypnagogic world of Vincent King’s Candy Man (1971), an unsettled landscape inhabited by the degenerate remnants of humankind and the arcane workings of a computer program that cannot escape its original perimeters.

Fresh off Vincent King’s short story “Defense Mechanism” (1966), I tracked down a copy of his second novel. Occupying a similar space as “Defense Mechanism” (conceptual breakthrough in a decaying world city), King pushes the narrative Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIV (John Shirley, Carol Emshwiller, Daniel Walther, and Jacques Sternberg)

1. Few themes make me as excited as dystopic urbanism: the city or suburbia as an arena of all the malignancies of societal decay. The progressive SF symbol of progress, a lake of uplifting spires, tossed into anarchy and chaos….

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walking (1980) takes this premise to its extremes—the city of San Francisco, the “pulsing heart of urbanized madness” gains sentience. Definitely the Shirley novel I’ll read first (recently nabbed Shirley’s 1985 novel Eclipse).

Tarbandu read it and didn’t care for it over at The PorPor Books Blog. I hope my experience is different!

2. Back in 2017, I read and reviewed Carol Emshwiller’s masterful short story “Animal” (1968). It’s about time I read more of her short fictions.

3. I recently read and enjoyed Jacques Sternberg’s collection Future Without Future (1971, trans. 1973). He was a Belgian author who wrote in French. Unfortunately, the only other one of his SF works available in English is Sexualis ’95 (1965, trans. 1967). I’m not sure this erotic SF novel has any merit. We shall see.

Too bad his first SF novel La sortie est au fond de l’espace (1956) remains untranslated. Its premise seems like SF I could get behind: “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” (SF Encyclopedia).

4. Daniel Walther, a French SF author, positions The Book of Shai (1982, trans. C. J. Cherryh, 1984) as a deliberate anti-Ayn Rand novel. Considering the one man saves everything nature of so many post-apocalyptical and sword-and-sorcery adventures, I’m intrigued how it plays out! I don’t have high hopes.

Translated by fellow author C. J. Cherryh, who appeared to translate a bunch of the DAW French editions….  lists of translations should be a feature of her listing — alas.

I also find it humorous that Cherryh gives the sequel, which she also translated, 1 star on Goodreads! The third volume of the trilogy remains untranslated.


1. City Come A-Walking, John Shirley (1980) (MY REVIEW)

(Catherine Huerta’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading

Book Review: New Writings in SF 7, ed. John Carnell (1971)

(David McCall Johnston’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Preliminary publication note: The UK and US editions of the New Writings in Science Fiction anthology series (1964-1977) varied in content—even volumes indicated by the same number. They are often treated as separate entries in the anthology listing. I read and reviewed the US edition.


The back cover of New Writings in Science Fiction 7 (1971), ed. John Carnell promises a form of “future shock”—plunging us into a world derived from ours but foreign and alien. Is the collection successful? As with the three other volumes in this anthology series I’ve read—New Writings in SF 4 (1965), New Writings in SF 6 (1965), and New Writings in SF 9 (191972)–the answer is a mixed “somewhat.”

In the volumes I’ve explored so far, Vincent King is the biggest surprise—i.e. an author I had never read who produces regularly solid work. As with “Testament” (1968), King’s “Defence Mechanism” (1966) evokes “existential emptiness” Continue reading