Short Story Reviews: Richard Matheson’s “Through Channels” (1951) and Robert F. Young’s “Audience Reaction” (1954)

Today I’ve reviewed the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. In Richard Matheson’s horror short “Through Channels” (1951), a terrifying entity comes through the TV! Robert F. Young, in “Audience Reaction” (1954), speculates on a new form of virtual reality immersion in which desires become enmeshed in the narrative.

Both stories I cover engage with the newly popular entertainment medium of television. According to Gary R. Edgerton’s magisterial monograph The Columbia History of American Television (2007), no “technology before TV every integrated faster into American life” (xi). As I’ve discussed TV’s impact on the American and British family, entertainment and free time, and its intersection with brainwashing and fears of Communism at length, I won’t belabor the point here. Check out my reviews of Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” (1951), Brian W. Aldiss’ “Panel Game” (1955), Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” (1953), if you want additional 1950s historical context.

Previously: Two stories by Damon Knight: “Thing of Beauty” (1958) and “You’re Another” (1955).

Up Next: TBD

4/5 (Good)

Richard Matheson’s “Through Channels” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (April 1951). You can read it online here.

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Short Story Reviews: Richard Matheson’s “Pattern for Survival” (1955) and Margaret St. Clair’s “Quis Custodiet…?” (1948)

In Martha Bartter’s article “Nuclear Holocaust as Urban Renewal” (1986), she explores the deep ambivalence within tales of future atomic war. Authors, and their characters, yearn to “build, a new infinitely better world out of the old” (148), and what better way than to destroy all that was. Narratives often betray a sinister destructive urge. She argues that “atomic war has traditionally been presented both as obvious disaster and as secret salvation” (148). I planned on featuring this thought-provoking article in my Exploration Log series but never got around to writing it. Alas! Maybe a comment or two from my readers will inspire me to finally do so.

With Bartter’s argument in mind, I’ve paired two divergent post-nuclear stories. Margaret St. Clair affirms, despite devastation and violence, the possibility of a revitalized future that avoids the pitfalls of the past. Richard Matheson sidesteps the issue entirely and instead explores how survival, even if fleeting, depends on an interior retreat into a world of pulp science fiction (and thus posits a meta-analysis of genre).

3/5 (Average)

Margaret St. Clair’s “Quis Custodiet…?” first appeared in Startling Stories, ed. Sam Merwin, Jr. (July 1948). You can read it online here.

Margaret St. Clair (1911-1995) was a mainstay of the major pulp magazines and maintained a prolific career from 1946 to the late 60s (between the 70s and early 80s she produced only one novel and a handful of stories).”Quis Custodiet…?” explores a conflict three hundred odd years after the “big atom bombs fell” (114) between “homo mutatus,” or the “Blown-up” humans who experience the effects of radiation mutation and the “Formers,” those spared the mutations (110).

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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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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Futuristic Cities of Lima de Freitas, Part I


(Cover for the 1967 edition of vol. 1 of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965), Robert A. Heinlein)

The Portuguese painter and illustrator Lima de Freitas (1927-1998) created a vast number of covers for the Portuguese press Livros do Brasil.  For more on the range of art he produced in his career consult his wikipedia page [here].

A while back I reviewed Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959) and discovered de Freitas’ amazing cover (below).  More than any of the US editions, it evokes the claustrophobic tone of the novel (and even some of the surreal elements).

As the son of two architects, architecturally inclined SF covers always fascinate. Thus, as an introduction to his art (if you do not know it already) I have collected a handful of his cityscapes.  They are surreal masterpieces.  Lima de Freitas’ covers emphasize the city as a canvas, the textures of human Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Jack Gaughan’s covers for Walker & Co. (1969-1970)

At last, inspired to make a cover art post! [list of art posts]

Thanks to my frequent commentator Peter S, I followed up on his suggestion to take a peek at Jack Gaughan’s 1969 cover for the Walker & Co. edition of James White’s All Judgement Fled (1968)—and was blown away by some of the other works in his art sequence for the press.

Jack Gaughan’s covers for Walker & Co. between 1969-1970 showcase some of his more surrealist inclinations.  Beautiful, often minimalistic, evocative…  Some famous novels are graced by his covers: James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958), Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (1961), Silverberg’s Nightwings (1968), Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron (1969).

Titles in this art sequence without suitable images online: A Gift from Earth (1968), Re-Birth (1955), All Judgement Fled (1968), Trouble with Lichen (1960), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957).  If you have any in your collection I’d love to see them!

Many of these covers have wrap-around illustrations.  If you have one at home I’d love to see a photo of what the back looks like! (post in comments).

Thoughts? Favorites?


(1969 edition of The Wanderer (1964), Fritz Leiber) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVIII (Matheson + Tenn + Priest)

Adored An Infinite Summer (1979), had to procure more Priest…

I want to give Matheson another chance—although some of the stories in Third From the Sun (1955) were worth reading…

William Tenn, great short story author—needed more! I had previously read both Of Men and Monsters (1968) and his collection The Human Angle (1956).


1. The Shores of Space, Richard Matheson (1957)


(Uncredited cover for the 1957 edition)

From the back cover: “Shocking— Startling — Incredible.  13 strange and unusual stories set against the background of new worlds and fantastic futures— Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Matheson + Carr + Davidson + Sheckley)

Another varied selection of recent acquisitions—the majority are gifts from Carl V. Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Thanks so much!  A signed edition of Hal Clement’s Close to Critical (1964) is coming your way!

I love Sheckley.  I’ve never read Richard Matheson’s short fiction.  Terry Carr’s short fiction is supposedly rather good (he’s primarily known as an editor of course).  And Avram Davidson is still an unknown quantity—I do adore the Leo and Diane Dillon cover.


1. Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(Gene Szafran’s horrid cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading