Updates: My 2022 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Categories)

2022 was the single best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers!

As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Whether you are a lurker, occasional visitor, or a regular commenter, thank you for your continued support.

Continuing a trend from 2021, I read only a handful of novels this year. Instead, I devoted my obsessive attention to various science short story review initiatives (listed below), anthologies, and histories of the science fiction genre. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2022 with bonus categories. Descriptions are derived from my linked reviews.

Check out last year’s rundown if you haven’t already for more spectacular reads. I have archived all my annual rundowns on my article index page if you wanted to peruse earlier years.


My Top 5 Science Fiction Novels of 2022 (click titles for my full review)

1. Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (1978), 4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece): Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Snake journeys across the post-apocalyptic wastes of a future Earth with three serpents healing the sick and caring for the dying. She is a member of the healers, who adopt orphans and rescue the oppressed and train them how to use the serpents. Mist and Sand are genetically modified vipers of terrestrial origin. But Grass comes from another alien world. Snake uses Mist and Sand’s venom to create vaccines, treat diseases, and cure tumors. Grass, the rare dreamsnake, with its alien DNA is the most important of them all–it provides therapeutic pleasure and dreams that facilitate conquering one’s fear and healing in the ill. In Snake’s voyages, she encounters prejudice and violence. A joyous sense of sexual freedom permeates the proceedings. A powerful and different take on a post-apocalyptic worldscape in every possible way.

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Short Story Reviews: Fritz Leiber’s “The Moon Is Green” (1952) and Sonya Dorman’s “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” (1967)

Today I have selected two radical post-apocalyptic visions to review. Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) writes a conscientious attempt to understand the plight of a housewife trapped in a fallout shelter with an abusive husband and a mysterious man outside who whispers her deepest fantasies. I am fascinated by subversive 50s stories–especially on sex, masculinity, colonization, suburbia–and Leiber’s tale ticks many of my favorite boxes. Sonya Dorman (1924-2005), a skilled American representative of New Wave movement, recounts a highly metaphoric flight of a woman attempting to maintain independent thought and experience in a world hurtling towards disaster.


4.5/5 (Very Good)

Fritz Leiber’s “The Moon Is Green” first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold (April 1952). You can read it online here.  

On January 3rd, 1950, in response to the successful 1949 Soviet test of atomic weapons, President Truman announced a crash program to develop the hydrogen bomb. It is within this moment of escalating terror after Truman’s announcement that Leiber wrote “The Moon is Green” (1952). While Leiber references hydrogen weapons, the story was published before the “Ivy Mike” Hydrogen bomb test (November 1st, 1952)–known to the public after a media blackout on January 7th, 1953–that revealed the devastating presence of fallout. The Soviets conducted their own test of a thermonuclear device–Joe-4–on August 12, 1953 (source).

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVIII (Sakyo Komatsu, Women of Wonder anthology, Arsen Darnay, and interviews with SF authors)

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

1. Japan Sinks!, Sakyo Komatsu (1973; trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976)

From the back cover: “WORST DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!

A FISSURE in a wall–a land survey mysteriously out of true–a small island disappearing overnight–and one of the worst disaster in the history of the world is born. Only one man suspects the truth, but his theory is so unprecedented, his predications so horrifying that even his fellow scientists ignore him.

Earthquakes

Then a series of devastating earthquakes strikes, and suddenly the authorities are prepared to listen. But time is short and as they frantically try to ward off the disaster the crust of the earth begins to shift…”

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Updates: Links from the Vintage SF Blogsphere No. 3 (Aldous Huxley + Soviet SF + Cyberpunk nightmares + et al.)

My third installment (earlier ones here) of Links from the Vintage SF Blogsphere… Be sure to check out the reviews linked from other amazing sites (and subscribe to them). And, as always, there are some fascinating covers to behold!

Go forth and read!

(Uncredited cover–Michael Hooks?–for the 1964 edition)

1. Mike White posts an earlier review of Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence (1948). Let’s just say I can’t wait to review the book myself.

From his review:

“Huxley’s not offering hopeful alternatives; we’re doomed by our essential nature. As a work of post-apocalyptic fiction, the book is a powerful exploration of the relationship between science and civilization that has brought humanity to the brink of near-total annihilation.”

2. Guy, a frequent commenter on this site and Continue reading

Guest Post: From Pulp to New Wave: “Space Episode” (1941), Leslie Perri, “Recruiting Officer” (1955), Alice Eleanor Jones, “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966), Sonya Dorman

Ian Sales (twitter) over at It Doesn’t Have to Be Right…—BFSA-winning SF author for Adrift on the Sea of Rains (2012), reviewer, and curator of the indispensable review-collating site SF Mistressworks—provides the seventh guest post in my SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 series (original announcement and list of earlier posts).

Head over to his blog posthaste.  Although most of his more recent SF reviews are published in Interzone, his website offers older reviews and many useful resources: a list of the 100 Best SF short stories by women authors; SF Mistressworks Best Novels List; and SF women-only anthologies.

As is his wont, Ian selected two lesser-known pulp SF works by women authors—Leslie Perri and Alice Eleanor Jones—who did not have lengthy SF writing careers. His third selected story is by the masterful Sonya Dorman from one of my favorite periods of SF—the New Wave.

Thank you for contributing!

Enjoy!

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(“Space Episode” first appeared in Future Combined with Science Fiction, December 1941, cover: Hannes Bok)

Review of “Space Episode” (1941) by Leslie Perri, “Recruiting Officer” (1955) by Alice Eleanor Jones, “When I Was Miss Dow” (1966) by Sonya Dorman

By Ian Sales

“Space Episode”, Leslie Perri (1941)

Leslie Perri was the pen-name of Doris Marie Claire Baumgardt, a member of the Futurians, who was married, at different times, to two sf writers, Frederik Pohl and Continue reading

Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of A Handful of Time (1963), Rosel George Brown)

The time has come for a new Guest Post series on SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969. My reasons are two-fold: 1) to showcase a deserving and fascinating topic in line with my goal to feature lesser known SF from a range of viewpoints and traditions 2) to feature posts from reviewers in the vintage SF blogsphere and beyond (in any combination of the following) that attempt to move past standard lists and grand narratives of canon, tackle fiction from evidence-based analytical and academic perspectives, or are simply darn good writers whose sites I cannot help but return to compulsively.

Why pre-1969? Although most endpoints are arbitrary in nature, 1969 saw the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s magisterial The Left Hand of Darkness. Considered a watershed moment in the history of women writers as it was the first to win a Hugo Award for best novel, Le Guin among many others were part of a rich (albeit oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors reaching back to Mary Shelly. My focus on short stories will allow exploration of many authors who did not write novels, whose novels overshadow their short fiction, and those whose rich body of early work focused predominately on the short form.

Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects along with new voices. The first guest post series covered the work of Michael Bishop and the second Kate Wilhelm.

Topics in the queue: Robot therapists, French and Soviet SF, a range of speculative fictions from the 19th Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVII (Women of Wonder Anthology + Eklund + Watson + Franke)

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(Inside illustration by Vincent Di Fate for the 1973 edition of The Orchid Cage (1961), Herbert W. Franke)

Part II of my SF acquisitions from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, MI– Part I.  In my attempt to acquire more foreign SF (still haven’t managed to read that much of it—but the mood will strike eventually), I found a nice copy with a wonderful interior illustration and cover by Vincent Di Fate of one of Herbert W. Franke’s novels.

Also, another Ian Watson novel—I’ve read the Jonah Kit (1975) but never got around to reviewing it as well as his collection (must read for fans of 70s SF) The Very Slow Time Machine (1979).  Jesse over at Speculiction raves about his other Continue reading

Book Review: Orbit 1 (James Blish, Sonya Dorman, Kate Wilhelm, Thomas M. Disch, Richard McKenna, Poul Anderson, Allison Rice, Keith Roberts, Virginia Kidd), ed. Damon Knight (1966)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

Damon Knight’s Orbit anthology series ran from 1966-1976.  A while back I reviewed Orbit 8 (1970)–which contained the brilliant Gardner Dozois “Horse of Air” (1970 and a selection of intriguing Wolfe and Lafferty short stories—and was impressed enough to snatch up a copy of Orbit 1 (1966).  And it is graced with a Richard Powers cover I had not seen…

Orbit 1 contains nine short works (with four by women authors) and maintains solid quality throughout.  None of the stories—other than Sonya Dorman’s dark and terrifying “Slice of Life”—are masterpieces but Keith Roberts, Kate Wilhelm, Richard McKenna, James Blish, and Thomas M. Disch Continue reading