Algis Budrys has not fared particularly well on this site. Back in 2012 I read The Falling Torch (1959) and found it a functional military SF novel with some social commentary about the “inhumanity” of the Soviets. More recently I tackled his so-called “masterpiece” Michaelmas(serialized 1976) (short review) that despite all its pretensions to say something relevant about technology and media, slips into SF thriller mode, abandoning the most compelling elements of the narrative (it’s hard to write a convincing character study). At least Michaelmas makes the motions towards SF that moves behind the mechanical blueprints of a potential future mindset and tries to say something substantive about the psyche and society of the people who might live there. As you know, Continue reading →
(“Survival Ship” appeared in the May 1955 issue of New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell, cover: Gerard Quinn)
Reviews of “Survival Ship” (1951) by Judith Merril, “Short in the Chest” (1954) by Margaret St. Clair, and “The Wait” (1958) by Kit Reed
Not being much of a short fiction reader, these were all new-to-me stories that I thought I might appreciate. A selection of fifties SF, all of which are dark and strange and rebellious, and examine the social and political pressures that are often Continue reading →
I have long been a fan of both Judith Merril’s fiction and edited volumes. The eponymous novella in the collection Daughters of Earth (1968) is one of more delightful visions from the 1950s I have encountered. Merril reframes biblical patrilineal genealogy as matrilineal–i.e. humankind’s conquest of space is traced via the female descendants of an august progenitor. The story is brilliant in part due to a remarkable metafictional twist, the story itself is compiled from historical documents to serve as an instructional template for future generations of women. Despite substantial editorial control that forced Merril to include a rather hokey plot on two hokey planets, the story remains memorable for the well crafted feminist Continue reading →
(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1970 edition of The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm) (1968), John Sladek)
It has been too long since I collated a cover art post… I have a love hate relationship with Josh Kirby’s work. He tends to be on the comedic side, for example, he provided covers for a large percentage of Ron Goulart’s DAW titles (The Wicked Cyborg, etc) and Prachett’s Discworld novels.
However, for a brief window of time in the 60s and 70s he produced some gorgeously surreal depictions of astronauts and and astronaut transformations. His cover for the 1970 edition of The Reproductive System (variant Continue reading →
(Alex Schomburg’s cover for the 1953 edition of Space, Space, Space (1953), ed. William Sloane)
Our science fiction heroes are often confronted by bleak alien landscapes adorned with rocks, vast deserts, adverse atmospheres — commonly these vistas are traversed, colonized, tamed… Spaceships touch down on virgin surfaces, the explorers tentatively step forward, aliens peer from the distance. When settlements are built the alien vista remains an ever present source of fear and fascination. The depiction of a convincingly bleak alien landscape (think Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s Dune) can be of paramount importance in conveying not only otherworldliness but the backdrop for human drama and the challenges our heroes must overcome (by technology or other Continue reading →
Harry Harrison and Gordon R. Dickson’s The Lifeship (1976) is two parts tense and exciting adventure in the expanse of space and one part half-hearted “key differences between individuals are overcome in the end” attempts at social commentary. I found the first two-thirds of the work riveting. Sadly, the final third devolves into a ramshackle and unpleasant mixture of save the world formulae and endless exposition at gunpoint about all the nefarious nooks and crannies of each and every plan, counter-plan, potential plan, half-realized plan, and unrealized plan soon to be fomented in the liminal realm of coalescing Continue reading →
I promised not to buy any more books over the summer unless I ran out — alas, Memorial Day Sale at one of the best Half Price Books in the country (Austin) is a “bad” combination. I had to reduce my gigantic pile by half before I dared approach the buy counter….
I’m proud of this haul!
1. Hawksbill Station (1968), Robert Silverberg (MY REVIEW)
I’ve wanted to procure Hawksbill Station for quite a while — the premise is fantastic, five dangerous prisoners are held at Hawksbill Station located in the Cambrian era… One bizarre use of time travel! I hope Silverberg is at his best à la The World Inside and Downward to the Earth.
Everyone! I’ve decided to start a new series of posts! An episode by episode log of my reactions (including, but not limited to rants, ravings, tangential ruminations, mutterings, and indecipherable utterances) to Space: 1999 (1975-1977). I’ve never seen the show before and don’t have very high expectations. But with 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired visuals and some 70s flare (see the hilarious costumes of the cast image below), how bad can it be? (haha). A general naïveté (on my part) Continue reading →
Nektar, an English band founded in Germany, is another virtually forgotten group restricted mostly to the more esoteric of psychedelic music circles. Their debut album, Journey to the Center of the Eye (1972), is sci-fi themed throughout (I’ll post more songs over the coming weeks). ‘Astronauts Nightmare’ is my favorite of the Continue reading →