Stephen Goldin gathers together twelve original short stories–including six by women authors and two co-written with women–on the theme of the alien condition . Despite the “Average” overall rating, The Alien Condition gathers a fascinating range of science fiction with three spectacular visions by Vonda N. McIntyre, Kathleen Sky, and James Tiptree, Jr. I was also pleasantly surprised by Alan Dean Foster’s take on the theme considering my previous exposure to his fiction.
David Gerrold and his associate editor Stephen Goldin collect a bizarre range of SF oddities including an epistolary nightmare from Vonda N. McIntyre’s pen and a one-sentence “sign” by Duane Ackerman. Gerrold argues that he wants “science fiction to be fun again” without “literary inbreeding and incestuous navel-studying” (8). With a more than pungent hint of hypocrisy, he spouts “I’m tired of the kind of bullshitting that creates false images in the readers’ minds” (8). Alternities (1974) reads like the cast off stories from a New Wave (i.e. deliberately literary) Judith Merril or Harlan Ellison anthology with heavy dose of erotic comedy and shock value. A few–including E. Michael Blake’s “The Legend of Lonnie and the Seven-Ten Split,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Recourse, Inc.,” and Edward Bryant’s “Cowboys, Indians”–rise above the dross.
To be clear, I enjoy devouring anthologies like Alternities. The stories are originals and few are anthologized elsewhere. I adore reading authors I wouldn’t otherwise encounter (Robert Wissner, E. Michael Blake, et al.). Gerrold’s nonsense of an introduction aside, the anthology with its deliberate attempts at the “literary” (Greg Bear’s “Webster” and James Sallis’ “The First Few Kinds of Truth”) and “edgy” (Steven Utley’s “Womb, with a View”) firmly fit in the passing mid-70s foam of the New Wave movement.
1) A 1970s SF short story anthology. How could I resist? Could you? As with Judith Merril’s anthology I posted recently, Harry Harrison applies a very wide-ranging lens (publication venue, non-English language authors, etc) to the notion of “SF.”
2) Occasionally I procure (but more often than not, fail to review) a handful of newer SF novels by authors who haven’t yet received the spotlight they deserve. I listened to Anne Charnock’s A Calculated Life (2013) as an audible audiobook and found it rather brilliant. In a recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I went out for beers with Mike at Transreal Fiction and snagged a copy of Charnock’s newest novel from his store. I apologize in advance if no review appears—I must have a mental block when comes to reviewing books published in the last three decades. hah.
(Mati Klarwein’s 1970 cover for Miles Davis’ album Bitches Brew)
Mati Klarwein (wikipedia link) was a German artist of Jewish origin who fled the Nazis to British Palestine. After the fall of the Nazis, he received an art education in Paris and gained French citizenship. Famous for his album covers—notably Miles Davis’ famous Bitches Brew (1970) (above) and Santana’s Abraxas (1969) (below)—Klarwein also created (or his art was used for) SF covers. Characterized by an obsessive eye for the detail (click and zoom in on Lafferty’s Arrive at Easterwine scan I included from my collection), Klarwein’s almost mandalic covers draw on a wide range of artistic influences. Unfortunately, quite a few are uncredited or credited to the incorrect artist—his cover for the 1972 edition of The World’s Desire (1890) by H. Rider Continue reading →