Short Story Reviews: Melisa Michaels’ “In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See” (1979), “I Have a Winter Reason” (1981), and “I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes” (1982)

My 1000th post!

Every morning for the last few years, I post on Twitter the birthdays (pre-1955) of artists, authors, and editors involved in some way with science fiction. In the last year, a singular compulsion has hit and I’ve started to include even more obscure figures like Gabriel Jan (1946-) and Daniel Drode (1932-1984). On May 31st, while perusing the indispensable list on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, I came across an author unknown to me–Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) (bibliography). She’s best known for the five-volume Skyrider sequence (1985-1988) of space operas “depicting the growth into maturity of its eponymous female Starship-pilot protagonist” (SF Encyclopedia).

As I’m always willing to explore the work of authors new to me, I decided to review the first three of her six published SF short stories. Two of the three stories deal with my favorite SF topics–trauma and memory.


In the Country of the Blind, No One Can See” (1979), 3.5/5 (Good): First appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Marvels of Science Fiction (1979). It was reprinted in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (January 1979). You can read it online here.

On a terraformed Mars, Allyson Hunter and her two clone sisters, Rebecca and Kim, are societal outcasts. They spent their lives trying to be “real people” yet were “reminded, every day in a dozen little ways, that they weren’t real people” (87). Clones retain their first usage as replacement body parts. Permitted to live only due to indications of telepathic potential (needed to guide spaceships), the sisters attempt to live meaningful lives and develop useful skills. The sisters charter two identical twins, Frank and Todd, to convey them across the Martian landscape. A horrific crash kills Kim and forces the survivors to work together and move past the deep resentment and hatred the brothers hold.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXX (Brian W. Aldiss, Judith Merril, Brian M. Stableford, and Chad Oliver)

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

1. Barefoot In the Head, Brian W. Adliss (1969)

From the back cover: “AFTER THE ACID WAR…. Rising from the dust and ashes of a Europe still reeling from the effects of the great Acid War comes Colin Charteris, a futuristic Don Quixote riding the mechanized brontosaurus of the times.

Charteris tries desperately to make sense of the drugged, chaotic world he lives in, and finds himself hailed as the new Messiah. Stranger still, Charteris himself comes to believe this.

His adventures as he tries to save the world from its insanity are brilliantly told, a satiric science fiction comment on the future of mankind.”

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” (1954)

This is the 10th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. I’ve returned to an author, Frank M. Robinson (1926-2014), that I promised to read more of after the wonderful “The Wreck of the Ship John B.” (1967).

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: Leigh Brackett’s “The Ark of Mars” in Planet Stories (September 1953), ed. Jack O’Sullivan. You can read it online here.

Next Up: Arthur Sellings’ “A Start in Life” in Galaxy Science Fiction (September 1954), ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.


Frank M. Robinson’s “The Oceans Are Wide” first appeared in Science Stories (April 1954), ed. Bea Mahaffey and Ray Palmer. 3.75/5 (Good). You can read it online here. Note: I read the story in Starships, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh (1983).

A Boy Comes of Age, or How Do You Make a Machiavellian Tyrant

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Short Story Review: Raymond F. Jones’ “The Memory of Mars” (1961)

3.5/5 (Good)

Before Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966), Raymond F. Jones wrote the far lesser known “The Memory of Mars” (1961)–his own paranoid thriller about a vacation to Mars that might not have happened exactly as remembered. This is a plot-driven story. There are multiple twists and delusional layers that unfold at lightning speed–some more satisfying than others. You might want to read the story in the December 1961 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith first.

“The Memory of Mars” has all the pieces of a paranoid masterpiece. A journalist named Mel Hastings, trained to be objective, waits for his wife Alice to be released from surgery. As he waits anxiously for news knowing that something has gone wrong, he recalls his wife’s persistent claim that they had gone on a vacation to Mars the first year of their marriage. The simmering terror of his own phobia of space and recurrent nightmares of being chased across the black void suggest there’s more than he remembers. Mel’s called into the surgery room with disturbing news. His wife is dead and something is terribly wrong with her viscera. Vigil Finlay’s top-notch interior art (above) hints at the terror that unfolds as Alice’s inhuman interior is laid bare….

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Short Story Review: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959)

The following review was originally conceived as the fifth post in my series on “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” However, it does not fit. It is a spectacular evocation of memory and triumph and worth the read.

Thank you Mark Pontin, “Friend of the Site,” for bringing it to my attention.

Today: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959) in the October 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills. You can read the story online here.

Previously: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo,” in Infinity One (1970), ed. Robert Hoskins. Available online here.

Up next: Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” (1959) in the July 1959 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read the story online here.

Uncredited cover for the 1st edition of Alpha 8 (1977)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959), nominated for the 1960 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, thrusts the reader into a seemingly delusional landscape, generated by extreme trauma, of narrative fragments. One thread follows a child as he presents increasingly complex toy Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVII (Two themed anthologies on space habitats and sports, Irene Schram, Ralph A. Sperry)

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

1. Habitats, ed. Susan Shwartz (1984)

Robert Andre’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “HABITATS. Where people live determines their cultures and ambitions. What then of times to come: the fabulous days of star flight, the furious days of interplanetary competition, the horrendous days of world disaster, or the weirdly wonderful days of epic changes undreamed of? In this astonishingly original anthology eleven brilliant science fiction writers have created eleven scenes of high adventure in future human habitations.

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Book Review: Alqua Dreams, Rachel Pollack (1987)

Les Edwards’ cover for the 1st edition

3.75/5 (Good)

“To the Lukai, when a mother bore a child both the mother and child were really dead souls, locked in fake bodies. ‘The child cries,’ the Death Woman told Cooper, “because it still remembers the truth'” (28).

At first glance the mission was like so many others: negotiate with a native people, the Lukai, over a rare resource that facilitates space travel. But Jaimi Cooper is plunged into an ontological nightmare, he is branded as an alqua, “someone who suffers an illusion” (20). According to the Lukai, “you are dead. We are all dead” (27). And as the mythology and its theology come into play, Jaimi Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCLV (Francis Stevens, M. Barnard Eldershaw, Robert Thurston, Rudolph Wurlitzer)

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

1. The Heads of Cerberus, Francis Stevens (1919)

Uncredited cover for the 1984 edition

From the back cover: “Francis Stevens’ fast-paced, imaginative novel is probably the first science-fiction work to deal with the concept of parallel worlds. Five young friends inhale the dust of Purgatory, pass through the Gateway of the Moon and enter the marvelous Alternate Earth where time flows at a far faster pace than her own. To their horror and amazement, by stepping over the bank of the unknown, they have left their world of Philadelphia in 1917 and have entered into a mystifying and dangerous “Philadelphia” of 2118. How they attempt to escape from the oblivion that threatens to swallow them is an unforgettable journey into the fantastic.”

Initial Thoughts: Pre-WWII SF and I don’t mix. I’ve tried. I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), C. S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy (1938-1945), David Lindsay’s A  Voyage to Arcturus (1920), and plenty of others…. That said, the historian in me itches to have Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLII (James White, Patricia A. McKillip, John Maddox Roberts, and an Original Anthology)

As always which books/covers intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Fool’s Run, Patricia A. McKillip (1987)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1988 edition

From the back cover: “Terra Viridian is a young woman who obeyed a vision, took a laser assault rifle, and turned fifteen hundred innocents into light. She was captured, convicted, and sentences to the orbital prison called the Underworld. Forever.

Seven years later: a bar-band pianists Continue reading