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Updates: My 2018 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Catagories)

Post-academia depression hits hard…. While completing my PhD (defended in the summer of 2017), reading SF and writing about SF was the way I kept sane. After multiple mostly unsuccessful years on the academic market, I have changed gears career-wise (although I’m still affiliated with a university and teaching college-level history courses but without the research component) and it has been a liberating experience. My history obsessions remain, even stronger in many ways, and academic monographs on all the topics that I wanted to read about but never could—Hellenistic successor states to Alexander, Early Islam, Late Antique and Medieval Persia, etc.–have dominated my time and pocketbook 2018 (don’t ask how much I’ve spent). I have included a “Best Academic History Reads of 2018” section for the curious.

At the beginning of November, I was moments from announcing that I was on hiatus for the foreseeable future. However, I have fallen back in love with SF and writing about SF and the new year beckons!

All of this is to say, I read little SF this year–until last month. However, there were a handful of stand-out SF novels and short stories that I managed to squeeze in.

And please list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. I look forward to reading your comments.

Enjoy!

…and read lots of good books in 2019. I will.

Best SF Novels Continue reading Updates: My 2018 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Catagories)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCVIII “Christmas Edition” (An Atlas of Fantasy + Sturgeon + Jeter + Berriault)

1. One of two SF/F gifts (not specifically for Christmas — but let’s pretend!) I’ve included in this post…. Due to my recent series on Maps and Diagrams in Science Fiction, a reader and fan of the site sent me his extra copy of J.B. Post’s An Atlas of Fantasy (1973)–which includes some SF maps as well. Thank you!

2. The second gift—I’ve been spacing a giant pile of vintage SF I received from a family friend out over many months! Sturgeon sometimes intrigues, and sometimes infuriates—hopefully there will be more of the former in this collection. No stories in the vein of “The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast” (1949) please.

3. Dr. Adder, K. W. Jeter’s infamous “couldn’t be published when it was written” novel that might have defined “cyberpunk” long before Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). I have the Bluejay Books 1st edition with lots of evocative (and disturbing) interior art.

4. And finally, a completely unknown quantity from an author I’d never heard of–Gina Berriault. Promises to be a Cold War satire of impending nuclear destruction. And it has a History professor as a main character! (i.e. maybe a 1960s version of me? we shall see).

Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

And let me know in the comments if you receive any SF/fantasy Christmas gifts.

~

1. An Atlas of Fantasy, J. B. Post (1973)

(Uncredited cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCVIII “Christmas Edition” (An Atlas of Fantasy + Sturgeon + Jeter + Berriault)

Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 12/24/18 — C. J. Cherryh’s Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)

Monday Maps and Diagrams 12/24/18

Sometimes a map tells a story…. Sometimes a series of maps reveal the evolution of a story. C. J. Cherryh’s sequence of six maps of the same location in Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983) tracks the evolving relationship between settlers, azi clones, and native caliban lizard creatures.

A careful eye might be able to discern the general trajectory of the novel’s plot — if you haven’t read it yet, than perhaps (if you can tear your eyes off of MAPS) proceed no further….

Enjoy!

The Maps:

Continue reading Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 12/24/18 — C. J. Cherryh’s Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)

Book Review: Mindship, Gerard F. Conway (1974)

mindship conway(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1974 edition)

3/5 (Average)

“The only truth is what happens, in plain and simple reality. I’ve seen the inside of too many minds to think any man’s intentions can be good. We’re evil inside ourselves Kilgarin. We’re sick and foul and filthy. The only ones who come close to being pure are those too stupid to be anything else” (72).

Back in 2016 I read Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971) and was pleasantly surprised by Gerard F. Conway’s short story “Mindship” (1971) about telepathic (“sensitive”) “corks” who calm the minds of the spaceship crews whose psychic powers run interstellar “engines.” This story forms the prologue of Conway’s novel continuation. In an odd way, the novel reinterprets the original short story and adds an additional level of mystery (it wasn’t an accidental death, it was a murder!) to its straightforward plot.

Continue reading Book Review: Mindship, Gerard F. Conway (1974)

Book Review: Emphyrio, Jack Vance (1969)


(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1979 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

Jack Vance’s Emphyrio (1969) is a story about how a story can create change and heighten our own yearning for escape. Although a pulp coming-of-age adventure at heart, Vance reigns in his baroque descriptive tendencies to spin a narrative that tries (successfully) to say something meaningful about the impact of storytelling.
Continue reading Book Review: Emphyrio, Jack Vance (1969)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCVII (Farmer + Leinster + Williams + Anthology)

I’ve returned! New books!

If you missed it, I also posted a new review of a fantastic novel that melds New Wave sensibilities with an engaging narrative. Check it out.

1. A gift from a family friend…. But what a John Schoenherr cover!

2. Another gift…. a fun space medic premise but I do not trust anything produced by Leinster to have depth yet alone be “thought-provoking” as the blurb proclaims.

3. A Toronto, CA find — unfortunately a tag mutilated the cover…

4. Another Toronto, CA find — while browsing through the shelves I was reminded of one of Tarbandu’s infrequent 5/5 reviews…. We don’t always agree but he introduced me to John Crowley!

As always, comments are welcome.

Enjoy!

~

  1. Alien Worlds, ed. Roger Elwood (1964)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1964 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCVII (Farmer + Leinster + Williams + Anthology)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCV (Leiber + Goulart + Wolf + Anthology edited by Bryant)

1. Why more Fritz Leiber (you might ask) considering your scattered negative comments about his most beloved series of stories, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? In short, I enjoy his non-sword and sorcery short fiction—notably the stories in A Pail of Air (1964).

And of course his bizarre (and most famous) 50s novel The Big Time (1958)… (read long before I started my site).

2. This looks like a fascinating collection “celebrating” America’s 300th future anniversary! I did not know that Edward Bryant edited volumes of short stories. He includes a wide range of authors—including those by Marge Piercy, Harlan Ellison, Jo Ann Harper (unknown to me), Carol Emshwiller, Vonda N. McIntyre, et al.

3. I finished Gary K. Wolf’s Killerbowl (1975) a few days ago and was blown away. Absolutely one of my favorite novels I’ve read so far this year! The bad taste left by The Resurrectionist (1979) is completely washed from my mouth. I snuck on the computer…. late at night…. and purchased the last of his three 1970s novels I didn’t own–A Generation Removed (1977).

4. A gift from a family friend…. with an otherworldly (and early) Vincent Di Fate cover.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

Note: Images are hi-res scans from my personal collection.

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1. The Book of Fritz Leiber, Fritz Leiber (1974)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCV (Leiber + Goulart + Wolf + Anthology edited by Bryant)