Published a few months before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Robert Hoskins’ anthology First Step Outward (1969) charts an imagined future history of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy. The stories, gathered from some of the big names of the day (Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc.), are grouped as if part of the same future with headings such as “To the Planets” and “To the Stars.” As with most anthologies, this contains a range of gems (such as Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea”) and duds (Ross Rocklynne’s “Jaywalker”).
I’ve previously reviewed five of the thirteen stories in their own posts–linked for easy consultation.
Brief Plot Summary/Analysis
“Cold War” (1949), Kris Neville, 3/5 (Average): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Third Stage” (1963), Poul Anderson, 3.5/5 (Good): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Gentlemen, Be Seated!” (1948), Robert A. Heinlein, 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average): My first return to Robert A. Heinlein in around a decade is exactly like I thought it would be–thoroughly disappointing. Yes, yes, yes, I know this is far from what he was capable of. The number of reprints this misfire of a story receives mystifies (it appeared in the regularly reprinted The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow).
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.
Previously: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo,” in Infinity One (1970), ed. Robert Hoskins. Available online here.
Up next: Theodore L. Thomas’ “Broken Tool” in Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. (July 1959). You can read the story online here.
Uncredited cover for the 1st edition of Alpha 8 (1977)
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 →
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).
And let me know in the comments if you receive any SF/fantasy Christmas gifts.
1. I seldom buy duplicate editions. I originally read Sturgeon’s masterpiece as a teen and I’m unsure where my original 70s edition with a Bob Pepper cover ran off to…. And this perfect condition 1960 edition has glorious Richard Powers art!
2. George Turner—an author I know next to nothing about. I’ve already read 75 pages of his first novel and am absolutely entranced.
3. Hilbert Schenck—another author who is new to me. He published primarily in the early 80s and snagged a few Nebula nominations for his short fiction. His second novel proved to be a dud (I’ll have a review up soon).
4. Why are you buying another Donald A. Wollheim Best Of collection when you’re firmly in the Terry Carr camp of Best Of anthologies? Good question.
The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972) doesn’t feel like a “best of” collection. The majority of the contents are unspectacular space operas and hard SF in the Analog vein. Amongst the chaff, a few more inventive visions shined through—in particular, Joanna Russ’ mysteriously gauzy and stylized experiment replete with twins and dream machines; Michael G. Coney’s evocative overpopulation story about tourist robots; Christopher Priest’s “factual” recounting of human experimental subjects that isn’t factual at all; and Barry Malzberg’s brief almost flash piece about differing perspectives all tied together by the New York metro.
On the whole, I give it a solid recommendation although the best can be found in single-author collections.
“The Fourth Profession” (1971), novelette by Larry Niven, 3/5 (Average): Nominated for the 1972 Continue reading →
Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.
Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.
…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).
Scans are from my collection.
1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)
1) Early Elric stories from Michael Moorcock’s pen. Confession: I bought it in Scotland due to the disquieting cover rather than any love of heroic fantasy—albeit M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) was pretty darn good.
The fantastic cover is uncredited: thoughts regarding the artist?
2) I adored Dino Buzzati’s magical realist novel The Tartar Steppe (1940). And the movie adaptation The Desert of the Tartars, dir. Valerio Zurlini (1976) inspired by the aesthetics of Giorgio de Chirico —I even wrote a half-baked and cursory review of the movie many years ago. While browsing I discovered that Buzzati wrote what is considered the first serious Italian SF novel—Larger than Life (1960). I can’t wait to read it!
4) A while back I watched, and struggled to enjoy, the 1975 film adaptation of William Harrison’s short story “Roller Ball Murder” (1973). Time to read the source material. Copy snagged in Edinburgh, Scotland.
(Cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis)
Art Sussman produced a remarkable corpus of SF and other pulp covers (mysteries, crime, etc). He could easily shift gears between Richard Powers-esque surrealism—although distinctly his own take—to covers that suited an Agatha Christie mystery (browse the range here). I would be wary comparing him to Powers until you skim through the latter’s late 50s early 60s art (definitely an enjoyable activity!). Although Powers is still far superior, both were part of the SF art movement increasingly experimented with surreal/metaphoric and experimental art (there are still spaceships lurking around the edges, and futuristic cities, and other pulpy moments).
There is a precision of vision with Sussman’s art—his cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis places the astronauts in an outline of a vessel with strange hints at alien planets and experiences scattered gem-like in the distance. Sussman’s focus on the human form — often surrounded by surreal forms and humanlike membranes — showcases agony and despair. A great example (and my favorite of the bunch) pairs jagged black fields with a bloodied man, the 1960 Continue reading →