Book Review: The Alien Condition, ed. Stephen Goldin (1973)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

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 [1]. 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.

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Book Review: Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection, ed. Lester del Rey (1975) (R. A. Lafferty, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Vonda N. McIntyre, et al.)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Lester del Rey’s Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection (1975) is a mystifying read. For an anthology series claiming to contain the best stories of 1974, del Rey completely misidentifies all the hard-hitters of the year. For example, it does not include a single Hugo– or Nebula-nominated story.

My advice: Ignore the title. Instead, if you have an unnatural obsession with anthologies like myself, then contemplate picking up a copy for the Vonda N. McIntyre, F. M. Busby, John Brunner, and Gordon R. Dickson stories. The rest are average to poor.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“If This Is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy” (1974), F. M. Busby, 4/5 (Good): Until I read this story, I assumed F. M. Busby’s SF from the 70s was as blunt and imprecise as Cage a Man (1973) and “Tell Me All About Yourself” (1973). With the emotional strokes reminiscent of Silverberg’s masterpiece Dying Inside (1972), Busby spins an ingenious time-travel tale about a man who lives his live in non-sequential sections.

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Book Review: Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre (1978)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel.

I’ve now tackled the only pre-1990 Hugo Award-winning novel I had yet to read. And I was not disappointed. Fresh off Vonda N. McIntyre’s ingenious generation ship short story “The Mountains of Sunset, The Mountains of Dawn” (1974) with its winged-alien voyagers, I savored Dreamsnake‘s original blend of feminist science fiction and post-apocalyptic quest tale.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVIII (Sakyo Komatsu, Women of Wonder anthology, Arsen Darnay, and interviews with SF authors)

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

1. Japan Sinks!, Sakyo Komatsu (1973; trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976)

From the back cover: “WORST DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!

A FISSURE in a wall–a land survey mysteriously out of true–a small island disappearing overnight–and one of the worst disaster in the history of the world is born. Only one man suspects the truth, but his theory is so unprecedented, his predications so horrifying that even his fellow scientists ignore him.

Earthquakes

Then a series of devastating earthquakes strikes, and suddenly the authorities are prepared to listen. But time is short and as they frantically try to ward off the disaster the crust of the earth begins to shift…”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

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

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Mountains of Sunset, The Mountains of Dawn” (1974)

This is the 13th post in my series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Today I have a story that I’ve not seen described as generation ship take yet firmly fits the theme. That standard plot points are transposed to an alien society with captivating effect.

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: Michael G. Coney’s “The Mind Prison” in New Writings in SF 19, ed. John Carnell (1971). You can read it online here

Next Up: Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years” in Amazing Stories, ed. Raymond A. Palmer (October 1940). You can read it online here.


Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1974), ed. Edward L. Ferman. 4/5 (Good). You can read it online here. I read it in Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection (1974), ed. Lester del Rey.

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Book Review: Alternities, ed. David Gerrold and Stephen Goldin (1974) (Malzberg, McIntyre, Bunch, Bear, Sallis, et al.)

2.5/5 (collated rating: Bad)

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.

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Updates: Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019)

Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019) passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer. McIntyre, best known for her Hugo and Nebula-winning SF novel Dreamsnake (1978) and her Star Trek Novels and film adaptations (1981-2004) (bibliography), published her first SF story “Breaking Point” in in the February 1970 issue of Venture Science Fiction Magazine. John Clute in SF Encyclopedia describes her two best-known SF novels: Continue reading

Updates: New Website Look and New Projects (Towards a Favorite SF Novels of the 1970s List, Barry N. Malzberg Resource, Guest Post Series Ideas)

(From the uncredited cover for the 1975 edition of The Invincible (1964), Stanislaw Lem)

I’ve updated the website template (and purchased the domain name) and would like to know if it is easy to navigate (especially on mobile devices). Obviously I can’t please everyone but hope that it is more streamlined and 2017 than before.

I started Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations way back in 2010. My first post bashed John Brunner’s Born Under Mars (1967) in vaguely substantive terms (sometimes I think about deleting my earliest reviews). Since then I have written some 300 odd review reviews, 114 cover art posts, and various film reviews, indices, lists, guest post series, an interview, etc. With all of this in mind, I thought I’d give you a sense of what is on the horizon.

Reminder: If you’re the emailing rather than commenting sort I can be reached at ciceroplatobooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

The Three Major Projects

1) I’m in the process of compiling a resource page for Barry N. Malzberg that would include links to reviews/interviews/academic articles from around the web. Let me know if there are any links you would like me to include. Even if you aren’t a Barry N. Malzberg fan, if you happen to come across in your SF perambulations any relevant information I’d be very appreciative if you’d send them my way.

Resource/article INDEX 

2) This will appeal to far more readers. Over the last few years I’ve been slowly working my way towards a “My Favorite 1970s SF Novels List.” Continue reading