William Tenn’s brand of satire has long fascinated me. Today I’ve selected two smart satires of Cold War terror that map the new rituals of the apocalyptic age. I read both in his worthwhile collection The Wooden Star (1968). I’ve previous read and reviewed two of his collections–Of All Possible Worlds (1955) and The Human Angle (1956)–in addition to his only novel, Of Men and Monsters (1968).
Are there any other Tenn fictions that I haven’t covered that I should track down?
William Tenn’s “Generation of Noah” first appeared in Suspense Magazine, ed. Theodore Irwin (Spring 1951). You can read it online here if you have an Internet Archive account.
Elliot Plunkett, WWII veteran and one-time company man, abandons his previous life in order to train his family to survive future nuclear apocalypse. His rural poultry farm raises money for a complex of underground living and store rooms with generators, supplies, Geiger counters, and lead-lined suits (16). He inundates his conversations with quotes from issues of Survivor magazine (16). He teaches his children in a “scientific way” in “keeping with the latest discoveries” (13). He selects the virtues that his children might need in the new future–“strength and self-sufficiency” (19). But this is not survivalist manifesto Dean Ing style or a messianic Heinlein narrator. “Generation of Noah” reveals the profound cruelty Plunkett deploys to beat in his vision of the new morality (placed in stark contrast to the adoring kindness of his wife).
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Ahead of Time, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1953)
From the inside page: “A brain in a box fights a criminal plot
A visitor from the future turns out to be peculiar even for his society
An eternal hillbilly family survives the centuries and gets into political trouble
A sick electronic calculator catches a psychosis from its operator
…these are some of the highly original and vividly written stories you will find in this selection of a master’s work.
Science fiction and fantasy grow constantly in popularity. Writing of this quality and imagination is the reason. Henry Kuttner demonstrates again in his book why more and more readers are becoming devotees of that intriguing fiction which is not content to stay in the world as we see it and know it, which takes us to the farthest reaches of space and time, to the farthest reaches of the human mind.”
2021 was the best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers! I suspect this increasingly has to do with my twitter account where I actively promote my site vs. a growing interest in vintage SF. I also hit my 1000th post–on Melisa Michaels’ first three published SF short stories–in December.
As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions it’s generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Thank you everyone!
I read very few novels this year. Instead, I devoted my attention to various science short story reviews series and anthologies. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2021 (with bonus categories).
Tempted to track any of them down?
And feel free to list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. I look forward to reading your comments.
My Top 7 Science Fiction Novels of 2021 (click titles for my review)
1. Where Time Winds Blow (1981), Robert Holdstock, 5/5 (Masterpiece): Holdstock’s vision is a well-wrought cavalcade of my favorite SF themes–the shifting sands of time, the pernicious maw of trauma that threatens to bite down, unreliable narrators trying to trek their own paths, a profoundly alien planet that compels humanity to construct an entirely distinct society… It’s a slow novel that initially masquerades as something entirely different. Just like the planet itself.
As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. The Island Under the Earth, Avram Davidson (1969)
From the inside page: “In THE ISLAND UNDER THE EARTH, a master fantasist has created his most fabulous land of imagination, peopled with humans and not-humans who speak with characteristically different voices and pursue goals and philosophies that set them inevitably against one another.
This collection contains the third post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. After reading today’s installment, I decided to review the entire collection!
Previously: Edmond Hamilton’s “What’s It Like Out There?” in Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Hines (December 1952). You can read the story online here.
In the early days of my website, I reviewed two volumes by William Tenn–his sole novel Of Men and Monsters(1968) and his collection The Human Angle(1956). Of All Possible Worlds (1955) is his first published collection. The presence of “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954), “The Liberation of Earth” (1953), and “The Custodian” (1953) make this a must purchase (despite the handful of duds that drag down the overall rating) for fans of polished 50s satires in wrecked future worlds. Tenn’s narrators Continue reading →
Here are three short reviews. Either I waited too long to review the work or in the case of the short story collection, the handful of poor stories (amongst the many gems) faded from memory and I couldn’t convince myself to reread them…
I apologize for the brevity and lack of analysis. My longer reviews definitely try to get at the greater morass of things but hopefully these will still whet your palate if you haven’t read the works already.
(Robert Foster’s stunning cover for the 1968 edition)
2.75/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Average)
Despite the presence of one of Robert Foster’s best covers (for more on his art: Part I, Part II),New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) contains only a few glimmers of brilliance—concentrated in Keith Roberts’ short story “Sub-Lim” (1965), a dark tale of crooked people and subliminal stimuli. Isaac Asimov regurgitates something about a SF heist he scribbled on a napkin, Dan Morgan mumbles about alternate universes and tricycles, and Colin Kapp lectures on the “unusual methods of cementation of electrolysis” (54) instead of telling a Continue reading →
Another batch of volumes from the mysterious person with the initials KWG who ditched their entire collection at the local Half Price Books.
I have rarely seen the New Writings in SF series edited by John Carnell on used bookstore shelves. But, as I am a fan of discovering new authors who might not have collected volumes of short stories, it pretty easy to justify snatching them up…. A while back I featured the covers of David Mccall Johnson, and now I have my first physical copy with his art!
More Algis Budrys… Is it my need to read the major “classics” so I can “rewrite” the canon? Certainly not out of any love for his SF (or criticism for that matter) —> see my review of The Falling Torch (1959) and my short review of Michaelmas (1976). I will probably read his short story collection I recently acquired before another one of his novels.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome/appreciated.