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!
Today: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954) in the June 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it 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.
On twitter [my account here — please follow! I post interesting things!] I posed the following question:
Which SF author—for the purposes of this site’s focus, an author starting pre-1980—deserves a new (or reprint) single author collection?
GUIDELINES (please read): Said author cannot have a single author collection published within the last 10 years (you can fudge this a bit). It also should be noted that many eBooks aren’t available in the United States (SF Gateway for example). If the recent eBook edition isn’t available in the US, I guess the author fits the bill (*cough* — John Sladek).
Note: If you are thinking about doing some checking before you make your choice (see guidelines) I recommend using isfdb.org as it has mostly up to date publication histories for all but self-published authors.
My vote: Miriam Allen deFord (active from — SF Encyclopedia LINK
Published collections: Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971)
Reason: Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975) was one of the major voices in SF magazines from 1946 – 1978. She never made the transition to novels and thus might have lost some readership as a result. The stories in Xenogenesis (1969) shows an often radical voice right from her first story in 1946. Although they might not be as polished as some of her more Continue reading →
Everyone likes lists! And I do too…. This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year. Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.
Top Ten Novels
1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).
2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel. Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….