Updates: A New Classic SF Review Blog to add to your list

MPorcius, a frequent and well-read commentator on my site, has started transferring his numerous amazon reviews and writing new reviews of classic SF (a substantial portion is pre-1980s) to his blog.  Please visit him and comment on his posts!

queue rant: I’ve noticed a surprising lack of frequently updated classic SF blogs online.  Yes, many bloggers occasionally dabble in the distant era of SF glory or publish yet another review of the obligatory masterpieces because they appear on a some “best of” list (Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc).  However, few are devoted to the period and make it a point to write reviews of books that very few people will ever actually read due to their obscurity i.e. blogs that don’t sell out by churning out reviews of new Tor releases (I have declined their offer) or endless 4/5 or 5/5 starred let’s pat each other on the back reviews of self-published (and generally awful) ebooks after a few months.  I apologize if I have stepped on anyone’s toes.

But…

Authors such as Brian N. Malzberg, Kit Reed, Doris Piserchia, R. A. Lafferty, Robert Sheckley, C. M. Kornblth, Miriam Allen deFord, Barrington J. Bayley, Michael G. Coney (and hundreds of others virtually unknown to modern audiences) all deserve an audience.

Other sites with similar aims:

Hank at MPorcius Fiction Log

2thD at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature

Jesse at Speculiction

Ian Sales at SF Mistressworks

Chris at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased (he reviews other genre books as well)

Tarbandu at The PorPor Books Blog 

For more detail about these bloggers consult this LIST

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33 thoughts on “Updates: A New Classic SF Review Blog to add to your list”

  1. There was a mental health joke a few years back that the DSM V would include a new pathology called “DVR guilt”- guilt, stress, and/or anxiety one feels for not viewing every recording on one’s DVR before expiration. Now we can add “Classic SF guilt” under that umbrella as we try to keep up with SFOSR and these other great blogs.

      1. So I figured. I just have a lot of catching up to do in all eras. Fortunately, SF guilt is a nice complement to SF OCD.

    1. Yeah, thankfully, it really doesn’t need to be treated…. Although, I suspect authors like Gene Wolfe, Christopher Priest, John Crowley etc who wrote some great work in the 80s could help remedy the issue a bit.

      1. I’d be a little surprised if you like Crowley’s Little, Big, just because it’s so… fantasy, and I thought you were straight SF. Beautifully written, I know people loved it, but I just didn’t dig it that much.

      2. I know we’ve been over this before, so this is directed to everybody else who enjoys classic SF (& Fantasy) – get yourself an e-reader because SFGateway keep putting out those hard-to-get, out-of-print-since-times-immemorial books in e-book form. I know, there is nothing quite like the enjoyment at wondering what exactly made that weird-looking, strange-smelling stain in your third-hand paperback of Herovit’s World, but if it’s (as it only too often is) the choice between getting something as an e-book or not getting it at all, I’m definitely taking the e-book.

      3. Ah. I knew it was British-based but (rather naively, it seems) assumed it was only Europeans being barred from getting US e-books, not the other way round as well. This sucks, and doesn’t make a terrible lot of sense either, seeing how most of those books were released when e-books were still Science Fiction.

        Still, for people living in Europe and Canada SFGateway is a very good thing, it’s wonderful to have all those books made easily available again.

      4. Yeah, I continuously re-tweet all the deals at SF Gateway on twitter…. Look, if eBooks mean that more people read the old goodies it can only be good. I personally like my book copies ;)

  2. If you lived in Poland, I’d buy us a bottle of vodka, and a tin of smoked herring, and some pickles, and a good piece of grilled kielbasa, and a nice loaf of bread and butter, and we’d sit down and have a chat – an increasingly dislocating chat due to the first item on the table – but a chat I could at least say ‘thanks’ for promoting our little community, and one with good food. :)

    1. I’m in for the vodka and kielbasa! If y’all were in Thailand, I’d buy us a few skewers of grilled chicken liver, some deep-fried mystery meat, and a few rounds of beer on ice.

  3. Thanks for the links. I too enjoy blogs that focus on these works in the same way I enjoy my weekly comic shop discussions with an older friend of mine who is widely read and quite opinionated about them.

    I don’t know that I agree with denigrating those who review contemporary works. There is value to reading the latest SF has to offer as well as the classics and there are authors who are now choosing the self-published route first who are very capable storytellers…although there is much more coal than diamonds, to be sure.

    In the end what I appreciate about a reviewing blog is that the person is reading what they “want” to read vs. what they feel the “have” to read, either by getting themselves locked into a “have to review everything a publisher sends me” mindset or what have you. My personal decision long ago was that I would only solicit review copies of books I intended to read anyway, and I rarely even solicit those. I do continue to have a couple of the bigger SF houses send me books on a regular basis unsolicited, and most of those honestly get given away as gifts or sold on Half.com as I’ve been very up front with all of these companies not to send me anything I didn’t formally request.

    Occasionally one of those unsolicited books will grab my attention, but I think most of us who enjoy reading, particularly those who enjoy genre fiction, have far too much we want to read begging for our attention than we could ever get to.

    Back to your point, however, I am very excited that blogs like yours and those pointed out exist. The farther we get away from the time period of these novels the more I see a tendency, online anyway, for both authors and readers to denigrate these works or to consider them of little value. Frankly I don’t understand that and consider it a shame. There is an important historical significance to the work that has gone before, but less lofty and more true for me personally, there is just a lot of great classic science fiction out there and it is a shame that people don’t read it, or wrongly assume that only those (often worthy) well-remembered classics are the only ones worth reading.

    So hear, hear to all of you championing the classic cause and giving honest reviews for well-known and lesser known works. We should not forget.

    1. Ok, I am not exactly denigrating those who review new works. I am pointing out that many readers interest in new works means that they only read/review what are on the so-called “classics” based on lists…. And, if they have dabbled a bit in the past greats that is all they should do — what I didn’t touch on is how this reliance on lists reinforces whatever stereotype of an era that is conventionally held, for example the general ignorance of women SF authors before and contemporary with Le Guin.

      (also, what inspired the rant was a particular blog — which I won’t name — that completely went from reviews of classic SF and newer works out of regular presses to ONLY self-published SF of which everyone receives either a 4 or a 5 i.e. they’e for hire because not ever work out there is an example of genius).

      1. “denigrating” was probably not the word I was looking for and in typing it I certainly didn’t mean to roundly criticize what you were saying (hence my longer comment) but it did for some reason rub me the wrong way…more that I felt it wasn’t necessary in getting across your point of how there are too few of these sites and how excellent it is to come across those that stay active in their postings.

        Definitely don’t disagree with your thoughts though. One of the things I find most pleasurable in regards to the classics is having someone point me to an author, well known or lesser known, that I haven’t read only to discover that now I want to delve even more into those works. And occasionally, like I’ve been able to do with Cordwainer Smith for example (an author that older friend convinced me to read), I can get people to read those works and it opens up their eyes to the fact that it isn’t just Dune, Foundation Trilogy, etc. that should be read.

      2. I did indicate it was a rant… And thus it did sound rant-like. Haha.

        I got started on lists — when I was 13. I have read 40 of the 45 or so Hugo winning best novels. But then, I dabbled in the “secondary” works by those same authors. And then the authors forgotten by awards…

        I find the “let’s review classics of SF” month type endeavors painful. So, what do readers do, go read the only women writers on the best 25 SF novel lists — Atwood, Le Guin… And then conclude, “clearly from this list” no one who was female wrote before Le Guin. It is this type of mentality that frustrates me to no end.

      3. That certainly is a risk, and does probably happen more often than not, but the other side of that coin is that having those kind of focused readings (I participate in Andrea’s Vintage SF Month every January, for example) does encourage a lot of people who wouldn’t read classics at all to step out of their comfort zone and actually read some, largely because of the sense of community that comes from participating in those events. And I do think whetting the appetite is valuable in whatever form it comes.

        But I do see your point and know many who feel the same way you do. I tend to see both sides. It is frustrating for those who have your passion to see people just reading whatever remains popular even if it is no longer really worthy or representative of the genre of that time period. Heck, there are several books that always crop up on classics best of lists that I have no desire to read nor will ever, for any odd list of reasons and also hate seeing when a person’s one foray into science fiction is a book that I would never recommend.

        On the other hand, I love the genre of science fiction in the breadth of its definition and across the spectrum of years and so anytime someone is reading science fiction, for any reason whatsoever, I get excited. As much as I do enjoy venturing outside of science fiction, there is just that something extra special about these books and it is a seed I want to plant in people’s hearts and minds in whatever way possible.

      4. Yeah I know, these lists and reading challenges have a purpose… And do introduce people to the genre. I just wish more lists like Ian Sales’ SF Mistressworks list had more traction in the community. The subreddit PrintSF is a perfect example — tons of people asks for recommendations every few days. And no one lists female authors besides Atwood and Le Guin. 90% of recommendations the novels are Herbert’s Dune, Card, Alastair Reynolds, and Ian Banks (obviously people should read these authors but it definitely gives a skewed perspective of the genre). Alas.

      5. It does indeed, which is why the more people who are championing other works, the better. I love lists, but I’d much rather read lists about SF from people who predominately read SF rather than the general public as the general public lists do come off quite boring, even when they have novels that I really like on them.

        I suspect a lot of people recommend authors simply because they have a name recognition and might not have actually read them, especially in polls like reddit and npr.

      6. I’ve discovered that my favorite SF novels predominately come from the 70s. I’ve been thinking of coming up with a list — especially since my 60s version (albeit, I hadn’t read as much then and there were some standard works) was picked up by Io9 etc and gave some exposure to some odd picks… Compton’s Synthajoy, Zelazny’s This Immortal (instead of the normal Lord of Light selection), etc…

      7. That is probably the least explored decade for me with SF, I think. I’ve read quite a bit of earlier stuff and newer (90’s on) but 70’s and then 80’s SF is the least explored time period for me.

        I think a lot of that stems from an unsubstantiated belief that 70’s SF is going to have the hippie vibe I suspect Stranger in a Strange Land to have and that holds no appeal for me.

        And yet if I think about it, some of my childhood favorites come from the 70’s (Brian Daley’s Han Solo books) and Larry Niven’s A World Out of Time and as an adult I read and enjoyed Ringworld…I suspect if I looked closer I’ve probably read, and enjoyed, more than I think from that era. I’m certainly far from well-read in any era, however, as I don’t read strictly science fiction and never manage to make any dent in the list of things I want to read, a situation which you share some of the blame in. :)

      8. Look, of course some are hippy inspired from the late 60s early 70s — Silverberg’s Up The Line (1969), Son of Man (1971), Chester Anderson’s The Butterfly Kid (1969) come to mind…

        Fortunately, Heinlein is the biggest proponent of the free love type hippie hooey. Avoid his stuff and you’re somewhat in the clear ;) (an overstatement of course)

      9. Oh I know. And I’ve read and even enjoyed some of Heinlein’s free love stuff (Time Enough For Love has some great story in it if you can get past all the juvenile sex and momma love), but I do prefer his juveniles and in between work.

        I certainly haven’t actively avoided stuff from any decade, more that what I generally end up reading, because I am FAR from well read, is older stuff or newer. More than years what I really look at is if I’ve read an author before because I really would like to expand the authors I’ve read…how else better to find even more authors who push my buttons (in a good way).

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