I have long been a fan of Frank Herbert. In my youth I scarfed down Dune (1965) and all its sequels and cried (metaphorically) when his son Brian Herbert made a mockery of his vision. I even read the more dubious novels in Herbert’s canon: from The Green Brain (1966) to the co-written (with Bill-Ransom) novels of the Pandora sequence i.e. The Jesus Incident (1979), The Lazarus Effect (1983),and The Ascension Factor (1988). I have found many of his non-Dune novels worth reading (Destination: Void (1966) and The Dosadi Experiment (1977), etc).
“The Game is not a metaphor. The Game is not a closed system which represents something larger; but the choices made within its pathways are exactly that, choices which have to do with the immediate outcome. It would be a mistake to think of the success or failure in the Game having anything to do with the world. There are not metaphors. There are no outer significances. There is merely the Game itself and what it accomplishes upon its participants” (37).
In Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story, “The Library of Babel” the universe is conceived of as a vast library stretching in all directions. In this spectacular environment—an endless series of hexagonal rooms, each one with the same number of shelves with the same number of books with the same number of letters inscribed on each page, etc. Borges brings into sharp, and unsettling relief, complex metaphysical speculations.
In The Gamesman (1975) Barry N. Malzberg creates a similarly sculpted world with two bifurcated Continue reading →
“There is an element of terror in any natural object that does not exist in its proper place. Wentik experienced the full force of this as he stood in the dark. A hand grows from a table, and an ear from a wall. A maze is constructed to sophisticated mathematical formula, yet is housed in a tumbledown shack. A minor official terrorizes me, and a man tries to fly a helicopter without vanes. Land exist in future time, through I feel and believe instinctively that I am in the present. What else will this place do to me? (83)”
Christopher Priest’s first novel Indoctrinaire (1970) explores the mystery of a vast perfectly round plain with a series of strange buildings that appears in the middle of the Amazonian jungle. Seemingly displaced in time, the transformed landscape is not only a visible sign of the ecological transformation the world will undergo but also, less visibly, the unseen but pernicious scars Continue reading →
Damon Knight’sBeyond the Barrier (1964) was so egregious that I have stayed away from his work until recently. Around a year ago I acquired Three Novels (1969)—containing the two novellas “Rule Golden” (1954) and “Natural State” (1951) and one novelette “The Dying Man” (variant title: “Dio”) (1951)—in order to start my reappraisal of the supposed Grand Master of the genre. I have his collection Far Out (1961) and his novel A For Anything (variant title: The People Maker) (1959) on my shelf.
Although this selection of his 50s short fiction is far superior to Beyond the Barrier only one of the stories made any lasting impression: the philosophical and ruminative immortality themed tale, “The Dying Man.” With that in mind it might be worth tracking it down in another place of publication, for example the thematic multi-author collection Immortals (1998) ed. Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. There is a chance that the other two novellas in Three Novels will satisfy fans of Knight’s Continue reading →
I can only imagine the shock that readers received and still receive (according to amazon reviews) after diving into M. John Harrison’s The Centauri Device (1974) expecting a standard space opera. This is a subgenre where the anti-hero still has not found a firm place to roost… You know the rubric: Empathizing with the hero. Positivism. Saving the world. The good guys win.
I suspect the shock to the system that Stephen R. Donaldson’s leprous and bitter (and reluctant) savior Thomas Covenant in Lord Foul’s Bane (1977) and subsequent novels had on high fantasy was something akin to impact The Centauri Device‘s drug-addled, inarticulate, and passive spacer Continue reading →
My first exposure to Ian Watson’s extensive SF catalog could not have been more impressive. The Very Slow Time Machine (1979) is up there with Robert Sheckley’s Store of Infinity(1960) and J. G. Ballard’s Billenium(1962) as the best overall collection of stories that I have encountered in the history of this site.
The collection is filled with narrative experimentation (“Programmed Loved Story,” “Agoraphobia, A.D. 2000,” etc), some awe inspiring ideas (“The Very Slow Time Machine,” “The Girl Who Was Art” etc.), a few delightful allegories (“Our Loves So Truly Meridional,” “My Soul Swims in a Goldfish Bowl”), and a handful of more traditional SF stories that hint at anthropological Continue reading →
(Jack Guaghan’s cover for the February 1975 issue of Galaxy, where “Allegiances” was first published)
The tenth and final (at least for now) installment in my guest post series on the science fiction of Michael Bishop comes via Peter S. a longtime commentator on my site. He should start his own SF review site…. His comments (and this review) are greatly appreciated!
He selected the novella “Allegiances” (1975) from the anthology The 1976 Annual World’s Best SF (1976), ed. Donald A. Wollheim he owned (image below)–DOMED CITIES!
The novella was included in Catacomb Years(1979) reviewed by 2thD recently.
Thanks everyone for a successful series. All the comments and contributions are greatly appreciated. I have more plans along these lines for the future!
“Allegiances” (1975) — Michael Bishop
When I come across a Science Fiction anthology, I first check the contents to see if there is anything unusual such as a story by a favorite author that I have not seen before, or maybe a lost gem from an author I was not previously aware of. I also check to see who the editor is, since each editor has their own distinctive way of putting together a collection.
My impression of the many anthologies that Donald Wollheim (1914 – 1990) worked on is that they are always of interest. I expect the majority of the stories in any given collection to be very good, most will be mainstream Hard Science Fiction Continue reading →
(Roger Zimmerman’s cover for Universe 11 (1981), first place of publication for “The Quickening”)
My ninth installment of my guest post series on The Science Fiction of Michael Bishop comes via Max (twitter: @MaxCarnduff) at the fiction (and occasionally SF/F) review site Pechorin’s Journal. His incredibly erudite review of Anna Kavan’s Ice (1967) is the reason I have not tried to review the work myself…. Follow him on twitter and check out his site!
For this series he selected the novelette “The Quickening” (1981) which won the Nebula for Best Novelette (1982) (one of the two Nebula wins Bishop has under his belt) and was nominated for the Hugo for best novelette that same year. The novelette appears in Bishop’s most recent retrospective collection put out by Subterranean Press, The Door Gunner and Other Flights of Fancy (2012) that desperately needs an eBook/Kindle version!
“The Quickening” (1981)
When Joachim approached me about participating in his series of guest reviews of works by Michael Bishop I was delighted, but worried I wouldn’t be able to get a review to him on time (work, life, that sort of thing).
Well, I was right on both counts. I was right to be delighted because Michael Bishop’s a writer with real talent Continue reading →
Margaret St. Clair was one of a handful of prolific women SF authors who started publishing short fiction in the late 40s—her first SF story was “Rocket to Limbo” for the November 1946 issue of Fantastic Adventures. From the late 50s to the early 70s she published eight slim novels, mostly Ace Doubles (paired with authors such as Philip K. Dick and Kenneth Blulmer). Regardless of her earlier publishing prowess—by the publication date of Sign of the Labrys (1963) she had four novels in print and somewhere around 125 short stories—Bantam Books felt the need to include the following back cover:
“WOMEN ARE WRITING SCIENCE-FICTION!
ORIGINAL! BRILLIANT!! DAZZLING!!!
Women are closer to the primitive than men. They are conscious of the moon-pulls, the earth-tides. They possess a buried memory of humankind’s obscure and ancient past which can emerge to uniquely color and flavor a novel. Such a woman is Margaret St. Clair, author of this novel. Such a novel is this, SIGN OF THE LABRYS, the story of a doomed world of the future, saved by recourse to ageless, immemorial rites…
FRESH! IMAGINATIVE!! INVENTIVE!!!”
Unfortunately, Sign of the Labrys is a disappointing read. The post-plague world is dark and creepy and for the first half an uncanny (palpable) tension permeates. But, ultimately the fantastic setting, revisionist stance on the normal pulp gender dynamics, are weakened by a disjointed (verging on amateur) narrative filled with Wiccan “craft” practices and references. As other reviewers have pointed out, one could easily substitute the Wicca magic with the pulp SF staple “psi-power” and I agree Continue reading →