Update: Guest Post Series Announcement, The Science Fiction of Michael Bishop

April 21, 2014 § 12 Comments

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Collage of Bishop’s SF covers created by my father

“[Michael Bishop's] early stories and novels display considerable intellectual complexity, and do not shirk the downbeat implications of their anthropological treatment of aliens and alienating milieux” — John Clute, SF Encyclopedia

In an effort to contribute to a greater interest in and readership of Michael Bishop’s science fiction I have approached a variety of fellow reviewers and frequent commentators (a few who have not read his work in the past), to submit reviews/observations/comments for my first ever Guest Post series!  Although I have only read his 70s SF, I gave no such instructions to my guest posters!

Starting this week I will post the first in hopefully a month long project.  I will contribute reviews as well for Transfigurations (1979) and any short stories in the collection Blooded on Arachne (1982) not covered by the posters.

I invite you all to comment, visit the sites of the my guests, and pick up Bishop’s work!

~

Michael Bishop (b. 1945) [official website] is no stranger to critical success for both his novels and short SF: he has won the Nebula Award twice (“The Quickening” and No Enemy But Time) and picked up nine Hugo nominations and an additional thirteen Nebula Nominations.  Two of his more famous novels, the above mentioned No Enemy But Time (1982) and Transfigurations (1979), were selected for inclusion and republication in the Gollancz Masterwork List. Although Bishop has not published a novel since the Hugo-nominated Brittle Innings in 1994, he received a Nebula nomination for his novelette “Vinegar Peace, or, The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage” (2008) as recently as 2010!  

With this in mind it is surprising that his extraordinary talent is not better known within the SF community.  John Clute in his article for SF Encyclopedia argues that “the earnest ardour and rigorousness of Bishop’s fiction has made him eminently publishable, but difficult to market to an audience expecting easier heroes to identify with.”  

I too have ignored him for far too long.  I could indeed claim my « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Dream Master, Roger Zelazny (1966)

April 19, 2014 § 31 Comments

THDRMMSTR1966

(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1966 edition)

4/5 (Good)

Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master (1966)—expanded from the Nebula Award winning novella “He Who Shapes” (1965)—revolves around the Freudian notion of the centrality of dreams and importance of decoding dreams for psychoanalytical treatment.  Susan Parman, in Dream and Culture (1990), points out that Freud was initially focused on “treating ‘abnormal’ patients” but soon “expanded his theory of psychoanalysis to explain puzzling events in ‘normal’ behavior” including dreams.  Freud’s influential work The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) argued that the “dream expresses the secret wishes of the soul” where the dreamscape is the “arena” in which good and bad forces are engaged in a struggle.  Thus, the dream is a message that must be deciphered by an “allegorical « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. CI (Clarke + Bishop + Varley + Maclennan)

April 12, 2014 § 9 Comments

A nice range of SF authors/works!  A Michael Bishop collection containing many of his most famous 70s short stories for my upcoming guest post series….  And a SF juvenile written by Phyllis Maclennan with an intriguing premise (although, as always, I’m very dubious about juveniles in general).  John Varley’s famous novel Titan (1979) seems like a fascinating take on the Big Dumb Object trope. And finally a 50s adventure by the indomitable Arthur C. Clarke.

I am most intrigued by the Varley’s Titan and Bishop’s Blooded on Arachne.

Some of the covers are cringe inducing.

Thoughts?

1. Titan, John Varley (1979)

TTNRPPCRKF1979

(Ron Waltosky’s cover for the 1979 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Crystal Ship (three novellas by Vonda N. McIntyre + Marta Randall + Joan D. Vinge), ed. Robert Silverberg (1976)

April 6, 2014 § 8 Comments

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(Norman Adams’ cover for the 1977 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

According to a list compiled by Ian Sales [here] only a handful of SF anthologies have hit print solely featuring women authors—none were published before 1972 and, surprisingly, few after 1980 (there seems to be a resurgence in the last few years).  The Crystal Ship (1976) ed. Robert Silverberg, is one of these.  It contains the three novellas by three important SF authors who got their start in the 70s: Marta Randall, Joan D. Vinge, Vondra McIntyre.  The latter two achieved critical success: Joan D. Vinge won the Hugo for her novel The Snow Queen (1980) and Vonda N. McIntyre won the Hugo for her novel Dreamsnake (1978).  Marta Randall, on the other hand, despite her Nebula nomination for the intriguing Islands (1976) remains to this day lesser known.

All three of the novellas feature impressive female protagonists and narratives that subvert many of SF’s traditional « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. C (Bishop + A. E. Van Vogt + Pangborn + Pratt)

April 5, 2014 § 11 Comments

Another Michael Bishop novel for my upcoming guest post series (announcement coming soon)!  Irresistible after the brilliant Stolen Faces (1977) and his masterpiece A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975)….

The rest are fun but not high on my list of must reads.  I’ve never been a fan of A. E. Van Vogt (could not tolerate the inarticulate labyrinth of a novel The World of Null-A) but the Powers cover on The War Against the Rull (1959) was fun.

I’ve heard good things about Edgar Pangborn, although people seldom discuss West of Eden (1953), perhaps with good reason.

Fletcher Pratt’s Invaders from Rigel (1932) is one of those AMAZING covers but incredibly dubious reads.  Even the back cover is rather non-sensical.

Thoughts?

1. Transfigurations, Michael Bishop (1979)

TRNSFGRTND1980

(Mike Hinge’s cover for the 1979 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCIX (Vinge + Randall + McIntyre + Wylie + Brunner + Sohl)

March 29, 2014 § 16 Comments

A nice mix with some gorgeous Powers’ covers—some 30s + 50s pulp, three novellas in one of only a handful of female SF author anthologies ever published, and another John Brunner novel for my extensive collections (it’s an expanded novel from one of his earlier pulp works, hopefully he improved the original version).

Enjoy!

1. After Worlds Collide, Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer (1933)

FTRWRLDSCL1968

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition)

From the back cover: “When the group of survivors from Earth landed on Bronson Beta, they expected absolute desolation.  This Earth-like planet from another universe had been hurtling through space, cold and utter darkness for countless millennia.  All life should have perished millions of years ago.  But the Earth-people found a breathtakingly beautiful city, encased in a huge, transparent metal bubble; magnificent apartments filled with every luxury; food for a lifetime in the vast, empty kitchens; but with no trace either of life—or death.  Then the humans learned they were not alone on Bronson Beta…” « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Stolen Faces, Michael Bishop (1977)

March 26, 2014 § 12 Comments

(Steve Hickman’s cover for the 1978 edition)

4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

“The growths beside her mouth moved like living tumors when she spoke.” (19)

There is nothing superfluous in Michael Bishop’s Stolen Faces (1977).  Like some nightmarish condensate that gathers into waiting cups, it induces hellish visions.  Metaphors and images of bodily decay, societal decadence, and strange rituals abound.  I suspect that the Bishop’s profoundly uncomfortable themes, deliberate plotting, and metaphorical/literary way of telling have prevented the novel from gaining a wider audience.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Existential Crisis

March 23, 2014 § 15 Comments

PRTNTRRRRM1968

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition of Operation Terror (1962), Murray Leinster)

Barry N. Malzberg’s depressed/depraved astronauts have inspired me to make a post! (unfortunately, the covers for his books do not really fit the bill).

Guy Billot’s cover for the 1975 edition of Brian Stableford’s Man in a Cage (1975) perfectly embodies the feel of existential crisis—man, hemmed in by a single red line, raises his arms against the star-studded sky in anguish.  The nature of the crisis is left oblique.  I have selected a variety of covers that convey—with varying degrees of success/precision—this same mental state.

I admit that some might not fit the bill exactly—for example, in the uncredited « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Ancient, My Enemy, Gordon R. Dickson (1974)

March 15, 2014 § 14 Comments

(Peter Rauch’s cover for the 1974 edition)

2.75/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Average)

Between 1974 and 1990 Gordon R. Dickson’s collection Ancient, My Enemy (1974) was reprinted eleven times.  The reason for this “popularity” is beyond me considering I found that a grand total of three of the nine stories were solid while the rest were poorly written cliché-ridden magazine filler…  Dickson had the ability to write some great short SF—for example, Mike at Potpourri of SF Literature adores his collection In the Bone (1987).  But Ancient, My Enemy gives little indication of his talent and generally lacks the insight that his novels such as The Alien Way (1965) possess.

Recommended only for Gordon R. Dickson completists.  I suggest acquiring later more discerning collections of his 50s/60s SF such as « Read the rest of this entry »

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