December 5, 2013 § 18 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition — there is some speculation that it might be a collaboration with Leo and Diane Dillon)
3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)
Miriam Allen deFord–one of the more prolific SF short story authors of the 50s-70s whose works appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, If, Fantastic Universe, Galaxy, Worlds of Tomorrow, etc–deserves a Gollancz Masterworks volume. But, as Ian Sales has pointed out so forcefully in his recent article (here), despite the number of prolific female SF authors in the 50s-70s they were rarely republished and are perhaps the least read group of SF authors for modern audiences. There are some exceptions but few readers can name a female author pre-Ursula Le Guin. deFord’s shorts were collected in only two volumes, Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971) and both print runs were limited to the first year of publication.
Informed by her feminist activism (she was an important campaigner for birth control) and her earlier career in the newspapers, deFord’s stories tackle themes such as overpopulation, racism, colonialism, gender issues, sexism, and alienation. Her works range from deceptively simple allegories to future histories vast in scope and complexity (for short stories). Her female characters are almost all individualistic, resourceful, and highly educated–they often struggle against increasingly regimented/mechanized/homogenized societies in order to raise families in addition to their careers. In short, deFord advocates forcefully the right to self-determination « Read the rest of this entry »
November 24, 2013 § 21 Comments
(Mel Hunter’s cover for the 1956 edition)
3/5 (collated rating: Average)
Although Theodore Sturgeon is generally considered a master of the SF short form, his collection A Way Home (1956) contains only two worthwhile stories – ”Thunder and Roses” (1947) and ”Bulkhead” (1955). The rest I was either unable to finish or struggled to muddle through over the course of the last two or so weeks. Fortunately, the near masterpiece ”Bulkhead” was almost worth the pain induced by the intelligent dog related subgenre of SF manifest in “Tiny and the Monster” (1947) or the cute accidentally destructive hurkle kittens of ”The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast” (1949).
At this stage in my recent endeavor to brush up on the best of the 50s short story wordsmiths, I place Sturgeon below Robert Sheckley, Brian Aldiss, Philip K. Dick, Fritz Leiber, Miriam Allen deFord, Lester del Rey, Walter M. Miller, Jr., C. M. Kornbluth, and Frederik Pohl. (shocking to some, I know!).
However, before I make a more definitive conclusion I call on my readers to list what you consider his best short work « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons), Michael Bishop (1976)
November 19, 2013 § 6 Comments
(Jonathan Weld’s cover for the 1976 edition)
Michael Bishop’s And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons) (1976) is a melancholic and allegorically inclined parable about a coming cataclysm that threatens a programmed and hierarchically rigid society (accomplished via genetic modification). Bishop’s voice is an intensely humanistic once, futuristic technology is present but not a central concern…. The simple but effective plot is the perfect vehicle for his moralistic ruminations: a man forced into action, a world compelled — despite the external forces at play — to adapt.
And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees is the first of Michael Bishop’s works I have read and I am definitely intrigued enough to place his supposedly superior Nebula-nominated first novel, Funeral for the « Read the rest of this entry »
November 13, 2013 § 33 Comments
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 « Read the rest of this entry »
November 9, 2013 § 20 Comments
A nice haul from the local used book store and various internet sources…. After Effinger’s masterpiece What Entropy Means to Me (1972) I was desperate to get my hands on another one of his novels (or short story collections — Relatives is not supposed to be as good but, perhaps it will prove the critics (well, namely John Clute) wrong.
Miriam Allen deFord was a prolific 50s short story writer. Xenogenesis (1969) is the only published collection solely of her stories — thankfully it’s graced with a wonderful Richard Powers cover.
Despite the hideous cover, Michael Bishop’s first novel A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975) is generally considered quite good. I’ve already read and reviewed Dan Morgan’s average but inventive SF thriller Inside (1971) but included it in this post anyway because I had yet to reach my four new acquisitions for a post.
Have you read any of these novels? If so, what did you think?
1. Relatives, George Alec Effinger (1973)
(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
October 31, 2013 § 21 Comments
(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1979 edition of The Moment of Eclipse (1970), Brian Aldiss)
Make sure to take a peek at Part I if you enjoyed this collection!
In Part I I described how I was inspired by Ed Valigursky’s stunning and powerful cover — with its giant eye, running figures, and perspective lines drawn across the artificial field heightening the tension — to look through my image collection and find similar examples. Since I made the last post I’ve collected quite a few more examples (from my own collection and image collections online) along similar lines.
Mitchell Hooks’ cover for the 1958 edition of The Big Eye (1949) by Max Ehrlich has long been one of my favorite covers and it has cropped up in various posts over the years…. The uncredited cover for the 1969 edition of The Cosmic Eye « Read the rest of this entry »
October 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition)
Alan E. Nourse’s The Mercy Men (1955) contains all the necessary parts for a riveting 1950s SF thriller: a disturbing future America where the destitute sell their bodies for medical experimentation, a world wrecked by increasing waves of mental illness, and a hero with a manic obsession with finding the man who killed his father. However, Nourse’s strategic dousing of the characters and scenes with Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) hoopla muddles the wonder of the world and rigor of the action and leaves the reader imagining all the lost opportunities.
And of course in the best pulp tradition which Nourse so fervently adheres to, science wins out in the end and provides nicely packaged easy « Read the rest of this entry »
October 17, 2013 § 8 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1958 edition)
C. L. Moore’s Doomsday Morning (1957) — she’s best known for her revolutionary 1930s works including “Shambleau” (1934) and the “Jirel of Joiry” sequence — is perhaps her most ruminative and traditional SF novel (she tended to write more fantastical SF and fantasy). Unfortunately, she quit writing around the time of the death of her husband and frequent collaborator Henry Kuttner (they often published under the pseudonym Lewis Padgett). And her second husband forbid her to write altogether…
Moore creates a finely wrought dystopic vision where an oppressive future government utilizes communication networks to spread its tentacles across the United States. Against this backdrop intriguing characters come to life. Her descriptions of the political backdrop remain minimalistic which is surprising for SF of the 50s which often resorts to lengthy descriptive lectures. Instead, the true extent of the government’s « Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2013 § 16 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1961 edition of Earth Abides (1949), George R. Stewart)
Note: if anyone can identify the artist for the first three downright spectacular covers I’d be very very happy. I’m positive that they match stylistically (the vague human shape, the cityscape, the brush strokes, the textures). Two of the three covers were made for Signet press and all three are from the early 1960s. I suspect if I perused the covers from the Signet catalogue from that era I’d find even more…. Perhaps it’s the work of Sanford Kossin? He was producing covers for Signet around the same time.
And now The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape « Read the rest of this entry »