December 8, 2013 § 31 Comments
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Crompton Divided (variant title: The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton) (1978), Robert Sheckley)
Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Robert Sheckley’s Crompton Divided (1978) was the inspiration for this post. I found the cover many years ago while looking through Lehr’s entire (mostly brilliant catalogue) and was intrigued. The man, comprised of puzzle-like pieces that slowly morph into the swirls of his clothes, stares at us with hybridized eyes — a planet, a pupil — while one missing puzzle piece allows the viewer a glimpse of a barren landscape. His brain, entirely a puzzle, is complete, but are his senses crumbling?
Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1971 edition of Larry Niven’s collection All the Myriad Ways (1971) is even more fantastic — the puzzle pieces (bones, faces, limbs) dangle in the air « Read the rest of this entry »
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 27, 2013 § 10 Comments
This post is a call for readers to submit their favorite immortality themed science fiction NOT included on my list below (and even examples they did not care for so I can make this a more substantial resource). I’ll make a page with all the information I receive for easy consultation soon (INDEX of similar pages/articles).
A while back I started gathering a list of titles — via SF Encyclopedia, other online resources, and my own shelves — on immortality themed SF. I have always been intrigued by the social space (one plagued by violence and despair or buoyed by the hope of a better future) that the possibility of immortality might generate.
I would argue that the single best example of social effects that the possibility of immortality might create is Clifford D. Simak’s Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967). In similar fashion, James Gunn’s The Immortals (1962) takes place in a world where immortals do exist, they skirt « Read the rest of this entry »
November 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
(George Barr’s cover for the 1972 edition)
At the Seventh Level (1972) is part of a loose sequence of novels that feature Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones and his voyages to various worlds. Although this sequence ostensibly has the trappings of SF space opera, Suzette Haden Elgin subverts the genre conventions so that the premise functions as a polemical feminist text with satirical underpinnings. At the Seventh Level is an important installment in a long line of “women as slaves trapped in vast repressive patriarchy propped up by appeals to tradition and brute force” type novels which, some might argue, culminated in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). It is important to note that there were many novels on similar themes before Atwood’s acknowledged masterpiece hit « Read the rest of this entry »
Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Diagrammatic Wonders (alien sand art + planning invasions + and other more mysterious formulations), Part I
November 21, 2013 § 18 Comments
(Virgil Finlay’s cover for the April 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe, ed. Hans Stefan Santesson)
At first glance this is a miscellaneous collection of covers on diagrammatic wonders — the aliens (or “advanced” humans) on Virgil Finlay’s cover for the April 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe conjure an image of earth with colored sand, generals plot invasions via maps and other diagrams depicting troop movements….
While some of the covers are themselves diagrams (Christopher Zacharow’s cover for the 1985 edition of Ancient of Days (1985), Michael Bishop) others place their characters in opposition to each other as pieces « 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 13, 2013 § 19 Comments
Bargain bins yield some Clarke and Asimov classics I read when I was a teen but never owned…. I remember thinking at the time that Imperial Earth (1975) was one of Clarke’s best novels. Dickson’s Dorsai! (1960) — I’ve never been a fan of military SF — is a classic I need to get around to reading. And, my final find was Richard Cowper’s Time Out of Mind (1973). I was surprisingly impressed with his lighthearted romp of a novel, Profundis (1979).
Thoughts on the books?
1. Time Out of Mind, Richard Cowper (1973)
(Don Maitz’s cover for the 1981 edition)
From the back cover: “As a young boy, Laurie Linton encountered a strange apparition: a ghostly man who urgently mouthed a message: KILL MAGOBION! Years later, as members of the UN Narcotics Security Agency, Linton and the beautiful Carol Kennedy were assigned a special duty: investigation of a mysterious drug which endowed its addicts with superhuman powers. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 12, 2013 § 9 Comments
(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1975 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
Michael G. Coney’s Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975) — often considered a minor classic of the genre — is a lyrical paean to young love arrayed against a backdrop of a world filled with increasingly sinister undercurrents, unusual (and fantastic) fauna and flora, and characters we connect with in deeply emotional ways. I am the first to admit that I am intensely suspicious of SF labeled thusly: “This is a love story, and a way story, and a science fiction store, and more besides” (authors note). However, the “love story” elements are so delicately wrought and unfold naturally without undue melodramatic flair that I was smitten with the characters and felt for their struggles.
Welcome to an alien world where anomie trees « 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 »