Tag Archives: 1950s

Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

STRSWRMPSJ1964

(William Hofmann’s cover for the 1964 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Filth.  Decay.  Mud.  Transmutation.  Brian W. Aldiss’ SF is filled with such images:  Men—with limbs removed—who are slowly (and artificially) transmuted into fish, writhe around in the mud of their tanks grasping at the last shards of their humanity;  A powerful matriarch lords over a planet where her pets transform at will;  A tall tale about a planet filled with strange life and a human hero who cannot get over the fact that everything smells like garbage…. Aldiss’ novel The Dark Light-Years (1964), despite its poor delivery, is the best example of these themes—humans encounter sentient aliens who spend their days copulating, laying around, and eating in their own fifth.  And they are happy with their lot.

Starswarm (1964) is comprised of three novelettes and five short stories with conjoining explanatory material that links the previously published short fiction into a cohesive collection.  The modus operandi of such a conjoining concerns the “Theory of Multigrade Superannuation” where “the universe is similar to the cosmic clock; the civilizations of man are not mere cogs but infinitely smaller clocks, ticking in their own right” (7).  Thus, the inhabited solar systems of Starswarm—our galaxy—will exhibit all the characteristics through which a civilization can Continue reading Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

Book Review: Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970)

BTTNNWXZBT1970

(W. Thut’s cover for the 1970 edition)

4/5 (Good)

So the Amio were deficient, from the very beginning, and were born weaklings, untested, and had gone their own solitary way. […] [Bettyann] would reinfuse in them the vitality that their own development had ultimately denied them and contravene the defeat that was foreshadowed in the limited dreams and ambitions of their father’s father’s father’s father’s father, backward to the time when myth told little that one might truly believe, except that the Amio were always, from the beginning, one” (78).

Since the beginning of the year MPorcius, who presides over MPorcius’ Fiction Log, has reviewed a handful of Kris Neville’s short stories (here and here).  Because the name was on my mind and I had not read any of his work in the past, I eagerly picked up a copy of his fix-up novel Bettyann (1970)— which contains contains two previously published stories “Bettyann” (1951), which appeared in New Tales of Space and Time, and “Ouverture” (1954) which appeared in 9 Tales of Space and Time, both edited by Raymond J. Healey.  The novel is hard to find as it was only published by Tower Books.

Neville is praised by Barry N. Malzberg as an author, if he had not abandoned the field for the sciences, who could have been among the “ten most honored science fiction writers of his generation” (Malzburg’s intro to Neville’s “Ballenger’s People” in the 1979 Doubleday collection Neglected Visions). Continue reading Book Review: Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970)

Update: Kate Wilhelm Guest Post Series Announcement

Kate Wilhelm is most widely known for her Hugo- and Locus-winning,  Nebula-nominated, fix-up novel masterpiece Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang (1976).  However, this linked series of novellas (her favorite form) was already the product of a long and fruitful career starting with somewhat standard pulp in the late 1950s.  By the late 1960s and early 1970s her SF took on psychologically heavy and often devastatingly effective themes with great success: for example, in 1972 she was nominated for an astounding four Nebulas (winning none of them).

Most of her critical success focused on shorter forms which might be the reason why other than Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976) little of her work has not remained firmly entrenched in the SF canon.  Which is a crying shame as she is easily one of the most regularly brilliant writers I have encountered.

Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects from across the vintage SF blog sphere for my second guest post series! The first covered the work of Michael Bishop.  As always, I have no idea whether they like her work or not but the purpose is to expose my readers to the range of her amazing visions.  I will place links to their twitter accounts (if they have them) and Continue reading Update: Kate Wilhelm Guest Post Series Announcement

Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Tentacles and Other Strange Appendages

ALIENWL1964

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1964 edition of Alien Worlds (1964), ed. Roger Elwood)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1979 Dutch edition of Greybeard (1964) by Brian W. Aldiss appeared in a collection of SF art Space Wars, Worlds & Weapons (1977).  I remember encountering the collection at a used bookstore, perhaps in Philadelphia when I went to visit my grandparents…  It terrified me for years.  The bizarre metal construct looming over the destroyed world—and most of all, the strange tentacled hands…

…hence, today’s themed art post!

Tentacles and Other Strange Appendages.

 I have a confession:  I am warming to the art of Charles Moll—1974 edition of New Dimensions 3 ed. Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Tentacles and Other Strange Appendages

Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(John Richards’ cover for the 1961 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I have a confession to make.  I have never read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954).  I do not like vampires.  I do not like any movies or TV shows with vampires.  Thus, as is my wont when trying a new author, I procured a short story collection to experience a range Continue reading Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Matheson + Carr + Davidson + Sheckley)

Another varied selection of recent acquisitions—the majority are gifts from Carl V. Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Thanks so much!  A signed edition of Hal Clement’s Close to Critical (1964) is coming your way!

I love Sheckley.  I’ve never read Richard Matheson’s short fiction.  Terry Carr’s short fiction is supposedly rather good (he’s primarily known as an editor of course).  And Avram Davidson is still an unknown quantity—I do adore the Leo and Diane Dillon cover.

Thoughts?

1. Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(Gene Szafran’s horrid cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Matheson + Carr + Davidson + Sheckley)

Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)

A fascinating collection (one of three acquisition posts incoming) via Dunaway’s Books in St. Louis, MO (on one of my numerous perambulations…).  And there were nearly one hundred more novels I would have snatched up if I had unlimited funds and unlimited room.

A hard to find feminist SF novel, and supposedly quite solid, by Zoe Fairbairns.

A Michael Coney novel I’ve been dying to get my hands on—the immortality concept delightfully satirical/hilarious.

A strange 70s fix-up novel of 50s material by an author championed by Barry N. Malzberg (and John Clute)—Kris Neville.

And Vance, one rarely goes wrong with Vance…

Thoughts?

1. Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)