Tag Archives: sci-fi

Fragment(s): Charts, Diagrams, Forms, and Tables in Science Fiction (John Brunner, Larry Niven, Christopher Priest, John Sladek, et al.)

(From Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969), 224)

First we must honor the book sacrificed in the making of this post: the spine of my Picador 1977 edition of Martin Bax’s The Hospital Ship (1976) needs some drastic surgery (glue) after I attempted to scan its dark interior….

As of late I’ve been fascinated by pseudo-knowledge in science fiction and speculative fiction–the scholarly afterward in The Iron Dream (1972), the real medical citations in The Hospital Ship (1976), the invented medical citations in Doctor Rat (1976), and “diagrammatic” SF covers filled with maps or anthropological diagrams.

Whatever form it takes, pseudo-knowledge—perhaps derived from our world or even “real” knowledge in our world modified and inserted into another imaginary one—adds, at the most basic level, a veneer of veracity. The most obvious category, and the one I am least interested in, is scientifically accurate Continue reading Fragment(s): Charts, Diagrams, Forms, and Tables in Science Fiction (John Brunner, Larry Niven, Christopher Priest, John Sladek, et al.)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Pierre Faucheux’s 1970s covers for La grande anthologie de la Science-Fiction (robots, the end of the world, aliens, etc)

(Cover for the 1974 edition of Histoires de robot)

While researching the French SF author Gérard Klein, I discovered that he edited a themed anthology series La grande anthologie de la Science-Fiction with Jacques Goimard and Demètre Ioakimidis. This series covered SF stories on themes such as robots, aliens, machines, the galactic, the end of the world, time travel, etc. If you’re curious about the contents of any of the volumes in my post check out the handy Internet Speculative Fiction Database listing.

The famous French typographer, graphic artist, urbanist, and architect Pierre Faucheux—who worked primarily for the publishers Club Français du Livre and Le Livre de Poche—created the covers for Klein, Goimard, and Ioakimidis’ SF anthology series. And they are a varied and fascinating bunch…

I am not convinced I like all of them — but the 1974 edition of Histoires de machines, the 1974 edition of Histoires de fins du monde, and the 1975 edition of Histoires de voyages dans le temps certainly appeal to my artistic Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Pierre Faucheux’s 1970s covers for La grande anthologie de la Science-Fiction (robots, the end of the world, aliens, etc)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXVII (Piercy + Gotschalk + Bax + anthology edited by Haldeman)

1) Futuristic city? Yes! Is more needed? Okay, okay, I concede, more is needed. I hope Gotschalk’s novel with its fantastic Dean Ellis cover delivers. Among the least known of the Ace Science Fiction Special series…

Check out my older reviews of J. G. Ballard’s “Billennium” (1961)Future City, ed. Roger Elwood (1973), and The World Inside, Robert Silverberg (1971) for more SF on this theme of futuristic cities. If you delve through the archives you’ll find many more examples.

2) Ballard blurbs Martin Bax’s novel as “…the most exciting, stimulating and brilliantly conceived book I have read since Burroughs’ novels.” Hyperbole aside, the two reviews (here and here) I’ve read of Bax’s sole novel puts this at the top of my “to read” pile.

I have cheated a bit by including the cover for the first New Directions edition rather than the later Picador edition I own due to the cover quality.

3) Three acquisitions posts ago (here) I mentioned that the premise of Marge Piercy’s Dance the Eagle to Sleep (1970) did not inspire me to read it anytime soon. Thankfully I found a copy of what many consider her masterpiece Woman at the Edge of Time (1976) cheap at the local used book store.

4) I am not sure why I picked this collection up—I’ve heard good things about Joe Haldeman’s introduction which draws on his experience in the Vietnam War. As Isaac Asimov, Mack Reynolds, etc are not normally authors who intrigue me, I might do something I rarely do and read and review Effinger’s story only (and maybe Poul Anderson’s as he’s better in short form)…

As always thoughts and comments are welcome.

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1. Growing up in Tier 3000, Felix C. Gotschalk (1976)

(Dean Ellis’ gorgeous cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXVII (Piercy + Gotschalk + Bax + anthology edited by Haldeman)

Book Review: Bedlam Planet, John Brunner (1968)

(Jeff Jones’ cover for the 1968 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

To move past my variegated obsessions regarding William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) (review + list of imaginary scientific articles), I decided to reread a lesser known John Brunner novel. I cannot pinpoint exactly when I first read Bedlam Plant (1968), other than before I started my site, but it holds up as a moody biological mystery with mythological undertones as colonists confront their deceptive new world.

This isn’t Stand on Zanzibar (1968), Shockwave Rider (1975), The Sheep Look Up (1972), or The Jagged Orbit (1969), but it left me wishing that Brunner applied his Continue reading Book Review: Bedlam Planet, John Brunner (1968)

Fragment(s): List of Historical Events and Invented Scientific Articles in William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976)

(Ken Laidlaw’s cover for the 1977 edition)

I have fallen victim to hidden encyclopedic desires and delusions…

William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) was so compelling that I went through and marked each and every historical event and invented scientific article. Kotzwinkle might have believed one of the historical events was real (allegations of chemical warfare involving spiders and anthrax by the US in the Korean War) although most likely it’s a fabrication.

I examined at length in my review Kotzwinkle’s use of these two categories to create a “substrate” underpinning the world. This well-realized background causes the reader to, in my words, “increasingly wonder what is possible, what is happening, and what has already happened.” I suggest “Doctor Rat derives its power from not only the brutality of what unfolds but also the careful integration of both the historical and the imaginary.” Simultaneously, as the scientific citations are mentioned as part of Doctor Rat’s own “contributions” to the scientific world, they tend to operate as satirical indicators of cruelty done in the name of scientific progress.

These citations also add to the “compulsive syndrome” (175) of the novel’s conclusion as scientific tidbits, pseudo-scientific citations, historical events (both real and imaginary) collide….

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Invented Scientific Articles

“It’s a 12-inch metal disc (for more, see my learned paper, “Rats on the Wheel,” Psy. Journal., 1963).” (10)

“Thank you, friends and fellow supporters, thanks for your confidence. As you know, the rat is man’s best friend. You’ve seen the advertisement in Modern Psychology magazine: “The Rat is Our Friend.'” (17) Continue reading Fragment(s): List of Historical Events and Invented Scientific Articles in William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXVI (Wolfe + Mendelson + Stableford + Tennant)

1) Brian M. Stableford has not faired particularly well on this site: I’ve reviewed The Florians (1976) and Journey to the Center (1982) (I apologize in advance for the rather slight reviews—they are years old). But I found a copy of the second volume of The Daedalus Mission series in a clearance bin, and depending on my mood, I have a soft spot for conflict-less “solve the biological mission” Star Trek-type SF. But The Florians (1976) was forgettable…

Jesse reviewed Stableford’s Man in a Cage (1975) and calls it an intelligent psychological exploration. I am more likely to read my copy before Critical Threshold (1977). Check out his review if you are interested in Stableford’s most mature work!

2) Emma Tennant’s The Crack (variant title: The Time of the Crack) (1973) was a compelling satire of the cozy apocalypse…. And I cannot resist snagging a copy of Hotel De Dream (1976), where residents of a seedy hotel start dreaming each other’s dreams.

3) A lesser known novel by Gene Wolfe… I don’t know when I’m going to get to his novel length work as I’m perfectly content exploring his short fiction in various anthologies at the present: “The Changeling” (1968), “Silhouette” (1975), “Sonya, Crane Wessleman, and Kittee” (1970), etc.

4) I now own one of the worst SF covers of all time! I purchased Pilgrimage (1981), Drew Mendelson’s only SF novel, due to SF Encyclopedia’s positive assessment and the fact I’m a sucker for futuristic cities, even if they’re heavily indebted to Christopher Priest’s Inverted World (1974): “[it] grippingly presents a vision of a bleak Ruined Earth environment, long abandoned by most humans except for those who inhabit the planet’s one remaining artefact, a vast City that moves slowly across the devastated land.” For more on the novel consult the entry here.

But the cover… Cringe!

As always thoughts/comments are welcome!

1. Critical Threshold, Brian M. Stableford (1977)

(Douglas Beekman’s cover for the 1977 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXVI (Wolfe + Mendelson + Stableford + Tennant)

Book Review: Doctor Rat, William Kotzwinkle (1976)

(James Grashow’s cover for the 1976 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“Oh scaly skin and dandruff

with hemorrhagic sores,

come and look inside us,

they’ve provided us with doors!” (15)

Winner of the 1977 World Fantasy Award

In the early 1970s DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) got wind of a Soviet project in parapsychological submarine communication. Gruesome details unfold: the Soviet scientists suspected there was “a psychic link between mothers [in this case rabbits] and their offspring.”  If say, someone on the surface were to kill the rabbit baby then the submarine, with the mother on board, would know to surface and launch their nuclear weapons. Of course the entire idea is utter hogwash and the DARPA investigations of  various parapsychological claims resulted in nothing (see note 1).

William Kotzwinkle’s maniacal satire Doctor Rat (1976) takes the idea of animal communication, in this case across species with the exclusion of humans, to bizarre and alluring Continue reading Book Review: Doctor Rat, William Kotzwinkle (1976)