Tag Archives: space opera

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 50s/60s Surrealistic Stylings of Art Sussman

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(Cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis)

Art Sussman produced a remarkable corpus of SF and other pulp covers (mysteries, crime, etc). He could easily shift gears between Richard Powers-esque surrealism—although distinctly his own take—to covers that suited an Agatha Christie mystery (browse the range here). I would be wary comparing him to Powers until you skim through the latter’s late 50s early 60s art (definitely an enjoyable activity!). Although Powers is still far superior, both were part of the SF art movement increasingly experimented with surreal/metaphoric and experimental art (there are still spaceships lurking around the edges, and futuristic cities, and other pulpy moments).

There is a precision of vision with Sussman’s art—his cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis places the astronauts in an outline of a vessel with strange hints at alien planets and experiences scattered gem-like in the distance. Sussman’s focus on the human form — often surrounded by surreal forms and humanlike membranes — showcases agony and despair. A great example (and my favorite of the bunch) pairs jagged black fields with a bloodied man, the 1960 Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 50s/60s Surrealistic Stylings of Art Sussman

Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

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(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

An imaginary question I received: “Why do you read anthologies cover to cover?” I love discovering new authors and those I was aware existed but haven’t read—with New Writings in SF 9 (1972) the following fall into this bipartite category: Joseph Green, Paul Corey, Arthur Sellings, Vincent King, R. W. Mackelworth, and Eddy C. Bertin.

Of the bunch, I will probably only remember Vincent King’s vision of the angst as the exploration of the entire galaxy nears completion… Both authors whom I know far better produce the best of the collection.  Michael G. Coney’s haunting tale of evolutionary dependency and M. John Harrison account of paranoia and guilt over the massacre of mysterious aliens are worth the read. Too bad the three above were never anthologized outside of John Carnell’s New Writings series!

Overall New Writings in SF 9 is superior to New Writings in SF 4 (1965) but probably only satisfying for Coney and Harrison completists….

Note: this title refers to the 1972 US publication which was a best of earlier volumes. Another volume by the same name was published in 1966 in the Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

Book Review: Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future), Algis Budrys (1963)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

Algis Budrys has not fared particularly well on this site. Back in 2012 I read The Falling Torch (1959) and found it a functional military SF novel with some social commentary about the “inhumanity” of the Soviets. More recently I tackled his so-called “masterpiece” Michaelmas (serialized 1976) (short review) that despite all its pretensions to say something relevant about technology and media, slips into SF thriller mode, abandoning the most compelling elements of the narrative (it’s hard to write a convincing character study). At least Michaelmas makes the motions towards SF that moves behind the mechanical blueprints of a potential future mindset and tries to say something substantive about the psyche and society of the people who might live there. As you know, Continue reading Book Review: Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future), Algis Budrys (1963)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXII (Moorcock + Tennant + Sladek + White)

1) I made a “resolution” to read more John Sladek — miserable covers aside. Now what is that spaceman doing standing next the elephant? Although Sladek is rather on the surreal/comical end of things, Peter Goodfellow took the surreal title literally. Not his finest artistic moment. Now if only I could convince myself to put together my disperate thoughts on The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970) into something cohesive.

2) Although New Worlds editor supreme” Michael Moorcock’s novels haven’t not received the warmest reception on my site, I am determined to get a better sense of his fiction by exploring his short work. And this collection seems fantastic! It’s illustrated, there’s a comic strip (image below), and the Savoy Books publication includes tons of fascinating blurbs about other books both speculative and non-genre.

See my reviews of An Alien Heat (1972) and The Ice Schooner (1969).

The title page of the Jerry Cornelius comic.

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3) A lesser known James White novel… Only printed in the UK.

James White is one of THE finds of the last few years. Best known for simple but earnest (and pacifistic) 50s stories about doctors solving alien medical problems, his novels demonstrate surprising power. A reader and frequent commentator (see I listen!) suggested I procure one of his late 70s novels unknown to me. I cannot wait to read it.

See my reviews of The Dream Millennium (1973), All Judgement Fled (1968), and The Watch Below (1966).

4) I recently discussed Emma Tennant’s work and how she was influenced by the UK SF scene (Ballard et al) here. Yes, I showed my inner academic by citing a few articles — many fans don’t realize that there’s serious and fascinating academic study of the genre. And, as literary historians are wont to do, they provide (often) relevant and erudite analysis of development of genre etc. I would pull more in if time allowed.  I am currently reading Tennant’s novel and it’s intriguing so far!

Scans are from my own collection (in order to zoom in on the zany madness, click on the image).

I look forward to your comments/thoughts!

Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXII (Moorcock + Tennant + Sladek + White)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

1) William F. Nolan, best known for Logan’s Run (1967) (film adaptation 1976), was also a prolific short story author. As with my acquisition of Thomas N. Scortia’s collection The Best of Thomas N. Scortia (1981) a while back, I am hoping that a range of short stories might be the best way to approach an author new to me.

*wince*–> My edition has a miserable Chris Foss clone (Tony Roberts) cover!

2) As many R. A. Lafferty novels cost a pretty penny, I now buy them on sight if they are within my price range. I posted recently on Mati Klarwein’s fantastic covers–> here. My high resolution scan should convey the complexity and skill of the art!

3) Silverberg collections fall under the purchase compulsively category. I’ve read two or three from this particular volume already including the wonderful “How It Was When the Past Went Away” (1969).

4) A while back a reader recommended Bruce Sterling’s The Artificial Kid (1980). My wife saw a well-worn copy at a local Half Price Books and procured it for me. I read numerous Sterling works from the late 80s and 90s back when I consumed “newer” SF. I reviewed his first novel a few months ago—Involution Ocean (1977).

The cover is awful. The 1980s aesthetic pains me…

All images are scans from my own collection (click image to zoom).

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.

1. Wonderworlds, William F. Nolan (1977 )

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(Tony Roberts’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…

2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”

And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.

Thanks again!

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Best novels

  1. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1981)
  2. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (variant title: The War of Dreams), Angela Carter (1972). Review forthcoming 
  3. The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)
  4. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

Continue reading Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXVIII (Disch + Vance + Dick + Watson)

There is no better way to celebrate the New Year than with a pile of vintage SF acquisitions!

You might notice the predominance over the coming weeks of UK publishers (Pan, Granada, Panther)—the images correspond to my editions. I acquired nine via a “secret” UK pipeline for a mere $3.50 each (with shipping) as a gift from my wife. Cue bad Chris Foss copycat (Tony Roberts and his ilk) covers. The disconnect between Thomas M. Disch’s 334 (1972) and the Tony Roberts spaceship pains me.

The books: A lesser known Ian Watson novel. Anyone know the cover artist? His short fiction inspires: A Very Slow Time Machine (1979). I found Jonah Kit (1975) worthwhile although I never reviewed it.

A Jack Vance novel that explores the nature of language…

A collection of early PKD stories. I’ve read the majority of his short fiction in my omnibus collections of his work but it might be worth the reread.

And finally, what I am most excited about, Disch’s best known collection of thematically linked short fiction….

Enjoy! As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

1. Alien Embassy, Ian Watson (1977)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXVIII (Disch + Vance + Dick + Watson)