(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
I can’t pass up a Sheckley collection!
Nor can I pass up a rather unknown “discovered manuscript” type 1960s feminist dystopia by Marya Mannes. She wrote for Vogue and The New Yorker over her career….
Nor can I pass up a Sturgeon collection (perhaps I will appreciate his more radical SF short stories?)….
And finally, a best of collection by an author who might not be worth exploring, but, sometimes short stories give a better impression of an author’s capabilities than a novel-length work.
As always, thoughts/observations/comments are welcome!
1. They, Marya Mannes (1968)
(Stanley Zuckerberg’s cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLVII (Sturgeon + Sheckley + Scortia + Mannes)
(Cover for the 1973 edition of The City in the Sea (1951), Wilson Tucker)
Mariella Anderlini, under the pseudonym Allison, produced a vast number of surreal and masterful SF covers (between 1969-1988) primarily for the Italian SF publisher Libra Editrice. Apparently, she went under the pseudonym to avoid damaging her professional painting career. She was the wife of Ugo Malaguti, editor and author, who founded Libra Editrice and edited Galassia.
As I celebrate the birthdays of a range of SF authors/illustrators/editors from multiple language traditions on twitter (@SFRuminations), I came across Allison’s work while researching her husband’s untranslated SF output. However, only through the diligent research of a twitter follower, whose Italian is far better than mine, were we able to come across her real name.
A reader on twitter sent me two Italian articles for more details (they are scanty) about her life and SF art: “Libra Editrice: ascess e caduta di un impero” and “Nova SF.”
And her art is absolutely gorgeous…. Her work enters the pantheon of my favorite SF cover Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Haunting Landscapes and Cityscapes: The 1970s Italian SF Art of Allison A.K.A. Mariella Anderlini
Cycle: read a book, place it in the review pile, the immediacy of the novel fades slightly or the novel fights every moment of the review writing process (–> Priest’s masterpiece The Affirmation), never review it, feel bad that I never reviewed the novel, read less in order to catch up…
Result: less reading and more pouting.
Remedy: In order to catch up, here are short/less intensive reviews with links to in-depth analysis (if it exists). Part I + II (books by Budrys, Strete, White, Bishop, etc).
1. Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon (1960)
(Victor Kalin’s cover for the 1960 edition) Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Theodore Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X (1960), Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation (1981), and Barry N. Malzberg’s Screen (1968)
(Wilson McLean’s cover for the 1972 edition)
4.25/5 (collated rating: Good)
1970 was a wonderful year for short SF. Nebula Award Stories Six ed. Clifford D. Simak (1971) contains a selection Nebula-nominated and winning works from the three short fiction award categories: three novelettes, three short stories, and one novella. The novelette and novella winners are included. No short story award was given out although Gene Wolfe’s “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” (1970) deserved to win. I apologize in advance, I hold no love for sword-and-fantasy—the great appeal that Fritz Leiber’s “Ill Met in Lankhmar” (1970) conjures for readers is lost on me.
I was also impressed by the two “second tier” authors in the collection: Harry Harrison and Keith Laumer. Both of their efforts were mature and evocative. Although, Joanna Russ’ “The Second Inquisition” (1970) blows them out of Continue reading Book Review: Nebula Award Stories Six, ed. Clifford D. Simak (1971)
Everyone likes lists! And I do too…. This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year. Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.
Top Ten Novels
1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).
2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel. Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….
3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter… Everyday surrealism. Continue reading Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)
(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 Continue reading Book Review: A Way Home, Theodore Sturgeon (1956)