What pre-1985 science fiction are you reading? + Update No. VIII


I hope you’ve gotten off to a great reading start to 2024! What pre-1985 science fiction are you reading this month?

If you’re new and curious about my rationale for the perimeters of my site, check out this recent interview and podcast. And follow me on Mastodon if you don’t already as I no longer post on my Twitter account. Also make sure to check out the previous installment of this monthly column

And, most importantly, let me know what pre-1985 SF you’ve been reading!

The Photograph (with links to reviews and brief thoughts)

  1. Adrian Mitchell’s The Bodyguard (1970) might be one of the oddest dystopias ever written.
  2. Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976) is a fascinating peek into her vast oeuvre of disquieting visions. While I read it before I started my site, a friend reviewed it for my guest post series on Wilhelm’s fiction. As I recently covered Wilhelm’s far lesser known anti-Vietnam War novel The Killing Thing (1967), her work was on my mind.
  3. M. John Harrison is rightly famous for his Viriconium Nights sequence: The Pastel City (1971), A Storm of Wings (1980), and In Viriconium (1982). If you enjoyed them, I highly recommend tracking down his first novel — The Committed Men (1971). From my review: “Possessed by destructive melancholy, the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptical UK–where political powers have sunk into oblivion–attempt to recreate a semblance of normalcy.  Clement St John Wendover, teeth long since rotted, still administers to the skin diseases and ailments of his one-time patients although he cannot cure them. […] Gathering together a troop of “committed men” (and a woman!), Wendover sets off across the corroded landscape with a newborn mutant child: a new species for an altered Earth or an accidental abnormality….”
  4. I recently covered a Barrington J. Bayley short story in my cities of the future series and it reminded me of his most extreme moments of off-the-wall invention — The Garments of Caean (1976) immediately came to mind.

What am I writing about?

I recently finished my review article (it has lots of footnotes!) on Kate Wilhelm’s anti-Vietnam War allegory The Killer Thing (1967). Scholarship on the Vietnam War utterly ignores her novel. I’m proud of my review! I’m currently writing more short story reviews to celebrate three SF authors who recently passed away.

What am I reading?

I picked up a John Brunner novel! I’m devouring it. If everything goes to plan, I should have a review up next weekend. I started off 2024 on a history of science fiction reading bender. Three volumes down so far. I finished John Rieder’s thought-provoking Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction (2008) last night.

A Curated List of SF Birthdays from the Last Two Weeks

Jan. 6th: Author Eric Frank Russell (1905-1978). I have his collection of Jay Score / Marathon short stories Men, Martians and Machines (1955) on the slate for 2024.

Jan. 7th: Author Harvey Jacobs (1930-2017). I hope Jacobs wrote another satire as high-quality as “Gravity” (1969). Still looking.

Jan. 8th: Artist Boris Vallejo (1941-): Everyone knows his work, right?

Jan. 9th: Author Karel Čapek (1890-1938). Best known for War with the Newts (1936, trans. 1955) and R.U.R (1920., trans. 1923), which introduced the world to the word “robot.” I’ve been meaning to read both.

Jan. 9th: Author Algis Budrys (1931-2008). I’ve written quite a bit about his work on the site over the years. Check out my short review of Rogue Moon (1960) , “Forever Stenn” (variant title: “The Ridge Around the World” (1957), and Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future) (1963).

Jan. 9th: Author Walt Sheldon (1917-1996). One of a legion of magazine “filler” authors I’ve never read. Write anything memorable?

Jan. 10th: Pioneering artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones (1944-2011) was born on this day.

Jan. 10th: Author George Alec Effinger (1947-2002). One of my favorite SF authors — in particular, check out my reviews of  What Entropy Means to Me (1972) and  “Biting Down Hard on Truth” (1974).

Jan. 11th: Author Robert Presslie (1920-2000).

Jan. 11th: Author Jerome Bixby (1923-1998).

Jan. 12th: Author Jack London (1876-1916).

Jan. 13th: Author Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961). Smith’s “Master of the Asteroid” (1932) ranked among my top 20 short stories I read in 2023.

Jan. 13th: Author Ron Goulart (1933-2022). For my views on Goulart’s satire, check out After Things Fell Apart (1970).

Jan. 13th: Jody Scott (1923-2007).

Jan. 13th: Prolific editor and occasional author Roger Elwood (1943-2007).

Jan. 13th: Author P. J. Plauger (1944-). An unknown to me. I acquired Fighting Madness (1976) a few years back but have yet to read it.

Jan. 13th: Artist George Barr (1937-).

Jan. 13th: Artist Peter Elson (1947-1998).

Jan. 14th: Author Kenneth Bulmer (1921-2005).

Jan. 14th: Author David Redd (1946-). I’ve read one of his short stories — “Sundown” (1967).

Jan. 14th: Author Joseph Green (1931-).

Jan. 14th: Author Arthur Byron Cover (1950-). I struggle immensely with his fiction: “A Gross Love Story” (1974), “Gee, Isn’t He the Cutest Little Thing?” (1973), and “Message of Joy” (1974).

Jan. 15th: Author Robert Silverberg (1935-). An absolute favorite of mine! I’ve reviewed 46 of his short stories and twelve of his novels. I’ve also read but never reviewed A Time of Changes (1971) and Tower of Glass (1970). The Man in the Maze (1969) and The Second Trip (serialized: 1971) might be his most underrated novels.

Jan. 16th: Author Nevil Shute (1899-1960). I recently learned that President Eisenhower held a cabinet meeting to figure out how to prevent the popularity of the film adaptation of his iconic novel On the Beach (1959). Stephen Dedman in May the Armed Forces Be with You: The Relationship Between Science Fiction and the United States Military (2016) discusses it.

Jan. 16th: Author Paul O. Williams (1935-2009).

Jan. 18th: Influential early feminist SF author Clare Winger Harris (1891-1968). The first woman to get her start in pulp SF magazines under her own name.

Jan. 18th: Artist Albert Nuetzell (1901-1969).

Jan. 18th: Artist Eddie Jones (1935-1999). A British artist who contributed an immense number of covers for German SF presses.

Jan. 18th: Author Rhoda Lerman (1936-2015)

Jan. 19th: Author Margot Bennett (1912-1980). I recently acquired Bennett’s The Long Way Back (1954).

Jan. 19th: Artist Victor Kalin (1919-1991).

Jan. 20th: Author Louis Charbonneau (1924-2017). Did not care for Down to the Earth (variant title: Antic Earth) (1967).

Jan. 20th: Author Nancy Kress (1948-). Another one of my favorites! “Talp Hunt” (1982) is a killer of a short story. I also reviewed her first three published short stories–“The Earth Dwellers” (1976), “A Delicate Shape of Kipney” (1978), and “And Whether Pigs Have Wings” (1979).

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

Leave a Comment