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


What pre-1985 science fiction are you reading or planning to read this month. Here’s March’s installment of this column.

Before we get to books and birthdays and writing plans…

I am fascinated by the way SF novels from the era I study were marketed to people. I often think, retrospectively, it’s easy to get caught up in how SF was advertised as revealing the nature of genre at that moment vs. the actual texts we are reading. As an example, I am one of many readers who assumed that the 50s were dominated by a positive strain that morphed with the New Wave in the 60s. It’s easy to fall into that trap if you focus on how science fiction was advertised as providing a window into the technological achievements of the future. Of course, the reality is far more complex. The post-WWII 50s were hardly one of a dominate positivist language and ideology. Writers and people were terrified by a rapidly changing world.

Do you have any other humorous examples of how SF was sold to readers before 1985?

Let’s get to the books in the photo and what I’ve been reading and writing.

The Photograph (with links to reviews and brief thoughts)

  1. Samuel R. Delany’s Nova (1968). One of the few SF novels I’ve read three times! Unfortunately, never managed to review it. Of the Delany I’ve read so far, it remains my favorite — followed closely by Babel-17 (1966) and The Einstein Intersection (1967). I have never managed to finished Dhalgren (1975). I should try again!
  2. The Crystal Ship, ed. Robert Silverberg (1976) contains novellas by Vonda N. McIntyre, Marta Randall, and Joan D. Vinge. One of a handful of women-only anthologies from my period of focus. I particularly enjoyed Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Screwtop” (1976).
  3. Of the hilariously titled Big Dumb Object sub-genre, James White’s All Judgement Fled (1968) remains my favorite. Yeah, better than Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (1973). I’ve always respected White’s pacifism as well. I need to read more of his fiction!
  4. My favorite of Ballard’s dystopias — so far. Unfortunately, I was unable to review it. I wish I had.

What am I writing about?

The accumulation of incomplete reviews and endless pages of notes depresses me. I have many projects. I am slowly working through them. Stay tuned for more apocalyptic nightmares, Brazilian dystopias, and cities trying to land the death blow!

Recent reviews include the latest post in my series on translated short fiction. Rachel and I wrote about a wonderful Romanian SF story that provides a revisionist take on Stanisław Lem. I also reviewed Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore’s Clash by Night and Other Stories (1980).

What am I reading?

Lots and lots of history. When I’m behind on reviews it’s hard for me to make room for more science fiction. Taras Young’s Nuclear War in the UK (2019) was my last read. It’s more a coffee table book with FASCINATING images of British nuclear war pamphlets than detailed historical analysis. However, the bibliography let me to other scholarship that I might feature later on the site.

A Curated List of SF Birthdays from the Last Two Weeks

April 1st: Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011. I adored her work as a kid. I read everything I could get my hands on–even from the lowest points in her career i.e. the Acorna Universe sequence and co-written Dragonriders of Pern novels with her son.

April 1st: Author Samuel R. Delany (1942-). As I mentioned above, I need to finally complete Dhalgren (1975).

April 2nd: Artist Mitchell Hooks (1923-2013). One of the underrated SF artists of the 50s-70s in my view.

April 2nd: Artist Murray Tinkelman (1933-2016). Another underrated SF artist… How can your forget his iconic cover for Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up?

April 2nd: Author Joan D. Vinge (1948-). The intriguing ideas in The Outcasts of Heaven Belt (1978) reminds me that I should read more of her fiction.

April 3rd: Author Colin Kapp (1928-2007). Want to push my buttons? Recommend stories for me to read like Kapp’s “Hunger Over Sweet Waters” (1965). You’ll have to read my review (an exercise in snark) to find out why.

April 3rd: Author Reginald Hill (1936-2012)

April 3rd: Author Peter Tate (1940-). One of those British New Wave authors I should read more of… I recently acquired Tate’s The Thinking Seat (1969).

April 4th: Stanley G. Weinbaum (1902-1935).

April 4th: Artist Tim White (1952-2020). I learned recently that he as a “kind of an Easter egg thing […] usually put his astrology sign symbol (ram’s horns) in his paintings.”

April 5th: Author Robert Bloch (1917-1994)

April 5th: Author Ann Maxwell (1944-)

April 6th: Author Sonya Dorman (1924-2005). Check out Dorman’s hellish “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” (1967).

April 7th: Henry Kuttner (1915-1958). I recently reviewed Clash by Night and Other Stories (1980) (with C. L. Moore).

April 7th: James White (1928-1999). He wrote a lot of great stuff beyond his Sector General series!

April 8th: Influential UK editor John Carnell (1912-1972) — i.e. the guy at New Worlds before Michael Moorcock.

April 8th: Influential US editor Cele Goldsmith (1933-2002). She helmed Amazing and Fantastic Stories of Imagination through the era of the Great Magazine Constriction.

April 9th: Author George O. Smith (1911-1981)

April 9th: Artist Mati Klarwein (1932-2002)

April 9th: Author Barrington J. Bayley (1937-2008).

April 9th: Artist Stephen Hickman (1949-2021). I love his dragons.

April 10th: Anna Kavan (1901-1968). Check out Ice (1967)!

April 10th: Artist Henri Lievens (1920-2000).

April 10th: Artist Jim Burns (1948-)

April 10th: Artist David A. Hardy (1936-)

April 10th: Author John M. Ford (1957-2006). I recently reviewed my first Ford work: The Princes of the Air (1982).

April 11th: Artist Gene Szafran (1941-2011). I call him Mr. FUZZY 70s PASTEL. Which is fine. But…

April 11th: Author James Patrick Kelly (1951-).

April 12th: Emil Petaja (1915-2000).

April 12th: Author Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019). I’ve reviewed all of her short fiction written before her early 60s break. Here’s the first post in my amazing (and very unpopular) series.

April 13th: Author Theodore L. Thomas (1920-2005). I reviewed three of his short stories here.

April 13th: Author Jonathan Fast (1948-). On a short list of father son SF authors… Howard and Jonathan Fast. Fritz and Justin Leiber. Frank and Brian Herbert. There must be more?

April 14th: Author Bruce Sterling (1954-).

April 15th: Artist Mal Dean (1941-1974)

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

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