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

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What pre-1985 science fiction are you reading or planning to read this month?

Here’s April’s installment of this column.

First, a bit about Isaac Asimov’s Foundation (1951) from M. Keith Booker’s Monsters, Mushroom Clouds, and the Cold War: American Science Fiction and the Roots of Postmodernism, 1946-1964 (2001), my current history of science fiction read:

Booker wants to make the argument that science fiction in the 50s demonstrates some of the features that will coalesce into postmodernism. He highlights Asimov’s inability (deliberate or otherwise) to show historical change in his fiction. Characters think the same, other than the Mule, in the far future. Booker also navigates scholarly arguments about how inspired Asimov was by Marxism. Author and influential early SF scholar James Gunn refused to believe, despite the proliferation of evidence, that Asimov utilized Marxist ideas at all. Other scholars wanted to read him as an updated version of Marx. Booker argues that while Asimov is obviously inspired by general Marxist views on grand narrative, his variation (and hence proto-postmodern) is a flattening of historical time. This passage also contains one of the more snicker-inducing swipes at Asimov…. There is FAR more to Booker’s argument. His fascinating book is available online in a PDF, so please do not take this one passage out of context.

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. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation (1951). I read this one in my teens. I remember little other then the sense of long durée, which appealed my younger reader self who primarily enjoyed multi-volume/epic/boated fantasy at that point.
  2. Kate Wilhelm’s The Mile-Long Spaceship (1963). Wilhelm’s first collection contains a solid range of her earliest visions. In my review I highlighted “The Man Without a Planet” (1962), a moody rumination on the claustrophobia of space travel and “No Light in the Window” (1963), an intriguing work of feminist science fiction.
  3. Christopher Priest, one of my favorite SF authors, recently passed away. I thoroughly enjoyed many stories in Real-Time World (1974).
  4. Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration (1968). Placed here as a reminder that I need to reread this one!

What am I writing about?

End of the school year stress and sheer exhaustion slows my writing rate. I posted reviews of two early Clifford D. Simak short stories critical of capitalism: “Masquerade” (1941) and “Tools” (1942). And a new installment in my multi-year series on generational voyage: Fred Saberhagen’s “Birthdays” (1976). Of course, there can’t be a month without post-apocalyptic nightmares. Robert Bloch’s “Daybroke” (1958) and “The Head” (1976) fit the bill this time around. Reviews of Brazilian, Belgian, and American dystopia await in the wings.

What am I reading?

Lots and lots of Clifford D. Simak. I have reasons.

A Curated List of SF Birthdays from the Last Two Weeks

May 4th: Artist Bob Layzell (1940-).

May 5th: Author Pat Frank (1907-1964). Alas, Babylon (1959) is on my immediate horizon.

May 5th: Author Lee Killough (1942-). I’ve covered a few of her short fictions on my site. A good place to start is my post on her first three published fictions: “Caveat Emptor” (1970), “Caravan” (1972), and “Sentience” (1973).

May 6th: Cherokee Author Craig Strete (1950-). One of the great unknowns. Check out The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories (1977).

May 6th: Artist Gordon C. Davies (1923-1994). A second-to-third rate SF artist that spewed out an endless proliferation of hackneyed covers for 1950s UK publications. His career petered out abruptly in the late 50s. A later career covers, that demonstrate a bit less rush, appeared in the 70s.

May 6th: Author Gaston Leroux (1868-1927)

May 6th: Author Jack Sharkey (1931-1992)

May 7th: Author Gene Wolfe (1931-2019). One of the depressing elements of posting birthdays for the last four or five years (on social media before I started my reading update posts here), is the yearly reminder that plans to tackle in a more serious manner authors I’ve avoided have not come to fruition. I love Wolfe’s short fiction. I have not read a single novel, yet.

May 7th: Author Angela Carter (1940-1992). Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972) ranks in my top 10 SF novels of the 1970s. While I never managed to write a review of that imposing masterpiece, I gathered the strength to cover Carter’s worthwhile Heroes & Villains (1969). I am similarly overwhelmed by the prospect of reading and writing about The Passion of New Eve (1977).

May 8th: Artist Moebius (1938-2012). Everyone knows Moebius, right?

May 8th: Artist Stanislaw Fernandes (1945-).

May 8th: Artist Ron Miller (1947-)

May 9th: Author William Tenn (1920-2010). I love Tenn. If he’s new to you, here’s my most recent review.

May 9th: Author Richard McKenna (1913-1964). Best known for his non-SF, McKenna crafted quite a few gems before his early death. “Hunter, Come Home” (1963) is my personal favorite.

May 9th: Author Richard Adams (1920-2016). Watership Down (1972) and Plague Dogs (1977) gave me nightmares as a kid. In my teenage fantasy craze, I adored Shardik (1974) but never got to the sequel Maia (1984).

May 9th: Author André Carneiro (1922-2014). A Brazilian SF author with three short stories available in translation for English-language readers.

May 9th: Author Kris Neville (1925-1980). For a recent review of his fiction, check out Mission: Manstop (1971).

May 9th: Author Richard Cowper (1926-2002). While best known for his ruminative The Road to Corlay (1978), Cowper also excelled in the madcap fun department — Profundis (1979).

May 9th: Author George Schelling (1938)

May 9th: Author Geoff Ryman (1951)

May 10th: Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950)

May 10th: Artist Alex Schomburg (1905-1998). Of the non-surreal/more pulpy aesthetic of SF art, Schomburg has always been my favorite!

May 10th: Artist Bruce Pennington (1944-). One of the more appealing British SF artists, in my view. Longtime readers know my dislike of Foss and his clones.

May 12th: Philip Wylie (1902-1971).

May 12th: Artist David Pelham (1938-). Yes, we all know his Ballard covers. They are rightly considered genius. If you’re a fan, check out his pre-Penguin cover art!

May 12th: Barry B. Longyear (1942-)

May 12th: L. Neil Smith (1946-2021)

May 13th: Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989). I recently snagged a copy of her final, and only, SF novel–Rule Britannia (1972).

May 13th: Roger Zelazny (1937-1995). My most recent Zelazny review — To Die in Italbar (1973).

May 14th: Herbert W. Franke (1927-2022)

May 16th: Bob Blanchard (1914-1993). Is there a better representation of a Philip José Farmer’s early science fiction? Woman chasing man through a stylistic vaginal passage? Check out my review of the collection in question if you are perplexed!

May 16th: Pierre Barbet (1925-1995). French pulp SF author I’ve yet to explore.

May 17th: F. Paul Wilson (1946-).

May 17th: Colin Greenland (1954-): scholar of the New Wave–The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction (1983)–and SFF author. I found Daybreak on a Different Mountain (1984) a worthwhile read!

May 18th: Fred Saberhagen (1930-2007). I’ve covered two of his generation ship short stories: “Birthdays” (1976) and “The Long Way Home” (1961).


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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