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


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

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

Here’s May’s installment of this column.

As I am currently exploring the north-of-the-Arctic Circle reaches of Norway, why not segue way into this post by re-ruminating on the only Norwegian SF novel I’ve read: Knut Faldbakken’s spectacular Twilight Country (1974, trans. Joan Tate, 1993). I wish I’d thought to bring the sequel — Sweetwater (1976, trans. Joan Tate, 1994). Twilight Country, my second favorite SF novel read of 2021, contains one of the great depictions of a decaying metropolis. It is a densely metaphoric story of survival within its crumbling edifices. The masterstroke of Faldbakken’s novel is the portrayal of the Dump, a border zone containing the cast off fragments of human existence, as a place of recreation. Our characters run to the Dump to escape, to make their lives anew. They’re deeply flawed figures. There’s a tangible sense of organic transformation within the transients who inhabit this liminal zone. Sweetwater and The Dump act as a closed system. One decays into the other. One creates the other. Not recommended unless you like your SF dark and moody like me!

Any other worthwhile Norwegian SF in translation that I should track down?

Here are a few examples from my area of interest listed at Rachel Cordasco’s site: Gerd Brantenberg’s Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes (1977), Øyvind Myhre’s  “John Henry” (1983), Tor Åge Bringsvaerd’s short story “Codemus” (1968) and “The Man Who Collected the First of September 1973” (1972), and Ingar Knudtsen Jr.’s “Turnabout” (1977).

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. Kate Wilhelm’s City of Cain (1974). While far from her best work, City of Cain is a moody, streamlined, and psychologically heavy near-future SF thriller that treads familiar ground. Peter Roos returns from the Vietnam War a scarred man both mentally and physically. However, he starts to identify a secret within his own family. Wilhelm effectively crafts psychological tension that propels the story forward through powerful images and dreams of subterranean cities, of increasing mechanization, of mind control…
  2. J. G. Ballard’s Billenium (1962) contains a handful of top-tier Ballard short stories. Check out the titular “Billenium” (1961), “Build-Up” (variant title: “The Concentration City”) (1957), and “Chronopolis” (1960).
  3. Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (1973). I haven’t reviewed this one as I read most of the Hugo-winning SF novels before I started writing about genre. I remember the substantial impact of the mysterious locale inside of vast alien construct (a “Big Dumb Object”) and the sanitized banality of its characters.
  4. Robert Silverberg’s To Live Again (1969) explores the societal effects of a new technology to upload personalities. The rich and wealthy procure multiple transplants for artistic reasons (for example, to appreciate sculpture), as savvy business moves (using the mind of your dead rival), or even to increase one’s abilities in bed.  The transplants often mature their hosts or drive them insane. Unfortunately, I found To Live Again one of Silverberg’s weakest works from his best period: 1967-1975.

What am I writing about?

I am slowly working my way through my backlog of reviews. I finally completed Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959) on my flight from London to Oslo. Tangent: my wife and I sat next to the members of the fantastic Irish post-punk group Fontaines D.C.. I did not realize it until AFTER we left the plane. They were all reading books. I hope to take notes on put together the start of a review over my Norwegian adventure. I will post the next in my SF short fiction in translation series lined up with Rachel S. Cordasco within a day or two.

In the meantime check out my recent review–with Anthony Hayes–of Roger Abernathy’s fantastic “Single Combat” (1955) and short reviews of Clifford D. Simak’s They Walked Like Men (1962) and Jacques Sternberg’s Sexualis ’95 (1965, trans. 1967).

What am I reading?

Still lots and lots of Clifford D. Simak. I’m also enjoying Jacqueline Foertsch’s Reckoning Day: Race, Place, and the Atom Bom in Postwar America (2013). I should have more to say about it in the next installment of this series.

A Curated List of SF Birthdays from the Last Two Weeks

May 28th: A. Bertram Chandler (1912-1984).

May 29th: Lino Aldani (1926-2009). It’s a dying shame so little of his SF has been translated. Check out my review of “Goodnight, Sophie” (1963) and you’ll understand.

May 30th: Alice Eleanor Jones (1916-1981). I recently completed my readthrough of all five of her published science fiction short stories. I wish she had published more.

May 30th: Artist Curt Caesar (1906-1974). He was the artist of the pre-Karel Thole years of Italy’s Urania publication series.

May 30th: Artist Art Sussman (1927-2008). I covered his work here.

May 30th: Chad Oliver (1928-1993). A few worthwhile short stories if he’s new to you: “Stardust” (1952) and “The Wind Blows Free” (1957).

May 30th: Marge Piercy (1936-). Dance the Eagle To Sleep (1970) is criminally underrated.

May 30th: John Jakes (1932-2023)

May 30th: William Spencer (1925-2018). One of the pre-Moorcock stable of New Worlds. He wrote some great stuff: “Horizontal Man” (1965), “The Long Memory” (1966), and “Megapolitan Underground” (1964).

May 30th: Artist Burt Shonberg (1933-1977). I covered his work here.

June 1st: Rene Auberjonois (1940-2019). Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

June 2nd: Lester del Rey (1915-1993).

June 2nd: Ferenc Karinthy (1921-1992).

June 3rd: Artist Brian Lewis (1929-1978). One of the British SF artists. He created countless covers for New Worlds under Carnell.

June 3rd: Mike McQuay (1949-1995).

June 3rd: Artist Tony Richards (1956-).

June 4th: Artist Sanford Kossin (1926-2023).

June 4th: Charles W. Runyon (1928-2015).

June 4th: Artist Wendy Pini (1951-).

June 6th: R. C. Sherriff (1896-1975). I’ve heard solid things about The Hopkins Manuscript (variant title: The Cataclysm) (1939)

June 6th: Tom Godwin (1915-1980). Famous for the controversial “The Cold Equations” (1954), Godwin wrote quite a few additional stories that seem mostly forgotten. I’ve reviewed “The Nothing Equation” (1957).

June 6th: Robert Abernathy (1924-1990). I recently reviewed Abernathy’s surprising “Single Combat” (1955).

June 6th: Russell Bates (1941-2018), Kiowa (Native American) author, published of a handful of short stories. I reviewed all of his non-franchise science fiction in two posts last year: Part I and Part II.

June 7th: Mildred Downey Broxon (1944-). I should feature more of her fiction in my series on first published works by female SF authors I should know more about. I’ve read “The Night Is Cold, the Stars Are Far Away” (1974) and “The Stones Have Name” (1974).

June 7th: Kit Reed (1932-2017). One of the underrated SF short story smiths — and a kind soul (in my limited interactions before her passing). The stories in Mister Da V. and Other Stories (1967) are not to be missed.

June 8th: John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971)

June 8th: Kate Wilhelm (1928-2018). One of my favorites! Here’s my most recent reviews of her work:

June 8th: Elizabeth A. Lynn (1946-). Another author I should feature in my series on the first published works by female SF writers I should know more about.

June 8th: Anne Charnock (1954-).

June 8th: Frank Riley (1915-1996). Co-wrote the infamous Hugo Award-winning novel They’d Rather Be Right (1957) (with Mark Clifton). He also wrote a handful of short stories that I should investigate.

June 8th: Robert F. Young (1915-1986). I’ve only read “Audience Reaction” (1954) and “Starscape with Frieze of Dreams” (1970). Both were interesting but not great.

June 9th: Keith Laumer (1925-1993)

June 9th: Lin Carter (1930-1988)

June 9th: Joe Haldeman (1943)

June 9th: Artist Keleck (1946-2002), aka Jacqueline Barse, supplied many covers for the Titres SF series out of the French publisher J.-C. Lattès.

June 9th: John Berryman (1916-1988). A magazine filler autho? Did he write any gems?

June 10th: John Kippax (1915-1974).

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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