1951 A year in Science fiction


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1951 A year in Science fiction

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 13, 2020, 3:55 am

A fun project this one, not expecting any great literature, but lots of lurid front covers.

Ray Bradbury - The illustrated man read and reviewed

L Sprague du camp - Rogue Queen (read and reviewed)

Arthur C Clarke - Prelude to Space (read and reviewed)

Hal Clement - Iceworld (read and reviewed)

Philip Jose Farmer - The lovers (read and reviewed)

Austin Hall - The Blind Spot (read and reviewed)

Robert A Heinlien - The Green Hills of Earth (read and reviewed)

Robert A Heinlien - The Puppet masters (Read and reviewed)

Clifford Simak - Time and Again (read and reviewed)

Philip Wylie - The Disappearance

John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids (read and reviewed)

Leigh Brackett - People of the Talisman Shadow over Mars

Fritz Leiber - Gather Darkness

Stanislaw Lem - The Astronauts

H P Lovecraft - The Hunter of the dark

Isaac Asimov The stars like dust

E C Tub - Planetfall

Jack Vance - The Dying Earth

Nelson S Bond - Lancelot Biggs Spaceman

Frederic Brown - Space on my hands

Robert Spencer Carr - Beyond Infinity

Curme Gray - Murder in Milenium VI

Raymond F Jones - The Toymaker

Arthur Koestler - The age of Longing

Henry Kuttner and C L Moore - Tomorrow and Tomorrow and the fairy chessman

William F Temple - four sided triangle

Jack Williamson (Will Stewart) - Seetee ship

Groff Conklin - Possible Worlds of Science Fiction

Kendell Foster Crossen - Adventures in Tomorrow

Gill Hunt - Galactic Storm

marraskuu 2, 2019, 7:34 am

1951 was a good year.

marraskuu 2, 2019, 8:07 pm

>2 dukedom_enough: Someone has found me - Yes lots of famous sci-fi names on that list

marraskuu 3, 2019, 3:20 pm

Is that Leigh Brackett the film writer?

marraskuu 3, 2019, 3:20 pm

And come on, E C Tub?

marraskuu 3, 2019, 4:32 pm

>4 RickHarsch: Yes that is the same lady:

1946, Brackett married fellow science fiction author Edmond Hamilton (fellow LASFS member Ray Bradbury served as best man). Planet Stories published the novella "Lorelei of the Red Mist", in which the protagonist is a thief called Hugh Starke. Brackett finished the first half before turning it over to Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on the screenplay of the movie The Big Sleep, based on a Chandler novel.

marraskuu 3, 2019, 6:47 pm

I think The Big Sleep is the one in which someone asked Brackett about a certain character, maybe who killed so and so, and she called Chandler and he said "I'm not sure."

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 19, 2019, 6:03 pm

Don't forget A.E. van Vogt - The Weapon Shops of Isher

...and if we include short story collections - Groff Conklin - Possible Worlds of Science Fiction

marraskuu 19, 2019, 6:06 pm

>8 alco261: Thank you for that. I have read the excellent The Weapon Shops of Isher and will add Groff Conklin's collection to the list

marraskuu 19, 2019, 6:15 pm

>9 baswood: You're welcome ....another short story collection from that year which has a number of my favorites is Kendell Foster Crossen's Adventures in Tomorrow

marraskuu 19, 2019, 6:25 pm

Some might argue that some of the best science fiction has been in short story form - thinking of the Ray Bradbury collections.....

marraskuu 20, 2019, 1:02 am

One of my favorite works of sci-fi is Olaf Stapeldon's Last and First Men. It really puts cosmic/human evolution into perspective.

The Black Cloud by Hoyle was one I read early on and loved, especially since it was so plausible in its conception of alien life. Not 'little green men.'

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 20, 2019, 5:54 pm

More science fiction from 1951, but I have a feeling that some of these will be a bit difficult to find.

Lord Dunsany - The Last Revolution

Jack Williamson - Dragon's Island

Clifford D Simak - Empire

Gill Hunt (John Brunner) - Galactic storm,

Fletcher Pratt - Double in Space

Raymond F Jones - Renaissance, The Alien,

Sam Merwin JR - The House of many worlds

Malcolm Jameson - Bullard of the Space Patrol

Frederic Brown - Space on my hands

King Lang - Space Patrol

Manly Wade Wellman -Devil's planet

Wilson Tucker - The City in the sea

Philip Wylie - The Disappearance

A Harcourt Burrage - Hurtlers through Space

Lewis Padgett - Chessboard Planet, Tomorrow and Tomorrow

marraskuu 20, 2019, 11:41 am

>12 George_Salis: Yes Last and First Men is excellent, but my favourite book by Olaf Stapledon is Star Maker

marraskuu 20, 2019, 3:54 pm

Still have to read that one.

marraskuu 28, 2019, 10:19 am

>13 baswood: I've read Dragon's Island. Was good; I think it's the story in which Williamson invented the term "genetic engineering".

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 3, 2019, 6:38 am

Not quite 1951 but a book from the Sci-Fi Masterwork Series:

The Body Snatchers - Jack FInney
Published in 1955 and now in the sci-fi Masterwork Series; The Body Snatchers is a title more famous for the number of film versions (four at the last count). It is certain that more people will have seen a film version than will have read the novel and so readers like me will probably be approaching the book already knowing much of the story, however they may well be surprised by this tightly written little novel. Much like H G Wells' novel War of the worlds which had a distinctly provincial feel despite it's title (the action takes place in rural suburbs outside London); the Body Snatchers is confined to small town America and although the story has global implications they are not explored in the novel.

There is enough background to the story to make this more than just a plot driven science fiction caper. There are no super-heroes or even heroes, just a small town doctor faced with some extraordinary events that he cannot explain which seem to be changing the people with whom he lives and works. Miles is recently divorced and the events in the town bring him into the company of Becky a friend from his school days and a love story develops. Although the story does eventually lead to a couple against the rest of the world scenario, the rest of the world is the town of Santa Mira
and so Finney is still able to keep his story well grounded with some keen observations about life in the town. This observation about the lack human activity in his town leads Miles to feel very uneasy about his situation.

"We might have been on a finished stage set, completed to the last nail and final stroke of a brush. You can't walk ten blocks on an ordinary street inhabited by human beings, without seeing evidence of say, a garage being built. a new cement sidewalk being laid, a yard being spaded, a picture window being installed - at least some little signs of the endless urge to change and improve that marks the human race"

Finney also finds the space to observe through Miles how a black shoe shine boy (Billy) can occasionally let the bitterness come through at the condescending way he is treated by the white folks which makes Miles despair of the human race. This is however a story about the strength and qualities of some human beings who are prepared to fight for their way of life, even when others appear to have given up. It is a good subject for a movie and Finney provides a good dose of mystery and suspense leading up to the denouement, and even though you might know what that is; there is still much to be gained from reading this novel. Characters are well drawn and there is something consoling when reading through a familiar plot line just to see how it all works out in the novel. A four star read for me.

joulukuu 29, 2019, 4:55 pm

The Lovers - Philip José Farmer
The lovers was originally a novella published in 1952 in the pulp science fiction magazine Startling Stories. It was Farmer's first literary success winning the Hugo award as 'most promising new writer' I read the expanded novel length 1961 version.

Farmer's novella was praised as one of the first stories in the pulp market genre to treat sex in a more responsible non-prurient way. The centre piece of the story is the seduction by an alien female of a human male, but Farmer fleshes out (no pun intended) his story in the expanded version to make it more credible. Hal Yarrow lives in a totalitarian society on Earth sometime in the future. Power lay in the hands of a religious sect based on the Forerunner a man who could literally travel through time. This is an assessment of him from the writings that he left for his followers

"He said that the Forerunner’s biographies and theological writings revealed him to an objective reader as a sexually frigid and woman-hating man with a Messiah complex and paranoid and schizophrenic tendencies which burst through his icy shell from time to time in religious-scientific frenzies and fantasies.".... A society based on fear, ignorance and repression."

Hal has problems coming to terms with the society that controls his every action. From cradle to grave he will be under the supervision of a person higher up the food chain who will have access to his apartment and to his actions via reports from his wife, colleagues and friends who tell of any infringements or unreal actions. If his moral chart reaches a low enough level he will lose his place in the hierarchy and possibly face a spell in a house of correction. Hal was assigned a wife for procreation, he has never seen her naked, they are under pressure because she has not conceived and their life in the tiny apartment is fraught with arguments and fights. Earth is overcrowded: pressures on individuals to toe the party line are intolerable and so when Hal has the chance to join a space exploration team he does not hesitate. The destination is a planet that has been earmarked for colonisation, currently inhabited by an insect race whom Farmer has cheerfully called the Wogglebugs (he tips his hat to Frank Baum creator of the Land of Oz). There is however remnants of an ancient humanoid race and poor repressed Hal is soon out of his depth with one of the females.

There are surprises in store for Hal and not just in the bedroom and the novel works through these well enough. The insect race which Farmer cannot resist calling the Wogs are shown to be one step ahead of the exploration team, both in terms of human qualities and actions and the female humanoid is able to tease out the real Hal from underneath his repression. This all happens far too quickly as characters are only lightly sketched, but Farmer avoids the inherent racism and sexism which was a feature of much 1950's (60's, 70's, 80's) science fiction. An impressive start to Farmer's writing career in the genre and so 3 stars and worth a look.

joulukuu 29, 2019, 10:52 pm

Is Hal bedding a bug ?

joulukuu 30, 2019, 8:09 am

sounds like 4 stars to me

tammikuu 25, 2020, 9:06 am

The Blind Spot - Homer Eon Flint and Austin Hall

And it started so well........

I thought I was reading a science fiction novel written in 1951, but that was the date it was published: this strange concoction was written in 1921; a collaboration by two 'hack' writers. Austin Hall claimed to be the author of over 600 stories mainly westerns and he died in 1933. Homer Eon Flint died in 1924 in suspicious circumstances; he earned his living as a script writer and was found dead in his crashed car after having driven into the country with a known criminal.

The first half of this novel is a mystery story something like Connie Willis might have written. Strange happenings in a building in San Francisco where people have been known to appear and disappear. College friends and their professor each tell their story which centres on a ring discovered in the building. The ring exerts a power that weakens and finally seems to kill male wearers after about six months, but the only hope of discovering it's secret is to keep the ring active. Meanwhile a highly intelligent but strange man named the Rhamada seems to be on some sort of a mission in the city. It is a story of a parallel world which has a gateway (the blind spot) in the building, but why and how it works is all part of the mystery. This first half of the book as a series of memories written by the protagonist before they enter the Blind Spot, promised something a bit out of the ordinary, but once we are told of what happens to them on the other side we are in Edgar Rice Burroughs country. The mysterious atmosphere of the first half dissolves into a story of increasingly poor fantasy writing. An attempt is made to bring it all together at the end, but I was just pleased to have finally got to the end.
2.5 stars.

tammikuu 26, 2020, 8:43 am

>21 baswood: In the 1950s, when Damon Knight was trying to elevate critical standards in SF, he made a special example of tearing apart this book. Will try to find some quotes.

tammikuu 26, 2020, 1:38 pm

>22 dukedom_enough: Hey I am not surprised

tammikuu 27, 2020, 7:01 am

I may make the Blind Spot my first 'remake'.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 7, 2020, 12:34 pm

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 7, 2020, 12:34 pm

Robert A. Heinlein - The Green Hills of Earth
This is a collection of science fiction short stories that first saw the light of day in American magazines of the late 1940's, although one of the story's 'And we also walk dogs' has a 1941 vintage. Heinlein's stories in this collection concern themselves mainly with human nature and how this copes with new science and space travel, Heinlein never ventures outside the solar system with the majority of the stories centred around a base/colony on the moon. These were stories written for magazines that would have probably had a young male readership base and to criticise them for their lack of literary merit or for their racism and sexism is perhaps missing the point. The fact that Heinlein told stories that examined aspects of human nature rather than concentrating on adventure and fantasy makes these stories worth reading, however attitudes have changed and one would do well to imagine what they might have said to you in the 1940's.

What they do say is an expanding American nation full of confidence and looking to push liberalism to it's furthest limits. The dollar is king and nearly all the stories contain elements of making money. "Delilah and the Space Rigger" is a story about a female worker who gets a job on an all male space station and has to battle the fiercely chauvinistic manager who want to send her back to earth. "Space Jockey" concerns a man who cannot give up the challenge of piloting space craft even at the expense of his marriage. In "the Long Watch' a young atomic bomb engineer tries to thwart a military takeover at an atomic moon base. 'Gentlemen be Seated' is another moon based story about surviving a leaky air-lock. We are still on the moon in "the Black Pits of Luna" which is a rather dramatic title for young boy playing a deadly game of hiding seek on the surface of the moon. The next three stories are the best in my opinion. "It's great to be back" tells of a couple who have spent many years on the moon and can no longer cope with the attitudes of earth people or of it's gravitational pull. "We also Walk Dogs" describes a company called General Services who have grown enormous by servicing rich people who are too old, too stupid or cannot be bothered to do things for themselves and "Ordeal in Space" tells of a space pilot suffering from acrophobia desperately trying to pass his psychological exam to be allowed back into space. 'The Green Hills of Earth' is a curiosity telling a story of a man suffering from radioactive sickness who writes popular songs about his life in space. "Logic of Empire" is the longest story and tells of an indentured slave colony exploiting natural resources on Venus. It's all perfectly fine as one character says because it has always been the case:

" It’s nothing new; it happened in the Old South, it happened again in California, in Mexico, in Australia, in South Africa. Why? Because in any expanding free-enterprise economy which does not have a money system designed to fit its requirements the use of mother-country capital to develop the colony inevitably results in subsistence-level wages at home and slave labor in it's colonies"

In these stories exploitation is the norm, it's the way to get ahead it's the way to make money and space is very much the new frontier. The attitudes to women and people of a different race expressed by the characters in the stories are mostly typical of what you might expect at the time and are not necessarily those of the author, however the future as seen by the author is still a man's world: perhaps a white man's world with 1940's American values and for that he can be criticised. I would imagine that President Trump and his cohorts would feel right at home. The prose is terse with much outdated slang from the late 1940's sounding quite strange and the science part of the fiction is wrapped up pretty quickly so as to not get in the way of the stories. 3.5 stars.

helmikuu 7, 2020, 2:30 pm

>26 baswood: Several of these stories are free online at Baen Books

helmikuu 8, 2020, 7:36 pm

helmikuu 8, 2020, 7:37 pm

Robert A. Heinlein - The Puppet Masters

Slug Strip

Published in 1951 this is a science fiction novel which was originally serialised in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine. It is an alien invasion story where slug like creatures attach themselves to the spine of humans and other animals and take control of their actions; it predated the Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers by some five years. It could best be described as a science fiction thriller story and is set in the year 2007. The Head of the National Security Agency (referred to as The Old Man) recognises that earth is under attack from the slug like aliens and he recruits his two best agents Sam and Mary Nivens to first of all gather evidence and then to form a plan to defeat the invasion. The first two thirds of the book is a running battle with the aliens and in the final third the plot develops further to enable the humans to come up with a strategy that has some chance of success.

This is a fast paced story that packs in plenty of action scenes that will be familiar to thriller readers; car chases, gun battles, abduction and problem solving, with the three main characters seemingly unstoppable as they fight back against impossible odds. There is also a romantic interest as a love affair develops between Sam and Mary. What makes this novel different from the usual thriller story is of course the aliens and these are suitably nasty with an insidious power that is hard to fight against and most people will cringe at the idea of a giant slug-like creature taking control through attaching themselves to the spinal column. Heinlein has fun with his alien invention, not only do they evoke an intense squeamishness, but also they can only be seen when the human captive takes off his or her clothes. People must strip to prove that they are not infected by the slugs: even the President of the United Staes must stand naked.

The plot is well thought out and there is a mystery to solve, but the all action sequences make it feel more like an adventure story. The thriller story tropes may be over familiar now, with the three heroes ploughing a path through all conventions, laws and red tape to battle the aliens, but it did have enough originality to keep me entertained. Sexism and racism is no more than one would expect from a science fiction novel of this era and it does have a formidable female lead character, with Heinlein making equal play of both sexes when they have to strip. Apparently Heinlein's original manuscript was a third longer than the 1951 novel, but was cut to avoid controversy. Good Schlock 3.5 stars.

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 8:15 pm

maaliskuu 20, 2020, 8:16 pm

The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
Locked down in my house today and for the foreseeable future because of coronavirus I gazed out my window on a bright sunny day, no cars on the road no people walking; thinking about my next dash to the shops for food; the only thing missing was the Triffids. Reading a post apocalyptic novel especially one as good as this during the start of a world wide pandemic is in some ways a surreal or should that be a real experience. OK I have to admit that the vast majority of the worlds population has not gone blind and there are no killer carnivorous plants lurking in the hedgerows, but there is a killer disease out there, which is spreading rapidly and cannot be controlled.

The Day of the Triffids was published in 1951 and has suffered some criticism because of books like it being labelled 'cosy catastrophes'. This was because they were seen as a sub-genre where after an apocalyptic event a handful of survivors were able to lead relatively comfortable lives. This is certainly not the case with John Wyndham's book, it may lack the graphic violence of some more recent literature, but horrific scenes are never far away from the story line, which is a fight for survival tinged with a love story. The story opens with Bill Masen a biologist in hospital with wounds to his eyes caused by the Triffid plants in which he specialises and which are being grown for their rich oily products. His eyes are bandaged and so he does not see the spectacular celestial lights and explosions in the sky that nearly everyone else sees. When he peels off his bandages he discovers a world where everyone has been blinded. His explorations around London reveal that there are a very few people who have kept their sight and they soon coalesce into small groups, who have different ideas about how to survive. The big question is should they try and care for the blind population or should they abandon them and strike out on their own. The cities rapidly become uninhabitable piled high with corpses of the blind population who cannot survive alone. To add to the problems the Triffid plants are roaming the countryside killing indiscriminately and many groups who choose to hold-up in buildings for defence become ravaged by disease. Bill Masen falls in love with one of the sighted survivors; a woman more worldly than himself, but they become separated and Bill risks everything searching for her.

A good story that offers many opportunities for action and adventure as well as mystery and suspense, in what we might now label a road movie, however in my opinion it offers much more than that. Bill and the characters around him have to come to terms with a situation that is suddenly totally different. The golden years of prosperity and peacetime have been snatched away and although Bill is an intelligent man he does not have the capacity to lead and plan for the future and must listen to other peoples opinions as to a way forward. Adapt to survive becomes a framework for the future, but how to avoid the mistakes of the past. Arguments are bandied around in lively conversations and confrontations, that Wyndham dovetails into his story line. The book bristles with themes and moral dilemmas, not least Bills search for the woman he loves. The setting of the story is 1950's England, but it is not parochial in a way that H G Wells science fiction novels often seem. Wyndham's concerns are still very much with us today. The apocalypse in the story seems to have been man made, as characters refer to the star-wars like satellites of destruction that are rumoured to be circulating earth and the triffids have been harvested almost in secret despite their ability to maim and to kill. Questions are mooted as to how far civilised man must go backwards before he can start to make progress again, can he avoid a descent into savagery. How quickly can people adapt to a world that is fast becoming unrecognisable, how to deal with the vast majority of the population who cannot function or survive by themselves, how to offset the loneliness felt by such a sudden change and how to raise the spirits of a group faced with an impossible task.

There are no fancy literary devices on show here; Wyndham is content to focus the point of view on Bill Mansell, with some backstories filled in by other character. Bill tells his own story as a sort of personal record in chapter 2 and the book progresses lineally from then on. The story is always engaging even if the character of Bill is a little wooden. Men emerge as natural leaders with one group led by a woman failing spectacularly in its failure to adapt, there are however some strong female characters, with Wyndham's 1950's sexism not becoming offensive (in my opinion). What is now a little outdated is the belief by many of the protagonists that civilisation would be saved by the Americans, a view continually expressed was that people would only have to survive long enough before the American's would arrive to put things right, even though the evidence pointed to it being a world wide phenomenon. I am not so sure so many people would feel like that today, but it must have been more prevalent in the early1950s still less than a decade after the second world war.

A view expressed by one of the female characters thinking of the coming generation:

‘If I were a child now,’ she said, reflectively, ‘I think I should want a reason of some kind. Unless I was given it – that is, if I were allowed to think that I had been born into a world which had been quite pointlessly destroyed, I should find living quite pointless, too. That does make it awfully difficult because it seems to be just what has happened …’

There is much agonising as to what sort of a world the new generation would inherit, with an undeniable feeling that the previous generation has stripped it bare. In some respects I found The Day of the Triffids, particularly pertinent to todays events, it is not too difficult to imagine that the world around us in the 2020's will be quite different from what the previous couple of generations have enjoyed: thoughts and emotions that some parents must be aware of today. Perhaps there is not an apocalyptic event on the horizon, but something that might be recognisably close. I rate the book as a five star read.

maaliskuu 21, 2020, 3:05 pm

>31 baswood: I read this long ago, but don't remember much about it. Interesting contrast with the more recent Bird Box, in which blind people are more fit than sighted ones.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 26, 2020, 6:10 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 26, 2020, 6:11 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 5:17 am

eh Bas, c'est quoi ça ?

huhtikuu 4, 2020, 4:48 pm

Je ne me souviens pas

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 5:41 am

Clifford D Simak - Time and again
Science fiction from 1951 and an early work from this prolific author. What you get with Simak is a thinking person's science fiction, a little similar in some ways to Arthur C Clarke, although in this novel he does not exhibit the same level of skills as a writer. The first quarter of this novel is confusing, difficult for the reader to grasp what is going on and one has to be patient to allow Simak to get into story telling mode.

Ash Sutton returns to earth from a long distance space mission only to find that his employers had given him up for dead and there seems to be a plot to kill him. It is only when he discovers an unopened letter of his that he has some idea what is happening. He will write a book which has become a sort of bible in the future and has instigated a war between the revisionist and the faithful followers of the book that Sutton has written. People from the future have been sent back in time in an attempt to subtly alter the contents of the book, which Sutton has not yet written. After Sutton's experience on the forbidden world of Cygni 1, he will write about the destiny of mankind, unfortunately this diverges considerably from the prognostications of those in power: Simak tells us:

For Man had flown too fast, had driven far beyond his physical capacity. Not by strength did he hold his starry outposts, but by something else … by depth of human character, by his colossal conceit, by his ferocious conviction that Man was the greatest living thing the galaxy had spawned. All this in spite of many evidences that he was not … evidence that he took and evaluated and cast aside, scornful of any greatness that was not ruthless and aggressive.

Sutton sees a future where the androids, robots and alien races have an equal status to human beings. This is a direct challenge to human kinds wish to dominate and control their galaxy and even to move onto dominating the universe. Sutton has brought something back with him from Cygni 1 that will potentially make him a force that cannot be ignored and his alliance with the androids makes him a public enemy.

After a confused start to the novel the pace changes to a homespun interlude on a Wisconsin farm, where Sutton's ancestors experience some strange dealings with time travellers and where Sutton himself recovers and hides from currents that are swirling around the publication of his book some time in the future. It is a novel of ideas that becomes more lucid as the book progresses. Unfortunately it's changes of pace only serve to point to a disjointed feel. Characterisation is perfunctory, but the novel avoids the sexism and racism that could be prevalent at the time: I kept having to tell myself this novel was written in 1951. Not wholly successful, even the title is confusing, but an interesting read 3.5 stars.

kesäkuu 12, 2020, 7:35 pm

Philip Wylie - The Disappearance, Philip Wylie

Thus American imagination is directed—as if in the whole of life no other aims or satisfactions could be found than those of being a consumer, avid, constant and catholic.
In America, the child is schooled, if a boy, toward fiscal endeavor. It is taught to want to be a “good provider,” if not a millionaire. From babyhood it is pursued by advertisements and commercials which give it the aggregate impression that the aim of life is to acquire funds wherewith to obtain all it hears recommended. The American media of communication hypnotize it into a set of special desires. A girl, of course, takes up the same doctrine. Her aim becomes to find a mate with money to act on every radio commercial or, at the very least, to set herself up in a career which will enable her so to act, independently.

Science Fiction from 1951 and Wylie's fine but overstuffed novel flies in the face of much of what was being published at the time; It signals its intentions by having as its principal characters a philosopher (Doctor William Percival Gaunt) and his able and intelligent wife Paula. The scenario is the sudden disappearance of all the women from the world; in the blink of an eye the only human beings on the earth are male, however the women experience the same catastrophe as from their perspective all the males suddenly disappear. Alternate chapters then tell the story of a world without women and others a world without men. Both scenarios are looking towards extinction of the human race, because creating children is an impossibility.

It is 1950's America when the biggest threat to the survival of the human race was a nuclear war. The world of men soon lurch precipitously into a war with Russia. The world of women fare better, being able to negotiate and to a certain extent work together with the enemy in the hope of finding a solution to the problem of procreation. Doctor Gaunt is summoned to the White House to confer with a group of the ablest men of his generation to find a solution to the dilemma, but their convocation is soon overtaken by the need for military action. What is left of America degenerates into lawlessness and central government is again forced to take military action this time against the militias and criminal gangs that roam the country. The women in their world have different problems because there are a lack of qualified women to run the power plants, pilot the aircraft, drive the trains. There is an acute shortage of doctors, builders and engineers and so the material fabric of their world starts to break down. A major theme of the novel is not only that the two sexes need each other, but they also need each other on equal terms. The problems that the women face is because of their their lack of expertise and knowledge.

The paper that Doctor Gaunt prepares for the convocation of great minds is psychological in nature emphasising the fact that man and women of the 'West' have inhabited two utterly discrete worlds; he goes on to say that by the demeaning of women men have demeaned themselves. The answer to the problem is that men and women must come together equally to form a single unit. The Disappearance of the other sex has highlighted an opportunity that has been missed and which now psychologically has caused the permanent separation. Wylie has headed his chapter 13 as:


This is the paper that Doctor Gaunt contributes to the convocation, which finds no favour with the politicians, but sets out for the readers of the book the central idea running through the novel. A little clumsy maybe but it serves to bring together the story to its conclusion. Wylie is also not frightened to raise issues around same sex love and the need for sexual fulfilment. This is a novel that castigates humanities need for always wanting more, for stripping the planet of its resources, for the dominance of one sex over the other: enlightened themes which sometimes sit uncomfortably with the story. Having created the mystery of the disappearance Wylie has the difficult task of explaining it away and readers who are looking for a satisfactory conclusion may be disappointed. I also found that some of the dialogue especially on a political level seemed a bit simplistic, but then again after listening to President Trump, Wylie might have got it just right.

This is an ambitious novel that tries to introduce philosophical/psychological ideas into a science fiction novel. It would not be a candidate for serialisation in magazines such as Weird Science or Astounding Science fiction that were popular at the time, nor would it be taken completely seriously by readers not accustomed to science fiction. However I would not condemn it as falling between two stools, but admire it for its thoughtful telling of a story that sets the imagination running and also resonates with some deeper ideas and themes. This one surprised me and so a four star read.

Let Doctor Gaunt have the last word:

Gaunt nodded. “No future in it. Strip the resources off the planet. Leave nothing for any posterity—” “That. The cockeyedness of mass production. A plenty of having things and a total dearth of living a life. You were born, educated, and then what? You tended a machine. You sat in an office. You traveled to and from it. You aged and died. Most of your active self was spent in a long, nasty, unrewarding day. Dumb or bright, poor or rich, that was the schedule for nearly all. Crazy!” “Yet most of the men who retired were miserable.” “And slaves love chains. There were too many people. They exploited their ability to stay alive. Took no responsibility for selecting the stock. For dying. For anything but breeding. And then what? The more there were the harder and harder they had to work!”

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 12:21 pm

Leigh Brackett - People of the Talisman
A science fiction fantasy novel by female science fiction writer Leigh Brackett: one of the few women writing in the so-called golden age of science fiction. It appears in an Ace double edition along with The Secret of Sinharat published in 1964. However People of the Talisman was adapted from Brackett's earlier story published in 1951 Black Amazon of Mars which appeared in the pulp magazine Planet Stories.

Planet Stories has been described as the the epitome of Pulp science fiction. It was a magazine whose garish covers promised extravagantly melodramatic interplanetary stories. Leigh Brackett is more widely known as a film screenwriter, being credited with William Faulkner and Jules Furthman for the film The Big Sleep. Brackett took a long break from screenwriting and from 1948-1955 she wrote many of her science fiction adventure stories for the pulp fiction market. Black Amazon of Mars is a typical example and proves to be a well written adventure story that builds to an exciting climax. It features the Tarzan like hero; Eric John Stark who is well matched by Ciaran the Black Amazon who leads a gathering of northern chieftains on Mars again the city of Kushat. Stark has in his possession a mysterious Talisman of crystal that seems to contain the voices of an alien species. The crystal is believed to protect the city from invasion and Stark finds himself organising the city against the tribesman from the north.

The adventure story with its science fiction ending is what this novel is all about and characters are set in motion to guide the story through to its ending. It all works well enough and provided me with an afternoon's entertainment laying out on my sun-bed under the shade of an oak tree. It's July; its hot in South West France and I don't have a swimming pool, but the oak tree is magnificent and doesn't require any maintenance. 3 stars of its genre.

syyskuu 14, 2020, 2:46 pm

Fritz Leiber - Gather, Darkness
A mix of genres for Leiber's first work to appear in book form (1951). This science fiction/fantasy story was originally serialised in Astounding magazine starting in May 1943. Astounding magazine was subtitled science fiction and its stories have a reputation of leaning towards a "literature of ideas". Gather, Darkness would have been right at home there.

It is set on earth during the year 2305. The earth is ruled by a Theocracy and the priesthood is known as the Hierarchy. There are references back to a Golden Age of Civilization from which the Hierarchy have gathered technological knowhow and some weaponry, society is now made up of a clerical elite and non members of the priesthood who are known as commoners. Unsurprisingly the commoners do all the work and the clerics rule by fear from their headquarters in Megatheopolis. There is an underground movement amongst the commoners known as the Witches and when one of the lower order priests denounces his superiors in the central square he finds some unexpected help from the Witches movement that is shrouded in mystery. On the surface they appear to be women who have minor spell casting abilities, but are a cover for a more sinister organisation that has technology of its own. The book features witches familiars, a sisterhood of sorts and an attempt to seize power, but the main thrust of the story is the battle between the Hierarchy: (riven itself into "realists" and "fanatics") and the Witches revolutionary movement. What appears to be spell casting or divine intervention is driven all along by scientific hardware. There is even a duel with wrath rods which appear to be light lasers like something out of Star Wars.

This is plot driven sword and sorcery science fiction with enough mystery to keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed the mix of genres which is handled well and the writing is good enough to keep it all moving along, but which also can find time to fill in some gaps with some imaginative ideas. There are no super heroes, and characterisation is not a priority here. Not a classic by any means, but a good example of the stories that might appear in Astounding Magazine - 3 stars.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:10 am

Miskatonic River
Flowing through a landscape that is
always evening
Accusing eyes
In the empty streets of Innsmouth
Strange movements out on the reef
Tumuli on hilltops
Trembling in the thunder
Behind the gambrel roofs of Arkham

'In his house at R'lyeh
Great Cthulhu sleeps'

alien geometries
walls shifting as you watch them
in the Cyclopean dripping gloom
waiting to wake like Leviathan
when his children shall call him

From Universes by Adrian Henri

lokakuu 22, 2020, 10:12 am

The Haunter in the Dark & Other Tales of Terror - H P Lovecraft
This collection with an introduction by August Derleth published in 1951 is expensive to buy, (a good second hand copy is about 80 euros), but you can read all the stories in the collection free on the internet (without Derleths introduction). The listing of these classic stories in the original collection is:

Pickman's Model - 1927
The Call of Cthulhu - 1928
The Colour out of Space - 1927
The Dunwich Horror - 1929
The Haunter of the Dark - 1936
The Music of Eric Zann - 1922
The Outsider - 1921
The Rats in the Walls - 1924
The Thing on the Doorstep - 1937
The Whisperer in the Darkness - 1931

I took the option of reading these stories on my kindle, but in the same order as the 1951 collection.

People may be familiar with the Dunwich Horror, which has been made into films a number of times and it contains all the classic elements of the Cthulhu mythos. The scenario is in backwood country in Massachusetts along the upper reaches of the Miskatonic river and near the town of Arken. Inbreeding is rife and Wilbur Whatley's birth is heralded by a chorus of barking dogs. He is deformed but develops at a prodigious rate. The family has vague connections with the witches of Salem and Wilbur seeks out a book of old spells called the Necronomicon: there is a copy in the library at Arken and a Doctor Armitage becomes interested in the Whatley family and visits their old farmhouse. He soon discovers that Wilbur was attempting to call the Great Old Ones by using the Necronomicon. The Whatley farmhouse erupts with monsters rising from the depths...........

The "Call of Cthulhu" published a year earlier is one of the first of the stories and fills in the history. Two events in different parts of the world set the scene for the stories that follow: an Icelandic tribe and a voodoo gathering in backwoods America are found to be committing atrocities and both chanting the same refrain:

"In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming"

Six of the stories in this collection are based around the Cthulhu mythos and we learn that the monsters are from outer space and are using the earth for mining precious metals in out of the way places. They are able to exert mental power that can control weak minded earthlings, but are content to remain hidden. When they do arise from the depths of the earth there is devastation. Each of the six stories develop the mythos a little more, but of course they have a sameness about them and so by the time I read the final story "The Whisperer in the Darkness" I was getting a little bored.

The strength in the telling of these tales is Lovecraft's ability to create a milieu that has all the portents of coming doom. Nobody behaves foolishly, but they are sucked into the strangeness that surrounds situations that Lovecraft creates. One of the stories: "The Colour Out of Space" which is not really part of the Cthulhu mythos, but tells of the effects of a small meteorite landing in a sparsely populated area and how it slowly poisons the land of the Nahun family and causes their eventual destruction is both atmospheric and sinister. Most of these stories have that same quality. The Collection contains Lovecraft's last tale "Haunter of the Dark" written in 1935 which is of short story length and seems to distill many of the elements of Lovecraft's writing into a superb horror story reading experience. Perhaps people curious about H P Lovecraft should start with this.

I really enjoyed two other stories which are not part of the mythos; 'The Music of Erich Zann' and "The Outsider": the ideas that fuel these two stories have since been written and rewritten by other authors since Lovecraft's versions, but his stories stand up well. Horror stories from the 1920's-30's are short on gore, leaving the reader to imagine the worst and that is just how I like them. Well written and inventive with that unmistakable sense of wonder, this is a 5 star collection.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2020, 3:20 pm

Great read ! Lovecraft for ever !


lokakuu 25, 2020, 9:11 am

The Stars Like Dust - Issac Asimov
Critics of science fiction writing often point to cardboard-like characters, clunky dialogue and plotting that suspends belief and Asimov's The Stars Like Dust has all of this. It was published in 1951 and novels from this so called golden age of science fiction tend to be sexist and racist and Asimov's novel has all of this too. It also has a hero in Biron Farill who is smarter and more physically powerful than any other character, never putting a foot wrong amongst all the improbable plot twists that litter this book. Asimov can usually be relied upon to tell a good story, but even this is missing here. The novel comes from early in Asimov's history of publications and is said to be the one that he disliked the most, with its flag waiving nationalism and an ending that feels particularly inappropriate.

The book falls into the genre of a galactic space adventure and one that Asimov mastered with his Foundation series. I have not read any for a long time, but I am hoping that they stand up better than this effort. 2 stars.

lokakuu 25, 2020, 4:10 pm

I have always found Asimov overrated

tammikuu 5, 2021, 2:45 pm

Beyond Infinity, Robert Spencer Carr and Monsters of the Ray, A Hyatt Verrill
Welcome to ARMCHAIR FICTION We are a new company dedicated to the restoration of classic genre fiction. Here you will find new, "Extra Large" paperback editions of top genre fiction from the past. Welcome indeed because they have republished a story from 1951 that I wanted to read and a bonus story with Monsters of the Ray.

Robert Spencer Carr specialised in short fiction and was actively published between 1925 and 1952. Beyond Infinity is novella length and tells s story of two rival scientists finally working together in their retirement years to build and fund a rocket ship. There is a certain amount of distrust between the two still and one of them hires a detective to search for a missing person; a woman whom he loved, but chose to marry another of his rivals. The detective with the scientists niece tracks down the woman and discovers that she has volunteered to be a guinea pig in the clandestine spaceflight. This is a good story well held together with a satisfying conclusion and Spencer Carr creates two strong female characters with a nice twist to the end of the story. Plenty of atmosphere and some tension.

I was more surprised by Monsters of the Ray which started with almost a record number of cliches in the first three pages, but afterwards set out to tell another good story. A reclusive scientist has built himself a laboratory in the mountains of Peru amongst an old Inca site. An anthropologist/archeologist tracks him down and becomes fascinated by his work. The scientist is trying to discover how the ancient Indians managed to cut stone to build their temples and an impressive bridge across a canyon. The archeologists discovery of a curiously shaped container leads to much speculation as to its use, this together with an Indian legend of Gods visiting the earth entices the scientists to explore the mystery container. A portal into another world results with dire consequences.

Both of the stories are not worried about scientific facts and don't let them get in the way of a good story. This is pulp fiction after all, but the writing is of a good standard. Armchairfiction are specialising in republishing stories from the golden age of science fiction, but I have probably outgrown my need for them now - 3 stars.

huhtikuu 19, 2021, 2:34 pm

Lewis Padgett - Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Lewis Padgett was the joint pseudonym of the science fiction authors and spouses Henry Kuttner and C L Moore taken from their mothers maiden names. As Lewis Padgett they wrote nearly 50 novels from 1941-53. Pulp fiction it maybe but if Tomorrow and Tomorrow published in 1951 is an example then it is still worth a quick read.

The novel starts well with Joseph Breden worried about dozing off at work and then failing the psychological test if anyone reports him. He works in a nuclear reactor as a senior technician and he cannot afford for the reactor to get to critical mass. He has recently been having weird dreams where he does just that. Playing chess with the other senior technician on duty he wonders whether he should confide in her, but he is frightened of losing his job. We learn that this is an alternate time line because after the second world war many countries tested atomic bombs and the devastation frightened the world into forming something called the GPC which controls all atomic weapons. A hundred years later and the GPC control nearly everything and the population of the world suffers restrictions. Any scientific research is discouraged and development has atrophied. Any dissent is investigated and quashed, but the atomic bomb testing has created a number of mutants some of whom have survived. When Joseph Breden finally seeks help, he discovers that he has been hypnotised by a dissident group who have harnessed the powers of a mutant brain that can see the future and who believe that not having an atomic third world war, will see mankind atrophy and die. An interesting idea...................

After an interesting beginning the story gallops quickly towards the finishing post, with mutants, alternative time lines and alternative worlds. The story just about remains coherent, but it hurries too quickly towards the end. For the genre it is reasonably well written and any racism or sexism is difficult to spot. There is a sort of sequel "The Fairy Chessmen" which I have downloaded to my kindle 3.5 stars.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2021, 7:20 pm

>47 baswood:. I read 'The Fairy Chessmen" today which is another story featuring mutants, alternate time lines to a background of total war. Again the scenario is earth sometime after the second world war when nations have coalesced into two warring factions and people fight the war from underground cities. A time traveller brings with him from the future an equation based on an infinite number of variables that can alter reality, but which side will he give it to and why? It is not quite as good as the novella it has been paired with: "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" as the science becomes farcically fictional.

Henry Kuttner and C L Moore seem to have trouble with their misanthropy and misogyny:

“A guy named Nash. You never heard of him. The thing is, I’m part misogynist, Ben. If somebody wants me to like him, he’s got to prove he’s worth liking. Few people do.”

Oh well, unintentional humour is always good 2.5 stars

heinäkuu 13, 2021, 5:48 pm

Galaxy Science Fiction - January 1951
Galaxy was a monthly science fiction magazine published from 1950-80 and aimed to become a leader in it's field. In the 1950's it paid the highest rates for contributions and so naturally attracted some important writers in the genre. It aimed to be a little different from other magazines with an intention of widening its appeal to more literary readers. The early magazine covers were an example of this, they wanted to show clearly that it was a science fiction magazine, but one "that you were not embarrassed to hold. Early editions of the magazine can be downloaded onto a kindle for a few euros and I chose to dip into the January 1951 edition.

The magazine became famous for publishing stories by established writers in the genre and the January 1951 edition has stories by Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon and John D Macdonald. In the case of Sturgeon and Macdonald their stories were worked up later into separate publications and so the magazine gave the authors a sort of trial run. In the case of Issac Asimov he published the first eight chapters of his novel Tyrann the remaining chapters would be published in subsequent editions. Asimov changed the title of his novel to The Stars like Dust when it was published in February 1951 and I read it a couple of years ago. The eight chapters take up nearly a half of the magazine and unfortunately it is not one of Asimov's better efforts; it is full of clunky dialogue and cardboard characters and so I did not feel inclined to read it again. A very short story followed called Dark Interlude by Mack Reynolds and Frederic Brown and the least said about this the better. I hope it was meant to be a satire.

Things improve immeasurably with Theodore Sturgeon's; Rule of Three. A story about aliens who exist as three parts of a whole who infiltrate hosts on earth. Their aim is to stop the expansion of humans into space, but to do this they must get their three hosts to work together. They must put together a sort of menage-a-trois among some jazz musicians and intellectuals that are chosen as hosts. Sturgeon does a pretty good job of describing the interrelations between a woman and her two would be lovers all inter-spiced with the music of jazz. It has a more adult feel than most of the stories from this era. Made to Measure by William Campbell Gault also deals with relationships and a scientists attempt to create the perfect wife. This story is best forgotten: the stupid sexism is poles apart from Sturgeons more interesting story. John D McDonald's Susceptibility also has an alluring female at the centre of the story and although it is not difficult to see where this one is going after the first few pages it is well enough written and not offensive.

There are some book reviews, but these are not encouraging when the reviewer Groff Conklin states at the start:

"The pickings are slim this month: three books, one of them not science fiction and another a minor effort by a major author make up our quota"

The final story: The Reluctant Heroes by Frank M Robinson ends the magazine on a high note. It describes conditions on the first lunar settlement when a handful of scientists are living in cramped conditions, sealed away from a hostile environment. They must spend eighteen months working on the moon because of the expense of launching a rocket with a relief team. One of the scientists must remain behind to show the new team how to work and survive and no amount of money will persuade one of them to do another eighteen months. A nice conundrum that doesn't shine a good light on human behaviour.

A mixed bag as you would expect from such a magazine and I was unlucky to choses one which featured a story for half its content that I had already read. I would be tempted to put another edition of the magazine on my kindle, but would avoid parts two and three of the Asimov story. 3 stars.

syyskuu 10, 2021, 5:14 am

Ray Bradbury - The Illustrated Man
Published in Great Britain in 1952 this collection of short stories still manages to surprise the reader with its variety and buzz of new ideas, new to the 1950’s that is because other writers have mined these stories to create stories of their own. The stories fit into the loose genre of Science fiction, but there is very little science: Bradbury is more concerned with the psychological effects of life and incidents in the future. In Kaleidoscope he imagines a rocket torn apart in space and the surviving crew members space suited and in radio communication drifting towards their very individual deaths. In The Veldt a rich family indulge their children with an enhanced virtual reality room that takes over their lives. In The Other Foot a black community exiled from Earth await the arrival of the first white man to visit them in twenty years. In Marionettes, Inc a man invests in a robot that can replace him as and when he wishes allowing him the freedom to slip away to indulge himself as he wishes.

The stories are rarely longer than fifteen pages and yet it is enough time for Bradbury to immerse the reader in his tales. For example in The Long Rain an expeditionary force are trekking through the forests on Venus where it never stops raining. In Usher II an individual prepares traps based on the stories of Edgar Alan Poe to strike his own revenge on the book burners. This is the second collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury that I have re-read and while ‘The Martian Chronicles’ had a certain music and colour to them that linked the stories; The Illustrated Man has a linking device of a tattooed man whose body is overdrawn with pictures of the stories in the book, but in the end this is neither here nor there as Bradbury soon looses interest in any linkage. There is however a consistent quality of ideas behind this collection and a style that is clearly that of the same guiding hand. In short these stories are still a delight to read and one of the best collections from the 1950’s and so five stars,

lokakuu 6, 2021, 4:32 pm

William F Temple - The 4-sided Triangle
I had this science fiction novel on my 1951 to read list, but it was actually published in book form in 1949, no matter it proved to be an entertaining read. This was Temple's first novel worked up from his short story, which appeared some ten years earlier. Terence Fisher directed a film version for Hammer Film Productions some two years later.

The story is told in the first person by Dr. Harvey who takes care of an extremely intelligent boy (Bill Leggat) who comes from an abusive family. Bill becomes something of a scientific prodigy and after meeting Robin Grant at University the two men work together to produce a successful duplicating machine. Along the way they have employed the beautiful free spirited Barbara and the team form the three sides of the triangle. Both men fall in love with Barbara, but she chooses Robin as her partner, but there is the duplicating machine standing by and it is pressed into action.

This novels strengths are not so much the science fiction, but some very good characterisation and a plot that kept me reading until the denouement. William F Temple captures small town England well and the class system that pervades everything. Robin comes from a rich family and is the natural winner in the contest for the love of Barbara, but his adherence to the culture in which he was raised always threatens to blow the relationships apart:

"They were so certain of their ideas of right and wrong, these people. They could be coldly logical in practical things, yet hopelessly illogical in things that touched their emotional springs. They would be aghast at the moral wrongness of using poison gas in warfare, but if the enemy used it just once they would with a burning sense of righteousness, drench him and his family with it, with interest......"

It is the moral issues that dominate this book, they to a large extent drive the plot. The science and the choices made by the protagonists are in the realms of fiction, but the moral issues that they face are not and this is where I think the novel succeeds. It does show signs of being padded out from a short story. Temple includes some scientific theory, along with some literary references and I wondered how much of this was featured in the original short story. This is a good, well written science fiction yarn and so 4 stars

lokakuu 20, 2021, 5:33 pm

Stanley Mullen - Kinsmen of the Dragon
Whilst searching through the Library of Congress Catalogue of Copyright Entries for 1951, (yes I am really a sad person) I came across Kinsmen of the Dragon by Stanley Mullen. It was a surprise because I thought I had cornered the market in 1951 science fiction and fantasy. A quick search on Abe books found the cheapest edition to be over £50 which takes it way above my casual reading price bracket. However the kindle edition costs under 3 euros and so I got it to read, thinking this could possibly be a lost classic of science fiction and fantasy from that era. At the end of the day I am pleased it cost under three euros. Not that it is that bad, certainly not as bad as James Blish and Damon Knight claimed it to be, reviewing it at the time.

The story is a mixture of science fiction and fantasy rather in the style of L Sprague De Camp although more carefully written and much more ambitious. It is a story about parallel worlds; that is a parallel world to our earth. An underground religious sect in London has formed around its leader (Franchard) who has strange powers, which seemed to be linked to radioactive material. Eric Joyce fresh from war time exploits is hired to look into the activities of the group. Through his investigations he comes across John Redwood who tells an extraordinary story of visiting another world, a very hostile environment, from which he has barely escaped. Redwood soon dies of radiation poisoning. The scientist believes that Redwood has somehow crossed a portal into a parallel world and that Franchard is from the other side and has evil intent on planet earth. It is not long before Joyce with his multi-millionaire friend and submarine owner Roger Grant are steaming out to the North Atlantic with a military team to find the portal.

The adventures in the alien world are bloody and relentless. Mullen does a good job in describing the circumstances and the world building is solid. His hero's do all the things that hero's are expected to do with never a moment of self doubt. There is plenty of excitement generated, although events do get a little repetitive. There is magic, there are many gun battles and mysterious adversaries; there is also a beautiful alien woman who flits between the two worlds luring men to their deaths or saving their souls, but there are no dragons. The plot line encompasses a full scale invasion of the earth and Arch-druids with super powers. Mullen packs many things into this novel, even linking it with Welsh druidic legends and stories told by Taliesin.

There are many good things in this fantasy novel, but it is aimed at an adolescent readership. As an adult I could still enjoy parts of it, but my interest wandered from time to time. Not a lost classic rather a summation of all the things you might expect to find in a fantasy novel of this period. If written more recently it could have stretched to at least four volumes. 3.5 stars.

toukokuu 2, 2022, 7:12 pm

Seetee Ship - Jack Williamson
Published in 1951 this science fiction novel proves to be an adaption of two stories that appeared in the magazine Astounding Science fiction way back in 1942 and 1943. Jack Williamson was a prolific author in the genre and these original stories were written under the pseudonym of Will Stewart. The magazine in the early 1940's was well on the way for being noted as a magazine that contained some hard science fiction stories rather than just adventure orientated stories. I am not saying that Seetee ship is hard science fiction as I understand it today (that is to say science that I don't understand), but it does have some interesting ideas.

The events take place in the 22nd century out in the asteroid belt. Uranium and other materials for nuclear fission are nearly exhausted, but the discovery of antimatter material has led to a race to find a way of harnessing this, as a new source of power. Rick Drake and his father battle against a large interplanetary company to solve the scientific and engineering issues. The discovery of an antimatter or CT (Seetee) spaceship which should not exist in this universe leads to a chase further out in the asteroid belt. Paul Anders leads the charge of the company men and it becomes a personal battle between him and Rick. Strange events mystify all those who search for the Seetee ship, but there are clues for those readers knowledgeable in the genre, to guess what is happening, before the denouement in the final chapters.

There are two strong female characters pitting their wits against Rick and Paul, but the dialogue between the sexes can be excruciating: the love interest is not this novels strong point. It is the unfolding of the story that makes this a solid read for novels like this from the golden age of science fiction. Scene setting and descriptions are adequate, but there is not much to raise it above a good magazine story and so 3 stars.

toukokuu 3, 2022, 2:05 pm

Nice reviews and brillant frontpage illustrations that go with it !

syyskuu 26, 2022, 9:04 am

Typewriter in the Sky - L Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard, yes that L. Ron Hubbard; the man that founded the church of Scientology. he started life as a pulp writer for the burgeoning magazine market in America in the 1930's. He is best known for his stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres, but also wrote adventure fiction, aviation, travel, mysteries, westerns of course and even romances. Typewriter in the Sky was published in 1951 at the time when Hubbard was launching a career in Dianetics and a few years before he founded the church of Scientology.

The story which is a sort of adventure fantasy was first published in 1940 and was republished with another of his pieces 'Fear' in 1951. It was generally well received and now is considered one of Hubbard's better stories. It begins with pulp writer Horace Hackett up against a deadline for producing his next novel. Pressed for a plot summary he uses the character of one his friends (Mike de Wolf) in a swashbuckling adventure story on the Spanish Main. Suddenly Mike finds himself transported to the year 1640 and is emerging from the sea after being shipwrecked. He hears the sound of a typewriter and slowly realises that he is playing the role of the captain of the Spanish navy who is trying to eradicate English adventurers/pirates from the West Indies. Mike of course is familiar with the pulp stories created by Horace Hackett and fears for his life because he is obviously the villain of the piece and Hackett's villains never get the girl and usually die a horrible death. There follows a tale of derring-do, adventure and romance where Mike is continually trying to subvert the story that he knows Hackett will write. It is an interesting idea, but this is pulp fiction and Hubbard is a pulp fiction writer describing how pulp fiction is created. The story is wildly fantastic and only flirts with historical events, but is entertaining enough.

It is light reading with an original idea that might have been better developed had more time been spent on it, but hey, this is pulp fiction, and it is no more offensive in terms of racism and sexism than much of the genre at the time and so 3 stars.

syyskuu 26, 2022, 10:34 am

The Last Revolution, Lord Dunsany - Lord Dunsany
The Last revolution by Lord Dunsany was published in 1951, and although this is science fiction it has something of an H G Wells feel about it. The story takes place in an area known as the Thames Marshes, long since disappeared into housing estates like Thamesmead, built on the marshes in the 1960's. The last revolution which could be the final revolution to topple the dominance of mankind confines itself to the Thames marsh locality and so the parochial feel of some of H G Wells science fiction is very much in evidence.

Abelard Pender is an inventor of gadgetry, but in the story has recently turned his brilliant mind to making a brain, using wire to conduct electrical currents. He succeeds in this first step and goes on to give his invention, a body, many arms and other accoutrements that make it look like a spider or a crab that scuttles across the floor. The story is told in the first person by an acquaintance of Abelard Pender who is a member of the same London Club, Pender invites him home to see his invention. The journey out to the Thames marshes finds Penders original invention busy making other machines. On another visit the speaker is soundly beaten at a game of chess by the machine and Pender boasts of its extraordinary intelligence. The speaker soon realises that the invention could be very dangerous and when Pender looses control of it and the machine is able to influence other machines his worst fears are realised. The last revolution will be a revolt of all the machinery. The climax of the story finds the speaker, Pender and his girlfriend along with 12 policemen trapped inside a workman's cottage on the marshes surrounded by the hostile machines.

The novel feels like a short story that has been stretched to novel length, there is some repetition, but the writing flows smoothly enough. It does give the author much space to warn against the danger of the machine age and finally looks back on a bucolic ideal, before the invention of machines. I enjoyed the small town feel of the events and the curious British insularity in a crisis that could lead to the end of the human race. There is some discussion on the mistakes that have been made by too much industrialisation. The author; Lord Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist with over 90 volumes of fiction, essays, poems and plays to his credit, one can often find a story of his, collected in a science fiction or horror story collection of the time. This would have been fine as a short story and so 2.5 stars.

tammikuu 7, 8:47 am

Raymond F. Jones - Renaissance
A science fiction novel published in 1951. I have never read any of Raymond F. Jones' 16 novels, but If I had done in my teenage years I would have enjoyed this one. The novel was first serialised in the magazine Astounding in 1944 and was later published by Gnome Press in 1951 as a novel, reprinted in 1963 under the title Man of Two Worlds.

It has a fairly complicated plot, but Jones holds it together well, with some atmospheric world building especially the planet Kronweld. Ketan by profession is a seeker after knowledge and spends his time engaged with a massive computer system called the Karildex. He finds that some information has been blocked off and when an old woman accosts him in the great hall, she tells him of a plot by the rulers to keep some knowledge hidden. He is also warned by his female companion Elta not to challenge the ruling triumvirate. The mystery surrounds the temple of birth where some selected young women go to assist with procreation as there has not been a child born outside the temple in living memory. A religious cult has sprung up based on the temple and when Ketan breaks into the temple he discovers a gateway to another world and the world is earth. On Earth there is a war going on between the Statists a high tech group and the Illegitimates a more primitive culture, the Statists are planning an assault on Kronweld in order to seek knowledge to build an atomic bomb. There are also the Restorationists hidden deep in the desert who are attempting to restore the scientific culture that was once the pride of Earth before the cataclysm.

Jones does not hold back on the action and just about manages all the elements before they run out of control. He has time to create mysteries around his characters: as to who they are working for?, are they who they seem variety? and he poses questions about the viability of re-imposing a culture that has previously destroyed itself in a conflagration. It is a page turner to discover how the author can make sense of all the balls he has juggling in the air, but he does a fairly good job. His character development is no worse than much of the writing of this period and he has some strong female personalities and he handles dialogue well enough. There is plenty of subject matter to provide that sense of wonder essential to much science fiction; there is a full scale battle of atomic laser weapons, there are portals to other planets, treks through hostile environments, advanced technology and 3D laser imagery. An absence of sexism and racism is refreshing and so overall a 3.5 star read.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 23, 6:06 pm

The Frederic Brown Megapack
Searching for more science fiction from 1951 I came across Space on my Hands by Frederic Brown. Instead of getting a second hand copy shipped from America I took the easier option of downloading on my kindle the Frederic Brown Megapack of 33 of his short stories, five of which were featured in Space On My Hands. Apparently Brown has attracted a cult following being as popular now as he was when he produced most of his short stories between 1939 and 1964. He wrote mostly science fiction and mystery stories, which found their way into the pulp magazines and later were collected in book form. This is from his wiki page:

According to his wife, Fredric Brown hated to write. So he did everything he could to avoid it. He'd play his flute, challenge a friend to a game of chess, or tease Ming Tah, his Siamese cat. If Brown had trouble working out a certain story, he would hop on a long bus trip and just sit and think and plot for days on end. When Brown finally returned home and sat himself in front of the typewriter, he produced work in a variety of genres: mystery, science fiction, short fantasy, black comedy–and sometimes, all of the above.

His stories typically have a twist at the end, It is all about the story: there is hardly time for character development and so his tales depend on originality, surprise, mystery and in some of the longer ones suspense. All of which Brown handles pretty well. If you were a reader of comic books and magazines in their heyday of the 1950's I think you would always be on the look out for a Frederic Brown story. This collection opens with Arena one of his best which has suspense and a well thought out story: two representatives of equally matched battleship armadas are randomly selected to fight in a hostile environment with an invisible force field between them. Letter to Phoenix is a story that demonstrates that mankind's basic insanity will ensure the survival of the species. There are stories highlighting problems of time travel, others feature mysterious artefacts. I would imagine that many aficionados of these types of stories would guess the twist at the end, but might not have done at the time they were written. I enjoyed most of them and Brown can make you laugh as well as providing food for thought. Little science in the science fiction, as the mood tends to be fantasy but with a dark edge.
Here is one of his very short stories The Sentry:

by Fredric Brown
He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold and he was fifty thousand light-years from home.
A strange blue sun gave light, and gravity, twice what he was used to, made every movement difficult.
But in tens of thousands of years this part of war hadn’t changed. The flyboys were fine with their sleek spaceships and their fancy weapons. When the chips are down, though, it was still the foot soldier, the infantry, that had to take the ground and hold it, foot by bloody foot. Like this damned planet of a star he’s never heard of until they’d landed him there. And now it was sacred ground because the aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the Galaxy...cruel, hideous and repulsive monsters.
Contact had been made with them near the centre of the Galaxy, after the slow, difficult colonization of a dozen thousand planets; and it had been war at sight; they’d shot without even trying to negotiate, or to make peace.
Now, planet by bitter planet, it was being fought out.
He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and the day was raw with a high wind that hurt his eyes. But the aliens were trying to infiltrate and every sentry postwas vital.
He stayed alert, gun ready. Fifty thousand light-years from home, fighting on a strange world and wondering if he’d ever live to see home again.
And then he saw one of them crawling toward him. He drew a bead and fired. The alien made that strange horrible sound they all make, then lay still.
He shuddered at the sound and sight of the alien lying there. One ought to be able to get used to them after a while, but he’d never been able to. Such repulsive creatures they were, with only two arms and two legs, ghastly white skins and no scales.

Come on then who guessed the ending? Good pulp stories from the 1950's and so 3.5 stars.

helmikuu 27, 2:47 pm

Yeah !

And if you are looking for an example of a cult follower of Brown, here I am !
What a fun writer of fantastic short stories. The shorter the better. I have been collecting his stories since I was 13, first in French, later in the original.
Thanks Bas for bringing him into the spotlight once more.

maaliskuu 1, 5:43 pm

Who would have thought Mac..................

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 7:53 pm

Sam Merwin jnr - The House of Many Worlds
More science fiction from 1951 and Sam Merwin's The House of many worlds contained a few surprises. Merwin was an American mystery fiction writer who also crossed over into science fiction; The House of Many Worlds is probably his best known book and is an imaginative plot driven story that rattles along to its conclusion.

Elspeth Marriner poetess and journalist is sent along with photographer Mack Fraser to cover mysterious events along the South Carolina coastline. They are directed to a house on an offshore island which proves to be a gateway to several parallel worlds. The master of the house tells them that they must deliver some important information to a rebel leader to stop a major conflict. They discover an America that has developed differently to their own country; there was a divergence in 1814 and the country to which they have been transported is called the Columbian Republic. They are equipped with a car that can power up to become an aeroplane in a country that has missed out on developing an heavier than air flying machine. This is a bargaining chip that should strengthen the hand of the rebels. The adventure begins when they arrive at the beautiful city of Baton Rouge. The story becomes more complex when a third parallel world must be visited in order to gain access to more technology to avert a catastrophe in the Columbian Republic.

Elspeth Marriner and Mack Fraser are an unlikely couple, but their different skill sets make them a good team and they gradually come to realise that they can work together. The book is subtitled an Elspeth Marriner novel and she is the strongest character, unusual in science fiction from this era. The unlikely couple are helped along the way by Juana from the mystery house who acts as an adviser, with links to the other worlds. Mack Fraser's roughneck approach to life is called into question, but he has his uses as a technical expert and muscle when needed. The novel has a more enlightened view towards racial differences, with Juana saying that the biggest problem in all the parallel worlds is the slow movement towards racial equality. Elspeth falls in love with the black general of the rebel army and one wonders if these viewpoints hindered the popularity of the novel. However let's not get too carried away, because it is an adventure story at the end of the day, easy to read, but perhaps more subtle than some. I enjoyed the story and so 3 stars.

maaliskuu 24, 5:23 pm

Bullard of the Space Patrol - Malcolm Jameson
Published in 1951 this collection of nine stories feature lieutenant Bullard in the first story, but we leave him as Grand Admiral in the final one. These short science fiction tales appeared in the pulp magazine Astounding Stories from April 1940 through to December 1945 - the so-called golden age of science fiction.

The stories are based around the spaceships that house the Space Patrol and are mainly of the problem solving variety. Bullard is a very competent engineer and captain who inspires loyalty in his crew. In his first story 'Admirals Inspection', he is new to the crew having been recruited from a cargo carrying vessel. The two day test involves a flight towards the planet Venus and there is fierce competition amongst the crews to perform best. A chemical reaction knocks out all the senior officers and Bullard must use his engineering skills to bring the spaceship back to earth and win the plaudits from the Admiral. In the next story 'White Mutiny' Bullard is a commander who is suffering with his crew working under a captain who does everything by the rule book, even when his procedures are fostering mutiny. Bullard must find a way of turning the tables on his captain.

Malcolm Jameson was an officer in the navy before he started writing science fiction. Probably an engineering background led him to think of a space ship being like an ocean going ship with similar problems. He enhanced the weaponry, the guidance systems based on engineering principles to make it read like an early attempt at hard science fiction. There is hardly an alien in sight and when in the weakest story "Blockade Runner" Jamesons tells a far fetched story of running an alien blockade the story does not work so well. I liked the story Slackers Paradise where the sons of wealthy men serve their time in the service in an old spaceship which has the duty of protecting Wall street from aerial attack. Commander Bullard is not a million miles from being an early pro-to type for Captain James T. Kirk as he runs his crew and spaceship like one sees in the Enterprise.

There is nothing very original here and nine of these stories back to back is a bit of overkill, there is a lack of characterisation and the tales plod a little as the denouement is more often than not achieved by some weird scientific invention. No harm done though and so 2.5 stars.

huhtikuu 11, 11:57 am

Jack Vance - Son of the Tree
This is a very early story in the career of Jack Vance a respected mystery, fantasy and science fiction writer. Published in 1951 as a story in the magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories it was eventually published as part of an Ace Double novel in 1964. Vance had his science fiction hat on for this one as our hero Joe Smith is planet hopping in search of a rival in love. The story catches up with him on Kyril where a race of druids are in control; keepers of an enormous tree that they claim gives life to the planet and is fed by the work of an underclass. The druids are a proud testy race and Joe meets Hableyat a spy from the planet Mangtse who helps him deal with the druids in his quest to move onto the planet Ballenkarch. Meanwhile Joe has met and fallen in love with the druid princess Elfane who is on a government mission to Ballenkarh. Everyone ends up on the spaceship to Ballenkarch where politics, espionage and murder are acted out before the denouement on the planet.

It is all over in 110 pages but Vance proves that he can write a good story. The politics are breezily worked through, the plot progresses smoothly and I enjoyed the character sketches of Princess Elfane and Hableyat. There is not much time for world building, but the scenarios are well set. The story is not overcomplicated and as a science fiction adventure story it moves quickly through the gears and so 3 stars.

huhtikuu 12, 5:33 pm

Raymond F Jones - The Alien
Science fiction novel published in 1951, by an author that was comfortable in the genre of science fiction adventure stories and who made his name writing for the pulp magazines. Rather forgotten these days I think because his stories were better than many. The Alien starts with the discovery of an artefact in the asteroid belt. Archeologists, scientists and linguists are tasked to solving the mystery of something that could be a portal. They succeed in translating a series of instructions to enable an alien entity to be reborn. The alien boasts of tremendous powers that he can share for the race that can bring him back to life. The scientists and experts are working in isolation from planet earth because of the febrile nature of their home planet. People have everything they need, but have become bored dissatisfied, no leader has emerged that can move, or unite the people in the search for progress. The alien or Great One could fulfil that need. The story develops into a space opera with the earth born scientists on a desperate mission to find the home planet of the race that destroyed the Great Ones planet.

There are interesting developments as the story moves along at a brisk pace. It is a plot driven novel with minimal characterisation, but Jones wrote well enough to keep me interested. Racism and sexism were largely absent and Jones knew how to spring a surprise and hold his story together. 3 stars.

huhtikuu 16, 5:50 pm

Possible Worlds of Science Fiction - Ed Groff Conklin
A collection of short stories that was published in 1951 although many of the stories were written some time earlier. Conklin says in his introduction that none of these stories had been published in book form; all had been selected from magazines. Many of the famous science fiction novelists made their name in the pulp magazines and so there are stories by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon. The Book is divided into two parts the first part contains stories that take place in our solar system and we have:

Raymond Z. Gallun; Operation Pumice
Robert A Heinlein: The Black pits of Luna
E. Van Vogt: Enchanted Village
Malcolm Jameson: Lillies of life
Ray Bradbury; Asleep in Armageddon
Isaac Asimov: Not Final
Frank Belknap Long: Cones
D. L. James: Moon of Delirium
Theodore Sturgeon: Completely Automatic
Nelson S Bond; The Day we Celebrate
Margaret ST Clair: The pilllows
Hal Clement: Proof

In this section the stories are arranged so that the first story by Raymond Z Gallun's tells a story of the first astronaut to orbit the moon and the next one is Heinlein's story of tourism on the moon and succeeding stories spread out through the solar system. Heinlein and Van Vogt's stories have subsequently appeared in other collections which I have read and they are both good solid stories. Other notable entries are Frank Belknap Long's Cones that describe electrical forces on the hostile environment of Mercury and D. L. James Moon of Delirium where intrepid astronauts must deal with telepathic creatures on one of Saturns moons. Margaret St Clair's The pillows is also good. There are a couple of Duds Asimov's: Not Final and Hal Clements: Proof; both of which move towards hard science fiction and were unintelligible to me.

The second section contains stories from The Galaxy; escaping from the limiting confines of the solar system where imagination can run wild:

Murray Leinster: Propagandist
H. B. Fyfe: In Value Deceived
Jack Vance: Hard-Luck Digging
John Berryman: Space Rating
Katherine Maclean: Contagion
Clifford D Simak: Limiting factor
Samuel Merwin Jr: Exit Line
James H. Schmitz: Second Night of Summer
Arthur C Clarke; A walk in the Dark
Poul Anderson; The Helping Hand

There were two standout stories in this section; Katherine Maclean's Contagion which I thought was original and in its short story format full of twists and turns. The other was Poul Anderson's The Helping Hand, which manages to introduce a more thoughtful aspect into space colonisation. I had previously read Clifford D Simak's Limiting factor which was good and Murray Leinster's Propagandist which verges on the cute. There were no real duds in this section although the stories by Jack Vance and Arthur C Clarke were workmanlike.

Short stories from pulp magazines are not going to have much literary merit, but that is not what I look for in these collections. I want to be amazed, surprised, be taken on an incredible journey, feel a sense of wonder and some of these stories had these elements. 3.5 stars.

huhtikuu 26, 6:36 pm

Dragon's Island - Jack Williamson
A science fiction novel from 1951, which is strongly anti racist and has a strong female lead character. All this goes against the grain of many science fiction novels of this period and took me completely by surprise having read his Seetee Ship published in the same year. The front cover of the popular library edition has the blurb "She was a century ahead of her sex" which could give a wrong impression of the novel, but actually makes sense once you have read it

Dave Belfast is 24 years old and moving to New York City when he experiences a strange physical feeling of anxiety, and he receives a phone call from a woman telling him his life is in danger and that he should not trust a certain John Gellien who will soon approach him. He agrees to meet the woman Nan Sanderson in a couple of hours time, but in the meantime Gellien has approached him with an offer of a job to track down mutant beings. Belfast works in the field of genetics and finds himself targeted by three different organisations. Sanderson who wants to test him for psychic powers, Cadmus industries who want him to work in their genetic engineering laboratory and Gellien who wants to recruit him as an agent. Belfast is soon caught up in a world of fierce competition and when a journalist is brutally murdered he realises that he could be next.

This is a story about mutants and genetic engineering that has plenty of surprises and twist and turns in the story telling. Williamson writes well enough in this genre and keeps the story and mystery rolling along as well as some science fiction on genetic engineering. It is an earth based story, which is an adventure thriller which kept the pages turning. This together with its basic message of tolerance, that does not become too schmaltzy makes this a 4 star read.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 30, 7:09 pm

John D Macdonald - Wine of the Dreamers
John D Macdonald was a prolific writer of crime and suspense novels, which started appearing in paperback novel form in the early 1950's. Before that he had earned a living selling stories to pulp fiction magazines. Wine of the Dreamers published in book form in 1951 was a venture into science fiction, he tried again in the next year with Ballroom of the skies, but soon turned to a regular churning out of crime novels, usually three or four a year. Wine of the Dreamers starts off with a car journey: Bard Lane a scientist and Sharon Inlay a psychiatrist are speeding across New Mexico after being summoned by the military head of Bard Lanes' rocket building project. General Sachson is looking at ways to curtail the project after one of the scientists has run amok injuring two military personnel and smashing some delicate equipment. The tension of the car journey is well described interspersed with news flashes of people across the country doing crazy things, many of them involving murder. It is in chapter three that I realised I was reading a science fiction novel when we meet Rual Kinson trapped in a building on a planet of dreamers.

The early part of the novel is well written as is the development of the dreamers on the mystery planet, the two stories run side by side until the connection between the dreamers and the crazy events on earth is made. The later part of the novel runs away with itself a little as far too much happens too quickly and events that seemed plausible in science fiction terms rapidly become less so. The idea of alien mind control leading to murderous events on earth is not a new trope, but the rational behind the events is given a twist by Macdonald. The quality of the writing, the characterisation and the absence of racism and sexism helped to keep me reading right to the end. Not bad and so 3 stars.

toukokuu 8, 4:21 pm

Arthur C Clarke - The Sands of Mars
Life on Mars? Arthur C Clarke thought so in this 1951 novel. It was published early in Clarke's career, but perhaps he could already imagine himself as a famous science fiction author. In the book Martin Gibson is the famous writer and he has been invited to travel on a spaceship to Mars with five other astronauts; it is in the 1990's and there is a well established colony on Mars and the spaceship is being made ready to provide tourist accommodation for the three month trip.

The novel starts with the journey to Mars and the difficulties of space travel. Gibson is the newbie travelling with four other seasoned astronauts and one junior. Clarke's ideas of space flight are not too wide of the mark considering that this was written before a manned space flight, but he also is able to portray well the developing relationships between the men who must learn to live with each other. The story starts to move forward when Gibson arrives in the colony, but Clarke is as interested in the human relationships as he is in the science of living on Mars and the politics following a trip across an unexplored section of the planet.

This is a good solid entertaining read with some fireworks towards the end of the book. It is well thought through with enough of a mystery to keep me reading till the end. Nothing spectacular and apart from some obvious anomalies I thought it held up pretty well. No obvious racism and although women on the colony are employed only as office workers , this is not unusual for the period. 3.5 stars.