the Little Red Reviewer

Let’s talk about Robert Silverberg

Posted on: January 15, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been enjoying these little author bios I’ve posted as part of Vintage Month.  When it comes to books themselves, I can usually walk the talk, but I’m woefully undereducated about the authors of said books. Well, here’s to less author ignorance! Also, we’re halfway through Vintage month.  Are you having as much fun as I am?  I’m realizing my chosen novels for Vintage month are more “golden age”, but that’s OK.  Props to those of you who are reading the true classics like Wells and Verne!

Today’s “vintage” author is Robert Silverberg.   He got his start in the 1950’s, and I feel bad calling him “vintage”, since he is still writing today. Hopefully he won’t be too mad at me.  ;)

I’m a sucker for Robert Silverberg.  I got lucky, having read some of his award winning fiction first, and these days if a book has his name on it, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it, even if it’s not a gem.

His writing career started early – he sold his first short story at age 19, and his first novel, Revolt on Alpha C when he was only 20 years old.  The novel would win him a 1956 Hugo for Best New Writer, and marked his entry into the world of science fiction publishing.  For the next four years he wrote steadily for a handful of science fiction and fantasy magazines under the auspices of Frederick Pohl. Silverberg showed an uncanny ability to write what publishers and editors wanted, and this was both a blessing and a curse.

I was introduced to Silverberg’s works through a much later series, his famous Valentine series, written in the 1980’s. A sci-fantasy series following Lord Valentine and his  adventures on the futuristic planet of Majipoor, I recall being fairly speechless after reading the first volume, Lord Valentine’s Castle.  My other half was concerned that my silence indicated I didn’t care for the story. Quite the opposite in fact, I clearly recall telling him that I wanted to learn how to juggle, and if we were to ever have a son that his first name would be Valentine. I read other books in the Valentine series as I can find them, but I’ve yet to learn how to juggle.

I went on to read Silverberg’s Dying Inside, which was recently republished by Orb books. Part of his earlier oeuvre, Dying Inside is about a telepath whose powers are slowly evaporating.  It is a tragic and beautiful story, showing off Silverberg’s formal education in comparative literature.  Dying Inside is the opposite of much of the pulp that Silverberg had been putting out en masse throughout the 1950s and 1960s.   A few Silverberg titles later, and I was officially hooked.

Over his 50+ years of writing, Silverberg has published in a massive variety of genres: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, westerns, historical fiction, even adult erotica.  There is plenty of pulp (much written under pseudonyms)  in there, but plenty of gems as well, and he’s got Nebulas and Hugos to prove it.  In 2004 Silverberg was presented with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the SFWA.

He’s published nearly as much non-fiction as he has fiction, and if you have any history books from the 60’s and 70’s by Lloyd Robinson,  Franklin Hamilton, Lee Sebastian or Walker Chapman, you’ve got yourself a Silverberg.

Stay tuned for my review of Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet.

For more information on Robert Silverberg, visit Majipoor.com, the Unofficial Robert Silverberg site, run by the dedicated and talented Jon Davis.  Mr. Davis has cataloged everything Silverberg ever wrote under ever pseudonym he ever used, and there were a lot of them along with links to interview and excerpts of his books.

Robert Silverberg currently lives in California.

Have you read any Silverberg? what did you think of him?  What Silverberg titles would you recommend to someone looking to start reading his work?

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14 Responses to "Let’s talk about Robert Silverberg"

How perfect from a timing perspective, I just picked up my newly purchased reprint of old pulp Silverberg stories, Hunt the Space-Witch!, to begin today. That is if I can bear to crack into any book after a three-day reading jag in which I read both parts of Cordwainer Smith’s only novel, Norstrilia (The Planet Buyer and The Underpeople). I feel like I’m in a swoon.

I’ve mentioned several times but it bears repeating that my exposure to Sliverberg’s writing has been almost entirely from his excellent Reflections columns in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. No matter the subject I am always interested in his thoughts. I recently, sort of, got exposure to his fiction writing when I read the most excellent collaboration with Asimov, The Positronic Man, last month. I look forward to checking out Sliverberg’s pulpy goodness.

And yes, I am enjoying these author spotlights immensely, it was a fantastic idea.

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And I’ve had a ball reading your reviews of Hunt the Space Witch! I’m not sure which is more zany, the title or the cover art, I love them both!

I have GOT to start reading more of Silverberg’s non fiction, especially his Reflections columns.

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I finally decided to go ahead and buy a year’s subscription to Asimov’s this past weekend. I’m tired of only being able to find it occasionally at BN and it is inevitably the issues with authors I really enjoy, like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, that I can’t find.

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I’ve read two books by SIlverberg. One was superb (The Alien Years). There is so much depth to it and it is the sort of book to have religious and non-religious debating for years imho.

The other was not so great. In fact I didn’t finish it (Hot Sky at Midnight). I get what he was trying to do, I just don’t think it worked.

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goes to show how much i don’t know about Silverberg – I’ve never heard of either of those titles. Sorry the 2nd one didn’t work out, he’s written some gems and some stinkers too. You can tell the books that he spend a lot of time on, and the ones that were just zipped out super quick for a magazine or something.

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I am with you as well about the author bio. I sure do enjoy reading more about the authors of the perspective book that you are reading. I like the rich history of out sci-fi authors there really is out there. Thank you for opening my eyes to vintage Sci-Fi :)

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your welcome! I’m having fun writing the bios too! maybe this is the start of a general blogger trend. . . . ;) and the cheesy vintage stuff is always fun to read too.

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I really appreciate all these author posts you are doing. They’ve been fascinating and you’ve introduced me to some new authors and books I’ve never heard of before. So awesome!

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you are absolutely welcome! :D

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I’m also enjoying these author bios!

I really ought to read some more Silverberg. Thus far, I’ve only read a couple of his short stories and one of his shorter books from the 1960s. I reviewed the latter on my blog and said a few uncomplimentary things about the characterization (though I did like the book as a whole). Mr Silverberg commented on my review, and I felt terrible. Urgh. It made me feel like I needed to get out there and read some of his more highly regarded novels, which do sound pretty durned good.

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but hey, he commented, and that is incredibly awesome! You pretty much had a Rock Star of the genre posting on your blog. Take those bragging rights and run with them!

I feel his masterworks are Dying Inside (contemporary fiction) and Lord Valentine’s Castle (sci-fantasy). The later Valentine books are just so-so, but the first handful in the series are wonderful. Dying Inside was recently reprinted, so I’m sure a library could get a copy for you.

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True! At the time, I mostly pictured Mr Silverberg sitting in his writerly lair, stewing over the girl who thought the characters in THE TIME HOPPERS were such cardboard cutouts that she couldn’t have tolerated them in a longer work. :)

My library has LORD VALENTINE’S CASTLE for sure, and as an electronic resource. Score! I don’t even have to go to the library to pick it up!

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One of my all-time favorite books–The World Inside–is by Robert Silverberg. In fact I’ve loaned out my copy umpteen times forcing friends to read it. I haven’t read any of his other stuff yet though, but The World Inside is just such a unique look at overpopulation. *sighs*

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oh yes, The World Inside is incredible! It was a little tough for me to get into, but once i did, I loved it, and it totally creeped me out!

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