Archive for the ‘Vintage SciFi’ Category
The end of January brings the end of Vintage Science Fiction Month and the end of the Science Fiction Experience. This is my third year hosting Vintage month, and I want to thank everyone who did a blog post on their site, did a guest post on my site, commented on a post, tweeted something, re-tweeted something, or lurked and is now interested in reading some older science fiction. This is the best Vintage Month I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to do it again! Of course, we’re all welcome to read older books whenever we feel like it, we don’t need to wait until the dead of winter.
A huge shout out to everyone who participated in Vintage Month:
Thanks for an amazing month everyone! Apologies that I haven’t been commenting, tweeting, retweeting as much as I planned. A frustrating work project and recent health issue have brought me to my knees.
Vintage Science Fiction months owes part of it’s existence to my friend Andy. We met a few years ago through the local bookstore, and became fast friends. Over lunch discussions and a few beers, we traded books back and forth, me trying to get Andy on the “new weird” band wagon, and him getting me into Andre Norton and making sure our local scifi book club read the classics (See Andy? This is what happens when you don’t send me a bio. I write one for you!).
Andy is also a typewriter collector, and although we live in the same city, we write letters to each other, him on his typewriter(s), and me by hand. Hand writing and typewriting a letter is a completely different experience than firing off a quick e-mail. He even typed me this guest post. See? To keep the pages loading fast, I’ve only scanned in a few typewritten paragraphs.
Fortunately the trauma was short-lived and soon after I discovered the films of George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. Pal’s The Time Machine and Harryhausen’s First Men in the Moon are still great favorites in the DVD collection, much to my family’s despair. TV beckoned too and no science fictional kid growing up in the Sixties could miss Lost in Space or Star Trek as well as the proto-steampunkiness of The Wild, Wild West. Sad to say, all but the last haven’t aged well for me. The camp value of pasteboard sets, pedestrian scripts, a now-hilarious lack of actual science, and acting that is adequate at best only takes nostalgia so far. Many SF movies of the time suffer from the same defects yet command greater affection for reasons I can’t explain.
My introduction to written science fiction came more gradually. First there was the discovery of the paperback cache in the upper drawer of my parent’s bedroom dresser. My paternal grandfather, a diehard fan from SF’s “Golden Age” of the Thirties and Forties, sent them to his son but my father wanted nothing to do with the genre. Fortunately for me, the unwanted collection included such treasures as Mark S. Geston’s now-classic Lords of the Starship. The book isn’t really about a starship and its ideas were way beyond anything I would have understood then. No matter, I was arrested by the cover image of a golden armored vehicle with a skeleton hanging out of the turret swimming through a sandy desert toward the huge, bluish, winged vehicle of the title. Not long after, a friend turned me on to the author who really turned me into a fan.
I met Rinn of Rinn Reads when she hosted Science Fiction Month back in November. What a great event! Not only because science fiction is near and dear to my heart, but because Rinn did an amazing job of getting authors and publishers involved AND getting bloggers who weren’t so sure about science fiction to pick up a few titles. People, this is what I love about the blogosphere. Someone says “hey, I’d like to do this, who wants to join me?” and suddenly a hundred people are raising their hands.
Why H.G. Well’s classic The War of the Worlds is still today, by Rinn
“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” (page 1)
And so H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds begins, with these immortal and haunting words. To me, it is up there with those fantastic opening lines that include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. But it’s not just the opening line that really has an impact – the entire book was, at the time, a brand new concept and something really quite shocking, and over one hundred years later it still grips and surprises: it is a timeless classic. It has been adapted time and time again, for the screen, stage and radio, and has influenced so many other authors and works, and even an entirely new genre of invasion fiction.
The War of the Worlds has been interpreted in many ways. Commentary on British imperialism, or perhaps Victorian fears, Mars was a very apt planet to use either way. Mars is the Roman god of war, equivalent to Greek Ares; where better for these alien soldiers and destroyers to come from? Wells was not the first to have this idea: it was used as early as 1880 in Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac.
One of the scariest parts of the book is how the human race is completely and utterly powerless against the alien invasion – at least in in the tradition way. Weapons barely make a dent, and even taking down a tripod or two requires some sacrifices. The people watching the HMS Thunder Child fight a tripod believe that they are seeing progress, only to have the ship sink in front of their eyes. Their weapons include the Heat Ray, which burns people up instantly, the Black Smoke, a poisonous gas which chokes people to death, and the Red Weed. Were those aliens to invade today, when we’ve made so many technological advances, would we fare any better? Some people may look upon our ancestors of the nineteenth century with scorn, and have no doubt that today’s modern warfare would annihilate the Martians – and perhaps we would stand more of a chance – but it doesn’t just come down to that. Another factor to come into it is how we would react.
published in 1974
where I got it: purchased used
Having recently watched the Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords episodes without much context, I wanted to learn more about The Doctor’s relationship with The Master (Yes, I’m one of those annoying newb fans who discovered the show in the 2000s). While thinking on that, I came across the novelization of The Sea Devils story arc. “The Master” was on the back cover, so of course the book had to come home with me!
It’s funny, being a “new” Doctor Who fan. I don’t have any visual context for the classic story arcs. From the descriptions and illustrations in the book, I can figure out that this was during Jon Pertwee’s time, but having never watched or heard him, I don’t hear his voice or see his mannerisms while reading. But you know what? that was okay. Being able to regenerate, the Doctor is fluid, able to wear different faces and speak with different voices. Also, reading this and not watching it, I was able to fill in the special effects with my imagination, and not worry about not-so-hot tv special effects!
anyway, onto the story!
After the events of Doctor Who and the Demons, The Master has been imprisoned in an island chateau. A beautiful prison built for one, he faces a sentence of life imprisonment, and of course his jailors have no idea that what a “lifetime” means for the Master. Nearby is an oil rig and a small Naval base, and fishing boats have recently gone mysteriously missing. The Doctor and Jo Grant arrive, to both investigate the missing boats, and to check up on the Master, to make sure he hasn’t tried to hypnotize anyone working at the chateau. Which is pretty much exactly what’s happened. The Master has already convinced the governor of the luxurious prison, the weak willed Colonel Trenchard to help him make contact with the underwater creatures, to the point where Trenchard helps him steal parts from a nearby Naval Base.
Posted January 21, 2014on:
I’ve been friends with fellow blogger Lynn, of Lynn’s Book Blog for years. We started commenting on each other’s blog, and before we knew it we were doing read alongs together and plotting to take over the world! Okay, not that last part. Well, maybe a little. In today’s guest post, Lynn talks Stainless Steel Rat, and how she got started reading more speculative fiction. Crime, con artists and capers in outerspace? sign me up!
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
by Lynn Williams
This month I’m reading some Vintage Sci Fi for Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Sci Fi month – which also dovetails quite nicely with Stainless Steel Droppings Sci Fi Experience. Basically, it’s a bit like cheating – you read one book and it counts for both events. Win. We all love a cheat – don’t deny it! It’s like finding a short cut or a bargain – it makes you happy!
I’ve read a few sci fi books already but the first that I can put towards my Vintage event is Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. I did think about writing a little introduction about the author but, to be honest, I’m probably not the best person to do that. This is my first reading experience of this author and so to start waxing lyrical would just be plain silly – there are plenty of people out there who could really do him justice rather than me just regurgitating facts from Wiki! The reason I chose this book? To be honest I don’t read much sci fi and that’s something I like to address. To be even more honest the reason for this is because I find it a little bit daunting. Basically sci fi scares the pants off me because I think I’m not going to understand it! I mean, it’s not like I’m a raging dunce but I hold my hands up that maths and science are not my forte – and I don’t want to read a book that makes me feel ridiculously stupid (is that bad?).
When I started blogging, one of the first blogs that I came across was Stainless Steel Droppings (followed by Little Red Reviewer). I’ve been following these blogs for quite some time now and in doing so I’ve read books that I frankly would never have picked up, I’ve read books that the cover alone would have had me walking out the shop!, I’ve read a few classics and I’ve taken part in readalongs that meant the subject of the book was dissected in a really fun way. Carl, over at Stainless Steel Droppings named his blog so because he has loved this author since being a young boy first stepping into the sci fi realm. I really like that sort of thing and so I thought I’d read this book to find out for myself just how good these books are. After all, if these books encouraged one person’s love of sci fi then what not mine?? Also, reading a bit about the Stainless Steel Rat its clear that this series is fun with a cheeky rogue being the main protagonist.
That all being said, the pressing issue – did I like it and would I continue with the series – yes, and yes!
The Stainless Steel Rat was the first in the series (although I think there have been prequels written since). The book sets off really well with Jim diGriz going from one crime caper to the next. The reason why this is so unusual is that crime has virtually been eradicated in this future world. Genetic tampering (presumably) has removed the trait and so there are very few master criminals working the stars, not to mention the crime enforcers are poorly placed to deal with such crime. Jim has little respect for the law and his lofty attitude is in a sense his undoing. He finds himself in a situation where he’s being chased and in attempting to escape capture is actually being manoeuvred into a trap – he’s used to being the one who’s always one step ahead. This isn’t a spoiler by the way – basically Jim is caught by the Special Corps – their aim (to boldly go maybe) to recruit master criminals and use their cunning and wily ways to catch others! A thief to catch a thief – not a bad plan.
people have been posting Vintage SciFi reviews and discussions all over the place! While I’m battling airport traffic today, you should enjoy these links to Vintage SciFi goodness all over the blogopshere! it’s like a giftbox of chocolate truffles. where do I start? with the caramel? with the white chocolate? with that sparkly one?
Found a link I missed? Post it in the comments and I’ll update the list as soon as I can.
Howling Frog Books offers up a selection of reviews, including Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clark, We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick.
Sheila Williams has a heartfelt editorial in Asimov’s about remembering Frederik Pohl
My Readers Block reviews Dangerous Visions #3, edited by Harlan Ellison and including short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, and more, and Angels and Spaceships by Fredric Brown
Lynn’s Book Blog reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
50 Year Project reviews The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Genre-Bending discusses The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
I can always count on Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations for Vintage goodies. In the past week he’s posted an extensive cover art gallery, and a review of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire by Michael Bishop.
AQ’s Reviews discusses Marooned on Mars by Lester Del Rey
I Read Therefore I Am discusses The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham
Remember I said Lesley Connor was someone to thank for the upcoming Book of Apex blog tour in February? Jason Sizemore is the other person to thank. Apex Magazine is quite literally his baby. By the way, as you are reading this, Jason and I are hanging out at ConFusion.
The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, by Jason Sizemore
Jason Sizemore is the two time Hugo Award-nominated owner and editor of Apex Publications. You can find more information about him and Apex at http://www.apexbookcompany.com
I had a late matriculation into science fiction. It wasn’t until my college years did I begin to read hard genre fiction. But what I did read had a profound effect on my future reading tastes and choices.
The first science fiction novel I remember reading is Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (our first Hugo Award-winner back in 1953). Its plot features a powerful telepath (Powell) waging a battle against a damaged and powerful businessman (Reich). The book reads as a futuristic sort of police procedural. It’s an insightful examination of human nature, showing us that things haven’t changed all that much from the 50s.
The Demolished Man is my go to book when readers ask me for a good science fiction book to ease them into the genre. The hard SF aspects of the novel are core to the plot and the world Bester creates feels sufficiently futuristic even 60 years later.
Judge a book by it’s cover? don’t mind if I do. We’re all guilty of buying a book because it has gorgeous cover art, or shying away from a book because the cover art is boring or off-putting. While I’m out of town this weekend, enjoy this gallery of Frank Frazetta cover art! It’s sure to be alluring to some of you, and off-putting to others. I have high expectations for discussions in the comments!
Not familiar with Frank Frazetta? Ultra-Famous fantasy artist who got started in comics and then went to painting. Many of his paintings were purchased for fantasy and adventure novel cover art during the 1960s and 1970s. His style involves lots of skin. lots of skin. probably NSFW.
Big pics and slow loading times ahead!
published in 1978
where i got it: purchased used
You know how sometimes a book looks really really good, and then you read it and it’s nothing special? this book was the opposite. For not looking like anything special (and suffering from an ultra-cheesy tagline), The Outcasts of Heaven Belt was pretty damn good.
Think about some space operas that have come out in the last few years. How long are they? 400 pages? 600 pages? longer? Vinge crams all the trappings of a great space opera in just two hundred pages. Everything from the not so pretty realities of space travel, to the effects of radiation, to complex planetary system politics, to how our cultural norms might change based on different environs. To add to the SFnal-ness of the whole thing, time is measured in seconds. No hours, days or weeks, character refer to kiloseconds, megaseconds and gigaseconds. There’s a great little graph in the front of the translating this into hours, days and weeks. It’s in logarithmic scale, making the metricality of measuring time in 10 to the nth seconds make perfect sense.
The story starts out with the crew of The Ranger. Traveling from Morningside, they’ve been enroute for four years, hoping to reach the Heaven system, and open up a new trade route. This isn’t like Star Trek, you can’t just get a message from someone instantaneously. Morningside hasn’t been in any communication with Heaven, but they’ve had no reason to believe the system isn’t doing just fine. The Heaven system had been colonized because of it’s resource rich icy and rocky asteroids and planetoids, and the moons orbiting its gas giants. Any system with that quantity of resources and trade goods would be rich within a few generations. (Vinge doesn’t even dream of Earth like planets. None of the planets we colonize are Earths. They are what we can find, and what we can survive on)
I met Lesley Connor at ConText down in Columbus last summer, and we became fast friends. Lesley works for Apex Books, and she’s one of the people to thank for next month’s Book of Apex blog tour.
Taking Flowers for Algernon by Lesley Connor
Lesley Conner is the social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, keeping the Apex blog in order, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on Twitter at @ApexBookCompany.
*Warning: This post includes MAJOR spoilers for Flowers for Algernon. You’ve been warned. Go read the book. You’ll be happy you did.*
I can still remember the first time I read Flowers for Algernon. I was in the seventh grade; Mrs. Smith’s advanced reading class. I don’t remember everything, of course. Over the years the classroom discussions dissecting the diction and Daniel Keyes’s decision to tell the story through a heartwarming but unreliable narrator have faded. The hours I spent with my legs curled beneath me as I read Charlie’s journal entries, letting the story unfold first in clunky, unsure sentences but quickly hurtling toward a level that was nearly beyond my thirteen years, are more of imprint, rather than a true memory.
But the emotion those words invoked. That I will never forget.
The tears blurring my vision, tracking down my cheeks, dripping from my jawline. The ache that gripped my heart when Charlie realized Algernon was regressing and there was nothing he could do, no matter how desperately he tried, to keep the same from happening to him. Rereading his early journal entries with him, knowing where he was going back to, how he’d let people hurt him, tease him, push him around, because he hadn’t realized they were being cruel. When he goes back to his adult education class in the final scene, sitting in his old seat, and a part of his teacher, Miss Kinnian, breaks down, knowing the man she’d grown to love was gone forever. I cried for Charlie, for Algernon, for Miss Kinnian, for every time I felt like I hadn’t quite fit in.