the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Vintage SciFi’ Category

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The first snowflakes have already landed, you’ve pulled out the fuzzy socks and the heavy coats, the holiday shopping ads are everywhere, Thanksgiving is almost here.  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to start thinking about Vintage Science Fiction month!  Since 2012 I’ve dedicated the month of January to reading “older than I am” science fiction, and invited the entire blogosphere to come with me on an interstellar journey across the stars and into our own minds. We’ve met trickster aliens, ridden dragons, won wars, negotiated with hive minds  and tried to understand androids. We’ve read satire, space opera, high concept metaphysics, alternate histories and impossible futures. We’ve gone to Venus, Mars, the center of the Earth, and beyond the edges of the galaxy.   Beyond books, bloggers have talked about radio programs, movies, and TV shows.

You should come with us this year!

See that Vintage SciFi Not-A-Challenge tab up at the top of the screen? Click there to see some of the history of Vintage Scifi Month.

Let’s talk a little about the what, the how (how do you find this stuff, anyways?),  the why, and the but wait, there’s more!

The What:

Anything or anyone who created science fiction, or something speculative fiction-ish that was published (or recorded, or put on TV or the silver screen) before 1979.  It can be hard scifi, or not. Have aliens, or not.  Fantasy is OK too.  Jules Verne is perfect, so is Mary Shelley. Or maybe War of the Worlds, original Star Trek, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Cordwainer Smith, Clifford Simak, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, James Tiptree Jr, A.E. van Vogt, Frank Herbert,  I can go on forever here.

The How:

How the hell do I find crusty old books!?   More of this is still in print than you’d think. Not ready to sink $17 into the newest printing of Stranger in a Strange Land? No problem, head over to your local library or any new/used independent bookstore and get ready for an adventure in browsing!  Keep an eye out for “Daw Yellow Spines”, which are exactly what they sound like. They aren’t all pre-1979, but a lot of them are, and the cover art is usually pretty nuts.

Paperbackswap is another option as well.  And if you make a good case for yourself, I could be tempted to loan out some of my vintage titles.

Only want to read on your e-reader/kindle/tablet thing? again, no problem.  Head over to Project Gutenberg for a ton of free classics (just search for science fiction). More and more publishers are releasing e-books of older titles and finding a healthy market still exists for these titles. I recently discovered Open Road Media, an all e-book publisher.  I was pretty impressed by their collection of older stuff.  Plenty of Andre Norton, and a bucket of John Norman, the Fritz Leiber Lankhmar collection, even some Robert Silverberg, James Brunner and H.G. Wells.

 

The Why:

Why? because everything came from somewhere. Your favorite spec fic author was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, and so on.   Movements and changes in what’s popular, what we wish was popular, or what we’re sick of is a reaction to what came before.   Personally, I just really like knowing what came before, it helps me understand the foundations of something that has brought so much joy into my life.  Another way to put it is that reading older science fiction is like finding an ancient city buried underneath a modern one.  You suddenly know why your city was laid out the way it was, and why some things were done different, because now you can better see what came before.   Vintage science fiction is where we came from. Those novels and short stories are the steps we took to get to where we are now.

 

and the But Wait, There’s More:

I’m looking for guest posts,  anything from book reviews, to TV show or movie reviews and/or discussions, to a cover art gallery, to why you appreciate a particular vintage author.  If you’re interested in writing a guest post, tweet me at @redhead5318 ,  or e-mail me with that same handle, but to the gmail place.

 

Are we ready to rock ‘n roll this January or what?

 

 

childhoods endChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

published in 1953

where I got it: purchased new

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There’s going to be some spoilers, because I don’t feel bad about spoiling a book that was published the year my Dad went into kindergarten.

 

The novel opens with a momentous event: the day the aliens come.  Their giant ships hover over every major city, but they came in peace. Forced peace, actually.  The Overlords announce they will be taking over all of Earth’s governments, they will be stopping all wars, stopping hunger, disease and poverty, they will be making sure us Earthlings live peaceful lives.  This is the first step towards Earth joining a galactic community, and the Overlords have been tasked with making sure we take this first step.  The Overlords give us no choice in the matter, and any earthly warlords or take it upon themselves to violently disagree are shamed into submission.  No choice at all, really.

 

But no one has ever seen an Overlord, and humans aren’t known to be trustworthy of anything we can’t see. The Overlord spokesperson, Karrelen, tells us that in fifty years they will show themselves to us, it will take that long for us to be ready.  And they were right.

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2014-03-11 21.05.42The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein

published in 1956

where I got it: paperback swap

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I’ve been in a reading slump lately.  Books seem to feel the same, not much has grabbed me lately, I seem to have burned myself out on epic fantasy for a while, and damnit, there is still two feet of snow on the ground. I need some nice weather, and  I need a book that reads like a sunny day, something that’s fun as hell and won’t demand anything of me in return.  I need a door into summer.

Does that cover art look familiar? if you’ve got this printing, do NOT read the blurb on the back. It spoils the surprise.

Dan’s cat Pete hates the snow.  In the winter, the cat still wants to do his business outside, and will insist that Dan open every door in the house. Because Pete’s pretty sure that one of these cold winter days, one of those doors will  be a door into summer.

The year is 1970, and Dan Davis is a brilliant engineer, but a horrible judge of character. Knowing he hasn’t got a head for business, Dan and his friend Miles go into business, with Miles doing all the accounting and paperwork, and Dan making all the inventions.  It was going swimmingly until the gorgeous Belle showed up. It was hysterical to me how Dan describes Belle in engineering-talk.  Belle plays both men for fools, gets Miles to do her dirty work, and in a sneaky round about way convinces Dan to go for Long Sleep. Dan is happy to leave this sorry, heartbroken world behind, so long as his beloved cat, Pete, can go in the coffin with him.  He even comes up with a foolproof plan to make sure the one human being he still cares about, a little girl named Ricki, will be taken care of financially.

The Long Sleep isn’t death, it’s a hypethermia of sorts. You pay an insurance company to put you in hypothermic hibernation, and you wake up 5 years later, ten years later, or whatever period of time you choose. Maybe the world won’t suck as bad, maybe a cure will have been found for whatever is killing you. Doesn’t matter the reasons, companies have found they can make a fortune offering the service, and consumers are drawn in by the idea that they can invest some money, take the long sleep, and be millionaires when they wake up. What could possibly go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »

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:

The Broken Bullhorn

this is how she fight start

Joseph Starzl

Over The Effing Rainbow

Paul Weimer

Lesley Connor

Two Dudes in an Attic

Jason Sizemore

Lynn’s Book Blog

Rinn Reads

Andrew Robins

Howling Frog Books

My Readers Block

Nashville Book Worm

Genre Bending

Tomtificate

In My Book

AQ’s Reviews

Read The Gamut

A Step To The Side

Books Without Any Pictures

Casual Debris

50 Year Project

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.

AR first paragraph

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.

The Stars Are Ours-Star Born Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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Sea DevilsDoctor Who and the Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke

published in 1974

where I got it: purchased used

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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.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.