the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2021

Today, we’re gonna go 400 years in the future, to go to the 1950s. And on reflection, we’ll go  back in time another 2200 years or so,  and then jump to the present, and then back to the 1950s.

 

Ready for some time travel whiplash that would make Connie Willis proud?  Let’s go!

 

As Jean at Howling Frog Books is fond of saying, “what is January without a Star Trek story”?   Last year I blogged my way through season 3 of Deep Space Nine. I DO HAVE plans to watch season 4 (and hopefully 5!) this year, but in celebration of Vintage SciFi Month, I skipped ahead of season 6.  Episode 13, to be exact.  One of the most loved episodes of Deep Space Nine, “Far Beyond the Stars”. 

The story set up:  Captain Sisko is having a rough go. A good friend was killed when his ship was attacked near the Cardassian border, and Sisko is so distracted he can barely enjoy his father’s visit.  He starts seeing and hearing some strange things, and then technobabble happens, and then Sisko is standing in front of a newsstand in the 1950s, and he’s buying a copy of Galaxy Magazine.

 

It’s the early 1950s, and he’s not Ben Sisko.  He’s Benny Russell, and he’s a science fiction writer at a magazine.   His fellow writers are Maklin (not-O’Brien), Kay Eaton (not-Kira), Julius (not-Bashir), Rossoff (not-Quark), the editor is Pabst (not-Odo), and later Darlene (not-Dax) shows up as the new secretary (and she gets the Best. Line. Ever).   

Russell is trying to make it as a science fiction writer, while his fiance Cassie (not-Kasidy) is trying to convince him to run a restaurant with her, because it’s more stable work than writing. 

 

 One of my favorite parts of this episode was playing “recognize the voice”.   Nog,  Quark, Odo, and Worf. . .  with no make up.  Armin Shimmerman is criminally under rated.

 

Watching the episode was like watching a stage play, and I mean that as a compliment.  All my favorite characters sounded the same and mostly interacted with each other the same, but they dressed different, their jobs were different, their hairstyles were different, their passions and motivations were different.  And everyone was using typewriters! And I recognized many of the models! But the world is very, very different. The magazine wants to publish photos of the writers. Kay Eaton and Benny Russell are told to sleep in that day.

 

The pool of writers is given sketches as story prompts, and Russell takes a drawing of a three-pronged space station.  As he leaves the office that night, he’s harassed and threatened by a couple of cops, whose photos belong in the dictionary next to “racial profiling”. 

 

The image of the space station inspires Russell to create a story around a fiction space station called Deep Space Nine, captained by Benjamin Sisko, a Black man.  When he brings his manuscript to the magazine, his peers love the story.  Kay loves the strong female characters, and Darlene exclaims “There’s a worm in her belly! That’s disgusting!”. 

The Writer’s Room. Recognize anyone?

 

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Robots have no Tails, by Henry Kuttner

 

What fun this collection was!  I never know what to expect with pulp fiction, will it be good? Will it be super dated? Will I get the references?  

 

Ok, sure, I’m sure there were some references I missed, as these were written in the 1940s. But? They were great!  And hilarious!  Kuttner’s Galloway Gallagher jumps off the page, even as he’s passing out on the sofa from having had too much to drink.  And you don’t want Gallagher to stop drinking, because it’s only when he’s shitfaced drunk does he invent the wildest things . . .  . 

 

Gallagher sounds like the kind of character an author would make up during a drinking game with friends, maybe at a scifi convention. Imagine a talented inventor, who makes amazing machines and robots out of what’s laying around his lab (the original McGuyver?), but the inventor can only invent things when he’s absolutely drunk.  Sober, he can barely change a lightbulb, and has no memory of what he created the night before. Gallagher often wakes up surrounded by wild inventions that he has no memory of being contracted to create. . . screwball comedy ensues! 

 

This volume of all the Gallagher stories has an introduction by Paul Wilson, and also an introduction by Kuttner’s wife C.L. Moore. Wilson talks about the environment in which these stories were written, and Moore talks about their life when Kuttner was writing the Gallagher stories, and how the drafts made her laugh so hard she was worried about disturbing their neighbors. 

 

“Time Locker” is the first story in the volume, and considered the “least Gallagher” of the bunch, but it was one of my favorites.  Gallagher has invented a weird locker-thing, that you can put something in the locker and it disappears, but then you can pull it out again. A perfect place for a crook on the run to hide the documents that will incriminate him!  With crooks and lawyers stopping in at all hours of the day at Gallagher’s lab, how is he supposed to be able to concentrate to figure what this darn locker-thing actually does, and why he created it? This story has an absolutely fantastic twist at the end! 

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Y’all are posting SO MUCH wonderful Vintage SciFi posts, I can barely keep up! And I love you for it!

As always, my apologies if I missed your post in this link up.  Feel free to add you link to the comments, and/or tag #VintageSciFi on twitter.

 

 

It wouldn’t be Vintage Month with out a Star Trek book!  Jean at Howling Frog reviews The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre, and she also takes a look at the 1954 Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine and a really, really vintage science fiction story, The Blazing-World, writte in 1666 by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

 

Galactic Journey is quite literally 100% Vintage by volume,  they are making their way to the future, one day at a time, 55 years behind the rest of us.   On Jan 16th, they received the March 1966 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow, and talked about the fiction within.

 

AnnaBookBel reviewed something that looks right up my alley – Monday Starts on Saturday by Arkady and Boris Strugatksy

 

J.G. Ballard is popular this year – Bookforager reviewed the cosy catastrophe novel The Crystal World, and Reißwolf reviewed his dystopian story The Voices of Time

 

AQ’s Reviews has a review up of Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein,  and Philip K. Dick’s Now Wait for Last Year.

 

Kristen Brand talks about her favorite vintage comic book heroines, Mysta of the Moon

 

Over at SciFiMind, John is discussing The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells, a story that thinks it’s a past dream, out of the future.

 

Kaedrin enjoyed the “twisty espionage thriller” Worlds of the Imperium by Keith Laumer

 

Lydia Schoch found some gorgeous Vintage SciFi artwork to share

 

Infinite Speculation reviewed Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, one of those books that every time I read it, I enjoy it more!

 

Eclectic Theist found that Robert Silverberg’s The Stochatic Man is more than the sum of it’s parts.

 

Over at Black Gate Magazine, James Davis Nicoll has fantastic suggestions for Vintage Science Fiction about Patrolling Space

 

Distorting the Medium reviewed Nightmare Journey by Dean R. Kootz. Friendly dog? check. Smart-ass kid? check!

 

Lynn’s Book Blog has a cover art gallery of one of my favorite vintage titles, The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Heinlein

 

Everyday Should be Tuesday enjoyed Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein, but still thinks Have Spacesuit: Will Travel is better.  He also reviewed Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 

Joachim Boaz has an in depth review of Of All Possible Worlds by William Tenn, along with a ton of cover art

 

Calmgrove offers a beautiful and soothing review of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven

 

 

As always, I am sure I have missed posts.  you can tease me on twitter about it. . .but in the meantime, please leave you posts in the comments!

In 1932, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first of what would be five Venus novels, starring Carson Napier.  Napier had thought he was navigating towards Mars, but one wrong calculation took him to Venus!  Called Amtor by the natives, the planet is covered in a thick cloud cover. Napier’s adventures on Venus include earning the love of Princess Duare, piracy, getting involved in politics, rescuing people, dealing with classism, daring escapes, and generally having as many adventures as can possibly be crammed into a sword and planet pulp novel.

There were only five Carson of Venus novels. . .   until now!

 

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe is relaunching the Carson of Venus series!  The pulping characters from yesteryear, written , well, today!   Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts will be available this spring.

I realize this isn’t strictly Vintage Science Fiction, since Betts’ book is being published now. But? I was SO CURIOUS to know how and why Betts wrote this! And how in the heck would a contemporary writer write in the style of pulp fiction from the 1930s and 1940’s?   So, like any good blogger, I asked him.  You can learn more about Matt Betts at his website, or by following him on twitter @Betts_Matt. Check out all the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe books and comics here.

Wanna know if you need to read the original Carson of Venus stories to enjoy this new one?  Wanna know about Betts’ adventures in writing canon in someone else’s world?  What about the stickier issues of modernizing pulp fiction?  Of course you want to know! read on!

Little Red Reviewer: Who is Carson of Venus, and how did you get involved with writing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe?

Matt Betts: Carson Napier is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of novels that were first published in 1932. Burroughs originally wrote four novels and a novella with the character, and started another book but abandoned it with the outbreak of World War II, when he became a war correspondent.

Carson is an earth man that built a rocket to fly to Mars. Unfortunately, he miscalculated one vital factor, which throws him off course and eventually lands him on Venus, or Amtor as the inhabitants call it. Carson is a little different from other pulp heroes of the time in that he isn’t infallible, and is a little more thoughtful in his plans.

I got involved through the new Director of Publications, Christopher Paul Carey. I’d submitted some work to him when he was with another company, and he remembered my writing. When he was hired on at ERB, Inc., he contacted me and discussed his ideas to continue some of Burroughs’ stories. This was exciting enough, but the plan was to make these canonical additions to Burroughs’ series. The idea of being part of these worlds was really too interesting to pass up. We discussed how the series would start and decided Carson would be a wonderful launch for the new series he had planned.

LRR: What went through your head, as you started reading ERB’s original Carson of Venus books, and comparing his writing style to yours?

MB: It was daunting to be sure. I mean it’s one thing to say I’d love to write a Edgar Rice Burroughs book, but sitting down to actually do it is a whole other matter. There’s a lot of expectation riding on new work in an established series by a pulp legend.

Reading ERB’s work was a big part of preparing to write the book. I read the Carson books first, of course, to get a feel for the series and the characters, but I also read most of the John Carter of Mars books and a few others to really get Burroughs’ style. After that, I read the Venus books again (and again.) While they didn’t ask me to emulate Burroughs exactly in my book, I did have a few directives from ERB, Inc. that included sticking to Burroughs’ point of view for the series, keeping to their spirit, and his storytelling conventions.

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Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Ib Melchior and John C. Higgings, starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West, 110 minutes long.

 

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Robinson Crusoe on Mars.  I knew this movie was from the 60s,  I knew it was a modernized/scifi version of Defoe’s 18th century novel Robinson Crusoe, and I knew this movie filmed and released before we actually knew what the surface of Mars was really like.  And that’s all I knew. 

 

 

I wasn’t expecting a good movie. 

 

And you know what? Compared to movies that came out in the last ten years, well, yes, Robinson Crusoe on Mars sucks.  BUT. like many classic works, you have to adapt your lens, to see it the way people at the time may have seen it.   Once I realized this movie wasn’t about about being stranded on a realistic Mars, but a movie about a man who was stranded somewhere inhospitable, and what he went through to survive, the movie and the story gets far more enjoyable. And the special effects were pretty darn good for the time! So check your 2020 expectations at the doors, folks.

 

Did you read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in high school? I didn’t, and had to look it up on Wikipedia.  The big plot points of the original are fairly straightforward – experienced sailor gets shipwrecked and makes it to an island where he believes he is alone. How to survive if no one comes looking for him because no one knows he’s alive? Yeah, anyway, he finds that cannibals are using this island to kill their prisoners. One of their prisoners escapes, and he and Crusoe become allies. Not being able to understand the man’s language, Crusoe names him Friday and starts trying to convert the guy to Christianity. Friday is viewed as a loyal servant. They save more of the prisoners and kill the cannibals.  Eventually they are rescued.  

 

Knowing the plot of the original Robinson Crusoe makes plot moments in this movie make SO MUCH MORE SENSE, I’m just sayin’! 

 

What Robinson Crusoe on Mars does very, VERY well, is showing the desolation and loneliness that Kit Draper is facing on Mars.  With only the friendly monkey Mona for company, Kit has to stave off the fears that no one knows how to find him, and that he may never hear another human’s voice again, or see another human again, and there’s a very high chance that he will die alone and far from home.  The scenes of him just walking, and walking, and walking, on desolate plains that are completely devoid of life were quite effective.  The hobbies he invents, to cope with all the nothingness, were relatable in this current day and age of social distancing.

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All Y’All Vintage SciFi Month-ers have been BUSY!  I am IN AWE!  So many posts have gone up, the @VintageSciFi_  twitter feed has gone wild, and it is only the first week of January!

 

Here’s links to SO MANY wonderful Vintage Scifi Month posts!   I’m doing my best to keep up with people who have commented here, linked back to Little Red Reviewer, tweeted to @VintageSciFiMonth_ on twitter or used the hashtag #VintageSciFiMonth.  if I missed your link, I apologize,  and feel free to leave your links in the comments either in this post or in the “Vintage SciFi Month” tab up at the top of the page.

 

We’ve got a lot of folks already talking about The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. Grace LaPointe brought our attention to her acclaimed essay on the novel (spoilers!) that was presented in 2009.

Howling Frog enjoyed the detective/spy adventure (in spaaaaaace!) book Watchers of the Dark by Lloyd Biggle Jr.

Reißwolf reviewed Sailing to Byzantium by Robert Silverberg and New Rose Hotel by William Gibson (aw yeah cyberpunk!)

Lexlingua enjoyed the far future / mythology / secret technology 1968 Hugo winning novel Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

IzzyReads picked up Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick a book that opens in January 2021.

Jim at Classics of Science Fiction has a seemingly never ending list of suggested Vintage Sci Fi short stories for anyone who isn’t sure where to start their Vintage journey

Joe at Eclectic Theist is now finally able to read Anny McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books in order! He’s up to Dragonflight.

Michael is getting a kick out of his Ace Doubles.  it’s a two-fer, literally!

Classic movie fan? Cinemashrew enjoyed the vintage scifi/horror flick Invisible Ray, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi

Did you know that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of Elon Musk’s favorite books? Me neither! Hullabaloloo decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss was about

Need more classic scifi movies? Warren Watched a Movie has an indepth write up of The Day The Earth Stood Still directed by Robert Wise

 

 

apologies if I missed anyone, please throw your links in the comments so everyone can find your link.

 

 

Will the person who mentioned this story to me please stand up?  Someone recommended or mentioned Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost, either on their blog or a comments section somewhere or on twitter, or maybe I read about this on tor.com or somewhere else, and I want to know who recommended this to me, so I can thank them.

I’m not sure if this story qualifies as vintage science fiction.  It was written more than 100 years ago, so it’s certainly vintage, but it isn’t very SF-y or even fantasy-y. It is a humorous ghost story.  In a round about way, i guess Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost is an ancestor of light hearted urban fantasy, non-horror ghost stories, and maybe even Casper the Friendly Ghost type stories?  It might also be an ancestor of another ghost story, but I’ll get to that one later! 

 

The Canterville Ghost isn’t very long and you can read it over at Project Gutenberg and there’s a free audio version on LibriVox as well.  Published in 1887 in the magazine The Court and Society Review, this story was Wilde’s first published fiction (he’d already published plenty of poetry).  The gist of the story is pretty straight forward – An American family is getting ready to purchase an English Country house.  The American father, Hiram B. Otis, isn’t pushed off when told that the house is haunted, he’s happy to buy the home, the furniture, and the ghost!

Mr. Otis and his family of Mrs. Otis, their oldest son Washington, their daughter Virginia, and their younger twin sons,  promptly move in, and are greeted by the ghost’s famous blood stain on the living room floor. 

 

What follows is a laugh out loud story of the ghost, Sir Simon, and his old fashioned attempts to scare away this decidedly modern American family.  Mr and Mrs Otis take every opportunity for product placement,  the twin boys play hilarious (and kinda mean) tricks on the ghost, and poor ghostly Sir Simon is so out of his league he literally can’t even.  

 

Sir Simon tries the classic trick of rattling chains in the middle of the night.  He’s greeted by a disgruntled and sleepy Mr Otis who tells the ghost to stop being so loud because people are trying to sleep, and oh by the way here is some branded oil for your chains, have a nice evening chap.   When Sir Simon screams and  groans all night, he’s approached by a helpful Mrs. Otis, who offers him a branded tincture to help with his sore throat and supposed indigestion.  I’m not describing it well, but it is hilarious! 

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Welcome to Vintage Science Fiction Month!

 

 

Right out of the gate we have some excellent reviews and blog posts:

 

John at SciFi Mind posted his Vintage Month reading list, I’m most looking forward to John’s reviews of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven, and C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories.

H.P. at Everyday Should be Tuesday got started a few hours early with a fun review of the time travel romp Lest Darkness Fall, by L. Sprague de Camp. Double entry accounting? really?  (I tease!)

Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog has a truly gorgeous cover art gallery of   Be sure to grab her January schedule of themed cover art tags.

John at WikiFiction has a fantastic review of A Case of Conscience by James Blish. I had no idea Blish was a biologist, i love learning new things!  Alien biology, evolution, and religion? that’s a firm YES from me!

Starship CoffeeCake (what a great twitter name!) has plans to reread Larry Niven’s Ringworld. I hope they live-tweet their reading adventure!

If you’re still building your January TBR, GW recommends Galactic Sybil Sue Blue by Rosel George Brown.  She’s a mad, mod heroine!

Joseph’s first read of the month is Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, a title and author I’m not familiar with, so now I’m even more curious to read Joseph’s thoughts on this book!

And if you’re looking for some issues of Astounding Magazine, where you can read famous stories in their very first printing, Astronaut LeTigre offered the perfect link to the Internet Archive’s section on Astounding.

 

We’re only ten hours into Vintage Month and the party is already hopping! If I’m able to hop online later tonight, I’ll update this post with more links as I find them.

I’m knee deep is some Henry Kuttner stories, and working on a review of R.U.R.  Stay groovy my friends!

 

 

2020,  don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, m’kay?


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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.