the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Vintage SciFi’ Category

end of the storyThe End of the Story, the Collected Fantasies Vol 1, by Clark Ashton Smith. Edited by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger

This collection published Sept 2015

Where I got it:  rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Nightshade!)

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Last summer, I received an advanced reading copy of the new The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, vol 1, from Nightshade Books.  It’s funny, because these are short stories from the 1930s, yet this is a new printing, with a new introduction, new cover art, etc. It’s lucky this book arrived, as I’ve always heard the name Clark Ashton Smith, but never came across any of his work.

 

Skimming through the introduction and the table of contents, I quickly learned two things – Clark Ashton Smith is known for cosmic horror and weird fiction, writing in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft; and that most of these stories were blessedly short. Don’t get me wrong, I like a meaty short story, but sometimes a super quick 5 page story, one that’s practically flash fiction, is exactly what fits the bill.  These were short stories I could read half a dozen of before bed, or read one while cooking dinner in between steps of stirring occasionally, and seasoning to taste.

 

It’s funny reading stories that were written so long ago, and most of these were written between 1925 and 1935.  Just think, in ten years, these stories will be a hundred years old. So, are they dated? Oh completely. But what’s most fascinating to me, is things that readers would have been horrified at (vampires, waking nightmares, succubi, etc) in the late 1920s, most readers today are completely used to.   Do you remember the skinny “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark” books that were popular with the 3rd to 6th grade crowd in the 80s?  Ghost stories,  stories about people’s heads falling off, all rated G, but totally creepy to any nine year old?  This is not an insult, but many of the Clark Ashton Smith stories felt quite a bit like those.  His literary style is a nicer kind of horror in a way – nothing gruesome, nothing squicky.  Many of his “big reveals” are fairly cheesy by today’s standards, such as the man’s visions were all a dream, or the old person relating the scary story disappeared into thin air, and such.  I’d happily give this collection to any ten year old, and not only would it scare the pants off them (in a fun way, I swear!), but they’d learn all sorts of fun new words, like asphodels, psammite, innominable, obloquy, invultuations, and dilatoriness.

 

So, the stories are dated, the big reveals aren’t at all shocking, but the prose is illuminating, and poetic. Here’s a sample, from the beginning of “The Planet of the Dead”:

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Taking a cue from Lynn’s Book Blog,  I’d like to highlight a few Vintage titles I’ve previously enjoyed by showing off their cover art.  What makes these books so special to me, is that without Vintage month, I wouldn’t have ever discovered them.

As you scroll through this cover art gallery, ask yourself: if you saw these books with this cover art at the bookstore, how likely would you be to pick up the book?

 

Just recently, I fell head over heels for Clifford Simak’s Way Station, written in 1963.  Such a feel-good story!

The original 1963 Doubleday cover art

The original 1963 Doubleday cover art

1969 Cover Art by Jack Faragasso

1969 Cover Art by Jack Faragasso

2014 Cover art from the Chinese translation

2014 Cover art from the Chinese translation

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Is this your first Vintage Month?  welcome!

 

You might have a battered copy of The Martian Chronicles, or something from the library or the used bookstore. This post is all about where to find Vintage goodness in both print and electronic forms,  how to take care of your crumbly old paperbacks, and where to find vintage reviews and discussions online year round.

Where to find Vintage Reads

My favorite resource is used bookstores. They are a treasure hunt of wonderfulness, and you never know what you’ll find. This can be good and bad. Not sure where the good bookstores in your area are? Use the twittersphere to your advantage – just ask for used bookstore recommendations in your geographical area.

If you don’t want to make a financial investment, the library is always your friend. Many science fiction classics get a reprint every 15 years or so, so you’re sure to find something that was originally printed pre-1979 at the library. Even better? Many libraries have the “Year’s Best” type anthologies going back decades, if you want to dip your toes into the short fiction of a particular year. Skim the scifi shelves for binding that looks old, and cheesy old fonts on the spines.

It’s hit and miss finding older titles available electronically. If the title is really old (Hi Jules Verne!), the copyright has run out and it’s probably available through Project Gutenberg. A few years ago I found a free (legal!) audiobook of A Princess of Mars through LibriVox, which offers audiobooks of public domain books. Open Road Media is making e-books of a lot of older books, and I’m pretty impressed with their SFF catalog in general.

If you opt to purchase used paperbacks,  be aware, older books should be cared for a little differently.  “Pulp” fiction was called that because of the cheap paper used and oftentimes even cheaper methods of binding. What I’m getting at here is these books are probably more fragile than a book purchased today.  Dried out glue in the binding can be repaired, clear packing tape is a good bandaid for tears in covers, and the ink will probably come off on your fingers.  Beware of mildew and moldy smells, although there are ways around that too.  If the book doesn’t look like it will survive being read, your best bet is probably to purchase something else. (Although I am totally guilty of buying books that won’t survive another reading, the poor things died in my hands. I was the last human they saw.)

I celebrate Vintage Month one month out of the year, and randomly read older stuff all year round, there are a few blogs and websites I’ve found that generally specialize in older science fiction all year long.  If you’re looking for some reviews, some context, or just some fun cover art galleries, check these folks out:

Galactic Journey

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

SFF Mistressworks

 

Looks like you’re ready to be on Red Alert for the Interstellar Patrol!

 

Vintage SF badge

 

Vintage SF badge

Welcome to Vintage Science Fiction month, where we celebrate speculative fiction from yesteryear.  Welcome to those of you who are reading something older for the first time, welcome to those of you who randomly read older stuff all the time, welcome to those of you who read Citizen of the Galaxy or Dune or Babel-17 in their first printings. Vintage Month is a sort of multi-generational  book club.

 

A discussion that often comes up when reading older fiction is “did it age well?”. A corollary to that is it isn’t the books that age, it’s us.  Something that was edgy and groundbreaking in 1935 certainly feels old fashioned now. Something I loved to pieces when I was fifteen might not thrill mid-30s me.  We age, and the books stay the same. Society and culture changes, but the book that was written in 1962 is still that same book.

 

frazetta cover princess of marsWhich brings me to the title of this blog post.

 

As you are reading older science fiction books this month, and hopefully posting your thoughts online, in which context will you be reading the book? Will you read A Princess of Mars in the pulpy context of it’s time, or will you compare it against today’s more diverse fiction?  Will you chuckle along with Stanislaw Lem’s Cyberiad, or wonder why his computers and robots were so clunky?

 

There’s no one right way to review a book, or to frame your thoughts on something.  But think about, and be aware of the timeframe in which these books were written, and the lives the authors lived.  Some of you will judge older titles against today’s expectations (why are these characters so simple? How come no one is conflicted? Why are there so few women and minorities? Why is this book so . . . problematic? Is it actually problematic? etc).  Others of you will be more aware and understanding of the time in which the books were published. Like I  said, there is no right or wrong way, and many of us will end up having our cake and eating it too.  If you are of the younger generation, I invite and encourage you to ask older Vintage Month bloggers about what was happening the world when certain books were published. Mark Geston makes so much more sense when seen through the eyes of a Vietnam Vet.  Space travel stories of the 1940s read more like science and less like fantasy when you realize how little we actually knew about spaceflight, and that NASA didn’t even exist yet, let alone our dreams of a Moon landing.

 

And for books that are published today? Five, ten, or even fifteen years from now, when you return to the same book, you will have changed, but the book will remain the same.  And you’ll remember the context in which it was written. You’ll have a connection to that context.

And twenty years from now, when the books that were published circa 2010 are considered “old”, you’ll be defending your favorite title to some young-un who finds it problematic.  You’ll be the one telling that young and annoyingly loud,  rascal that if they’d only think about the time in which said book was written . . . .

the-stars-my-destination 2

Booktuber The Space Possum made a fantastic YouTube video about about Vintage Month.  Click here to check it out!  She was kind enough to mention Vintage Month, so leave her some comments about the first Vintage book you read, your favorite Vintage book, what do you plan to read for Vintage Month, and where do you even get these books?   I also need to thank Red Star Reviews for  promoting Vintage Month on Instagram. Thanks Space Possum and Red Star Reviews!

 

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This year Instagram and YouTube. . . . next year the world!

wow, it’s the end of January already! How did that happen??

 

As it turned out, the majority of what I read for Vintage Month was published in the 60s and 70s.  I got a taste of New Wave, more psychology studies than I can shake a stick at, our fears of overpopulation, our hopeful expectations of future technology, and science fiction as written through the lens of the Vietnam War.  My focus on that time period was accidental, but i’m happy it worked out that way.
I want to thank everyone who participated in Vintage Science Fiction Month this year. Whether you wrote reviews, did a discussion or a guest post, or simply retweeted something tagged #VintageSciFi that looked interesting, it’s because of YOU that Vintage SciFi Month was a success.

A huge Thank You goes out to:

Vintage SF badgeDrunken Dragon Reviews

Book Haven

Lesley Conner

Uncertain Tales

The Broken  Bullhorn

Andrew Robins (for the guest post AND the loan of the DVDs!)

Antyphayes

Bruce Baugh

Battered, Tattered, Yellowed and Creased

Fate SF

Howling Frog Books

Tethyan Books

Dab of Darkness

this is how she fight start

Over the Effing Rainbow

Susan Hated Literature

The Bastard Title

Two Dudes in an Attic

My Reader’s Block

Stainless Steel Droppings

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

Science Fiction Times

Lynn’s Book Blog

Nashville Book Worm

RedStar Reviews

The Finch and Pea

Bookishly Witty

 

 

vulcan Kathleen SkyVulcan! by Kathleen Sky

published in 1978

where I got it: purchased used

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Ahh, Star Trek. I grew up with you, I watched all your spin offs, I learned all about diplomacy and crazy hairstyles from you, I’ve even transferred my school girl crush on Shatner’s Kirk to Vic Mignogna’s Kirk. But in all these years, I’ve never read a Star Trek tie in novel. Until now.  Browsing at a bookstore with some friends,   Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky was pushed into my hands. ok sure, why not?

 

You know sometimes you just need a fun, brain-candy kind of book? Something that is sure to entertain but doesn’t require your brain to do any back-flips? This was one of the books, and the timing couldn’t have been better, because boy was I in the mood for some easy to read candy.

 

The premise is that the Neutral Zone between Federation space and Romulan space is shifting, and a solar system that had always been on the Federation side will soon be on the Romulan side. The Enterprise’s mission is to visit the planet and determine if the life forms there are intelligent or not. On the way, they pick up the Federation’s preeminent expert on zenobiology, Dr. Katalya Tremain. Kirk has been warned that she’s got a difficult personality, but he figures he’ll put on the charm, and she’ll be like putty in his hands. Dr. Tremain beams aboard, sees Spock standing in the transporter room, and freaks the hell out.  Apparently “difficult personality” was subtle talk for she’s happily vocal about her bigoted hatred for all Vulcans.

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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.