the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Vintage SciFi’ Category

Every January, I get to read some cool stuff that isn’t usually on my radar. This year was no different. (ok, well, some of it was on my radar,  but my reaction to what I was reading was nice and surprising!)

 

But?  Something happened this January during my Vintage reads that has never happened before.  I mean, it has, but not due to reading vintage science fiction.

 

what happened, you ask?

 

Reading Vintage Science Fiction this year, more than any other year I’ve done this, made me want to go out and get a ton of biographies.  I want to get a biography of Begum Rokheya, Oscar Wilde, and Orson Welles, and I want to know all about Mary Shelley’s world, and what life was like when she grew up.   I want to know more cool stuff about these hella cool people!

 

I’m not a biography reader,  so saying that I want to read biographies is a big stinkin’ deal!

 

Your turn:

What did you get out of Vintage Science Fiction Month this year?

 

While you’re chewing on that,  here’s the latest batch of Vintage links!

 

Heather at Froodian Slip enjoyed Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation, and she’s interested to see what happens next in the series. She also enjoyed Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a collection of stories that revolve around a man who is so freakish that the freak shows don’t even want him.

 

WikiFiction celebrates Jack Vance’s novel Emphyrio, which turns 50 years old this year. John didn’t much care for Emphyrio, but he is a huge fan of Asimov’s The End of Eternity.

 

Howling Frog continues to amaze, with reviews of Star Trek 10 by James Blish (I LOVE these Star Trek episode novelizations!),  The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ordeal in Otherwhere by Andre Norton,  and Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper.

 

Bookforager had a good time with Trader to the Stars by Poul Anderson, and now I am also imagining Rijn as talking with  Brian Blessed’s voice!

 

If audio is more your thing, SFFAudio has an excellent podcast, courtesy LibriVox, of Philip Jose Farmer’s The Green Odyssey. They also have audio of Ray Bradbury’s I, Mars. Their website has a TON of Vintage discussions!

 

Video more your thing? Head over to Lydia Schoch’s site for a review of the short 1930 scifi film It’s a Bird . Lydia also had a good time reminiscing about The Trouble with Tribbles.

 

Neal at Gutenberg’s Son has some excellent suggestions, if you’re looking for a new Vintage book to read.

 

It’s official, Sara Light-Waller has THE BEST garage door!

 

Kristin Brand recommends Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, with a few disclaimers.

 

Mervi’s reviews reviews Jack Vance’s final Planet of Adventure volume, The Pnume.  The aliens are fun and curious, even if some of the scenes were eye-rolling.

 

Planetary Defense Command gave E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman books a try, with Galactic Patrol. He enjoyed the wackyness, but wasn’t real keen on the telepathy stuff.

 

SciFi Mind read Frank Herbert’s Destination Void, which asks the questions of how (or why) do you keep a mission alive,  when the mission may have been designed to fail?  Thanks to John’s review, this book has now become a MUST READ for me!

 

I get most of these links through our twitter feed and by people leaving their links in the “Vintage Scifi Not-A-Challenge tab up top.  Apologies if I missed yours!  Please leave your link in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get this post updated with your links.

 

Thank you everyone, for an amazing Vintage month!!

I didn’t have another Vintage SciFi Month post planned. . .  until I yesterday afternoon when I listened to a very fun episode of RadioLab.   (and yes, I listen to podcasts the same way I read anthologies: in random order)

 

The title of the episode was just War of the Worlds, and I could guess what it was about, but the episode was a million times more fun than I expected!   Sorry, Yes, this blog post is one huge advertisement for their hella fun War of the Worlds episode and for RadioLab in general.

 

Maybe you already know this timeline?

1898:  H.G. Wells writes War of the Worlds.

1938: Orson Welles does his Oct 30th radio broadcast of his version of War of the Worlds, which takes Wells’ story and makes it sort of news-y.

 

Right at the beginning of the broadcast,  Welles announces that this is a science fiction story,  and then at the end of the broadcast he announces it again.  He and his radio crew assumed they were giving people a fun Halloween scare.  And yet, people freak the hell out any way.

The Radiolab hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich go into all sorts of fun historical detail about how how Newspaper and Radio were not friends, and “We interrupt this broadcast for an important news bulletin” was really new at the time, and how listeners would channel surf the same way we channel surf today.

 

It’s just a damn good podcast episode.

 

They talk about how the police station fielded hundreds of calls from people worried about a Martian invasion, and how people swore they saw smoke above the city. People had convinced themselves that they saw something, and they didn’t see anything! because nothing was actually happening!  And that Welles had no idea that he’d scared the shit out of people until the next morning when he read the newspapers.

 

The hosts then asked what I thought (boy was I wrong!) was a rather silly question:  Could someone pull this same stunt again?  Could someone trick listeners into thinking a radio drama about an obviously fake event was real?

 

um, Yes.

 

Two more times, actually!

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to our last week of #VintageSciFi discussions.

There are some excellent conversations going on in the comments sections, and it’s never too late to join in. Here are links to the discussions posts from earlier this month:

Topic for Jan 6 – Jan 12:  I just dated myself.

Topic for Jan 13 – Jan 19:  Gateway Drug to Vintage.

Topic for Jan 20 – Jan 26: Why is this important to you?

 

for our final week of Vintage Science Fiction month, we’re doing something fun. Let’s talk about cover art! the good, the bad, the weird, and the WTF.  Before going further, I need to give a huge shout out to Joachim at Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations, who has a ginormous index of Vintage Cover Art.  There are also cover art galleries available at The Future Is Female, and this rather random but still enjoyable SciFi Books Flickr group gallery. DECADES of wonderful and weird cover art!  because do you judge a book by it’s cover? I know I do.

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Let’s discuss!

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Topic for Jan 27 – Jan 31: That’s, um, interesting.  Post your favorite Vintage Cover art. Post the weirdest cover art you can find. Post Vintage cover art that makes you want to pick the book up, post vintage cover art that makes you say WTF?

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Be warned, this post is just a gigantic gallery of Vintage cover art (loading my be slow) and my comments on the artwork. Based on the cover art, would you pick up this book?   If you’ve read these titles, does the cover art have anything to do with the story?

 

If you’ve got Vintage SciFi Cover art that you love, or cover art that is so weird you’re not sure what to think about it, put a link to the image in the comments.

What a striking image!! But I don’t think that’s what Jirel was wearing??

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This 1962 artwork looks right out of the mid 80s

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my favorite Waystation Cover Art. first time I saw this cover art, I didn’t even notice the little farmhouse.

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um, what??

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Lem’s The Cyberiad is freakin’ fantastic! Love this Monty Python-esque cover art!


Read the rest of this entry »

This week’s discussion topic is:

Topic for Jan 20 – Jan 26: Why is this important to you?   Why are you interested in reading Vintage SciFi? What do you get out of it?

With so many new books coming out every year, why even bother reading older science fiction?

Is there value in reading older science fiction?  Is it worth your time?

Why even read this stuff?

 

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the past five years.  Reading older science fiction, for me, is like taking the world’s most fun history class. I get to see what life was like in the 60s, the 40s, the 30s, and before 1900, through the eyes of speculative fiction.     Because I can’t think of a way to phrase it better, I’m going to plagarize myself from a Vintage SciFi blog post I wrote in 2016:

If you could ask your great grandparents what their life was like when they were growing up, you would, right?

If you could go back in time and see what your country and your family were like before social media took over the universe, you’d be interesting in seeing what the world was like, right?

This January, you can. This January, I invite you to travel through time with me. Travel into the past, look into the youthful eyes of your great grandparents. See what came before so we could have what we have now.

Ok, maybe not time travel exactly. . . but sort of.

Everything comes from somewhere. You came from your parents, duh. But who are the parents of your favorite science fiction books? I’ll tell you: the parents of your favorite science fiction books are the books that author read to be inspired and to dream. And those books have parents too. If you don’t like me using the word “book parents” here, how about “the author’s influences”? Something they were influenced and inspired by to create something new and modern.

By reading older fiction, you get to see how that fiction progressed to get to where it is today. You get to experience the family tree, as it were, of speculative fiction.

Ok, that’s my two cents.

What are yours?

Welcome to week two of Vintage SciFi Month!   Last week we had a fantastic discussion about what makes older books feel dated, or not feel dated.

Topic for Jan 13 – Jan 19: Gateway Drug to Vintage. Your friend says they don’t want to read anything older. They think older books are awful/dated/slow paced/badly written/etc.

What titles(s) do you recommend to them to help them step outside their comfort zone?

How do you convince them to give the book(s) a chance?

 

 

To help you get your thinking caps on, here are some links to some recent #VintageSciFi around the blogosphere

Tip the Wink reviews Sands of Mars, Arthur C. Clarke’s first published novel

Every Day Should be Tuesday reviews Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov, and looks at Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee

Kaedrin tackles Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars and explains the most confusing Heinlein conversation I have ever been part of.

Weighing a Pig reviews Destination Void by Frank Herbert

Howling Frog Books reviews Earthworks by Brian Aldiss

This Sporadic Life reviews Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs has a fantastic and in depth review of Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet edited by Mike Ashley

Wolfman’s Cult Film Club enjoyed Fantastic Voyage

David Lee Summers talks about A Bertram Chandler’s famous John Grimes

Late to the Game enjoyed the movie The Black Hole

 

Enjoy!

 

Hello and welcome to this week’s #VintageSciFi discussion!

Topic for Jan 6 – Jan 12:  I just dated myself. In your experience, which vintage SF books don’t feel dated?  What titles have passed the test of time, and feel like they could have been written in the last ten years? Is such a book possible? What, in your opinion, makes something feel dated?

Anytime this week, post a blog post with your thoughts, and leave the link down in the comments so others can more easily find your post.

Not sure where to start?  Here are my questions and thoughts.

 

What makes a Vintage book feel dated?  

On the hard scifi side of things, whenever I read an older science fiction story and the author talks about “computers the size of a room”, or punchcards, I laugh my head off.  1960 called, they want their room sized computer back!  I do want my scifi to have technology – computers, spaceships, flying cars, but almost the less the author speaks to the specifics of the inner workings of the technology (how exactly the spaceship flies, how big/small the computer is), the less dated it feels.  Vintage Science fiction is more a victim of the “dated through technology” issue than vintage fantasy. In fantasy, a magic wand is a magic wand, you know?

Many readers are turned off and bothered by the fact that older scifi fantasy books tend to feature only white, male protagonists, and that female and non-white characters are built around stereotypes and flimsy characterization.  This can make a book feel not only horribly dated, but also offensive.  In my personal experience, I’ve read some books where this is super-bothersome for me, and other times i am not as bothered. Could be the author, could be the mood i’m in that day, I have no idea.

 

What dated books do I enjoy, even though they feel dated?

 

I recently read Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel (review coming soon!).  It is horribly dated, often to the point of being funny. The main character comes off as a country bumpkin at times, and i’m hoping that was on purpose, actually, and his wife is written as a 1 dimensional cartoon character. More of this in the review, but his entire worldview is just so narrow as to be silly.  So, yes, horribly dated, but more in the review about why I think this is an important read, and how influential the ideas presented were.

 

One of my favorite older short story collections is The Best of Hal Clement, but yeah, in style and pacing, these stories feel really dated.  Lots of hard scifi, good conversations, excellent commentary on communication between humans and aliens.  If you’ve never read any Hal Clement, this paperback is worth hunting for.

 

It should surprise no one that Mary Shelley Frankenstein does feel dated, and in my opinion this is 100% due to the writing style, which was perfectly modern when the book came out two hundred years ago (Yes, TWO HUNDRED years ago!!).  If you’re not sure where to start with historical Science Fiction,  Frankenstein a perfect place to start.

 

What Vintage SciFi Books have you read that didn’t feel dated?

 

I’m really interested to hear what everyone else has to say on this one, because the only ones that quickly come to mind for me are Dune by Frank Herbert,  Nova by Samuel Delany,  Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm, and Waystation by Clifford Simak. With the Wilhelm title,  the first chapter or two feel a little dated, but everything after that could have been written last year.

What do Dune and Nova have in common?  They take place in the far future, and the lives and goals of the characters have nothing to do with today’s life on Earth.  In Nova, Earth and Earth based politics are mentioned, but Lorq’s decisions are not based on 20th century Earth.

 

Now it’s your turn to join the discussion!

 

My goodness, where did 2018 go?   I don’t know about you, but i’m ready to rock and roll this new year!

 

January is sure to be a busy month for everyone (oh, hi Kickstarter!), so let’s start #VintageSciFiMonth by removing some of that Gotta Read!Gotta Review! pressure. If you’re planning to read and write reviews, that’s great!  But #VintageScFiMonth should be about more than just posting book reviews. It should be about discussing older science fiction.  Why are we interested in reading it? Is it worth our time? Isn’t that cover art hilarious?

 

Since Vintage Science Fiction Month is a not-a-challenge,  these will be not-blog-hops.  They are just different discussions for each week of January, so we can all be talking about the same things at the same time. Talk about it on your blog, in other people’s comments sections, on twitter, on insta, on FB, via text message with your friends. Send a postcard. You get the idea.

 

Here are the topic ideas and time frames, so you can put your thinking cap on ahead of time!

 

Topic for Jan 6 – Jan 12:  I just dated myself. In your experience, which vintage SF books don’t feel dated?  What titles have passed the test of time, and feel like they could have been written in the last ten years? Is such a book possible? What, in your opinion, makes something feel dated?

 

Topic for Jan 13 – Jan 19:  Gateway Drug to Vintage. Your friend says they don’t want to read anything older. They think older books are awful. What titles(s) do you recommend to them to help them step outside their comfort zone? How do you convince them to give the book(s) a chance?

 

Topic for Jan 20 – Jan 26: Why is this important to you?   Why are you interested in reading Vintage SciFi? What do you get out of it?

 

 

Topic for Jan 27 – Jan 31: That’s, um, interesting.  Post your favorite Vintage Cover art. Post the weirdest cover art you can find. Post Vintage cover art that makes you want to pick the book up, post vintage cover art that makes you say WTF?

 

Want one more activity?  Got ya covered. Here’s a Vintage Sci Fi Month Bingo Card. Well, more of a connect four card than bingo. . .

 

 

What happens every December?

Christmas? the Solstice?  not enough sunlight?

close!

 

Every December I get read for Vintage Science Fiction month in January!

I’ve been hosting this little party since 2012, by reading and celebrating science fiction and fantasy that is older than I am – that is, created in 1979 or earlier.  Over the years, the party has grown!  it’s grown so big I can’t host it alone anymore.  Red Star Reviews is my fantastic co-host, and we’ll be posting, tweeting, retweeting, insta-ing, tubing, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/VintageSciFi_ , find us on bookstagram, mention us on YouTube, retweet and share what your friends are doing.  January is a wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of month.

Here’s some artwork you can use:

I’m expecting January to be a bit busy, what with this and that.   But I still plan on enjoying some vintage reads, and helping our new VintageSciFi-ers find some old treats that they’ve probably never heard of.

 

With apologies to whatever has happened to the cover of this Kate Wilhelm book, here is my Vintage SciFi Month TBR:

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm was published in 1976. I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for at least 5 years, and  when I found this be-stickered copy at a used bookstore I snapped it up! now I just need some goo-gone and some patience to unveil the original cover art.

 

The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers was published in 1979 and was the author’s first major novel. I have no idea what this book is about (time travel? beer? saving the world?) , but Tim Powers is a little like being Batman: Always read whatever you want, unless you can read a Tim Powers book, then always read Tim Powers.  Powers is one of those authors that when I see a book of his that I don’t already own, I automatically buy it.

 

I was in a twitter conversation the other day about Where to Start With Asimov. I’ve always loved his I Robot stories, but I’ve read them to death. But it’s probably been ten years since I’ve read the Robot novels. Here’s to hoping these books aren’t too horribly dated!  The Caves of Steel was published in 1954.

 

So what’s on your #VintageSciFi list?

 

Goodness, it’s already January 19th? When did that even happen?  Apparently I am starting out 2018 with terrible time management skills.

Thank you to everyone is who participating in Vintage Science Fiction month, I hope you’ve taken an opportunity to pick up an author you’ve never read before, a title you’ve never read before, or even used this month as a time to revisit your favorite classics.  This year’s Vintage Month has been a little on the quiet side, and you know what? I am a 110% OK with that.

If you’re interested in exploring Vintage Science Fiction titles, and seeing what your friends are up to, these links are for you!

 

The Howling Frog has been enjoying some excellent Leigh Brackett novels, reviewing The Reavers of Skaith, The Hounds of Skaith, and The Ginger Star. (If the name Leigh Brackett rings a bell it’s because her Eric John Stark adventures are awesome, and oh yeah, she was one of the screenwriters for  The Empire Strikes Back.)

 

My Reader’s Block read a buffet of short fiction in the 1966 edition of World’s Best Science Fiction, which included work by Simak, Fritz,  Niven, Saberhagen, all the rock stars of that decade along with names she didn’t recognize. She gives a run down of every story, what a great snapshot of the Science Fiction short fiction of ’66!   Not exactly Vintage, but filled with classic Star Trek injokes, she also had some fun with the new illustrated book Search For Spock.

 

Every Day Should be Tuesday gave five stars to Andre Norton’s The Beast Master.  This is an excellently written review, with tidbits from what may have inspired portions of the book and what this book went on to influence. Norton is one of my favorite classic authors, I get a kick out of seeing her work still being enjoyed!

 

Bookforager enjoyed The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by D.G. Compton. Written in the mid-70s, this novel is character driven, has touches of the upcoming cyberpunk trend,  features a middle aged female protagonist, and a surprise reveal.  I’m not familiar with Compton’s work, but after reading this review, I need to track down a copy of this book!

 

Kaedrin read Larry Niven’s classic Ringworld,  which I like to think of as the novel that launched a thousand ideas, books, spin-offs, and video games.  I don’t know about you, but I know I take for granted how much of an influence Ringworld has had on contemporary scifi ideas.

 

There is a lot of general Vintage Science Fiction chatter happening on twitter, follow @VintageSciFiMonth_ or #VintageSciFiMonth to hop into the conversation!

 

As for me, I’m reading quicker than I have time to review! I’m currently enjoying a volume of Clifford Simak short fiction. Mostly written between 1940 and 1960,  his ideas are far ahead of their time – there is a time travel story in here that screams “The Company”, there is a story about vegetable intelligence that I’d love to discuss with an evolutionary biologist, there is a terrifying theory about how the dinosaurs were really wiped out, and it’s all just so damn readable!

 

Whatever book you pick up this weekend, be it Vintage or not, be it a new-to-you author or not, I wish you reading enjoyment and relaxation!

 

 

Sorry about the radio silence, it’s been a long week!   I haven’t written formal reviews for these books, but here’s what I’ve been reading recently for Vintage Science Fiction month!

 

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1957) – I’ve been meaning to read this forever. It’s one of those books that can spark never ending conversations, in a good way! It’s a sort of space opera version of The Count of Monte Cristo.  Gully Foyle is just a regular guy, and he gets marooned in space, the only survivor of a nearly destroyed ship.  A ship comes to salvage, and sees Foyle. But instead of rescuing him, the ship leaves. Foyle vows to find the people who left him behind, and destroy them.    Things I enjoyed about The Stars My Destination included the explanation of how people discovered how to teleport themselves and how teleportation drastically changes how society functions, how Foyle survives a few minutes at a time on the dying ship, his tiger tattoos and the lunatics who tattood him, and I really loved the revelation at the end about WHY certain people want to get their hands on Gully Foyle. The last chapter was absolutely brilliant. Things I didn’t like about this book were basically all of the characters.  Maybe upon reread I’ll connect with the characters more, but I didn’t care for any of them, and I couldn’t buy into Foyle’s insta-relationship with Olivia.

 

9th Annual Year’s Best SF, edited by Judith Merrill (1964) – I’ve been dipping in and out of this anthology. I started with one of my favorite Cordwainer Smith short stories, “Drunkboat”, what a great story! I mean, everything Smith wrote was fantastic!  And then I got laugh out of “Double Standard”, by Frederic Brown. Told from the point of view of  a person who lives inside a television set, who acts towards the window, and wonders about the people he sees on the other side of the window, different people every night. This hilariously rated G story originally appeared in Playboy.  Other fun stories I enjoyed included  “Mrs Pigafetta Swims Well” by R. Bretnor, “Poppa Needs Shorts”, by Walt & Leigh Richmond, and “Ming Vase”, by E.C. Tubb.  I expect to dip into this anthology more, as there are stories by Alfred Bester, Fritz Leiber, and Hal Clement I’d like to read.

 

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953) – So, I do consider myself a Heinlein fan. And many people list Starman Jones as their favorite Heinlein juvenile. But it fell completely flat for me. Maybe I would have liked it more if I’d read it as a pre-teen? It seems like something a pre-teen could really get into.   The characters felt very flat to me, and Max Jones, the main character, he doesn’t seem to have any personality. Things happen around them, he responds to them in whatever way the story needs, the story moves on. So, the less said about this one, the better.

 

 


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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.