the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘golden age

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 »

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Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) was one of the first science fiction authors I read. I started with his Foundation books, moved onto the Robot books, and leapt into the fray from there. And Dr. Asimov is far more than just a science fiction writer. He wrote droves of non-fiction as well, eventually being involved in over 500 books of both fiction and non-fiction.  His science fiction is utilitarian yet deep, showing a fascinating view of the human condition, yet easily grasped. After all these years, it’s had to believe I’ve never read Asimov’s famous short story Nightfall, which in the 1960s was voted the best science fiction short story ever written by the SFWA. The original short story Nightfall was written in 1941, and shortly before Asimov’s death he and Robert Silverberg adapted it into a full length novel.

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Nightfall (short story) by Isaac Asimov

originally published in 1941

where I got it: listened!  download the story from Escape Pod, here

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Lagash  is a planet that never has a sunset, never sees stars, never lights a fire to keep the dark of night at bay.  You see, Lagash has not one or two suns, but six that cross its sky. This is a civilization that has never been in the dark,  never worried about inventing light bulbs, electricity, gas lamps or candles. They barely have an understanding of the burning pitch torch.

Until now.  Every two thousand years or so the stars are aligned just right so that only Lagash’s dimmest star, Beta, remains in the sky as the planet’s dark companion slowly rotates around, causing a total solar eclipse.

When darkness falls, what will happen? The archaeological records show that most civilizations reached a peak, and then collapsed shortly after each eclipse that hits like clockwork.  But this time things will be different. In the capital city, a percentage of the population waits safely in an underground shelter with all the records and knowledge of Lagash, prepared to wait out the worst and repopulate the planet if necessary.

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Mission to the Stars (also published as The Mixed Men), by A. E. Van Vogt

published as a novel in 1952, based on short stories written in the 1940’s

where I got it: purchased used

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With an incredibly immersive and involved story, Van Vogt manages to use very few words to imply so much about characters, the environment, and complex political situations. I was happily surprised at how few pages it took me to feel like I was “in” the story.  And another happy surprise, a female main character, who is also in a position of power, along with a handful of other female officers! How wonderfully unexpected!

Grand Captain Lady Laurr Gloria Cecily commands the Earth ship Star Cluster on their ten year mapping mission of the Megallanic Cloud. As their mission comes to a close and they are readying for the interstellar trip home, they come across a lonesome weather station, manned by a suicidal meteorologist named Watcher. What is a weather station doing out in the middle of no where, where humanity has barely been, and why in the world did he kill himself after he had been given medical care on board the Star Cluster?  Against the strong suggestions of the rest of the captains on the ship, Grand Captain Gloria Cecily decides to dive back into the Magellanic Cloud to search for possible colonists.

The government of Earth is a singular government, and does not tolerate any independent human colonies.  Revolts are either put down, or the populations involved are killed. If there are human colonists living in the Magellanic Cloud, they will be absorbed into the government of Earth.  But these people do not want to be found!

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Of all the authors I’ve read and will be reading for Vintage month, Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988) is the one I’m most familiar with. Yesterday I shared with you my love for Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and today I’d like to share my journey through Heinlein’s works with you.  I haven’t read everything he wrote, although one day I hope to. He’s a writer that’s been with me for my entire adult life, and I like to think that my worldview was in part shaped by his writings.

Sometime near the end of high school, maybe the beginning of college, I picked up a battered copy of Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d heard of it, it had neat cover art.  The beginning blew me away. The end confused me. I didn’t grok what I was reading, but I knew I wanted to.  It marked the beginning of my quest to read Heinlein title I could get my hands on: Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Puppermasters, Friday, Job,  The  Sixth Column, Starship Troopers, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Glory Road,  Farnham’s Freehold, the list really does go on.  He wrote over 30 novels and nearly 60 short stories, so I’m not going to run out of material any time soon.

Every story was different – some followed families in dire straights, others were political responses to a world gone mad, some were pure fantasy or pure hard scifi, or social science fiction, and nearly all focused on the philosophies of non-conformity and individuality. For a 20-something, this was pretty mind blowing stuff.

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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.