the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘vintage

Also, Welcome to the year 2020!

I hope everyone had a joyful holiday season and a wonderful New Years.  I hope 2020 is a wonderful year for all of us.

Anyway, my first Vintage blog post is about Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris!  and I’m posting about the book before I’ve finished it!   I’ve found that is a fun thing to do – do a blog post when I’m about halfway through a book,  and then post again when I’ve finished it, to laugh at my guesses and assumptions.

 

I was reluctant to read Solaris. I think I might have tried to read this when I was in my 20s, and didn’t like it?  I remember being bored to tears when I saw the George Clooney movie. Well, the stars must be aligned, because I am enjoying Solaris so much that not only have I underlined parts of the book that speak to me, but the book is already littered with hand written notes that I’ve stuck inside the pages.   Lem wrote a lot of satires, and I can’t tell if this is a satire or not.  The wikipedia page is horribly short.

 

Some out of context bits that I underlined:

 

“We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. . .  .  We are only seeking Man.  We have no need of other worlds, we need mirrors.”

 

“It has been described as a symphony in geometry, but we lack the ears to hear it”.

 

Included in my scribbled  notes are:

 

If you Visitor can’t bear to be far away from you, what happens to your Visitor when you die?   And where is Snow’s Visitor?  What happens when you leave the station?  If you have bad thoughts about the person, does your Visitor become violent? Could your Visitor kill you?

 

regarding the observations of the ocean’s creativity – it’s like it is drawing something, writing something, sculpting something, then thinking to itself “well, that’s crap”, and crumpling up the piece of paper and throwing it away, and then trying again a few days later. Is this a slow-mo version of when you get an amazing thought in your head, and when you try to verbalize it, suddenly the thought is gone?

 

 

What is Solaris about?  the plain and oversimplified answer is that Solaris is about scientific failure. It is about that sometimes humans just have to understand that we will never understand something, and that the something we are trying to understand, it will never understand us.  If you don’t mind spoilers, there is an excellent write up about it at Tor.com, if you’re interested, and here is a neat article about how the novel has an ecological protagonist.

 

I’ll post more thoughts when I’ve finished the book and had some time to think about it.

 

In the meantime,  Have you ever read Solaris?  Have you ever read anything by Stanislaw Lem?  What are your thoughts on stories where people simple can not understand, comprehend, or communicate with whatever we are trying to communicate with? How should a character define if they have “succeeded” or not?

 

of equal importance, did you ever see one of the movie versions of Solaris? What did you think?   This doesn’t seem like the kind of story that would translate well to TV or movies.

 

 

Stay tuned for more thoughts on Solaris!

Nearly a week into January and I’m just now getting up my first Vintage Science Fiction post? What is the world coming to?  Thank you to everyone who is participating in Vintage Science Fiction Month, make sure you link back to your posts in the comments of the Vintage Scifi tab up top so everyone can find everything.  On twitter? follow @VintageSciFi_ and #VintageSciFiMonth for Vintage goodness all month long!

I may have gotten started a little late, but wow this first novel I read for Vintage Month was incredible!!

Nova, by Samuel R. Delany

published in 1968

where I got it:  from Richard at Tip the Wink

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Mouse grew in up a traditional culture that didn’t encourage pilot training or getting cybernetic plugs.  Raised in the school of hard knocks, he often stole to eat. His prized possession is a rare musical instrument that produces not only sound but also images and scent. Lorq Von Ray’s youth was the opposite of Mouse’s in every possible way. A child of wealth and privilege, he knew from a young age he’d be inheriting a business that controlled half the transportation of the known galaxy.

 

When an aged, scarred, and obsessed Captain Von Ray plunges into a portside bar looking for a crew for a trip that if successful could mean fame, infamy, societal disruption, or more likely death for everyone involved, Mouse signs up.  The Captain doesn’t explicitly say this is a trip designed around a long game of revenge, but those who listen closely, those who know where that disfiguring scar came from, they know.

 

What is Nova?  It is a quest story, a revenge story, a coming of age story, it’s the edge of every ending simply being another beginning. It sounds overweight and dangerously ambitious, but it reads smooth and weightless. The plot feels narrow at first, but it expands like a light cone,  pulling in what it needs, and easily setting aside what it doesn’t.  And there is plenty in this book that isn’t in this book  – what I mean by that is Delany has put a lot of subplot between the lines. The glances characters give each other, the words they don’t use.  It’s hard to believe this novel is less than 250 pages long!

 

The plot never sprawls, but the possibilities of everything else that happens and may happen to these characters just outside the confines of this story are endless.   The main characters are fully fleshed out, and even side characters are given just enough screen time that you start filling in the blanks of their lives yourself. For instance, I know there is so much more to Tyy, and I’d love to learn more about the twins and their other brother.

 

I loved everything about Nova, I don’t even know where to start talking about it. So I’ll just start, and hopefully this all makes sense.

 

Von Ray’s rag-tag crew is a lot of fun, they put me in mind a little bit of the TV show Farscape. Mouse and his shipmate Katin are perfect foils for each other, Katin reminds me of one of the nerdy guys on The Big Bang Theory, Mouse is the wide eyed kid going on his first Star Run. These two bond over being the least strange members of Captain Von Ray’s  crew.

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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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Joining me today is reviewer, blogger, author, photographer, podcaster, and all around nice guy Paul Weimer, to discuss L. Sprague De Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias series of short stories and novels.

Viagens Interplanetarias

An expat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 9 years, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Besides his regular presence at SF Signal and his chatty presence on Twitter (@Princejvstin)Paul can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, a contributor to the Functional Nerds, as a co-host on Skiffy and Fanty, occasional guest on SFF Audio, and many other places on the Internet. Read his story “Newton’s Method” in Tales of Eve, an anthology from Fox Spirit Press.

After World War III in the 1960’s, Earth became Brazilian for a while. The Southern Hemisphere was not as affected by the fallout and damage of the Northern Hemisphere, and so it, led by Brazil, led the world to recovery.

So when Man went to space, and eventually to the stars, the men and women who went to the stars spoke Portuguese. Exploring space and dealing with aliens requires an agency to handle the interactions. And thus, the Viagens Interplanetarias watches the starways.

The Viagens Interplanetarias is the eponymous name of a set of stories and novels written by L. Sprague De Camp. Written primarily in the 1950’s, the Viagens Interplanetarias novels have the virtues of De Camp’s strengths, in a light and fun setting he explored for decades afterwards.

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It’s almost December. you know what that means? that means it’s almost January.  And we all know what that means!

January means the return of Vintage Science Fiction month!

Vintage SF badge

Shiny new stuff is well, shiny and new, and we all love it.   But what came before it?  Your favorite author happened to mention they were inspired by the writing of Jack Vance or H.P. Lovecraft or Andre Norton or James Blish? Aren’t you curious about how your favorite authors put their own spin on the dying earth and chthonic horrors?  To get a little philosophical, by knowing where I came from, I can better see where I stand, and better see where we’ve yet to go.  This January, let’s find out.

zero_stone_1969_95960

As in past years, I’ve arbitrarily decided 1979 is the magic year for determining if something is vintage or not, and as in past years I’ll ask that anyone participating link up their review in the Vintage Science Fiction tab at the top of the page.  This January, blog about a book or a comic book or a movie or a radio show or an author from before 1979 and let me know about it so I can come visit your blog. It’s that easy. Feel free to grab the red spaceship image above, and use it as a badge-y thing.

That’s just the cake.  Here’s the icing:

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When the hell did it get to the end of October? Halloween totally snuck up on me. You know, this is what I get for cancelling my cable TV.  when I had to watch commercials on TV I always knew what time of year it was.  No seasonally appropriate commercials = no clue what time of year it is.  And yes, I do own a calendar. Two of them in fact.

so anyways, I was looking for something appropriately creepy to read for Halloween, and I like my creepy shit on the bizarrely weird side. I know, I’ll read some Lovecraft!  Good thing I found this skinny little volume at a library booksale a while back!  At The Mountains of Madness (1936)  is sure to scare the shit out of me, right? And if I’m still breathing after I finish that one, I’ve got The Shunned House (1924), The Dreams in the Witch-House (1933), and The Statement of Randolph Carter (1919) to keep me up all night, wincing at shadows.
Today I’ll just review At The Mountains of Madness, and I’ll review the others in a different post.

At the Mountains of Madness, originally published in 1936

where I got it: purchased used.

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At the Mountains of Madness is told as a flashback by Professor Dyer.  He had been part of a scientific expedition to Antarctica, and he wants to make sure that no one else goes down there because of the horrible things he witnessed. After all these years of silence, he is ready to tell his tale. He goes into a lot of details about the size of the expedition, supplies taken, how they got there, how many airplanes they take, how many members of the expedition are pilots and such. Lovecraft is sort of setting this up as an adventure story, but you immediately know something awful is going to happen. Once settled, the expedition splits up, with Professor Lake taking more than half their planes and supplies to another location, where an amazing mountain range with cube shaped ramparts and huge mummified creatures are found.  Lake reports what he finds and how his autopsy of the creatures is progressing over the wireless, to the growing excitement of Dyer and the other members of the expedition.

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Next year the WorldCon will be in London, at LonCon3.  I’m pretty excited already to get to nominate and vote in the Hugo awards again. . . and then I saw this:

The Retro Hugos

The Retro-Hugos will use the same rules and categories as the current awards. There will be parallel nominating and voting processes. The eligibility for nomination and voting is identical – if you can nominate or vote for the 2014 awards, you can nominate or vote for the 1939 awards.

How cool is that??   And everyone knows what I like to do in January, right? but seriously. do you guys think this is a brilliant idea, or are you like “meh, whatevs”? If you nominate or vote in the Hugo Awards, are you willing to to give speculative fiction written in 1938 the same attention as speculative fiction written in 2013? Can something that was written back then speak to fans today?

For your reading pleasure, the hardworking folks at LonCon3 have put together lists of novels of 1938, short fiction of 1938, dramatic presentations of 1938, Editors, and more.  I imagine (ok, I hope!) that much of the short fiction and novels are available on Project Gutenberg.

I’m pretty geeked about this. Not just because I like reading old stuff, but because I’m curious to see how the fans of today will react to what was considered speculative and cutting edge 75 years ago.


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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.