Posted on | September 12, 2013 | 51 Comments
Last week I said I was going to talk about great SF writers of the 1950s, which I’ll do presently, but first a couple of items hot off the presses and onto my Kindle, so to speak. First up, Casey Neumiller sent me a review copy of Dead Man’s Fugue (for which much thanks!) which I enthusiastically recommend to those of you who like SF adventures. Set in a time after Earth has fought a colonial war against its interstellar colonies (and lost badly), it concerns one Rake Weston, ace pilot, who wakes up in an insurance facility in a new body and with all sorts of folks gunning for him. Too bad he doesn’t know the reason why – but you get to come along for the ride as he does his damnedest to find out why before he winds up dead. Again. Neumiller’s debut is a non-stop thriller, reminiscent of many of the grand masters and yet unmistakably his own; for the price, it’s a hell of a bargain. The other hot property is S.M. Stirling’s The Given Sacrifice, which wraps up the six-volume tale of Rudi Mackenzie and the Cutter War and begins another tale, that of his daughter Crown Princess Orlaith. I’ve been following the Emberverse series since Dies the Fire, so there was no way I wasn’t getting this – but unlike some of its predecessors, it felt a bit rushed. For all that, there’s some great storytelling in here – the tale of the Morrowlander Troop, and the hilarious story of the awkward discussion between Heuradys d’Ath and her mother Delia about girls are just two of the better spots – but I honestly wish it had been longer. So much the worse for me.
We had somebody complaining last week about the lack of scientifiction before Hugo Gernsback and wanting to know if we could call Verne and Shelley examples of “Bronze Age” SF. The short reply was “No”; the long reply is here.
By popular demand, we’re going to talk about Ray Bradbury, even though he didn’t consider himself an SF author and rejected the label. He did get quite a few things published outside the pulp ghetto, and most of his work is arguably fantasy of the non-elf & dwarf crap variety, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Halloween Tree being perhaps the most memorable. SF readers, of course, tend to dwell on Fahrenheit 451 (one of the classic dystopias) and The Martian Chronicles, though even the latter is essentially a fantasy like all his other work.
Poul Anderson’s career actually starts in the late 1940s, with the short stories that would later be collected in Twilight World, but he’s much better known for the Dominic Flandry stories, the tales of a freebooting intelligence officer of Imperial Terra’s navy. Flandry is somewhat reminiscent of James Bond, but is much more likable than Fleming’s cold killer even if they are in a similar line of work. Captain Flandry and Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra contain the bulk of the Flandry stories, the latter including the heartbreaking short novel “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows”. On a lighter note, Anderson collaborated with Gordy Dickson to produce the cheerfully imitative Hokas, alien teddy bears who are more than a little unclear on the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Earthman’s Burden relates the amusing struggles of Interbeing League Envoy Alexander Jones to cope with his charges. Most of Anderson’s van Rijn stories and separate novels came out in the 1960s, so we’ll leave them for that post.
This seems as good a place as any to mention H. Beam Piper, whose Terro-Human Future History can be considered a counterpoint to Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, in that Piper believed no amount of planning was going to change human nature, and the best one could do was learn from the past before it repeated itself. Most of his stories were collected in Ace editions in the 1980s which have since gone out of print, but the original stories (along with the novels Four-Day Planet, Space Viking and Uller Uprising) are included in The H. Beam Piper Megapack, which also includes his Paratime stories and “Little Fuzzy” as well as his non-SF novels Murder In The Gunroom and Rebel Raider. To get his most famous Paratime novel, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, though, you’ll need to shell out a couple more bucks and get The Complete Paratime.
I’ll probably look at Arthur C. Clarke. C.M. Kornbluth and more of the other authors from the 1950s next week. Your suggestions are welcome.