" In this universe the night was falling; the shadows were lengthening towards an east that would not know another dawn. But elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again"

Arthur C. Clarke Against the Fall of Night

Friday, September 29, 2017

New Arrival; The Death of Grass by John Christopher

I always am looking for several SF books with covers I consider particularly striking, the Richard Powers cover for Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human for example. So while researching Penguin SF for my earlier posts I took one more search for a reasonably priced copy of The Death of Grass by John Christopher with this impressive cover by John Griffiths. This time however I found one in Winnipeg and this particular search is over.

Another article on the joys of Penguin SF from The Guardian.

Penguin shows off its SF covers
"One of my particular pleasures is poking around secondhand bookshops to find vintage science fiction books (I recently picked up a 1980s Harry Harrison novel purely because of its jacket, which features a monster-sized dolphin with a mouth of very sharp teeth). So, stumbling across this labour of love and beauty – a website exploring the history and cover art of science fiction published by Penguin between 1935 and 1977 – thanks to the Penguin blog means that I've just spent much of my morning plumbing its depths."


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Penguin Books 3 (Pelican Books, the history) The Exploration of Space, Arthur C Clarke, 1958.

 In 1936, Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin, overheard a woman at a bookstall in King’s Cross station asking for ‘one of those Pelican books’. Presumably she meant a Penguin, but Lane, concerned that his competitors might snatch up bird names, decided to launch a new flock of non-fiction books. The Pelican imprint was born."

And thus an imprint for non-fiction books was born."

"In 2014, after nearly three decades in retirement, Pelican was reborn. In its new incarnation Pelican continues the same mission: to publish truly accessible books from authoritative and award-winning writers on a wide range of essential subjects. Pelicans are for those topics you are interested in, but feel you don’t know enough about, whether it’s architecture or the brain, evolution or Islam. You can expect many more Pelicans to take flight in 2015 and beyond."


To acknowledge the  Pelican re-launch The Guardian published a great overview of the Pelican imprint.


"The volumes came thick and fast, and were classy. In the 10 months between August 1958 and May 1959, for instance, Pelican titles included Kenneth Clark's study of Leonardo, Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy, The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Penguin 2, Dystopian novels, 1984 by George Orwell at the Barbican, Interesting links

Jill Lepore, writing in the New Yorker (link below) discusses the current crop of dystopian fiction as well as providing a brief survey of the field overall. She offers a distinction between dystopian novels versus apocalyptic novels that I found quite interesting. 

"Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man,” is a dystopia (on the island, the pursuit of equality has reduced everyone to living in caves), but Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel, “The Last Man,” in which the last human being dies in the year 2100 of a dreadful plague, is not dystopian; it’s merely apocalyptic."

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction in describing John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar states "The Dystopian vision of this complex novel, much of which is set in an exemplary New York, rests on the assumption that Earth's population will continue to expand uncontrollably (see Overpopulation)."

They go to describe Brunner's further novels, The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider as

"Three further novels, all with some of the same pace and intensity, make together a kind of thematic series of Dystopias."

Lepore's article has left me pondering whether Brunner's novels are indeed dystopian or apocalyptic or both. I have not decided yet. Your thoughts? In this article she offers a good overview, as well as examining dystopian fiction in terms of our current reality. An interesting read for SF buffs.

New Yorker,
A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction

What to make of our new literature of radical pessimism.


In an earlier post (link follows) I noted that we were a bit sad that we would just miss a show of SF related items called Into the Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction being held at the Barbican in London in Sept. In researching my series in Penguin Books I found out that Penguin has released four books, to be sold only through the Barbican shop, with Barbican related covers, to commemorate the show, they are 1984 by George Orwell, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. (see the covers at the shop link below). While we missed the show, we do hope to be able to visit the shop, time and our energy level permitting.



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Penguin SF

My wife and I are planning a trip to London shortly and I have been hoping that I will be able to pick up some SF titles while I am there. One thing I wanted to do was look at which Penguin SF titles I already have and which titles I would like to look for in the London bookstores. 

It was also a great excuse to present some of the titles I already own. A quick look at the titles displayed at the link below, will demonstrate that the art directors for Penguin Books have embraced a number of different strategies, since they started publishing SF in 1935 with Erewhon by Samuel Butler.

My earliest Penguin in actually a television script for The Quatermass Experiment published in 1959. As Penguin frequently reprinted with the same covers it is good to look at the copyright page if you want first editions (thus). I am hoping to find some earlier novels, maybe even Erewhon?

A great resource for my search has been

http://www.penguinsciencefiction.org/ .

For a look at some of the travails and triumphs of a collector of Penguins SF titles I recommend searching the Penguin posts on theunsbcribedblog


For some general remarks on collecting Penguins including the SF titles, this article in the Guardian is good.


The Quartermass Experiment, (above) has the horizontal orange and white triband covers I associate with Penguin Books.

Here the triband is now vertical. Limbo 1961.

It gets a bit more stylish below, After The Rain, 1958, cover illustration by Quentin Blake.

Then we also have a movie tie-in complete with scary kids.

The World in Winter, 1965, with a cover illustration by Bruce Robertson.

I have read a number of Hoyle's novels with The Black Cloud being my favourite so far. This cover, where the designer played with the iconic orange in creating a unique image, is one of my favourite Penguins.

A number of illustrators have done the covers for a series of novels by the same author. Here is one of the covers Peter Cross did for a novel  by John Boyd, I would love to find a copy of Boyd's  The Pollinators of Eden. I am hoping to find Penguins with covers by artists Alan Aldridge, David Pelham, Peter Tybus and Peter Goodfellow, and authors like Philp K. Dick, Frank Herbert and some of the Penguin anthologies.

Some of my favourite Penguin covers  are illustrated by Peter Lord, where the central image intrudes into the white border, in this series of novels by one of my favourite author John Wyndham. I will be looking for more of these.

And Penguin had done a number of paperbacks there the illustration covers the entire field.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

New Arrivals, Asimov, Martin Thomas, John C. Tibbetts

 Some new arrivals. I have mentioned previously that my serious SF collecting began when I received some books on SF illustration as a gift so when I saw this title Visions of the Futures with this rather striking the cover, I found a copy to order. The illustrations in this book are collected from the pages of Science Fiction Monthly, a British magazine put out by the New English Library, that focused on SF illustrators. I have never seen a copy of the magazine so I was not sure what to expect. I did not expect the postal worker to fold it to stuff it in the box rather than ringing the bell, but I found it in time and a quick pressing under art books resurrected it. I enjoyed the introduction by Van Vogt but wished it was more than one page. Also the quality of the reproductions could have been better. As for the illustrations, I soon realized that I recognized quite a few, many of them were used as paperback cover illustrations for books published by the New English Library. This is acknowledged in the captions but it did make me wonder whether Science Fiction Monthly was a true survey of the field of SF illustration or a house organ for the publisher. However it was not expensive and I always enjoy a snapshot of SF illustration and publishing for different periods. A list of the illustrators follows.

 Having reread the original Foundation Trilogy recently, I have been collecting information on Asimov's process in creating the series; so I wanted this collection of essays he wrote on the field. Sadly he does not seem to say much about the Foundation Series in the essays I have read. 

The same bookseller had Beyond the Spectrum and how could I pass up this cover and blurb.

Lastly something new, again I loved the cover. But it was after using Amazon's look inside feature I learned that John G. Tibbetts, was named John Carter by his father, a SF collector and member of first fandom, who also exposed him to bookshelves full of titles from Arkham House, Gnome Press and Donald Grant among others. His father took him to SF conventions where he meet a number of important SF authors including James Gunn, SF author, historian and educator, who later was his colleague at the University of Kansas. All this seemed quite promising but it was the chapters, "The Lovecraft Circle" and "The Bradbury Chronicles" that sealed the deal. I have only skimmed it so far but I have also found interviews with Poul Anderson, Jack Williamson, Maurice Seddak, Peter Straub, Suzy McKee Charnas, and Bian Aldiss among others. It looks like it will be great fun

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jerry Pournelle (August 7, 1933 - September 8, 2017)

  Jerry Pournelle has passed away at age 84. I suspect there was a lot we would not have agreed on, but one thing I think we could have, is that, The Mote in God's Eye , was a great read. 

from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website