" 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

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Yesterday my wife and I made a trip to the Chapters Bookstore here in Calgary for the express purpose of picking up Alec Nevala-Lee's Astounding. I had to be the first kid on my block to have one.  I have followed Alec's blog for years and have read his fiction in Analog and the 29th Year's Best Science Fiction edited by Gardner Dozois. Obviously, given my interest in the history of SF and especially the Campbell period authors, I read in my youth and still read today, I cannot wait to dip in.

Alec has provided an excellent overview of the process of writing this book on his website so I have included a link.


from Worlds Without End Blog

from Nature

I have also included links to a couple of reviews that may be of interest.



Happy reading 

Monday, October 22, 2018

New Arrivals, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, aging

  A few posts back, I spoke of the death of Peter Nicholls the editor of the 1979, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. As I was preparing for that post, I took out my tattered edition and leafed through looking at the pictures. Which meant looking for my favourite, a 1937 edition of Argosy with an enchanting Burroughs cover by Emmett Watson. I then decided to see if there was a decent/affordable copy on ABE. I found one and since one of the main drawbacks of ABE is the initial shipping costs, I looked to see if the vendor has other items I could add. I knew from previous purchases that this vendor, Leonard Shoup, tends to carry Weird Tales related material so I did a quick search on Lovecraft. And there they were. I could not resist adding The Lurking Fear and Other Stories and The Shuttered Room and Other Tales of Horror to the Argosy and now all I had to do was wait until the frantic barking of the dogs signaled the arrival of our letter carrier

When I first began collecting, rather than simply buying books randomly, I focused initially on two areas. Lovecraft with the obvious (to me) addition of Arkham House and other Weird Tales authors, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I chose Lovecraft because I was introduced to his work by a school chum at 15 and enjoyed it.

These two Lovecraft titles would be considered minor collections at best. The stories in the The Shuttered Room are pastiches or stories based on Lovecraft's notes by August Derleth. The Lurking Fear contains what I think I can safely describe as lesser tales, although I have a certain fondness for the wildly illogical The Lurking Fear, with it's warning against the dangers of inbreeding, cannibalism and a subterranean existence. I purchased them for the John Holmes covers, these were among the first editions (now lost) that I owned.

(Both author's works can be considered problematic in their treatment of women and minorities, I posted my thoughts on Lovecraft here
http://dunwichhorrors.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-real-shadow-over-innsmouth-odd.html )

I chose Burroughs because his books filled the used bookstores of my youth and I loved the covers. James Blaylock in his wonderful Burroughs themed novel The Digging Leviathan expressed this beautifully. 

" Edward St. Ives was a collector of books, especially of fantasy and science fiction, the older and tawdrier the better. Plots and cover illustrations that smacked of authenticity didn't interest him. It was sea monsters; cigar-shaped, crenelated rockets; and unmistakable flying saucers that attracted him. There was something in the appearance of such things that appealed to the part of him that appreciated the old Hudson Wasp …,.  Once a month or so, after a particularly satisfactory trip to Acres of Books, he'd drag out the lot of his paperback Burroughs novels, lining up the Tarzan books here and the Martian books there and the Pellucidar books somewhere else. The Roy Krenkel covers were the most amazing, with their startling slashes and dabs of impressionist color and their distant spired cities half in ruin and shadow beneath a purple sky." (17)

Cover by Timothy McNamara (as by Ferret)

Roy Krenkel below

I have to admit this purchase was rooted very much in nostalgia or perhaps immaturity if you like. I have lately found the rise of irrationalism worldwide troubling and some days the world seems unrecognizable. As I get older my reading and collecting helps keep me mentally active, engaged and grounded. The process of aging has been beautifully described by Wendell Berry in his novel (a favourite of mine) Jayber Crow.

 "Back there at the beginning, as I see it now, my life was all time and almost no memory. Though I knew early of death, it still seemed to be something that happened only to other people, and I stood in an unending river of time that would go on making the same changes and the same returns forever.
     And now, nearing the end, I see that my life is almost entirely memory and very little time." (24)

I try very hard to avoid wallowing in memories of the past, and make sure that I read new and diverse works and authors, but I, like Edward St. Ives, cannot resist the occasional winged T-Rex. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

New Arrivals, Anderson, Russell, Sheckly, Spinrad, (Murderbot) and others.

Fair's Fair, the used bookstore chain I frequent, has been holding a 30th Anniversary Sale with 30% off stock. Doug, my SF reading buddy, and I decided to drop by with our wives for books, then burgers at 320 Burger (the best in Calgary) and some other shopping. Things went well, I stayed on budget, basically by not looking any more once I reached it.  

But before we begin the survey I wanted to mention I just finished All System Red, the first of the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, and it was a very nice read.

I cannot resist the author issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I am also a sucker for these idyllic portrayals of the future from the 1950's.  I wonder what the mortgage is on something like that. This issue contains not only Kornbluth's "The Syndic"  but "The Hanging Stranger" by Philip K. Dick and "Ground" by Hal Clement.

Ralph E. Vaughan did a lovely post on Mel Hunter's Lonely Robot covers for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction which began in the 1950's, I was hoping to find some and got lucky.  The Amazing Stories  cover is obviously similar it was done in 1953 and attributed to Gaylord Welker on the ISFDB website. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1964, is as expected by Mel Hunter.


I read the first book of the Hooded Swan series Halcyon Drift sometime ago and was delighted to find this compilation. Brian Stableford's introduction detailing the genesis of the series and its importance in shaping both his life and his career is worthwhile reading as well.

I read two volumes of Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry series and was really surprised. I found it much better written and plotted than I had expected for a SF secret agent series of the period. The alien culture in The Rebel Worlds was particularly interesting. While I already have a copy with a lovely Powers cover I could not resist the ape with the cleaver.

 I am looking forward to reading these other volumes in the series and I love these somewhat mod covers. I really enjoy picking up British editions with different designers and cover artists. 

I have been looking for The Iron Dream for years and again I love the cover.

On a previous trip to Fair's Fair to pick up the Perry Rhodan books that I mentioned in my last post, I found Russell's "Dear Devil", a title and cover I have wanted for years.  Recently I had decided to try and find some Satellite Science Fiction, they tend to have great covers, and I like the fact they contain complete novels. This was one I had thought of ordering via ABE so it was great to find it locally. So money flows out, books flow in, and I continue to embrace a maximalist design philosophy when it comes to the written word.  

Cover Credits

'Ellison Issue', July 1977, cover by Kelly Freas.

Science Fiction Adventures, December 1953, cover Alex Schomburg.

Swan Songs, cover by Deirdre Counihan.

The Rebel Worlds, cover by Chris Achilleos

Ensign FlandryCoronet Books, 1976, cover uncredited

Flandry of Terra, Cornet Books, 1976, cover Bob Fowke

Agent of the Terran Empire, Coronet Books, 1977,  cover Bob Fowke

The Iron Dream, cover by Bob Haberfield

The Journey of Joenes, cover by Terry Oakes

No Direction Home, cover by Alun Hood

The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton, cover by Fred Gambino

"Dear Devil", Other Worlds Science Stories, May 1950, cover Malcolm Smith

Satellite Science Fiction, April 1958, cover by Mel Hunter

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peter Nicholls, Perry Rhodan and some new arrivals

 This summer I went to the cabin with all sorts of books to read and ideas for posts. And as normal the experiences at the cabin, both good and bad, overwhelmed everything else and nothing happened here at Jagged Orbit.

So I wanted to post a bit of an update on some to the things I have read and observed over the last few months. 

First I was very sorry to read of the passing of Peter Nicholls.

"My father, Peter Nicholls, has died aged 78. He was an academic and literary critic, whose 1979 work The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction mapped the landscape of the field and remains the definitive reference work

The encyclopedia quixotically aimed at detailing every film, author and theme in the western tradition of science fiction. The entries were accessible and witty. More than a collation of facts, the encyclopedia passed judgments and advanced an argument: that science fiction was the literature of change, making it the truest literary response to the 20th century. " from


While Peter made a number of contributions to the field, it was indeed, as the editor of the 1979 The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that I will remember him. I purchased my copy used and, while I rushed to buy the new hardcover editions of The Science Fiction Encyclopedia (1993) and the companion volume, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) when they were released, I have always kept my tape enhanced copy of the original. Paging through it introduced me not only to new authors, (and unlike the new editions, including the online version that I urge you to use, there were the occasional photos of authors Philip K. Dick, Hugo Gernsback, Ian Watson, Brian Aldiss, Joanne Russ among others, as well as book and magazine covers, movie and tv stills and other eye catching tidbits) I really enjoyed the theme articles. These allowed me to explore Cyborgs, Time Paradoxes, History in SF, History of SF, End of the World etc. leading me to even more stories and authors. It even had an entry for Dante.

So I do want to acknowledge the importance of Peter Nicholls in my experience of SF.

You can also check out Peter's entry at the link below.

Some time ago I joined the Kickstarter campaign for 2001 An Odyssey In Words so I was quite happy when this handsome copy arrived with my name among the supporters.

from the website: 

"Join the Odyssey

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has joined forces with NewCon Press to publish a new short story anthology that marks Sir Arthur's centenary and showcases new and exclusive work from some of the best science fiction writers in the world today.
A Story in 2001 Words

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is famous for its annual redefinition of that elusive term ‘science fiction,’ and Sir Arthur was always adamant that while the award may be named for him, it shouldn’t be styled on his work.

We wanted to make sure that the scope of the anthology was as broad as the fluid definition of science fiction for which the Clarke Award is renowned, while still retaining a direct acknowledgement of Sir Arthur’s own work.

The solution? A collection where every story has all the scope and freedom to imagine that an author might possibly want, but where the word count had to be precisely 2001 words (and we had rules about authors playing clever games with super-long story titles, just to make sure)."

I have only read a few stories so far, my favourites would be "Childhood's Friend" by Rachel Pollack and "Golgotha" by David Hutchinson. It is obvious that the authors in this collection are familiar with Clarke's body of work and that one can expect the stories to range widely in subject and focus.

I am always looking for new websites and posts where I can see what works and subjects interest other people about SF and perhaps introduce me to topics I will chose to explore in more detail. One such website is at the following link.


The first post I read was on Perry Rhodan a series I knew about but had never read. Looking over this website I also found a nice post with an editorial by Hugo Gernsback and entries on a number of SF artists including two of my favourites Bruce Pennington and Peter A. Jones. In a funny (spooky?) coincidence two days after reading the post we were laying in bed with our computers and my wife said "I just got an email from Jan, she wants to know if you are interested in Perry Rhodan because she just saw some at Fair's Fair". And it turns out I was.

Another new arrival was the next/last volume in Jonathan Strahan's Infinity series, Infinity's End. I have quite enjoyed the series, my only quibble would be the various size changes that have occurred over the course of the series. This is not the only series where this has happened but it always ticks me off, I have to shelve these, help me out here people. And really I have never understood the need for the large format paperback period. That said I have dipped in and liked everything I read so far with good stories by Seanan McGuire, Linda Nagata, Peter Watts and especially Foxy and Tiggs by Justina Robson. A fox and velociraptor security team working for an AI managed hotel to solve a murder, come on, I have to stop now and read it again.  

Photo credits

from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979)

- This marvellous cover by Frank R. Paul Feb 1933 , is the basis for the jacket illustration for the US edition of this Encyclopedia. Adapted by Dave Christensen, typography by Al Nagy.

- 2001cover Fangorn

- Perry Rhodan uncredited