" 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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Visions of Tomorrow, Alec Nevada-Lee Astounding

  I have finished reading Astounding, Alec Nevada-Lee's book on John W. Campbell and some of the writers most associated with Astounding, Isaac Asimov,  Robert A, Heinlein, and L. Ron. Hubbard. It was a good read, but fair warning, all four were deeply flawed individuals, though often in different ways. I had been following Alec's blog for years, so this came as no surprise to me. That said, Asimov and especially Heinlein were important authors to me when I began reading science fiction and the accounts of their death did make that child in me feel a bit sad, even though the works I remembered them for were written decades before they passed away. Also "Twilight" and "Who Goes There" by Campbell, writing as Don A. Stuart, remain two of my favourite science fiction stories. Alec's book delivered what it promised, an understanding of John W. Campbell's influence in the field for good or ill. Some of the behaviour mentioned in the book is chilling, so if you would like to read something a little more upbeat about Astounding, it's authors and the science fiction of the period I will make some suggestions below.

I did want to pass along two items related to Alec's research for the book. From his website:

"And I can reveal now that this was all in preparation for a more ambitious project that has been in the works for a while—a visual essay on the art of Astounding and Unknown that has finally appeared online in the New York Times Book Review, with the highlights scheduled to be published in the print edition this weekend. It took a lot of time and effort to put it together, especially by my editors, and I’m very proud of the result, which honors the visions of such artists as H.W. Wesso, Howard V. Brown, Hubert Rogers, Manuel Rey Isip, Frank Kelly Freas, and many others. It stands on its own, but I’ve come to think of it as an unpublished chapter from my book that deserves to be read alongside its longer companion. As I note in the article, it took years for the stories inside the magazine to catch up to the dreams of its readers, but the artwork was often remarkable from the beginning. And if you want to know what the fans of the golden age really saw when they imagined the future, the answer is right here."


Link to the (wonderful)  New York Times Book Review article.


In his year end review Alec also notes "that I saw John W. Campbell’s Frozen Hell, based on the original manuscript of “Who Goes There?” that I rediscovered at Harvard, blow past all expectations on Kickstarter. (The book, which will include introductions by me and Robert Silverberg, is scheduled to appear in June.) " 

Full post here: https://nevalalee.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/the-last-resolution/

Kickstarter (closed) information:
Wildside Press will be selling copies:

And as promised, some other titles about Astounding and it's authors. Bud Webster's Past Masters, a number of his essays can also be found online, see my Handy Resources. The other items are out of print as far as I know. 

A Requiem for Astounding (1964) 
A very detailed look at Astounding by an early fan.

Two titles by Sam Moskowitz, a fairly feisty (polarizing?) member of First Fandom. But he did seem to know everyone and claimed to have read pretty much everything.  I do enjoy his profiles, and it is nice to hear from someone who actually knew at least some of the early science fiction writers.


 Cover credits:

Photo one L-R, Hubert Rogers, Rogers, Rogers

Photo two, design Ploy Sirpant, illustration Travis Coburn

Photo three L-R, Rogers, Howard V. Brown, H.W. Scott, Wesso

Photo four L-R, Timmins, Kelly Freas, Freas

Who Goes There?, Richard Powers 

Friday, January 11, 2019

“The things that make us happy make us wise. ” John Crowley - Little Big

As an antidote to poor Marie Kondo, who just wants to bring us joy.

It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood" is Doktor's Leech's motto as he opens a haul of Creepy and Eerie Magazines, a forbidden delicacy from his childhood. Thanks to an on-line auction at Back to the Past Collectibles (http://gobacktothepast.com/) the Doktor is finally able to see what his mother warned him about.


While my childhood was not unhappy, I also never truly embraced adulthood.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Yngling by John Dalmas / Hiero’s Journey by Sterling E. Lanier

   Alan Brown in his great series from Tor.com, Front Lines and Frontiers,  recently posted on "The Yngling" by John Dalmas. I really enjoyed this post. For one Brown provided a lovely profile of the author John Dalmas, a writer I had never read. Also I thought his discussion, It's the End of the World as We Know It, looking at the reasons why world ending catastrophes are such a common science fiction trope was quite good.


 The first science fiction book I remember reading was The Star Man's Son by Andre Norton (link below) which I covered on my Norton blog, followed by a number of Wyndham's cozy catastrophes, so I always enjoy a good, lets blow it all up or something and try again story. I knew Doug had lent me the Analog containing part one of  "The Yngling" so I read it right away.


I liked it enough that I borrowed part two and read that. I enjoyed part one, the world building, the introduction of Nils Hammarson as a character, and I found his early adventures entertaining (think troll). However I found the second part where we see the culmination of the story at best anticlimactic, not bad, but a little rushed and overly talky perhaps. In his post Brown states "Another of my favorite stories of this type is Hiero’s Journey by Sterling Lanier, along with The Postman by David Brin." Since Hiero's Journey is a novel I really like, and had intended to cover here for some time, I thought I would discuss it now. 

  First off I should mention that Hiero's Journey was published in 1973 by Chilton, the same people who brought you Dune and some non-fiction books by Silverberg among their other titles. Indeed in the entry on Lanier in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, they note that while working as a editor at Chilton, it was Lanier that convinced them to publish Herbert's Dune.


In 1983 Hiero's adventures continued where the first book left off with The Unforsaken Hiero. But where the first book ended with the central plot resolved, (and for years I simply considered the story over and was good with that) the second book created a number of cliffhangers. While Sterling Lanier lived until 2007, he does not seem to have released any new fiction after 1983/1984 and the trilogy was never completed. I have found some suggestion that Lanier may have suffered a stroke, but if anyone has additional information please let me know. So you may just want to read book one.

  To prepare for this post I reread the book over Christmas at my wife's family farm in Central Saskatchewan (just up the road from our cabin). It is a parkland setting, poplar forests with lots of sloughs. The area is populated by among other critters, moose, black bears, beavers and fishers and on the drive up we saw a deer and a coyote. It is also an area central to the history of both Canada's native people (especially the Plains Cree) and the Metis. In short a perfect spot to read Hiero's Journey

The story takes place five thousand years after The Death, from the description, some type of nuclear war that has decimated most of North America and created large numbers of mutations. The story follows the adventures of Per Hiero Desteen citizen of the Metz Republic, an area encompassing the former prairie provinces of Canada. This area is controlled by the Abbeys and Hiero, full title Secondary Priest-Exorcist, Primary Rover and Senior Killman has been dispatched south on a mission by his abbot. He is mounted on his giant mutant bull morse (moose) Klootz and within the first few pages he has been joined on his journey by Gorm, a telepathic black bear. For telepathy has spread widely since The Death. Hero can also communicate with Klootz although the morse is not terribly bright, Gorm on the other hand is as smart as a person. The land they travel in is one of immense danger. Most humans were killed in The Death and the cities largely destroyed. Some wild animals have grown to immense size, others called Leemutes have achieved intelligence and attack the remaining humans in coordinated groups often mounted on other Leemutes. The realization that these attacks are coordinated by a group of humans is the reason for Hiero's journey. Other creatures having not obvious connection to pre-death 
lifeforms have also arisen. Hero's journey is not only an adventure but also a journey of personal growth as he learns to use his mental powers to counter a number of threats. He will meet more allies and also enemies who are stranger and more deadly than he could imagine. 

Lanier created an immensely interesting world, Hiero and his friends move through a number of different environments and encounter a number of different cultures. 
There is an adequate amount of extrapolation and back story but the narrative does not bog down with lengthy explanations. Hiero is not presented as a superman, he has flaws and makes mistakes. He is reliant on his companions for help but also grows personally, strengthening his abilities.  As a Canadian who has read western Canadian history and also as someone who has spent a fair amount of time lately at the cabin with lots of critters around I could identify with many elements of the story. I enjoy it more now than when I first read it. I also loved the richness of the Lanier's world, a dam building culture of giant beavers, pirates, giant snapping turtles, giant lampreys, (okay giant everything) horse sized minks, mutated howler monkeys with cleavers riding dog-things and an evil psychic brotherhood. I think it is this richness and Hiero's growth that are the reasons I prefer this to the Dalmas story. And Lanier gives you your own morse to ride, what more could a story need. 

Photo/Cover credits

The Yngling, part one Kelly Freas

The Yngling, Part two Vincent Di Fate

Dune, (1966) John Schoenherr

Hero's Journey, Jacket art Jack Freas

Moose, trail camera, on lane to cabin

Bear, trail camera, mounted to cabin

Beaver, Guy lease slough

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Year End Review

  I have decided to do a year in review post. So I will  look at some of my favourite posts, purchases and reading of 2018. Since I do not maintain a reading diary and this is the first post of this kind I may cheat a bit. I think I will try to limit myself to top 5's at most for any category, which is not to say I could not list more. To do this I may vacillate between being a lumper and a splitter. For some items I will include a link to relevant posts.

Favourite Posts:

SF and me

 "As part of creating and maintaining this blog I often find myself questioning why I like certain stories and novels more than others, or why certain periods or themes within science fiction attract me. I know that my tastes often differ from the science fiction my wife or my buddy Doug choose. Indeed part of the reading exercise that Doug and I have embarked on is aimed at exposing each other to works that we might not have chosen on our own. Also my wife reads novels and I prefer short stories, so while I may read the same authors, we both have a fondness for new space opera authors like Alastair Reynonds or Neil Asher, our reading diverges. Since Doug and I have a page limit (200 pages) for the works we suggest, we are limited to short stores or older novels and novellas, although I think Doug would gravitate more to longer novels in his own reading. My wife also reads new works whereas Doug and I read a combination of the old and the new." see the full post here

Golden Age Optimism and the Lords of the Starship (okay I cheated this is from 2017)

As I enter my 60's, I realize I have been reading SF for what must be approaching 50 years. I started with SF intended for children in my school library in Windsor. Titles that spring to mind, John Keir Cross's The Angry Planet or Miss Pickerell On the Moon, she also goes to Mars. I graduated to Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov's robots and Ray Bradbury, who I loved, still do, but even then he was a bit of an outlier, what after all was I to make, as a white kid who lived across from a Detroit in flames, of "The Black and White Game" (1945) from The Golden Apples of the Sun.  see the full post here


Favourite SF character:

Murderbot, the character introduced by Martha Wells in All Systems Red. I was not alone in this as noted in Wikipedia.

"All Systems Red won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella,[4] the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella,[5] and the American Library Association's Alex Award,[6] and was nominated for the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award.[7]"


Favourite New Arrivals, Books:



Favourite Novel:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, I found this a perfect combination of horror, SF, and weird tale. So much so, that as with All Systems Red I have not yet read the other volumes in the series for fear that they are not up to the same standard. "The novel won the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel[2] and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for best novel.[3]"


Memorable, Short Stories:

"The Universe of Things" by Gwyneth Jones (1993)

"The Man from P.I.G." by Harry Harrison" (1967)

"Of Terrans Bearing Gifts"  by Richard Grey Sipes (1967)

"Epilog" by Poul Anderson (1962)

"The Camel's Tail" by Tom Jolly (2018)

"We See Things Differently" by Bruce Sterling (1989) 


Favourite Anthologies:

We See a Different Frontier A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad

2001 An Odyssey In Words edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter


Favourite New Arrivals, Magazines: