" 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, September 13, 2020

New Arrivals Roger Zelazny

“As he was cast over the edge, he was able to turn and look upward. Falling, he saw a dark figure in the sky that grew even as his eyes passed over it. Of course, he thought, he has finally looked upon the sunrise and been freed … Wings folded, his great, horned countenance impassive, Morningstar dropped like a black meteor. As he drew near, he extended his arms full length and opened his massive hands. Jack wondered whether he would arrive in time.”

Jack of Shadows - Roger Zelazny

“So feathers or lead?” I asked him. “Pardon?” “It is the riddle of the kallikanzaros. Pick one.” “Feathers?” “You’re wrong.” “If I had said lead’ . . .?” “Uh-uh. You only have one chance. The correct answer is whatever the kallikanzaros wants it to be. You lose.” “That sounds a bit arbitrary.” “Kallikanzaroi are that way. It’s Greek, rather than Oriental subtlety. Less inscrutable, too. Because your life often depends on the answer, and the kallikanzaros generally wants you to lose.”

This Immortal - Roger Zelazny

“Did you ever look back at some moment in your past and have it suddenly grow so vivid that all the intervening years seemed brief, dreamlike, impersonal—the motions of a May afternoon surrendered to routine?”

Doorways in the Sand - Roger Zelazny

When things seem meh, like they are now I continue to read new works or new authors but I also delve in old favourites, both books and authors for a little stability. Zelazny is one of those authors for me. The latest reread, that lead to my picking up these NESFA collections, started over at the Lovecraft Ezine. I discovered that they have run stories based on Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October, during October for several years.
These included several rememberances of Zelazny by his son Trent. I will include a link to only one of them here.

My own discussion of A Night in the Lonesome October appears here. 

I was surprised and delighted that so many people had enjoyed this work, the last novel he published by himself, as much as I did. 

“I took Jack his slippers this evening and lay at his feet before a roaring fire while he smoked his pipe, sipped sherry, and read the newspaper. He read aloud everything involving killings, arsons, mutilations, grave robberies, church desecrations, and unusual thefts. It is very pleasant just being domestic sometimes.”

A Night in the Lonesome October - Roger Zelazny

One of the joys of this book is that you read one chapter, most are quite short, per day in October ending on Halloween night. It's hard to do I could not resist reading several chapters at a time and then going back to the appropriate day. I don't see a Kindle edition but it's not too late to get yourself a hard copy for Oct. 1st. 

“If you ever loved anything in your life, try to remember it. If you ever betrayed anything, pretend for a moment that you have been forgiven. If you ever feared anything, pretend for an instant that those days are gone and will never return. Buy the lie and hold to it for as long as you can. Press your familiar, whatever its name, to your breast and stroke it till it purrs.”

Creatures of Light and Darkness - Roger Zelazny

Exploring more about the significance of A Night in the Lonesome October for other people lead me to reviews of Zelazny's work in general so I though I would try a few of the NESFA collections which include essay's and such as well as the stories. The essay in volume one, "Before Amber" by Zelazny's childhood friend Carl B. Yoke, is incredible. They became friends in grade 2 and the relationship continued their whole lives. This essay repaid my investment in spades.

There is a nice discussion of the books with a full wrap around version of the Michael Whelan covers here.


times are rare, such times are fleeting, but always bright when caught, measured, hung, and later regarded in times of adversity, there in the kinder halls of memory, against the flapping of the flames.”

Zelazny seems to have been not only a very influential author but a good friend and person and I read a number of tributes to him. I have provided a link to Martin's here because I think it gives you a sense of the man himself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

This is not really about Tom Corbett Space Cadet Danger in Deep Space (1953) by Rockhill Radio

Cary Rockwell was  a pseudonym used by Grosset & Dunlap. It is unknown who wrote the books, or even if there was only one writer. (isfdb) Back in the day Willy Ley was everywhere. Illustrations by Louis Glanzman.

 I could not resist showing the cover of Tom Corbett Space Cadet Danger in Deep Space anymore than I could resist buying it yesterday while on a quick trip to return a blood pressure monitor. A tip to any younger readers as you age, there will be medical appointments. Have a good place in mind for breakfast and some shopping later as a treat. 

Most of my posts lately have been on my Lovecraft blog, but I wanted to post something to Jagged Orbit. This post is more about reading science fiction than an in-depth look at any one story. It also concerns an experience I have intended to discuss for years. I began reading science fiction in the mid to late 1960s. Unlike many other bloggers of a similar age, I did not cut grass or have a paper route. So I had no money to join the Science Fiction Book Club or buy used paperbacks. I relied on the school library and the public library kitty-corner from my school. These libraries offered me books by Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury and my beloved Andre Norton. Many of these books were published in the 1940s and 1950s. The flotsam of the New Wave did not wash up upon these shores. 

I was a quick reader but probably not a good reader. The public school librarian complained that I referred to characters as that guy when I verbally reported on books. I realize now I did not remember the character's names; I still don't. I also do not form a mental image of the character or setting as I read. So descriptions of people or places the authors provide often go in one mental ear and out the other. What I do fix on is small incidents in the plot. So I know the moon colonists in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress kept Herefords in their tunnels. I learned that you could survive the Martian night in a giant cabbage if you leave your flashlight on (The Red Planet). That Enoch Wallace (Way Station) first realized his advanced age could officially come to someone's attention because he had not changed the name on his magazine subscriptions. It is what it is. 

This section will contain spoilers.

As an adult, I remembered elements of three stores I wanted to reread but not the authors or titles. One involved a spaceship captain who learns Jesus Christ has visited the planet he is trying to trade with. Another involved a vampire(?) in a future where all corpses are incinerated. The last story involved people whose entire life cycle took seven(?) days. The young men fought with the inhabitants of another cave system who lived a few days longer. The eventual goal was to reach a grounded spaceship. 

PS Publishing, Cover by Tomislav Tikulin

Eventually (isn't the internet wonderful), I identified these stories. All were by Ray Bradbury; I suspect I read "The Man" and Pillar of Fire" in his collection S is for Space and "Frost and Fire" in his collection R is for Rocket. Identifying these stories did indicate just how important a writer Ray Bradbury has been in my emotional and intellectual life. They entered the lexicon of Bradbury stories I remembered reading. Stories whose plots I recalled even if the titles were foggy, "The Garbage Collector", "The Veldt", "The Crowd", "The Dwarf", "Mars is Heaven", "The Million Year Picnic", "The Pedestrian", "The Fog Horn" etc.

I realize now that "The Man" appealed to the casual Christianity with which I was raised. Non-religious school pageants, there was no prayer in school that I remember but we sang God Save the Queen, there were Sunday School classes and youth groups in the United Church. I would identify myself as a Humanist now, but at the time, I did not think about or question religious belief. The story itself is simple. The trader/captain lands his ship, but no one appears to trade. Eventually, he learns a stranger has passed through preaching and healing the sick. The Captain takes this as a personal affront to his beliefs. There is no definitive proof; of course, the natives do not have photographs or medical evidence. It is enough for the crew, several of whom decide they wish to remain on the planet. However, the Captain intends to move on to other planets until he can come face to face with "The Man".

The next story was "Pillar of Fire", the character William Lantry (it turns out he is not a vampire) died in 1933. For some unexplained reason, Lantry has come back to life in a future where the last remaining graveyards are being destroyed and the contents incinerated. The story concerns his attempts to prevent this. Reading The "Piller of Fire" now I see it as a continuation of Bradbury's love of the horror story from his first published stories in Weird Tales Magazine, the collections Dark Carnival and The October Country, and the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.  It also reflects Bradbury's fear of cultural erasure. Whether it is graveyards, the book-burning firemen of Fahrenheit 451, or the bureaucrats of Moral Climates in his short story "Usher II" who enforce the law "No Books. no houses, nothing to be produced which in any way suggests ghosts, vampires, fairies, or any creature of the imagination."  Bradbury fears for them all. 

The last story was "Frost and Fire". The survivors of a fleet of crashed spaceships live eight days because of planetary radiation. During the eight days they grow to adulthood, reproduce and then die. They do have a form of racial memory. The story follows Sim and his companion Lyte's adventures to reach the one remaining spaceship.This was a very interesting and unusual story when I read it. Quite different from the standard Heinlein or Clarke plot.  In the science fiction community, Bradbury has been criticized because his stories are more planetary romances or science fantasy. He knew, and we knew that Mars he wrote about in the Martian Chronicles did not exist even as he wrote the stories. The little codger I was then did not care; the old codger typing this now still doesn't. 

The significance of "Frost and Fire", for me, does not lie in the story. I have a terrible memory. I remember the Windsor of my youth (we moved outside the city when I was sixteen), probably more fondly than it deserves. What I wish I could remember more clearly some of the friends of my youth, the books I read and even which were the first books I actually owned. I have rarely had friends who shared my interest in genre literature. There was Dean in grade eight and nine who introduced me to Lovecraft, Jack London and Louis L'Amour. My wife Helen and friend Doug read science fiction but we often enjoy different authors. However, I am convinced that I discussed "Frost and Fire" and other science fiction works with another school chum, but I am unsure who it was and even if the memory is correct. (I also seem to remember a novel in which a crew crashed on a planet where the dominant warlike race has three buttocks and used squares instead of circles, but try searching that) It might have been a fellow geek, Angelo Marcellino, with whom I used to hang, but I am not sure. I do remember we found a dead terrapin in a puddle that he hoped to dissect, and a swarm of bees on a tree by the Willistead library that we tossed a couple of rocks at and the ran frantically away. Boys will be boys. Anyway, Angelo I do hope you fulfilled your dream of becoming a doctor or maybe a scientist. 

I have gone on long enough, but here are some more illustrations from Tom Corbett Space Cadet Danger in Deep Space.

I did not check the text but this is what Venus 
looked like when I was a kid. I suspect Mariner lied,
probably hexed by the Venusians and it still does.