Monday, January 31, 2011

January Summary

I reached the goal of posting on a regular basis.  It was a Science Fiction Times record that saw me post 22 times.  

2008    9 posts
2009  33 posts
2010  23 posts
2011  22 posts (after 1 month)

Short fiction reviews     8
Books                       2

I planned on more book reviews.  Going into February, I already have 3 books waiting to be reviewed.

This month also saw the launch of two sister blogs to this one.  I began reviewing individual issues of comic books on my Comics!  A Personal Journal and graphic novels/collections on Comic Book Shelf Review.  I have numerous collections that I need to finish reviewing.  

I plan on continuing with to post about 20 times a month.

Thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, I was introduced to the Classic Science Fiction group.  I plan to read and review "Monument" by Lloyd Biggle Jr. as part of that group.

Thank you to the blogging community for many hours of pleasure.

Short Story Sunday Jan. 30, 2011

Back in the seventies, Gordon R. Dickson's The Childe Cycle was another one of my favorite series.  The Cycle would consist of historical, mainstream, and science fiction novels.  

During my teen years, Dickson's Dorsai novels (the science fiction part of the Cycle) were ones I looked for.  I fondly remember reading Dorsai! and Soldier, Ask Not.  When new stories would appear, it was big news.  I have not returned to the series since I first read them.  Somehow, I missed this story.  It was one of the first times that Dickson wrote about the Dorsai.  Most people thought the Dorsai stories were military science fiction.  Dickson stressed that the Dorsai were not men of the military but men of war.  At the heart of the series is the conflict between the different traits of humanity (courage, faith, and philosophy).  Dickson was a master at creating and developing interesting characters.  I plan on reviewing the Cycle starting with this early story.

The series consists of the following novels:
Soldier, Ask Not
Tactics of Mistake
The Final Encyclopedia
The Chantry Guild
Young Bleys

and the following short stories:
"Lost Dorsai"
"Amanda Morgan"

The final novel (Childe) was not completed at the time of Dickson's death. 

"Act of Creation" by Gordon R. Dickson
First Printing:  Satellite Science Fiction, 1957

Commandant Jiel of the Dorsai must travel to Earth to tell a father about the death of his son.  The father is the creator of the robots used by the military.  When he developed them, his plan was to use them to make life better for humanity.  Then the military stepped in.

When he arrives on Earth, he is greeted by a robot.  It does not bother him but the natives have a different opinion.  Robots are not welcome on Earth.  The natives view the robots as inventions who stole their jobs.

This is similar to the views of the Earth people in Isaac Asimov's "The Caves of Steel".  I wonder if Dickson read Asimov's story and liked the background he developed.

The story becomes the tale of the father.  The meeting between the two main characters turns into a touching interchange.  Dickson does a good job with revealing what the father is like through his talk with the Commandant.

Highly recommended.  This one is different from the rest of the series but makes for a good short story.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Update 1/29/2011


Due to various factors, I did not post any book reviews last week.  This week should see:

Monthly Summary
The Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson (review)
Worlds of Wonder by Michael Whelan (review)

Short Story Sunday will have one review and an overview of the series it belongs to.

My New Review Blog

In addition to my reviews of individual comics at Comics!  A Personal Journal I am starting to review comic book trade paperbacks and graphic novels at Comic Book Shelf Reviews.  With the increase in the collected editions and original graphic novels, I decided to create a new blog for the reviews. 

If you are a fan or are just interested in learning more, stop over.  I will post updates on the "Weekend Update" column each week.

Around the Internet

Comic review (from Comics!  A Personal Journal) this week is:

Avengers Academy #8 

New Additions to My Library

Stellar #7 edited by Judy-Lynn Del Rey
The last volume in one of the "classic sf" anthology series.  Number 7 includes stories by James P. Hogan, Terry Carr, James Tiptree Jr., Larry Niven, L. Neil Smith, and others.

The cover for this collection is by David B. Mattingly.

The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction 25th Anniversary edited by Ed Ferman
Ed Ferman assembled the stories commissioned for F&SF's famous one-author issues.  In addition to the stories is a bibliography and a biography written by another famous writer.  Featured authors are Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Poul Anderson, and Fritz Leiber.  

Look for the Paul Alexander cover.  I would love to find a print of this pulp style art.

H. G. Wells Classic Edition

A collection that contains The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, and The Invisible Man.

Something that makes this collection unique is the illustrations by Les Edwards.  Not only are the stories interesting but the art adds to the experience.  I know Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings will be looking for this edition (if he doesn't already have it).

Galaxy Science Fiction

October 1975
Jim Baen was one of my favorite editors of Galaxy.  This issue has stories by Joanna Russ, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (part 3 of Inferno), and David Drake (a Hammer's Slammers story).  As always, Spider Robinson was entertaining with his reviews and Richard Geis with the Alien Viewpoint.  The cover is by Richard and Wendy Pini.

October 1976
Another Baen classic.  This one contains Larry Niven (part 2 of Children of the State), John Varley, Steven Utley, and others.  Nonfiction by Spider Robinson, Richard Geis, and Jerry Pournelle.  Stephen Fabian turned in another stunning cover.  Other interior illustrations are by Jack Gaughan, Vincent DiFate, and Rick Sternbach.

Worlds of IF
March 1962
An issue from the Fred Pohl era.  Stories in this one were written by Poul Anderson, Keith Laumer, R. A. Lafferty, and others.

August 1974
A Baen issue with a star studded lineup.  Authors include Fritz Leiber, Bob Shaw, Isaac Asimov, Fred Saberhagen, Raccoona Sheldon, and Larry Niven.

December 1974
The last Baen issue.  The main story in this issue is the second half of Poul Anderson's "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows".

April 1969
A John W. Campbell issue with the first part of "The Five Way Secret Agent" by Mack Reynolds.

May 1970
Another Campbell issue.  The names that are familiar to me are James H. Schmitz, John Dalmas, and Lee Killough.

March 1976
This is from Ben Bova's tenure as editor in chief.  Two stories stand out in this one.  "Field Test"-a Bolo story by Keith Laumer and part three of "Children of Dune" by Frank Herbert.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Short Story Sunday - Jan. 23, 2011

1.  "Phantom Sense" by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross
First Printing:  Analog, November 2010

One of the best Analog stories of recent times.  "Phantom Sense" deals with the return of a special ops soldier.  The science fiction element deals with using the soldier's brain to control insects.  The insects can be used as advance scouts.  The problems arise when the soldiers try to reintegrate into society.  Then one of them kidnaps the daughter of another soldier.  The authors steadily increase the suspense as the story races to it's conclusion.

The team of Lovett and Niemann-Ross put themselves on my list of authors to watch.

2.  "Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels" by George R. R. Martin
First Printing:  Vertex, December 1973

A group of archaeologists from the moon travel to Earth to see the effects of a nuclear war 500 years earlier.  Humanity has gone underground and established a new civilization.  Unfortunately, the radiation has sped up their evolution.  Most of the remaining humans are blind.  Their cities are threatened by giant worms.  Gael (one of the mutated humans) and his partner Hissig are a team who hunts the worms.  Hissig is a mutated rat.  When the archaeologists spot the rat they assume that Hissig is a monster.  The violence that ensues ruins any chance of a peaceful coexistence.
Martin does a great job of making the underground civilization seem real.  The character work and atmosphere are excellent as always in a Martin story.  He makes you feel the fear and sense of unease the characters feel.
Another highly recommended George R. R. Martin story.  He is one of the masters of the short form.

3.  "The Engine at Heartspring's Center" by Roger Zelazny
First Printing:  Analog, July 1974

This Nebula nominated story is classic Zelazny.  The Bork is created by an accident.  His story is the tale of his interaction with a human woman.  He makes every effort to appear human.  Like Martin, Zelazny is a master at making you "feel" a story.  He takes you into the heart of the characters.  This is one that can be hard to describe but easy to recommend. 

Highly recommended.

4.  "Remembering Melody" by George R. R. Martin
First Printing:  Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine, April 1981

"Remembering Melody" is a haunting tale that will stay with you for a long time.  Do not read it after dark.  Martin shows why he was the perfect writer to work on the Twilight Zone.  This story will make you think before making promises to friends.  You will never look at a woman named Melody without thinking of this story.  It is a perfect Halloween tale.   

Avoid the poor adaptation of this story on the television show "The Hitchhiker".  They did a poor job of capturing the mood of the short story.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Update 1/22/2011 and the Answer to "Do You Know"

 Around the Internet
Comics!  A Personal Journal is the new place to read my comic book reviews.  It will have reviews of all the comics I read whether they are new or classic.  The Amazing Spider-Man I reviewed is the latest issue.  Morning Glories #1 was from last year.  I have become a fan of Nick Spenser's writing so I went back and started reading one of his series from Image.

Morning Glories #1
Amazing Spider-Man #652

New Additions to my Library

This was another big week for my library.  Most of this week's new additions are from Paperback Swap.

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of my best friends (thanks, Terry Kissinger) started reading The Windup Girl.  Based on his suggestion, I added this collection of short stories.  Terry describes Paolo's writing as being in the style of Frank Herbert.

Continuum 2 edited by Roger Elwood
Roger Elwood tried something different with this anthology.  I liked the concept behind it.  A post that will appear later this week will explain the concepts.  Now I am waiting for book four to arrive in the mail.  I already had books one and three.

Analog 3 edited by John W. Campbell
Classic Analog anthology edited by Campbell?  This is an automatic purchase for me.  This edition boasts the writing of Gordon R. Dickson, Christopher Anvil, Clifford D. Simak, Poul Anderson, and Randall Garrett.  It should be a fun trip down memory lane.

The 1978 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The 1977 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
World's Best Science Fiction 1969 edited by Donald A. Wollheim
My quest continues to finish my collection of the Donald A. Wollheim "World's Best SF" series.

Worlds of if:  A Retrospective Anthology by various
How can I resist a retrospective collection from one of my favorite magazines?  The real question was why didn't I already own this one.

More Adventures on Other Planets edited by Donald A. Wollheim
A classic anthology from 1963 that contains stories by Leigh Brackett, Robert Silverberg, John Brunner, Stanley G. Weinbaum, and Poul Anderson.

The Best From Galaxy Volume IV edited by Jim Baen
In addition to Worlds of If, Galaxy was my other favorite magazine.  Especially when edited by Jim Baen.  This collection features Roger Zelazny, Larry Niven, Michael Bishop, Spider Robinson, Joanna Russ, and others.

The Answer

I did not expect anyone to get the answer to my "Do You Know" post based on the first appearance of my name in print.  The answer is...
the much maligned Perry Rhodan series.  This series was an important part of my early growth as a science fiction fan.  The American editions were a book/magazine hybird with one "novel", things to come, movie reviews, short stories, letter column, and reprints of classic serials.  One of the serials was "Cosmos", a round robin story where a different pulp writer wrote each chapter.

Gray Morrow did the covers for the first 103 books.  This seems like a record.

Steven Utley's first story was "The Unkindest Cut of All".

In Times to Come

Sunday will have the new "Short Story Sunday".

Reviews of 3 books this week:
"A Short, Sharp Shock" by Kim Stanley Robinson
"Works of Wonder" by Michael Whelan

"We3" by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

and various commentaries.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do you know?

Just for fun, I thought I would ask a question.  Leave your answer in the comments section.

What do the following things have in common?

Pursuit to Mars by Garrett P. Serviss

A story co-written by:
A. Merritt
P. Schuyler Miller
Eando Binder
Edmond Hamilton
E. E. Doc Smith
Ralph Milne Farley
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Otis Adelbert Kline
E. Hoffman Price
and others

The first short story by Steven Utley

A Lensman story not written by E. E. Doc Smith

Various Atlantis stories

Gray Morrow

The first appearance of my name in print.

If you know the answer, leave a comment.  I will reveal the answer in the next couple of days...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

On occasion, I will be posting reviews on the Walker of Worlds site.  The following review is the first I have done for them.

This review originally appeared on the Walker of Worlds site on January 17, 2011.  To see the original posting and comments click here.

Title: Nine Princes in Amber
Author: Roger Zelazny
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 188
Release Date: 1970

It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.

I attempted to wriggle my toes, succeeded.  I was sprawled there in a hospital bed and my legs were done up in plaster casts, but they were still mine.

I squeezed my eyes shut, and opened them three times.

The room grew steady.

Where the hell was I?

And so begins “Nine Princes in Amber”, the first book in Roger Zelazny’s classic Chronicles of Amber series.

The Chronicles of Amber introduced me to reading not only Roger Zelazny but also fantasy.  I remember being fascinated by “Sign of the Unicorn” when it appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine (it was the first science fiction magazine I subscribed to).  It is the third book in the series.  As soon as I found out about two earlier books in the same series, I rushed out, bought, and read them.  Since then I have been hooked on Zelazny.

From the first page when Corwin wakes up in a hospital with no memories, the author keeps the story moving at a furious pace.  The way he combines the classic film noir stylized main character with the fantasy/science fiction world is amazing.  Due to his situation, Corwin does not trust anyone.  He manages to escape, track down one of his sisters, and begin his journey to return home and claim the throne.  Corwin’s father is believed to be dead and Corwin’s brother Eric (one of the nine princes of the title) is ready to take over as the new king.  The odds are very much in Eric’s favor.  Corwin makes alliances and fights his way to Eric.  The climax and epilogue are surprising.  Corwin’s battle in this book does not end in the traditional way.

Zelazny introduces numerous concepts in this novel.

Amber-Corwin’s home is the “one true world”.  All other worlds are but Shadows of Amber.  Earth is but another one of the Shadows.

The Trumps-painted cards based on the Tarot deck.  When one of the royal family uses the Trumps, they can contact and communicate with other family members.  They can also be used to transport a person to your location.

Shadow walking-the vivid descriptions of how the royal family travels from Shadow to Shadow is haunting.  The family uses their will to add or subtract details from the location they are traveling through.  Eventually, they are able to transport themselves to another Shadow or to Amber.  As the author likes to remind us, “all roads lead to Amber”.

The Pattern-it exists in Amber and in the city of Rebma (a reflection of Amber that is under water).  A true blood of Amber can survive walking the Pattern.  Once they are done, it gives them the ability to walk through Shadows.  If the person does not have the blood of Amber in their veins, the Pattern will kill them.

In addition to the fascinating concepts, Zelazny adds the internal battles of a family who does not trust anyone.  Alliances are made, family is betrayed, and failure results in banishment if you are lucky.  The unfortunate ones suffer a worse fate.

Even though the reader knows that Corwin will pay for his act of rebellion, you can’t help but cheer for one of his victories.  I will not go into details because it would give away the outcome.  Let me just say that sometimes the only victory you can achieve is an act of defiance.

Zelazny once again displays his love of combining poetic language with pulp style plotting.  “Nine Princes in Amber” is a modern pulp story.  What elevates it to classic status is Zelazny’s skill at writing.  Some of his passages will captivate you.  The way he combined language, fantastic settings, and conflict in a short novel is rare.  His descriptions of walking through Shadows, Rebma, Amber, and the battle scenes are outstanding.

Is this a perfect book by today’s standards?  No.  The sisters of the royal family are relegated to the background.  In most cases the treatment of women is a carryover from the pulp era.  The only strong woman in the book was the queen of Rebma.  Her role is a passive one.  In later books, the women take a bigger role.

The other shortcoming of this book is that it is just the first part of the story.  Zelazny does bring about a resolution but it does not finish the main story.  If you have not tried his work before, read this book.  The short length will not take long to read.  If you are like me, you will be rushing out to get the rest of the series.  It will be worth your time.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Short Story Sunday - Jan. 16, 2011

1. "Dismal Light" by Roger Zelazny
First Printing:  Worlds of IF, May 1968

When I was researching bibliographies for my Roger Zelazny Reading Project, I somehow missed this one. A later search listed this story as the first episode in his “Francis Sandow” series. The series consists of four stories.

1.  Dismal Light (1968) – short fiction
2.  Isle of the Dead (1969) – novel
3.  To Die in Italbar (1973) – novel
4.  Sandow’s Shadow (2009) – outline

I wonder if anyone will take the outline and develop it into a story?

Francis Sandow is in the background for most of this story. As is typical in much of his fiction, Zelazny mixes science fiction and mythological/magical elements.  He takes to heart the Arthur C. Clarke statement that sufficiently advanced science will appear as magic. I like his work because of the way he manages to keep the mystery in his tales of the future. Instead of straight science fiction, I consider much of his work to fall into the science fantasy category. This one contains a person with the power to remold worlds. Is this hard science? No. But this is the background for the story. It is not the main plot. The story is focused on the people and the effects this world creation has on others. The author’s strengths have always been in creating mythological type situations, exploring fantastic worlds, and the characters he has created. The other author who explores lonely characters, similar to Zelazny, is George R. R. Martin.  Martin and Zelazny are very similar in their short fiction writing.

Sandow has created a new world that is being used as a prison. When something appears that is not supposed to be there, humanity has to evacuate the planet. Our protagonist is someone who served their sentence, decided to stay on the planet, and now refuses to leave when the rest of the personnel are taken. He is staying to the end to finish an experiment he is working on. Of course, it turns out that this is not the real reason.

Zelazny does an excellent job of exploring the relationships between the various characters. I do not want to give away any of the surprises so I will not go into a detailed discussion of what the relationships are. Trust me that the author does his usual great job with the story.

Condensing it down to a bullet point list would show the following items.
• A habitable planet created from an inhabitable world
• A person with god-like powers
• The end of a world
• An unexplainable mystery
• The psychology of prisoners
• The politics of blame when things go wrong.
• What a person is willing to risk to meet the person they most need to talk

“Dismal Light” definitely has me interested in reading the rest of the “Francis
Sandow” series.

2.  "The Naked Matador" by Roger Zelazny
First Printing:  Amazing Stories, July 1981

The author explores his non-science fiction influence in this story. If you
changed the final revelation, this story would seem at home along side of the stories of Raymond Chandler. At first, I thought it was a mystery noir tale. The characters are straight from the standard pulp pages of stories like the Hard Case Crime books being published today. A woman helps out a down on his luck drifter who is being pursued by criminals. People die. The mystery is how they are dying. This would make a perfect Twilight Zone episode.

Highly recommended if you enjoy Zelazny’s use of mythology. If you want to read only Zelazny’s science fiction stories, skip this one. “The Naked Matador” is a nice blend of crime noir and mythology.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Update

Around the Internet

Science Fiction Times now has a brand new sister site.  Comics!  A Personal Journal is the new blog for my comic book reviews.  It will feature reviews of all the new and classic comics I read, as I read them.  The reviews will show the cover, list the creators and publisher, and have my comments.  This will be what I consider to be a "casual" blog that will be more like a journal of the comics I read.  "Weekend Update" will list the comics I review each week with links to the reviews.

New Additions to my Library 

Due to combination of a visit to a local used book store and many arrivals from Paper Back Swap my library has many new additions this week.

Mindship by Gerard F. Conway
Conway made a name for himself while writing comics.  He wrote a handful of science fiction stories before moving on to writing for television.  This was one of my favorite books from my younger days.  I tracked down a copy over the summer and sent it to my old college roommate-Terry Kissinger.  This week I finally got my hands on a copy for my collection.

The 1973 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The 1974 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The 1975 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The 1976 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The 1979 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
The first short fiction I discovered was in a couple of Donald Wollheim's collections.  I am putting together a complete set of Don's World's Best SF books. 

Analog 1 edited by John W. Campbell
Analog 6 edited by John W. Campbell
John W. Campbell.  That is enough to get my attention.  Most of my favorite authors of the past were developed by Campbell.  Just reading Isaac Asimov's biographies made me a fan of Campbell's magazines.

Other Worlds 1 edited by Roy Torgeson

Chrysalis 5 edited by Roy Torgeson
Chrysalis 9 edited by Roy Torgeson
Roy Torgeson was my favorite anthologist when he was doing the Chrysalis collections.  I plan on doing research to see what ever happened to him.  I will be reviewing some of his books this year.

Perry Rhodan 77 Conflict Center:  Naator by Clark Darlton
Perry Rhodan 81 Pucky's Greatest Hour by Kurt Brand
The much maligned Perry Rhodan series.  Many authors have written negative comments about this German series.  It played a big part in developing my love of science fiction.  I never went back and re-read the series.  At some point I plan on checking these out again.

Amazing Stories 60 Years of the Best Science Fiction edited by Isaac Asimov/Martin Greenberg
This collection looked too good to pass up.  Amazing Stories is starting to fade into science fiction's past.  During my days of reading the magazines, it was not as good as the other ones but it still featured some very good stories.  One that I really enjoyed when it was originally published was "The Araqnid Window" by Charles Harness.  It is on my short list of stories to review.

The Mind Net by Herbert W. Franke
The Orchid Cage by Herbert W. Franke
A big name German writer.  At the time, these were the only novels that I could find English translations of.  The Mind Net was a favorite but I no longer remember what it was about.  Now that I have another copy of it, expect to see it reviewed soon.

Ancient, My Enemy by Gordon R. Dickson
Gordon Dickson is another author who seems to be disappearing from science fiction discussions.  This is a collection of some of his short stories.  I hope to read some of his novels and short stories this year.  For an excellent review of one of his novels, check out The Pritcher Mass on Visions of Paradise.

Pilgrimage by Drew Mendelson
Anytime I see the yellow spine I know it is a DAW book.  This one just sounded interesting.  Here is the back cover writeup.
"As far as anyone knew, all mankind lived in The City. The City, a self-enclosed towering single building, had always moved generation by generation across the vast empty landscape.
Brann Adelbran met destiny when his family sector found itself at Tailend. Already the Structors were planning to dismantle his ancestral apartment high on an upper floor of that colossal metropolis. Brann would have to make the pilgrimage to Frontend to re-establish his family there for the generations to come.
But when tradition was suddenly shattered, Brann was forced to flee, not on the established routes and hallways, but down the forbidden shafts into the lost chambers, corridors and basements which even legend had forgotten.
His pilgrimage became an odyssey of terrors, mysteries, and scientific marvels - leading to the end of the world."

The Science Fictional Olympics edited by Isaac Asimov, et al.

Body Armor 2000 edited by Joe Haldeman, et. al.
Two more anthologies containing interesting sounding stories.

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (July 1981)

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
(August 1985)
(September 1985)
(December 1986)
(February 1986)
(March 1986)
A half dozen magazines that I missed when they were first published.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

DAW Books = sf or How I Corresponded With Donald A. Wollheim

You might be asking, why did I name this post DAW Books =sf?  This was the original logo for DAW Books.  I was 11 years old when the first DAW Book ("Spell of the Witch World" by Andre Norton) hit the stands.  Back in April of 1972 you bought your books at the news stand.  Every Friday night our family would "go to town".  We would do our banking for the week and go to the local Murphy's (a department store that sold a little bit of everything).  I liked Murphy's because my grandmother worked there.  She would always give us candy and buy us a comic book off of their wall of comics.  You could find all of the DC and Marvel comics.  What does this have to do with DAW Books?  I'm glad you asked.

Next door to Murphy's was a news stand called the Village News.  They had a section devoted to newspapers.  One devoted to magazines.  Another devoted to cigars.  And the section that caught my eye was the spinner racks.  For those too young to know what a spinner rack is, it was a metal rack that had many slots.  The whole rack could be turned so you could see all of the books without moving from your spot.  Village News was a dream land for a young science fiction reader.  At that time I was reading Perry Rhodan, the Lensmen series, and eventually moved into Isaac Asimov and Poul Anderson.  This was the place that introduced me to DAW Books.

DAW Books started publishing about the time I started reading science fiction.  It was a wonderous time seeing this fledgling company start.  I realized that Donald Wollheim was previously at Ace Books.  I was a big fan of his World's Best SF series.  I started looking at DAW Books from the early days.

Since I was already reading Perry Rhodan and it was only being published three times a month, I went in search of another series.  That was when I discovered Cap Kennedy by Gregory Kern.  I did not realize it at the time but Kern was actually E. C. Tubb.  I was already writing fan fiction for a Perry Rhodan zine so I thought it would be a good idea to try a Cap Kennedy fan story.  Unfortunately, I could not find any Cap zines.  So I did what any young fan would do.  I wrote a letter to Donald Wollheim and asked if he would mind if I published a Cap Kennedy zine.  At the same time, I was very shy in school I thought nothing of writing a letter to Donald Wollheim.

He was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions and send me the covers of all the Cap Kennedy books.  In addition, he sent me about two years worth of flyers and a catalog of all the DAW Books published at that time.  

As I continue the never-ending battle to clean up my library/den, I found the letter Don sent to me.  If there was any question as to whether or not I would stay a science fiction fan, this cemented it for me.  When I received a letter from Don, I could hardly quit shaking long enough to open it.  It was better than Christmas.

The two letters and the package from Don are some of my prized possessions.  The personal value of these cannot be determined.  Below is my transcription of that interview.  Please bear in mind that I was very young.  My questions reflect my age.  Keep in mind that this was before the internet age.

Now, without further ado, here is my interview with Donald A. Wollheim. 

Donald A. Wollheim Interview (Jan. 6, 1975)

Jim:  Where were you born?

Don:  New York

Jim:  How old are you?
Don:  60

Jim:  What is your middle name?
Don:  Allen

Jim:  How old were you when you started writing?
Don:  18

Jim:  Can you give me a list of your books?
Don:  Impossible to say...over 21 novels and non-fiction works and perhaps 60 or 70 anthologies for paperback and hardcovers.  My first novel was THE SECRET OF SATURN'S RINGS (1953).  My latest hardcover book was THE UNIVERSE MAKERS (Harper & Row, 1971).  And of course I do the anthology series THE 1975 ANNUAL WORLD'S BEST SF, have been doing "World's Best" selections since 1965.  In 1943 I edited the world's first science fiction anthology entitled THE POCKET BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION.

Jim:  What is your favorite of the books you wrote?

Jim:  Did you ever edit any magazines?
Don:  Yes.  All were short lived from 1941 to 1961.
         Cosmic Science Fiction
         Stirring Science Fiction
         Out of This World Adventures

Jim:  What made you decide to start DAW?
Don:  As editor-in-chief of Ace Books, since 1952, I found it impractical to continue with them due to their poor management beginning about 1970.  Hence I launched my own line.

Jim:  Would you consider writing another novel?
Don:  I may someday but I have no plans now.

Jim:  Do you plan on staying with DAW for the foreseeable future?
Don:  Forever, I hope!

Thanks to Don, a large number of science fiction and fantasy books saw print.  He published new books, anthologies, fantasy, science fiction, many new writers, and translated the writings of foreign authors.  

Every time I see a science fiction book, I thank Don Wollheim for all of his efforts.  My one regret was that I never had the opportunity to thank him in person.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wonderworks by Michael Whelan

I have always been a fan of science fiction artists.  My love of sf art began with the magazines.  Looking at the great book covers and magazine art inspired me.  Just looking at them would transport me to other worlds.  One of my favorites is Michael Whelan.  

I never spent the money on any of the art books.  When a friend (a big thank you to Terry Kissinger) gave me a Borders gift card for Christmas, I knew it was time to start a collection of these books.

The first one to arrive was Wonderworks by Michael Whelan.  Just leafing through the pages took me back to the days I spent reading the books he illustrated.  Some of my favorites are included.  

How can you not appreciate the series of covers he did for Ace's Poul Anderson series?  One of the lesser known covers still stands out in my mind.  It is the cover from World Without Stars.
The striking colors of the campfire lit protagonist surrounded by the rabbit like aliens with the galaxy in the background stands out.  Whelan comments that the colors were too dark but it is a haunting image that has stayed with me since the first time I saw it in 1977.  I have not read the book since that first time.  In my mind, I have always ranked it high on my list of Poul Anderson books.  Sometimes, I wonder if part of the reason is the excellent cover.

 Whelan's cover for Clifford Simak's classic City collection was one that I don't remember seeing before this collection.  I do not know how I missed this one when it first appeared.

Among the other images that took me back to the days of yesteryear were the Elric and Morgaine series' covers.  I bet if you look through this collection, Michael Whelan's art will bring back good memories for you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Short Story Sunday-Jan. 9, 2011

"Override" by George R. R. Martin
First Printing:  Analog, September 1973

Martin writes a story about world that uses the science fictional equivalent of zombies.  "Handlers" take the bodies of dead men and use a device to control them.  They are used in environments that are too dangerous for humans.  Trouble begins when the workforce is outlawed.  The protagonist takes his group on a final mission to harvest a treasure.  Then his slaves revolt.
Martin is one of the best at building atmosphere.  His worlds seem alien and usually feel very old.  This story is no exception.  His worlds always feel "real".  The cultures have a history.  It does not seem like they were just created for this story.

At one point Martin was going to add more stories to this series.  It is too bad that he did not expand on it.

Highly recommended.  "Override" is an example of a classic Martin short story.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Update

As you can see by the number of posting that I have done today, I plan on participating in many challenges this year.  I think this will be incentive for me to stay focused on my reading and reviewing this year.

Short Story Sundays returns tomorrow.  This is a feature that Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings began.  I thought it was a good idea and I tried it a few times last year.  I hope to have it as a regular feature this year.

The Comic Challenge

The Comic Challenge 

 Since I review comics at the Comic Book Revolution, this is a natural challenge for me to join.  I will be doing the Kerplunk! (30 comics/graphic novels) level this year.  My progress (and links to the reviews) will be tracking below.

2011 Mind Voyages Challenge

I am still debating as to what level I will participate in the Mind Voyages Challenge.  This posting will be updated and track my progress during the year.

2011 Graphic Novels Challenge

In addition to speculative fiction, I love reading comics and graphic novels.  My comic book reviews appear at Comic Book Shelf Review.  I plan on completing the "expert" level of this challenge.  For the expert level, I will read and review 10+ books.  So far, I have read three that need reviewed.  As the reviews are posted, I will add links to the list.

1.  Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1
2.  Ex Machina Vol. 1:  The First Hundred Days
3.  Y:  The Last Man Vol. 1:  Unmanned
4.  Kevin Smith's Green Hornet Vol. 1:  Sins of the Father 
5.  We3
6.  Daytripper
7.  Fantastic Four 1 2 3 4
8.  Zenith Book 1

The Dystopia Challenge 2011

Dystopia Challenge 

This is a new challenge that caught my eye.  I have not read many dystopia novels over the years so I thought this was a good opportunity to see what is out there.  I will be participating in the "Asocial" level.  The requirement for it is to read 5 novels.  My progress will be tracked on this posting.

1.  V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
2.  Anthem by Ayn Rand
3.  Sos the Rope by Piers Anthony
4.  Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Speculative Fiction Challenge 2011

As I look over the reading challenges that are available this year, here is one that is a natural fit for this site.     To participate, you need to read a minimum of 12 speculative fiction books.  I will keep track of my progress on this posting.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Sci Fi Experience 2011

It's that time of the year again.  Time for the annual Sci Fi Experience hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  I have enjoyed the two month focus on science fiction that all of the participating blogs present.  This is my favorite challenge of the year.

The following list shows my target list for this year.

"Quartet & Triptych" by Matthew Hughes
"Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys
"Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds
"The Winds of Gath" by E. C. Tubb
"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi
"The Caryatids" by Bruce Sterling
"Enterprise-Stardust" by K. H. Scheer
"The Naked Sun" by Isaac Asimov
"Captives of the Flame" by Samuel R. Delany
"And Strange at Ectaban the Trees" by Michael Bishop
"A Short, Sharp Shock" by Kim Stanley Robinson
"Heads" by Greg Bear

Graphic Novels
Y:  The Last Man Vol. 1:  Unmanned

Doctor Who:  A Christmas Carol

January also sees the return of Short Story Sundays.

Will I finish the whole list by the end of February?  Only time will tell... 

List of reviews for this challenge...
1.  Short Story Sunday Jan.9 , 2011
2.  Wonderworks by Michael Whelan
3.  DAW Books = sf or How I Corresponded with Donald A. Wollheim 
4.  Short Story Sunday Jan. 16, 2011 
5.  Do You Know? 
6.  Short Story Sunday Jan. 23, 2011 
7.  Short Story Sunday Jan. 30, 2011
8.  A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson
9.  Short Story Sunday Feb. 13, 2011 
10.  The Art of Science Fiction:  Frank Kelly Freas 
11.  Farscape Season 1:  Episode 1:  Pilot

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Visions

As 2011 begins, it is time to reflect on 2010 and take a look at what changes are in store for the upcoming year.

A look back at 2010...

I only managed a disappointing 23 posts.  This was due to a combination of my workload at my day job and the deteriorating health of my mother.  Work is settling into a more normal routine.  We now have my mother situated in a facility that specializes in her condition.  I should be in a better position to blog regularly in 2011. 

2010 Summary

Novels             6
Short Stories   14

Blogging on other sites...

I have been regularly reviewing comics for the Comic Book Revolution.  I have not been keeping track of my postings on CBR but that will be changing.

Stepping into 2011 (or the Times They Are A'Changing)

One of the first changes you will notice here is the style.  I plan on making SFT more of a commentary site.  My short story reviews will stay as a regular feature.  Some novels will be reviewed here.  The bulk of my novel reviews will be appearing on another site.  I will make an announcement once it is revealed on the other site.  I plan on adding updates of my postings on other sites (including Comic Book Revolution).  Another new feature will be reviews of television series and movies.  At the end of each month (and again at the end of the year) I will publish a summary of my reviews.

Overall, you will be seeing more content appearing on this site.  I already have 6 short story reviews I am working on for this site.  My first novel review for the mystery site is being finished and sent off this week.  

Since science fiction is a field of change, I hope you will join my on this journey.