1952


Away and Beyond: Thanks again, Mr. Miller!

Away and Beyond by A.E. van Vogt

As I believe I have mentioned elsewhere, it was one of my high school English teachers, Mr. Miller, who first got me interested in literary sci-fi. This was back in the late ‘60s, when my high school was hip enough to actually offer a course in science fiction, taught by Mr. Miller; a very popular course, need I even mention? One of the earliest books that Miller required us to read, as I recall, was A.E. (Alfred Elton) van Vogt’s 1946 novel Slan, which had originally appeared as a four-part serial in the Sept. - Dec. 1940 issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction Read More

City: Pastoral SF classic where Rover takes over

City by Clifford D. Simak

City is a well-loved classic by Clifford D. Simak published back in 1952 and awarded the International Fantasy Award in 1954. It’s actually a collection of linked far-future stories written between 1944 and 1951 about men, mutants, dogs, robots, ants and stranger beings still. It’s told as a series of episodes that trace the evolution of the various species as they reach out to space, but also follows the fates of those groups that remain on Earth.

I would describe Simak’s writing style as “pastoral,” “contemplative,” “philosophical,” and “understated,” and as he was born in rural Wisconsin, there is a recurring theme in his books of rugged Midwestern individuals who take greater pleasure in solitude and the countryside than in crowded cities. As his favorite pastimes... Read More

The Starmen of Llyrdis: A small but perfect gem from “The Queen of Space Opera”

The Starmen of Llyrdis by Leigh Brackett

For fans of sci-fi’s Golden Age, it has been a sort of literary guessing game to riddle out which stories were written by Henry Kuttner and which by his wife, C.L. Moore. And this has proved to be no easy task, as the two, as legend goes, were so in rapport that one could pick up in mid-paragraph where the other had left off. But for several reasons, no such difficulty could ever be presented by Golden Age stalwart Edmond “The World Wrecker” Hamilton and his wife, “The Queen of Space Opera,” Leigh Brackett. For one thing, their writing styles were so very different that they hardly ever collaborated. Hamilton, who I love, and who was 11 years older than Leigh, tended to... Read More

The Demolished Man: The first Hugo Award winner

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

If I had read The Demolished Man back in 1952 when it was first published, I would have given it 5 stars, no question. But in 2014, with 60 years of refinements in the genre, it suffers from some very dated dialogue and characterization, and some really condescending portrayals of women. I'm afraid the present value of the book is 4 stars.

Having said that, The Demolished Man remains an impressively-imagined story of a future society shared by telepaths and normals, and the attempt by wealthy megalomaniac industrialist Ben Reich to stage and get away with murder in a society where the police and many others can read thoughts and memories. It's an exciting and pulpy adventure, and presages the cyberpunk genre by over 30 years (William Gibson’s Neuromancer Read More

Judgment Night: Colorful, emotional, thrilling

Judgment Night by C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, the foremost husband-and-wife writing team in sci-fi history, produced their novels and short stories under a plethora of pen names, as well as their own, and for the past half century it has been a sort of literary game to puzzle out which author was the primary contributor to any particular work. This has apparently been far from a simple task, as either writer was perfectly capable of picking up the other's thoughts in mid-paragraph and carrying on. Catherine Moore has said publicly that many stories for which she was the primary author were published under Kuttner's name for the simple reason that his word rate was higher than hers; this, despite the fact that Moore was a longer-established writer. (I suppose that unequal pay for equal work was a ... Read More

The Rolling Stones: A clever family’s space adventures

The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein

Castor and Pollux Stone are 15-year-old red-headed twin boys who live in Luna City (a moon colony). They are young entrepreneurs and are making plans to buy a spaceship so they can start a trading business. When their father Roger Stone, a retired engineer and former mayor of Luna City whose current job is to write cheesy sci-fi stories for a television show, finds out about their plans, he decides to buy a space yacht and take the whole family on a trip. That includes their baby brother, their mother Edith Stone (a doctor), and their Grandmother Hazel Stone (an engineer). You may recognize some of their names from later Heinlein novels in which they are mentioned or make cameo appearances.

The family names their yacht The Rolling Stones and Mr. Stone appoints himself ship captain while his wife is, of course, the ship doctor and his mother is, of course, ship engineer. The twins help with the n... Read More

Robots Have No Tails: Unfailingly inventive and often laugh-out-loud funny

Robots Have No Tails by Henry Kuttner

Originally released in 1952 by the early sci-fi/fantasy publisher Gnome Press, the meaninglessly titled Robots Have No Tails collects the five stories that Henry Kuttner wrote featuring the drunken inventor Galloway Gallegher. (As to that title, in the book's original introduction by Kuttner's equally celebrated wife, C.L. Moore, she tells us that her husband was at a loss for an appropriate name for this collection, and so told the publisher, "I can't think of one. Call it anything you like. Call it 'Robots Have No Tails' if you want to.")

The stories here all originally appeared in the most celebrated sci-fi magazine of the era, John W. Campbell's Astounding Science-Fiction, and despite the fact that most of Kuttner and Moore's output after their 1940 marriage was written in collaboration, M... Read More