Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 1961


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The Joy Makers: “If It Makes You Happy…”

The Joy Makers by James Gunn

Shortly before being taken over by Random House in 1988, Crown Publishers had a wonderful thing going with its Classics of Modern Science Fiction series; a nicely curated group of books in cute little hardcover volumes that the imprint released during the mid-‘80s. Previously, I had enjoyed (and, in some cases, written about here) such terrific titles in this series as Charles L. Harness’ The Paradox Men (1953), Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet (1954),


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The Shores of Another Sea: Monkey shines

The Shores of Another Sea by Chad Oliver

1961 was something of a banner year for Cincinnati-born sci-fi author Chad Oliver. In the first part of that year, having already released four novels of anthropological science fiction, he received his Ph.D. in anthropology at UCLA, a degree that would help him become an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin two years later, and the Chairman of the Dept. of Anthropology there in 1967. And in the latter part of 1961,


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Catseye: Another otherworldly adventure by Andre Norton

Catseye by Andre Norton

Andre Norton’s novels are always a good option when you’re in the mood for an exciting, fast-paced, imaginative, and family-friendly adventure story. This one stars Troy Horan, a young man who lives hand-to-mouth in a ghetto called The Dipple on the luxury planet of Korwar. He’s a refugee from his home planet of Norden which has now been commandeered as a military outpost. Back home, his family were herders and his father, at least, seemed to have some sort of empathetic bond with the animals he cared for.


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Time Is the Simplest Thing: Fast-paced and imaginative, with an important message

Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak

Written s(i)mack-dab in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement, Clifford D. Simak’s Time Is the Simplest Thing utilizes the tools of science fiction to make poignant comments on the issues of the day. The novel, the author’s sixth out of an eventual 29, was initially serialized in the May – July 1961 issues of Analog magazine with the equally appropriate title The Fisherman, and went on to be nominated for that year’s Hugo Award.


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Hothouse: Fertile and bizarre plant life, but human characters are pretty wooden

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss

Yeah, Brian W. AldissHothouse (1962) was definitely written with some chemical assistance. Maybe some LSD-spiked vegetable juice? It may have been written as a set of five short stories in 1961, but it’s a timeless and bizarre story of a million years in the future when the plants have completely taken over the planet, which has stopped rotating, and humans are little green creatures hustling to avoid becoming plant food.

There are hundreds of fearsome carnivorous plants that would love to eat human morsels,


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Film Reviews: Two versions of Solaris

The Novel Solaris was written in 1961 by Stanislaw Lem in Polish before being made into a feature film by famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972. Four decades later, both James Cameron and Steven Soderbergh expressed interest in doing a remake, with Soderbergh getting the nod in 2002 because Cameron was busy with other movies. I saw the Tarkovsky film in 1995 and the Soderbergh film in 2002.

The planet Solaris is covered by a single, massive ocean, and after its initial discovery scientists begin to observe unusual movements and formations in the ocean.


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Solaris: An alien sentient ocean

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris is an amazing little novel with a colorful history. First written in 1961 by Stanislaw Lem in Polish, it was then made into a two-part Russian TV series in 1968, before being made into a feature film by famous Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972. It only reached English publication in 1970 in a Polish-to-French-to-English translation. And just when you thought it had faded from attention, both James Cameron and Steven Soderbergh expressed interest in doing a remake, with Soderbergh getting the nod in 2002 because Cameron was busy with other movies.


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James and the Giant Peach: Not for kiddies only

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Perhaps I should confess right up front that this review of what is popularly regarded solely as a children’s book is being written by a 50+-year-old male “adult” who hadn’t read a kids’ book in many years. For me, Welsh author Roald Dahl had long been the guy who scripted one of my favorite James Bond movies, 1967’s You Only Live Twice, and who was married for 30 years to the great actress Patricia Neal. Recently, though, in need of some “mental palate cleansing”


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Stranger in a Strange Land: Authorial politics override the story. DNF

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein was one of the most influential writers of sci-fi in the 20th century. He published more than thirty novels, several of which won awards, and many more received nominations. Considered one of the ‘big three’ alongside Asimov and Clarke — the American perspective, that is — Heinlein’s agenda included independence, personal responsibility, freedom, and the influence of religion and government on society. Stranger in a Strange Land, arguably his most famous book — and perhaps most controversial — is the subject of this review.


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Some of Your Blood: A very sad book

Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon

In the 1978 horror movie Martin, writer/director George A. Romero presented us with a young man who enjoys killing people and drinking their blood, but who may or may not be a so-called “vampire”; the film is wonderfully ambiguous all the way down the line on that score. Seventeen years before Martin skulked through the dreary suburbs of Pittsburgh, however, another unconventional vampire was given to the world, in the pages of Theodore Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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