1967


King Kull: The Sword & Sorcery genre begins here

King Kull by Robert E. Howard & Lin Carter

There’s a reason why I never lend out books anymore, even to my closest friends; namely, the fact that when I used to loan them out, I never got them back in the same good condition, or, even worse, never got them back at all. Cases in point: three paperbacks from one of my old favorite writers, Texas-born Robert E. Howard. Back in the mid-‘60s, Lancer Books released all of Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories in a now-classic series of 12 paperbacks, as well as a beautiful paperback of another legendary Howard character, King Kull. I owned all 13 of those wonderful volumes, and made the big mistake of lending the first two Conan books out (both featuring gorgeous cover artwork by Frank Frazetta), as well as the Kull (featuring ... Read More

The Devil’s Bride: The only Jules de Grandin novel

The Devil’s Bride by Seabury Quinn

Pop Quiz: Which author was the most frequently published in the pages of the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales? If your answer is the obvious one, H.P. Lovecraft, guess again. Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Edmond Hamilton, Robert Bloch? Still wrong. Surprisingly, the answer is Washington, D.C.-born Seabury Quinn, who, during the 279-issue run of Weird Tales, dating from 1923 - ’54, managed to appear no fewer than 165 times, or in more t... Read More

Riders of the Purple Wage: One of the most unique SF texts

Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer

At the risk of being overly simplistic, Jacque Derrida’s concept of deconstruction/post-structuralism (whichever you want to call it) is at heart the perspective that any ideological paradigm can be picked apart, bone by bone, until the skeleton lies in shambles on the floor. The purpose is not nihilistic in nature; it is intended, rather, to cast a wrench of relativity into such lofty ideals as modernism, and the rigid mindset of structuralism that came in tow. In practice, I have yet to read a science fiction text that deconstructs the Silver Age better than Philip Jose Farmer’s 1967 Riders of the Purple Wage. From its irreverent title to the telling conclusion, the bones are dust.

Anything but a modernist vision of man as hero among the stars in his gleaming space ship, Read More

The Cyberiad: The joy of reading

The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem

“Mighty King, here is a story, a nest of stories, with cabinets and cupboards, about Trurl the constructor and his wonderfully nonlinear adventures.”

I can think of no better introduction to Stanislaw Lem’s 1967 The Cyberiad (Cyberiada in the original Polish) than the line above taken from the text. Capturing the atmosphere of storytelling, the quirky, entirely singular imagination behind it, and the meta-human perspective suffusing every word, thought, and concept innate to the stories, the quote is a mini-excerpt of one of the most timeless, creative, and insightful collections science fiction has ever produced. There is nothing like the constructors Trurl and Klaupacius in literature, and never will be.

With imagination oozing off the pages and pooling on the floor, The Cyberiad is a collect... Read More

The Coming of the Terrans: A wonderful collection from the “Queen of Space Opera”

The Coming of the Terrans by Leigh Brackett

Just recently, I reviewed The Best of Leigh Brackett, a big, 400+-page affair from Ballantine Books that was first released in 1977. But this collection was not the first to gather the older works of Leigh Brackett, the so-called “Queen of Space Opera” into a nice, compact collection. That honor, it seems, goes to the volume entitled The Coming of the Terrans, which was released by Ace in 1967. The Best of book was a deluxe affair, with a foreword by Brackett’s husband, Edmond Hamilton, an afterword by Brackett herself, fan maps of Brackett’s Mars, and 10 stories and novellas r... Read More

Why Call Them Back From Heaven?: Cold storage

Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak

Although the concept of cryogenically preserving the bodies of the living had been a trope of Golden Age science fiction from the 1930s and onward, it wasn’t until New Jersey-born Robert Ettinger released his hardheaded book on the subject, 1962’s The Prospect of Immortality, that the idea began to be taken seriously. Ettinger would go on to found the Cryonics Institute in Michigan around 15 years later; over 1,300 folks have subscribed to this facility as of 2015, agreeing to pay $30,000 to have themselves turned into human “corpsicles,” and 130 are currently “on ice” there. (And let’s not even discuss Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, whose head is currently in deep freeze at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona!) But getting back to Ettinger’s book: This volume apparently impressed sci-fi author Cliffor... Read More

The Man in the Maze: Your attention, please, Mr. Cameron

The Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg

In one of Robert Silverberg’s novels from 1967, Thorns, the future sci-fi Grand Master presented his readers with one of his most unfortunate characters, Minner Burris. An intrepid space explorer, Burris had been captured by the residents of the planet Manipool, surgically altered and then released. Upon his return to Earth, Burris was grotesque to behold, resulting in one very withdrawn, depressed, reclusive and psychologically warped individual indeed. And a year later, in the author’s even more masterful The Man in the Maze, we encounter still another space explorer who had been surgically altered by aliens, but this time, the alterations are mental, rather than physical, although no less devastating to the subject’s sense of se... Read More

To Open the Sky: Silverberg comes roaring back

To Open the Sky by Robert Silverberg

It shouldn’t come as too great a surprise that future Grand Master Robert Silverberg dedicated 1967’s To Open the Sky to writer/editor Frederik Pohl. It was Pohl, after all, who induced Silverberg to begin writing sci-fi again on a full-time basis, after the author’s “retirement” from the field in 1959. As then-editor of “Galaxy” magazine, Pohl (who helmed the publication from 1961-’69) promised Silverberg a greater freedom in his writing, with fewer of the literary shackles that had restrained the author till then (not that anyone would have ever realized it, based on the author’s amazingly prolific output from 1954-’59, and the very high quality of that work). But with his new license to create, Silv... Read More

The Time Hoppers: Headache-free time travel

The Time Hoppers by Robert Silverberg

This longtime sci-fi buff has a confession to make: Some time travel stories leave me with a throbbing headache. Not that I don’t enjoy them, mind you; it’s just that oftentimes, the mind-blowing paradoxes inherent in many of these tales set off what feels like a Mobius strip feedback loop in my brain that makes me want to grab a bottle of Excedrin. Thus, it was with a bit of decided trepidation that I ventured into Robert Silverberg’s The Time Hoppers, but as it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Silverberg is amongst the most lucid of science fiction imaginers, and here, even when setting forth those inevitable temporal paradoxes that come with all time travel stories, he does so clearly, and in a way that gave this reader no problem whatsoever.

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Those Who Watch: Compulsively readable and quite touching

Those Who Watch by Robert Silverberg

There is a certain aptness in the fact that I penned this review for Robert Silverberg’s Those Who Watch on January 15, 2015. That day, you see, happened to be Silverberg’s 80th birthday, so my most sincere wishes for many more happy and healthy birthdays must go out to the man who has become, over the years, my favorite sci-fi author.

These days, of course, Silverberg is one of the most honored and respected writers in his chosen genre; a multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, not to mention a Science Fiction Grand Master. Hard to believe then that, back in 1959, Silverberg, facing a diminishing market for his work and chafing under the literary restrictions of the day, announced his retirement from the field. Since 1954, he’d already come out with some 15 sci-fi novels, plus aro... Read More

The Santaroga Barrier: Frank Herbert’s most underrated novel

The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert

A couple of years back Tor reissued four of Frank Herbert's novels in absurdly cheap paperback format. For some of these titles it had been quite a while since they'd been in print and despite a poor quality of the paperbacks I snapped them up as soon as they were published. Thankfully Tor realized its mistake and reissued another four novels in a somewhat more durable format a while later. These first four reissues contained what I consider Herbert's best novel (The Dosadi Experiment) as well as the worst (The Green Brain). All four are quite different from his famous DUNE novels but in quite a few you can see him returning to themes he used in DUNE. The Santaroga Barrier is one of his more interesting novels. A deceptively simple story, really.

Psychologist Gilbert Dasein is assig... Read More

Thorns: The new maturity of Robert Silverberg

Thorns by Robert Silverberg

Although Robert Silverberg had been a prodigiously published author prior to 1967, that year is often spoken of as being something of a watershed time for him. Before then, the author had written no less than two dozen sci-fi novels, starting with 1954's Revolt on Alpha C not to mention dozens upon dozens of short stories (over 80 in 1958 alone, according to a certain Wiki site). But in 1967, a new maturity and literary quality entered Silverberg's works, to the surprise of both his fans and fellow writers. In 1967, Silverberg came out with no less than six novels (!): The Gate of Worlds, Planet of Death, Those Who Watch, The Time Hoppers, To Open the Sky and Thorns. For this reader, a recent perusal of that last title has served to demonstrate what that "new maturity" of Silverberg's precisely entailed. R... Read More

The Zap Gun: Highly readable and a lot of fun

The Zap Gun by Philip K. Dick

Cult author Philip K. Dick's 20th published science fiction novel, The Zap Gun, was first released in book form (Pyramid paperback R-1569, with a cover price of 50 cents) in 1967, after having been serialized in the November 1965 and January 1966 issues of Worlds of Tomorrow magazine under the title "Project Plowshare." Phil's previously published book had been The Unteleported Man, later expanded as the largely incomprehensible Lies, Inc., but The Zap Gun is a completely understandable, reader-friendly novel that, as it turns out, is quite a winning satire on the arms race that was indeed so frightening back then.

In Phil's book, it is the year 2004 (OK, maybe he should have made it 2104!), and the two major world powers have reached a detente of sorts in this game of armament one-upmanship. Rather than actually creating weapons, the two sides (Wes-b... Read More

Counter-Clock World: PKD is in a class of his own

Counter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick

It’s 1998 and time has started running backward. Aging has reversed so that people are gradually getting younger, and dead people are awakening in their graves and begging to be let out. The excavating companies have the rights to sell the people they unbury to the highest bidder. When Sebastian Hermes’s small excavating company realizes that Thomas Peak, a famous religious prophet, is about to come back to life, they know that getting to him first could be a huge boon to their business. The problem is that there are other organizations that prefer for Thomas Peak to stay dead, especially when they realize he may have information about the afterlife.

Philip K. Dick is in a class of his own and it’s hard to compare his novels to anyone’s but his own. Maybe it’s not fair, but there are certain expectations we have for other novelists that don’t apply when we read PKD. Most importantl... Read More

The Master and Margarita: An absolute feast of a book

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review books that may not be classified SFF but that incorporate elements of speculative fiction. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

While mid-20th century Russian propaganda wizards were twisting words to hide the truth, Mikhail Bulgakov wrote a response that proved fantasy could be used to reveal wisdom rather than confuse it.

An absolute feast of a book, The Master and Margarita serves up a delicious variety of characters and scenarios — naked witches, talking cats, and a devil’s ball — as a less-than-subtle riposte to communist cant. In the process, Bulgakov simultaneously subverts the doctrine of his day, declaring the universal power of the written word to have a staying power government ideology can never achieve. Read More

Lord of Light: The peak of imaginative literature

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

The scholar Brian Attebery in his book Strategies of Fantasy writes that works of science fantasy can be divided into two categories: the beautiful and the damned. No middle ground to be had, technology and the supernatural remain relative to the era, and combining them is disastrous to the point of comedy or successful to the point of being a mind-opening experience. Falling into the latter category, Lord of Light, unlike many of Zelazny’s other works of science fantasy, is a flawless blend of the archetypes of science fiction and the mythologies of Hinduism and Buddhism. The result is simply the peak of imaginative literature.

Working with Indian history,... Read More