The World of Null-A (1948) by A. E. Van Vogt

The World of Null_A1stThe anti-Sherlock style of non-Aristotelian logic, otherwise known as null-A, relies upon a psi-like quality of inductive reasoning—something my high school vocabulary development teacher would have dismissed as “fuzzy logic,” and what I call, “jumping to conclusions based on a feeling.” Being a smartass, it’s something I rely upon quite often, though usually for humorous effect, seeing how ill-informed and hasty such inferences can be. Still, it’s a funny pastime at work, when my colleagues and I are trying to figure out what the administrators are up to.

During the mid-20th century, however, supernatural-style inductive reasoning experienced a surge in interest, and influenced much of the SF world. Nearly every book I pick up from the fifties includes some sort of vague psychic element—not always the meat of the story, but usually as a world-building aside, indicating that many SF authors believed that humans of the future would undoubtedly have these psychic abilities. The null-A philosophy, promoted by Alfred Korzybski, influenced many SF authors, including Van Vogt, who built his Null-A series off of this idea.

But why am I talking about null-A, anyway? It’s not like the book is really about this. Silly me. Continue reading

The Unsleeping Eye/The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (1974) by D. G. Compton

TheUnsleepingEye1While the benefits of disease eradication are oft desired, the ramifications of such a world are not hard to imagine: overpopulation, senescence, entropy. Speculative fiction has played with this trope for ages, resulting in stories that span from the optimistic to the apocalyptic to the zombie apocalyptic. Some might argue that it’s overdone, but that doesn’t stop writers from continuing the trend, because it’s something we all want, we don’t have, and we should fear what we don’t have because we might not ever have it or understand it, and also vaccinations might cause zombies.

But leave it to D. G. Compton to find a new angle on the whole brave new disease-free world trope. In The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (published in the U. S. as The Unsleeping Eye– my copy, and later as Death Watch, after the movie), D. G. Compton ignores those obvious consequences (although we get a slight flavor of societal decay in the background), and instead twists his tale to illuminate the effects of the absence of disease on a media-suffused, yet “pain-starved public” (p. 31). Continue reading

Galactic Patrol (Lensman #3) (1938) by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Galactic_patrol1Blinding blue blazes, if this book doesn’t clear ether, I’m going to!

It took me a week or two (maybe three?) to trudge through this serialized space opera about an honorable and righteous space police brigade that has the power to read minds. (Talk about a civil rights nightmare! Someone call the Galactic Civil Liberties Union!) I’m not sure how this novel would interest anyone other than an 11-year-old boy from the 1940’s, but that’s exactly why this series is so highly regarded. As boring as I found it, Galactic Patrol most definitely bears its signature on our most celebrated works in SF, as those 11-year-old boys grew up to become very popular SF writers and directors. Continue reading

Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 1st“’All the misunderstandings that tie the world up and keep people apart were quivering before me at once, waiting for me to untangle them, explain them, and I couldn’t’” (ch. 2).

Talk about a novel that transcends that limited retro-future aesthetic, Babel-17 chugs way ahead of its respective decade as even authors today fumble to attain the ethers of a world like Samuel Delany has dreamed. Strange, beautiful, and futuristic, Babel’s lingering noir tone coalesces with a techno-background that brings to mind the cyberpunk of the 80’s and 90’s, without so much of a “jacking-in” or a singularity event. Laser lights and crystal interfaces streak the scenery while disembodied ghosts and surgically-accessorized lowlifes aid our unflappable heroine as she chases down a mysterious language, all while wearing copper lipstick. Continue reading

Big Sky fanzine, the Hugos, and other updates

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Want to increase your SF cred? You must check out Big Sky #3 & #4, the latest editions of the gorgeous book review fanzine, released this month for LonCon3. Issues #3 and #4 are dedicated to the Gollancz SF Masterworks list, in which SF fans share their thoughts about critically acclaimed works of the genre. Contributors include familiar names from the SF world, including some of my favorite writers, critics, and fellow blogger buddies from around the web. (Some of my reviews are in there, too.)

What else has happened lately? Continue reading

Carson of Venus (1938) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Carson_of_Venus_Burroughs_cover

This barely happens.

Carson is an all-around swell guy. Muscular, with sharp reflexes, he can win any fight. With a good head on his shoulders, he can wheedle his way out of a trap with calm, cool logic. His affability charms even his enemies. His good heart and moral code guide him to make the right decisions. Upright, confident, and in control, Carson has no powers in the superhero sense, but his personal advantages bring him near the pinnacle of invincibility– and when those fail him, he taps his endless supply of cosmic luck. Continue reading

Let’s Go to the Hugos: 1994!

The 2014 Hugo Awards ceremony is today, August 17th at LonCon3! As we count down to the big moment, let’s review the best novel nominees from previous decades.

Next up: 20 years ago! (See my previous posts on 195419641974, 1984 & 2004.)

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1994 Winner

1994 was a good year. The U.S. enjoyed an economic boom, gas was 99 cents per gallon, and Kim Stanley Robinson won the Hugo Best Novel Award for Green Mars!

 

 

 

The other nominees weren’t bad, either: Continue reading