Let’s Go Back to the Hugos! 1946 (Retro edition)

It’s Retro Hugo Day! And fans are Slans! Or something vile like that. But let’s not be Slans; instead, let’s go… Back to the Hugos!

Hugo Year: 1946 via 1996

1946: The Iron Curtain comes down, bikinis hit the French Riviera, and the US gets Tupperware.

In 1996 Hugo voters decide to play their own version of revisionist history (so don’t hate on me!) by voting on a 1946 Retro ballot.

The list:

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The Winner: “The Mule” from FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE by Isaac Asimov, followed by THE WORLD OF NULL-A by A.E. van Vogt, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH by C.S. Lewis, DESTINY TIMES THREE by Fritz Leiber, and DANGER PLANET by Edmond Hamilton (as Brett Sterling)

My own retro-retroactive ballot: Continue reading

Perelandra (1943) & That Hideous Strength (1945) by C. S. Lewis

PerelandraI’m just going to gloss over my review of Perelandra (1943), number two in Lewis’ space trilogy, because it’s not a book that inspires much secular discussion. Perelandra is a 1940’s conception of a water-covered Venus, populated by one naked green woman, a devil-possessed bad guy from Out of the Silent Planet, and maybe Jesus(?). After his return from Malacandra (Mars), our good man Ransom decides to rocket through the sunlit vacuum of outer space to Venus, which turns out to be the allegorical heaven-and-hell planet of Perelandra (1943). His experiences on Perelandra reek with Greek mythology, replete with Aphrodite-isms, a River Styx, and a wounded heel. The naked green woman is an innocent virgin and Ransom is really kind of into it, so he dedicates most of his time and energies on Perelandra to cock-blocking the devil. Continue reading

The Gormenghast series (1946-1959) by Mervyn Peake

TitusGroan1I don’t know whether to be ashamed or defensive or just plain angry that I’ve never read the Gormenghast trilogy before, that I somehow stumbled on to Neil Gaiman and Harry Potter before even hearing of Mervyn Peake, but it certainly justifies the resentment I’ve harbored toward those randomly googled online recommender engines and chaotic message boards that badly steered my reading all those unplugged years. But what’s an unplugged reader to do? Why do we have to be so obsessive with the genre terrain in order to navigate around the Sanderson/Abercrombie/GRRM-type sand traps? Are there class action lawsuits for this sort of thing?

Finding good books shouldn’t take this much work.

But as difficult as it is to discover Gormenghast, it’s even harder to let it go. Continue reading

Danger Planet (Red Sun of Danger) (1945) by Brett Sterling, aka Edmond Hamilton


Someone please explain to me what is going on with her legs.

It’s sort of a tradition to end my reading year in true pulpy fashion, so it worked out that one of my required reading selections for the month of December is something from the “Boys’ Own Ultimate Pew-Pew Space Opera Brigade” subgenre. I’ve reached the end of my required reading for 2015, so although I’ll be inundating the blog with a backlog of book reviews during the next two weeks, I’m posting a write up of my last required vintage read today. Why? Because this book is so fluffy, I’m afraid I’ll forget about it if I wait any longer, that’s why.

I’ll just give you the back cover blurb:

One million years back in the swirling, shrouded past, evil ultra-beings ruled the Planet Roo. Suddenly, unbelievably, they are alive again, threatening the universe with total destruction.

Only one man dares challenge the Evil Ones. He is Captain Future, inter-galactic agent of justice, whose identity is top secret, whose strength is ultimate. He sets out alone to stop the deathless menace creeping ever closer…

… which is great, except that synopsis only describes the final ten pages of the story. Continue reading

Destiny Times Three (1945) by Fritz Leiber

DestinyTimesThree1I’m starting to wonder if Fritz Leiber’s early fiction is where it’s at in terms of sophistication and daring, while his later fiction is pure career fancy. If so, it’s probably an observation longtime readers of SF have already noticed, but of the small assortment of his works I’ve read, it’s becoming a pattern.

Leiber’s 1945 Astounding serial, Destiny Times Three, blends Nordic myth, Persian poetry, and a little bit of Wells into a multiverse story that explores a provocative moral question: What would you do if you found out your multiverse twin exists in a miserable dystopia and they resented you for having the better life?

A sense of guilt toward his dream-twin was the dominant fact in Thorn’s inner life. (23)

Continue reading

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