Category Archives: Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson at 90

Poul_AndersonPoul Anderson was born on this date, November 25, in 1926.  He passed away in 2001.  It’s hard to believe that he’s been gone that long.

Anderson was best known for his science fiction, but he was also an accomplished fantasy author.  I debated whether to post this tribute over at Futures Past and Present, but decided to go with the main blog.

It’s hard to go wrong with Anderson.  I grew up reading his future history and from there branched out to his other works.  In more recent years, I’ve read mostly his fantasy.

Unfortunately I’ve not read much of his work in recent years.  Too many other things demanding my attention.  The last thing I read by him was The Broken Sword.  It had been part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and I had been intending the review to be my next post in my look at that line for Black Gate.  Life got in the way, and I had to let some things drop.  The BAF series of posts was one of them.  Enough time has passed that I would need to reread the book before I reviewed it.  Too many details have faded.  Another project for a different day.

If you’ve not read Anderson, or not read much of his work, or not read him in a while (this would be me), do yourself a favor and check him out.  He was one of the giants of the field, and it’s a shame that he may be forgotten by the younger generation.  Much of his work is available in inexpensive ebook editions.  NESFA Press has a series of his collected short fiction available in hardcover (in case anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas).

In the Deep and Dark December

[cue Simon and Garfunkle]

I’m not a huge Simon and Grafunkle fan, but I couldn’t help but steal the title of this post from “I am a Rock”.  Here are my reading/writing/blogging plans for the last month of the year.

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

The big thing is that Leigh Brackett’s birthday is next Monday, December 7.  It’s her centennial, and I’ll be focusing a lot on her work this month.  I’m not the only one.  Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward will be discussing “The Moon the Vanished”, one of her novellas set on a swampy Venus next Monday on Howard’s blog.  Click here for details and join the discussion.  I’m not going to be discussing that particular story here, but I will take some detailed looks at some others.  I’m probably going to start with “Lorelei of the Red Mist”, which she began and Ray Bradbury finished when Howard Hawks offered her a job writing the screenplay to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with William Faulkner.  You can get electronic copies of both stories in Swamps of Venus from Baen ($4), or get the Solar System bundle for $20. Continue reading

Short Story Stocking Stuffers

Back in October, I looked at some of the stories in on of Prime Books theme anthologies dealing with, what else, Halloween.  I also mentioned another Halloween themed anthology at the same time.

Well, for Christmas, I thought I’d do the same thing.  This time I’ll look at another anthology from Prime, plus  one from Baen.  With one exception, which I’ll save for last, the contents of the two books have no overlap.  I’ve selected two tales from each one.  Sort of literary stocking stuffers.  I based my selections on the authors, choosing those I especially liked.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Season of Wonder
Paula Guran, ed.
Prime Books
trade paperback, 384 p., $15.95
Kindle, Nook $6.99 (available directly from Prime)

Of the two anthologies, I liked the cover art on this one better.  The stories here are more recent, as is typical of the anthologies from this publisher.  With the exception of the story by Sarban, which was published in 1951, all of them were published in the last 23 years.  I’d not previously read either of the stories I selected for review.

The first story I read was “Christmas at Hostage Canyon” by James Stoddard.  Stoddard is the author of The High House and The False House, novels inspired in part by Lin Carter’s Adult Fantasy series published by Ballantine in the late 60s and early 70s.  This story is set firmly in the present day and concerns a young boy’s encounter with an evil elf and a sword swinging Santa, which is my kind of Santa.  I liked this one a lot and thought Stoddard captured the viewpoint of a young boy perfectly.  Stoddard’s novels are out of print, but if you haven’t read them, they’re worth tracking down.

The second story I selected is “Loop” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Rusch has written a number of Christmas related stories in her career, many of which are available on her website if you want to read them.  Christmas isn’t central to this story in the sense that the Christmas aspect could be taken out without making major changes to the storyline.  However, this one probably works best as a Christmas story because it can be read as a riff on the Ghost of Christmas yet to come from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Unlike Dickens’ work, which is fantasy, this one is solidly science fiction, although the actual science content is mostly of the handwaving variety.  (At least it is to this scientist.)  That doesn’t take away the impact of the story, which I found to be a moving mediation on regret and choices not made.

Hank Davis, ed.
paperback, $7.99, ebook $8.99

Of the two volumes considered here, this one has the most variety in terms of publication date.  The oldest story is Seabury Quinn’s “Roads” (which I profiled exactly two years ago) from 1938.  The most recent is the only original tale in the book, “Angel in Flight” by Sarah A. Hoyt.  For the purposes of this review, I chose two of the older stories by two of my favorite authors, both sadly long deceased.  I’d read both stories years ago (as well as the story common to both volumes).  Both of these stories are parts of larger series, and while they aren’t major works as far as their respective series are concerned, they are both strong Christmas stories, the first in terms of theme and the second in terms of Christmas being central to the story.

“Over the Hills and Everywhere” is one of Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer stories.  In this one, though, John is only the narrator, telling a Christmas story to the children of a family with whom he’s spending the holiday.  As such, he only appears in the bits of framing sequence.  The story he tells is one of feuding neighbors and a wandering stranger who brings peace to their mountain.  Wellman was a deeply religious man, and it shows here in this tale.

Poul Anderson is represented by “The Season of Forgiveness”, from his Technic Civilization series, one of my favorite future histories.  This particular piece was written for Boys’ Life, the publication of the Boy Scouts of America.  It’s the story of a 16 year old graduate from the Academy who is assigned to his first post on an isolated trading station.  His desire to have a Christmas celebration for the children of an incoming group of settlers turns out to have long reaching implications for the relations between the humans and the indigenous population.

Christmas stories are hard to pull off without coming across as trite, overly-sentimental, or preachy.  The Anderson tale succeeds better than the Wellman at this.

Of course the one author who has built a reputation for extremely well executed Christmas stories is Connie Willis.  These have mostly been science fiction, with only one or two pure fantasy, and they’re well worth seeking out.  Some of the early one have been collected in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories.  That book was published over a decade ago (has it really been that long?), and she continues to write them.  Hopefully there’ be a new collection soon.  I always look forward to Connie’s Christmas stories, which almost always are published in Asimov’s.  She doesn’t publish one every year, and when she doesn’t, I’m always disappointed. (It’s been a couple of years since the last one appeared.)

The story that’s common to both anthologies is “Newsletter”, which I find interesting since there are so many of her stories to choose from.  This is an excellent choice, as it has all the elements that make a Connie Willis Christmas story so much fun to read.  Think a romantic comedy written by P. G. Wodehouse that takes place at Christmas with some type of fantastic angle, and you might have a glimmer of what you’re getting.

In this one, written as though it were a Christmas newsletter, we get Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters crossed with a Cary Grant screwball romantic comedy.  I’m a hard sell for humor, but this one made me laugh out loud.  I dare you not to see one of your family members somewhere in the cast.  If you’ve not read any of Willis’ Christmas stories, you’ve been missing out.  They’re an excellent example of an author taking diverse influences and melding them to produce something totally original.  There’s nothing like them anywhere that I’ve found.  The only thing that comes close is some of the humor in Kage Baker’s work.

There are a lot more selections in these anthologies.  I’m going to save them for next year.  If you’re in the mood for a holiday injection into your reading, either of these anthologies should fit the bill.