Some Thoughts on National Science Fiction Day and Isaac Asimov’s Birthday

Today is January 2, the accepted day on which Isaac Asimov is considered to have been born in 1920.  It’s also National Science Fiction Day here in the States.

I’d forgotten today was National Science Fiction Day.  Probably because I haven’t been paying attention.

I wrote yesterday that I intended to read more science fiction this year.  My imagination was captured by science fiction almost as soon as I could read, if not before.  We had a couple of books about rockets and space exploration.  Some of my earliest memories are my parents reading them to me.  I don’t recall if they were reprints of some articles Willy Ley wrote or not. I remember they were heavily illustrated.  Not surprising since they were for kids.

Star Wars was what really kindled my imagination, sending me to look for science fiction at both the school library and the public library.  I remember the main branch of the Wichita Falls library had an entire shelf, maybe two, in the adult section for their science fiction books.  And I also bought science fiction at the mall and the flea market.

Soon I was reading Ray Bradbury, Alan Dean Foster, Jack Williamson, and of course Isaac Asimov.  I’d seen a copy of The Foundation Trilogy on that shelf in the public library but I hadn’t checked it out.  I didn’t have any idea what it was about, and the paperbacks that were in print at the time (shown above) weren’t very informative.

Fast forward a couple of years to when I was in middle school and joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  One of the books I got with my introductory order was the club’s edition of The Foundation Trilogy, shown on the left.  The cover wasn’t anymore informative as to what the story was about than the paperbacks.  I didn’t care.  By that time I’d read I, Robot and some of Asimov’s other short stories in some of the anthologies in the school library.

I dove in and enjoyed the original three novels.  A few years later, when Asimov wrote some additional volumes and tied them into the robot stories, I read those as well, although I didn’t enjoy them as much.

I’m probably not going to read any of Asimov’s short fiction as a birthday observance.  Instead I’m going to honor his memory by writing. Asimov wrote literally hundreds of books in his lifetime. I doubt my output will ever be anything close to his, but I still need to write.  This blog post has been a good warm-up.

As for reading Asimov, should The Foundation Trilogy be one of the works I revisit this year? Or should I read some of the robot stories or other short fiction? Maybe a novel of his I haven’t read?  There are several of them, such as The Gods Themselves and The Currents of Space.  What do ya’ll think?

Kuttner’s Baldy Series: “The Lion and the Unicorn”

“The Lion and the Unicorn”
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, July 1945

This is the third installment of the Baldy series, written by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore under their joint pen name of Lewis Padgett.  The reviews of the preceding two stories can be found here and here.

Spoilers to follow.

“The Lion and the Unicorn” opens only a few decades after “Three Blind Mice”.  Barton, the protagonist of the previous tale, is still alive.  He’s in his sixties, and while a key player, he’s not the central figure in this story.  Barton managed to kill the Baldies who had developed the alternate wavelength, but there are others.  It turns out the ability to send and receive telepathic messages on this alternate wavelength is a new mutation on the Baldy mutation.  And all the Baldies who have it are paranoid. Continue reading

Kuttner’s Baldy Series: “Three Blind Mice”

“Three Blind Mice”
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1945, as by Lewis Padgett

This story takes place about a generation, maybe two, after the events of the first story, “The Piper’s Son”.  The stories in this series present the highlights of the history of the Baldies for the first two hundred and fifty or so years after their mutation brought them forth.  As in the last post, there will be spoiler below the READ MORE link.

David Barton is a big game hunter who captures animals and brings them back to North America (the US no longer exists as we would recognize it) for various zoos.  It’s how he has managed to adjust and adapt to his mutation.  He’s channeled is aggressiveness into something product, an accomplish necessary for a Baldy to survive.

The story opens with him bringing a load of animals to a town in the rocky mountains.  He’s flying in, looking forward to having catfish at a restaurant he knows, when he’s contacted telepathically by a woman he’s not met before.  Her name is Sue Connaught, and she wants to meet him in person. Continue reading

Kuttner’s Baldy Series: “The Piper’s Son”

“The Piper’s Son”
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, Feb. 1945

Henry Kuttner wrote a series of stories in collaboration with his wife C. L. Moore about a race of telepathic mutants called Baldies. This series consisted of five novelettes and ran under the Lewis Padgett byline in Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s. This post will look at the first of them. I’ll look at the rest every Friday and Tuesday until I’ve covered the entire series and the fix-up novel containing them all.

First a bit of backstory.  The setting is about one generation, maybe two, after a nuclear war.  Chicago, among other cities, was destroyed.  There are strict limits on how large a municipality can grow.  Any town that gets too large is destroyed.

The radiation blast created a number of mutants.  Among them are a race of hairless telepaths known as Baldies.  They wear wigs and do their best to blend into society.  Understandably, they’re feared and hated by a large segment of the population. Continue reading

Robots for Asimov

i-robotI apologize for the campaign-esque sound of the title.  I’m still trying to get 2016 out of my head.  Anyway, I said yesterday at Adventures Fantastic that I’m going to be reading more of the classics of the field.  Furthermore I specifically named Asimov’s robot stories as one of the things I’ll be reading.

It’s Asimov’s 97th birthday today.  He was born January 2, 1920, in Russia.  I first read the robot stories in 7th grade.  It’s been more than a decade (going on two decades now) since I last read one of them.  I’ve read a few Asimov stories over the past year; I’m about a third of the way through The Winds of Change right now.

The robot stories have all been collected in The Complete Robot.  I’ve got a copy around somewhere, if I an ever find the darn thing.  I’m looking forward to diving into them.  Robots used to be pretty  ubiquitous in science fiction, but you don’t see them that much these days.  They’ve been supplanted by AIs.  Still, I like the old-fashioned robots, and Asimov did them better than anyone.

Guest Post: Adrian Simmons Reviews The Cosmic Eye by Mack Reynolds

the-cosmic-eyeThe Cosmic Eye
Mack Reynolds
ebook $2.99

We’re going to start 2017 with a guest post.  Adrian Simmons is the probably best known to readers of my blogs as the editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  He’s also an accomplished author and a man who has a deep and abiding love for science fiction and fantasy.  He shares with us this thoughts on Mack Reynolds’ novel The Cosmic Eye.  Reynolds was a prolific science fiction author in the 1950s and 1960s who is sadly pretty forgotten today.

Here’s Adrian and what he thought of The Cosmic Eye: Continue reading

A Review of The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015

years-best-militaryThe Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015
David Afsharirad, ed.
Trade paper $16
ebook $8.99

My project to read all the Year’s Best anthologies from this year (those covering 2015) has stalled again, but I’m going to try to get through at least one more before I call it quits and move on to other things.

This time around it’s a science fiction only anthology, the second in a new series focusing on military and adventure sf.  I met David Afsharirad at Armadillocon this past year.  I hadn’t realized he was going to be there or I would have taken my copy for him to sign.

But that’s not what you want to hear.  You want to know about the book. Continue reading

Alfred Bester and “Fondly Fahrenheit”

alfred-besterAlfred Bester was born on this date (December 28) in 1913 in New York City.  He was in many ways one of the most brilliant and innovative science fiction writers of the 20th Century, having an influence that was disproportionate to his output.  His novel The Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award for Best Novel.  Dealing with telepathy, it was a wild and stylistically innovative book.  The Psy-Corps in Babylon 5 was modeled after portions of this novel, and Walter Koenig’s character in the show was named Alfred Bester, an obvious homage. Continue reading

How to Divide and Rule

Divide and Rule
L. Sprague de Camp
originally serialized in Uknown, April and May 1939

Unknown, arguably the greatest fantasy magazine after Weird Tales, did publish some science fiction during its run. Not too surprising given the editor was John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction.

Case in point, Divide and Rule by L. Sprague de Camp, who was an accomplished writer in both fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed this one more than I have some of the other de Camp titles I’ve read in the last few years.

The story takes place a couple of hundred years in the future.  Earth has been subjugated by an alien race known as hoppers.  They’re a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.  After studying Earth’s history, they concluded that the best way to keep humanity from uniting was to divide them up into feudal territories. Continue reading

Reading “The Merchants of Venus” to Observe Frederik Pohl’s Birthday

Fred PohlFrederik Pohl was born on this date, November 26, in 1919.  He passed away in 2013.  Pohl was one of the top science fiction writers of the Twentieth Century.  In addition to writing such classics as The Space Merchants (cowritten with C. M. Kornbluth)  and the memoir The Way the Future Was, as well as editing Galaxy magazine and being a founding member of the fan group The Futurians, he was an active author until the day he died.

The 1970s was a productive decade for Pohl.  Beginning with “The Merchants of Venus”, his Heechee series was highly successful.  The first novel, Gateway, won the Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell awards.  Continue reading