Tag Archives: John W. Campbell Jr.

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

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

Happy Birthday, Eric Frank Russell

Eric Frank RussellBritish science fiction author Eric Frank Russell was born on this date 111 years ago.  (That’s January 6, 1905 for those of  you reading this at a later date.)

Russell isn’t as well known as he should be these days.  I’m not aware of any new editions of his work in the last decade or so.  There are a couple of ebooks available on Amazon, but for the most part, you’ll have to look for his work in second hand editions of the two NESFA omnibuses (short fiction and novels) from about 15 years ago.

During World War II, Russell worked in the same unit in British Intelligence as a chap named Ian Fleming.  Russell used some of the ideas he developed for sabotage in his novel Wasp.  There’s an ebook version, and the book is included in Entities from NESFA.  The novel is about a man sent behind enemy lines to disrupt and cause trouble.  It’s essentially primer on how to be a terrorist without actually killing anybody.  Like most of Russell’s work, there’s an element of humor that runs through it.  These days, it’s hard to imagine a novel dealing with these themes that fits the description I gave, but Russell pulls it off. Continue reading

John W. Campbell, Jr. at 105

On this day in 1910, John W. Campbell entered the world.  It was a very different world when he left it on July 11, 1971.  He envisioned much of that world and much of what followed his passing.JohnWCampbell-WhoGoesThere-314x218

John Campbell was arguably the most influential science fiction and fantasy editor of the 20th Century.  (Feel free to disagree in the comments.)  Campbell began writing science fiction for the pulps.  At first he published space opera under his own name.  Not content to be a well regarded writer in the field, he began publishing moody, thoughtful stories under the name Don A. Stuart.  He took the pen name from his wife’s maiden name, Dona Stuart.  His most famous story under either byline is “Who Goes There?” by Don A. Stuart, which was filmed as The Thing From Another World (1951), The Thing (1982), and The Thing (2011). Continue reading

Going Beyond the Rift

Beyond_The_Rift_BOMBeyond the Rift
Peter Watts
Tachyon Publications
trade paperback $14.95
ebook $9.95

I really enjoy well done science fiction, full of unusual ideas and fascinating characters, especially at short lengths. Unlike my taste in noir and fantasy, I generally prefer my science fiction to end on a fairly upbeat note. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy some of the darker stuff.

Case in point, Peter Watts’ latest collection from Tachyon Publications. This collection, consisting of a baker’s dozen short stories and an essay, is one of the best (and in many ways darkest) I’ve read in quite a while.

Some of the standouts for me were “The Things”. This is a retelling of the classic John W. Campbell story that was filmed more than once as The Thing. Watts tackles the tale from the point of view of the alien.

“The Island” is about a woman on a ship whose mission is to leave what are essentially stargates who is awaken to discover a son she never knew she had and a life form that completely surrounds a star. She and the AI guiding the ship, already enemies, gain new reason to hate each other as completing their mission in the system will result in the death of the organism.

“The Eyes of God” concerns a soldier of God whose zeal may hide a darker motivation. “Mayfly”, co-written with Derryl Murphy, tells what happens when a family uses an AI to try and recapture a daughter taken from them by death.

“A Niche” is a disturbing tale of two people in an underwater station, where one of them adpats to the environment and one doesn’t. The scary thing about this one is I can see it happening.

Watts concludes the volume with an essay on how his world view colors his fiction. He argues he’s really an optimist. He also spends a good deal of time telling his side of his encounter with Homeland Security a few years ago. I hadn’t heard his side of the events, so I found this informative.

My worldview doesn’t overlap much with that of Mr. Watts. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy his work. I do. He’s able to get into the heads of his characters in a way few other authors can.  His protagonists are sympathetic even when they’re extremely flawed and not always pleasant people.

I’d only read “The Things” before I read Beyond the Rift. I’ll be reading more of his work, although I probably won’t read quite so much in such a short time period.

I read the epub version of the ebook. The formatting was professional, the text had been copy edited, and the interactive ToC worked perfectly, as did the footnotes in the essay.

I’d like to thank Tachyon Publications for the review copy. Tachycon has been producing quality books for quite some time now. They don’t produce a large number of titles in any given year, but I always take note of the ones they do. Tachyon Publications is one of the premiere small presses in the US at the moment.