Birthday Reviews: Complete Linked Index to Authors and Stories

Since I finally completed something on this site, I felt like celebrating and thought it might be useful to gather up all the information about the project in this post. I started the Birthday Reviews on January 24, 2020 and, after a break from October 13, 2020 to October 20, 2022, I picked it up again, finally finishing on January 17, 2023. The 52 posts ended up covering 157 authors and 172 of their stories (I generally reviewed one story each, but did a double shot of Cadigan and del Rey plus a batch of Brown short-shorts). While the Site Map lists all these weekly posts with authors’ last names, the following lists the full name of each author individually (which links to their posts), vital dates, the story reviewed, and its place and date of publication.

(There’s also a plain text file to play with in a spreadsheet or with text processing tools if anyone is so inclined, though I strongly doubt anyone is. This is stored at what used to be my old site since WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me store anything here besides images. Any spreadsheet just needs to be told it’s pipe-delimited with unquoted text (the story titles are incidentally quoted but not in spreadsheet terms).)


  • Poul Anderson (1926-11-25/2001-07-31) “Time Lag” F&SF, January 1961
  • Neal Asher (1961-02-04) “Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck” Asimov’s, August 2005
  • Isaac Asimov (1920-01-02/1992-04-06) “The Feeling of Power” If, February 1958
  • J. G. Ballard (1930-11-15/2009-04-19) “Prima Belladonna” Science Fantasy, December 1956
  • John Barnes (1957-02-28) “My Advice to the Civilized” IAsfm, April 1990
  • Neal Barrett, Jr. (1929-11-03/2014-01-12) “Perpetuity Blues” IAsfm, May 1987
  • Harry Bates (1900-10-09/1981-09-??) “Farewell to the Master” Astounding, October 1940
  • Stephen Baxter (1957-11-13) “Something for Nothing” Interzone #23, Spring 1988
  • Greg Bear (1951-08-20/2022-11-19) “Hardfought” IAsfm, February 1983
  • Gregory Benford (1941-01-30) “And the Sea Like Mirrors” Again, Dangerous Visions, 1972
  • Alfred Bester (1913-12-18/1987-09-30) “Of Time and Third Avenue” F&SF, October 1951
  • Eando Binder (1911-08-26/1974-10-14) “I, Robot” Amazing, January 1939
  • James Blish (1921-05-23/1975-07-30) “How Beautiful with Banners” Orbit 1, 1966
  • Ben Bova (1932-11-08/2020-11-29) “To Touch a Star” The Universe, 1987
  • Leigh Brackett (1915-12-07/1978-03-18) “The Last Days of Shandakor” Startling Stories, April 1952
  • Ray Bradbury (1920-08-22/2012-06-05) “The Anthem Sprinters” Playboy, June 1963
  • Reginald Bretnor (1911-07-30/1992-07-22) “The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out” F&SF, Winter-Spring 1950
  • Miles J. Breuer (1889-01-03/1945-10-14) “The Gostak and the Doshes” Amazing, March 1930
  • Fredric Brown (1906-10-29/1972-03-11) “Not Yet the End” Captain Future, Winter 1941
  • ——— “Answer” Angels and Spaceships, 1954
  • ——— “Pattern” Angels and Spaceships, 1954
  • ——— “Reconciliation” Angels and Spaceships, 1954
  • ——— “Experiment” Galaxy, February 1954
  • ——— “Imagine” F&SF, May 1955
  • ——— “Abominable” Dude, March 1960
  • ——— “Recessional” Dude, March 1960
  • ——— “Earthmen Bearing Gifts” Galaxy, June 1960
  • ——— “The End” Nightmares and Geezenstacks, 1961
  • ——— “Jaycee” Nightmares and Geezenstacks, 1961
  • ——— “Rebound” Nightmares and Geezenstacks, 1961
  • ——— “Nightmare in Yellow” Dude, May 1961
  • ——— “The Short Happy Lives of Eustace Weaver, I, II, and III” Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1961
  • Algis Budrys (1931-01-09/2008-06-09) “The Man Who Always Knew” Astounding, April 1956
  • Octavia E. Butler (1947-06-22/2006-02-24) “Speech Sounds” IAsfm, Mid-December 1983
  • Pat Cadigan (1953-09-10) “Pretty Boy Crossover” IAsfm, January 1986
  • ——— “Angel” IAsfm, May 1987
  • Jack Cady (1932-03-20/2004-01-14) “The Night We Buried Road Dog” F&SF, January 1993
  • John W. Campbell (1910-06-08/1971-07-11) “Forgetfulness” Astounding, June 1937
  • Cleve Cartmill (1908-06-21/1964-02-11) “Deadline” Astounding, March 1944
  • A. Bertram Chandler (1912-03-28/1984-06-06) “Giant Killer” Astounding, October 1945
  • C. J. Cherryh (1942-09-01) “Cassandra” F&SF, October 1978
  • Arthur C. Clarke (1917-12-16/2008-03-19) “The Star” Infinity Science Fiction, November 1955
  • Hal Clement (1922-05-30/2003-10-29) “The Mechanic” Analog, September 1966
  • Mildred Clingerman (1918-03-14/1997-02-26) “Letters from Laura” F&SF, October 1954
  • John Collier (1901-05-03/1980-04-06) “The Chaser” The New Yorker, December 28, 1940
  • John Crowley (1942-12-01) “Snow” Omni, November 1985
  • Chan Davis (1926-08-12) “Adrift on the Policy Level” Star Science Fiction Stories No. 5, 1959
  • L. Sprague de Camp (1907-11-27/2000-11-06) “The Gnarly Man” Unknown, June 1939
  • Lester del Rey (1915-06-02/1993-05-10) “For I Am a Jealous People” Star Short Novels, 1954
  • ——— “The Seat of Judgment” Venture, July 1957
  • Joseph H. Delaney (1932-02-05/1999-12-21) & Marc Stiegler “Valentina” Analog, May 1984
  • Samuel R. Delany (1942-04-01) “Driftglass” If, June 1967
  • A. J. Deutsch (1918-01-25/1969-11-11) “A Subway Named Mobius” Astounding, December 1950
  • Philip K. Dick (1928-12-16/1982-03-02) “The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford” F&SF, January 1954
  • Gordon R. Dickson (1923-11-01/2001-01-31) “Dolphin’s Way” Analog, June 1964
  • Gardner Dozois (1947-07-23/2018-05-27) “Morning Child” Omni, January 1984
  • George Alec Effinger (1947-01-10/2002-04-27) “The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, EverythingF&SF, October 1984
  • Greg Egan (1961-08-20) “Learning to Be Me” Interzone #37, July 1990
  • Harlan Ellison (1934-05-27/2018-06-28) “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” If, March 1967
  • Carol Emshwiller (1921-04-12/2019-02-02) “Moon Songs” The Start of the End of It All, 1990
  • Hanns Heinz Ewers (1871-11-03/1943-06-12) “The Spider” Die Besessenen, 1908
  • Philip Jose Farmer (1918-01-26/2009-02-25) “Sail On! Sail On!” Startling Stories, December 1952
  • Robert L. Forward (1932-08-15/2002-09-21) “Self-Limiting” Analog, May 1992
  • Alan Dean Foster (1946-11-18) “Ye Who Would Sing” Galileo, December 1976
  • Raymond Z. Gallun (1911-03-22/1994-04-02) “Derelict” Astounding, October 1935
  • William Gibson (1948-03-17) “Johnny Mnemonic” Omni, May 1981
  • Joseph Green (1931-01-14) “The Crier of Crystal” Analog, October 1971
  • James Gunn (1923-07-12) “The Misogynist” Galaxy, November 1952
  • J. B. S. Haldane (1892-11-05/1964-12-01) “The Gold-Makers” The Inequality of Man, 1932
  • Joe Haldeman (1943-06-09) “Anniversary Project” Analog, October 1975
  • Edmond Hamilton (1904-10-21/1977-02-01) “Exile” Super Science Stories, May 1943
  • Peter F. Hamilton (1960-03-02) “The Forever Kitten” Nature, July 28, 2005
  • Charles L. Harness (1915-12-29/2005-09-20) “The Chessplayers” F&SF, October 1953
  • Harry Harrison (1925-03-12/2012-08-15) “Not Me, Not Amos Cabot!” Science Fantasy, December 1964-January 1965
  • Alix E. Harrow (1989-11-09) “A Whisper in the Weld” Shimmer #22, November 2014
  • Robert A. Heinlein (1907-07-07/1988-05-08) “Columbus Was a Dope” Startling Stories, May 1947
  • Robert E. Howard (1906-01-22/1936-06-11) “Pigeons from Hell” Weird Tales, May 1938
  • Shirley Jackson (1916-12-14/1965-08-08) “The Lottery” The New Yorker, June 26, 1948
  • Neil R. Jones (1909-05-29/1988-02-15) “The Jameson Satellite” Amazing, July 1931
  • Raymond F. Jones (1915-11-17/1994-01-24) “A Stone and a Spear” Galaxy, December 1950
  • David H. Keller (1880-12-23/1966-07-13) “The Thing in the Cellar” Weird Tales, March 1932
  • James Patrick Kelly (1951-04-11) “Think Like a Dinosaur” Asimov’s, June 1995
  • Daniel Keyes (1927-08-09/2014-06-15) “Flowers for Algernon” F&SF, April 1959
  • C. M. Kornbluth (1923-07-23/1958-03-21) “That Share of Glory” Astounding, January 1952
  • Henry Kuttner (1915-04-07/1958-02-04) “The Proud Robot” Astounding, October 1943
  • Geoffrey A. Landis (1955-05-28) “Approaching Perimelasma” Asimov’s, January 1998
  • Keith Laumer (1925-06-09/1993-01-23) “The Last Command” Analog, January 1967
  • Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-10-21/2018-01-22) “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” New Dimensions 3, 1973
  • Tanith Lee (1947-09-19/2015-05-24) “Into Gold” IAsfm, March 1986
  • Fritz Leiber (1910-12-24/1992-09-05) “The Oldest Soldier” F&SF, May 1960
  • Murray Leinster (1896-06-16/1975-06-08) “The Power” Astounding, September 1945
  • Jack London (1876-01-12/1916-11-22) “A Thousand Deaths” The Black Cat, May 1899
  • H. P. Lovecraft (1890-08-20/1937-03-15) “The Strange High House in the Mist” Weird Tales, October 1931
  • Katherine MacLean (1925-01-22/2019-09-01) “Unhuman Sacrifice” Astounding, November 1958
  • Ian R. MacLeod (1956-08-06) “The Chop Girl” Asimov’s, December 1999
  • George R. R. Martin (1948-09-20) “A Song for Lya” Analog, June 1974
  • Julian May (1931-07-10/2017-10-17) “Dune Roller” Astounding, December 1951
  • James McConnell (1925-10-26/1990-04-09) “Learning Theory” If, December 1957
  • Jack McDevitt (1935-04-14) “Act of God” Microcosms, 2004
  • A. Merritt (1884-01-20/1943-08-21) “Through the Dragon Glass” All-Story Weekly, November 24, 1917
  • C. L. Moore (1911-01-24/1987-04-04) “Shambleau” Weird Tales, November 1933
  • William Morrison (1906-10-13/1980-06-02) “The Model of a Judge” Galaxy, October 1953
  • Pat Murphy (1955-03-09) & Paul Doherty “Cold Comfort” Bridging Infinity, 2016
  • Linda Nagata (1960-11-07) “Codename: Delphi” Lightspeed #47, April 2014
  • Larry Niven (1938-04-30) “The Hole Man” Analog, January 1974
  • Andre Norton (1912-02-17/2005-03-17) “All Cats Are Gray” Fantastic Universe, August/September 1953
  • Edgar Pangborn (1909-02-25/1976-02-01) “The Red Hills of Summer” F&SF, September 1959
  • Rog Phillips (1909-02-20/1966-03-02) “The Yellow Pill” Astounding, October 1958
  • H. Beam Piper (1904-03-23/1964-11-06) “Time and Time Again” Astounding, April 1947
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809-01-19/1849-10-07) “The Cask of Amontillado” Godey’s Lady’s Book, November 1846
  • Frederik Pohl (1919-11-26/2013-09-02) “Day Million” Rogue, February/March 1966
  • Steven Popkes (1952-10-09) “Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected” Asimov’s, December 2012
  • Tom Purdom (1936-04-19) “A Response from EST17” Asimov’s, April/May 2011
  • Robert Reed (1956-10-09) “Katabasis” F&SF, November/December 2012
  • Mike Resnick (1942-03-05/2020-01-09) “Death Is an Acquired Trait” Argos, Winter 1988
  • Alastair Reynolds (1966-03-13) “Merlin’s Gun” Asimov’s, May 2000
  • R. S. Richardson (1902-04-22/1981-11-12) “N Day” Astounding, January 1946 (as by Philip Latham)
  • Ross Rocklynne (1913-02-21/1988-10-29) “Into the Darkness” Astonishing, June 1939
  • Milton A. Rothman (1919-11-30/2001-10-06) “Heavy Planet” Astounding, August 1939
  • Rudy Rucker (1946-03-22) “Pac-Man” IAsfm, June 1982
  • Eric Frank Russell (1905-01-06/1978-02-28) “Jay Score” Astounding, May 1941
  • Fred Saberhagen (1930-05-18/2007-06-29) “Starsong” If, January 1968
  • Hilbert Schenck (1926-02-12/2013-12-02) “The Morphology of the Kirkham Wreck” F&SF, September 1978
  • James H. Schmitz (1911-10-15/1981-04-18) “An Incident on Route 12” If, January 1962
  • Karl Schroeder (1962-09-04) “The Pools of Air” Tesseracts 3, 1991
  • Bob Shaw (1931-12-31/1996-02-11) “Light of Other Days” Analog, August 1966
  • Robert Sheckley (1928-07-16/2005-12-09) “The Perfect Woman” Amazing, December 1953-January 1954
  • Charles Sheffield (1935-06-25/2002-11-02) “A Braver Thing” IAsfm, February 1990
  • Wilmar H. Shiras (1908-09-23/1990-12-23) “In Hiding” Astounding, November 1948
  • John Shirley (1953-02-10) “The Incorporated” IAsfm, July 1985
  • Robert Silverberg (1935-01-15) “To Be Continued” Astounding, May 1956
  • Clifford D. Simak (1904-08-03/1988-04-25) “The Creator” Marvel Tales, March-April 1935
  • Joan Slonczewski (1956-08-14) “Tuberculosis Bacteria Join UN” Nature, June 29, 2000
  • Clark Ashton Smith (1893-01-13/1961-08-14) “The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan” Weird Tales, June 1932
  • Cordwainer Smith (1913-07-11/1966-08-06) “The Game of Rat and Dragon” Galaxy, October 1955
  • E. E. “Doc” Smith (1890-05-02/1965-08-31) “The Vortex Blaster” Comet, July 1941
  • George O. Smith (1911-04-09/1981-05-27) “QRM / Interplanetary” Astounding, October 1942
  • Norman Spinrad (1940-09-15) “A Thing of Beauty” Analog, January 1973
  • Brian Stableford (1948-07-25) “The Magic Bullet” Interzone #29, May-June 1989
  • Allen Steele (1958-01-19) “The War Memorial” Asimov’s, September 1995
  • Bruce Sterling (1954-04-14) & Lewis Shiner “Mozart in Mirrorshades” Omni, September 1985
  • Theodore Sturgeon (1918-02-26/1985-05-08) “The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast” F&SF, October 1949
  • Michael Swanwick (1950-11-18) “Radio Waves” Omni, Winter 1995
  • Leo Szilard (1898-02-11/1964-05-30) “The Mark Gable Foundation” The Voice of the Dolphins and Other Stories, 1961
  • Stephen Tall (1908-06-14/1981-01-15) “The Invaders” If, August 1973
  • Drew Hayden Taylor (1962-07-01) “Take Us To Your Chief” Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories, 2016
  • Lucy Taylor (1951-11-30) “The Family Underwater” Close to the Bone, 1993
  • William Tenn (1920-05-09/2010-02-07) “Betelgeuse Bridge” Galaxy, April 1951
  • James Tiptree, Jr. (1915-08-24/1987-05-19) “Milk of Paradise” Again, Dangerous Visions, 1972
  • A. E. van Vogt (1912-04-26/2000-01-26) “Concealment” Astounding, September 1943
  • Jack Vance (1916-08-28/2013-05-26) “Sulwen’s Planet” The Farthest Reaches, 1968
  • John Varley (1947-08-09) “Retrograde Summer” F&SF, February 1975
  • Joan D. Vinge (1948-04-02) “Fireship” Analog, December 1978
  • Vernor Vinge (1944-10-02) “Long Shot” Analog, August 1972
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-11-11/2007-04-11) “Harrison Bergeron” F&SF, October 1961
  • Howard Waldrop (1946-09-15) “Ugly Chickens” Universe 10, 1980
  • Bryce Walton (1918-05-31/1988-02-05) “Too Late for Eternity” Startling Stories, Spring 1955
  • Lawrence Watt-Evans (1954-07-26) “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” IAsfm, July 1987
  • Sharon Webb (1936-02-29/2010-04-29) “Variation on a Theme from Beethoven” IAsfm, February 1980
  • Stanley G. Weinbaum (1902-04-04/1935-12-14) “Parasite Planet” Astounding, February 1935
  • Manly Wade Wellman (1903-05-21/1986-04-05) “O Ugly Bird!” F&SF, December 1951
  • H. G. Wells (1866-09-21/1946-08-13) “The Star” The Graphic, Christmas Number 1897
  • Don Wilcox (1905-08-29/2000-03-09) “The Voyage That Lasted Six Hundred Years” Amazing, October 1940
  • Oscar Wilde (1854-10-16/1900-11-30) “The Nightingale and the Rose” The Happy Prince and Other Tales, 1888
  • Kate Wilhelm (1928-06-08/2018-03-08) “The Mile-Long Spaceship” Astounding, April 1957
  • Robert Moore Williams (1907-06-19/1977-05-12) “Flight of the Dawn Star” Astounding, March 1938
  • Jack Williamson (1908-04-29/2006-11-10) “Nonstop to Mars” Argosy, February 14, 1939
  • Connie Willis (1945-12-31) “At the Rialto” Omni, October 1989
  • P. G. Wodehouse (1881-10-15/1975-02-14) “Sir Agravaine” Collier’s, June 29, 1912
  • John Wyndham (1903-07-10/1969-03-11) “The Asteroids, 2194” New Worlds #100, November 1960
  • Timothy Zahn (1951-09-01) “The Cassandra” Analog, November 1983
  • Roger Zelazny (1937-05-13/1995-06-14) “The Man Who Loved the Faioli” Galaxy, June 1967

Birthday Reviews: Howard, MacLean, Merritt, Moore, Poe, Steele

This final installment of the weekly Birthday Reviews brings us another six-pack from a large birthday gang (of a large week[1]) and these fall in pairs: two reprints from earlier reviews, two reviews of colorful debuts, and two phobic tales from Allan and Allen, the birthday boys of the nineteenth.


Robert E. Howard (1906-01-22/1936-06-11)

“Pigeons from Hell” (Weird Tales, May 1938)

[Adapted from my 2019-10-30 review of Margulies’ anthology Weird Tales.]

While the anthology is good as a whole, Howard’s tremendous “Pigeons from Hell” wrecks the grade curve. The second-longest tale of the book opens with two New Englanders on a jaunt to the South ending up spending the night at a deserted mansion. One wakes up from what he tries to convince himself was a nightmare only for things to go from bad to worse, resulting in a mad dash from the house. I don’t want to spoil even the opening section but perhaps some flavor of what happened can be given by quoting a piece from when the surviving traveler, Griswell, returns to the house with Buckner, the local sheriff.

He swung the beam around, and Griswell had never dreamed that the sight of the gory body of a murdered man could bring such relief.

“He’s still there,” grunted Buckner.

In the second section, the two men meet with a voodoo man and fill in some details of what Buckner knew of the sordid family history of the mansion’s last inhabitants before moving to the final section and the nightmarish showdown with a “zuvembie” monster. My only complaint with this story is that the first section is so powerful that the remainder, while also powerful and maintaining suspense and interest, can’t quite match that opening. Still, that prosaic opening and initially very basic horror, straightforward narrative and stylistic approach, and skillfully joined antebellum relics and imported voodoo combine to make this effective for a likely majority of readers. Highly recommended.

Katherine MacLean (1925-01-22/2019-09-01)

“Unhuman Sacrifice” (Astounding, November 1958)

[Adapted from my 2017-08-29 review of her collection The Trouble with You Earth People.]

“Unhuman Sacrifice” deals with the two crewmen of a small starship, the missionary they’ve had to convey to an alien world, and the natives who have a bizarre coming-of-age ritual which involves tying the youths upside down to trees and is sometimes fatal. From religious motives, the preacher wants to intervene with words and, from compassion, the initially resistant crewmen get involved with action. If you don’t see it coming, the result should be shocking and, even if you do see it coming, the result is well-constructed and still thoroughly effective. A couple of my favorite parts involve the main native’s very strange yet completely plausible perception of what the humans must be and the extremely exciting “fighting the flood” scene that basically forms the climax. In terms of combining dramatic action and thoughtful concepts, this is SF at its best.


A. Merritt (1884-01-20/1943-08-21)

“Through the Dragon Glass” (All-Story Weekly, November 24, 1917)

A. Merritt made his debut with this Sehnsucht story which involves one man telling his friend of his amazing experiences with a supernatural “dragon glass” which has a triple layer of the glass itself, the compelling world within (or through) it, and the sort of gnostic foundation interpenetrating and encompassing that. It actually lacks a truly satisfying dramatic arc but is filled with enticing glimmers of substance in its colorful description.

C. L. Moore (1911-01-24/1987-04-04)

“Shambleau” (Weird Tales, November 1933)

C. L. Moore made her debut with a very different, but equally colorful story. Northwest Smith is a sort of anti-hero of the spaceways who rescues an alien girl from a multi-species Martian mob bent on destroying her. He finds himself simultaneously drawn to and repelled by her but, after a night of strange dreams, he experiences a night (and nights) of erotic pleasure and horrific revulsion and learns that old myths have their roots in reality. This story is crisply plotted until an overlong denouement throws things a little out of proportion and ends the powerful blending of disparate psychosexual elements with a sort of sputtering effect until recapturing some of the momentum at the very end and it’s odd in that Northwest Smith is introduced as a mover and shaker of a main character, yet he takes a backseat first to the girl and then to another character. Also, while not a structural problem, there’s a sort of puritan streak running through this one despite its amoral complacency about Smith’s extra-legal activities. All that aside, this is an extremely vividly imagined and memorable tale of great intensity and rightly made Moore immediately famous.


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-01-19/1849-10-07)

“The Cask of Amontillado” (Godey’s Lady’s Book, November 1846)

This is a good example of Poe’s theory of the short story in which everything is directed toward producing a single effect. This doesn’t mean that everything is monotone but, rather, that a great variety of things can be deployed as long as they have the same vector and accumulate power. The premise is simply that a once rich and/or powerful man has been wronged by one who is still rich and/or powerful and, having received an insult of some kind on top of these injuries, has formulated his revenge and exacts it in the story. The plan is clever and insanely forceful. Examples of the variety of elements (mostly twistedly funny) are the way the narrator ensures he will not be bothered by servants, the victim saying he won’t die of a cough (which is more true than he realizes) coupled with the bit about masons and the trowel, the discussion of the coat of arms and, perhaps best of all, the screaming scene. This is a masterful piece of black humor and ironic art.

Allen Steele (1958-01-19)

“The War Memorial” (Asimov’s, September 1995)

Allen Steele shares a birthday and (almost) a name with Poe but doesn’t generally share much else, generally writing somewhat optimistic fiction which is often literally light years removed from the gothic, but this example of “anti-military SF” has some unusual similarities with the preceding one. The protagonist is fighting a battle on the moon, encounters some serious technical difficulties with his combat armor, and eventually contributes to an unusual “war memorial.” This is a much more sober tale but is also short, powerfully focused, dark, and effective.

[1] I started this in 2020, which was a 366-day year and 52 weeks only covers 364 days, so this last installment covers nine days (I should have posted it yesterday). Ironically, the birthdays only kick in on the nineteenth, so only cover the last six of those nine. In that sense, it’s a short week.

Birthday Reviews: Budrys, Effinger, Green, London, Silverberg, Smith

This week’s installment covers a record six birthdays which include stories of strange knowledge, strange intelligence, and sex and death. Three of the stories (those by Budrys, London, and Silverberg) are drawn from a single anthology, though that’s still less than three percent of its contents. The other three authors (Effinger, Green, and Smith) weren’t in that one and their tales are drawn from the other three books depicted.


Algis Budrys (1931-01-09/2008-06-09)

“The Man Who Always Knew” (Astounding, April 1956)

Algis Budrys is known, but not well known; he’s esteemed, but not greatly esteemed–and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t know him and think he’s among the greatest. In this, a sad, tired man has a great weight on him and finally unburdens himself to (who else?) his bartender and, after he’s taken the plunge, Budrys says, “He did look happy–happy all the way through, like a man with insomnia who suddenly feels himself drifting off to sleep.” There’s just something about that line that Budrys has written a million of and even better, but it’s just quintessentially him. Anyway, this is a bittersweet tale about a man with a very odd and special talent which results in fame, fortune, and unhappiness.

George Alec Effinger (1947-01-10/2002-04-27)

“The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything” (F&SF, October 1984)

For a very different tale about very different kind of knowledge, Effinger here gives us a very funny tale in which the President of the United States describes the day the aliens came and what happened after. These aliens, the nuhp, are very friendly and helpful (when they can be, as they are backwards in some amusing ways) but have never heard of the phrase “de gustibus non est disputandum” and their know-it-all ways result in expected transformations in human attitudes toward them and some unexpected transformations of humanity and the world beyond that. From the president asking them, “And how long do you plan to be with us?” and then lamenting to himself that he sounded like “a room clerk at a Holiday Inn” to his later conversations with the nuhp about the Joy of Bowling, this packs in many laughs and, despite being nuhp-like, I say this is a better story than hollyhocks.

Joseph Green (1931-01-14)

“The Crier of Crystal” (Analog, October 1971)

Among the last stories John W. Campbell bought before his death was an installment in Joseph Green’s series that would be fixed up into Conscience Interplanetary. The background for all the stories is that a component of international human space exploration is the Practical Philosopher Corps, which is made up of “Consciences” who try to determine if anything, no matter how bizarre, has any intelligence on the explored worlds and, if they do, those planets may be studied but not exploited. In this particular tale, the protagonist Conscience, Allan Odegaard, is on Crystal, a world of silicon-based life-forms, the strangeness and beauty of which is evoked well. He encounters a plant-like form which seems to make random noises mixed with random words on this very noisy world. Determining if it’s intelligent and trying to communicate with it may be difficult, but performing the same tasks with a human politician who wants to cancel the Consciences may be even more so!

Jack London (1876-01-12/1916-11-22)

“A Thousand Deaths” (The Black Cat, May 1899)

A man (something of a Byronic figure) is drowning (something of a Shelleyan fate) when the story opens. He quickly tells us his backstory and then loses consciousness. But we know he doesn’t die because it’s first person and, indeed, he is awakened to find himself being resuscitated by a strange mechanical contrivance. His savior happens to be his estranged father, who doesn’t recognize him. What follows is a strange bit of temporary double deception as the father imprisons and repeatedly kills the son as part of his researches into death and resuscitation until the son develops a machine of his own. This doesn’t have the strongest plot and narrating in the first person doesn’t exactly maximize any potential tension (to be fair, I think this was London’s first story or nearly so) but the echoes of the other Shelley and H. G. Wells’ island and, of course, the psychological, even mythical, elements of the story give it quite a bit of power.

Robert Silverberg (1935-01-15)

“To Be Continued” (Astounding, May 1956)

This story’s opening line (abridged) is “Gaius Titus Menenius sat in his apartment on Park Avenue” which is an excellent example of cognitive estrangement (or very mean parents) and it turns out to be the former, as he’s a two-thousand-year-old Roman who ages very, very slowly. But, oh happy day, he learns he’s aged enough to be able to reproduce and goes about trying to do so, with some surprising results which leads to another round of surprise and one more for the kicker. This is probably a pretty good example of Silverberg’s earlier work in that it has a great idea, a slick execution, and an effective ending, though it’s a little sloppy in the details of its premise and doesn’t explore it in the fullness the general concept might merit. Still, it’s a clever tale with some sense of wonder along with some ironic humor.

Clark Ashton Smith (1893-01-13/1961-08-14)

“The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan” (Weird Tales, June 1932)

In this, one of Smith’s Hyperborean tales, we get the story of a money-lender who will spare nothing for a beggar and thus receives his weird from him for free: a doom which the money-lender scoffs at and forgets. Later, the time comes and quite a memorable night it is. The description of its start conveys how Smith’s 11 reverberated long enough for it to still be at least a six by the time it got to Jack Vance:

Avoosl Wuthoqquan sat in a lower chamber of his house, which was also his place of business. The room was obliquely shafted by the brief, aerial gold of the reddening sunset, which fell through a crystal window, lighting a serpentine line of irised sparks in the jewel-studded lamp that hung from copper chains and touching to fiery life the tortuous threads of silver and similor in the dark arrases. Avoosl Wuthoqquan, seated in an umber shadow beyond the aisle of light, peered with an austere and ironic mien at his client, whose swarthy face and somber mantle were gilded by the passing glory.

The form of this baroque tale is similar to many fables of retribution such as the one of Midas but the imaginative content and deft execution set it apart.

Birthday Reviews: Asimov, Breuer, Russell

Exactly one week late with last week’s installment which brings us a feeling of power, a not-so-alternate world of political madness, and a ship which is out of control and set for the heart of the sun!


Isaac Asimov (1920-01-02/1992-04-06)

“The Feeling of Power” (If, February 1958)

While doing my Asimov Centennial reviews I fell one book short of covering all his pure science-fiction-era books from 1950-1959 when I didn’t get to Nine Tomorrows. This is from that collection, which I hope to review in its entirety soon. In the meantime, this one amusingly turns the notion of technological advance on its head when humans are fighting Deneb with self-programming computers and are at a stalemate until they discover that they can do math themselves with only their brains and paper. This may give them a bizarre edge in the conflict.

It’s an odd story unlike most other stories of the time (including Asimov’s own) in being aware of mechanical miniaturization and is a hair from anticipating Vinge’s Singularity (but misses it completely) and one has to wonder how we lost all records of the principles of multiplication but not all other history (however confused what has been retained may be) and why the technician who rediscovered them by analyzing the working of computers uses base ten instead of two but it’s just always stuck in my head as a remarkable concept and becomes ever more meaningful as I contemplate people someday relearning the concept of paper itself, including reading from it and writing on it (perhaps even in cursive!), and possibly using telephones that do only one thing but do it well: enable (voice!) communication.

Miles J. Breuer (1889-01-03/1945-10-14)

“The Gostak and the Doshes” (Amazing, March 1930)

When I reviewed Great Science Fiction by Scientists on February 13, 2017, I only said this “alternate world story” is “memorable” and “tells of a guy slipping into an earth in which people madly emote over senseless slogans rather than using reason. (These days, this earth feels like the alternate one.) It’s rather lazily plotted but makes up for it with its other excellences.” I think some of those excellences include a powerfully evoked mood of paranoia and the deft deployment of clever satire. Either way, it’s another of those Cassandra stories where, if Cassandra could ever have any effect, we’d be much better off.

Eric Frank Russell (1905-01-06/1978-02-28)

“Jay Score” (Astounding, May 1941)

Moving from Cassandra to Icarus, John W. Campbell’s May 1941 issue of Astounding brought us “Jay Score,” about a Star Trek-like spaceship crew composed of, among others, Martian techs (who would also like to have played chess with Harness’ club last week) and a black doctor. This yarn later became part of Eric Frank Russell’s Men, Martians, and Machines. I enjoyed that book so much that I went looking for more like it, encountering Joseph Green and Stephen Tall. In this episode, a meteor hits the Upsydaisy and ruins her trip to Venus, sending the ship on a crash course for the sun. The only way to survive is to veer slightly to achieve a cometary orbit which will require a pilot on the exposed, boiling bridge, but Jay Score is uniquely suited to trying to pull off the almost impossible feat. Fun stuff.

Birthday Reviews: Harness, Shaw, Willis

I haven’t posted in a while but it’s not because I’m done with the birthday reviews (I started doing them for the week beginning January 25 and won’t have finished the year until I’ve covered things to the end of January 24) but because I’m late. This one was supposed to have been posted around December 26 and have covered the week to January 1 but I didn’t get it done. I so didn’t get it done that I was supposed to have posted another one on Isaac Asimov’s birthday (January 2) that should have covered the week to January 8 but I haven’t done that yet, either. But that’s the holidays (and me) for you. Better late than never and all those other cliches. And happy belated birthday as well to Ellen Datlow (1949-12-31) who published the final story in this group.


Charles L. Harness (1915-12-29/2005-09-20)

“The Chessplayers” (F&SF, October 1953)

Harness wasn’t the most prolific author but managed quite a bit of variety within that compass. His van Vogtian The Paradox Men was one of the more explosive textual objects I put in my head as a teenager but he can write everything from that to legal dramas to this, which is a short, comical tale of a mere civilian chess club treasurer trying to convince his club of chess nuts to take on a chess-playing rat that has been trained by a professor when he and the rat were in a concentration camp. With perfect political correctness, the leading club members aren’t convinced the rat is skilled enough at chess to merit playing with them.

“But Jim,” I protested. “That isn’t the point at all. Can’t you see it? Think of the publicity…a chess playing rat…!”

“I wouldn’t know about his personal life,” said Jim curtly.

This one’s intrinsically entertaining and funny but also has something to say about different perspectives and perhaps the imminent space race.

Bob Shaw (1931-12-31/1996-02-11)

“Light of Other Days” (Analog, August 1966)

This story (which I can’t help but think of as “Slow Glass” despite its actual title, which is borrowed from Thomas Moore’s 1815 poem, “Oft in the Stilly Night”) is one of those stories like “Flowers for Algernon” which perfectly bridges the “two cultures” of the sciences and humanities with its poet narrator and wife in marital turmoil, a salesman suffering even more, and the brilliant idea of the technology of “slow glass” which can be “ten light years thick” and “in phase” but can also help and hurt the human heart. Just a masterpiece of a story which can’t be missed.

Connie Willis (1945-12-31)

“At the Rialto” (Omni, October 1989)

Not to be mean on what would have been her birthday but not everyone can appeal to everyone, at least not all the time, and I’m not the biggest fan of Connie Willis’ work, generally, but I jumped at the chance to re-read this because I remembered it as being one of the funniest stories I’d ever read. It’s actually not as funny as I remembered, but it’s still pretty funny. In addition to having the humor of this post’s first story, it has the humanity (undergirded with scientific elements) of the second. And while it references things like It Happened One Night, it makes me think more of Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story as it contemplates quantum physics from the perspective of a member of the International Congress of Quantum Physicists while she tries to check into her Hollywood hotel room despite the “help” of Tiffany, the model/actress who’s just working at a hotel to pay for her transcendental posture lessons (and should have been played by Lisa Kudrow), avoid the colleague she’s romantically bound to, and figure out life, the paradigm for understanding the comedy that is our quantum universe, and everything.