Book Haul #8

No SF this time. I’ve got various editions of various history books but, of all of them, the Landmark series is, well, a landmark. New translations (or at least revised, in one case) with copious illustrations, maps, sidebars, headers, and all sorts of navigational aids, not least of which is a prodigious index. I got the Thucydides first when I was in the History Book Club (or whatever it’s exactly called), then picked up the Herodotus and Arrian used, and don’t even know where I got the Hellenika. Now I’ve gotten the Xenophon’s Anabasis and the Julius Caesar so, until they bring out the Polybius (bated breath), this is all of them.

landmark-front

Spine-view:

landmark-spine

Book Haul #7

This haul is a bit different. You can play “Where’s Waldo & Magic, Inc.?” (which is to say, “Where’s the SF?”) with this one (not to mention “Where’s the Non-Anthology?”). Stray note: the six anthologies contain 579 stories (obviously with plenty of overlap in the litfic anthologies, but still… it’s a lot of stories).

Front:

2022-07-07-front

Spine:

2022-07-07-spine

 

Bibliography: Groff Conklin

I wasn’t intending to do this, especially so close to the last one, but here’s another bibliography/checklist, this time of an editor of anthologies rather than an author of novels and collections. (While he wrote some and edited a few non-speculative anthologies prior to turning to science fiction, this includes only the speculative anthologies beginning with 1946.)

The format is ‘Title (Publication year-month Publisher Format (hc=hardcover/tp=trade paperback/pb=mass-market paperback) Co-editor, story-count/page-count); any significant variants…’ Not all elements will be present for all editions. Note that books with identical contents but differing page counts (presumably due to being reset) are ignored but, if they have some other reason to be listed, are listed with the page counts separated with a bar: ‘page-count|other page count’. Variant listings include only the elements which are different from the first edition. For instance, the 1963 edition of The Best of Science Fiction is still a Crown hardcover and the 1980 Bonanza/Crown edition is still a hardcover with the original story and page counts. Variants are ‘cut’ (missing stories), ‘split’ (one large book published in smaller books, ‘vt’ (variant title), ‘va’ (variant attribution), or some combination.

Sources: ISFDB, Anthopology 101 by Bud Webster, my books. ISFDB, Webster, and other sources have complete story listings but this is intended to be a book checklist which can provide a concise but somewhat detailed overview of his work, help people avoid cuts or duplicates under other names, point people to the big and the little, particular publishers, etc.

Phase I

In this period, Conklin did mostly large anthologies in hardcover, mostly for Crown, Vanguard, and Permabooks.

  • The Best of Science Fiction (1946-02 Crown hc, 40/785); cut 1963 23/440 (also cuts Campbell’s intro, though it preserves Conklin’s); vt The Golden Age of Science Fiction (1980 Bonanza/Crown).
  • A Treasury of Science Fiction (1948-03 Crown hc, 30/517); cut 1957-07 Berkley pb, 8/186|192.
  • The Science Fiction Galaxy (1950-02 Permabooks hc, 12/242).
  • Big Book of Science Fiction (1950-08 Crown hc, 32/545); cut 1957-04 Berkley pb, 10/187|176; vt The Classic Book of Science Fiction (1978 Bonanza/Crown).
  • Possible Worlds of Science Fiction (1951-04 Vanguard hc, 22/372); cut 1952-06 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 13/254; cut 1955-07 Berkley pb, 10/189.
  • In the Grip of Terror (1951 Permabooks pb, 22/364).
  • Invaders of Earth (1952-03 Vanguard hc, 22/333); cut 1953 Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) 14/256; cut 1955-07 Pocket pb, 15/257; cut split vt Invaders of Earth (1962 Digit (UK) pb, 8/160)/Enemies in Space (1962 Digit (UK) pb, 6/159). The Digits contain all the Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • Omnibus of Science Fiction (1952-11 Crown hc, 43/562); cut split vt Strange Travels in Science Fiction (1954-01 Grayson & Grayson (UK); 13/256)/Strange Adventures in Science Fiction (1954-06 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 9/238); cut vt Science Fiction Omnibus (1956-08 Berkley pb 11/187|190).
  • Science Fiction Adventures in Dimension (1953-03 Vanguard hc, 23/354); cut vt Adventures in Dimension (1955 Grayson & Grayson (UK), 13/240); cut 1965-03 Berkley pb, 12/174.
  • The Supernatural Reader (1953-04 Lippincott hc, 27/349) with Lucy Conklin; cut 1958 World (UK) pb, 19/252; va 1962 Collier pb, /352 credited to Groff Conklin only.
  • Crossroads in Time (1953-11 Permabooks pb, 18/312).
  • 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction (1954-01 Dell pb, 6/384).
  • Science-Fiction Thinking Machines (1954-05 Vanguard hc, 22/367); cut vt Selections from Science-Fiction Thinking Machines (1955-08 Bantam pb, 12/183|201).
  • Science Fiction Terror Tales (1955-01 Gnome hc, 15/262).
  • Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955 Vanguard hc, 20/316); cut vt Selected Stories from Science-Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1965-06 Berkley pb, 14/174).
  • Operation Future (1955-07 Permabooks pb, 19/356).

Phase II

The two years between the last book of Phase I and the first of Phase II marks the longest gap between books of his entire career. From here on, he did mostly relatively smaller paperbacks, mostly for Pyramid, Fawcett, and Collier (and no more with Crown, Vanguard, or Permabooks).

  • The Graveyard Reader (1958 Ballantine pb, 12/156)
  • Br-r-r-! (1959 Avon pb, 10/192)
  • 4 for the Future (1959-08 Pyramid pb, 4/160)
  • 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction (1960-05 Fawcett pb, 13/192)
  • Six Great Short Science Fiction Novels (1960-11 Dell pb, 6/350)
  • Twisted (1962-05 Belmont pb, 15/189); cut 1963 Horwitz (UK) pb, 10/130.
  • Worlds of When (1962-05 Pyramid pb, 5/159)
  • Great Science Fiction by Scientists (1962-06 Collier pb, 16/313)
  • Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales (1963-02 Collier pb, 50/287) with Isaac Asimov. Also includes a poem by Poul Anderson and six haiku by Karen Anderson.
  • Great Science Fiction About Doctors (1963-04 Collier pb, 18/412) with Noah D. Fabricant, M.D.
  • Great Stories of Space Travel (1963-07 Tempo pb, 11/256)
  • 17 X Infinity (1963-08 Dell pb, 17/272). Also includes a poem by Rudyard Kipling.
  • 12 Great Classics of Science Fiction (1963-12 Fawcett pb, 12/192)
  • Dimension 4 (1964-02 Pyramid pb, 4/159)
  • Five-Odd (1964-08 Pyramid pb, 5/188); vt Possible Tomorrows (1972-06 Sidgwick & Jackson (UK) hc).
  • Great Detective Stories About Doctors (1965-01 Collier pb, 17/288) with Noah D. Fabricant, M.D.
  • 5 Unearthly Visions (1965 Fawcett pb, 5/175)
  • Giants Unleashed (1965 Grosset & Dunlap hc, 12/248); vt Minds Unleashed (1970-10 Tempo pb). Conklin’s introduction is dropped from the variant title.
  • 13 Above the Night (1965-10 Dell pb, 13/286)
  • Another Part of the Galaxy (1966 Fawcett pb, 6/224)
  • Seven Come Infinity (1966 Fawcett pb, 7/288)
  • Science Fiction Oddities (1966-11 Berkley pb, 19/256); split vt Science Fiction Oddities (1969-06 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 9/156)/Science Fiction Oddities: Second Series (1969-06 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 10/160)
  • Elsewhere and Elsewhen (1968-05 Berkley pb, 9/253); split vt Science Fiction Elsewhen (1970-07 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 5/152)/Science Fiction Elsewhere (1970-07 Rapp & Whiting (UK) hc, 4/166)
  • Seven Trips Through Time and Space (1968 Fawcett pb, 7/256)

Note: ISFDB quotes Tuck as saying Conklin “sub-edited” Human and Other Beings (1963 Collier pb, 16/319) which is a title in the Collier Science Fiction series of which Conklin is credited as the general editor. Webster also lists it among Conklin’s works. But if this were true, it would make this book the only example of such a thing in all of Conklin’s SF anthologies and crediting only Allen DeGraeff (a pseudonym of Albert Paul Blaustein according to OCLC (via ISFDB) and Webster) would have hurt the sales of the book, so Conklin’s anonymity in this makes little sense to me without definite proof. For what it’s worth (because I don’t know what the usual batting average is), of the 15 authors in this anthology, Banks, Brackett (!), Elliott, and Wilson (with two stories) appear in none of the books I list above.

Book Haul #6

This isn’t actually a single haul or much of a “haul” even if it had been but, while I was reorganizing the site map slightly and moving the list of previous book haul posts, it occurred to me to add what I’ve gotten so far in this pretty slow year. First pic is of covers; next is of sideways spines. The last two are tangents. (They’re not all the prettiest books, but the words are all there.)

01-covers

02-spines

I don’t have all of van Vogt but, as I mention in the Bibliography: A. E. van Vogt post, Out of the Unknown now gives me at least all of “Phase I” van Vogt:

03-van-vogt

And the splurge of Datlow Omni anthologies was to finally complete those (the Book and Visions series are mostly reprints, while the middle, oddly titled, Best series is mostly original):

04-omni

Bibliography: A. E. van Vogt

Resources like the ISFDB and The Storysource are wonderful but sometimes too detailed or require a lot of navigating and collating of information while others like the SFE are equally wonderful but sometimes not bibliographically detailed enough. This is a middle road, based on those sources and my collection, which may still be too much or too little for many but I hope some will find it useful or possibly even interesting.

This particular thin bibliography or fat checklist was motivated by my recent purchase of Out of the Unknown which completes my library of what I think of as van Vogt’s “Phase I” books. The reason for the notion of “phases” is that, with very few exceptions, he essentially wrote from 1939-1951 and managed to publish most of this material in book form from 1946-66 until, after over a decade of almost no original material, Frederik Pohl (editing Galaxy and If at the time) got van Vogt back to writing new material in 1963 which manifested in book form from 1969 on. I wanted to recheck his bibliography to make sure I’d gotten it right and, while I was at it, post the results as this categorized bibliography.

However, this isn’t the first one I’ve started–just the first I’ve finished. Prior to the van Vogt, I’d also recently acquired the “last” of what I think of as the essential (if affordable) Kuttner/Moore and, before that, Leiber. I actually started with the Kuttner/Moore bibliography, so it and the Leiber may be along some time soon, possibly followed by others.

The following is a list of parameters and conventions used in the lists below but it might be better to skip it, move directly to the lists, and only refer to it as needed.

  • The lists don’t include non-SF, translations, omnibuses, etc., but do include van Vogt’s core titles of science fiction published in English.
  • The format of entries is generally ‘Title (Series). Date Publisher Book-format Author-attribution. Description: Contents. Other-editions. Notes.’ (not all elements are present in all entries). The original edition and every edition that is substantially different from the original are listed in bold. If the publisher is based in the UK, that’s noted in parentheses. The book formats are ‘hc’ (hardcover), ‘tp’ (trade paper), or ‘pb’ (mass market paperback). The format of the contents is: ‘(Date [Fixup] Magazine/Anthology)’ (see below for “fixup”).
  • Dates for books and their contents are given as ‘1939’ (if the month is unknown), ‘1939-07’ (for July 1939), ‘1979-06/07’ (for June/July 1979), ‘1951-Sp’ (for Spring 1951) or ‘1948-10+3’ (meaning the work was serialized in the October 1948 issue plus the next three issues, taking it to January 1949. If the issue sequence is more complicated than that, I’ll note it.
  • I list significant variant titles (indicated with SFE’s ‘vt’) but I’m not too particular about details of spelling, articles, prepositions, etc., in the titles. The point is simply to list titles that might possibly be confusing rather than every trivial variation.
  • Books are ordered chronologically by book publication within each main category (with the exception of redundant books which are extracted from the chronological order and placed in their own subsection) although, when a book has a prior magazine publication, that is significant and is also listed.
  • When referred to in the descriptions, non-US and posthumous books are surrounded by {braces}. (For van Vogt, this is especially pertinent to the US and UK versions of The Best of A. E. van Vogt. Also note that {Futures Past} came out about three months before van Vogt died but he was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s at that point (not to mention it had been 21 years since his last collection) so I count it as posthumous.)
  • When referred to in the descriptions, collections are often referred to in (parentheses). If they have multi-word titles, those are abbreviated:
    • {3EE}=The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress
    • AB=Away and Beyond
    • DU=Destination: Universe!
    • {FP}=Futures Past
    • FOW=The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt
    • M33=M 33 in Andromeda
    • MOT=Masters of Time
    • MTS=More Than Superhuman
    • OOTU=Out of the Unknown
    • PI=The Proxy Intelligence and Other Mind Benders
    • TBO=The Best of A. E. van Vogt
    • TM=The Twisted Men
  • Though fixups are usually considered novels, in this particular bibliography, I separate van Vogt’s fixups from his novels and collections. For those not familiar with the term, a “fixup” (at least as I use it) is a half-collection/half-novel-like thing made up of previously published stories that are revised to merge better with the other stories, often with the help of new bridge/glue sections written to smooth the transitions and/or expand the material.
  • Stories that are part of fixups or expansions are indicated by a shortened book title in [brackets]. This means they have been collected in a sense, but when I describe them as uncollected, collected for the first time, etc., I’m referring to them as individual stories in essentially their original forms. Fixup references are usually the same as the title (possibly with articles dropped). More severe abbreviations are:
    • Atom=Empire of the Atom
    • Rogue=Rogue Ship
    • Rull=The War Against the Rull
    • Space Beagle=The Voyage of the Space Beagle
    • Weapon Shops=The Weapon Shops of Isher
  • A ‘^’ before a date indicates a story that was extracted from the fixup material at that time, rather than a pre-existing story incorporated into the fixup.
  • An ‘*’ after a title indicates a story that never appeared in a van Vogt collection individually but appears only in a fixup or an expanded novel.

Another thing to note about fixups and “phases” is that Rogue Ship could arguably be Phase II because a significant part of it comes from 1963 but it also includes two Phase I stories and was fixed up prior to The Silkie. On the flipside, Quest for the Future and Supermind could arguably be Phase I fixups because the former is built entirely out of Phase I material but none were related, and all had been previously collected while the latter is much like Rogue Ship in reverse, having only one Phase I story and being mostly two Phase II stories. Both also came out after The Silkie. Some collections are also ambiguous (though perhaps less so, with most being entirely from one phase or the other or with the exception of only a story or two. Most Phase II or posthumous collections with significant Phase I content have mostly only reprinted or previously fixed-up Phase I content).

Finally, I’d note that Edna Mayne Hull was van Vogt’s wife. E. M. (or E. Mayne) Hull is credited with some stories that came out from 1942-46 (coincidentally, van Vogt’s peak of productivity when it was a rule to use a pseudonym when more than one story by the same author appeared in the same issue) which resulted in a collection, fixup, and novel under that name or combined with van Vogt’s. Some believe she had a brief writing career (a notion van Vogt helped support) but others believe van Vogt essentially used the name as a pseudonym, much as John Campbell used his wife’s name Doña Stuart to create his Don A. Stuart pseudonym. Either way, all work credited to Hull appears in four books. Three stories published in Unknown appear in all editions of Out of the Unknown while a fourth ostensibly intended to be published there appears in the 1969 paperback edition. Five of the six Artur Blord stories originally published in Astounding appeared in the fixup Planets for Sale. The other (“Abdication” vt “The Invisibility Gambit”) and one other Astounding story credited to Hull (“Rebirth: Earth” vt “The Flight That Failed”) appear in The Proxy Intelligence with other van Vogt stories. Finally, the serial The Winged Man was published in Astounding and much later in revised book form. All four books are listed below.

I’ve tried very hard to include all information on a certain level and to make it accurate but there are bound to be errors. I’ll update this if anyone points out any or provides more information, or if I discover anything myself. I’ll then add a changelog of substantial changes at the end of the post to make it easy for people to be aware of them.

I’ve also tried to make this concise yet clear but, if it’s not, let me know and I’ll try to fix it.

Novels

Phase I

  • Slan. 1946 Arkham House hc. Slightly revised from 1940-09+3 Astounding. 1951 Simon & Schuster hc and 1968 Berkley pb both slightly revised.
  • The Weapon Makers (Weapon Shops #2). 1947 Hadley hc. Reprinted from 1943-02+2 Astounding. 1955 Ace double pb vt One Against Eternity.
  • The Book of Ptath. 1947 Fantasy Press hc. Reprinted from 1943-10 Unknown. 1964-07 Paperback Library pb vt Two Hundred Million A. D.; 1976-03 Zebra pb vt Ptath.
  • The World of Null-A (Null-A #1). 1948 Simon & Schuster hc vt The World of Ā (spelling used only on US hardcovers). Reprinted from 1945-08+2 Astounding.
  • The House That Stood Still. 1950 Greenberg hc. 1960 Beacon pb slightly revised, likely by other hands, vt The Mating Cry, which was used for subsequent reprints under the original title; 1976-06 Panther (UK) pb as The Undercover Aliens, which perhaps uses the original text.
  • The Universe Maker. 1953-10 Ace double pb. Expanded from the novella “The Shadow Men”* 1950-01 Startling.
  • The Pawns of Null-A (Null-A #2). 1956 Ace pb. Reprinted from 1948-10+3 Astounding vt The Players of Ā. 1966-03 Berkley vt The Players of Null-A.
  • The Mind Cage. 1957 Simon & Schuster hc. The short story “The Great Judge” (AB, {Transfinite}) was the seed for this.
  • The Wizard of Linn (Clane #2). 1962 Ace pb. Reprinted from 1950-04+2 Astounding.
  • The Winged Man. 1966-03 Doubleday hc as by A. E. van Vogt & E. Mayne Hull. Revised from 1944-05+1 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull.

Phase II

  • Children of Tomorrow. 1970 Ace pb.
  • The Battle of Forever. 1971 Ace pb.
  • The Darkness on Diamondia. 1972-01 Ace pb.
  • Future Glitter. 1973-10 Ace pb; 1977-10 Sphere (UK) vt Tyranopolis.
  • The Secret Galactics. 1974-03 Prentice-Hall tp. 1976-08 DAW pb as Earth Factor X.
  • The Man with a Thousand Names. 1974-08 DAW pb.
  • The Anarchistic Colossus. 1977-04 Ace pb.
  • Renaissance. 1979-05 Ace pb. An excerpt with slightly modified ending was published essentially simultaneously as “Femworld”* 1979-06/07 Galaxy.
  • Cosmic Encounter. 1980-02 Doubleday hc.
  • Computerworld. 1983-11 DAW pb. 1985-07 DAW pb vt Computer Eye.
  • Null-A Three (Null-A #3). 1985-07 DAW pb.

Posthumous (essentially not by van Vogt)

  • Slan Hunter. 2007-07 Tor hc as by Kevin J. Anderson and A. E. van Vogt (written by Anderson from an outline by van Vogt and his step-son). Reprinted from 2006-12+2 Jim Baen’s Universe (bi-monthly).

 

Fixups

Phase I

  • The Voyage of the Space Beagle. 1950 Simon & Schuster hc. Components: “Black Destroyer” (1939-07 Astounding), “War of Nerves” (1950-05 Other Worlds), “Discord in Scarlet” (1939-12 Astounding), “M 33 in Andromeda” (1943-08 Astounding). 1952-01 Signet pb vt Mission: Interplanetary.
  • The Weapon Shops of Isher (Weapon Shops #1). 1951 Greenberg hc. Components: “The Seesaw”* (1941-07 Astounding), “The Weapon Shop” (1942-12 Astounding), “The Weapon Shops of Isher”* (1949-02 Thrilling Wonder).
  • The Mixed Men. 1952 Gnome hc. Components: “Concealment” (1943-09 Astounding), “Lost: Fifty Suns” (^1972 The Book of Van Vogt), “The Storm” (1943-09 Astounding), “The Mixed Men” (1945-01 Astounding). 1955-12 Berkley pb vt Mission to the Stars.
  • Planets for Sale. 1954 Frederick Fell hc as by E. Mayne Hull. Components: “Competition”* (1943-06 Astounding), “The Debt”* (1943-12 Astounding), “The Contract”* (1944-03 Astounding), “Enter the Professor”* (1945-01 Astounding), “Bankruptcy Proceedings”* (1946-08 Astounding) all as by E. Mayne Hull. 1965 Book Company of America pb as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. (Incidentally, in addition to none of the Blord stories being collected individually, none were even anthologized except for “Competition” in Men Against the Stars, Martin Greenberg, ed.)
  • Empire of the Atom (Clane #1). 1957 Shasta hc. Components: “A Son Is Born” (1946-05 Astounding), “Child of the Gods” (1946-08 Astounding), “Hand of the Gods” (1946-12 Astounding), “Home of the Gods” (1947-04 Astounding), “The Barbarian” (1947-12 Astounding). 1957 Ace double pb slightly abridged.
  • The War Against the Rull. 1959-09 Simon & Schuster hc. Components: “Co-operate–Or Else!” (1942-04 Astounding), “Repetition” (1940-04 Astounding), “The Second Solution” (1942-10 Astounding), “The Green Forest” (1949-06 Astounding), “The Sound” (1950-02 Astounding), “The Rull” (1948-05 Astounding).
  • The Beast. 1963 Doubleday hc. Components: “The Great Engine” (1943-07 Astounding), “The Changeling” (1944-04 Astounding), “The Beast”* (1943-11 Astounding). 1969 Panther (UK) pb vt Moonbeast.
  • Rogue Ship. 1965 Doubleday hc. Components: “Centaurus II”* (1947-06 Astounding), “The Expendables” (1963-09 If), “Rogue Ship” vt “The Twisted Men” (1950-03 Super-Science Stories).

Phase II

  • The Silkie. 1969 Ace pb. Components: “Prologue to The Silkie” (^1976 The Best of A. E. van Vogt), “The Silkie”* (1964-07 If), “Silkies in Space” (1966-05 If), “Enemy of the Silkies”* (1967-10 If).
  • Quest for the Future. 1970-07 Ace pb. Components: “Film Library” (1946-07 Astounding), “The Search” (1943-01 Astounding), “Far Centaurus” (1944-01 Astounding). All three unrelated stories had been collected in AB and DU.
  • Supermind. 1977-01 DAW pb. Components: “Asylum” (1942-05 Astounding), “Research Alpha” (1965-07 If with James H. Schmitz), “The Proxy Intelligence” (1968-10 If). Two previously collected related stories were combined with the unrelated (and uncredited) collaboration with Schmitz which served in place of an unwritten third story, with the whole serving in place of an unwritten but contracted book.

Collections

Phase I

  • Out of the Unknown. 1948-04 Fantasy Press hc as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. Six previously uncollected stories from 1940-43 Unknown with half credited to van Vogt and half to E. Mayne Hull: “The Sea Thing” (1940-01), “The Witch” (1943-02), “The Ghost” (1943-08), all as by A. E. van Vogt; “The “Ultimate Wish” (1943-02) originally as by E. M. Hull, “The Wishes We Make” (1943-06), “The Patient” (1943-10), both as by E. Mayne Hull. 1969 Powell pb adds an introduction by A. E. van Vogt and “The Wellwisher” as by E. Mayne Hull, which is included as a story scheduled for Unknown when the magazine shut down. 1970-06 Sigwick & Jackson (UK) hc vt The Sea Thing and Other Stories. 1970-10 NEL (UK) pb restores the title but cuts the intro, “The Witch”, and “The Patient”. Only “The Sea Thing” (Monsters) and “The Ghost” ({Transfinite}) appear in other collections.
  • Masters of Time. 1950 Fantasy Press hc. Two previously uncollected novellas from 1942-44 Astounding: “Recruiting Station” (1942-03, re-titled “Masters of Time” for this collection and later sometimes titled “Earth’s Last Fortress”) and “The Changeling” [Beast] (1944-04). The Fantasy Press edition is the only one, but the two parts were later published individually as Masters of Time and The Changeling, both 1967 Macfadden. The former also appears as half of a 1960 Ace double vt “Earth’s Last Fortress”, part of the UK-only collection The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress and, under its original title, in the collection {Transfinite}.
  • Away and Beyond. 1952 Pellegrini & Cudahy hc. Nine previously uncollected stories from 1940-48, all but one of which are from Astounding: “Vault of the Beast” (1940-08), “The Great Engine” [Beast] (1943-07), “The Great Judge” (1948-07 Fantasy Book), “Secret Unattainable” (1942-07), “The Harmonizer” (1944-11), “Heir Unapparent” (1945-07 vt “Heir Apparent”), “The Second Solution” [Rull] (1942-10), “Film Library” (1946-07), “Asylum” [Supermind] (1942-05). 1963-09 Panther (UK) pb cuts “Vault of the Beast”. 1952-09 Berkley pb cuts that and “Heir Unapparent”. (The Avon and Jove paperbacks are complete.) The latter story also appears in M 33 in Andromeda while the former is reprinted in Monsters, {TBO}, {FP}, and {Transfinite}. Further, {Transfinite} reprints everything else in this collection except (again) “Heir Unapparent” and “The Second Solution” [Rull], which is reprinted in {FP} and {Transgalactic}.
  • Destination: Universe!. 1952 Pellegrini & Cudahy hc. Ten previously uncollected stories from 1943-50, six of which were published in Astounding: “Far Centaurus” (1944-01), “The Monster” vt “Resurrection” (1948-08), “Dormant” (1948-11 Startling), “Enchanted Village” vt “The Sands of Mars” (1950-07 Other Worlds), “A Can of Paint” (1944-09), “Defense” (1947 Avon Fantasy Reader, No. 4), “The Rulers” (1944-03), “Dear Pen Pal” vt “Letter from the Stars” (1949-Wi Arkham Sampler), “The Sound” [Rull] (1950-02), “The Search” (1943-01). 1953-03 Signet pb and 1964-03 Berkley pb drop van Vogt’s introduction. “Monsters” and “Enchanted Village” are reprinted in Monsters, the former also in {TBO} (which also reprints “Dear Pen Pal”) and the latter also in {FP}. All but “Defense” are also reprinted in {Transfinite}, leaving that one unique to this collection.
  • The Twisted Men. 1964-01 Ace double pb. Three previously uncollected novelettes from 1949-51, two of which were published in Super Science Stories: “The Twisted Men” vt “Rogue Ship” [Rogue] (1950-03), “The Star-Saint” (1951-03 Planet Stories), “The Earth Killers” (1949-04). “The Star-Saint” is reprinted in PI and “The Earth Killers” is reprinted in FOW but the only other appearance of “The Twisted Men” is in fixup form.
  • Monsters. 1965-02 Paperback Library pb. Four previously uncollected stories (though two had appeared earlier in fixup form) from 1949-50, three of which were published in Astounding, and four reprints (one of which had been cut from an edition of AB): “Not Only Dead Men” (1942-11), “Final Command” (1949-11), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (1950-05 Other Worlds), “Concealment” [Mixed Men] (1943-09), “Enchanted Village” vt “The Sands of Mars” (DU), “The Sea Thing” (OOTU), “Resurrection” vt “The Monster” (DU), “Vault of the Beast” (AB). 1976-08 Zebra pb vt The Blal drops Forrest J. Ackerman’s intro, and doesn’t credit him as editor. Monsters is also sometimes known as Science Fiction Monsters, but this title is only found on the cover and not the spine or title page. “Final Command” and “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] later appear in {Transfinite}, with the latter also appearing in both TBOs. “Concealment” [Mixed Men] later appears in {Transgalactic}. “Not Only Dead Men” is unique to this collection.
  • The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt. 1968-10 Ace pb. Eleven previously uncollected stories from 1941-51 and 1963-66 and one reprint: “The Replicators” (1965-02 If), “The First Martian” vt “This Joe” (1951-08 Marvel), “The Purpose” (1945-05 Astounding), “The Cataaaaa” (1947-07 Fantasy Book), “Automaton” vt “Dear Automaton” (1950-09 Other Worlds), “Itself!” (1963-07 Gamma 1), “Process” (1950-12 F&SF), “Not the First” (1941-04 Astounding), “Fulfillment” (1951-11 New Tales of Space and Time), “Ship of Darkness” (1948-02 Fantasy Book), “The Ultra Man” (1966-05 Worlds of Tomorrow) and “The Earth Killers” (TM). 1974-01 Ace pb vt The Worlds of A. E. van Vogt adds one previously uncollected story (other than in its fixup) and two stories that had been collected after the original release of FOW: “The Storm” [Mixed Men] (1943-10 Astounding), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (M33), “The Reflected Men” (MTS). Later reprints from the original contents are: “The Cataaaaa” ({TBO}) and “The Replicators”, “The First Martian” vt “This Joe”, and “Fulfillment” (all {FP}). From the additional contents: “The Storm” [Mixed Men] and “The Expendables” [Rogue] (both {TBO}, the former also in Transgalactic), and “The Reflected Men” (FP). The other seven are unique to this collection.
  • The Proxy Intelligence and Other Mind Benders. 1971-01 Paperback Library pb. Five previously uncollected stories (including one which had appeared in fixup form) from 1940-49 and 1968 and one reprint. “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (1968-10 If), “The Problem Professor” aka “Project Spaceship” (1949-08 Thrilling Wonder), “Rebirth: Earth” vt “The Flight That Failed” as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (1942-12 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull), “The Gryb” [Rull] vt “Repetition” (1940-04 Astounding), “The Invisibility Gambit” vt “Abdication” as by A. E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull (1943-04 Astounding as by E. Mayne Hull), “The Star-Saint” (TM). 1976-05 Zebra pb vt The Gryb replaces “The Proxy Intelligence” with “Humans, Go Home!” (MTS). “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] is a sequel to “Asylum” [Supermind] (AB) and is reprinted in both TBOs. The other stories first collected in this are also unique to it with “The Invisibility Gambit” vt “Abdication” being notable as the only Artur Blord story not fixed up into Planets for Sale.
  • M 33 in Andromeda. 1971-04 Paperback Library pb. Five previously uncollected stories (though all but one had appeared in fixups) from 1939-46 Astounding and 1963 and one reprint (which had been cut from an edition of AB): “Siege of the Unseen” vt “The Chronicler” vt “The Three Eyes of Evil” (1946-10), “Discord in Scarlet” [Space Beagle] (1939-12), “M 33 in Andromeda” [Space Beagle] (1943-08), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (1963-09 If), “Heir Unapparent” vt “Heir Apparent” (AB), “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (1942-12). “Siege of the Unseen” had appeared as half of a 1959 Ace double but this was its first appearance in a collection. It was only reprinted in the all-reprint {3EE}. Other stories reprinted later are “Discord in Scarlet” [Rull] ({Transfinite}), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (the “Worlds” version of FOW and {TBO}), and “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (also {TBO}). “M 33 in Andromeda” [Space Beagle] is unique.

Phase II

  • More Than Superhuman. 1971-05 Dell pb. Six previously uncollected (and recently written) stories from 1965-71: “Humans, Go Home!” (1969-09 Galaxy), “The Reflected Men” (1971-02 Galaxy), “All the Loving Androids” (original), “Laugh, Clone, Laugh” (1969 The Science Fiction Worlds of Forest J. Ackerman, with Forest J. Ackerman), “Research Alpha” [Supermind] (1965-07 If, with James H. Schmitz), “Him” (1969-01 Spaceway). “Humans, Go Home!” is reprinted in the Gryb version of PI and “The Reflected Men” is reprinted in the Worlds version of FOW and {FP}.
  • The Book of van Vogt. 1972-04 DAW pb. Seven previously uncollected stories (two from fixups) from 1947, 1952, and 1971-72, four of which are original: “The Timed Clock”, “The Confession”, “The Rat and the Snake” (1971-01/02 Witchcraft & Sorcery), “The Barbarian” [Atom] (1947-12 Astounding), “Ersatz Eternal”, “The Sound of Wild Laughter”, “Lost: Fifty Suns” [Mixed Men] (1952 The Mixed Men). 1979-09 DAW pb vt Lost: Fifty Suns. “The Sound of Wild Laughter” receives a sequel novel with The Secret Galactics. “The Barbarian” [Atom] is reprinted in {Transgalactic}. “Lost: Fifty Suns” [Mixed Men] was original material in its fixup but is broken out as an independent story for the first time.
  • The Best of A. E. van Vogt. 1974-05 Sphere (UK) pb (apparently beating the hardcover from Sidgwick & Jackson (UK) by six months). UK-only collection of four previously uncollected stories (three from fixups) from 1944-49 Astounding and 1966 and nine reprints: “Juggernaut” (1944-08), “Hand of the Gods” [Atom] (1946-12), “The Green Forest” [Rull] (1949-06), “Silkies in Space” [Silkies] (1966-05 If), “Vault of the Beast” (AB), “The Weapon Shop” [Weapon Shops] (M33), “The Storm” [Mixed Men] (Worlds), “The Cataaaaa” (FOW), “The Monster” vt “Resurrection” (DU), “Dear Pen Pal” vt “Letter from the Stars” (DU), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (Monsters), “The Expendables” [Rogue] (M33), “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI). 1979-03 Sphere pb splits this into two volumes. Of the previously uncollected stories, “Hand of the Gods” reappears in {Transgalactic}.
  • The Best of A. E. van Vogt. 1976-07 Pocket pb. Bizarrely selected collection of six previously uncollected stories (three from fixups) from 1947-48 and 1964-74, two reprints, plus an intro, outro, and three essays by van Vogt, as well as an intro by Barry N. Malzberg: “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (1973-07 Saving Worlds), “All We Have on This Planet” (1974-10 Stopwatch), “War of Nerves” [Space Beagle] (Monsters), “The Rull” [Rull] (1948-05 Astounding), “Future Perfect” (1973-08 Vertex), “Home of the Gods” [Atom] (1947-04 Astounding), “Prologue to The Silkie” [Silkie] (1969 The Silkie), “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI). Of the previously uncollected stories, “Don’t Hold Your Breath”, “The Rull”, and “Future Perfect” were reprinted in {Transfinite} and “Home of the Gods” was reprinted in {Transgalactic}. The excerpt from The Silkie and “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (1973) are unique to this collection.
  • Pendulum. 1978-12 DAW pb. Contains seven previously uncollected stories (six original) from 1971 and 1978 and an article: “Pendulum”, “The Male Condition”, “Living with Jane”, “The First Rull”, “Footprint Farm”, “The Non-Aristotelian Detective”, “The Human Operators” (1971-01 F&SF with Harlan Ellison). All are unique to this collection with the allowance that “The Human Operators” had been collected in Ellison’s Partners in Wonder and “The First Rull” was added to a 1999 Orb edition of The War Against the Rull.

Redundant

  • The Three Eyes of Evil and Earth’s Last Fortress. 1973-06 Sidgwick & Jackson (title is reversed for the paperback edition). This UK-only volume reprints “Siege of the Unseen” vt “The Three Eyes of Evil” (M33) and “Masters of Time” vt “Earth’s Last Fortress” (MOT).
  • The Universe Maker and The Proxy Intelligence. 1976-08 Sidgwick & Jackson (second title dropped from the paperback edition). This UK-only volume prints The Universe Maker with “The Proxy Intelligence” [Supermind] (PI).

Posthumous (and largely redundant)

  • Futures Past: The Best Short Fiction of A. E. van Vogt. 1999-10 Tachyon hc (in a limited printing of 1,000 trade paperbacks and 126 hardcovers). One previously uncollected story (from a fixup) and seven reprints: “Co-operate–Or Else!” [Rull] (1942-04 Astounding), “Enchanted Village” (DU), “The Second Solution” [Rull] and “Vault of the Beast” (both AB), “The First Martian” vt “This Joe”, “Fulfillment”, and “The Replicators” (all FOW), and “The Reflected Men” (MTS). “Co-operate–Or Else!” appears again in {Transgalactic}.
  • Transfinite: The Essential A. E. van Vogt. 2003-04 NESFA hc. One previously uncollected story (from a fixup) and twenty-four reprints. This would be an omnibus of the story contents of four books (if the fixup nature of The Voyage of the Space Beagle is ignored) but for the substitution of five stories (two being cut from one book and one from the rest). It includes 7/9 of Away and Beyond (skipping “Heir Unapparent” and “The Second Solution”), 9/10 of Destination: Universe (skipping “Defense”), 3/4 of The Voyage of the Space Beagle (skipping “M 33 in Andromeda”), 1/2 of Masters of Time (skipping “The Changeling” and reprinting “Masters of Time” under the title “Recruiting Station”). The five replacments are: the Phase I stories “The Ghost” (OOTU), “Final Command” (Monsters) and “The Rull” [Rull] and the Phase II stories “Future Perfect” and “Don’t Hold Your Breath” (the last three all from TBO). Bizarrely, “Black Destroyer” [Space Beagle] (1939-07 Astounding) appears as an independent story in a van Vogt collection for the first time, though it of course appeared in its fixup and appeared independently in multiple essential anthologies such as Adventures in Time and Space, From Wells to Heinlein, and The Great Science Fiction Stories #1.
  • Transgalactic. 2006-10 Baen tp. Three previously uncollected stories (all from fixups) from 1945-46 Astounding and eight reprints (including a novel). This collects the magazine versions of material incorporated into the three fixups of The Mixed Men, the Ezwal subset of The War Against the Rull (“Co-operate–Or Else!” and “The Second Solution”), and Empire of the Atom, plus the latter’s serial sequel, The Wizard of Linn. See the books above for details. Of this material, “A Son Is Born” [Atom] (1946-05), “Child of the Gods” [Atom] (1946-08), and “The Mixed Men” [Mixed Men] (1945-01) are collected in this form for the first time. However, of this material, only “The Second Solution” [Rull] (AB) and “Concealment” [Mixed Men] (Monsters) had appeared in “Phase I” collections.

Uncollected Stories

Despite all the above, some stories never made it into any van Vogt book, at least in their original forms (though all but one of the early fugitives did appear in the fixups or expansions detailed above). The following list excludes various excerpts, condensations, round-robins, etc., and only lists things that were, or were billed as, actual stories. (It also doesn’t repeat the several Blord stories credited to Hull which are fully detailed above in Planets for Sale.) If a story was reprinted in an anthology, that’s listed after its original publication. Only “Seesaw” was anthologized more than once and, for it, I just picked the anthology I think is best. Since van Vogt’s last collection in his lifetime was 1978, I classify the last few stories as “post-collection era” stories.

Phase I

  • “The Seesaw” [Weapon Shops] (1941-07 Astounding) The Great Science Fiction Stories #3, Asimov/Greenberg, eds.
  • “The Beast” [Beast] (1943-11 Astounding)
  • “Centaurus II” [Rogue] (1947-06 Astounding)
  • “The Weapon Shops of Isher” [Weapon Shops] (1949-02 Thrilling Wonder)
  • “The Shadow Men” [Universe Maker] (1950-01 Startling)
  • “Haunted Atoms” (1951-Sp 10 Story Fantasy.)

Phase II

  • “The Silkie” [Silkie] (1964-07 If) The If Reader of Science Fiction, Pohl, ed.
  • “Enemy of the Silkies” [Silkie] (1967-10 If)
  • “Death Talk” (1978 Pulsar 1, Hay, ed.; reprinted in 1981-12 Fantasy Book)
  • “Carthing” (1970-11 Quark/1, Delany/Hacker, eds.)

Post-Collection Era

  • “Identity” (1978 Chattacon SF Convention Booklet) The Survival of Freedom, Carr/Pournelle, eds.
  • “Femworld” [Renaissance] (^1979-06/07 Galaxy)
  • “The Dream of the Sorceress (1980-11 Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, Aspirin, ed.)
  • “The Brain” (1985-Wi Weird Tales.)
  • “Prologue to Freedom” (1986-11 Worlds of If) Lamps on the Brow, Cahill, ed.

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir
Hardcover: Crown Publishers, 978-0-8041-3902-1, $24.00, 369pp, February 2014
Tradepaper: Broadway Books, 978-0-553-41802-6, $15.00, 369pp, October 2014

I bought this book a long time ago after seeing the movie in the theaters (which is an unusual procedure for me when it comes to SF) and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. I doubt many people interested in it at all have been any slower than I have, so a long synopsis or detailed critique wouldn’t be much good. Basically, a half-dozen explorers are on Mars when a storm starts to tip their exit vehicle and they have to leave almost as soon as they’ve arrived. One of them, Mark Watney, is injured and the sensors indicate he’s dead. After efforts above and beyond the call of duty, his companions can’t find him, so they leave without him. What follows is his tale of fighting to survive alone for a long time with meager supplies.

Among the few problems this book has is that there’s only so much logical suspense over the ultimate story arc given the way the book is written though that also doesn’t stop the emotional response from working (and, to be fair, it’s hard to judge that aspect of the book having already seen the movie). A second is that the narrative structure seems loose, with a huge amount of first-person logging from Watney mixed (sometimes at places where it feels jarring and sometimes not at places where you’d expect it) with some third-person stuff on Earth and some omniscient, objective stuff on Mars as well. And thirdly the protagonist is arguably a bit of wish-fulfillment – yes, he’s a believable human and does screw up and so on, but he’s a damned funny, smart, brave, indomitable person.

On the other hand, I’ve been getting to bed late for awhile because (as is often said hyperbolically) “it was hard to put down.” One of the best things about the book is how well it judges and handles Watney’s problems and successes so that I never got bored with too much success and relative safety or irritated by excessive failure. (The movie actually gives Watney an easier time of it.) I also enjoyed the fuller internal dimension of Watney’s subjective view though the movie’s greater relative balance between the parts makes cinematic sense, too. The book also has more funny lines and clever details than the movie has room for. To further compare the two, the movie is a remarkably faithful adaptation though necessarily much abridged, especially in the back half (which results in a logic glitch to one of the best parts). On the other hand, it adds a famous line and takes cinematic advantage of something that was discussed but not actually done in the book. I rewatched it on completing the novel and had forgotten how fantastic it looked, too.

If you’re feeling at all jaded about SF or life in general, either treatment of the story will help with that. Basically, if you’ve liked the book or movie at all and haven’t experienced both, you almost certainly want to try the other.

At one point while reading this I came to hope they’ve begun passing it out in every classroom in the country (or world) and, when looking for the cover art for this post, was delighted to stumble across a classroom edition (though that probably just means they censored the frequent profanity). This book is a great guide to life, itself: explore, educate yourself about reality, face facts, solve problems, take necessary risks but be smart about it, never give up, keep a sense of humor, be hopeful, survive, and help your fellow humans.

Review: Stormland by John Shirley

Stormland by John Shirley
Hardcover: Blackstone Publishing, 978-1-09-401782-2, $26.99, 338pp, [April] 2021

This will not be a review so much as a notice because I actually read this immediately after The Godel Trigger and entered the above information to start the review, but never got around to writing anything else until yesterday (on a different book) and this is no way to write a review.

As I remember it, the premise of this book is that climate change has led to a constant series of storms hitting the southern United States, making the region almost unlivable but making it one of the better places to hide out with the people unable to leave if you’re a criminal or otherwise want to leave the rest of the world. Another element is the continued privatization of all things, resulting in various law enforcement corporations. The main protagonist is a rent-a-cop who remembers when things were otherwise and prefers those times, but has been sent out to track down a serial killer who has disappeared into Stormland. Another element is the strife between a rich showoff and his son during and after the former crashes his fancy vehicle into Stormland. And, along the way, we meet various natives and a couple of the 1% who are evil voyeuristic mind-controlling nutjobs. (And there just might be something more broadly symbolic and thematic in that.)

I’m not generally a big fan of cli-fi or apocalyptic stuff but I am a pretty big fan of John Shirley. My favorite book of his is Eclipse and there was a moment in this when the near-future scenario, the eclectic band of characters, the socioeconomic themes, and the vivid, gritty tangibility of this book excited me with the feeling that I might have another Eclipse-level book on my hands. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to that but that’s a high bar and I still enjoyed it. Perhaps the worst thing is the very premise, in that I have a hard time buying the notion of what seems to be basically a year-round procession of hurricanes while the rest of the planet seems to be more or less “normal.” (I have thought about Earth developing a Jovian permanent storm which seems a little more plausible, but I don’t know.) The weirdest part was how this was at once ferociously apocalyptic and oddly cozy with lots of nice and semi-mean people and only a few utterly vicious folks, with most of the latter not even being in Stormland. But this mixture is actually probably more realistic than either purer form of apocalyptic fiction. I think one of the best parts was the relationship that develops between the cop and the killer and the questions raised by the latter’s past and current state, which I’ll let the reader discover. Ultimately, it’s a pretty action-packed and thoughtful book.

Review: Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt

Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt
Hardcover: Saga Press, 978-1-4814-9797-8, $27.99, 375pp, May 2019
Paperback: Pocket Books, 978-1-4814-9798-5, $8.99, 440pp, February 2020

Any discussion of this eighth installment in the Alex Benedict series (in which a dealer in antiquities stumbles across a historical mystery to investigate in each novel) will necessarily spoil an element of the seventh.

That element is the return of Alex’s uncle, Gabe, which, along with other things in Coming Home (such as its title), made me think that was a nice stopping place for the series (which opened with his disappearance). I think that may have been the plan, too, because the gap between the seventh and eighth volumes was longer than any since it was turned into a series with the second[1]. Even when this did come out, I wasn’t intending to get it but things eventually worked out so that I did. The return of Gabe also makes the subtitle, “An Alex Benedict Novel” almost a misnomer. In the first, essentially stand-alone, novel, Alex was the narrator. In the subsequent novels, Chase Kolpath (his pilot and girl Friday) became the narrator and Alex becomes an object in Chase’s universe of perception. In this, Alex retreats further to the background as the first three-quarters or so of the book focuses more on Gabe and one of the key discoveries occurs then. However, the first half or so contains no real discoveries at all as the actual investigation into the mystery doesn’t really kick in until after that, focusing instead mostly on Gabe’s return and adjustment to having, in essence, traveled over a decade into the future and on the fact that there actually is a mystery to eventually be investigated.

The mystery is that, about a decade ago, four scientists were investigating a black hole from Octavia, a space station which was orbiting it, when the station disappeared. Gabe and Alex undertake more or less separate lines of research with Chase sometimes accompanying Gabe and sometimes Alex. The usual searches for and meetings with people who might have been involved or have known something occur, artifacts are followed up on, multiple seeming dead-ends are encountered, and eventually breakthroughs occur and things progress as they usually do in the novels of this series. Along the way, the characters confront and reassess their relations with the artificial intelligences which are such an important but under-appreciated part of their civilization which works on a science fictional level and, presumably, a symbolic one as well.

All in all, this would probably work well (perhaps better) for a reader new to the series despite it seemingly being so focused on backstory, because the backstory is made clear and the series would be shiny and new, and it’s not a bad book or a labor to read. Still, I’d recommend reading the older ones instead. And for me, I rarely read so many volumes in a series, yet enjoyed the seven I’d read so much that I felt I could read the next mystery episode indefinitely, yet was also satisified when the series seemed to reach a stopping place. This belated episode, which changes the chemistry and pushes the serial arc further, didn’t really rekindle my enthusiasm. The mystery was fairly average, took too long to get to, and its resolution was underwhelming (though it is clever how the parts relate), and the most interesting part of the book, while conceptually central to it, was slighted in terms of the actual narrative focus and dramatic action devoted to it.


[1] It’s presumably irrelevant to the fiction, but another change is that of publisher, as the series has moved from Ace to Saga/Pocket. Also completely irrelevant to the fiction but something I just want to say, is that this Pocket paperback is a very nice book as a physical object and reading experience, with generous inner margins, a firm spine but flexible covers and paper, nice looking title page, typography, style, etc.

Review: The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias

The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias
Trade Paperback: Baen, 978-1-9821-2556-1, $16.00, 273pp, May 2021

(This review will be brief because, while I was intending to get back to blogging this year, I wasn’t intending to review this book when I started reading it. But, in the end, I decided I might as well.)

The Godel Operation is set about eight thousand years in the future in a solar system teeming with life both biological and artificial, which is a sort of miracle since there have been intermittent wars throughout the intervening time, some of which pitted biological vs. artificial life and were vast in scale and ferocious in intensity. Thanks to a change of heart (or new calculation) between the AIs, leading to some civil strife between them, a new, non-genocidal (dis)order arose. So, much like the first decades after WWII, but on a far larger scale of time and space, life in the solar system is doing fairly well after it all, though there are extremists on both sides who still pine for a final solution. Similarly, many habitats have been repaired or created but relics of the wars persist, especially including the Godel Trigger, a legendary weapon that is rumored to be able to eliminate all artificial life.

Our narrator is Daslakh, an AI inhabiting a spider mech body and doing mining chores with Zee, who is “pretty clever for a lump of meat.” When Zee is feeling down, Daslakh contacts the “god” (controlling AI) of Raba, an asteroid of the Uranus Trailing Trojans where the pair lives and works. That AI implants artificial memories in Zee, supposedly to add spice and give meaning to Zee’s life, about a lost love who is actually a character taken from a “first-person virtual entertainment.” This leads to Zee’s determination to find her and make things right, and to Daslakh going with him. So begins a series of adventures taking them to various places in the solar system and closer and closer to the Godel Trigger, culminating on a partially terraformed Mars. Along the way, they meet a woman who has the name of Zee’s “love” and looks like he remembers her but certainly doesn’t act like her, another woman Zee is actually much more drawn to, an uplifted cat and her two human goons, a system-famous thief who may never have stolen anything, and several other more or less colorful humans and AIs.

Daslakh’s sarcastic narrative style, in which light contends with dark, engagement with remoteness, is enjoyable. The other characters are interesting, though the narrative viewpoint allows or covers for some distance. The standard quest plot is deftly executed through a fascinating milieu which makes the solar system feel like a galaxy and gives a good feel of the millennia gone by. Admittedly, Daslakh is a sort of tour guide who tells us about much of this but it’s lightly handled and comes alive with plenty of action, too. In broad strokes, it may not be utterly unique but the details and handling make it seem quite fresh and much more convincing than many other futures. And, as the whole plot plays on one extremely well-known trope, so the ending audaciously reinvents another one. Ultimately, it had something to say about the aesthetic justification of the universe, the changes that can occur to intelligence over time (partly in a social/physical sense, but most pertinently in a personal, psychological sense), and I enjoyed it and recommend it.

Birthday Reviews: Bates, Popkes, Reed

Adventures involving a giant robot, a big hit, and a great ship await us in this week’s birthday stories. Coincidentally, all the authors represented were born on the same day and two of the three stories were published in essentially the same month. However, I’m also remembering the birthday of Frank Herbert (1920-10-08–1986-02-11), author of The Dragon in the Sea (oh, and of Dune and others), though I can’t recall a short work of his that’s really done it for me.

Harry Bates (1900-10-09–1981-09-??)

“Farewell to the Master” (Astounding, October 1940)

“Farewell to the Master” is the basis for The Day the Earth Stood Still in a technical, legal sense but, by comparison, “Who Goes There?” was perfectly faithfully adapted into The Thing from Outer Space. In the story, Klaatu and a robot (here called “Gnut”) have arrived on Earth and Klaatu has been killed by a madman. To demonstrate how sorry humanity is, Gnut is subjected to all sorts of ray-guns, acids, and more, and is now in a museum along with the impenetrable spaceship. The story begins when a reporter is looking over a couple of photos he’s taken and realizes Gnut is not in exactly the same place it was before. He spends a night at the museum on stakeout with his camera and is so unnerved when Gnut actually begins moving about – and towards him! – that he’s only able to get a couple of pictures of the spaceship port Gnut eventually opens and enters. Crazy things go on that night, including a fight between an alien robot and a gorilla but things come to make sense after additional stakeouts and more interactions between the reporter and the metal man.

This story has several weaknesses, mostly in logical plot details including how an alien robot is feared mightily but, when evidence that something has disturbed the museum it is in is found, no standing watch is put on the museum the next night, so the reporter can sneak in again. Still, the strange doings in the museum and the reporter’s fears and thrills have a good effect, some pathos is achieved near the end, and the very end could be a great twist depending on whether the reader foresees it. It’s also interesting that this was written by the first editor of Astounding and published by its third.

The next two comments are lightly revised from a 2013-08-14 review at my previous site.

Steven Popkes (1952-10-09)

“Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected” (Asimov’s, December 2012)

“Sudden, Broken, and Unexpected” is about AI and music in a non-dystopian near future. I often don’t like rock’n’roll stories because they frequently fail to translate basically incompatible media (a story is not a song) and can be embarrassingly juvenile. For me, this story works well because it creates an ambiguous protagonist who is interesting and real, and manages to avoid the pitfalls of music-in-story while also being a good exploration of AI and, not incidentally, of humanity. This isn’t a particularly original story conceptually, but it’s one of the best examples of it – such that it basically becomes original by the mix of ingredients and the execution. However, if someone didn’t like a long novella filled with dialog about AI like “an anomalous non-deterministic emergent event deriving from conflicting algorithms” or about music like “that triple beat arpeggio driven square into a four by four rhythm…a long glissando across three octaves back to hold the new key into the final chorus,” I could certainly understand.

Robert Reed (1956-10-09)

“Katabasis” (F&SF, November/December 2012)

“Katabasis” puts me in mind of Cordwainer Smith’s “A Planet Named Shayol” as its almost immortal people undergo a horrific endurance test in a weird section of the Great Ship. The protagonist who was almost destroyed in a terrible fire and wasn’t entirely put back together is compelling, as is his relationship to the viewpoint character. That character and her species is exceptionally imaginatively conceived and what they go through to get to the Great Ship is yet another horror of an endurance test. I can’t at all say I love this but it is reasonably well done and powerful.