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1935 - Year in SF&F: September



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
Read other issues here

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Robert Bloch
"The Shambler from the Stars"
(Cthulhu Mythos)
© Weird Tales, Sep 1935
The Opener of the Way, 1945
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


The Thirties gave history many monsters, some very real (like Stalin, Hitler, etc), but most imaginary - in the pulps. No other decade produced such a fertile crop of aliens and mad-scientist pets, and most of them were indeed pretty ugly. Witness this "star vampire" creature (part of the Cthulhu Mythos zoo of beings)... Quote from the story: "It was red and dripping; an immensity of pulsing, moving jelly; a scarlet blob with myriad tentacular trunks that waved and waved. There were suckers on the tips of the appendages, and these were opening and closing with a ghoulish lust.... The thing was bloated and obscene; a headless, faceless, eyeless bulk with the ravenous maw and titanic talons of a star-born monster"."The star vampire dwells in outer space and is characterized by its ravenous appetite for blood. The creature uses its enormous talons to capture its prey, grappling and crushing the unfortunate and then draining the victim's blood through its tubular suckers. It is normally invisible, but following a sanguine repast, the star vampire becomes temporarily visible from the undigested blood it has absorbed." (Wikipedia) The story itself is an assault on the senses in the best "weird wonder" pulp tradition. Bloch apparently had a blast writing it, even killing off his fellow writer H. P. Lovecraft at the end of the story, in his unbridled enthusiasm. Lovecraft returned the favour, killing off a Bloch character in his "Haunter of the Dark". All in good fun, fellows.
review: 30-Sep-06 (read in 1999)

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"The Challenge from Beyond"
(Round-robin serial: sf part + weird fantasy part)
© Fantasy Magazine, Sep 1935
The Challenge from Beyond, 1990

SF PART:
Stanley G. Weinbaum
Donald Wandrei
Edward E. Smith
Harl Vincent
Murray Leinster

FANTASY PART:
H.P. Lovecraft
Robert E. Howard
C.L. Moore
A. Merritt
Frank Belknap Long

--/ wonder award
--/ rare find


The Ultimate SF&F Collectible! An extremely rare "round-robin" serial, published in the impossibly hard-to-get magazine (almost a fanzine) and only recently reprinted as a limited-edition chapbook. The similar SF round-robin serial "Cosmos" from "Fantasy Magazine" is also hard-to-find: it's been reprinted only in "Perry Rhodan" magazine, of all places! It's time for somebody to publish these serials together as one paperback... The best pulp writers at the time were asked to submit a story episode, and they all did - this tells you what an unpretentious and enthusiastic crowd they were - each keeping his or her own signature style, together making a sort of "Who's Who" catalogue of the fantastic pulps. So far I have only read a few episodes, but let me tell you, it's almost like coming to the most delicious smorgasbord of all times... vintage and delectable stuff all over.
review: 30-Sep-06 (read in 2002)
(cover images credit: Chris Perridas)



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One of my favorite pulp covers of all time:



Phillip Jacques Bartell
"One Hundred Generations"

(also as by Philip Barshofsky)
© Wonder Stories, Sep 1935
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find

Published during the last year of "Wonder Stories" magazine, before it became "Thrilling Wonder Stories" with slightly less wild and woolly fiction inside - this is unashamedly grand (and hopelessly naive) futuristic storytelling. An implausible future, which only could've been imagined at the end of the 30s: human beings evolve into brainy but utterly helpless and sexless creatures (like in the famous Harry Bates "Alas, All Thinking" story), their joy of living largely lost in the sterile and manufactured lifestyle. However, there is a scientist in his fortress in the sky (sane, for a change), who brings back the normal human form, but with one substantial improvement - wings. In the most sensual and beautiful part of the story a bunch of flabbergasted and scared man-geeks catch their first glimpse of a female "angel" and realize that they need to shed their age-old inhibitions... Learning to fly, learning to love again. Carried in the air by a cute & mischievous angel... Memorable & exotic tale.
review: 20-Dec-07 (read in 2007)

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Stanley Weinbaum
"The Ideal"
(Professor Manderpootz)
© Wonder Stories, Sep 1935
Startling Stories, Jun 1943
A Martian Odyssey, 1949
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

A hodge-podge of curious ideas and situations, a vintage "wonder" tale. "An eccentric scientist announces that he intends to build an omniscient device in the form of a head. This is possible since he has already discovered the basic unit of time (the chronon) and space (the spation). Beyond these is the cosmon (the ultimate), and from these can be constructed the psychon (the unit of thought)" (this is a typical example of pseudo-science of the early pulps) When he actually constructs his device, it turns out to be a mechanism for viewing the ideal of anything thought of. He asks his friend, a bored playboy character, to use the idealizator, and, naturally, he thinks of his ideal woman. She appears and what follows is, an at times hilarious, P. G. Wodehouse-like silly romantic mess, which slowly unravels toward the end of the story. The illustration below shows a curious sub-plot - a mechanical "beast of prey" that was designed to "kill" automobiles. It's programmed to seek out the automobile, seize it, and drain its fuel. Sounds like a very timely invention indeed, for use in the coming oil crisis :)
review: 27-Sep-06 (read in 2003)


Artwork by Frank R. Paul

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EXPLANATION OF THE RATING SYSTEM:

"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


All major OFFICIAL AWARDS are highlighted in BLUE
("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

Our PERSONAL AWARDS (ratings) are highlighted in RED and PURPLE:
--/ first place :
--/ second place :
--/ third place :

--/ fourth place :

--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
ALL "BEST OF" LISTS ARE LOCATED HERE

These awards are given in the following categories:
- novel :
- series :
- novella :
- story :
- collection :

Also, there are our personal STYLE / GENRE SPECIFIC AWARDS. These reflect the story's content and the lasting impression on the reader:

--/ wonder award
sense-of-wonder, "visual intensity" and inventiveness

--/ idea award
originality of idea / concept

--/ adventure award
exhilarating plot, excitement / action

--/ style award
outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

--/ romance award
intense and beautiful love / relationships

--/ humour award
funny and cool

--/ emotion award
touching, lasting impression, sensitivity

--/ shock value
altogether wild

--/ awesome scale
mind-boggling; further enhances sense-of-wonder

--/ rare find
very hard to locate, mostly from old pulps, never reprinted, etc.

Again, please feel free to leave your own review or comment under every writer's entry; also recommend us other stories you liked.