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1936 - Year in SF&F: August



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
1936: August

Read other issues here

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Golden Age of "Sense-of-Wonder" Science Fiction and Weird Fantasy... Here are some pickings from the pulps in August:



Stanley Weinbaum
"The Circle Of Zero"
© Thrilling Wonder Stories, Aug 1936
Startling Stories, Sep 1947
A Martian Odyssey, 1949
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


No wonder some editors refused to buy this story: it's built upon the most basic of all paradoxes - the impossibility of true infinity, or true eternity. Why scientists keep operating with these concepts is beyond me. You may be shocked to discover that in pure mathematical sense infinity is impossible: because then everything that can happen, is happening somewhere, including the infinite amount of copies of you and me doing slightly different variations of what we are doing now (or flying whales and pink elephants, whatever - infinity is big enough to allow for anything). As for eternity, it too is long enough to allow for ANYTHING to happen... Here is a quote from this story: "Since in eternity everything possible must happen, it follows that everything must already have happened !" Weinbaum uses this concept as a basis for time travel in this story, but as for the "impossibility of infinity" itself, science still has to explain this paradox. To my knowledge, they just keep merrily rolling along, brushing it aside. Certainly makes you think, eh?
review: 30-Jul-06 (read in 1998)

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Stanley Weinbaum
"The Proteus Island"
© Astounding, Aug 1936
The Red Peri, 1952
A Martian Odyssey, 1962
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

In a way, this story is derived from "The Island of Dr. Moreau"; it is also perhaps the first story to describe genetic engineering. It postulates that "the nature of the beast" cannot be changed as easily as its physical form, and goes on to entertain the reader with a thrilling menace of monsters on an abandoned island. But it is nowhere as good (or truly weird) as "Fungus Isle" (1923) by Philip M. Fisher, which takes the cake among such stories.
review: 30-Jul-06 (read in 1998)

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Stanley Weinbaum
"Dawn of Flame" (coll)

© Ruppert Publ., 1936
--/ fourth place sf collection
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award

This is The Weinbaum Memorial Volume - most stories appeared in other collections, notably "The Martian Odyssey & Others" but this rare edition came out first. I saw it on the web for close to $2000. The stories themselves, of course are "classics" all, and a superb entertainment. Stanley Weinbaum's tragic death has put an end to his brilliant writing carreer, just as he began to plan an ultimate "struggle of Good vs. Evil" novel, an epic to end all epics.
review: 30-Jul-06 (read in 1998)

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Henry Hasse
"He Who Shrank"
© Amazing Stories, Aug 1936
Amazing Stories, Nov 1968
--short fiction : 1971
Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /19

--/ fourth place sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award


This story opened the way for adventures in microscopic, and sub-microscopic dimensions (if you don't count early forays into the Atom Universes by Ray Cummings). The protagonists in the story are flying a spaceship inside an atom, discovering "worlds within worlds". It is certainly a classic, although it could benefit from smoother writing. Can't dispute its wondrous sense of scale, of course. As for the "atoms as galaxies and galaxies as atoms", it once again proves the impossibility of a "true infinity" concept - because the laws of infinite scale dictate that atom is infinitely divisible into smaller elements, and "the infinitely small" ultimately will blend into the "infinitely large" as one. Think about that for a minute, and weep for poor particle physicists who have their work carved out for them :)
review: 30-Jul-06 (read in 1998)

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"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)

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--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
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These awards are given in the following categories:
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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
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--/ adventure award
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