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1953 - Year in SF&F: September

1953: September

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Leigh Brackett
"The Ark Of Mars"
(exp. into "Alpha Centauri or Die!")
© Planet Stories, Sep 1953
novel: Ace Double, 1963
--/ fourth place space sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ emotion award
--/ style award

Last manned spaceship is launched by free men, hunted by sinister robotic spaceships; great adventure and atmosphere; the first part (chase to the nearest star) simply sizzles, desperation mixes with hope, great emotion there. The second part after the landing is a bit of a let-down, but still contains big depictions of truly alien mind processes, cuddly ESP alien herd, and pretty cool people politics. Solid novella, enjoyed it.
review: 30-Jun-06 (read in 2006)


Leigh Brackett
"Alpha Centauri or Die!" (nv)

(exp. from "The Ark of Mars" and
"Teleportress From Alpha C")
© Planet Stories, Sep 1953
novel: Ace Double, 1963
--/ cool space sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ emotion award

I am not sure in what way the original story "The Ark of Mars" (see review) got expanded into a novel - maybe the psychedelic esp cuddly aliens got added - but the overall impression now is of conflict between technology (robotic spaceships) and nature - and the final wish is "to live in peace" - overall a harmonious whole. Brackett at a good example of her more-feminine style of writing. Still, the first part of a novel (and a shorter novella) has way better suspense. + Holds the dubious award of one of the silliest titles for a good novel in sf.
review: 30-Jun-06 (read in 2006)


Philip K. Dick
"The Variable Man"
© Space Science Fiction, Sep 1953
The Variable Man and Oth Stories, 1957
--/ third place sf novella
--/ idea award
--/ wonder award

A happy chunk of PKD vintage writing deals with the usual stuff: unrealistically lethal weapons, never-ending wars with paranoid aliens, time paradoxes and a fight of individual against "the amoeba-like whole". I loved it when I read it, but have to confess that I do not remember what it's about after a few years. So for those who are interested, here is a link to a synopsis:
review: 04-Jul-06 (read in 1999)


Philip K. Dick
"The Great C"
(novel: with Roger Zelazny)
(exp into "Deus Irae")
© Cosmos, Sep 1953
SF Monthly, Jul 1957 (Australian)
book: Doubleday, 1976
--/ fourth place apocalyptic sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

A supercomputer rules the earth after a nuclear holocaust and demands a yearly human sacrifice. Could be depressing, you know.
review: 04-Jul-06 (read in 1990)


Philip K. Dick
"The King Of The Elves"
(also as "Shadrach Jones and the Elves")
© Beyond Fantasy Fiction, Sep 1953
The Golden Man, 1980
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award

Oh yes, very special - Philip K. Dick fantasy. Starts with a mundane scene at a gas station, and grows into something apocalyptic, in fact, the wars with trolls. Sense of profound change in the life of Shadrach Jones. From gas station attendant - to the Elf King... this is whimsical, I admit, but also quite funny. You never are sure at the end whether the elves were real or not.
review: 06-Jul-06 (read in 2005)


Poul Anderson
"The Troublemakers"
(Psychotechnic League series)
© Cosmos Science Fiction, Sep 1953
Cold Victory, 1982
--/ cool sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find

A "generation ship" story: long journey to the stars produces - you guessed it - troublemakers. An ensign on a generation ship is demoted down to the level of a crew member and fights back up the ranks all the way to become a captain.
review: 01-Jul-06 (read in 2002)


Robert Sheckley
"The Hour of Battle"
© Space Science Fiction, Sep 1953
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award

Quite an amusing piece: humans send robots to fight against the devils of Hell at Armageddon in order to avoid any human deaths, only to find that the robots get raised from the dead and sent to heaven instead of the humans.
review: 04-Jul-06 (read in 1999)


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Collecting Pulp Magazines

Ephemera Interview with Avi Abrams

Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Exceptional British Scifi Artwork from the 1950s

Space Pulp Art by Ron Turner and other British artists

Pulp Pleasures: Eando Binder

Great space adventure fiction from the 1930s
"Where Eternity Ends" and other rare gems

Epic Fantasy: the Start of the Journey

Part 2 of our "Best Classic Fantasy" series
incl. works by Henry Kuttner, Tolkien, etc.

Strange Shadows: Best Classic Fantasy

Fantasy "glitches in the matrix",
...lovely baroque magical lands, and more

Classic Cyberpunk SF Novels: Reviews

Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, K. W. Jeter, et al
(awesome must-reads)

10 Possible Sources of "Avatar" in Classic Science Fiction

Going beyond the obvious "Dances with Smurfs"...
(many stories worth reading)

"Steampunk" Anthology: Full Review

some truly crazed stories in there...
(plus artwork by John Coulthart)

"Dune", Plus Often-Neglected
Other Novels by Frank Herbert

"Dune", plus some overlooked gems:
"The Santaroga Barrier" and "The Green Brain"

Universe at Play:
Two Must-Read Novels of the Fantastic

"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon...
and David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"

Two of the Most Entertaining SF Novels from the 1980s

"Vacuum Flowers" by Michael Swanwick...
and Tim Power's "The Anubis Gates", of course!

"The Body Snatchers" and Other Alien Pods

Fiction by Jack Finney, Vance, Simak and Bloch
mind impostors and emotion imitators

Exploring the Noir and the Grotesque

Jack O'Connell "The Resurrectionist"
and other newest examples of the bizarre

Overpopulation, Sex and Sensibility

Robert Silverberg's "The World Inside"
and other classic sf blasts

H. P. Lovecraft "At the Mountains of Madness"

and other masterpieces of terror
including original illustrations

"Constellations", edited by Peter Crowther

original anthology, 2005
full review: mind-bending stories

The Ultimate Guide to New Writers of SF&F

more than 2,000 writers, 1990-2009
Ratings, awards, web links

The Surreal Office

"The Situation", "The Cookie Monster"
Weird fiction by Jeff VanderMeer and Vernor Vinge

Mind-shattering Novels of Philip K. Dick

"UBIK", "Now Wait for Last Year", etc.

Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human"

There’s a problem with this new gestalt being: needs a conscience.

Jack Williamson's "Legion of Space" Series

Classic Space Opera
The ultimate weapon, controlled by a gorgeous woman

Astounding Stories, August 1934

Jack Williamson, Nat Schachner, "Doc" Smith
Epic space opera gems and horror surprises

Rare Pulp SF&F, Issue 3

Leigh Brackett, Fritz Leiber, Vic Phillips
Rediscovered gems of wonder & adventure

William Gibson's Novels

"Pattern Recognition", "Neuromancer"
A Fractured Delight...

Alfred Bester "The Computer Connection"

"Bester was the mountain, all the rest of us..."
Pyrokinetic writing in one neat package

Two Novels by Samuel R. Delany

"Nova" and "Babel-17"
New Wave Milestones, and then some.

Theodore Sturgeon's "The Cosmic Rape"

(and more reviews of his fiction)
Classic SF at its best and most humane

Travel Distant Worlds!

Vintage Space Travel Posters, and more.
Part 3 of Pulp Sf art series...

Alastair Reynolds' Epic Novels

"Chasm City" and "Revelation Space"
And it's only the beginning...

Rare Fantasy Gems by C. L. Moore and Henry Kuttner

Hidden Gems of Pulp Fiction
When two star writers become husband and wife

Grand Old Times... in the Future

Overview of Pulp Art
A Loudly Lurid Universe of Sci-Fi Illustration

Exclusive: Interview with Nancy Kress

From High Fantasy to Hard Science Fiction
A Spectrum of Wonder

Jack Vance

"To Live Forever"
and other Vance extravaganzas

Alastair Reynolds

"Pushing Ice"
Cosmological "noir" chase across space

Charles Stross

"Missile Gap"
Mind-bending Cold War world-building

Hidden Gems of Pulp SF, Part 2

Rare stories from the "Age of Wonder"
incl. David Keller, Horace Gold etc.

Ultra-Rare Serials from "Fantasy Magazine"

"Cosmos" + "Challenge From Beyond"
incredible line-up of writers

Hidden Gems of Pulp SF, Part 1

Neat & Rare Stories
incl. the mad rally story "The Racer"

Astounding Stories, June 1935

Full Issue Review
incl. Gallun, Schachner, Campbell

Astounding Stories, May 1941

Full Issue Review
incl. Heinlein, Asimov, Eric Frank Russell

Horace Gold; P. Schuyler Miller

"Apocalyptic Blockbusters"
"Inflexure" and "Spawn": guilty pleasure

Interview with John C. Wright

Plus his advice to new writers
Adventures in Space & Magic

Frank Belknap Long

"The Horror from the Hills"
Great Lovecraftian Weird Novella

Interview with Jeff VanderMeer

Plus his Recommended Reading List
A Triumph of the Bizarre

Alastair Reynolds, Part 2

More "Galactic North" Stories
A Mixture of Hard Sf, James Bond & Jaws...

Alastair Reynolds Review

"Galactic North"
staring down infinity...

Most Shocking Article

"Holey Fools" by M. Christian
Warning: Gross Subject Matter

Alfred Bester Review

"The Stars My Destination"
"...nail it to the Retro Hugo voting board..."

Larry Niven Review

"Neutron Star"
"better get GP alien ship hull"

Poul Anderson Review

"Ensign Flandry"
"or how to start a sub-genre..."

Thomas M. Disch Review

"The Squirrel Cage"
"...seriously mind-bending stuff..."

Henry Kuttner Review

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (The Last Mimzy)
"...great storyline for a pretty average movie..."

Robert A. Heinlein Review

"The Moon is the Harsh Mistress"
" caused a tooth ache, and put my brain on freeze..."

Frank Herbert Review

"Destination: Void"
"...a layered cake of ideas and a scientific extrapolation on a genius level..."

Harlan Ellison Review

"The Abnormals"
"...editors slapped the most outrageous titles on his stories..."

James White Review

"All Judgement Fled"
"...the tension is palpable, soon to grow almost unbearable..."

Grand Adventure Strikes Again

Space Opera Article, by Avi Abrams
Based on Arthur Clarke's "Against the Fall of Night"

William Gibson Review

"Burning Chrome"
"...sheer pyrotechnics and exuberance of style..."

Ace Double: Murray Leinster

"The Pirates of Ersatz /The Mutant Weapon"
"...the characters might as well be cats or hamsters..."

Astounding Stories, May 1935

Pulp SF Magazine Review
with many original illustrations

Also read recent posts:
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The Wonder Timeline: SF&F Restrospective
Space Adventure Article



"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 :
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These awards are given in the following categories:
- novel :
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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
originality of idea / concept

--/ adventure award
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outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

--/ romance award
intense and beautiful love / relationships

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funny and cool

--/ emotion award
touching, lasting impression, sensitivity

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--/ 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.