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1956 - Year in SF&F: August

1956: August

Read other issues here


Some splendid and many-faceted fiction appeared in the vintage pulps this month:

Robert Sheckley
"Early Model"
© Galaxy, Aug 1956
Pilgrimage to Earth, 1957
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ humour award

Superb example of a total Sheckley hilarity. An astronaut goes to a distant planet equipped with the newest model of force-field space-suit that turns on automatically at the most inconvenient of times, leading the baffled aliens to believe that the astronaut is evil personified. Simply utmost entertainment, highly recommended.
review: 23-Jul-06 (read in 1983)


Theodore Sturgeon
"Fear Is A Business"
© F&SF, Aug 1956
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award
--/ emotion award

Nice, easy flowing story about an alien gift to mankind, breaking the barriers of fear and embracing deeper knowledge - but with bittersweet overtones, which is how Sturgeon loves to do it, bringing a little tear of "much is lost, but perhaps not all" sentiment to reader's eye. They say that the idea for that story was provided by Robert Heinlein. Of course, Sturgeon wrapped it in his inimitable style.
review: 23-Jul-06 (read in 1983)


Garen Drussai
"Woman's Work"

© F&SF, Aug 1956
--/ third place sf story
--/ idea award: marketers
--/ humour award
--/ style award
--/ rare find

Improbable find! A writer unknown to me, a name I have not seen mentioned anywhere in SF - and a story to die for. There is just no better treatment of the "future of spam and door-to-door sales" than in this sizzling gem. The irony of the main idea (concentrated in just over three pages) strikes amazingly close to home, as our telemarketer-saturated, spam-blighted existence clearly testifies. A well-to-do couple in an "american dream" suburb have to turn themselves into veritable soldiers to effectively battle and say "No" to sales guys and their high-tech pitches. Using emotional and psycho-enhancements is the norm in "cultivating" prospective clients, so an average housewife has to shield her mind by even more advanced methods and beat them at their own game. I have to admit, I was simply blown away by the story, and the intensity of its writing. Bravo.
review: 23-Jul-06 (read in 2006)


Mack Reynolds
"Compounded Interest"
© F&SF, Aug 1956

Time loop: "someone proceeds into the past, deposits ducats in a Venetian bank at compound interest, and centuries later in New York demands from a bank payment of the entire capital, a gigantic sum. Why does he need so much money? So that he can hire scientists to construct for him a thus far nonexistent time vehicle, and by means of this vehicle go back in time to Venice where he will deposit ducats at compound interest...
review: 23-Jul-06 (read in 1984)


Clifford D. Simak
"So Bright The Vision"
© Fantastic Universe, Aug 1956
So Bright the Vision, 1968
--/ third place sf novella
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award

Truly inspired novella, possibly the best that appeared between the pages of "Fantastic Universe" pulp. One of the most engaging tales from Clifford Simak, very lyrical and competent, with loads of "sense-of-wonder". It builds upon the idea that only humans possess enough imagination to tell stories in the whole Galaxy, so the industry of story-telling literally replaces all other entertainment for many alien races, and a lot of it is done by automated "writing devices". (Can you notice the concern of the Fifties writers that they will be replaced by computers? Did not happen. And can you sense the premonition of the pulp's decline and diminishing of the importance of written word? Alas, that happened all right). Very high quality science fiction.
review: 25-Jul-06 (read in 1985)


Robert Silverberg
"The MacAuley Circuit"
© Fantastic Universe, Aug 1956
also in - New Worlds, Apr 1958
Sunrise On Mercury, 1975

Computers compose music. This story echoes the story of Clifford Simak "So Bright the Vision" where computers write marketable fiction - both stories are from the same pulp issue.
review: 25-Jul-06 (read in 1997)


Theodore L. Thomas
"The Far Look"
© Astounding, Aug 1956
Nauchnaya Fantastika USA, 1960
--/ fourth place space sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award

A classic tale about a long and lonely watch on a Lunar station where hidden psychological disorders become obvious, but where a "wider perspective" (a "far look") on things is also easily achieved. One of the first realistic attempts to depict the gritty aspects and psychological turmoil of an astronaut's life. Plus this story has an interesting technique for making oxygen on the Moon.
review: 25-Jul-06 (read in 1984)


click to enlarge

Brian Aldiss
(also as "The Failed Men")
© Science-Fantasy # 18, 1956
Space, Time and Nathaniel, 1957
No Time Like Tomorrow, 1959
--/ cool time sf story

"Time impresses itself upon man as evolution"... Various interesting thoughts on the nature of time, the language is both complex and fascinating — traits typical of an Aldiss story texture. This piece is considered a minor classic.
review: 26-Jul-06 (read in 2002)


Not all pulp issues were of good quality, of course. As an example of the "same old", average drivel served in some places - read this review of "INFINITY Science Fiction, August 1956" pulp HERE . This is really a sad decline, compared to the truly Golden Age of Thirties and Forties...

Some great novels appeared in 1956, here is one of them:

Frank Herbert
"Under Pressure" (nv)
(also as "The Dragon in the Sea")
(also as "21st Century Sub")
© Astounding, Nov-Dec 1955, Jan 1956
book: Avon Books, 1956
--all time novel : 1975 Locus All-Time Poll /34 (tie)
--/ third place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ style award

A murky, depressed, claustrophobic feeling permeates this book - one of the best submarine thrillers in the history of literature. The story of the troubled journey of a nuclear sub is deeply lodged in a web of conspiracies (and suspicions of conspiracies). It is full of psychological turmoil and undercurrents of emotion, and is written in a dense (but highly readable) style, keeping the reader enthralled till the very end. This is my favorite book by Frank Herbert, as he does not indulge himself in strange page-bloated discourses, but keeps the story flowing and the emotions intense. I especially adore "closed environment" stories with haunted characters who try to break the limits and conspiracies imposed upon them. The plot of this book is really quite simple: uncovering of a spy among the sub crew, stealing some oil from underwater pipelines, engaging enemy subs, and generally "heating up" the Cold War. But it is in the deep, deep mind currents that Herbert lays the ambiguous egg of paranoia and asks the reader to hatch it.
review: 26-Jul-06 (read in 1988)


Chad Oliver
"The Winds Of Time" (nv)
© 1956, Ballantine Books

"It tells the story of a vacationing man who comes across a group of aliens who have been sequestered in the Colorado mountains for millenia, sleeping in suspended animation. It's almost two stories: one about the aliens and their purpose for coming to Earth, the other about a man who makes first contact and discovers his own alienation". Unexciting; did not do anything for me. Paperback has nice cover.
review: 26-Jul-06 (read in 1983)


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"Then world behind and home ahead..."

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some truly crazed stories in there...
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"Dune", plus some overlooked gems:
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"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon...
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"Vacuum Flowers" by Michael Swanwick...
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"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

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

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"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
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Rare Pulp SF&F, Issue 3

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William Gibson's Novels

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Alfred Bester "The Computer Connection"

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

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

Theodore Sturgeon's "The Cosmic Rape"

(and more reviews of his fiction)
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Vintage Space Travel Posters, and more.
Part 3 of Pulp Sf art series...

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

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"To Live Forever"
and other Vance extravaganzas

Alastair Reynolds

"Pushing Ice"
Cosmological "noir" chase across space

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

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Rare stories from the "Age of Wonder"
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Neat & Rare Stories
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Full Issue Review
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Astounding Stories, May 1941

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Adventures in Space & Magic

Frank Belknap Long

"The Horror from the Hills"
Great Lovecraftian Weird Novella

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A Triumph of the Bizarre

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"Galactic North"
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Warning: Gross Subject Matter

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"The Stars My Destination"
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"Neutron Star"
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"The Squirrel Cage"
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Robert A. Heinlein Review

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"Destination: Void"
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"Burning Chrome"
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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)

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

--/ fourth place :

--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)

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.