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1966 - Year in SF&F: September



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
1966: September

Read other issues here



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Roger Zelazny
"The Dream Master" (nv)
(exp. from "He Who Shapes")
© Amazing, Jan 1965
book: 1966, Ace Books
--novella : 1966 Nebula W (tie)
--novella : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /14

--/ third place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ idea award
--/ emotion award


A very important novel, a triumph for the new imaginative style, one of the most readable examples of the "New Wave" and a great testament to the psychedelic era. The dream-like quality of Zelazny's writing envelopes the reader and satisfies in itself, not much concerned with action, plot, or even with characterization. How can that be, you may ask? Because this novel is one step short of poetry, one bite short of a spaced-out mushroom experience, one chord short of Hendrix' guitar solo - take any number of other authentic sixties art experiences and translate it into writing. But it is not to be analyzed for plot and structure. It's loosely about a psychoanalyst, and a mechanic (Shaper) of dreams. In a warm womb of metal, his patients dream their neuroses, while Render, intricately connected to their brains, dreams with them, makes delicate adjustments, and ultimately explains and heals. Things go wrong in the human mind, and Zelazny plots the doomed rollercoaster of imagery without any point, or destination - "art for the sake of art only".
review: 10-Sep-06 (read in 1989)

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Jack Vance
"Brains Of Earth" (nv)

(also as "Nopalgarth")
(Nopalgarth series)
© Ace Double, 1966
also - DAW Books, 1980
--/ fourth place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ idea: para-cosmos
--/ shock value

This is a small pop-art masterpiece with some psychedelic overtones. It feeds on paranoid ideas of the Fifties (aliens possessing our brains), embellishes it with cool descriptions of psychological and aural warfare (reminds me of "Final Fantasy" ghostly doppelganger entities), and reads like a gaudy poster in its simplicity of idea and plot. I often skipped many pages, to arrive sooner at the bizarre parasitic "brain" warfare sequences, which make this book to stand out from other invasion fare, and from everything else Vance has written.
review: 10-Sep-06 (read in 2003)

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Brian Aldiss
"Another Little Boy"
© New Worlds, Sep 1966
Best SF Stories of Brian W. Aldiss, 1971
--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award

Solid SF story with a great Cold War paranoid feel and a wicked sense of humour. An over-populated future Earth has adopted total birth control (all girls are given biological treatment, and only a central computer can "undo it" to allow birth). Some nations has completely disappeared from the face of the Earth. Blocks of super-powers threaten each other with mighty (and henceforth absurd) bombs. All this is standard SF fare. But here comes the rub: over-populated conditions have de-sensitized humans to the point that... on the centennial of the Hiroshima bombing, the population wants to be entertained, so they make the ultimate fireworks by dropping another "vintage" atomic bomb from a "vintage" heavy bomber. And then a second one (for an encore!) on Nagasaki. A biting tale, characteristically wild for "New Worlds" of that period.
review: 11-Sep-06 (read in 2001)

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Harlan Ellison
"Delusion for a Dragon Slayer"
© Knight, Sep 1966
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, 1967
--short story : 1967 Hugo
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


A simple guy dreams incessantly of being a swashbuckling sea captain and saving a lovely damsel. Suddenly he is transformed into such a hero and then ineptly proceeds to crash all possible expectations, disgracing himself in front of said damsel. An obvious moral is to be worthy of one's dreams. Here is what one reviewer has to say: "Mr. Ellison is proud of this one, and justifiably so. In what he calls an experimental style, he strives for mysticism through the Baroque and rococo. I'm afraid I can't comment on that. I can say that his attempt at density of image and layering of narrative succeed splendidly, coming fast and furious, and rarely giving the reader more than a moment to catch his or her breath." So much imagery, that I swallowed it whole (downbeat message notwithstanding) and liked it just for the cool fantasy quest content (it was even made into a Marvel comics later). "A neat, passionate parable, exploring what might happen if one were granted the opportunity to walk the walk after talking the talk."
review: 11-Sep-06 (read in 2001)

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Roger Zelazny
"For a Breath I Tarry"
© New Worlds, Mar 1966
also in - Fantastic Stories, Sep 1966
The Last Defender of Camelot, 1980
--novelette : 1967 Hugo
--short fiction : 1971 Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll /21 (tie)
--novelette : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /11 (tie)

--/ fourth place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award


A classic story about artificial intelligence (Machine) becoming, or dreaming to become natural intelligence (Human). This theme was worked and re-worked many times, and by the end of Sixties could’ve become passe, but Zelazny wraps it in his patented word-magic, gives it philosophical (and even theological) depth – pitching the arguments of Job against the temptings of Faust) and ends up with a mature, imaginative story, a veritable masterpiece. A computer with a hobby to become man is perhaps an ultimate delusion. Something created cannot become the creator, no matter how it tries. An interesting analogy here: born again christians (being themselves created) CAN become one with Creator, spiritually speaking. It does not come from ourselves, but given from above. In other words, if a machine wants to become human, it has to break into the spiritual dimension first and ask the utmost authority, clear it with God Himself (as humans are not masters of themselves either, and do not have an authority to create a soul). And somehow we all know which answer such a machine might get.
review: 27-Aug-06 (read in 2004)

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R. A. Lafferty
"Narrow Valley"
© F&SF, Sep 1966
900 Grandmothers, 1970
--short story : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /40
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea award
--/ humour award


Here is the typical "Lafferty-yarn": perfectly skewed piece of nonsense, wrapped in a dead serious narrative with a brilliant idea in the center and an eye for cracked grandiosity. In this story he investigates a very peculiar geological phenomenon, mixing it with the dream-logic of typical tall tales. Check out this quote: "It is a continental fault coinciding with a noospheric fault," said the scientist. "The valley really is half a mile wide, and at the same time it really is only five feet wide. If we measured correctly, we would get these dual measurements. Of course it is meteorological! Everything including dreams is meteorological.... There is a clear parallel in the Luftspeigel sector in the Black Forest of Germany which exists, or does not exst, according tho the circumstances and to the attitude of the beholder. Then we have the case of Mad Mountain in Morgan County, Tennessee, which isn't there all the time, and also the Little Lobo Mirage south of Prisidio, Texas, from which twenty thousand barrels of water were pumped in one two-and-a-half year period before the mirage reverted to mirage status. I'm glad I was able to give a scientific explanation to this or it would have worried me." Some call Lafferty a genius, some dissmiss him as too oblique. As one reviewer says: "That problem is exacerbated by the fact that under superficial consideration he looks easy... readers and critics should make some effort to look beneath the hood to see what was what, otherwise his complexities--of both language and meaning--end up dismissed as just nonsensically bad ordinary writing. As a thirsty drinker expecting the taste of a soda pop might well spit out in disgust a mouthful of vintage brut champagne, so might an SF reader expecting typical SF reject vintage Lafferty."
review: 12-Sep-06 (read in 2001)

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Fred Saberhagen
"The Face of the Deep"
(Berserker Series)
© 1966, IF
Berserker, 1967
The Berserker Wars, 1981
--/ fourth place space sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award


Great space thriller from the "Berserker" series, which is surprisingly enjoyable pulp-style adventures, written in a hard-boiled, intense manner. Normally I do not read military science fiction, but this series stands well above usual fare. The enemy is impossibly strong and vicious, to the point that human effort seems to be almost irrelevant - so soldiers are forced to rely more on faith and ideas, rather than warfare. Berserkers are almost invincible killing machines spreading across the Galaxy, regarding humans as, well, just a little speck of biological matter. However, all stories end in human victory. Go figure (and pat Saberhagen on the back). Here a soldier wakes up in a transparent escape pod, realizes that he is also trapped in an asteroid field of some sort and that there is a Berserker trapped in this field as well. A tale of survival and a "battle of the brains" follows. Recommended.
review: 12-Sep-06 (read in 2001)

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Piers Anthony
"The Ghost Galaxies"
(basis for the novel "Ghost")
© 1966, IF
--/ cool sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


Piers Anthony was a lot more fun in the Sixties, even coming up with cool ideas from time to time. You can not have a wilder idea than this one: Galaxy-sized ghosts terrorize immense reaches of space. Anthony does not elaborate on how these ghosts came to be, but they are sufficiently ghostly and sufficiently... big.
review: 12-Sep-06 (read in 2001)

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