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1976 - Year in SF&F: August

1976: August

Read other issues here


George R. R. Martin
"A Beast for Norn"
(Tuf series)
© Andromeda # 1, ed. P. Weston, 1976
Galaxy, Sep 1979
Tuf Voyaging, 1987
--/ fourth place space sf story
--/ wonder award

This is an exotic space opera ("animal blood sports") tale, which brings to memory certain prototypes in the pulps... Let's see, how about Jack Vance? Martin himself says: "The first Haviland Tuf story, "A Beast for Norn," was my attempt to capture some of Vance's effects, and Tuf is a very Vancean hero, a distant cousin to Magnus Ridolph, perhaps." It's colorful, has cool alien animals, although does not reach the heights of "Plague Star" in intensity.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 2001)


Charles R. Saunders
"The Pool Of The Moon"

(Imaro series)
© Dragon, Aug 1976
--fantasy series : 1982 Aurora
--/ cool f novella

These were the years of the emergence of "sword & sorcery" into paperbacks and magazines, even many grass-roots 'zines (this story is from one such semi-pro magazine). Typical mindless tale, which I tasted in many forms in the eighties, not finding what I was looking for - the sense of exploration, wonder and real adventure. Most are macho outings to cave in the heads of enemies and little else.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 1989)


Full review of the wonderful anthology "NEW DIMENSIONS #6", edited by Robert Silverberg, which was a highlight of 1976, you can read HERE

In the ever-growing sea of SF paperbacks we observe F. M. Busby's monumental opus (sticking out):

F. M. Busby
"Young Rissa" (nv)
(also as "Rissa Kerguellen")
(Rissa Kerguellen series 1)
© 1976, Berkley / Putnam

It's definitely better than similar offerings from Piers Anthony, at least it has believable characters - still, only marginally readable for me. I try to stay away from the epic "bricks" or trilogies, although I can understand the hype around this one, and its singular place in the development of space opera sub-genre in the Seventies. Think of "Star Wars" with strong female protagonist - like Heinlein's passionate "Friday" - written with "Dumarest of Terra" E. C. Tubb sensibilities and a similar level of writing.

"The Long View" (nv)
(Rissa Kerguellen series 2)
© 1976, Berkley / Putnam

Some maintain that this is a fun space opera, but I say that it heralds the arrival of many overlong pointless mass-market epics, without the necessary sense of grandeur, true glory, or even the basic sense of wonder. This trilogy still has quality, and some signs of aforementioned "senses", but it still shows the coming decline of space adventure in paperbacks.

"Rissa Kerguellen"
(omnibus edition)
(also as "Young Rissa"
and "The Long View")
(Rissa Kerguellen series)
© 1976, Berkley / Putnam

This is undeniably "a cult series", as it even has a fan website specially dedicated to it. Just as "sword & sorcery" sub-genre dubiously reigned in the 70ties fantasy, so large-scale "BattleStar Galactica"-type paperbacks flooded the shelves of science fiction. I can understand all the rage around Rissa Kerguelen, though - just think, "at five, they slaughtered her parents and doomed her to slavery. At seventeen, she escaped from Earth as a million-dollar fugitive. At eighteen, she commanded an army in outer space." Perfect feminist vehicle, told with broad strokes on a big canvas (read - with tons of pages, unnecessarily added between gaudy front and back covers) I will suspend my judgment on this one, as it merits certainly more than just a place in a venerable (or vomitable?) "Battleship Earth" category.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 1986)

Meanwhile, Robert Holdstock takes fantasy by storm in the U.K. -

Robert Holdstock
"The Graveyard Cross"
© Supernova # 1, 1976
In the Valley of the Statues and Others, 1982
--/ fourth place f story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

With the title like that you would expect a "straight horror" story. But with Holdstock, who is a master of "dripping dark forest fantasy", it becomes something different... a glorious fungus growth of a story. ("The roots go deep, my lord...") It rather works on a reader like a mass of branching threadlike mushroom roots (a mycelium), which propagates the plot, ideas, emotions... You might not remember the details later, but rest assured, it'll keep you enthralled and amazed. Writing reviews to Holdstock's stories is akin to figuring out branch patterns in a dense rainforest: there is no obvious sense, but it does not really matter in the overall humid and cool effect.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 1991)

(image courtesy Geoff Taylor)


Robert Holdstock
"The Time Beyond Age"
© Supernova # 1, 1976
The Bone Forest, 1991
--/ cool sf story

"A chilling story of the dehumanizing potential of science, and of the obsession of a scientist who has lost his way." This is science fiction, not fantasy, but with the same tangled (complex) and wet-haired (spontaneous) feel to it.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 1991)


Robert Holdstock
"Magic Man"
© Frighteners # 2, 1976
The Bone Forest, 1991
--/ cool f story

Prehistoric tale about a boy who secretly paints grotesque and gigantic beasts on a sacred wall. The beasts come alive on the plain, to the amazement and delight of his fellow hunters.
review: 18-Jul-06 (read in 1991)


Andre Norton
"Perilous Dreams" (nv)
© 1976, DAW Books
--/ third place sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award

There were paperbacks in the seventies approaching the color and enchantment of the best of pulps, after all. Granted, it was harder to find them in the ocean of mediocrity, but if a pulp editor of, say, "Fantastic Adventures" got a hold of this novel, he'd certainly feature Norton as a headliner. Her typical blend of science fiction and high fantasy adventure makes for very entertaining reading: I especially liked the atmosphere and the color of "Ship of Mist". The interconnected stories mix real and dream worlds, star-flung empires and medieval piracy, all told with lucid, vivid prose and pulp-style brevity. It's one of the best Norton books, as her standards slipped in the eighties, but this one is like a pearl in a seashell. Go find it.
review: 21-Jul-06 (read in 1987)


Andre Norton
"The Toys of Tamisen"
(Perilous Dreams)
© IF, Apr 1969
High Sorcery, 1970
Perilous Dreams, 1976
--/ third place sf novella
--/ wonder award

"It takes place in a future where humanity had long ago reached the stars and scattered itself across thousands of planets. The heroine, Tamisan is a 'true action dreamer to the tenth power' and she can share her dreams (for a certain fee) with others. Lord Starrex is a former space voyager who now lies crippled in the midst of luxury. He can afford the very best Tamisan has to offer and she wants to create a unique fantasy world for him because she senses that he has been everywhere, seen everything, and will not be satisfied with her usual fare. She hits upon the idea of creating an alternate history of their world, where certain key events can be altered by Tamisan to yield a different present". One of the best ever treatments of "actualized dreams" idea. Also see review of "Perilous Dreams". I liked it immensely when I read it in college.
review: 21-Jul-06 (read in 1987)

(artwork courtesy Geoff Taylor)


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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 :
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--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)

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

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--/ 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.