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1976 - Year in SF&F: September



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
1976: September

Read other issues here



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Harlan Ellison
"Seeing"
© Andromeda # 1, 1976
Strange Wine, 1978
--short story : 1977 Locus /6
--/ third place sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ style award
--/ adventure award
--/ emotion award
--/ shock value


"Cold waterfall of raw emotion, naked wire of pure decadent shock". Such were the words I've chosen to describe this novella (and another one like it - "Catman") when I first read it in 1987. This "Jack Vance-like baroque space opera" reads like a smorgasbord of delectable (and some detestable) "delights" and a catalogue of gaudy styles and bold colors, in the vein of Russian avantgarde art of the Twenties, such as the paintings of Vasily Kandinsky (see example below). Sometimes I think that if you compress Ellison stories, squeeze "pop-culture sensibilities and selling points" out of it and hang it out to dry (to vanquish some self-indulgent tears and other excesses), then you will end up with... poetry of a strangely familiar kind. Mayakovsky, anyone? I'm partly joking, but... Ellison is an event, not a writer. It "happens to you" at some point in your life, and then you are never free from it. This novella deals with the creepy subject of stealing the mutant eyes of another person to better see (and supposedly enjoy) a decadent society, but in the end one can never satisfy the "lust of his eyes" and only would flood the gates of his heart to further insensitivity. Reading Ellison is quite the opposite of that. He cares, and make you care, even if you did not give the subject a second thought a moment before. Certainly a brightest (and baddest) fiction of the Seventies.
review: 4-Sep-06 (read in 1987)


"Structures" by Vasily Kandinsky (1924)

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Harlan Ellison
"Lonely Women Are the Vessels of Time"
© MidAmeriCon Program Book, 1976
Strange Wine, 1978
--/ cool sf story
--/ style award
--/ emotion award


This is an example of less edgy and more lyrical Ellison. By the way, the titles of his stories, put together, can make a poem of its own... but I am sure he knows this secret, and when he runs out of ideas (ha!..) he will publish it as a special edition slip-cased hardcover book. "Lonely women..." is a sad allegory, similar in its forlorn tone to "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", bringing the question of loneliness to the ultimate answer of "loving yourself more than your neighbour", and to the ultimate fact of the emptiness of an unsaved soul. Here is one summary of the plot: "Moving from one-night stand to one-night stand and leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him, the protagonist ultimately meets a succubus who is even emptier and more needy than he is."
review: 4-Sep-06 (read in 1987)

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A good many books which appeared on the shelves in the Seventies were only of passable quality and very forgettable. You can perhaps blame the paperback industry that demanded more and more novels (not stories) without a good editorial guidance or taste. Here is a sample of stuff (even from established writers) that did not make the grade in my list:



Bob Shaw
"A Wreath of Stars" (nv)
© 1976, Dell Books
--/ cool sf novel
--/ wonder award

"Ironically, for Gilbert Snook who considered himself the human equivalent of a neutrino (a particle able to travel through the Earth without disturbing any other particle) it all started with the panic that followed the sighting of the anti neutrino planet as it approached Earth. Earth was unaffected but Snook ended up in a small African Republic teaching English to diamond miners. Then the miners started seeing ghosts and Snook found himself at the centre of a bizarre and far reaching scientific discovery and in the middle of some very dirty political infighting."
review: 8-Sep-06 (read in 1987)

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Poul Anderson
"The Winter of the World" (nv)
© Nelson Doubleday, 1976
--novel : 1984 Prometheus
--novel : 1996 Prometheus


"A deadly Ice Age destroyed all most previous life on Earth except the freedom-loving Seafolk, who try to recover lost technology from the past while resisting a repressive Empire." This is perhaps the weakest novel of Poul Anderson... completely passe.
review: 8-Sep-06 (read in 1987)

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Steven utley
& Howard Waldrop
"Custer's Last Jump"
© Universe # 6, 1976
--novelette : 1977 Nebula
--novelette : 1977 Locus /7


Famous alternate history tale: General Custer, commander of the United States' elite paratrooper brigade, meets his end at the hands of Crazy Horse and a squadron of vintage Confederate monoplanes at the Battle of Little Bighorn - as told alternately in the style of an official Army report, Collier's Magazine, and an unpublished excerpt from Mark Twain's journal. Somebody even compared it to Borges.
review: 8-Sep-06 (read in 1987)

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HOWEVER, in Russia at this time you could read some truly memorable science fiction, which admittedly had been written in the Sixties, and only now made it to the shelves (due to the "Evil Empire"'s publishing industry red tape). Also one might say that the development of Russian SF lagged 20 years behind the West anyway, so if you add up all these years, you'll arrive at the Forties in science fiction history - paralleling the Seventies in Russia's real world. Which is a nice thought to have, as it indicates a Golden Age of the sense-of-wonder type of story. Of course, communist editorial policies ensured there was no social commentary or political context in these stories, but in terms of sheer grandeur of space adventure, the Seventies were a time to make a SF reader very happy. Witness Sergei Snegov epics, "Relict" series of Golovachev, and a multitude of space adventure writers published in this decade - all in the wide-eyed, innocently optimistic style of the best of american "wonder" pulps. Unfortunately, all these writers are virtually unknown in the West. So here are a few reviews to fill you in:



Askold Yakubowski
"Kosmicheski Blustitel" (nv)
(Аскольд Якубовский
"Kосмический Блюститель")
(engl. as "Space Cop")
© Fantastika - 75/76, 1976
--/ third place space sf novel
--/ adventure award
--/ wonder award
--/ rare find


Perfect pulp-style space adventure, which could have appeared in "Thrilling Wonder Stories" in the thirties, and might've given Edmond Hamilton, Brackett and others a run for their money. A planet with an ecology gone berserk: there are huge predator slugs, murderous jungle monsters etc. A cyborg upholds interstellar law throughout this vigorous environment, making this novella a cross between "Robocop" and Harry Harrison's "Death World". All written in a crisp, imaginative style, clean and gorgeous in its wide-eyed wonder and action. One of the first SF thrillers I've read, a great substitute for the american "Planet Stories" pulps I missed as a kid.
review: 10-Sep-06 (read in 1983)

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Askold Yakubowski
"Kupol Galaktiki" (coll)
(Аскольд Якубовский
"Купол Галактики")
(engl. as "The Dome of the Galaxy")
© Molodaya Gvardiya, 1976
--/ second place sf collection
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award
--/ style award
--/ emotion award
--/ adventure award
--/ rare find


One of the best space-adventure collections of stories in history of SF. Incredibly spare, vivid prose combined with a level of excitement and wonder, which would have made the best American SF pulp mag from the Forties proud. I am truly happy to have been able to read that stuff in the original language. The full review of all stories will be forthcoming, but for now I only might say that somebody's gotta translate it (I'd do it if I had time), and it's a shame nobody knows about this writer in the West.
review: 10-Sep-06 (read in 1984, 2004)

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Askold Yakubowski
"Na Dalekoi Planete"
(Аскольд Якубовский
"На Далекой Планете")
(Engl. as "On the Far Planet")
(Fitakh series)
© Kupol Galactiki, 1976
--/ third place space sf story
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ emotion award
--/ idea award
--/ awesome scale
--/ rare find


Here is one story from that incredible collection "The Dome of the Galaxy". I read it only a couple of years ago, having read many wonderful planetary adventures before, but this story still rates with the best of them in my opinion. It sparkles with the quintessential wonder of a new, truly alien world. A top contender for the title of "Awesome Exploration Travelogues" in the blog (or magazine) of interstellar era, this tale is short and sweet, pure vintage "imagination candy".
review: 10-Sep-06 (read in 2004)


Artwork copyright by Frank Frazetta

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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
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--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
ALL "BEST OF" LISTS ARE LOCATED HERE

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

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--/ adventure award
exhilarating plot, excitement / action

--/ style award
outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

--/ romance award
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