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1976 - Year in SF&F: September

1976: September

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Harlan Ellison
© 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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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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"Then world behind and home ahead..."

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Pulp Pleasures: Eando Binder

Great space adventure fiction from the 1930s
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Strange Shadows: Best Classic Fantasy

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Going beyond the obvious "Dances with Smurfs"...
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"Steampunk" Anthology: Full Review

some truly crazed stories in there...
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"Dune", Plus Often-Neglected
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Universe at Play:
Two Must-Read Novels of the Fantastic

"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon...
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Two of the Most Entertaining SF Novels from the 1980s

"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

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

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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.