Just bringing this discussion over to ning...

What books are you reading right now that don't have a narrative driven by images as well as words?

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Next, The Mind Spider and Other Stories by Fritz Leiber. This contains "The Haunted Future" (a.k.a. "Tranquility, or Else!"), "Damnation Morning", "The Oldest Soldier", "Midnight in the Mirror World", "The Number of the Beast" and "The Mind Spider".

 

"The Haunted Future" is the longest story, and depicts a conformist future in which awareness of the dark side of life is suppressed. I thought the tale mixes too many ideas together and wastes its best ones, and I wasn't happy with aspects of its message. "Damnation Morning" and "The Oldest Soldier" are from Leiber's "Changewar" series. The former didn't do much for me, but I already knew its twists from skip-reading it years ago. The latter is a effective horror story, and I think the scariest in the collection. "Midnight in the Mirror World" is a supernatural horror story with a strong hook. "The Number of the Beast" is a sci-fi story in which an police officer has to work out which of four aliens committed an assassination. The solution is nice; the Biblical number of the Beast is mentioned but doesn't play a role (incidentally, these days play with the number of the Beast is a turn-off for me). "The Mind Spider" is a sci-fi tale about an alien intelligence that invades the minds of a group of telepaths.

"The Haunted Future" includes a superheroes-related exhange. The speakers are employees of an outfit called Individuality Unlimited, whose business is concerned with helping people renew their sense of their individuality:

 

Diskrow continued: "But I do want to emphasise the psychological aspect of our work-yes, and the psychiatric program of 'Soft-Sell Your Superiority,' which last year won a Lasker Group Award of the American Public Health Association."

 

Miss Rawvetch broke in eagerly: "And which was dramatized to the public by the still-popular 3-D show, The Useless Five, featuring the beloved characters of the Inferior Superman, the Mediocre Mutant, the Mixed-Up Martian, the Clouded Esper and Rickety Robot."

 

A few pages later the characters discuss a new invention, the antigravity harness, and we learn that IU had been asked to help introduce it to the public and was "planning to have Inferior Supe use it on The Useless Five show" before the harnesses were banned. The collection has a 1961 copyright date, and "The Haunted Future" is copyrighted to 1959.

 

I think reposting the previous post displaced the thread Mid-South artist Lin Workman showcased at The Orpheum in Memphis from the home page.

Next, two novellas, "The Mole Pirate" by Murray Leinster and "Exiles on Asperus" by John Wyndham (originally published as by John Benyon Harris), in the collection A Sense of Wonder (a.k.a. Three Stories) edited by Sam Moskowitz. This also contains "The Moon Era" by Jack Williamson, which I read recently in Before the Golden Age 2

 

The stories originally appeared in 1934, 1933 and 1931 respectively. I didn't know Wyndham's SF career went back so far: according to the introduction his first SF story appeared in 1930. The Leinster story is of the naive pulp kind where a scientist unveils a fantastic device, but I don't want to imply all Leinster's work is like this. In this case the device is a vehicle that can pass through solid matter, and is immediately stolen by a criminal scientist. The Wyndham story is of the more sophisticated kind which is built around a thoughtful idea (albeit one I don't buy: if it were that easy to indoctrinate human beings we'd do it ourselves, this would have been going on for centuries, and everyone would have the same ideas).

I've finished Changewar, a collection of Fritz Leiber's Changewar stories barring his novel The Big Time. I've also read six stories by R.F. Starzl and stories by David H. Keller and Ralph Milne Farley.

 

I read the Starzl stories because E.E. Smith speaks well of him in his essay "The Epic of Space". The two best of those I read might be "The Planet of Dread" from Astounding Stories of Super-Science, Aug., 1930, which depicts a journey through an alien jungle with dangerous flora and fauna (it reminded me of the later "The Parasite Planet" by Stanley G. Weinbaum), and "If the Sun Died" from Astounding Stories, Aug., 1931, which depicts an underground society. The issues in which these appeared can be found at Project Gutenberg.

 

This post displaced the thread What Comic Books Have You Read Today? from the home page.

My reading since the previous post includes Harry Harrison's Deathworld and The Ethical Engineer (a.k.a. Deathworld 2). The second of these is very like his Stainless Steel Rat books. I've also read Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore, which collects most of her stories featuring that character. (According to Wikipedia's page on the character there is one more, "Quest of the Starstone", which she co-wrote with her husband, Henry Kuttner.) The title character is a medieval warrior lady ruler whose adventures involve encounters with dark supernatural forces. The stories first appeared in Weird Tales.

 

I've also continued reading stories from old SF magazines at Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive, including several by Frank Belknap Long. This site helped me find some of them.

 

The first version of this post displaced the thread Arcana hoping to have an FCBD event in every state from the home page.

Today I read The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney. Wikipedia tells me the book was first published by illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff (link via Wikipedia), who I don't recall having heard of before. Scroll down at the link for an ad that could be the inspiration for the Silver Age version of the Psycho-Pirate. Another page on the artist is here.

 

I've also read "Friend Island" by Francis Stevens/Gertrude Barrows Bennett, at Internet Archive. This is a slight sea story set in a future in which women are regarded as the stronger sex.

Since last posting my reading has included Drunkard's Walk by Frederik Pohl, Subspace Explorers by E.E. Smith and several stories by Raymond F. Jones, the author of This Island Earth.

 

I've also read "The Fate of the Poseidonia" by Clare Winger Harris at Internet Archive, which is misdescribed at that Wikipedia page (I wouldn't call it a space opera - it's a secret-alien-presence-on-Earth story - and the only female character is the narrator's love interest, who does nothing heroic).

 

This post displaced the thread All-Star Superman - At last! The discussion! from the home page.

Since last posting I've finished a short story by "Tarleton Fiske" (=Robert Bloch), two Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperbacks, Star Courier by A. Bertram Chandler and The Reefs of Space by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson. Star Courier is one of Chandler's Rim Worlds/John Grimes books. In this one he contracts to perform an interplanetary mail job, gets captured by insect people, and helps prevent their takeover of a backward world. The book has sexual content. The Reefs of Space makes use of Fred Hoyle's continuous creation theory and is the first book in the authors' "Starchild" trilogy. It has a very dark section set in a prison in which body parts are harvested from convicts.

 

This post displaced the thread Silver Age Tales to Astonish/Strange Tales/Tales of Suspense from the home page.

Since last posting I've read the stories I hadn't previously read in Starlight: The Great Short Fiction of Alfred Bester by Alfred Bester, The Night of the Wolf by Fritz Leiber, and Red Aces (featuring J.G. Reeder) by Edgar Wallace. I read the first story in Red Aces a couple of years ago, but started the other collections, I think, back when I was in high school.

 

The concluding item in Starlight is an autobiographical piece called "My Affair with Science Fiction", which includes a few pages on Bester's time in comics. He says he was bought to DC by Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, who had taken an interest in him when they were editors at Standard Magazines, and speaks very warmly of Bill Finger for giving him an "incisive, illuminating lecture on the craft" of comic book writing when he was starting in the industry. He also describes a comic "typical script conference with an editor I'll call Chuck Migg, dealing with a feature I'll call "Captain Hero."", saying the dialogue is authentic. The story that the editor and writer plot in the account is apparently "The Strange Case of Professor Radium" from Batman #8. (Bester calls the villain Dr. Radium, but the stories have many elements in common and the scene in which Prof. Radium realises he's going mad is described almost exactly.) Now, the GCD credits this Batman story to Finger. Strictly speaking Bester doesn't say he was the writer in the conference, but the way the passage is written it's fairly natural to suppose he was.

 

The Night of the Wolf consists of four long stories, all set in the future. The stories aren't really related (except thematically), but introductory passages have been added that present them as set at different stages of a single future history, and each story has been retitled with a "wolf" title. The opening story, "The Lone Wolf", originally appeared in 1962 as "The Creature from Cleveland Depths". The story involves the invention of devices called ticklers that plug into the ear. Initially they're just reminder devices, but they undergo a rapid technological evolution. They seem to me an anticipation of ipods. In the story their evolution leads to a crisis. The second story, "The Wolf Pair" (a.k.a. "The Night of the Long Knives") is a post-nuclear war story about the literally murderous inhabitants of the post-war badlands. The remaining two tales ("Crazy Wolf", a.k.a. "Sanity", and "The Wolf Pack", a.k.a. "Let Freedom Ring") are both based around concepts of insane societies.

 

I've also recently read Death of a Swagman by Arthur W. Upfield, which is one of his series of mystery novels about his detective hero Bony. Bony is a half-Aboriginal top policeman who is erudite and knows Aboriginal bushcraft. Upfield is terrific at depicting mid-century rural or outback Australia and its inhabitants. In this case the setting is a small community by the Walls of China in New South Wales. I really liked the novel but found the solution a bit too bizarre.

Since last posting I've finished Masters of the Vortex (a.k.a. The Vortex Blaster) by E.E. Smith, The Best of Murray Leinster by Murray Leinster, and The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. I've also read an article by Herbert C. Fyfe called "How Will the World End?" and listened to recordings of Leinster's "The Runaway Skyscraper" and his future war story "Tanks" (which appeared in the first issue of Astounding).

 

Masters of the Vortex is set in the same universe as Smith's Lensmen saga. The novel began as a series of three short stories, corresponding, apparently, to the book's first six chapters. I've always liked the first story, in which a scientist undertakes to risk his life to destroy a loose atomic vortex after a personal tragedy. It was titled "The Vortex Blaster" and can be found at Project Gutenberg. The second and third stories, which I hadn't read before, are adventure stories and not on the same level. The book picks up again in its second half.

 

The Demolished Man is a well-known novel set in a society where telepathy is common.

 

Leinster wrote science fiction for about fifty years, from the late teens ("The Runaway Skyscraper" appeared in the Feb. 22, 1919 issue of Argosy) to the late 60s (his last SF works were Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants novelisations). His stories were varied, and he moved with the times. This volume contains stories from the mid-30s through the mid-50s. "Sideways in Time" from 1934 is an alternative timelines tale, and said to be the first to depict a timeline in which the South won the Civil War. "First Contact" from 1945 is a famous story about the problems of first contact with an alien race. Leinster also dealt with this topic in other works. "A Logic Named Joe" from 1946 is one of his comic stories and depicts home computers linked to an internet. The story that I personally liked the most was "Critical Difference" from 1956, in which a Colonial Survey officer stationed on a frozen planet has to figure out how to save the outpost and the outpost's parent world from the effects of a solar downturn.

 

"How Will the World End?" appeared in Pearson's Magazine in 1900 and can be found here. The possibilities discussed include the human race running out of oxygen, human electrical discharges setting fire to the atmosphere, the world freezing due to the decline of the sun, the world colliding with a comet, "some lower order usurping dominion over and ultimately destroying mankind" ("If we imagine a shark that could raid upon the land, or a tiger that could take refuge in the sea, we should have a fair suggestion of what a terrible monster a large predatory crab might prove"), the destruction of the human race by a microbes, a new ice age causing all the world's fauna to take refuge in the tropics, gravity increasing or decreasing, the collapse of the Earth as a result of the extraction of its supposed core of oil (Fyfe regards this one as a crank theory), the erosion of all land, mass starvation resulting from the increase of the population, and the oceans draining away as the Earth's interior cools.

 

This post displaced the thread Daredevil Stole My Wallet from the home page.

Finally finished The Silmarillion on the second attempt. I had read about 1/3 of the book a few years ago before giving up. A co-worker gave me his old paperback copy a few months ago so I thought I would make another run at it. This time I approached much more casually - reading a few sections at a time interspersed with other reading. I enjoyed it because it answered a number of LOTR questions for me, but light reading it is not.

I just started In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists by Todd Hignite. The interviewee right now is Crumb and he does surprise me with a few of the things he said.

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