Birthday Reviews: Brian W. Aldiss’s “Tarzan of the Alps”

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

Brian W. Aldiss was born on August 18, 1925 and died on August 19, 2017, the day after his 92nd birthday.

Aldiss won a Hugo Award in 1962 for his short story “Hothouse” and a non-fiction Hugo in 1987 for his history of the science fiction field, Trillion Year Spree, written with David Wingrove, in which they continued to popularize Aldiss’s contention that science fiction began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In 1966 his novella “The Saliva Tree” received the Nebula Award. He has won the British SF Association Award five times and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award once. His novel Helliconia Spring won both of those awards as well as the Kurd Lasswitz Preis. Trillion Year Spree also won the Eaton Award. Aldiss has won a Ditmar Award for Contemporary Author and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Prix Utopia, Pilgrim Award, IAFA Award, and World Fantasy Award. He was inducted into both the First Fandom Hall of Fame and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. Aldiss was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2000. In 2005, Aldiss was awarded the title Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth as part of the Birthday Honors list for his service to literature.

Aldiss first published “Tarzan of the Alps” in the first issue of the magazine Postscripts, edited by Peter Crowther in 2004. The following year, the story was used by Aldiss to lead off his collection Cultural Breaks. The story has not appeared anywhere else.

Aldiss sets “Tarzan of the Alps” in Patagonia, about as far from Africa or Switzerland as one could get. It tells the story of José Pareda, whose truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere and Alejo and Maria Galdos, who just happen to live in the middle of nowhere and come to his aid, along with their son who works in the nearest town as a mechanic. In the days that Pareda stays with the Galdoses while his truck is being repaired, they bond over their shared life experiences, being of a similar age, and Pareda thanks his hosts with his stock in trade, a traveling movie that he projects from his van.

The Galdoses live so far from anything that this is the first film they have ever seen, a version of Tarzan of the Apes, which they misunderstand as Tarzan of the Alps. Being the first film they saw, the movie made a huge impression on the Galdoses and they decide that they wanted to visit the jungles of the Alps before they die. Unfortunately, Alejo dies before they have enough money for the trip and the story ends with Maria preparing their son for his journey to see the Alps as they imagine they existed in Tarzan.

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Mel Hunter and Hal Clement’s Needle

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

hunter clement needle unpublished-small

The Monday before this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I drove up to LA to visit a longtime SF fan and art collector. Among the two dozen pieces of art I picked up from him is this painting by artist Mel Hunter. Hunter was active in the SF field, contributing cover art to paperbacks and digests, as well as digest interiors, primarily from the early 1950’s until the early 1960’s, though he was still contributing an occasional cover into the early 1970’s. From December 1955 through December 1957, he also was the art director of If (the sister magazine to Galaxy). Over time, the painting has suffered some damage along the edges, so this image is a bit cropped.

Written on the back of the illustration board is a note stating that this painting is an unpublished illustration for Needle by Hal Clement, and that Hunter gave this painting to Edward Everett Evans and Thelma Evans. Another note below that mentions that the collector I bought it from purchased this from the estate of E.E. Evans (who passed away on December 2, 1958) for $25. Not surprisingly, I paid significantly more for it!

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Birthday Reviews: Andrew J. Offutt’s “Gone with the Gods”

Thursday, August 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rick Sternbach

Cover by Rick Sternbach

Andrew J. Offutt was born on August 16, 1934 and died on April 30, 2013. Offutt also published science fiction and fantasy using the pseudonyms John Cleve, Jeff Douglas, and J.X. Williams. He occasionally collaborated with Richard K. Lyon and Keith Taylor, while many of the stories published under the John Cleve house name were collaborations with a wide variety of authors including Victor Koman, Roland J. Green, G.C. Edmonson, and Jack C. Haldeman II, among others. In addition to his career in speculative fiction, which included a stint as President of SFWA, Offutt has a very successful career writing pornographic novels.

Offut was nominated for the Balrog Award for his short story “Conan and the Sorcerer” and for editing the anthologies Swords Against Darkness IV and Swords Against Darkness V, as well as for the entire anthology series. His My Lord Barbarian was nominated for the August Derleth Award and in 1986 he received the Phoenix Award at DeepSouthCon.

“Gone with the Gods” was originally published in the October 1974 issue of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, edited by Ben Bova. When Stanley Schmidt decided to issue the anthology Analog’s Lighter Side in 1982, he included Offutt’s story.

The main character of “Gone with the Gods” would seem to be a thinly disguised Offutt, a writer who turns out a prodigious number of novels at the back and call of his editor, writing in whatever genre is hot at the moment to fulfill the needs of an insatiable audience. When his editor calls him to look into the possibility that a former fraternity brother of the editor’s has invented a time machine, and asks him to check out the possibility that the device is real so the editor can invest in it, the authors finds himself looking into the far-fetched claim.

Of course the time machine, disguised as a VW microbus, eventually works and Harvey Moss, the author, Mark Ventnor, the publisher, and Ben Corrick, the inventor, all take their turns traveling in the bus, only to learn its limitations. It can only go one day into the future, but anywhen in the past. Although it remains tied to Earth, so they don’t have to worry about showing up in outer space, they do figure out how to take it to different places on Earth. Eventually, in order to make some money, Moss travels back in time to spur human development and plant evidence that he can use to write a best selling book that Ventnor can publish and sell.

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Birthday Reviews: Pat York’s “Great Leaving”

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Diana Sharples

Cover by Diana Sharples

Pat York was born on August 14, 1949 and died on May 21, 2005 in a car accident.

York was nominated for the Nebula in 2001 for her short story “You Wandered Off Like a Foolish Child To Break Your Heart and Mine.”

York published “The Great Leaving” in Odyssey #2, edited by Liz Holliday, in 1998. The story has never been reprinted.

York tells the story of the days leading up to the departure of a colonizing spaceship in “The Great Leaving.” Although many of her friends, including her nominal boyfriend, are leaving on the flight, Clare refuses to even consider going because she had obligations to her mother in the small village in which they live. York makes it clear that there is no other reason for Clare to remain behind. German and Japanese investors in Ireland have made the country unrecognizable and essentially have killed off any culture or national pride the people might have been able to retain.

Despite calls for her to go on the ship, Clare refuses, remaining adamant and eventually falling back on the excuse that they are well past the deadline for her to change her mind. Of course, she also does begin to change her mind after the deadline is past, partly because of a declaration of love and commitment from Michael Hackett, the aforementioned boyfriend.

While Clare’s dedication to her mother and desire to stay and try to preserve what she can of her culture is admirable, the character is not particularly memorable, her decision understandable, but not particularly defensible. Once she does change her mind, York provides a deus ex machina which can trace back to a momentary nastiness by Clare to one of the immigrants to allow Clare to leave her mother and plan a future life with Michael.

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Birthday Review: Alan E. Nourse’s “The Gift of Numbers”

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Kelly Freas

Cover by Kelly Freas

Alan E. Nourse was born on August 11, 1928 and died on July 19, 1992. He also published stories using the names Al Edwards and Doctor X.

Alan E. Nourse received a Hugo nomination for Best Novelette for his story “Brightside Crossing” in 1956, the third year the Hugos were presented and the second time the Best Novelette Hugo was awarded. When Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was made into a film in 1982, the producers took the title of Nourse’s 1974 novel about underground medical services, The Bladerunner, for the Dick film. Nourse’s novel had been adapted for film in 1979 by William S. Burroughs, but the film was never made.

Nourse published “The Gift of Numbers” in Super-Science Fiction, edited by W.W. Scott in the August 1958 issue. The story was reprinted in Nourse’s 1971 collection Rx for Tomorrow and was also included in his German language collection Hospital Erde the following year. In 2012, Robert Silverberg selected the story for inclusion in the Haffner Press anthology Tales from Super-Science Fiction.

The Colonel is a low level con artist who scams ineffective bookkeeper Avery Mearns in a bar one evening.  In exchange for $20 (about $170 in 2018 dollar values), the Colonel promises to trade his ability with numbers to Mearns and thereby save his job. Mearns takes the Colonel up on the offer and, naturally, that is the last he sees of the con man.

However, the Colonel is not quite the con artist that he appears and Mearns finds that he suddenly is quite effective when it comes to bookkeeping.  Not only does he begin to save the company money, but he also realizes that he can skim from the company using bookkeeping tricks. While this would not have occurred to the mild-mannered Mearns who met the Colonel in the bar that evening, Mearns received some of the Colonel’s larceny along with his ability with numbers. Mearns used his abilities not only to steal from the company, but to steal other trinkets, completely unwittingly and unwillingly, until he is caught, at which time the company refused to press charges since he was bringing in more money than he was taking out. Mearns, however, began to look for the Colonel, who the police identified by several names and noted was on the lam.

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Birthday Reviews: Ward Moore’s “Rebel”

Friday, August 10th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Joseph Ward Moore was born on August 10, 1903 and published fiction using the name Ward Moore. Moore died on January 29, 1978.

Moore’s most famous work was the novel Bring the Jubilee, an alternate history about the Civil War. His stories “Lot” and “Lot’s Daughter,” form a post-apocalyptic future which was collected and expanded into the novel Lot, which formed the basis for the film Panic in Year Zero! He collaborated with Avram Davidson on the novel Joyleg and with Robert Bradford on Caduceus Wild.

“Rebel” originally appeared in the February 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Robert P. Mills. It was reprinted in the June issue of the British edition of the magazine the same year and a month later was translated into French for its appearance in Fiction #104. Ida Purnell Stone included the story in her anthology Never in This World while Demètre Ioakimidis, Gérard Klein, and Jacques Goimard reprinted the French translation in their anthology Histoires de demain.

Moore takes a very simple idea in “Rebel” and runs with it. Bach and Smith and his wife only want what’s best for their son, Caludo, just as parents throughout history. Unfortunately, just like children throughout history, Caludo is rebelling against his parents’ values and insists that he isn’t going through a phase and his desires are just as legitimate as theirs. What sets the story apart is that in the Smiths’ world, the norm is based in artistic endeavor and Caludo wants to go into business.

The Smiths consider Caludo’s attire, jacket and trousers, to be a bizarre affectation, although Caludo, who also insists on sitting up in a straight backed chair, informs them he wears the constricting clothing rather than robes and togas because he finds it comfortable. Moore pulls out every argument a parent has made in favor of capitalism and fitting in and restructured it to fit into the milieu of a world in which capitalism is seen as a quaint historical artifact. It was good enough for the Grand Masters like Rockefeller and Carnegie, but it surely has no place in the modern world.

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Birthday Reviews: John Varley’s “Just Another Perfect Day”

Thursday, August 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Gottfried Helnweinn

Cover by Gottfried Helnweinn

John Varley was born on August 9, 1947.

Varley has won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for his novellas “The Persistence of Vision” and “Press Enter [].” He won an additional Hugo Award for the short story “The Pusher.” His novel Red Thunder won the Endeavour Award. The novel version of The Persistence of Vision won the Prix Apollo. His novella “In the Halls of the Martian Kings” won the Jupiter Award. He won the Prometheus Award for The Golden Globe. “Press Enter []” and “Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo” both won the Seiun Award. In 2009, Varley won the Robert A. Heinlein Award. One of Varley’s most famous stories, “Air Raid,” which formed the basis of the novel and film Millennium, was originally published with the pseudonym “Herb Boehm.”

“Just Another Perfect Day” was originally published in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine in June of 1989 by editor Tappan King. Gardner Dozois picked the story up for his The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Seventh Annual Collection. When Dozois’s volume was translated into Italian in 1995, Varley’s story was translated by Massimo Patti and included in the volume Millemondi Inverno 1995. In 1996 it appeared in translation in the German magazine Galaxies #3 and was translated into Japanese in 1998. Varley included the story in The John Varley Reader and John Joseph Adams reprinted it in the April 2011 issue of Lightspeed, as well as a performance of the book in the Lightspeed Podcast for the same year.

One of the cliché’s of science fiction is the character who awakens to a blank slate, in an empty room, with no idea who they are, where they are, or even what year they are in. It is a way for authors to provide necessary information not only to the character, but to the reader. In “Just Another Perfect Day,” John Varley bases his entire story on that cliché, providing a letter to his amnesiac, written by a previous version of the amnesiac, to explain the important parts of what has happened in the twenty-two years since his last actual memory.

The majority of the letter explains to the reader what the day has in store for him, what happened to him in 1989 that caused him not to remember anything since 1986, and eventually the salient features of what has changed in the world that he doesn’t remember, notably that the Earth has been invaded by aliens, called Martians, although they don’t come from there, and each day they are interested in visiting with him for an hour to talk. The subjects of these discussions, both historically, and in the context of the day the story is set, is left up to the reader to conjecture.

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Birthday Reviews: F. Anstey’s “The Adventure of the Snowing Globe”

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Strand

The Strand

F. Anstey was born Thomas Anstey Guthrie on August 8, 1856. He began using the pseudonym F. Anstey after an editor included a typo in his byline, replacing his first initial with an F. He published under both the F. Anstey name and his own name. He died on March 10, 1934.

Trained as a lawyer, Anstey frequently used his legal background in his books and novels, most of which were humorous. He was a frequent contributor to Punch. In addition to fiction, he also produced plays. Over the years, many of his stories have been turned into films, most recently the 1988 film Vice Versa, starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage, based on his 1882 book of the same title.

“The Adventure of the Snowing Globe” was originally published in the December 1905 issue of The Strand Magazine, edited by George Newnes. The following year, Anstey included the story in his collection Salted Almonds. In 1996, Peter Haining chose the story for his anthology The Wizards of Odd: Comic Tales of Fantasy, which has been translated, along with the story, into German. Mike Ashley used the story in his 2012 anthology Dreams and Wonders: Stories from the Dawn of Modern Fantasy. In 2013, the story was translated into Russian for inclusion in an anthology.

Anstey’s “The Adventure of the Snowing Globe” is almost a proof of the adage that to a man with a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Anstey’s narrator is, like Anstey, a lawyer. When he is magically transported into a snowglobe where a princess is held captive in a castle by her evil uncle, who has set a dragon to guard her, Anstey’s character resorts to legal means to free her, thinking of what motions he can file with the court, down to the level of naming the laws that he would bring to bear.

The princess, of course, understands the situation better than the attorney, but she can only conceive of a knight rescuing her and is tied into the paradigm as much as the narrator is tied to his legalistic one. The big difference, of course, being that the princess understands life within the snowglobe kingdom much better than the narrator does.

Anstey builds a divide between the princess and the lawyer by providing them with very different speech patterns. Both speak formally, but the princess and her seneschal speak in an archaic manner, while the lawyer speaks in an Edwardian manner, as if he were addressing a judge.

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Uncanny Magazine Year 5 Meta-Interview: A Look at How Interviews Come Together

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 | Posted by Matt Peters, Lynne M. Thomas, Michi Trota, and Caroline M. Yoachim

Uncanny Kickstarter

We here at Uncanny Magazine are in the middle of the Uncanny Magazine Year 5: I Want My Uncanny TV Kickstarter, and we’ve gathered up the whole Uncanny Magazine interview team to give our perspectives on interviewing! Caroline M. Yoachim does print interviews for the magazine, Lynne M. Thomas does the podcast interviews, and now we are introducing Matt Peters and Michi Trota as the video interviewers (and hosts) of Uncanny TV!

When we got the idea to write about interviews, we realized that we could do the post by interviewing each other, and BOOM, the meta-interview was born!

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Birthday Reviews: David R. Bunch’s “The From-Far-Up-There-Missile Worry”

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Crank! #4

Crank! #4

David R. Bunch was born on August 7, 1925 and died on May 29, 2000.

His second collection of short stories, Bunch! Was a Philip K. Dick Award nominee in 1994. Bunch also was the only author to have two stories included in Harlan Ellison’s anthology Dangerous Visions, which featured his stories “Incident in Moderan” and “The Escaping.” Many of Bunch’s stories are set in his world of Moderan

Bunch’s penultimate professional sale was “The From-Far-Up-There-Missile Worry,” which appeared in the fourth issue of Crank!, edited by Bryan Cholfin and published in 1994. As with most of Bunch’s work, this story has never been reprinted and is currently out of print.

“The From-Far-Up-There Missile Worry” is a strange stream-of-conscience tale clearly is set in a world in which some sort of annihilation is imminent, with the narrator living in dread of the end of his world and trying to come up with his reactions when the end, which he predicts will fall from the sky, comes.  His fear is clearly demonstrated by his constantly shifting his thoughts from one area to another as well as his use of randomly capitalized words scattered throughout the story.

As the relatively short work progresses, Bunch builds more on the atmosphere of despair than providing any real indication of a story or even what is happening to the reader.  The narrator’s internal dialogue about his concern for himself and his future is really the driving force, although by the end of the work, it becomes clear that humans, or partial humans, are in danger of being wiped out by the complete cyborgs that mankind created and which have gotten away from their control. Despite this, the story does not come across as anti-technological or a warning about mankind building its own replacements.  “The From-Far-Up-There Missile Worry” is a study in an all-encompassing anxiety that cripples from the inability to take any meaningful action to either protect oneself or effect a change to the world.

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