Browsed by
Tag: Barry Malzberg

Birthday Reviews: Barry N. Malzberg’s “Tap-Dancing Down the Highways and Byways of Life”

Birthday Reviews: Barry N. Malzberg’s “Tap-Dancing Down the Highways and Byways of Life”

Cover by Ron Walotsky
Cover by Ron Walotsky

Barry N. Malzberg was born on July 24, 1939.

Malzberg received the inaugural John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Beyond Apollo. His novel Herovit’s War was nominated for the Jupiter Award and he’s had nominations for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the British SF Association Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award five times and the Nebula Award six times.

“Tap-Dancing Down the Highways and Byways of Life” was originally published by Edward L. Ferman in the July 1986 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Although it wasn’t reprinted in English until appearing in The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg in 2013, it was published in French, Italian, and German translations within seven months of its original publication.

It would appear that Cecil’s big mistake in “Tap-Dancing Down the Highways and Byways of Life” was robbing someone who not only knew who he was, but also knew his parents. As his victim holds back money, calls him out, and points out how disappointed Cecil’s parents will be to hear about his poor life choices, Cecil decides that the best way out of the situation is to shoot his victim in the head. Malzberg is not telling Cecil’s story, however, he is telling the story of the intended robbery victim.

Cecil’s victim is brought back to life, or possibly awoken from a virtual reality scenario, Malzberg is never really clear on the mechanism. What is clear is that the victim is supposed to react to the robbery in a specific way and is not doing what he is supposed to, notably, giving Cecil the money and following his instructions in order to live another day. His unnamed handlers give him multiple opportunities to correct the situation and he keeps finding himself facing an armed Cecil with a gun, eventually deciding that he can’t live as a complacent victim in the world his handlers are trying to shoe-horn him into.

Malzberg’s story takes on darker tones when the reader considers who the victim’s handlers are and what their motives could be. They could simply be preparing people to live and survive in a more violent world, accepting what they can’t change in order to live another day. On the other hand, they could be conditioning people to being victims, making it easier on the criminal and violent classes to prey on the innocents.

Read More Read More

So, What the Hell Am I, Anyway?

So, What the Hell Am I, Anyway?

critic-fsf-august-62

Mrs. [Rosel George] Brown is just about the only one of F&SF‘s former gaggle of housewives who doesn’t strike me as verging on the feebleminded; in fact, I think her work has attracted less attention than it deserves.

That’s James Blish (writing as William Atheling, Jr.) being nice. He was talking about Brown’s story in the August, 1962 issue of F&SF (then edited by Avram Davidson), pictured at right.

He doesn’t name the story – odd that a critic wouldn’t, even in a review published at the time – but a little online research shows it to be the novelette “The Fruiting Body.” It’s a pretty good read, too, as most of Brown’s work was.

For me, though, the salient point of the quote above is the off-hand contempt he throws on fine writers like Zenna Henderson, Katherine MacLean and Miriam Allen DeFord, a blatant disdain that is both unfortunate and unwarranted.

Looking over the first Blish/Atheling volume of collected criticism, The Issue at Hand (Advent Publishers, 1964), in fact, the reader finds similar contempt for one writer or another on nearly every page.

It gets worse. In the March, 1954 issue of Campbell’s Astounding, a story by one Arthur Zirul titled “Final Exam” appeared. It was the author’s very first story. Blish/Atheling, in the Spring 1954 issue of Redd Boggs’ fanzine Skyhook, devoted almost his entire column (which translated to an incredible six pages in book form) to tearing this story to shreds; calling it “…one of the worst stinkers ever to have been printed…”, and on and on.

Why? What was the point?

Read More Read More

A Galaxy of Stars

A Galaxy of Stars

galaxy-june-51By the time you read this, you will already have seen the announcement of RosettaBooks’ The Galaxy Project, or so I assume.

Rosetta is preparing to release e-versions of many of the best stories published in Galaxy in its heyday, which is a terrific idea, but is taking it a step further by launching a contest to find a novella or novelette which will, in the words of RosettaBooks CEO Arthur Klebanoff, “carry forth its tradition of outstanding science fiction writing with a new generation of authors.”

So, I hear you ask, what? Whatever might he mean by “tradition?”

Worry not, I live to educate. No, stop edging towards the door and looking at your watch, I know better.

In 1950, two things happened in fairly close proximity: John W. Campbell published a controversial article in the May issue of Astounding, and the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction appeared on the newsstands in October. These two events were important in their own rights (for vastly different reasons), but there was a synchronicity – one might almost say a serendipity – at play that could be seen to have made a major change in the SF publishing scene at the time.

Read More Read More