Friday, June 15, 2012
FFB: Robert Bloch: COLD CHILLS; Alfred Bester: STARLIGHT; Fritz Leiber: SHIP OF SHADOWS
Cold Chills, Starlight, and the contents rather than an actual copy of Ship of Shadows all found me at pretty much the same time...in 1978...and as the most recent collections (at least of recent work) by each of the past masters in question, they meant a lot to me, both as appreciations of their authors' work and as encouragement to continue engaging with the fields they were so integral to.
The Bloch, for example, despite the awful Leisure Books package (the original Doubleday hardcover was little better than functional, but at least was more presentable), gathers some of his most important short fiction (such as the gentle fantasy "The Movie People" and the vicious suspense story "The Animal Fair" and the straight-up, if heavily metaphorical, science fiction I gather Bloch was most proud of among his efforts in that mode, "The Learning Maze"--though certainly "How Like a God" is comparable work) along with solid entertainments (such as the joke-story with some heft to it, "The Gods Are Not Mocked"...Bloch on bumper-sticker culture might well be extended to retweets, or the horror story "Double Whammy" which might remind you of the film Drag Me to Hell done better and more succinctly as well as decades earlier). Bloch himself seems a bit uncomfortable with the final story, "The Model," an unusually sexually graphic, for Bloch, sfnal horror story..."The Girl from Mars" made more explicit (and I wonder if the unmentioned echo of that earlier story might've bothered him at least as much as being so uncharacteristically on the, um, nose).
Alfred Bester's Starlight was a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus which quite sensibly combined two slender Berkley/Putnam collections, and under a less tired title than either of the original volumes. More a career retrospective (and the only one published during Bester's lifetime) than today's other books, this collection included examples of Bester as nonfiction writer (including a version of his highly engaging autobiographical essay) as well as such brilliant, affecting short fiction as "5,271,009" and "They Don't Make Life Like They Used To" (as well as his most famous short story, "Fondly Fahrenheit"...as with his first two sf novels, I rank this a notch below his best short fiction, but mine is definitely a minority opinion there). From his earliest fiction, we get the also brilliant-in-concept "Adam and No Eve" and the similarly promising and breakneck-paced, if a bit goofier, "Hell is Forever"; from his late work, such a fine example as "The Four-Hour Fugue" (two notches ahead of even his best late novels).
The Leiber is perhaps an unfair comparison, here...it's one brilliant story after another, with no simply good or interesting examples mixed in, but this is hardly Leiber's fault, nor any disservice to the reader (as the hardcover's subtitle notes, "The Award-Winning Stories of Fritz Leiber"--in this case, the Hugo and Nebula awards for sf and fantasy). Reaching back as far as his novella The Big Time, really a play in prose form as such critics as Algis Budrys were quick to note (with a punning title harkening to vaudeville as much as time travel and destiny), and otherwise gathering much of the best of his shorter work over the previous decade (or certainly his most widely-hailed shorter work...most with strong autobiographical aspects, and none moreso than the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story which is in part a memorial to his recently-late wife, Jonquil, though the title-story also deals with the alcoholic spiral her death occasioned for him), the book simply is as good an introduction to Leiber as one could ask for...something also true of the Bester, for the most part, and not quite true of the Bloch, but one could do worse. So...a core sampling of the late career for Bloch, a measure of the range of short work by Bester, and the popular as well as artistic cream of Leiber (reduction of Leiber?) in that period. One could do a lot worse than any of these.
The Contento indices:
Cold Chills Robert Bloch (Doubleday, 1977, hc); Also in pb (Leisure).
· Introduction · in
· The Gods Are Not Mocked · ss Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Aug ’68
· How Like a God · ss Galaxy Apr ’69
· The Movie People · ss The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (or F&SF) Oct ’69
· Double Whammy · ss Fantastic Feb ’70
· In the Cards · ss Worlds of Fantasy Win ’70
· The Animal Fair · ss Playboy May ’71
· The Oracle · ss Penthouse May ’71
· The Play’s the Thing · ss Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine May ’71
· Ego Trip · ss Penthouse Mar ’72
· Forever and Amen · ss And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire, ed. Roger Elwood, Chilton, 1972
· See How They Run · ss EQMM Apr ’73
· Space-Born · nv Children of Infinity, ed. Roger Elwood, Watts, 1973
· The Learning Maze · ss The Learning Maze, ed. Roger Elwood, Messner, 1974
· The Model · ss Gallery Nov ’75
Starlight Alfred Bester (Nelson Doubleday, 1976, hc)
· The Light Fantastic · ed. Alfred Bester · co Berkley/Putnam, 1976
· 5,271,009 · nv F&SF Mar ’54
· Ms. Found in a Champagne Bottle · ss Status, 1968
· Fondly Fahrenheit · nv F&SF Aug ’54
· Comment on “Fondly Fahrenheit” · ar
· The Four-Hour Fugue · ss Analog Jun ’74
· The Men Who Murdered Mohammed · ss F&SF Oct ’58
· Disappearing Act · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #2, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine, 1953
· Hell Is Forever · na Unknown Aug ’42
· Star Light, Star Bright · ed. Alfred Bester · co Berkley/Putnam, 1976
· Adam and No Eve · ss Astounding Sep ’41
· Time Is the Traitor · nv F&SF Sep ’53
· Oddy and Id [“The Devil’s Invention”] · ss Astounding Aug ’50
· Hobson’s Choice · ss F&SF Aug ’52
· Star Light, Star Bright · ss F&SF Jul ’53
· They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To · nv F&SF Oct ’63
· Of Time and Third Avenue · ss F&SF Oct ’51
· Isaac Asimov · iv Publishers Weekly Apr 17 ’72 [Isaac Asimov]
· The Pi Man · ss Star Light, Star Bright, Berkley/Putnam, 1976; revised from F&SF Oct ’59.
· Something Up There Likes Me · nv Astounding, ed. Harry Harrison, Random House, 1973
· My Affair with Science Fiction · ar Nova 4, ed. Harry Harrison, Walker, 1975
Ship of Shadows Fritz Leiber (Gollancz, 1979, hc)
· Ship of Shadows · na F&SF Jul ’69
· Catch That Zeppelin! · nv F&SF Mar ’75
· Gonna Roll the Bones · nv Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967
· Ill Met in Lankhmar [Fafhrd & Gray Mouser] · na F&SF Apr ’70
· Belsen Express · ss The Second Book of Fritz Leiber, DAW Books, 1975
· The Big Time [Change War] · n. Galaxy Mar ’58 (+1); New York: Ace Books, 1961
For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.