Friday, June 1, 2012
FFB: Margaret Millar week...books in progress...reviewer in retrograde...
This is Margaret Millar Friday in our weekly readathon, yet it has also been a week wracked with dental misadventure, attempts to work around and ahead of minor surgery that has yet to fully happen, and generally the kind of week where I've been taking massive doses of ibuprofen and sleeping accordingly (not only my best analgesic but my best sleep aid...the supposedly stronger stuff I've also been prescribed as usual is less effective at controlling pain, but does have an unpleasantly distorting effect on my dream sleep, something a work colleague has noted with her own recent experience with the similar opiates after scratching her corneas; at least I'm not as sensitive as my father, who can go off into waking hallucination with relatively low doses of poppy-stuff...something inattentive hospital staff keep rediscovering for him on occasion, despite instruction in advance, when he's needed some not so minor surgery of his own).
It's also been a week where we've lost some impressive people, not least of course the singer and guitar pioneer Doc Watson...the reading (by James Earl Jones) and presentation (with limited animation and music) of Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale (Dial Press, 1975), a 1976 Caldecott winner for reteller Verna Aardema and the brilliant illustrators Diane and the late Leo Dillon, is eminently worth seeing and hearing.
So, books that have not yet been finished, despite attempts to get them in on time:
Margaret Millar, The Listening Walls (Random House, 1959). The Millars I had already were all, it turns out, in storage...and I hadn't yet read this, not one of her more obscure titles (and James Reasoner has reviewed it today; Juri Nummelin did so a while back). I've still barely begun it...despite the proprietor at The Title Page noting that it terrified her as a college student upon first reading it.
Sharon Jarvis, editor, Inside Outer Space (Frederick Ungar 1985). An anthology of (then-)new essays by writers and editors about the art and business of science fiction and fantasy writing...one which almost unaccountably got by me in the mid-'80s (or at least I have no memory of seeing it nor seeing it reviewed)...including a sadly informed (the hardest way) essay by the late George Alec Effinger about his gathering troubles with health, medical bills and the IRS and how to hope to avoid such, and a range of interesting folks represented (from Ron Goulart through Stuart David Schiff to Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jarvis herself) who haven't often been tapped for this kind of volume, at least when put together, as several important ones were, by R. Bretnor.
Brenda Knight, Women of the Beat Generation (Conart Press, 1996) is similarly a survey of people who mostly haven't had the attention they deserve, particularly when compared even to the minor male Beat writers and hangers-on. Diane di Prima and Jane Bowles and just maybe Hettie Jones are in relatively little danger of being forgotten by at least some of the larger audience of their kind of art, but entirely too many other folks, certainly the writers, had their only work in print a decade and a half ago in this small-press volume...itself, despite picking up the then-dwindling American Book Award in 1997, not too robustly in print now.
Stephen Jones, editor, The Monster Book of Zombies (a 2009 rebranded instant-remainder edition of the Robinson/Carroll & Graf 1993 The Mammoth Book of Zombies) features some of the best work dealing with the creatures who are just beginning to commercially cool on the book market, even as the cooling or warmly-rotting undead ghouls themselves are being supplemented by a recent rash of too-similar true-crime stories over the last week or so. This volume, unlike such even earlier anthologies as Bill Pronzini's Voodoo! (please see below), is largely comprised of fiction newly-published in the 1993 edition, by the brilliant likes of Kim Newman and Nicholas Royle, alongside chestnuts (Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar") and otherwise largely inaccessible work (Robert Bloch's fine novella "The Dead Don't Die!", which should always be reprinted with Virgil Finlay's illustrations from its original publication in Fantastic Adventures, which cast Bloch himself in the role of the protagonist).
(I see I am quoted, probably from the librarian-heavy discussion list Fiction-L, without credit along with others at one YALSA database:
"I would point him toward John Skipp and Craig Spector's anthology BOOK OF THE DEAD, which is one of the initial tributes to George Romero-style zombie apocalypses in literature, featuring most of the best writers drawn to that sort of thing...many if not most of those stories were reprinted in the first three anthologies I mention, but BOOK OF THE DEAD and its sequel anthology STILL DEAD are among the best work I've encountered that fits the bill you lay out. The collected works of Karl Edward Wagner would be useful for your patron to investigate, as well, I suspect (and perhaps David Drake's, as well)...and he might be suprised how much he likes Fritz Leiber's CONJURE WIFE...and Robert Bloch's "The Dead Don't Die!" among the other stories collected in Stephen Jones's THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF ZOMBIES...which doesn't overlap completely with Bill Pronzini's anthology VOODOO! (also included in the omnibus editions THE ARBOR HOUSE NECROPOLIS and THE BOOK OF THE DEAD--the latter reprinted by an instant remainder house).
THE ARBOR HOUSE NECROPOLIS and THE BOOK OF THE DEAD (two forms of the same omnibus) were also edited by Bill Pronzini...VOODOO! was collected in them (with two other similar anthologies), as well as being published initially on its own.
CONJURE WIFE by Fritz Leiber is inarguably horror, but not science fiction in any meaningful way. It's even been published, by the opportunistic paperback house Award Books at the height of supermarket gothic craze in the latest '60s/early '70s, as a gothic.
David Drake's historical fantasies are also not science-fictional, but much of his Vietnam War-inspired anti-war HAMMER'S SLAMMERS series are indeed sf. I was thinking of the former more than the latter, particularly his zombie stories set in the Vietnam War era.
Octavia Butler's first novel, KINDRED, is almost inarguably horror/fantasy (a time-travel novel with no rational explanation attempted to explain the involuntary time travel/personality swaps), but most of her other work is indeed science-fictional. I haven't yet read CLAY'S ARK, but I suspect that one would be better in the sf column.")
So...I offer this in lieu of my Millar review, for now...with apologies. Please see Patti Abbott's blog for the list of people who actually got their books read.