The Golden Age of Science Fiction (Kindle Edition)

All of my posts on SF books up until now have been on “real” books, the paper, printed kind. Which is fine and dandy, as I have a massive collection of books. But back in 2012, I bought myself an Amazon Kindle e-reader (3rd gen), and since then, I’ve been reading more and more SF in electronic format.

Despite being a computer user since the mid-1980s, I’ve always been a bit slow keeping up with the newest technologies (I still don’t have a smartphone, and can’t be bothered with them, to be honest). I’ve been the same with e-readers. I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to books, almost always preferring the actual physical book to a bunch of pixels on a computer monitor. That’s the book collector side of me showing his face. But, as a mere reader, as opposed to a collector, I spend a lot more time actually reading books on my Kindle these days. The computer is on virtually from when I wake up until I go to sleep, so, in many ways, I actually now find it easier (or at least AS easy) to read on a Kindle or computer monitor than I do reading from a book.

It seems that I’ve been split into two personas – the obsessive book collector, who will always prefer “real”, physical books, and the reader, who likes a quick, dirty read on his Kindle. It’s much easier to carry hundreds of books around on a Kindle, and it certainly is a huge space-saver, not having to clutter up the house with yet more paperbacks (I’ve long ago run out of space, and my home is already totally cluttered up with paperbacks), and the Kindle certainly seems to have replaced the mass market paperback for me, leaving the buying of physical, print books mostly in hardback or trade paperback for more collectible books or my favourite authors.

Since I bought my Kindle four years ago, I’ve been buying huge numbers of cheap Kindle author collections and anthologies of vintage and classic SF. So I reckon that it’s long past time that I start listing and recommending a few of these ebooks, in addition to the print books I’ve been collecting. I’m going to start off with a series called The Golden Age of Science Fiction – I’ve found fifteen volumes so far on Amazon, although there may be more. Here’s a listing of the fifteen volumes and their contents:

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume I

They Twinkled Like Jewels, by Philip Jose Farmer
This Crowded Earth, by Robert Bloch
Time and Time Again, by H. Beam Piper
Time Enough At Last, by Lynn Venable
Toy Shop, by Harry Harrison
Two Timer, by Frederic Brown
Watchbird, by Robert Sheckley
Year of the Big Thaw, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Sensitive Man, by Poul Anderson
The Skull, by Philip K. Dick

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume II

Warrior Race, by Robert Sheckley
Advanced Chemistry, by Jack Huekels
Spacewrecked on Venus, by Neil R. Jones
The Martian, by A.R. Hilliard and Allen Glasser
The Velvet Glove, by Harry Harrison
Gambler’s World, by Keith Laumer
Invasion, by Murray Leinster
The Knights of Arthur, by Frederik Pohl
The Missing Link, by Frank Herbert
Sand Doom, by Murray Leinster

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume III

The Silver Menace, by Murray Leinster
The Birds of Lorrane, by Bill Doede
Half Past Alligator, by Donald Colvin
The Weather on Mercury, by William Morrison
Today is Forever, by Roger Dee
Education of a Martian, by Joseph Shallit
Earthbound, by Lester del Rey
Not Fit for Children, by Evelyn Smith

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume IV

A Gleeb for Earth, by Charles Shafhauser
The Highest Mountain, by Bryce Walton
Soldier Boy, by Michael Shaara
Tea Tray in the Sky, by Evelyn Smith
Alien Minds, by E. Everett Evans
Proof of the Pudding, by Robert Sheckley
Green Grew the Lasses, by Ruth Wainwright

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume V

The Moons of Mars, by Dean Evans
Orphans of the Void, by Michael Shaara
The Luckiest Man in Denv, by Simon Eisner
The Awakening, by Jack Sharkey
A City Near Centaurus, by Bill Doede
How to Make Friends, by Jim Harmon
A Bad Day for Sales, by Fritz Leiber
Bimmie Says, by Sydney van Scyoc
Shipping Clerk, by William Morrison

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VI

Proof of the Pudding, by Robert Sheckley
Green Grew the Lasses, by Ruth Wainwright
The Luckiest Man in Denv, by Simon Eisner
The Awakening, by Jack Sharkey
Orphans of the Void, by Michael Shaara
The Moons of Mars, by Dean Evans
A Bad Day for Sales, by Fritz Leiber
How to Make Friends, by Jim Harmon
A City Near Centaurus, by Bill Doede
Bimmie Says, by Sydney van Scyoc
Shipping Clerk, by William Morrison

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VII

The Highest Mountain, by Bryce Walton
A Gleeb for Earth, by Charles Shafhauser
Not Fit for Children, by Evelyn Smith
The Barbarians, by John Sentry
He Walked Around the Horses, by H. Beam Piper
Last Enemy, by H. Beam Piper
Assassin, by J.F. Bone

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume VIII

Sjambak, by Jack Vance
One Man’s Poison, by Robert Sheckley
Earthmen Bearing Gifts, by Frederic Brown
The Leech, by Phillips Barbee
The Day of the Boomer Dukes, by Frederik Pohl
No Strings Attached, by Lester del Rey
Keep Your Shape, by Robert Sheckley
The Machine that Saved the World, by Murray Leinster

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume IX

The Protector, by Betsy Curtis
Jaywalker, by Ross Rocklynne
Picture Bride, by William Morrison
Two Weeks in August, by Frank Robinson
Queen of the Flaming Diamond, by Leroy Yerxa
No Shield from the Dead, by Gordon Dickson
Fair and Warmer, by E.G. von Wald
Human Error, by Raymond Jones
Oogie Finds Love, by Berkeley Livingston
The Prophetic Camera, by John McGeevey
Sinister Paradise, by Robert Moore Williams

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume X

Yesterday House, by Fritz Leiber
Wailing Wall, by Roger Dee
The Valor of Cappen Varra, by Poul Anderson
The Thing in the Attic, by James Blish
The Street that Wasn’t There, by Clifford Simak
The Snare, by Richard Smith
The Repairman, by Harry Harrison
The Bluff of the Hawk, by Anthony Gilmore
The Problem Makers, by Robert Hoskins

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XI

Bodyguard, by Christopher Grimm
Med Ship Man, by Murray Leinster
The Judas Valley, by Gerald Vance
The Misplaced Battleship, by Harry Harrison
Piper in the Woods, by Philip K. Dick
The Happy Unfortunate, by Robert Silverberg
Genesis, by H. Beam Piper

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XII

Once a Greech, by Evelyn E. Smith
Pandemic, by J.F. Bone
My Fair Planet, by Evelyn E. Smith
Sorry: Wrong Dimension, by Ross Rocklynne
Junior, by Robert Abernathy
Song in a Minor Key, by C.L. Moore
The Right Time, by Walter Bupp
The Man Who Saw the Future, by Edmond Hamilton
Citadel, by Algis Budrys
The Doorway, by Evelyn E. Smith
To Remember Charlie By, by Roger Dee
The Last Place on Earth, by Jim Harmon
Do Unto Others, by Mark Clifton

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XIII

Death Wish, by Ned Lang
Assignment’s End, by Roger Dee
Double or Nothing, by Jack Sharkey
The Victor, by Bryce Walton
The Nostalgia Gene, by Roy Hutchins
Garrity’s Annuities, by David Mason
The Freelancer, by Robert Zacks
My Lady Selene, by Magnus Ludens
The Great Nebraska Sea, by Allan Danzig
On the Fourth Planet, by J.F. Bone
$1,000 A Plate, by Jack McKenty
Sweet Tooth, by Robert F. Young
Hot Planet, by Hal Clement

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XIV

Problem on Balak, by Roger Dee
Star, Bright, by Mark Clifton
Man in a Sewing Machine, by L.J. Stecher
Point of Departure, by Vaughan Shelton
Of All Possible Worlds, by William Tenn
End as a World, by F.L. Wallace
Arm of the Law, by Harry Harrison
Subspace Survivors, by Edward E. Smith
Prison Of A Billion Years, by C.H. Thames
The Nothing Equation, by Tom Godwin

The Golden Age of Science Fiction – Volume XV

Project Mastodon, by Clifford Simak
The Holes Around Mars, by Jerome Bixby
Big Ancestor, by F.L. Wallace
Jack of No Trades, by Evelyn E. Smith
The Piebald Hippogriff, by Karen Anderson
Shipwreck in the Sky, by Eando Binder
Sentiment, Inc., by Poul Anderson
Postmark Ganymede, by Robert Silverberg
The Next Logical Step, by Ben Bova
Tedric, by E.E. Smith

Sci-Fi Cinema vs Sci-Fi TV – The Verdict?

I rarely go to the cinema any more, if at all. The last film that I went to see was The Avengers, four years ago in 2012. Before that, it was X-Men: First Class in 2011, Avatar and Star Trek, way back in 2009, and The Dark Knight, in 2008. All in all, I think I’ve been to the cinema no more than a half dozen times since my son died, back in April 2006.

Why? For starters, the cost. Going to the cinema is an expensive pursuit these days, and the cost of admission alone isn’t much less than the price of a DVD. Then on top of that, you have to factor in the transport costs to and from the cinema, plus paying out for something nice to eat afterwards or during the film. It can make for a costly night out, and it just might be cheaper to go to the pub instead.

So is it worth paying that kind of money just to watch a film, particularly when the chances of being badly disappointed by any new Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster are unfortunately extremely high? The quality of the typical big Hollywood sci-fi movie over the past couple of decades has been absolutely dire, especially when we look back at how good the classic sci-fi films of the 1950s-1980s were by comparison. I don’t even bother going to see most films at the cinema at all these days, no matter how much they’re hyped. I simply prefer to wait for the DVD to come out and watch the film in the comfort of my own home. The fact is that, for me, the cinema is no longer the essential large viewing experience that it once was.

In years past, if I wanted to watch the film on a large screen, I HAD to go to the cinema. Now I have a lovely big widescreen TV at home, I can buy the DVD when it comes out, and watch it as often as I like (with subtitles, pause, rewind, etc) in the comfort of my own home, either alone, or with friends. So Why bother forking out a load of cash to go to the cinema, where there are all kinds of annoyances (mobile phones flashing non-stop throughout the film, disruptive cretins yapping incessantly and misbehaving, annoying kids kicking the back of your seat, people walking up and down the isles or back and forth in front of you during the film, the inevitable sore backside sitting on those crappy cinema seats, which makes the last hour or so VERY uncomfortable during longer films, etc), when, for a less than £20, I can have the DVD, a few cans of beer (a pleasant bonus when viewing at home, but strictly verboten in cinemas), and lie back on the sofa and enjoy the film on my BIG television in comfort and in peace and quiet?

But the most important reason? It’s illustrated by a remark made by friend and fellow member (Dennis Howard) over on the FanCentral social network a few years ago. He said (in words to this effect) that he rarely watches (modern) sci-fi films any more, because he’s very rarely impressed by them, and because all of the best sci-fi is happening on television anyway, not in film. It’s a spot-on observation, in my opinion, and one that I agree with very strongly. There’s only so much you can squeeze into a two-hour film, and when you consider that most modern Hollywood sci-fi movies are mostly made up of action sequences, big explosions and special effects, it doesn’t leave much time for anything else. As a result, two of the most important things that should be paramount, but tend to suffer badly in newer Hollywood movies, are the actual stories/plots and character development. I almost always walk away from the cinema afterwards feeling dissatisfied about those two aspects of a film.

This is where television has cinema beaten hands down. Old-style sci-fi television was strictly episodic in nature, with a built-in reset button at the end of every episode. But Babylon 5 changed all that back in the 90s, and today, most decent modern sci-fi series can have intricate on-going plot arcs and sub-plots that simply are not possible in a two-hour film, and the same holds true for the ongoing character development of both the main and the supporting cast. Add to this the fact that modern special effects on TV have reached such a high level of technical quality and sophistication that television sci-fi no longer looks cheap and cheesy, and we can see that most decent sci-fi concepts would be better served in a television series than in a film. Hey, even if the series gets cancelled after one or two seasons (an ever-present danger with the TV networks), we still get a LOT more than we ever would from a two-hour movie.

Sure, I still buy the best of the films on DVD, although they do tend to be older sci-fi cinema classics rather than modern films. But these past couple of years, I’ve turned more and more to television shows, and taken to buying DVD boxsets of classic and modern sci-fi series. I started off with buying classic older series such as Doctor Who, Sapphire and Steel, UFO, The Tomorrow People, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Time Tunnel, Timeslip, Children of the Stones, Sky, Quatermass, The Invaders, Fireball XL5, Space Patrol, Moonbase 3, Babylon 5, the X-Files, Stargate SG1/Atlantis/Universe, Quantum Leap, and Star Trek TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT. But I’ve also been grabbing boxsets of more modern series as they’ve come down in price – Fringe, BSG, Heroes, Smallville, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, NuWho and a few others. I just wait patiently for new stuff to be released on DVD at reasonable prices, and buy them.

I’ve pretty much adopted the same policy as Dennis, to concentrate mostly on sci-fi television series, but take that further to such an extent that my objective has become one of grabbing as many classic sci-fi television series as I possibly can on DVD. Aside from having all these old gems to watch, it also gives me a lot more to talk about here on my blog, on FanCentral, and in any of the other geek forums that I hang out in. Which can only be a good thing, if I do say so myself.🙂

One Small Step for a Man…

On this day in 1969, humans set foot on another world for the very first time. Six and a half hours after landing on the lunar surface, astronaut Neil Armstrong emerged from the Lunar Lander Eagle and climbed down the ladder to take his first steps on the surface of the Moon, with the immortal declaration “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. He was joined about twenty minutes later by co-pilot Buzz Aldrin.

I remember watching this on television as a young child of eight years of age. It was very early in the morning, (UK/Irish time), almost 3am, and my Dad had dragged me out of bed, bleary-eyed, to see the great event as it happened. I stood there, mouth wide open in amazement, watching the images on our old black and white television. Armstrong climbing down the steps, Aldrin joining him, the two astronauts, with their languid, almost slow-motion bouncing around on the lunar surface, planting the US flag, and collecting rock samples and other material to take back to Earth. Even at that early age, I was a hardcore space freak, and I fully understood that this was a most momentous, unforgettable event in human history. It is still one of the greatest memories from my childhood.

I know how memory can cheat, especially from so long ago, and at such an early age. It seems in my ancient memories as though they were out on the surface of the Moon for hours and hours, bouncing around and having fun, and that the Eagle was on the lunar surface for days. But they actually spent less than two and a half hours outside before climbing back aboard Eagle, and less than a day on the lunar surface before Eagle lifted off to rendezvous with the Command Module Columbia and Michael Collins, high above in lunar orbit.

The rest is history. The return to Earth, the splashdown, the triumphant celebrations. It seemed like the solar system was just waiting for us, and that we would be on the Moon, Mars and beyond before the end of the twentieth century. So what happened? Why did the Apollo programme peter out and manned space exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit end?

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Public apathy combined with corrupt, greedy, disinterested politicians who saw no more votes or money in funding manned spaceflight to the planets. But what a pathetic, lame excuse to bring such a premature end to mankind’s colonisation of space. We should be out there now, at least as far as the Asteroid Belt.

Hey, maybe in an alternate timeline we did it all. It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?🙂

The Eagle Has Landed – 47 Years Ago Today

It’s been a busy week for space anniversaries. Yesterday was “Mars Day”, the 40th Anniversary of the landing of the Viking 1 lander on the surface of Mars, so I guess we could call today “Moon Day”, with the 47th Anniversary of the first manned landing on the Moon.

On the morning of 16th July, the Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 11 and its crew lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the first manned mission to take off with the mission of actually landing on the lunar surface, rather than just orbiting it. On the evening of 20th July, 1969, the climax of the Apollo 11 mission approached, as the Lunar Lander Eagle detached from the Command Module Columbia and descended down towards the lunar surface with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board (with Michael Collins remaining above in the Command Module).

Armstrong’s famous words “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” heralded the landing of the Eagle on the lunar surface. It would be another six hours, early on the morning of June 21st, before Neil Armstrong was to take his very first steps on the Moon, to be joined twenty minutes later by Buzz Aldrin.

The first landing by humans on another world. One of the greatest moments in human history, in my opinion. So when are we going back, again, for good this time?

Golden Age Comics Characters: Captain Marvel

Whiz Comics 002
Captain Marvel first appeared back in February 1940, in the classic Golden Age comic Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett Comics. The Captain Marvel character was created by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker, and was the most popular superhero character of the 1940s (going by sales alone).

The character may seem quaint by modern standards, but he was hugely popular in the 1940s, a much simpler, more innocent era (at least when it comes to comics). Thirteen year-old newsboy Billy Batson is given incredible powers by an old wizard, and whenever he says the magic word Shazam! he is struck by a bolt of lightning, transforming him into Captain Marvel (saying Shazam! again changes him back into Billy Batson). Shazam! is an acronym for the first letter of each name of the six gods and legendary heroes from whom Captain Marvel gets his powers – the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the invulnerability of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. That’s quite a powerful mix!

Captain Marvel later acquired two super-powered sidekicks, Captain Marvel Jr and Mary Marvel, the three being known collectively as The Marvel Family. There were also later additions, both human and animal, all non-super powered. And there was also a retinue of nasty villains – Black Adam, an evil Captain Marvel analogue, Captain Nazi, Adolf Hitler’s champion, mad scientist Doctor Sivana, and, worst of all, Mister Mind and his Monster Society of Evil, which provided his longest running and most deadly adversaries.

Captain Marvel continued in Whiz Comics until #155 (June 1953), when the strip was forced to stop publication due to legal action initiated by National Comics, now DC Comics, who claimed that the character was too similar to Superman. That may have been technically true, but the lawsuit was quite cheeky and, in my opinion, ridiculous, as Superman himself was a blatant copy of earlier heroes such as Hercules, Samson, and even the character Gladiator, created by science fiction writer Philip Wylie in 1930, less than a decade before the creation of Superman. The influence of the Gladiator character on Siegal and Schuster in their creation of Superman is well known. After a couple of legal decisions in favour of, firstly, Fawcett, and then DC, Fawcett Publications finally settled out of court, Fawcett Comics ceased operating and stopped publishing all of their superhero comics, including the entire Captain Marvel stable of characters from 1953 onwards.

This legal nonsense was quite obviously an opportunistic act by National/DC to snuff out a more successful competitor, a perfect example of a large company using its greater legal muscle to bully a much smaller company into submission. More than any supposed legal objections, the major motivating factor in DC taking legal action against Fawcett was almost certainly financial, because Captain Marvel had been consistently outselling Superman and DC’s other titles by a considerable margin during that era.

I find it ironic that, in a nation which supposedly prizes competition, big companies prefer to use legal muscle to put dangerous competitors out of business, rather than take the more moral and logical route of trying to out-compete their adversaries in the marketplace. Even more ironic is that DC licensed the Captain Marvel stable of characters from Fawcett in 1972, and bought the rights to the characters outright from Fawcett Publications in 1980. As most DC comics fans are aware, Captain Marvel and Fawcett’s other characters live on to this day, and are now integrated into the DC Universe.

Some of the best battles in the DC Universe have featured Superman vs Captain Marvel, as both characters are so similar and equal in strength, one born of science and the other born of magic. There aren’t many characters in DC’s stable who can fight Superman to a standstill, but the Big Red Cheese is one of them!

Some Cordwainer Smith Books (Part 2)

Last time out, I was talking about receiving my first batch of Cordwainer Smith books in the post, and that I was waiting for another batch. Well, the second batch has now arrived, three books. Actually, two separate books, and an extra copy of one of them.

The two books are We The Underpeople and When The People Fell, both published by Baen Books. The reason that I have an extra copy of one of them is simple: I ordered both books and didn’t realise that they were different editions, different sizes. The original Baen 2007 edition was a trade paperback, and the 2012 edition was a much smaller mass market paperback, so they don’t go together too well on the bookshelf. I’d mistakenly ordered one of each, so I had to rectify my mistake, and immediately ordered a copy of the 2007 trade paperback edition of When The People Fell. The smaller mass market paperback edition will serve as a reading copy, while the two trade paperbacks go on the bookshelves. Extra copies never go to waste.🙂

The good news for hardcore Cordwainer Smith fans, or those just wanting to try him out, is that these two books contain ALL of the science fiction writing of this great author. There’s no need to track down any of his other books, unless you’re one of those OCD obsessives (like myself), who has to have all the different editions, with the different introductions and different covers.

We The Underpeople contains not only an excellent Introduction by Robert Silverberg, but also Smith’s only SF novel, NORSTRILIA, and five of his best short stories. When The People Fell contains an equally excellent Introduction by Frederik Pohl, the remaining twenty-two stories in his Instrumentality of Mankind future history sequence, plus six non-Instrumentality stories.

That’s all of Cordwainer Smith’s SF stories in two books. Awesome, truly awesome. And required reading for anyone who considers themselves true, hardcore SF fans. All I can say is: Go get ’em!

Some Cordwainer Smith Books

I’m back on a book binge at the moment, all sorts of books from Amazon, Ebay and other sources. From the SF lit side of things, I’ve been concentrating on one of my favourite authors, Cordwainer Smith, and the first batch of four Smith books has recently arrived on my doorstep.

The first of the Smith books is the original 1968 Pyramid Books paperback edition of The Underpeople, which is the second half of Smith’s only SF novel, NORSTRILIA. The first half was The Planet Buyer, which I already have in it’s original Pyramid 1964 paperback edition. I’ve had the Sphere Books 1975 UK paperback edition of The Underpeople for years, but I wanted the original US Pyramid edition to go with my US original edition of The Planet Buyer.

The other three books are interesting in that they are three different editions of the same book, namely The Best of Cordwainer Smith. First we have the July 1975 hardcover Book Club Edition edition, published by Nelson Doubleday Inc, then the September 1975 Ballantine Books 1st paperback edition. Aside from the larger size and different dustcover art of the hardcover edition, everything is exactly the same, except for a couple of things. Two of the stories are reversed in order for some inexplicable reason, and J.J. Pierce’s excellent Future History Timeline is in a much easier to read vertical format in the hardcover, whereas in the paperback edition it’s in a harder to read horizontal format spanning several levels.

The third version of the book is actually a UK edition, trade paperback format, No.10 in the SF Masterworks series, published by Gollancz/Orion. Aside from the larger size and beautiful cover art, the internals of this edition are exactly the same as the Ballantine 1st US paperback edition, including the horizontal format Future History Timeline. This one is worth having for the lovely cover artwork and the fact that it’s one of the SF Masterworks series.

I’ve still got several more Cordwainer Smith books due to arrive soon in the post. I’ll list those when they arrive.