Mindwebs:

Oct. 5th, 2012 11:16 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
What Really Caused The Energy Crisis by Paul Nahin

This is a very Analogy tale about the side-effects of technological development, one that I think historians specializing in the timelines of technological development will find ... let's say striking. Went on a bit too long but there's nice example of Male Gaze as carried out by an authority figure early on.


When It Changed by Joanna Russ

I am sure this tale of recontact between a world occupied solely by women and a galactic society that while having the two sexes shows very little evidence that women get much say (despite claims to the contrary) would have been very affecting had I been able to understand more than one word in three over the blaring and intrusive sound track.

And that's every episode of Mindwebs
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
The Liberators by Scott W. Carter

Cities run by giant mechanical brains are bad, even when they try to be good. Happily the technology exists to regrow limbs so the rescued people of the city will be able to walk around when they are sent to the extrasolar colonies for which they seem pretty badly suited.

This city and ones from Strength of Stones should compare notes.


The Night He Cried by Fritz Leiber

My guess is Leiber had read one tough guy PI story too many when he sat down to write this tale of very special first contact. I am compelled to wonder if there's ever been a manga of this.


The Vertical Ladder by William A. Samson

This went on for a bit, just like the ladder. Does not appear to be fantasy or SF.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Beyond The Wall Of Sleep by H.P. Lovecraft

Yeah, so one of things I noticed in this tale of contact with the unimaginable beings of the vast beyond is that sometimes, sometimes when I hear passages like

relapsing into a bovine, half-amiable normality like that of the other hill-dwellers"


I wonder if maybe Lovecraft did regard not all classes and varieties of humanity with equal respect?

For some reason

one of those strange, repellent scions of a primitive colonial peasant stock whose isolation for nearly three centuries in the hilly fastnesses of a little-travelled countryside has caused them to sink to a kind of barbaric degeneracy, rather than advance with their more fortunately placed brethren of the thickly settled districts. Among these odd folk, who correspond exactly to the decadent element of “white trash” in the South, law and morals are non-existent; and their general mental status is probably below that of any other section of the native American people.


was dropped from the Mindwebs version. I wonder why?


Crisis by Edward Grunden

This was a pretty standard First Contact story of its sort, cousin to that one about the Eskimos.


The Builder by Philip K. Dick

This was so memorable that even though I finished listening to it within the hour, I forgot what it was about. An alienated man builds a boat, unsure of its purpose.

One purpose was probably to get away from his wife. Happy supportive marriages and favourable depictions of women were in general not a strong point for Dick's fiction and the voice actor in this manages to make her even more grating than usual.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Available Data On The Worp Reaction by Lion Miller

I've never heard of this one or the author but it seems to have been widely anthologized in its day. Mindwebs seems to have liked its tales of the mentally disadvantaged committing incomprehensible high tech; this is another example of such a story.


Gas Mask by James D. Houston

There's another story about a super traffic jam that ends with the authorities just giving up and paving over the trapped cars and their occupants. This is a different story; sorry about spoiling the end of the other one, whatever it was called. This is about a super traffic jam and the life style adjustments it forces on the participants.


The Show Must Go On by James Causey

Man, androids and theater never ends well and adding jealousy of various sorts, sanctioned violence and involuntary servitude into the mix doesn't seem to help any.

A detail that kind of jumped out at me is that when the third person is brought into the marriage

-

by the way, anyone thinking of dabbling in poly might want to listen to this tale of 'what happens when people in such relationships do not fully discuss the situation' or maybe 'what happens when one of the members of a relationship is a murderously jealous person who cannot see his cunning plan, dependent as it is on the cooperation of someone who just said he hates the jealous person most of all, must end'

-

is referred to as a "companionate marriage', a phrase I first encountered in that unfortunate Heinlein bio a couple of years back.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Sword Game by H H Hollis

There were times during this tale of an extraordinarily self-centered academic and the hygiene-challenged girl he falls for where I worried I was learning too much about the author. He is adept at presenting a total prick, though.

Leaving aside the professor's deplorable personal behavior, the guy invents what amounts to a stasis field and the best use he can think for it is what he does with it? This is like figuring out how to turn things into gold and using that ability to rob banks.


The End by Ursula K. LeGuin

Well, nice to see someone doing something constructive during the supposed apocalypse.

The sad thing about this is the bricklayer had all the materials he needed for a boat but not the skills to see that he had all the materials he needed for a boat. They had leather and sufficient wood for a frame. If the woodlike material was unsuitable, he could also have tried bone. I am guessing nobody on this island kayaks.


Eurema's Dam by R A Lafferty

I don't think I'd call a guy who can invent all the things this guy can "a dolt." It was a different time. Also, it was Lafferty.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
En Passant by Britt Schweitzer and Dreamworld by Isaac Asimov

I know absolutely nothing about Britt Schweitzer but this story of a man struggling to deal with a sudden physical disability was amusing. The Asimov, very short and still far too long, was less amusing.

The Schweitzer is from New Worlds of Fantasy #2. I think Mindwebs drew from the same collection once before, for The Petrified World.



The Bible After Apocolypse by Laurence Janifer

Well, clearly my previous experience of Janifer's fiction led me to have very misleading expectations for this tale of a cognitively unusual man and invading alien lobsters. That said, my favourite story about New York, alien lobsters, and drugs is and will be this one:

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Letter To a Phoenix by Fredric Brown

This might be Brown's second or third best known story, a long lived but not immortal man's discourse on the one immortal being he knows of.

He's kind of a creep, the sort who uses long life to marry an endless succession of teenaged girls so he can abandon them later on....

Spoilers below the cut.


The Gun Without A Bang by Robert Sheckley

Another Sheckley, another tale of a can't miss idea going horribly wrong. I am pretty sure one of the Trek authors made reference to this story, complaining that phasers don't command the same respect guns do, due to the lack of noise and fuss when you fire them.

At least the protagonist thought of the obvious way out of the pit he dug.

Read more... )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I regret not including authors' names before this but not so much that I am going to go back and add them.

Young Girl At An Open Half Door by Frederick Saberhagen

This is a variation on a kind of salvage archaeology seen in SF, where the archaeologists use a time machine and the disaster, whatever it is, is in our future. I'll excuse the protagonist for acting like a daffy loon since he was drugged but why would a woman of the future fall for him? Serious question as the sound quality on this was such that I could not make out what she was saying.



The Language Of Love by Robert Sheckley

It's pretty obvious that our young academic's quest to master love is going to go horribly wrong from the start, particularly since the race whose language of love he wants to master died out and that certainly cannot help but be relevant to the plot. The question is how will it go wrong?

When you read the bits about him mastering physical love, try not to dwell on the fact that the only other person on the planet is a nearly-toothless old man.

Desertion by Clifford D. Simak

Apparently I've mispronouncing Simak's name for 41 years*. This is from a series of stories that were collected under the title City, whose running theme is "good intentions, horrible outcomes". In fact, this particular story of transformation and exploration is an important step towards the almost complete extinction of humanity and its replacement by robots, intelligent dogs and much later, the Ants. The dogs and the robots are nice enough that it does not seem like such a tragedy.

What I wondered during this was at what point did our perception of Jupiter move away from it having some kind of solid surface?


* "Trouble with Tycho", which was included in the Ace Science Fiction Reader with "Empire Star", the first Samuel R. Delaney I ever read, and "The Last Castle", the first Jack Vance I ever read.

For the record, I don't actually remember the name of the first woman I dated in university, although at one point I did know it. Come to think of it, technically she never actually dumped me [1] so it's kind of rude I cannot for the life of me remember her name. Had an L in it, I think.


1: She used what I call the Opossum Method, which is to just stop responding to any communication and hope I'll take the hint.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Look Homeward, Spaceman

This is a Robert Silverberg, from early in his career when he was a prolific author of pulp SF. This is about a young man home from the stars and I have to say the bit that caught my ear was "Natives on Deneb. They resisted our attempts to trade and we showed them," followed by a description of a brutal battle. I assume this was "trade" like the Shinmiyangyo was "diplomatic outreach."

I do have a question down below the cut.

Nackels

"Curt Clark" is one of Donald E. Westlake's pen names. Aside from the theological speculations, there's nothing in this jolly tale of parental abuse that's hard to believe.

Read more... )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Apple

I like how early on the author makes it clear their central thesis is "screw plausibility!" and soldier on with their tale of a hired killer and his deadly battle with a moth inside a giant apple.

The author seemed obsessed with putrefaction.


Restricted Area

In a lot of Robert Sheckley's stories, the space men do not do anything like due diligence when landing on strange worlds or accepting poorly documented cargoes. In this one they at least try to figure out what is up with the odd world they are on.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
The Metal Man

I was going to call this an early Jack Williamson story but I see it is in fact the early Jack Williamson story, his first sale. Williamson's style in this tale of horrific transformation is very different from the approach he took later on in his long, long career.

(You know, surprisingly little of Williamson's work is on Gutenberg. Is it still under copyright?)


Knock

Ah, this story again. The aliens who have conquered Earth and slaughtered humans down to the last pair are still idiots and I don't like this version as much as X Minus One's.



Kellerman's Eye Piece

The term I needed the last time one of these went by is "epistolary". In this example, we once again taken to the customer relations department of a company, this time a telescope company. It works out a little better for this customer than it did for the previous one but the previous was executed so that's not saying much.

That's some classic Broken English there part way through.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Wasted On The Young

Was John Brunner getting an extra fifty bucks every time he dropped in bombastic references to The Race? That's The Race in the sense of Man!, not some white versus black thing. Also, that's Man! in the sense of men; women seem to exist only to supply a convenient moist warm tightness.

The economic stuff reminded me a little of Pohl's rather imbecilic "The Midas Plague", where to solve the problems of unbraked productivity the lower orders are compelled to consume beyond reason, but what it reminds me of even more is Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s "Crucifixus Etiam", where the surplus productivity is sunk into the terraforming of Mars.

In the end, this is less about Man's Great Destiny and more about kicking a lazy kid off the couch and out into the streets to get a job. Even though in most cases getting the kids to work just makes the productivity issue worse.


Evergreen Library

Uh, yeah. Not in a meta mood tonight so this tale of a man who really got into books was not what I was looking for.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Or All The Seas With Oysters

I read this in The Hugo Winners, Volumes One and Two in the 1972 SFBC edition and although it has been ohgodohgodohgodohgod about 40 years since I read it, I remembered most of this tale of zoological revelation as soon as the narrator began talking. A question below the spoiler protection cut.


Light Of Other Days

Ah, and Bob Shaw's Slow glass was described, if I recall correctly, as one of the few original ideas Campbell saw in his last years at Analog. Slow glass is a material through which light passes very, very, very slowly, with the result that light entering one side of even a thin sheet of slow glass might not emerge from the other side for weeks, months or even years. Shaw got enough stories out of this to fill a short collection.

As I recall from Shaw stories, happy marriages are not common and marriages that are not miserable are often plagued with sudden death or injury; this really is not an exception to that rule. In fact in general Shaw was not the go-to guy for happy SF, which means the fact that the first book by him was his comedy Who Goes Here left me with very inappropriate expectations when I picked up Wreath of Stars.

One point I don't think Shaw ever grasped was the amount of energy a piece of slow glass might store in it. A sheet of slow glass out in the open might average 200 W/m^2 of sunlight over all: every day 1 m^2 sucks up 17 megajoules and in one year 6.3 gigajoules or about the energy contained in about a ton and a half of TNT. I don't think that character would have been blinded. I think they would have been incinerated.

Spoilery question about "Or All The Seas With Oysters"

Read more... )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Weep No More, Old Lady

I wonder if the hit and miss approach whoever assembled this archive takes to titles is related to the poor quality of some of the files.

There's a long tradition in SF of stories about angry, alienated geniuses; this would be an example of that sub-genre . The ur-example authors might want to look at before doing their particular version of the angry, alienated genius story is Judgment Day by L. Sprague de Camp, which compacts enough bitterness into its narrative to fuel a thousand Felicia Day Geeks Rule Jocks Drool music videos..


If you're revisiting a popular sub-genre like this one you have to find some way to make it your own. How Grant managed that was the twist about was the purpose of the research, which (spoiler) Read more... )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
The Hell Bound Train

Ah, a classic deal with the devil story from Robert Bloch. Generally these are either how the guy gets out of the deal or how he does not get out of the deal. This one's resolution might need an asterisk in the devil's logbook.

So, you think Kirby Winter's uncle made a similar but not identical deal?
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Affair With A Green Monkey

The thing about Theodore Sturgeon, the author who wrote this, is that I am sure the reason kindly doctor Fritz comes across as a pompous jackass is because Sturgeon fully intended him to come across as a pompous jackass.

I would have sworn I had never read this but there are bits in it, like wha tthe significance of the green monkey is or the IQ of a mob, that are very familiar. Either I read it or other authors swiped stuff for their stories.


Helen O'Loy

Del Rey may be better known for having made it possible for shelves to have been crowded with half-rate Tolkien knock-offs but at one time he was a reasonably respected author in his own right (I have a half-memory he got hammered by writer's block). This is one of his best known stories.

With any other authors I'd make a crack about him not dating much but actually del Rey was married four times and at least three ended in tragedy; two wives died in car crashes and one, editor Judy-Lynn del Rey, died some months after suffering a brain hemorrhage. This would have been written a few years after del Rey's first wife died in a car crash. So, no stranger to romance or bereavement.

It's still kind of a horrible, sentimental story. Well, the bar was lower back then.

There were two details that caught my ear: one is the bit near the beginning where we learn the technology exists to medically end infatuation and love with "counter-hormones" and in at least some cases people can order this carried out on other people and professional doctors will carry that out. That's pretty creepy and worth a story in itself.

(when he cures the kids does he say "collected on a line" or "on a lie"? It sounds like line)
However Read more... )
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Rebel

This tale of youthful rebellion *with a twist* would have been more acceptable as a single page cartoon in, say, the New Yorker circa 1965.

The voice of the rebellious teen was very familiar sounding.

Great Slow Kings & Earthmen Bearing Gifts

Hey, I should have held off on that Zelazny question; here's one about some very deliberate co-rulers. The weird thing is I just ran into a mention of Great Slow Kings in the last couple of days.

Earthmen Bearing Gifts: predictable but short. Spot the moment when you can be really sure Brown never bothered to fact check this one.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Phoenix

I am going to be honest here: I don't have much idea what this story is about, although I know super-psi powers figure into it, because god it was so boring. Instead I will try to draw attention away from my shortcomings as a listener by asking "Should an editor do what Ted White did in The Best from Amazing Stories and pick a story he himself co-authored?"

I see from ISFDB this was part of a series. Golly.

Saucer Of Loneliness

Interesting this tale of an emo space saucer and the woman whose life it ruined got tapped for adaptation by two different radio shows.

I liked the bit with the crowd....
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Have there been any Roger Zelazny stories so far in Mindwebs? I'd expect at least A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Wasn't he very popular in the 1970s?

Profile

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
james_davis_nicoll

March 2017

S M T W T F S
    1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 2728293031 

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Mar. 28th, 2017 06:06 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios