Author Archives: george


Back in 1952, Everett F. Bleiler and T.E. Dikty decided their yearly anthology of YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES wasn’t including some of best stories because of their length. Their solution was to edit a companion volume titled YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS: 1952. What Bleiler and Dikty call “novels” we today would call “novellas.” These stories are about 70 pages long. Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “Izzard and the Membrane” is a typical Cold War story where an American cyberneticist is tricked into helping the Soviets in World War III attack on America directed by an intelligent computer (we would call this Artificial Intelligence). Eric Frank Russell’s famous “…And Then There Were None” presents the dilemma of Freedom. “Flight to Forever” is one of Poul Anderson’s patented Time Travel stories. My favorite story in this anthology is another Cold War story, “The Hunting Season” by Frank M. Robinson. A totalitarian society punishes dissent by allowing “citizens” to hunt down dissidents and kill them. Arthur C. Clarke’s “Seeker of the Sphinx” explores the results of a lack of Progress in the Future. All in all, this is an entertaining collection of novellas. GRADE: A-
Introduction, by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty 9
“Izzard and the Membrane”, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Astounding Science Fiction) 17
“…And Then There Were None”, by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction) 81
“Flight to Forever”, by Poul Anderson (Super Science Stories) 165
“The Hunting Season”, by Frank M. Robinson (Astounding Science Fiction) 225
“Seeker of the Sphinx”, by Arthur C. Clarke (Two Complete Science-Adventures) 295

YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1952 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty

I was struck by the fact that none of these “Best” stories came from Astounding Science Fiction. This breaks a string of Astounding stories from 1949, 1950, and 1951 that were included in Bleiler & Dikty’s previous YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION volumes. Also, various “new” SF magazines like Worlds Beyond and New Worlds are now represented. By 1951, the SF publishing landscape was changing. This volume includes C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” about a future when the average IQ is 45. Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds shocked the SF field with their “Dark Interlude.” Time travel plays a role in several of these stories. My favorite is “Of Time and Third Avenue” by Alfred Bester with its clever ending. Anthony Boucher’s fabulous “Nine-Finger Jack” shows how to defeat a Venusian invasion. Jack Vance’s “Men of Ten Books” explores the positives and negatives of motivation on a societal level. GRADE: A
Introduction (The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952) – (1952) – essay by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty 7
The Other Side – (1951) – shortstory by Walter Kubilius (SUPER SCIENCE STORIES, April 1951) 21
Of Time and Third Avenue – (1951) – shortstory by Alfred Bester (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1951) 38
The Marching Morons – (1951) – novelette by C. M. Kornbluth [as by Cyril Kornbluth] (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1951) 47
A Peculiar People – (1951) – shortstory by Betsy Curtis (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1951) 81
Extending the Holdings – (1951) – shortstory by Donald A. Wollheim [as by David Grinnell] (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1951) 97
The Tourist Trade – (1951) – shortstory by Wilson Tucker (Worlds Beyond, January 1951) 102
The Two Shadows – (1951) – novelette by William F. Temple (Startling Stories, March 1951) 113
Balance – [Max Larkin] – (1951) – shortstory by John Christopher (New Worlds, Spring 1951) 140
Brightness Falls from the Air – (1951) – shortstory by Margaret St. Clair [as by Idris Seabright] (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1951) 159
Witch War – (1951) – shortstory by Richard Matheson (Startling Stories, July 1951) 166
At No Extra Cost – (1951) – shortstory by Peter Phillips (Marvel Science Stories, August 1951) 172
Nine-Finger Jack – (1951) – shortstory by Anthony Boucher (Esquire, May 1951) 190
Appointment in Tomorrow – (1951) – novelette by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951) 196
The Rats – (1951) – shortstory by Arthur Porges (Man’s World, February 1951) 225
Men of the Ten Books – (1951) – shortstory by Jack Vance (variant of The Ten Books) (Startling Stories, March 1951) 235
Generation of Noah – (1951) – shortstory by William Tenn (Suspense, Spring 1951) 258
Dark Interlude – (1951) – shortstory by Fredric Brown and Mack Reynolds (Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1951) 271
The Pedestrian – (1951) – shortstory by Ray Bradbury (The Reporter, August 7, 1951) 280
About the Authors (The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952) – (1952) – essay by uncredited 286

WRITING SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY Edited by Gardner Dozois, Tina Lee, Stanley Schmidt, Ian Randal Stock, and Sheila Williams

One of the books I considered for my Gardner Dozois tribute last week was this writing guide from 1991 from “The Editors of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and Analog.” Of course, some of these essays are dated but Gardner Dozois’s “Living in the Future: You are What You Eat” is still relevant. My favorite essay is Connie Willis’s “Learning to Write Comedy, or, Why It’s Impossible and How to Do It.” Willis discusses plenty of comic writers and shows how they work their magic. If you’re interested in reading about what editors in the early 1990s were interested in buying, this is the book for you. GRADE: B
Introduction 1
On the writing of speculative fiction / Robert A. Heinlein — 5
Living the future : you are what you eat / Gardner Dozois — 12
Plotting / Isaac Asimov — 28
Dialog / Isaac Asimov — 33
You and your characters / James Patrick Kelly — 38
Seeing your way to better stories / Stanley Schmidt — 50
Turtles all the way down / Jane Yolen — 62
Learning to write comedy, or, Why it’s impossible and how to do it / Connie Willis — 76
Good writing is not enough / Stanley Schmidt — 91
The creation of imaginary world : the world builder’s handbook and pocket companion / Poul Anderson — 105
The creation of imaginary beings / Hal Clement –Building a starfaring age / Norman Spinrad — 129
How to build a future / John Barnes 147
Building a starfaring age / Norman Spinrad 185
The ideas that wouldn’t die / Stanley Schmidt — 200
The mechanics of submission / Sheila Williams — 211
Revisions / Isaac Asimov — 221
Writing for young people / Isaac Asimov — 226
New writers / Isaac Asimov — 231
Authors vs. editors / Stanley Schmidt — 236
Market resources / Ian Randal Strock — 250
Guidelines (Analog and Asimov’s) 259


Not many books get discussed in Book Club. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen play 60ish women who meet once a month to discuss books. When they read Fifty Shades of Grey, the women’s libidos kick into high gear. Candice Bergen, who plays a Federal judge, goes online to find Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn. Jane Fonda flirts her with her old boyfriend, Don Johnson. Diane Keaton, who is afraid of flying, attracts Andy Garcia, a pilot. And Mary Steenburgen tries to reignite her husband (Craig T. Nelson) with a double-dose of Viagra. Directed by Bill Holderman from a script by Holderman and Erin Simms, Book Club shows that romance later in Life is still possible…and funny. GRADE: B

CIRCE By Madeline Miller

Circe is the best book I’ve read read in 2018 so far. Madeline Miller creates a wonderful character, based on Greek mythology, of the first witch. Circe shows she’s independent (and daring!) when she performs a kindly act for Prometheus after the gods have tortured him. Although Circe’s father, Helios (god of the Sun), ignores her and her mother, Perses, ridicules her, Circe slowly discovers her powers. Miller captures the conniving of the gods of Olympus. The Titans scheme and play their wicked games. After admitting to a transgression, Circe is exiled to the island of Aeaea by Zeus. There Circe has the time to perfect her powers. Odysseus and his crew show up. After a rocky start–Circe turns the crew into pigs–Odysseus and Circe begin their legendary relationship.

Madeline Miller impressed me with her ability to control the narrative of a goddess whose powers are unique–and frightening. Circe has her flaws. She can be naive and too trusting. She possesses a raging temper (like her father). She’s impulsive. But this story of a girl growing up in a hostile environment who finds her place in history despite long odds and powerful opponents delighted me with its wit and wisdom. Highly recommended! GRADE: A


Diane decided it would be fun to watch Patrick and Katie run their half-marathon on Martha’s Vineyard so we booked a room at the boutique luxury spa, Hob Knob ( and made reservations on the ferry. We brought our Nissan Rogue to drive around the island. We had delicious meals at the Black Dog Inn and The Port Hunter. The weather was a little chilly for Diane, but I thought 60 degree temps were comfortable for me. We enjoyed our trip to Cape Cod a few years ago and found Martha’s Vineyard just as appealing. Great fun! Have you ever traveled to Martha’s Vineyard?


The Wall Street Journal headline to its review of SOLO: A Star Wars Story read: THE FORCE IS WEAK. I agree. When my favorite character in this Star Wars stand-alone is a feisty robot (L3-37 voiced by Phoebe Mary Waller-Bridge) you know the movie is in trouble. Woody Harleson plays a conniving scoundrel named Beckett who tutors young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) in the finer points of larceny. Solo meets Chewbacka (Joonas Viljami Suotamo) under dire circumstances, but the two bond almost immediately. Then there’s the treacherous Qi’ra (Emily Clarke), Solo’s one-time lover. Donald Glover convincingly plays young Lando Calrrisian. But, despite the cast, the battle-chase-battle-chase formula wears thin. Set the bar low for this Star Wars episode and you won’t be disappointed. GRADE: B-


Gardner Dozois (July 23, 1947-May 27, 2018) was one of the great editors of Science Fiction. Gardner’s yearly tome of The Year’s Best Science Fiction became the Gold Standard of quality. I particularly liked Gardner Dozois’s “Summation” essay in each volume which summed up that year in detail. On July 3, 2018, The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 35th Annual Collection will be published. I’m saddened to think that this will be the last volume in this legendary series. I wanted to honor Gardner Dozois so I chose The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Fourth Collection because it was a critical volume in the series.

The first three volumes in the series were published by Bluejay Books run by James Frenkel. But, in 1985, Bluejay Books closed its doors and Gardner Dozois found a new home for his yearly anthology with St. Martin’s Press starting with the Fourth Annual Collection. In reading Dozois’s “Summation: 1986” there’s an air of uneasiness. Dozois was probably concerned about the future of his series. And, uncharacteristically, there’s this comment by Dozois: “A new version of Star TrekStar Trek: The Next Generation–is going to be on the tube next season, but somehow I can’t muster up a great deal of enthusiasm for this news: perhaps I’ve grown jaded.” (p. xix) Dozois might have been in a grumpy mood having to switch publishers. But such fears were groundless. Gardner Dozois edited 31 more Year’s Best SF collections and became a giant in the Science Fiction genre. The world is a lesser place now that Gardner Dozois is gone. GRADE: A
Summation: 1986 / Gardner Dozois ix
R & R / Lucius Shepard — 1
Hatrack River / Orson Scott Card — 67
Strangers on paradise / Damon Knight — 91
Pretty boy crossover / Pat Cadigan — 105
Against Babylon / Robert Silverberg — 115
Fiddling for waterbuffaloes / Somtow Sucharitkul — 133
Into gold / Tanith Lee — 155
Sea change / Scott Baker — 181
Covenant of souls / Michael Swanwick — 198
The pure product / John Kessel — 229
Grave angels / Richard Kearns — 247
Tangents / Greg Bear — 274
The beautiful and the sublime / Bruce Sterling — 289
Tattoos / Jack Dann — 314
Night moves / Tim Powers — 333
The prisoner of Chillon / James Patrick Kelly — 352
Chance / Connie Willis — 384
And so to bed / Harry Turtledove — 411
Fair game / Howard Waldrop — 425
Video star / Walter Jon Williams — 439
Sallie C. / Neal Barrett, Jr. — 469
Jeff Beck / Lewis Shiner — 490
Surviving / Judith Moffett — 499
Down and out in the year 2000 / Kim Stanley Robinson — 529
Snake-eyes / Tom Maddox — 544
The gate of ghosts / Karen Joy Fowler — 562
The winter market / William Gibson — 581
Honorable mentions: 1986 599


This 1996 compilation CD features several women singers who were at the top of their game in the Nineties. Gloria Estefan had just recovered from a near-death experience and sings about it in “Coming Out of the Dark.” My favorite song on this celebration of women in music is Sade’s “Smooth Operator.” Do you remember these songs? Do you remember these women singers? GRADE: B+
1. If You Asked Me To – Celine Dion
2. Feel So High – Des’ree
3. Sally’s Pigeons – Cyndi Lauper
4. Colouring Blue – Nicky Holland
5. Holding On – Beverley Craven
6. Smooth Operator – Sade
7. Time And Tide – Basia
8. Closer To Fine – Indigo Girls
9. Coming Out Of The Dark – Gloria Estefan
10. Power Of Love – Jennifer Rush


Half-way through the first essay in Sunshine State, “BFF,” I started to think “Is Sarah Gerard making this up?” Did all that sex, drugs, alcohol, heavy smoking actually happen? More bizarre behavior shows up in “Mother-Father God” where Gerard explains the religious upbringing she endured. My favorite essay in this collection is “Going Diamond” where Sarah’s mother and father get caught up in selling Amway products in cult-like fashion. “The Mayor of Williams Park” is a tragic story of a homeless man. “Sunshine State” is about birds. “Rabbit” is another tragic story, this time about Gerard’s grandmother’s declining health. I wasn’t moved by these essays. I felt like Sarah Gerard was putting on performances instead of exploring topics. And I found the Sunshine State to be a dark and dreary place. GRADE: C
Mother-Father God 17
Going Diamond 73
Records 123
The Mayor of Williams Park 173
Sunshine State 225
Rabbit 281
Before: An Inventory 297
Acknowledgments 307
Bibliography 309
Endnotes 327