breakfast in the ruins
I read the first half of Barry Malzberg’s brilliant book back in the 1980s. It was called Engines of the Night and it stirred up the science fiction world with its criticism of the genre and its publishers. Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium consists of Engines of the Night and essays and reviews published since that book. This Baen edition of Breakfast in the Ruins was published in 2007 but reads like it was written yesterday. This book is a feast of insights about science fiction written by a practitioner and an insider. Malzberg delivers a blistering history of science fiction, warts and all. He predicts many of the trends that we’re dealing with now: a declining readership, publishers going bankrupt or merging with other troubled publishers, and the decline of bookstores. With so many great essays, it’s hard to pick out favorites. I loved Malzberg’s essays about Cornell Woolrich, a truly underrated writer. I admired Malzberg’s profile of Mark Clifton, a science fiction writer I need to read more of. And I really enjoyed Malzberg’s tale of writing a men’s action-adventure series under the pseudonym of “Mike Barry.” I just happen to have read all the Mike Barry books (they now reside at SUNY at Buffalo). If you have any interest in science fiction, writing, publishing, and profiles of writers then get your hands on a copy of Breakfast in the Ruins. It’s a forgotten classic!
Part One Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millenium
Introduction to the Baen edition 1
Part One Engines in the Night
Introduction to the 2001 electronic edition 7
Introduction to the Original Edition 12
The Number of the Beast 14
L’Etat c’est moi 18
I could Have Been a Contender, Part One 23
Anonymity & Empire 26
I Don’t Know How to Put It Love But I’ll Surely Surely Try 31
Memoir from Grub Street 37
The Fifties 40
The Fifties: Recapitulation and Coda 52
Ah Tempora! Ah Portions! Ah Mores! Ah Outlines! 56
Science Fiction and the Academy: Some Notes 59
At the Divining Edge 63
Some Notes Toward the true and the Terrible 67
Wrong Rabbit 71
John W. Campbell: June 8, 1910 to July 11, 1971 75
The Science Fiction of Science Fiction 80
I Don’t Want Her You Can Have Her 87
Onward and Upward with the Arts, Part II 91
Tell Me Doctor If You Can That It’s Not All Happening Again 94
The Richard Nixon John B. Mitchell Spiro Agnew Blues 103
Cornell George Holey Woolrich: December 1903 to September 1968 106
A Few Hard Truths for the Troops 111
Onward and Upward with the Arts, Part III / 114
Science Fiction as Picasso 119
Mark Clifton: 1906-1963 121
September 1973: What I Did Last Summer 126
The Cutting Edge 130
Son of the True and Terrible 136
The All-Time, Prime-Time, Take-Me-to-Your-Leader Science Fiction Plot 140
Grandson of the True and the Terrible 151
Give Me That Old-Time Religion 154
SF Forever 156
What I Won’t Do Next Summer, I Guess 158
Come Fool, Follify 161
The Engines of the Night 164
Con Sordino 167
Corridors 171
L’Envoi 186
Son of L’envoi 186
Grandson of l’envoi 187
Footnotes 188
Interregunum: Preface to an Essay 193
Interregnum: Rage, Pain, Alienation and
Other Aspects of the Writing of Science Fiction 195
Afterword 200
Part Two Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millenium Part I: Meditations
Introduction 207
On Engines Again 210
Atomic Power 216
Tripping with the Alchemist 219
Some Reflections on Freud, Fantasy & the Jewish Condition 244
I: Not I 251
On Decadence 255
Cliftonized 261
Over The Waves 267
Thus Our Words Unspoken 274
A Formal Feeling Comes 281
Thinking About Compulsion 288
The Shores of Suitability 293
Some Notes on the Lone Wolf 296
Part II: Writers and Other Culprits
Introduction 303
Flowers for Daniel (Daniel Keyes) 305
Falling From the Air (Alice Sheldon) 308
Dark of The Knight (Damon Knight) 313
On Fredric Brown 318
The Stochastic Writer (Robert. Silverberg) 321
The Dean of Gloucester, Virginia (William F. Jenkins) 326
Inextricable Disengagement (David Drake) 329
On Isaac Asimov 331
The Bend at the End of the Road (Gustav Hasford) 337
The Cloud Sculptor of Terminal X (J.G. Ballard) 342
Presto: Con Malizia (Cornell Woolrich) 351
Repentance, Desire and Natalie Wood (Maurice Girodias) 355
The Man Who Lost the Sea (John W. Campbell) 363
Part III: Ruthven Agonistes
Ruthven Agonistes 377
The Passage of the Light 379
Afterword: The Last Millennium 389

12 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #270: BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS By Barry N. Malzberg

    1. george Post author

      Sergio, Barry Malzberg doesn’t pull any punches when analyzing science fiction publishing. He provides a great look behind the curtain.

  1. Todd Mason

    It’s everything you suggest, and more fun than we have a right to expect. As Barry put it a while back for LOCUS magazine:

    I did a body of work which represented my best possibility, and some of that could not have been done by anyone else. [Critic, fiction-writer, editor and writing teacher Algis] Budrys could have done [critical volume] _Breakfast in the Ruins_ better, but he didn’t do it at all. Phil Klass [who wrote most of his usually sharply satiric sf as “William Tenn”] could have done _Herovit’s World better_, but he didn’t. And I think it had to be done.

    1. george Post author

      Bill, I read ENGINES OF THE NIGHT and loved it when it was first published. But the additional essays in BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS make for great reading!

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Thanks for mentioning it. Amazingly, my library seems to have a copy so I will pick it up soon. I’ve read some Malzberg – I have the complete Lone Wold series on Kindle – including several of his collaborations with Pronzini.

    Looks really good.

  3. Jerry House

    George, I think you underrate the Lone Wolf series; it’s a fierce deconstruction of the men’s action adventure genre. Malzberg has always been controversial and is always worth reading. I loved ENGINES OF THE NIGHT and I look forward to this book.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I read THE LONE WOLF SERIES back in the 1970s. I should reread them. You’ll find a lot to like in BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    OK, it is on reserve. Now I need to get through the dozen library books I already have before it arrives.


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