Archive for the 1953 Category

Review: Mutant

Posted in 1953, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by Aaron

Lewis Padgett
1953

This is the third of three books by the Kuttner/Moore team that Gnome Press have in their stable, and like the one other copy I have – Robots Have No Tails… – this is a collection though presented (albeit rather thinly) in novel form.

Each chapter is a short story in the ‘Baldy’ series. There is a brief intro to each that provides a linking device by which these tales are tied together. A Baldy crashes his ‘copter in some remote mountains and accesses shared memories recollecting important events in Baldy history while he waits against hope for rescue. I found this glue rather unnecessary and again, for me, it was a distraction and detraction from tales that were on the whole pretty good as stand-alone pieces – I could have quite readily inferred the progression satisfactorily myself.

Baldies are a post-apocalyptic (or post ‘Big Mistake’ as it’s called) human mutation that have telepathic powers. In actual fact, ‘mutant’ is a bit of a misnomer. The term is traditionally used to describe a one-off genetic aberration such as those sported by the various X-Men, by Johnny Alpha and his Strontium Dog colleagues or to a lesser extent the abilities of the Children of he Atom. Baldies are really a different species arising from a mutation – not ‘mutants’ per se, but a brand new species of the homo genus. This Big Mistake caused an identical genetic modification in some people so a small percentage of post-Mistake offspring exhibit dominant Baldy traits – Baldies become a permanent and growing percentage of the population.

So, I hear you ask, why were they called ‘Baldies’? Well, they are bald as you can see from Ric Binkley’s cover art, but further, have a complete lack of bodily hair. Because of this, they were able to be readily identified and most resorted to the habit of wearing hairpieces to camouflage themselves from society at large. A prudent move as Baldies often engender a certain amount of fear in most normal people due to their mind-reading abilities and as a result suffer from some discrimination. But outside of the extremist ‘Paranoid’ Baldy faction, they are generally understanding of many humans’ attitude towards them in their obviously dominant position, and seek to bring a reconciliation that will be satisfactory in the long term.

Just on the note of conflict, I just want to mention a cultural idiosyncrasy of the times – the duel. All men carry a dagger so they can engage in duels if challenged. What is it about this form of conflict resolution that so appealed to SF writers back then? It seems a bit odd and rather antiquated from the viewpoint of today, The great RAH used this device in his early work Beyond This Horizon (with firearms though, not blades). But as I so often encourage, you have to read these books with a certain amount of tolerance and with one mental foot in the 1940s or 50s. These things (the duels) go to the death, so they aren’t taken lightly and to engage with a Baldy is tantamount to suicide as they can read your mind as to what moves you’re about to pull.

As I mentioned earlier, the stories depict several key scenarios in Baldy history – they are snapshots of events leading to the inevitable confrontation between them and regular humans. This culminates in a solitary Baldy having to make the final decision as to whether to extinguish the threat to Baldy existence or let fate determine how the relationship between the two species develops.

Aside from those unnecessary linking intrusions I really enjoyed the tales. In contrast to mutant fare we have been getting in the modern sci-fi era – isolated and/or disparate mutations affecting individuals in radically different and bizarre ways – I liked the treatment here. A single mutation consistent and breeding human mutation evolution that has the potential to subsume the inferior (or at least non-telepathic) regular human version. In some ways this brings to mind John Wyndham’s story The Midwich Cuckoos, but the Baldies aren’t evil as the children in that story apparently are.

What Henry Kuttner (all subsequent editions are credited to him, see the book’s ISFDB page – I suspected as much from the style of the prose) does well here is conveying the sense of community that Baldies experience. They have a telepathic link that’s kind of analagous to the Internet – each individual is kind of server. They can all choose to partake of the resource, or ‘log out’ and resist intruding on, or intrusion from others. It’s quite skillfully handled given that it’s a tough thing to try to impart what is actually happening in the mind. Let me give you an example:

They looked at each other in silence. Their minds touched and sprang apart and then touched again, tentatively, with light thoughts that leaped from point to point as gingerly as if the ideas were ice-floes that might sink beneath the full weight of conscious focus.
I thought I loved you . . . perhaps I did . . . yes, I too . . . but now there can’t be . . . (sudden, rebellious denial) . . . no, it’s not true, there can’t ever be rightness between us . . . not as if we were ordinary people . . . we’d always remember that picture, how I looked (abrupt sheering off from the memory) . . . (agonized repudiation of it) . . . no couldn’t help that . . . always between us . . . rooted too deeply . . . and anyhow, Cas – (sudden closing off of both minds at once, before even the thought-image had time to form.)
Alexa stood up. “I’m going to town,” she said.

page 105/106

That’s a bit lengthy, but it gives you a great example of how he’s handled it. Pretty slick if you ask me. Short passages of mind communication are scattered throughout the book and really help us become part of the Baldy experience – not just a third-party to it.

To wrap this up, Mutant is an enjoyable read that presents some interesting dilemmas and makes us think about how we might handle being in such a position as they. However, you don’t need to be a telepath to work out what’s happening over the course of the stories, so if you read this collection, keep in mind they are tales separated in time and just skip the linking interludes. You will enjoy it a bit more.

Close Up: Mutant

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , , , on December 3, 2009 by Aaron

closeupLewis Padgett
1953

It arrived almost one year ago – the longest any book in my collection has been before before making it onto the blog.  This was listed as a Near Fine when I purchased it, but I think it’s not really up to that standard.  More like a VG or VG+.  Interesting if somewhat disturbing cover by my fave Ric Binkley, not one of his better efforts in my opinion though.  Let’s have a look see.
Very bright cover.  The jacket is in pretty good condition except for the spine.  The boards aren’t too bad either.
No staining or any other major problems except this:

It’s had a bump on the top front edge at some time.  You can see the corresponding knock on the jacket below.


The block shows no discoloration though is perhaps a little grubby around the edges.
The head of the spine is the major issue with this copy, it’s been bumped and the jacket is damaged.

The tails ok though, if a little soiled.

The back of the jacket looks nice but also a bit soiled.  Not too bad though.

Year: 1953
Paid: $75
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Turquoise blue boards with darker blue lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A little overpriced at $75 perhaps, but after all this is the Lewis Padgett team. Reasonable condition all-round except for the top of the jacket on the spine.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: The Complete Book of Outer Space

Posted in 1953, 4:Stellar!, Review, Summary Review, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , , on October 19, 2009 by Aaron

Jeffrey Logan, editor
1953

Well, I’ve pretty much said it all in each chapter as I delivered each in this blog, but this is just to deliver a final few thoughts overall.  This book brings back some nice memories for me.  The feeling I got while reading it is similar to the feelings I had when as a boy between about 5 – 10 years old I would browse the various volumes in the Time-Life series – the Life Science Library and the Life Nature Library.  We had these two series at home and I would sit for hours just flicking through looking at the pictures and reading what I could.  The illustrations and photographs in those books captured my imagination like not much else has since.  The Complete Book of Outer Space is delivered in much the same way.  Not-too-technical-nor-long articles accompanied by interesting and imaginative photos and pictures.

Much of it is very outdated now, but as I pointed out often in the brief intro to each chapter, it’s incredibly interesting from a historical perspective.  It takes us back to a time when sending man into space was still a goal, and the possibilities for the conquest of space seemed immediate and endless.

Here it is, all in one click or chapter by chapter:

The Complete Book of Outer Space – All 14 parts

Part 1 – Intro & The Development of the Spaceship
Part 2 – Station in Space
Part 3 – Space Medicine
Part 4 – Space Suits
Part 5 – The High Altitude Program
Part 6 – History of the Rocket Engine
Part 7 – Legal Aspects of Space Travel
Part 8 – Life Beyond Earth
Part 9 – Exploitation of the Moon
Part 10 – Interstellar Flight
Part 11 – The Spaceship in Science Fiction
Part 12 – A Plea for a Coordinated Space Program
Part 13 – The Flying Saucer Myth
Part 14 – The Experts

This work of non-fiction is an interesting accompaniment to the Gnome Press stable of Golden Age Science Fiction.  It provides a ‘hard’ backdrop to the creative fiction all around it – in some ways giving us a glimpse of the ‘pegs of reality’ on which the imagination of authors like Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov spent some time hanging.

It’s been an incredibly enjoyable and interesting way to deliver this book over the past 6 months and I’m sad it’s over.  I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

The Complete Book of Outer Space – Part 14 of 14

Posted in 14 - The Panel of Experts, 1953, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , on October 2, 2009 by Aaron

The Panel of  Experts

Well, this is the final installment.  It’s a little bit emotional for me as I’ve enjoyed bring this incredibly interesting book to you.  Actually, I’ll spin one more installment out of it – in a couple of weeks I’ll do a Review.

Here are the experts who contributed to this book – what a stellar line up of names from the times.  Also a couple of very brief comments on trips to The Moon and Mars, plus a glossary of terms. Enjoy.

View this document on Scribd

I hope you’ve enjoyed these episodes as much as I have.  Remember, the review will come in a couple of weeks.

The Complete Book of Outer Space – Part 13 of 14

Posted in 13 - The Flying Saucer Myth, 1953, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , on September 18, 2009 by Aaron

The Flying Saucer Myth

Editor Jeffrey Logan attempts to examine the fiction (or not) of UFOs.    To my way of looking at this article, with the title and general tone, he seemed to be attempting to take a position on the skeptic side, yet the article came across as a bit confused as to where his final position really was.  But whatever his ultimate opinion, it was still interesting to read a couple of UFO accounts from back then along with the viewpoint from all those years ago.

View this document on Scribd

The final installment from this book I’ve called The Experts.  It contains brief biographies and pics of the contributors, as well as an appendix of a sorts including a couple of charts and tables and a dictionary of Space Travel.  See it in a couple of weeks.

Review: The Robot and the Man

Posted in 1953, 5:COSMIC!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , on September 7, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1953

I first read this book way back about 9 months ago. For some reason I never got around to doing a Review, so I decided to read it again. The Close Up was done back then, you can view it here.

This is the fourth in the superb ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ put together by Greenberg.  Every time I do a review of one of these I am always in glowing admiration for Martin Greenberg’s concept, along with the construction and execution of these anthologies.  I feel no different on this occasion.  As I have done for all anthologies in this series I’ll reproduce the Foreword Mr Greenberg uses to outline the intent and structure of the book.  Here it is:

View this document on Scribd

The stories contained within the book are somewhat unusual. Mr Greenberg made some very interesting and eclectic choices to illustrate the history of the robot.  Many of the tales are a little more cerebral than one might expect and as a whole The Robot and The Man is a surprisingly refreshing and thought provoking anthology and a superbly applied take on the history of the robot.  I could even admit to being a little emotional at times.

On the critical front, the vision of the robot in the later stories is very ambitious.  To the modern reader (a point of review I apply often and is actually worth discussing in it’s own post sometime) the portrayal of the more advanced robots seems a little naive.  Especially as they are almost without exception described as having very human emotive ability – sadness, joy and so on.  To have robot’s sighing, for example, does seem a little silly.  Also, the physicality of these robots is invariably described as very… mechanical.  Coils and pistons are quite strange components with which to fashion robots at a time thousands of years in the future.  But personally I embrace these kinds things in stories penned in that Golden Age of Science Fiction.  They serve to remind us of the romantic no-limits-to-contemporary-technology vision these writers had of times to come and part of what makes all these books extremely endearing and such a joy to read.

The anthology traces the evolution of the robot from it’s beginnings in artificial intelligence and powered prostheses, through self awareness, industrial and social integration, ultimately outliving humanity in the final poignant irony to take the role of God in the re-population of the Earth.  My particular favorite was ‘Rust’ by Joseph E. Kelleam.  A touching tale of three aged, lonely, frustrated and rapidly deteriorating killing machines contemplating their nature as agents of destruction and finally facing their mortality as the only sentient beings remaining on the Earth.  Of course, unbeknown to them they aren’t the only ones as subsequent later and unrelated tales testify.

Just a comment about the title to finish with.  The theme that develops throughout this anthology is that without Man there can be no Robot, but what finally hits home or ‘bears fruit’, is that despite at times being light years apart in time and space, our existences remain inextricably entwined and we are led to the inevitable conclusion that without the Robot there will be no Man.

The Complete Book of Outer Space – Part 12 of 14

Posted in 12 - Coordinated Space Program, 1953, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , on September 7, 2009 by Aaron

A Plea for a Coordinated Space Program

Dr Wernher von Braun makes a compelling case for a focused and driven program of rocket development leading to putting men in space. Perhaps what he’s arguing against is existent in the space industry today: too many hand-wringers, bean counters and apologists.  Lets just get stuck into it!!  I wanna see people on Mars!!

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The next installment takes into the realm we love so much.  These UFO things… are they real, or as editor and party-pooper Jeffrey Logan suggests, are they just The Flying Saucer Myth.