Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships

30: it's generally agreed that early winner They'd Rather Be Right is the worst thus far.

Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships

21: Pohl and Williamson's Farthest Star involved a mobile Dyson Shell.

How to Recover From Reader’s Block

Episode One of Midsomer is hilarious in retrospect, because the police are astounded one small community could have had two murders in only a few decades.

Actor Charles Paris is notable for winning roles in theatrical productions that invariably involve one or more murders that he solves. Either Paris is very unlucky (in which case, you would think people would stop casting him after the eighth or ninth murder) or British theatre is very, very murdery, and they just cast on the assumption two or three of the cast and crew will be dead by the time the show opens.

The hilariously lugubrious Wallander series was inspired by a wave of (unconnected) real-life murders that made the author despair over society's decay into violence and chaos. The number of murders turned out to be something like half a dozen over the course of a decade, across an entire nation.  If you run the numbers on the Wallander books, Wallander is personally involved in what must be a very high fraction of his country's murder investigations.

How to Recover From Reader’s Block

12: I once got a book for review set in a town whose business community was painfully aware that the town had a murder rate many times that of the US national average. They were also terrified this might become nationally known, which would make attracting investors to fill niches vacated by homicide harder.

By the end of the book, their murder rate had doubled.

This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG Has Everything You’d Ever Want

Huh. There’s a blast from the past. When I opened my store in 1984, their Palladium fantasy RPG went for twenty bucks and I couldn’t imagine anyone spending that much. Most rulebooks were ten or fifteen bucks. I think the AD&D PH went for 13....

5 SFF Books for the Goth in Your Life

Not mentioning Lee in such a list is frankly surprising.

 

I expect this is a geographical and generational thing. Lee's popularity in North America (and ability to get a North American edition with a half-way enticing cover) fell off after 1990. When I did A Year of Tanith Lee back when, the more recent the book, the more likely I'd have to turn to my UK book source. While DAW has reprinted some of Lee's better known books, others were consigned to less imprints. Thus her collection of re-imagined fairy tales Red As Blood, which once featured a Whelan cover

 

Currently has this cover:

Any fan of Gaiman's 1994 "Snow, Glass, Apples" might find Lee's 1979 "Red as Blood" of considerable interest.

Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships

Fairly early in the essay, I say



Alfred Coppel’s 1950 novella The Rebel of Valkyr (and the Rhada series of which the story is a part) features a grand interstellar empire.

 

Gilman was a pen name for Alfred Coppel.

5 SFF Books for the Goth in Your Life

I am curious why this list of finite length is not instead of the infinite variety?

Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships

“Five Novels in Which Magnetospheric Physics Plays a Role,”

You have no idea how easy it is get me to go on at length about variations in the Interstellar Medium like the Local Fluff. SF authors, alas, are more resistant.

Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships

It must be hard on people to have the iron in their blood left behind.

Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships

Not to mention a well known franchise, which very nearly came to an abrupt finish partway through the first movie.

Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships

I believe Captain Harlock not only carried a sword, he sometimes stabbed people with his starship.

Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies

I am embarrassed to admit I have not reread the Longyear since the 1980 Berkley Mass Market of Manifest Destiny. So, what, 20 years?

5 Animal-Friendly Fantasy Books to Read After Watching Tiger King

Many of Andre Norton's protagonists had bonds with animals. Rather providential because human and alien supporting casts could be considerably less companionable than wildlife.

By pure coincidence, a meaningless project I am pursuing on social media--rpgs I never got to play--featured one today that is tangentially relevant to your essay: Bunnies & Burrows, a Watership  Down inspired game in which one roleplays rabbits. Humans, I regret to say, are less Norton-esque friends to the Wild and more cosmic horrors from the POV of a rabbit.



Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies

Wait, writers are allowed to make stuff up without running experimental trials with living human subjects? I need to go cancel my cozy country estate murder mystery test run.

5 SFF Books for the Goth in Your Life

Tanith Lee has become somewhat obscure on this side of the Atlantic. Recommended for reader looking for fiction lush and decadent.

Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies

Margaret Mead, I think, commented on how in the relics of human communities one finds the remains of people who broke major bones that then healed, an indication that they were cared for by those around them despite being momentarily useless.

5 Heroes Who Use Non-Traditional “Weapons”

The Doctor’s trench coat with the pockets that are bigger on the inside.

 

Or Professor Fingers' coat with its space pockets.

Hot Fuzz: A Police Film for Those Who Love (and Hate) Police Films

I seem to recall that the Steed/Peel era Avengers had an episode in a surprisingly murdery small village.

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

Some of Rothman’s books are available but not that one. I seem to recall encountering comments from him that indicated the book did OK but he was for some reason unsatisfied with it. Perhaps that's why it is out of print.

As it happens, my MMPB is just upstairs….

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

An aspect of The Chrysalids that I overlooked as a kid was how, having spend the book building a case against murdering people over supposed mutations, the novel ends with a touching little homily about the necessity of genocide of the old by the new:

'[...] And just as we have to keep ourselves alive in these ways, so, too, we have to preserve our species against other species that wish to destroy it — or else fail in our trust.

‘The unhappy Fringes people were condemned through no act of their own to a life of squalor and misery — there could be no future for them. As for those who condemned them — well, that, too, is the way of it. There have been lords of life before, you know. Did you ever hear of the great lizards? When the time came for them to be superseded they had to pass away.

 

‘Sometime there will come a day when we ourselves shall have to give place to a new thing. Very certainly we shall struggle against the inevitable just as these remnants of the Old People do. We shall try with all our strength to grind it back into the earth from which it is emerging, for treachery to one’s own species must always seem a crime. We shall force it to prove itself, and when it does, we shall go; as, by the same process, these are going.

‘In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our rise; in loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction.

 

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

27: Suzanne Martel's Quatre Montréalais en l'an 3000,  AKA Surréal 3000, AKA The City Under Ground focuses on recontact between two Montreal groups, one in a Science! City under Mt Royal and the other living lives of bucolic peace on the surface, complicated by the discovery of a third group stealing resources from the first. The first group appeared to be descendants of the French, the second are Anglos, but the third? Well, they are described as short, bearded, hideous, and they speak a third "guttural language".

Quebec's third solitude.

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

every damn superhero is a literal social justice warrior

Except the version of the Greg Saunders Vigilante who showed up in Jones and Parobeck's  El Diablo #12, who was astounded to discover El Diablo was a liberal Democrat.

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

I wonder if I could sell tor a Five Books Whose Authors Meant Well.

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

Being so young when I read all that Golden Age SFF, happily I didn’t notice any issues. I didn’t know what they were.

There's really nothing like revisiting a childhood favourite to discover Women in Fridges was a thing as far back as the Swinging Sixties, as were comedic rape jokes, and that the endearing tale of post-apocalyptic recovery stocked by many Canadian schools found time for a really vicious Antisemitic caricature.

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

Despite the fact I sprinkle sarcasm on my essays like salt on food, I have essentially no ability to recognize sarcasm in the wild, so I really should cut fellow sarcasm-challenged persons some slack.

Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…

My older brother is not much older than I am but old enough to remember before-cheap-ballpoint-pens. I had no idea there had been a technological shift in writing implements in the late fifties, early sixties until I read a Ray Bradbury from the 1950s that off-handedly referenced ink wells in a story set in the 1970s. 

(One of my father’s many on going feuds involved felt-tip pens, which he preferred, and Toronto Dominion Bank, who absolutely refused to honour checks signed in felt-tip because the ink would bleed)

Tordotcom Publishing Unveils New Logo, Celebrating 5 Years of Award-Winning Novels and Novellas

You know what would a great way to celebrate five years? An omnibus ebook including all of the fiction published by tor dot com in the last half decade :D

The War Never Ends in Andre Norton’s At Swords’ Points

Aw, you guys are the sort of nay-sayers who frowned on Smilodon parties. Let your kids get exposed to sabre-toothed cats young and they will never worry about being eaten by apex predators again!

The War Never Ends in Andre Norton’s At Swords’ Points

I was a little surprised that the protagonist of Gordon R. Dickson's 1969 Hour of the Horde had had polio. Assuming the book was set the year it was published--the internal evidence is quite equivocal--the lead would have contracted polio in 1961, one of just 200 or so cases in the US that year.

 

 

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

In one of Hal Clement's books, we were the only spacefaring species from a world orbiting a star as massive and bright as the Sun, and the only one from a world so hot pure water was liquid.

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

Hal Clement's universes were very lean on Earth-like worlds. Even the ones that at first glance seemed Earth-like would like as not turn out to have seasons where the oceans boiled.

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

Almost all of Earth is inhospitable to human life but we don't notice because we generally stick to the bits that aren't e.g. under the sea or between the crust and mantle...

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

Oddly, while being a total hellworld at the surface, Venus does have a comparatively hospitable region 50 km above the surface. No O2 and too much sulfuric acid but the temperature is OK. You'd definitely last long enough to scream a bit.

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

Yeah, well. The space hippies should have done more basic research before chowing down on local life forms.

Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets

 There's a Poul Anderson short in which colonists discover over the course of generations that a planet each of whose parameters were within acceptable limits taken individually was just a bit too uninhabitable in the long run when all the off notes were taken in aggregate.

(once they conned their way back to Earth, they were comparative supermen, because science fiction)

Mercenaries and the Future of Humanity: Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson

It doesn't come up in Tactics because the various social factions are still gelling but something I wondered in the later Dorsai books is who the hell hires the Friendlies? Who looks around and says "Humourless religious fanatics whose primary role seems to be to provide the Dorsai with asses to kick? Those are the guys I want to hire!"

Mercenaries and the Future of Humanity: Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson

I reread the core Dorsai for the SFBC in ages past [1] and was struck by how Grahame's enemies seemed by and large to be idiots. Also, that even when I was a feckless teen, the romance was pretty unconvincing.

 

 

1: As I recall, I guessed correctly that they were going to be the next books assigned to me, so I reread and reviewed all four, then fired off the reports before getting the formal assignment. Turned out submitting replies in negative time was not considered a plus.

A.K. Larkwood Recommends Escapist Adventure Fantasy Books

I ordered the Williams via Book Depository, only to get book two of the Copper Promise books. Obviously I had no choice but to reorder the book I wanted (which I got) and the rest of the Copper Promise books (of which only the first and second seem to be available).

I am boggled that a trilogy two books of which have won BFAs lacks a North American edition.

Far From Any Star: Five Stories About Rogue Worlds

they were very important in the Traveller 2300 / 2300 AD RPG

I thought early iterations of 2300 didn't realize brown dwarfs would mess up their beautiful route maps?

Far From Any Star: Five Stories About Rogue Worlds

The Secret of the Ninth Planet reveals a rogue is hiding amongst proper Solarian moons and planets. Previously a habitable world like Earth, it was flung out of its system by means of .... well, let me quote Wollheim:



Originally it revolved around another sun, some star which was light-years away. How it tore loose from that star we’ll probably never know — the star might have simply become too dim, their planet might have been on a shaky orbit, an experiment of theirs might have jarred it loose, many things could have happened. 

Five Stories Featuring Vast Beings From the Darkest Depths of Space

Plus he has a historical series that focuses on one of the minor side-villains of the War to Save Europe from Napoleon.

Shiny Cosmic Objects and the Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

Early Known Space gives the impression Niven was still working out the parameters like where stuff was and how fast ftl is. Beta Lyrae is about a thousand light years from the Sun, or at KS speeds  8 years to get there and 8 years to return.

Smug messiah: Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land

He was childless, with either wife

Thank goodness I have heroic levels of self-control or I would poindextrously correct you with "all _three_ wives."

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

I expect everyone here can name a book in which nothing significant happens for 16 or even 32 pages.

I was once sent the first 1/2 of a Jack McDevitt book MS but due to the way he structured the plot, the events in the middle of the book seemed like a plausible, if rather abrupt, finale for the novel.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

There was a Neal Asher published by Tor UK but not Tor US (1) because it was too long for the US SF market at that time. No problem because I could get the UK edition easy peasy. Except that there had been a binding error with one lot--one signature was omitted and another repeated--and the entire Ontario shipment was from that lot.

1: Ritual acknowledgment that they are different companies whose publications overlap but are not identical.

Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)

OK, I give up: what meaning might “infrastellar” have here?

Out of the Solar System but not far enough to reach another star.

 

 

Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)

Sigh. Fixed. Although mining the moon for tritium is only marginally sillier than He3....

Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)

 Another example of Rusting Bridges: the characters in Joan D. Vinge's View From a Height lament the state of their space program, which has launched a laser-boosted crewed ship into infrastellar space.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

 centralized importing would save time and/or individual hassle. 

There is or at least was centralized importing in Canada via firms like HB Fenn. I think each distributor gets a monopoly on their particular assortment of publishers, which had the negative side-effect some years ago during a die-off event amongst Canadian book distributors of making entire swaths of publishers temporarily unavailable. Now that I think of it, I remember hearing some UK firms never found new Canadian distributors, which would be why I can't find their books now. I believe Chapters-Indigo, the behemoth of bookselling up here, does its own importing and distribution.


I was importing game books, which use a different distribution system. Didn’t really do much business with the book distribution network [1], although I do recall at one point in the 1970s American publishers were required, I think, to print books up here, which is why some older SF paperbacks will have a little maple leaf and “printed in Canada” on the cover.

Usually the price charged to Canadians for US books is higher than it is for Americans even after taking the exchange into account, and i have been told a lot of companies pass on a smaller royalty to authors for books sold in Canada (for reasons having to do with how CanCon was implemented in the 1970s), so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Canadian market made US publishers profits out of scale with our population.

Interesting factoid I heard from, hrm, David Hartwell, I think, twenty years ago. If an author was known to be Canadian, the US sales would be unchanged but Canadian sales increase to the point they would account for a quarter of the sales rather than the ninth one would expect from comparative populations. I wonder if that’s still true?

1: I did use the magazine distribution networks a bit in the 1980s and then again in the 1990s. In the interval there had been a lot of consolidation and the net effect on customer service was extremely bad.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

overly zealous ICE agents


Back when I had the game store, I imported a lot of stuff from the US. In those days, we had customs offices in every major town. The goods would be shipped to customs and then I’d go pay the duty and take my package away. I noticed Canadian customs didn’t always want to check inside to make sure the contents matched the bill of lading, unless it contained books in which case they always wanted a look inside the box. Eventually I asked about this pattern. Simple answer: the customs agents in Kitchener assumed the only kind of books people imported were pornographic.

 

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

Paul McAuley is one of the few who still really hasn’t broken through.

Which seems odd, since his first novel was via Del Rel with Gollancz  as his UK imprint. With his third, he moved to AvoNova (later Eos). 2001's Secret of Life was pubished by Tor. 2003's Eye of the Tyger was the first book by him without a US edition (it was a tie-in for a British TV show, though, something called Doctor Who). His next book, 2005's White Devils, was published by Tor and then after that his US publisher was Pyr. It's only after 2012 US publishers didn't pick his books up. Which is a great pity.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

it baffles me when applied to spec-fic, which by its nature requires one to make sense out of the unfamiliar.

In olden days on rec.arts.sf.written, there were contributors who would quite vexed at names they found deeply confounding. Not alien names but surnames and given names they were not accustomed to seeing associated with each other.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

 Please! That sounds fascinating!

I remember seeing Americans at Millennium PhilCon back in 2001 paying impressive sums for imported copies of Alastair Reynolds' debut novel, at that time not available in the US.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

Not SF (except in the sense Scotland is inherently SFnal)  but for some reason Christopher Brookmyre's early comic crime novels didn't seem to catch on in the US. I was at least able to snaffle up the UK editions.

This “Slightly More Scientific” Personality Quiz Will Give You the Definitive List of Pop Culture Characters You Match

The high-functioning sociopath version of Holmes, which as I was mentioning to my 400 calorie-per-serving neighbour, I take exception to.

SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

Just to clarify: some of the books I mentioned can be purchased in  North America but as far as I could tell only in imported editions. Worth the trouble, though.

As I understand it, Tanith Lee’s North American career hit the rocks after an unfortunately timed effort to position her as a horror writer just as horror was having one of its periodic mass extinction events. This didn’t affect her in the UK AFAIK.

2: I’ve heard that Baen books generally aren’t available in the UK.

I have this half-memory that in olden days, supplies of American SF magazines in Northern Ireland were irregular and episodic. One Irish fan kept discovering some other fan kept beating him to the limited supplies of magazines. This was enough for the fan to track the other one down. I think that’s how James White and Walt Willis met.

 

Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet

Well, it may be other factors trump ease of use. I mean, giant flying boxes would be easier to fit rows of seats into than are airplanes but the need for an aerodynamic shape says we’re stuck with rounded tubes. Maybe there’s something about how the FTL or space drive works that forces that shape on the designers.

Could be worse! The safest interstellar wormholes available for travellers in The Space Eater were only about the width of a human thumb, which was very hard on the people passing through them.

Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives

9: A while back while trying to give someone useful directions [1], it struck me that public transit systems like Waterloo Region's splendid new light rail are in a sense portals with significant lag time.

 

1: It turned out if someone is trying to get from Wildfrid Laurier University to Waterloo Public Library, the LRT stops are situated such that one might as well just walk. In theory WLU has an LRT stop but it's actually closer to the University of Waterloo than it is to WLU.

Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives

At some point, my assertion that something was narnia the reader's business got cut. Ah, well. Lots more where that came from.

Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives

Crossroads, where transit is dependent on traversing a particular location like that tavern in A Midsummer's Tempest or Marvel's Nexus of Realities, are an interesting subset of portals I didn't think to get into.

Celebrating the Minimum Wage Warriors of SFF

Of non-essential systems, which I assume means, like, stocking vending machines and cleaning the toilets.

Any functionary who thinks toilets are inessential has never had to placate patrons who have discovered 25% of the women's toilets [1] are out of commission, apparently for the long term. There really needs to be more epic space opera about the importance of properly functioning toilets.

(As I understand it, the Plant Ops folks who do maintenance and repairs are not the Plant Ops people who deal with any messes resulting from non-functioning toilets, so what's high priority for the latter group may not be for the first)

1: If my mental count is correct, we have four urinals for the men, and four functioning toilets, whereas the women's only have four toilets, so losing one means the inevitable lines are that much worse.

Celebrating the Minimum Wage Warriors of SFF

House II: the Second Story has a brief appearance by Bill Towner, a swashbuckling electrician whose familiarity with and preparedness for pocket dimensions comes in handy.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.