Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Amy's bookshelf :: Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement

Mission of GravityA more recent copy of Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement - Aaron's Book of the Week (see previous post) – resides on my bookshelf. It's a 1978 paperback from Ballantine Books with a cover price $1.75 and cover art by H.R. Van Dogen.

Mission of Gravity is an acknowledged science fiction classic. It's set on the high gravity planet of Mesklin, which is home to intelligent, caterpillar-like aliens. The cover art on my edition apparently depicts some of these aliens.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement

Mission of GravityThe Book of the Week is Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement, one of several classics of science fiction first published in 1953. This is a signed copy of the first paperback printing, Galaxy Science Fiction Novel No. 33, cover art by Wallace A. Wood. (Incidentally, we'll return to the "Galaxy" line of SF novels in future BOTWs. Galaxy novels had an interesting history, switching over time from digest books to standard paperbacks to science fictional pornography. )

"Hal Clement" was the pen name of Harry C. Stubbs, a pioneer of "hard" science fiction, in which rigorously applied scientific principles are central to the story. Mission of Gravity is Hal Clement's most famous novel, set on a supermassive, rapidly rotating planet inhabited by intelligent, centipede-like creatures adapted to the world's high surface gravity.

Clement was named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1998. Always charming and friendly, Clement was a favorite at science fiction conventions. In 2003, shortly after the publication of his last novel, he attended Mile Hi Con, Denver's local convention, where he signed the Book of the Week for me under both the name Hal Clement and Harry Stubbs. At 81, he seemed in the best of health and spirits as he entertained the crowd. He passed away the next week from complications of diabetes. Next week we'll have another of the all-time classics of SF from 1953, this one from an author still going strong at age 89.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Fantastic Adventures February 1950

Fantastic Adventures February 1950The Magazine of the Week is the February 1950 issue of pulp magazine Fantastic Adventures, with cover story The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon, cover art by Robert Gibson Jones. This is a condensed version of last week's Book of the Week, The Synthetic Man.

The Dreaming Jewels, aka The Synthetic Man, was one of the major science fiction novels of 1950, but it was Sturgeon's novel More Than Human (1953), our BOTW of two weeks ago, that became an acknowledged classic of the field. Neither novel had an opportunity to win a Hugo Award, however, because the SF field's leading award was not invented until 1952, and then took two years to catch on and became an annual event. So Hugos were awarded for works published in 1952 and 1954, but not for 1953. As fate would have it, 1953 saw the original publication of more all-time classics in the field of science fiction than any year before or (arguably) since. We've already seen More Than Human. In our next several BOTWs, we will see some of the other all-time classics of SF from 1953.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Week :: The Synthetic Man by Theodore Sturgeon

The Synthetic ManThe Book of the Week is the first paperback printing of The Synthetic Man by Theodore Sturgeon, cover art by Art Sussman.

The Synthetic Man is not as well known as last week's BOTW, More Than Human, but it's always been my personal favorite Ted Sturgeon novel. I first read it as a teenager, and was grabbed from the opening line: "They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street." The disgusting thing Horty was doing was eating ants. Young Horty does not fit in, and eventually ends up running away and joining a carnival. The carnival setting is only one of a number of congruities between Sturgeon's work and Ray Bradbury's. Sturgeon and Bradbury were at the forefront of a generation of Golden Age authors whose approach to science fiction was less technical and more artistic and humanistic than earlier writers. (Hollywood is just beginning to catch up.)

The Synthetic Man was first published in the pulp magazines under another title. That title was much preferable, since the title The Synthetic Man has a spoiler right in it. The original pulp publication will be next week's Magazine of the Week.