Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The indefatigable weirdness of '50s American science fiction

"These novels testify to the extraordinary range, profound intelligence, and indefatigable weirdness of ’50s American science fiction. A must-have for anyone interested in one of the most vital periods of our literature and for anyone who wants a wild wild tumble down the rabbit hole."—Junot Díaz

Diaz is talking about the two-volume collectionAmerican Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, edited by Gary Wolfe, coming in September from the Library of America. The novels are:
Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man
Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
James Blish, A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys, Who?
Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
Although you have to wait for the books, you don't have to wait for LOA's online companion to same. Gary Wolfe has curated a wonderful set of bonus materials, including audio and video snippters (interviews of the authors, broadcasts) for each novel--including short appreciations by living writers: William Gibson, Kit Reed, Tim Powers, Michael Dirda, Connie Willis, Peter Straub, James Morrow, Neil Gaiman, and me.

My piece is about Leigh Brackett. Those who have been reading this blog for a while know I also wrote the introduction to her Sword of Rhiannon. The more I learn about her and her work, the more I wish I could have met her. (As soon as I post this I'll be listening to her hour-long interview, recorded in 1975.) So I was delighted to have the excuse to reread, and then reread again more thoroughly, The Long Tomorrow. As a result, it wouldn't shock me to discover that this novel was a formative influence on the young Carl Sagan. Go read the piece to find out why.

I might have to buy this set. It's a hell of a collection--and I'm not sure I've ever read the Heinlein...
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