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Cosmic Laughter; Science Fiction for the Fun of It Cosmic Laughter; Science Fiction for the Fun of It by Joe Haldeman


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars

And they say that science fiction can't be funny?

Joe Haldeman proved them wrong in 1974 with Cosmic Laughter: Science Fiction for the Fun of It. It was a collection of nine stories by nine very funny authors. Unfortunately the book was not a great commercial success. It wasn't long before it was out of print, and in those days before the rise of the world wide web and online book searches, it was almost impossible to find a copy outside of a library. You wouldn't believe what I had to do to get my copy.

But times change, and Cosmic Laughter eventually came back into print - which is good news for all fans of science fiction and humor.

Some of the stories have gone on to become quite well known in the SF field. Others, unfortunately, have been forgotten. But that's a pity, because Haldeman demonstrated a rare sense of humor as a compiler.

The stories:
Read more... )

It just occurred to me that Kuttner's Gallagher is not the only comic SF series protagonist who is a genius inventor in his subconscious, but not in his conscious mind. The same is true of Papa Schimmelhorn, the hero of Reginald (R.) Bretnor's Schimmelhorn stories ( Schimmelhorn File and Schimmelhorn's Gold). There are many other funny science fiction writers, come to think of it; in retrospect, there could have been a whole series of Cosmic Laughters, featuring the humor of Fredric Brown, Ron Goulart, and Robert Sheckley (among others). But Cosmic Laughter is an excellent introduction to some of the funniest stories and authors in the fantasy and science fiction genre.

View all my reviews.
bobquasit: (Default)
Cosmic Laughter; Science Fiction for the Fun of It Cosmic Laughter; Science Fiction for the Fun of It by Joe Haldeman


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars

And they say that science fiction can't be funny?

Joe Haldeman proved them wrong in 1974 with Cosmic Laughter: Science Fiction for the Fun of It. It was a collection of nine stories by nine very funny authors. Unfortunately the book was not a great commercial success. It wasn't long before it was out of print, and in those days before the rise of the world wide web and online book searches, it was almost impossible to find a copy outside of a library. You wouldn't believe what I had to do to get my copy.

But times change, and Cosmic Laughter eventually came back into print - which is good news for all fans of science fiction and humor.

Some of the stories have gone on to become quite well known in the SF field. Others, unfortunately, have been forgotten. But that's a pity, because Haldeman demonstrated a rare sense of humor as a compiler.

The stories:
Read more... )

It just occurred to me that Kuttner's Gallagher is not the only comic SF series protagonist who is a genius inventor in his subconscious, but not in his conscious mind. The same is true of Papa Schimmelhorn, the hero of Reginald (R.) Bretnor's Schimmelhorn stories ( Schimmelhorn File and Schimmelhorn's Gold). There are many other funny science fiction writers, come to think of it; in retrospect, there could have been a whole series of Cosmic Laughters, featuring the humor of Fredric Brown, Ron Goulart, and Robert Sheckley (among others). But Cosmic Laughter is an excellent introduction to some of the funniest stories and authors in the fantasy and science fiction genre.

View all my reviews.
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Store of Infinity Store of Infinity by Robert Sheckley


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of the first science fiction books I ever bought for myself. I was in my mid-teens, living in Westport, CT. The store was called "The Bookworm", I think, and it was run by an aging hippie. The shop was small and dark, with a largish brass bowl filled with sand and sticks of burning incense on the counter; it was a magical sort of place.

And so it was only appropriate that I lucked into buying a rather magical sort of book. Store of Infinity is one of those all too rare, gem-like books of remarkably clever short science fiction stories; stories that stick in your mind, tickling your funny bone and stimulating your imagination. Sheckley has produced an astonishing number of such stories over his career (he's far better in that form than in novels), and these stories were written at the very height of his talent. I'm reminded of O. Henry, and even more so of Fredric Brown. Ron Goulart has also written many books which are similar to Sheckley's short story style, although Goulart in general tends to be a bit more surreal and quirky than Sheckley in his best period.

Credit must be given to Sheckley for great prescience; his story "The Prize of Peril" (one of the longer stories in the book) is a brilliant prediction of the current reality-TV fad, and a logical projection of where that trend might go in the future. What makes that story particularly amazing is that it was written in the late 1950s. And while being a stunning piece of sociological prediction, it also manages to be gripping, extremely exciting, funny, and a biting satire.

The story seems to have been ripped off wholesale by Steven King for his novel and movie The Running Man, but it's so much better than either of those that it shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath.

And yet that's only one of the incredibly memorable stories in this book. If you like clever, witty, imaginative short stories than this is definitely a book you don't want to miss.

View all my reviews.
bobquasit: (Default)
Store of Infinity Store of Infinity by Robert Sheckley


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of the first science fiction books I ever bought for myself. I was in my mid-teens, living in Westport, CT. The store was called "The Bookworm", I think, and it was run by an aging hippie. The shop was small and dark, with a largish brass bowl filled with sand and sticks of burning incense on the counter; it was a magical sort of place.

And so it was only appropriate that I lucked into buying a rather magical sort of book. Store of Infinity is one of those all too rare, gem-like books of remarkably clever short science fiction stories; stories that stick in your mind, tickling your funny bone and stimulating your imagination. Sheckley has produced an astonishing number of such stories over his career (he's far better in that form than in novels), and these stories were written at the very height of his talent. I'm reminded of O. Henry, and even more so of Fredric Brown. Ron Goulart has also written many books which are similar to Sheckley's short story style, although Goulart in general tends to be a bit more surreal and quirky than Sheckley in his best period.

Credit must be given to Sheckley for great prescience; his story "The Prize of Peril" (one of the longer stories in the book) is a brilliant prediction of the current reality-TV fad, and a logical projection of where that trend might go in the future. What makes that story particularly amazing is that it was written in the late 1950s. And while being a stunning piece of sociological prediction, it also manages to be gripping, extremely exciting, funny, and a biting satire.

The story seems to have been ripped off wholesale by Steven King for his novel and movie The Running Man, but it's so much better than either of those that it shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath.

And yet that's only one of the incredibly memorable stories in this book. If you like clever, witty, imaginative short stories than this is definitely a book you don't want to miss.

View all my reviews.
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Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (Top Ten) Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Brilliant.

Call him what you like, but there's no denying it; Alan Moore is brilliant. And in Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, he proves once again that he can grip a reader without the usual "big name" comic-book characters.

That's not to say that the characters in TT:TFN are completely original. In fact, that's a large part of the charm; finding and recognizing characters who can't be identified within the text by name for copyright/trademark reasons, but who are identifiable nonetheless. Look carefully, and you'll swear you see Kal-El, or possibly his father...as well as his earthly secret identity. You'll catch a glimpse of a certain Friendly Ghost, if you're sharp. Not to mention a well-known large-forearmed sailor man and his rather enormous nemesis.

I even spotted a rather ghoulish couple who frequently graced the pages of the New Yorker in days gone by, and were later adapted to television.

But that's just the frosting on the cake. The cake itself is a cracking good story; the story of a city after the end of World War II, a new city filled with the various super-powered and otherwise incredible characters who participated in the war (including to my amusement an analog of comic strip adviser Mary Worth).

I won't spoil the book for you. But the characters and plot are up to the usual high standards of Moore at his best. The art is also quite good, with a unique and memorable style that makes the search for familiar characters (on the second or third re-reading) a pleasure. This was a book that I didn't want to return to the library. And when I finished reading it, I wished there was more.

View all my reviews.
bobquasit: (Default)
Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (Top Ten) Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Brilliant.

Call him what you like, but there's no denying it; Alan Moore is brilliant. And in Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, he proves once again that he can grip a reader without the usual "big name" comic-book characters.

That's not to say that the characters in TT:TFN are completely original. In fact, that's a large part of the charm; finding and recognizing characters who can't be identified within the text by name for copyright/trademark reasons, but who are identifiable nonetheless. Look carefully, and you'll swear you see Kal-El, or possibly his father...as well as his earthly secret identity. You'll catch a glimpse of a certain Friendly Ghost, if you're sharp. Not to mention a well-known large-forearmed sailor man and his rather enormous nemesis.

I even spotted a rather ghoulish couple who frequently graced the pages of the New Yorker in days gone by, and were later adapted to television.

But that's just the frosting on the cake. The cake itself is a cracking good story; the story of a city after the end of World War II, a new city filled with the various super-powered and otherwise incredible characters who participated in the war (including to my amusement an analog of comic strip adviser Mary Worth).

I won't spoil the book for you. But the characters and plot are up to the usual high standards of Moore at his best. The art is also quite good, with a unique and memorable style that makes the search for familiar characters (on the second or third re-reading) a pleasure. This was a book that I didn't want to return to the library. And when I finished reading it, I wished there was more.

View all my reviews.
bobquasit: (Default)
Just a reminder to myself to do a post about two new books I got out from the library.

And because I may never get around to actually writing that post, here it is in brief:

Larry Niven's Fleet of Worlds is a welcome reversion. Niven's work had become rather weak in the past ten to fifteen years; it seemed that like so many writers, age was robbing him of his abilities and voice.

His many co-authors didn't help, either. None of them were that good, and they brought him down. At his best, Niven used beautifully clear, diamond-like prose to convey startling hard-science concepts and speculation; his fantasy was equally clever and imaginative.

Compared to his best works, his many recent novels plodded. They were better than a lot of the crap that's coming out under the SF label lately, but they were disappointing nonetheless.

While Fleet of Worlds doesn't attain the heights of Niven's best work, it is a quite respectable book and definitely worthy of Niven's literary legacy. It ties in to plot elements from previous Known Space stories without exploiting or ruining those stories, and without being annoying. All in all, it works. I haven't heard of the co-author, Edward M. Lerner, before, but so far I'd rate him the best co-author Niven has worked with. Although some of his work with Pournelle was also quite good.


I can't be anywhere near as positive about The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson. Although I'm only 100 pages into it (and it's a behemoth like so many modern crap-SF novels), I knew I was in for a rough ride right on the first page. I don't have the book with me, so I can't tell you exactly what elements set off my mental stink-bomb alert, but I'll see if I can dig them up later.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh here. Actually, as modern SF goes, I've certainly seen worse. But reading it gave me an insight into why I hate the vast majority of modern science fiction so passionately: it's stupid.

It seems to me that the current generation of SF editors and publishers came into the field after the Golden Age - in most cases, post-1970s. Lots of people working in the business now wouldn't know Roger Zelazny or Fredric Brown if they leaped out of their graves and bit them on the ass.

And I believe they think of science fiction as "childish" literature, for immature, adolescent minds.

Which, of course, it has often been from the very first. But there were always exceptional authors - the cream that rose to the top - who wrote truly intelligent, imaginative, and adult science fiction (and fantasy, of course; I'm not making a distinction right now).

The problem is that back then, there were at least some editors and publishers who could recognize greatness. Now, those perceptive and mature people in the SF publishing industry seem to be gone - probably, I suspect, because the whole industry is far more commercialized than it used to be, far more integrated into the craptastic Hollywood culture that dominates American society. They're all looking so hard for the next Harry Potter that they would not only MISS the next Cordwainer Smith - he wouldn't even be able to get in their door.

I fear that the same must be said for fans. It may be that the vast majority of younger fans simply don't know what good writing is, because they've never seen it.

There are still a few good writers out there, of course, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Like Hercule Poirot, I'm not going to pretend that I'm stupid. I'm more intelligent than the average reader, even the average SF reader. So maybe that makes me more sensitive to having my intelligence insulted. I can tell when I'm reading something written by someone who is dumber than I am, to put it crudely, and I'd say that 97% of everything new being published these days is either written by a relatively dim person, or deliberately slanted for an audience that the producers of the product consider to be - there's no other word for it - idiots.

And even so, the people producing this crap are not bright. If they were, even their dumbed-down writing would show it - and it doesn't. Typos, logical failures, unbelievable characters, the same tired old cliches again and again and again...lord! I'm so sick of it!
bobquasit: (Default)
Just a reminder to myself to do a post about two new books I got out from the library.

And because I may never get around to actually writing that post, here it is in brief:

Larry Niven's Fleet of Worlds is a welcome reversion. Niven's work had become rather weak in the past ten to fifteen years; it seemed that like so many writers, age was robbing him of his abilities and voice.

His many co-authors didn't help, either. None of them were that good, and they brought him down. At his best, Niven used beautifully clear, diamond-like prose to convey startling hard-science concepts and speculation; his fantasy was equally clever and imaginative.

Compared to his best works, his many recent novels plodded. They were better than a lot of the crap that's coming out under the SF label lately, but they were disappointing nonetheless.

While Fleet of Worlds doesn't attain the heights of Niven's best work, it is a quite respectable book and definitely worthy of Niven's literary legacy. It ties in to plot elements from previous Known Space stories without exploiting or ruining those stories, and without being annoying. All in all, it works. I haven't heard of the co-author, Edward M. Lerner, before, but so far I'd rate him the best co-author Niven has worked with. Although some of his work with Pournelle was also quite good.


I can't be anywhere near as positive about The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson. Although I'm only 100 pages into it (and it's a behemoth like so many modern crap-SF novels), I knew I was in for a rough ride right on the first page. I don't have the book with me, so I can't tell you exactly what elements set off my mental stink-bomb alert, but I'll see if I can dig them up later.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh here. Actually, as modern SF goes, I've certainly seen worse. But reading it gave me an insight into why I hate the vast majority of modern science fiction so passionately: it's stupid.

It seems to me that the current generation of SF editors and publishers came into the field after the Golden Age - in most cases, post-1970s. Lots of people working in the business now wouldn't know Roger Zelazny or Fredric Brown if they leaped out of their graves and bit them on the ass.

And I believe they think of science fiction as "childish" literature, for immature, adolescent minds.

Which, of course, it has often been from the very first. But there were always exceptional authors - the cream that rose to the top - who wrote truly intelligent, imaginative, and adult science fiction (and fantasy, of course; I'm not making a distinction right now).

The problem is that back then, there were at least some editors and publishers who could recognize greatness. Now, those perceptive and mature people in the SF publishing industry seem to be gone - probably, I suspect, because the whole industry is far more commercialized than it used to be, far more integrated into the craptastic Hollywood culture that dominates American society. They're all looking so hard for the next Harry Potter that they would not only MISS the next Cordwainer Smith - he wouldn't even be able to get in their door.

I fear that the same must be said for fans. It may be that the vast majority of younger fans simply don't know what good writing is, because they've never seen it.

There are still a few good writers out there, of course, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Like Hercule Poirot, I'm not going to pretend that I'm stupid. I'm more intelligent than the average reader, even the average SF reader. So maybe that makes me more sensitive to having my intelligence insulted. I can tell when I'm reading something written by someone who is dumber than I am, to put it crudely, and I'd say that 97% of everything new being published these days is either written by a relatively dim person, or deliberately slanted for an audience that the producers of the product consider to be - there's no other word for it - idiots.

And even so, the people producing this crap are not bright. If they were, even their dumbed-down writing would show it - and it doesn't. Typos, logical failures, unbelievable characters, the same tired old cliches again and again and again...lord! I'm so sick of it!

Hmm...

Oct. 28th, 2005 09:58 am
bobquasit: (Default)
I was just thinking of writing an entry about why I haven't been writing much lately. Basically, I don't know why, but I also don't suppose it matters much. Then I saw a news story that surprised me.

George Takei has announced that he's gay. Go figure.

I'm not terribly surprised, actually. I wonder if this makes it more or less likely that they'll give him his own Trek show?

Hmm...

Oct. 28th, 2005 09:58 am
bobquasit: (Default)
I was just thinking of writing an entry about why I haven't been writing much lately. Basically, I don't know why, but I also don't suppose it matters much. Then I saw a news story that surprised me.

George Takei has announced that he's gay. Go figure.

I'm not terribly surprised, actually. I wonder if this makes it more or less likely that they'll give him his own Trek show?

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