Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Grrr.  Plagued by computer problems the last few days.  Back soon, I hope.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Jimmy Buffett.


Science Fiction Through the Ages 1  and Science Fiction through the Ages 2, both edited by I. O. Evans (1966)

I. O. Evans (1894-1977) can be considered a forgotten name in science fiction.  He edited and translated many of Jules Verne's work for the Firtzroy editions of Verne's novels, many of which ended up as Ace paperbacks in the late 1960s.  He edited Jules Verne - Master of Science Fiction, which  gave fifteen extracts from Verne's novels.  He evidently wrote a critical work on Verne.  And he wrote two science fiction short stories.  The man seems fairly limited in his knowledge of SF.

Evans was confident enough to come out with this two-volume survey of science fiction, confident enough to stretch the limits of the field to his liking, and confident enough to hack out dribs and drabs from various books to illuminate his thematic history of the field.  Alas, some of his choices are questionable while others are weak.  And the man sure loves his extracts.

Here's Volume 1:

  • "Secret Weapon" (from Count Robert of Paris by Walter Scott)
  • "The Vanished Civilization" (from Timaeus and Critius, based on Plato)
  • "Interplanetary Warfare" (from A True Story by Lucian)
  • "The Moon Voyage" (from Somnium by Johannes Kepler -- ha-ha!  Fooled you!  Because Evans could not find an English translation he used a summary written by Roger Lancelyn Green.)
  • "Utopian Science Fiction" (from The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon)
  • "Satirical Science Fiction" (from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift)
  • "The Human Mutant" (from The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins by Robert Paltock)
  • "Visitors from Outer Space" (from Micromegas by Voltaire)
  • "The Recalcitrant Robot" (from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)
  • "The Menace of the Machine" from Erewhon by Samuel Butler)
  • "The Conquest of the Air" from "The Balloon Hoax" by Edgar Allan Poe)
  • "Into the Unknown" from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jule Verne)
All this (basically) proto-science fiction in 156 pages, including introduction and notes.  Just as well, I don't know if I could have taken much more.

On to Volume 2:
  • "An Expostulation," a short poem by C. S. Lewis
  • "The Atomic Bomb" (from The World Set Free by H. G. Wells)
  • "Action at a Distance" (from Ralph 124C41+ by Hugo Gernsback)
  • "Refugee," by Arthur C. Clarke -- the first of eight complete stories in the book
  • "The Feeling of Power," by Isaac Asimov
  • "A Little Oil," by Eric Frank Russell
  • "The Cold Equations," by Tom Godwin
  • "The Flinties," by I. O. Evans -- I did mention he wrote two science fiction short stories, didn't I?  Well, this is one of them.
  • "A Sound of Thunder," by Ray Bradbury
  • "He Walked Around the Horses," by H. Beam Piper
  • "The Light," by Poul Anderson
  • "Those About to Die --" (from On the Beach by Nevil Shute)
Some decent (albeit familiar) stories lurking in the book's 173 pages (including introduction and notes).

Here's the thing:  I can't figure out for what audience these books are intended?  SF readers?  Hardly.
Novice SF readers?  I can't see them putting up with much of the stuff in the volumes; they probably would throw the books down before they got to the good stuff anyway.  Educators?  The books are a little weak and specious to be taken very seriously.  The general public?  Hah!

It seems that the publishers of these British paperbacks, Pan, may have had a hard time also. To my knowledge, the books have never been reprinted.

As history, an overview, or thematic survey, these two books fall flat.  There is at least something to be said for their quirkiness, which is the only reason I can recommend them.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow.


One of my favorite detective characters from the past is John J. Malone, Craig Rice's hard-drinking defense lawyer.  One way or another, Malone will get his client off the hook -- even if it means bribing someone.  (Yes, Malone can be considered the ancestor of Lawrence Block's far more amoral lawyer Ehrengraf.)

Malone first reached print as a second banana to characters Jake Justus and Helene Brand in the novel Eight Faces at Three.  The soon-to-be-married Jake and Helene quickly moved into the second banana position to make way for the rumpled little lawyer.   (And, as time went by, Jake and Helene were absent from much of the series.)  Malone appeared in many short stories as well as eleven novels by Rice -- the last novel apparently being and early draft written just before her death.

Rice, whose real name was Georgiana Randolph Craig, also published a series featuring Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak, stand-alone mysteries, true crime articles, and ghost-written work for Gypsy Rose Lee and George Sanders.  She was the first mystery author (albeit disguised as a man) to make the cover of Time.  Malone stories were the basis of three movies made from 1945 and 1950.  He was featured in a fondly remembered 13-episode television series in 1952-3.  And he had his own radio show, The Amazing Mr. Malone (also known as Murder and Mr. Malone), which appeared on
ABC radio in 1948 and ended on NBC radio in 1951 with the title character played variously by Gene Raymond, Frank Lovejoy, and George Petrie.  Despite her success, Rice had a troubled life and died way too early at the age of 50.

In 1960, Larry M. Harris (perhaps better known as Laurence Janifer) continued the Malone saga with the mystery The Pickled Poodles.  Book-ending this novel, he wrote three classic SF novels with Randall Garrett under the joint pseudonym Mark Phillips whose protagonist (Kevin Malone) is hinted to be John J. Malone's descendant.

The link takes you to three of the radio episodes.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014