Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, July 27, 1966. Intended for Apa L, Ninty-Third Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1511, July 28, 1966. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 3-6321.
|Los Angeles in 1967!||Los Angeles in 1968!||Salamander Press #192.|
I'm still on my reading binge.
This Immortal, by Roger Zelazny, Ace #F-393, 174 p., 40¢.
This is a very good and a very unusual book; I'm not sure I've ever read anything quite like it before. It's the novelized expansion of ...And Call Me Conrad, which is up for the Best Novel "Hugo", so don't miss it. There's a strange mixture of distinct elements here; of science and fantasy, of characters and background -- usually, in any novel, one of these elements will predominate over the others, which fall back to filling in the background, but here, each is equally distinct. The writing almost contains a spiritual quality, in the sense that the writings of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis to; but where Tolkien harks back to Norse mythology and Lewis to Christian theology, Zelazny conjures up a strong sense of both Greek mythology and the modern scientific age. The story is set in the fairly far future; a nuclear war has destroyed Earth's civilization to a large extent, and the survivors, trying to restore Earth's culture and political power, are overshadowed by a more powerful alien race that could dominate the planet simply by buying its choicest lands and turning it into one of their pleasure resorts. A state of tension thus exists between the humans and the Vegans, which is polite on the surface, but barely concealing the threat of violence if the Vegans should attempt any act that would result in a loss of face for Earth or for the human race. The action centers around a small party of VIPs touring some of Earth's historical and scenic sites, and the interplay of the relationships between the members of this party. The most important of them, a Vegan, is ostensibly gathering material for a book; the others are sure he is really composing the report that will crystallize the Vegans' policy toward the Earth problem. Conrad Nimikos, the party's guide (and narrator of the book), is an enigma; he is definitely not what he seems, and what he really is may have an important bearing on whether the Vegan is allowed to live to complete his report or not. The overall picture of the plot is built up slowly, a fragment at a time, but the book never becomes dull, due to Zelazny's power as a writer. Zelazny, in fact, may have what Bradbury lacks; the ability to handle sustained plot action up to novel length, with writing that verges on poetic imagery, without letting either interfere with the other. This Immortal is well worth reading; if you haven't discovered Roger Zelazny yet, do so now.
I am confused over this story's position as a "Hugo" contender, though. This Immortal is an expanded version of the F&SF serial ...And Call Me Conrad; to my mind, enough additional material has been added to make it a distinctly better story. Yet, it's the shorter, inferior version that's up for "Best Novel" of 1965. This Immortal is not eligible in its fuller form, of course, since this version was only published this year, in 1966. there's little doubt that ...And Call Me Conrad, abridged as it was, was one of the more impressive novels of 1965. Yet I couldn't bring myself to vote for a story when I know that a better version of it exists elsewhere. (I'm speaking in the abstract sense, since I'm voting for Dune, anyhow.) This Immortal will be eligible for the "Best Novel" award for 1966 -- but since it is the same story as Conrad, if Conrad wins the "Hugo" this year, will Fandom allow the award to be given to what is basically the same story for two years in a row? Even if I did think this was the best novel published this year, I would still vote against Conrad this year so that I can vote for the superior version, This Immortal, next year.
Odd Science Fiction, by Frank Belknap Long, Belmont #L92-600, 141 p., 50¢.
I read this at the Booby Hatch last Sunday, as I was wandering through the Costume Sale; I picked it because I wanted a story from which I could be frequently interrupted and not miss anything of the plot. Odd Science Fiction fit the bill exactly. It is, I believe, the most boring s-f novel I've ever plowed my way through. I've read many a bad book, up to & including the magnum opii of Vargo Statten and R. Lionel Fanthorpe, S.M.B.I.S., but they were usually at least interesting bad books; they contained action, no matter how unbelievable or illogical. Not only does Odd Science Fiction lack any real action, every time the author introduces any supranormal element to the plot, everything grinds to a dead halt while he then groans into an extremely tedious, lengthy, and completely unconvincing explanation as to why this is possible. The main portion of this book consists of Long's short novel, The Horror from the Hills, which is reprinted in this edition from an Arkham House book of three or four years ago, which rescued it from oblivion in the pages of WEIRD TALES in the early '30's. I presume Derleth must have felt obligated to reprint it because it's the longest work of one of the active members of the old Lovecraft writing circle. It's the only real clunker Derleth has published to date, and should be avoided, in any shape or form. Odd Science Fiction does contain two other short stories, which fail to add anything other than an extra 40 pages of print to the book. I can't recommend this even to the s-f completists.
The Night of the Wolf, by Fritz Leiber, Ballantine #U2254, 221 p., 50¢.
The Night of the Wolf is actually four old novelettes, each retitled to give them some name continuity with wolves, and with some brief new transitional material to try to connect them into a whole. The attempt fails, as it has so often in the past when unrelated short stories have been strung together to be presented as a unified novel. However, each of the novelettes is fully capable of standing on its own, so while this may not be a good novel, it is excellent as Fritz's latest collection of short fiction.
The four stories range over a number of years, from "Crazy Wolf" ("Sanity"; ASF, 1944) to "The Lone Wolf" ("The Creature from Cleveland Depths"; GALAXY, 1962). If any internal connecting theme exists, it is that of social stability. "Sanity" is an important factor; is sanity a relative or an absolute? Fritz is fond of pointing out that in a society in which everyone else is mad, it's the person who's out of step with the others who's "insane" -- although, depending on the mental state of the norm, such "insanity" may be a thing to be desired. In all four stories, an aberrant -- to our culture -- society is depicted, and the action centers around an attempt by a "madman" (or a band of madmen) to return it to the mental and social standards of today. In some of the stories, the attempt is conscious, in others, it's not; in three, it succeeds, in one, it fails. "The Wolf Pair" ("The Night of the Long Knives", AMAZING, 1960) is probably the best story in the book; it's the longest and most gripping. If there's any real criticism to be made about these stories, it's that a couple of the cultures are just too unstable to be believable in the first place. (It's interesting to note that both of these date from Fritz's earliest period as an s-f writer; he's obviously learned a lot since then.) On the whole, this book is a bargain for all those who like Fritz's science-fiction (as distinct from his fantasy) writing, both in his old style and in his new.
-- BEING COMMENTS ON LAST WEEK'S DISTRIBUTION
Ruth Berman -- I hope this discussion on Norse mythology continues. About the only point of agreement I have with John Boardman is with his urging everyone to read Njal's Saga, or the Saga of Burnt Njal, as it's also called. I'd like to know what Eleanor Arnason thinks of the Norse and Celtic overtones in Alan Garner's two Weirdstone books -- you will be showing her the replies to her comment?
Barry Gold -- Do you really think that the difference between a 6-space blank and an 8-space blank is going to mean anything to the rest of us? For all practical purposes, you've just started renumbering with the same title. You'd do better to spell it out, if you want to use that title: EIGHT-SPACE BLANK #2, etc. ## Gad, parties all over the place. I guess the NonCon hardly means anything any more; it's just another party in among a whole slew of 'em. ## We don't really need another new feud at this point. Your "defense" against Bĵo's statement wasn't really needed; I, for one, didn't know who she was talking about, and I frankly wasn't interested enough to bother finding out. ## As a general policy statement, I agree about not censoring anything for poor taste, and letting those who want to make fools of themselves do so. Earl's zine of a long time ago was censored because I feared it might hurt someone else -- this sort of zine will continue to be censored -- and I have also made on-the-spot decisions based on the technical problems of correlating odd-sized paper or overly-bulky inclusions with the Dist'n.
Dwain Kaiser -- In case I don't think of it again, remind me come Pan-PacifiCon time that a Con Committee might be able to afford the stamping of a special button for sale at their Con. In case other things, such as a special deck of playing cards, fall through, we might be able to have a lapel button made with something stfnal on it. We'll have to check into prices. Would next year's WesterCon be interested in experimenting with this idea?
Creath Thorne -- Glad to see you back. ## I enjoyed reading your list of best short stories, though I don't think either of us will gain much by carrying the discussion past this point, since we're obviously operating on an emotional level now, listing the stories which made the biggest impressions on us when we read them. There's not much that "logic" can do to change such personal opinions. I still like "The Green Hills of Earth" better than "Coventry", for example. Your two suggested additions, Sherred's "E for Effort" and Russell's "...And Then There Were None" are both excellent, though I don't think that, given the set number of stories to choose that I was working with, I'd rank them higher than any of my previous choices. ## Yes, I am afraid that however much Damon Knight may protest that Kate Wilhelm's being his wife has nothing to do with his selecting her stories for his collections, it has very much to do with it, indeed. Once or twice we might accept, but when a Wilhelm story is included in almost every anthology that Knight edits, to the exclusion of better material (or, in the case of a collection of new writings, material by better authors), it becomes statistically more than coincidence. Harlan had several risqué comments on this situation, at the WesterCon.
Mike Klassen -- Pardon my curiosity, but just how much rent is that windowseat in the living room of the Booby Hatch worth? ## Yes, Garner did spend very little time in the fantasy world in Elidor, but I don't think he meant to. His main concentration was on the effect of the magic from that world on our world; with that as his emphasis, the relatively minor amount of time spent in the fantasy world makes sense, as he probably didn't want that part of the book to overshadow what was to come later. You're right about there being a lot of loose threads (though the story held my interest so that I scarcely noticed them); I hope Garner has left 'em to make way for a sequel, this time taking place primarily in the fantasy land. This mood of gradually building menace is something that only the British have been able to handle well.