Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

Books Read In The Heat: Pulps and Tossers

The heat has affected my reading. More often than usual, I hang out in the bedroom, where the air conditioning is effective in the smaller room, and read in bed. After zipping through various Scalzi's and Stross's after Minicon, another chunk of Goedel, Escher, Bach (I am going to finish it, dammit) and Acting At The Speed of Life by temporary Mpls thespian Tim Moody, my Books To Be Read pile was looking thin. So I grabbed a pile of semi-moldy paperbacks (easier to read in bed) that were in my To Be Sold Or Tossed pile.

Diamonds Are Forever, by Ian Fleming. I've seen all the Bond movies and even read some of the post-Fleming Bond novels, but this was my first Fleming Bond. Not terribly like the movie, though many of the elements are present. Unlike later spy thrillers, Fleming is short on procedure. Diamonds Are Forever is a short quick read, and hard to put down. I'm not going to go so far as to recommend the novel, but the other Bond books are slightly higher on my To Be Acquired list. Maybe I'll even read them in order. I suspect using them as part of the "read the book/see the movie" experience will be wasted.

One of Our Asteroids Is Missing/The Twisted Men, an Ace Double from 1964. One of Our Asteroids Is Missing, by Calvin Knox is pretty bad. Okay, that's unfair: It isn't very good. For one thing, no asteroid is missing. (The Subtitle is more accurate: "They stole his world and his name".) For another, the economic politics of Big Corporation vs. Small Asteroid Miner isn't done very well. The Big Twist is pretty stupid. Oh well.

The other side of the Ace Double is actually three A. E. van Vogt stories: The Twisted Men, The Star-Saint and The Earth Killers. Each worse than the preceding. I have liked the van Vogt read previously, but these were unworthy. I've already forgotten them.

My parents had all the Judith Merrill anthologies (she was a family friend) and I read them. I was too young, and knew it at the time. So I looked forward to The Year's Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy Second Annual Volume from 1957. I even forgave her for the hyphen in "Science-Fiction".

Decidedly a mixed bag. When I was in Jr. High, the most valuable part of the book was the "Summation and Honorable Mention" list at the end: While I still haven't read most of the stories listed, the smorgasbord of authors helped direct me to The Good Stuff. Now, I look back at stories that I haven't read in thirty years. Many hold up. I'll only talk about one.

I once worked for a woman who had been in an abusive relationship. She was married, divorced, remarried him, and finally escaped into a better marriage. I gave her "The Other Man" by Theodore Sturgeon. She practically melted. A terrific story that holds up marvelously. I probably understand it a great deal more now than as a youngster.

Occasionally, supergee (among others) publishes a list of "Science Fiction for people who don't read science fiction". The list is usually chock full of great sf, designed to bowl over any remaining doubters. I think this is the wrong way to go. We should give The Unconverted stories like "The Other Man" in which the science fiction helps tell a story that is more universal than your average space opera. For another example, I think Orphan of Creation tells the same story as The Color Purple, and better.

But I digress. My boss was a terrific woman, and we remained friends after my contract position ended.

Beyond The Edge of Time came to me dilapidated, the cover snipped, the first ten pages ripped out. The first (I think) Fred Pohl anthology is, as the previous book, a mixed bag. It has "The Little Black Bag" by Kornbluth, "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Bradbury and "Scanners Live In Vain" by Cordwainer Smith. Still, many of the other stories, even the ones by Asimov, Clarke and HL Gold, are lesser works. The collection hasn't been reprinted so has a minor reputation. I'm always happy to see large chunks of sf in one place, so give props to Pohl in that regard, but with the retrospect of nearly sixty years I'm guessing that he was publishing known authors more than picking great stuff.

And finally, the one I really want to talk about: Doomsday Wing by George H. Smith, published in 1963. Almost immediately, it was reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove, the movie by Stanley Kubrick.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is loosely based on Red Alert (author Peter George is listed as co-writer on the movie). Fail Safe was sued by George for plagiarism and settled out of court; the book and the movie Fail Safe are not very much like Dr. Strangelove, though they share much Cold War background. Kubrick was concerned that the two movies would be too similar, so he changed certain elements.

Many of those elements are in Doomsday Wing. To be sure, much of the plot is different, if not reversed: The Soviet madman wants to launch an atomic war for his country. Still, Doomsday Wing has the War Room, a bombastic US politician who wants war, and a doomsday scenario. I can't help but think that when Kubrick was tossing around ideas how to make his movie different than Fail Safe, he lit upon Doomsday Wing and lifted a few ideas.

Well, it's getting hot again, so back to the air conditioned bedroom.

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