Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Forgotten SF Anthology: New Dreams This Morning, edited by James Blish

New Dreams This Morning, edited by James Blish

a review by Rich Horton

James Blish (1921-1975) was one of the most important writers (A Case of Conscience, Cities in Flight, "Common Time", "Surface Tension", "Beep", and many more) and critics (The Issue at Hand, significant work on James Branch Cabell) in SF's history. However, his footprint as an editor was much lighter: the only issue of Vanguard Science Fiction magazine (June 1958), and two reprint anthologies: Nebula Award Stories 5 and the book at hand, New Dreams This Morning.
(Cover by Richard Powers)


New Dreams This Morning is a very slim book -- only about 50,000 words worth of stories. Blish's introduction discusses the state of SF, and its growing self-consciousness as a (his words) "literary movement". After discussing the growing seriousness of critical attention to SF, and of the literary ambition of its writers, he suggests that one aspect of SF considering itself a serious literature is an interest in art per se -- especially, in this case, an interest in art from an SFnal perspective. Which is what the stories collected here do -- look at the future of art -- new art forms, or the survival of older art into the future, or the way conditions in the future will affect art or the perception of the value of art.

The stories are:

"Dreaming is a Private Thing", by Isaac Asimov (6100 words) (F&SF, December 1955)

This is one of Asimov's better known stories, and, I think, one of his best. The new art here is dreaming -- creating dreams that can be recorded for other people to experience. The story doesn't really turn on plot -- it examines dreaming as art, and its affect on a couple of talented dreamers -- a young boy just showing the ability, and a highly admired professional. He also considerd pornographic dreams, and low quality dreams, and their commercial effects. It's a smart and believable story.

"A Work of Art", by James Blish (6500 words) (Science Fiction Stories, July 1956, as "Art Work")

I think this is the best story in the book, except possibly for Knight's. It's about a resurrected Richard Strauss, and about his attempts to compose something new after his resurrection. Blish portrays Strauss plausibly, and gets in some licks at future music -- as well as at his fellow SF writers, with this little passage: "By far the largest body of work being produced fell into a category called, misleadingly, science-music. The term reflected nothing but the titles of the work, which dealt with space flight, time travel, or other subjects of a romantic or an unlikely nature. There was nothing in the least scientific about the music, which consisted of a melange of cliches ..." At any rate, Strauss's efforts come to nothing satisfying, as the work he produces is but an imitation of his work while first alive ... and at the premiere of his new piece we learn what  real "work of art", and  real artist, is here portrayed.

"The Dark Night of the Soul", by James Blish (5900 words) (Galaxy, August 1956, as "The Genius Heap")

Odd that Blish chose two of his own stories. This one is less well-known than "A Work of Art", despite having appeared in a more prominent magazine. It's about a group of artists in the future who have been taken to a colony on Callisto, where they in general act up. The thesis seems to be that artists are disruptive, and perhaps it is best to keep them away from the bulk of the population. I have to say I was quite unconvinced on numerous grounds.

"Portrait of the Artist", by Harry Harrison (3500 words) (F&SF, November 1964)

This is a fairly straightforward story of a comic book artist who is being replaced by a machine that can do the drawing automatically. Seemed a little, well, over-programmed to me.

"The Country of the Kind", by Damon Knight (5300 words) (F&SF, February 1956)

A classic story, certainly one of Knight's best, one of those anthologized in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I. The narrator is a murderer, and his punishment is a terrible smell that alerts everyone to his presence, and a conditioning that knocks him unconscious when he has violent impulses. He's also an artist, and he's convinced, and tries to convince as many people as he can, that the freedom to act violently and the freedom to create art are linked. I don't really believe that, but the story sells its point powerfully.

"With These Hands", by C. M. Kornbluth (6800 words) (Galaxy, December 1951)

Another story about a true artist facing replacement by less expensive machines. In this case Halvorsen ekes out a living by teaching, very occasionally selling something, and by the patronage of women who seem to hero worship him to some extent. In the dark conclusion, he finds this insupportable, and flees to a dangerous place to admire a true work of art, even if it means his life. Pretty good work.

"A Master of Babylon", by Edgar Pangborn (10,700 words) (Galaxy, November 1954, as "The Music Master of Babylon")

One of Pangborn's better known early stories, though not a story I've really taken to on a couple of readings. Brian Van Anda, a great pianist, is perhaps the only person to survive in flooded New York. He lives alone, of course, and every so often tries to play a great sonata to his satisfaction. Then he encounters a young, nearly savage, couple, who stay with him for a brief time, and ask him to marry them -- they are just civilized enough -- under the influence of the late leader of their colony -- to want their relationship sanction. But -- at least in Van Anda's eyes -- they are not civilized enough to appreciate his music.

"A Man of Talent", by Robert Silverberg (5300 words) (Future Science Fiction #31, Winter 1956-1957, as "The Man With Talent", this version much revised)

(Future's editor, Robert A. W. Lowndes, lumped this story with Blish's "Art-Work", which he had published just a couple of months earlier in Future's sister magazine Science Fiction Stories, in the blurb.) This is a somewhat sardonic tale of a poet on Earth in the 28th century, who has become convinced that decadent Earth is no place for a man of his talent. His one volume of poems received slightly puzzled praise, and he's published nothing since, so he emigrates to Rigel Seven, a colony planet, with the idea that a new environment might spur his creativity, and a less jaded audience might appreciate him. But instead he finds that the vigorous inhabitants of the planet all fancy themselves multi-talented -- artists, singers, and of course craftsmen and farmers and so on. But what they feel they really need is -- a knowledgeable audience. And that is all our protagonist can be to them. Amusing work. Silverberg rewrote the story for this appearance, and I compared it with the original magazine version. The two stories are the same as far as plot and message are concerned -- Silverberg just improved the prose, added a few paragraphs (perhaps up to 500 or so words), generally, I suppose, brought it up to the higher standards he had for his work by this time.
(Cover by Ed Emshwiller, image courtesy of Phil Stephenson-Payne's Galactic Central site)



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Obscure SF novels reviewed on this blog

My latest organizing post covers relatively few of my posts -- these are SF novels that have fallen into obscurity (or never got out of it!). I'll sneak in an anthology or two as well. I mean to distinguish these from a) my Ace Double reviews, which certainly include a lot of obscure SF novels!; and b) the various fairly recent and not necessarily really obscure SF novels that I've mentioned, things like Station Eleven and Engine Summer and my recent summary review of four 2017 books.

So, the "obscure" SF novels (and an anthology or three) are:

New Dreams This Morning, edited by James Blish;

Recalled to Life, by Robert Silverberg;

Point Ultimate, by Jerry Sohl;

The Super Barbarians, by John Brunner;

The Time-Lockers, by Wallace West;

The Planet Strappers, by Raymond Z. Gallun;

9 Tales of Space and Time, edited by Raymond J. Healy;

The Reign of Wizardry, by Jack Williamson;

Great Science Fiction Adventures, edited by Larry T. Shaw;

Times Without Number, by John Brunner;

D-99, by H. B. Fyfe;

Planet Patrol, by Sonya Dorman;



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Old Bestseller: The Octangle, by Emanie Sachs

Old Bestseller Review: The Octangle, by Emanie Sachs

a review by Rich Horton

I find "old bestsellers" in lots of places, though most often in antique stores and estate sales. And I choose them based mostly on whether or not the specific book seems potentially interesting. So it was with this book, by someone I had never heard of. And when the book is by someone I've not heard of, sometimes the most interesting story is that of the author -- not of the book she wrote.

So I think it is with Emanie Sachs. I found The Octangle, her 1930 novel, for $1.50 at an antique store, and it seemed worth a try. This was a writer I had certainly never heard of. When I went looking for more information, I found no Wikipedia entry, but I did find something better: a paper that had been presented at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green in 2008 entitled Rebel With a Cause: Emanie Nahm Sachs Arling Phillips, by WKU librarian Nancy Disher Baird.

It seems Emanie Nahm was born in 1893 and raised in Bowling Green, hence the university's interest in her. Her father was a rather distinguished lawyer and banker. Her parents disapproved of her tomboyish ways, and also of her desire to be a writer. But after dropping out of college in 1913 she moved to New York and began writing for the Times. In 1917 she married Walter Sachs, of the family that by then owned Goldman Sachs, the investment bank. (Goldman had been forced out due to his pro-German sentiment.) They had one child, but the marriage was unhappy.

Emanie took writing classes at Columbia and was soon publishing short stories. Her first novel, Talk, appeared in 1924, set in a fictional town obviously based on Bowling Green. It sold quite well, according to Baird, and was compared to Sinclair Lewis' Main Street. Red Damask, about a Jewish family in New York, came out two years later and was also successful, earning more comparisons to Lewis and praise from Edna Ferber. In 1928 she published The Terrible Siren, a biography of the suffragist Victoria Woodhull. Her last book was The Octangle, in 1930. Baird calls it "rather insipid", a judgement with which I agree. She also claims that the publisher (Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith) went bankrupt just about then, killing the novel's distribution. (Indeed, first editions, even without dust jacket, are fairly pricy ($40 or so), making my $1.50 look like a bargain.) (There was a British edition in 1932.)

After this, Emanie's life took some bad turns -- the death of her mother, and illness, messed her up for some time. In 1937 Walter Sachs divorced her to marry an actress. Emanie took the name Arling at this time, and later on, after some apparently unhappy affairs, married August Phillips in 1963. She continued writing, mostly working on a history of Kentucky, but published nothing more. She also painted. She died in 1981.

So -- a fairly interesting and privileged life. And some early literary success. But I would say Emanie Sachs is essentially entirely forgotten today. What then of The Octangle?

To begin with, it's a very slim book, only about 25,000 words long. It is a murder mystery of sorts, though the mystery is not very mysterious, and the real focus of the novel is on the title "Octangle", a group of 8 rather shallow rich New Yorkers. The book opens with one of the eight, Linda Carter (probably the most wonderful woman in the book) being murdered by an unidentified man who was apparently enraged to witness her dallying with her lover. Immediately follows a description of a dinner party given by Horace and Adele Morley, attended by four other members of the Octangle. Two of them are unmarried: Chloe Vincent and Bryan Emmett. The other two are Jeffrey and Muriel Deene. Linda Carter, of course, cannot attend, as she is dead. And Rodney Carter is in no mood to socialize. This chapter and the chapters that follow piece by piece delineate the various characters: Muriel is beautiful but unlikeable and not very interested in sex. Jeffrey is an author (of books about murder!), and he was Linda's lover. Chloe is fairly clever, and an artist, and has sworn off men after a terrible relationship. Bryan is a successful man in finance, with a tendency to go on swooning crushes over women, but not to date them. Horace and Adele are contented and smug. Rodney is a very good looking man, and a sucessful architect, but a bit of a bore, and he married Linda because she wasn't very good looking and she was socially eligible -- after he had fallen in love with a beautiful lower class blonde.

And as for Linda, she was a dull and plain girl from Kentucky who, after she married Rodney and had a couple of children, started to blossom, taking a couple of lovers, and turning to music. And then she was killed, in her music studio right after she had made love with Jeffrey.

Spoilers will follow -- I don't think they are terribly important, but by all means skip this paragraph if you want to read the book and care about spoilers. Suffice it to say that the solution is a bit overprogrammed, and a bit classist, and a bit implausible.








The obvious suspects are Muriel (because of anger at her affair with Jeffrey, and murder by hire -- she was on an ocean liner when the murder happened), Jeffrey (last person to have seen her, perhaps a crime of passion), and Rodney (anger at her affair with Jeffrey). But none of them really seem likely. And then we hear Bryan Emmett's real story -- he was a poor boy from Kentucky, with an abusive father, and a mother he loved until his father beat the virtue out of her. His father was a thief as well, and taught his son how to get away with it. And so Bryan (born with a different name), steals a stake from another man, runs off to Cincinnati and begins to make a name for himself, moves to New York -- where he encounters Linda Terrill, one of the rich Kentucky girls he used to envy in his boyhood. At first he adores her, associsating her with his mother, but when he learns of her affair with Jeffrey, he feels revulsion and anger ... Chloe figures this out (not quite in that detail), and Bryan, in the cynical conclusion, sneers at her and assures her that no one will believe her crazy story. The book assumes that he's right, and that Chloe will say nothing and he'll get away scot-free.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Recent Novels reviewed on this blog

Recent novels reviewed on this blog

My ongoing quest to offer a hint of organization to the various posts on this blog continues with a very loose category -- "recent novels". These are a set of books that definitely aren't "Old Bestsellers", nor are they really "classics" (though some might become such), and they aren't Ace Doubles. Some are SF, some are not. They're just -- fairly recent. (And there will be overlap with others of my "organization" posts!)

Four 2017 SF Novels: Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory; Amatka, by Karin Tidbeck; The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, by Theodora Goss; Martians Abroad, by Carrie Vaughn;

In the Hall of the Martian Kings, by John Barnes;

Castle Garac, by Nicholas Monsarrat;

Pink Vodka Blues and Skinny Annie Blues, by Neal Barrett, Jr.;

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel;

The Spy in the Ointment, by Donald Westlake;

The Language Nobody Speaks, by Eugene Mirabelli;

The Man Who Got Away, by Sumner Locke Elliott;

Ares Express, by Ian McDonald;

No Score, by Lawrence Block;

The Floating Opera, by John Barth;

Hello Summer, Goodbye, by Michael G. Coney;

The Avram Davidson Treasury, edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis;

The Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett;

...And All the Stars a Stage, by James Blish;

Norwood, by Charles Portis;

The Walled Orchard, by Tom Holt;

Remains, by Mark Tiedemann;

Engine Summer, by John Crowley;

Palladian, by Elizabeth Taylor;

Planet Patrol, by Sonya Dorman;

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson;

A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Old Ace Double: Bow Down to Nul, by Brian W. Aldiss/The Dark Destroyers, by Manly Wade Wellman

Ace Double Reviews, 48: Bow Down to Nul, by Brian W. Aldiss/The Dark Destroyers, by Manly Wade Wellman (#D-443, 1960, $0.35)

by Rich Horton

Brian W. Aldiss, one of the greatest SF writers of them all, died August 19th this year (2017), having just turned 92. So I thought it appropriate to post my review (written some time ago) of one of his early novels that was published as half of an Ace Double.

Aldiss was born in 1925 to working class parents (his father a draper, his mother's father a builder). He was educated at Framlingham College and West Buckham School, and spent part of the Second World War in Burma. He worked at a bookseller after the War, and his first book was a lightly fictionalize account of a bookstore. He was an SF reader from an early age, and at the same time he was publishing his first mainstream book he was publishing his first SF stories in the magazines. Throughout his career he did distinguished work in SF and in mainstream fiction. I have found his work immensely enjoyable, and very varied in tone, style, subject matter, and structure. He also wrote a few memoirs, and I enjoyed the most complete of those, The Twinkling of an Eye, very much indeed.

The author of the other half of this book, Manly Wade Wellman, is less celebrated than Aldiss but still a widely respected writer. Wellman was born in Angola in 1903, and moved to the US at a young age. He was a good football player in his youth, and received a degree in Law from Columbia (his undergraduate degree was from Wichita State), but his goal was to be a writer, and in 1927 he sold his first story to Weird Tales. As this might suggest, his strongest work was in the weird fantastical mode, though he wrote SF, detective stories, comic books, and nonfiction as well. He died in 1986.

I have speculated in the past that Donald Wollheim may have occasionally paired Ace Double halves for thematic reasons. This is another such case -- both novels are about Earth under the domination of alien races. They are also both by fairly well-known, though very different, writers. Manly Wade Wellman became best known for his Appalachian fantasies, especially those about a character named "Silver John". I confess I never warmed to these (indeed, I confess that a good way to turn me off a story is to tell me it's an "Appalachian fantasy"). This novel is quite different -- but not in a good way. Aldiss of course is even better known -- an SFWA Grand Master, one of the best writers in the history of the field. Not surprisingly, this early novel is a lesser work -- though by this time Aldiss was already doing fine stuff such as Non-Stop. Bow Down to Nul is about 48,000 words, The Dark Destroyers about 36,000.
(Cover by Ed Emshwiller)

Bow Down to Nul has a slightly convoluted publishing history. It was originally a serial for New Worlds in 1960, under the title "X for Exploitation". The Ace Double is the first book publication. The Ace version is revised, though of about the same length -- there are some cuts but also some additions. By and large the two versions tell the same story. Later book publications sometimes used the much superior title The Interpreter. The later books mostly seem to have used the Ace text until the story was reprinted in The Brian Aldiss Omnibus. (Thanks to Phil Stephenson-Payne for this bibliographical information.)

The story opens with an aggrieved civil servant of the Partussian Empire complaining about how his threats to expose the corruption of a local administrator ended up in his getting fired. He sends his evidence to an incorruptible respected elder statesman back on Partussy. The statesman decides to investigate.

The planet under the rule of the corrupt administrator is of course Earth. The Partussians, called "Nuls", are three-armed, three-sexed, 10 foot tall creatures who breath hydrogen sulphide. They rule an extended empire. They look down in particular on all bipedal races, but aside from that, they are usually somewhat benevolent. But the ruler of Earth is skimming a lot of Earth's output for his own fortune, and otherwise brutally oppressing humans. Unfortunately for Earth, the two year travel time from Partussy to Earth gives Par-Chavorlem, their administrator, plenty of time to set up a sort of Potemkin Village to fool the investigator with.

The main part of the story concerns Chief Interpreter Gary Towler, one of the human liaisons with the Nuls. His job, directly working with Par-Chavorlem, lets him in for plenty of disdain from his fellow humans. He is in love with young Elizabeth Fallodon, another interpreter, but she seems a bit cool to him. However, Towler is secretly working with a rebel leader, and he agrees to reveal a crucial piece of evidence to the visiting investigator that will hopefully doom Par-Chavorlem.

However, the investigator's visit goes distressingly to the advantage of Par-Chavorlem. Towler is faced with some moral decisions: he doesn't trust the rebel leader, and he gets potentially attractive offers from various sides, but Elizabeth is finally warming to him. All leads to a curious and ironic ending. It's far from a great novel, considerably less good than for example Non-Stop, perhaps a bit too obviously a take on the British Empire. Still, not bad -- Aldiss is reliably at least interesting, at least at this stage of his career.


 
(Cover by Ed Valigursky)

The Dark Destroyers is an abridgement of an expansion of a 1938/1939 Astounding serial called "Nuisance Value". ("Nuisance Value", by the way, is also the title of a 1957 Astounding story by Eric Frank Russell, a 1975 Analog story by James White, a 1956 Authentic story by John Brunner, and a 1951 Amazing story by Walt Sheldon. I'm not aware of its use in any SF magazines not starting with the letter A.) When I say "abridgement of an expansion" I mean that in 1959 Wellman published The Dark Destroyers as a Thomas Bouregy hardcover, expanded from the serial. This 1960 Ace edition is marked "Abridged" on the cover.

The story is set some decades after Earth has been invaded by aliens called the Cold People, because they cannot tolerate high temperatures. Most humans are exterminated, but a few remain in the tropics. Mike Darragh is a young man living near the Orinoco, and when a group of local chiefs plan an attack against the Cold People, he urges that he be allowed to investigate one of their bases first. After all, human technology was hopeless against the aliens when they first invaded -- why will their reduced capabilities now do better?

Darragh bravely encounters the Cold People on a Caribbean island and mostly by luck manages to steal one of their air vehicles. He ends up flying to a Cold People dome in Chicago, where he is astonished to discover a colony of humans kept in a sort of zoo. There he tries to urge them to revolt, against the counsel of an elder who seems a bit too happy with the status quote. Fortunately, he instantly falls in love with a local girl, and naturally virtue triumphs.

A pretty minor piece of work, in other words. Not terribly plausible, not terribly interesting.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Old Bestseller Review: The Lonely, by Paul Gallico

Old Bestseller Review: The Lonely, by Paul Gallico

a review by Rich Horton

When I was a teenager I read a whole lot of different stuff (still do, to be sure). One sort of thing I read was contemporary bestsellers. I read the likes of Leon Uris, Herman Wouk (who struck me then as purely a writer of popular fiction (especially with The Winds of War), but who has a somewhat higher reputation, I gather, perhaps closer to Somerset Maugham territory ("in the first rank of the second raters")), Alastair MacLean, Helen MacInnes, even once an Arthur Hailey book. And I read some Paul Gallico. Gallico didn't really have many "blockbusters" -- his only novel to make the Publishers' Weekly list of the ten bestselling novels of the year was Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (published as Flowers for Mrs. Harris in the UK) in 1959. He also wrote The Poseidon Adventure, basis for the blockbuster movie. And his early novella The Snow Goose was and remains very popular. I read Matilda, about a boxing kangaroo, as well as a couple of the Mrs. 'Arris books, with a fair amount of enjoyment.

Gallico was born in 1897 in New York City to recent immigrants. He graduated from Columbia after serving in World War I, then turned to journalism. He made a name for himself as a sportswriter -- in a way he was George Plimpton before Plimpton: for his first big story he sparred with Jack Dempsey (and was quickly knocked out). He founded the Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament at this time, but began selling short fiction, and in 1936 he retired from sportswriting to concentrate on fiction. (Though his first book, Farewell to Sport, was nonfiction about sportswriting and his decision to leave it, and he also wrote the book about Lou Gehrig on which the movie Pride of the Yankees was based.) He moved to England for some time, and later lived all over Europe, ending his life in France.

The Lonely is a very short novel, a little under 40,000 words. It was first published (perhaps in a shorter form) in Cosmopolitan in 1945. The book came out in 1947 in England, not until 1949 in the US. Like The Snow Goose (and to an extent his first two books of fiction, the Hiram Holliday books) it is a World War II story.

The hero is Lieutenant Jerry Wright, from Connecticut, who is at Gedsborough Air Base in England, flying bombers. He's approaching the end of his stint, but he gets grounded for a couple of weeks due to battle fatigue. Wondering what to do, one of his crewmates suggests he ask a girl to accompany him on a trip to Scotland, for some fun (of exactly the sort you might think). British girls, he is assured, understand the arrangement -- just for fun, no hard feelings when it's over. And Jerry, son of a successful banker, has his life planned -- he'll go home and into his father's business, and he'll marry the neighbor girl, tall and beautiful (but, at least in Jerry's conception, apparently sexless) Catherine Quentin, daughter of his mother's best friend.

Jerry is a bit embarrassed by this suggestion, but ends up deciding to ask a girl he's been friendly with, a WAAF who works at the base, and who thus understands the pressure they're all under. Her name is Patches (from a young mispronunciation of Patrice) and she is presented as a bit shy, not terribly pretty, and (to my mind) not the sort of girl who'd agree to Jerry's proposal (though she does have leave coming). Jerry explains about his engagement to Catherine, making it clear they have no future, and Patches agrees to accompany him on the understood terms.

Well, you see how things are. Patches is already in love with Jerry, and Jerry doesn't really realize it, but he's well on the way to being in love with her. And the trip seals things. The sex is good, true, but the shared experiences, the conversations, etc., are more important. When Patches' leave is over, they say their farewells, Jerry still convinced his future is set. And then he realizes he's made a mistake -- he needs Patches. But what about Catherine? He catches a fortunate ride on a transport one of his friends is flying back to the US, for a whirlwind visit to home. But he can't make himself see Catherine, and when he tells his parents his plan, they act rather horribly. His mother breaks down, and loads him with guilt over (really) the mess he's made of her own dreams. His father tries a more mature approach, admitting to an affair with a French girl during WWI, and assuring Jerry that his feelings for Patches are just infatuation. And he seems to have Jerry convinced.

So what happens when he returns to England, and sees Patches again? Two guesses, and the first one doesn't count! But, really, Gallico handles it all pretty well, and he sells the Jerry/Patches relationship, and Jerry's eventual decision, quite well. This is popular fiction, rather thin, really, and written in workmanlike fashion. And quite sentimental. But it's well done popular fiction, and I conclude, based on this and my memories of the other Gallico novels I've read, that he deserved his popularity.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Literary Wonder and Adventure Podcast

I should mention that Robert Zoltan (Robert Szeles) of the Literary Wonder and Adventure series of podcasts has posted the one he recorded with me: The Golden Age of Science Fiction, Part Two. (That link actually takes you to the LWA main page but you can easily find the podcast there.) It was a lot of fun to do -- we discussed, well the Golden Age of SF (and the "Silver Age" and after), and Golden Ages in general, and lots of other stuff. Hopefully it's of general interest.