Tag Archives: 1930s

Vintage Storytellers: A Review of The Future Is Female

Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are interested in participating\ use the hashtag #VintageSciFiMonth or tag @VintageSciFi_ or @redhead5318 on Twitter if you’d like your posts to be included in the official retweets and roundups.  

The Future Is Female by Lisa Yaszek (editor) book cover. Image on cover shows a woman wearing rubber boots, a futuristic white body suit, and a glass bubble around her head standing on a white mound of sand or rocks while looking at up at a dark and mostly cloudless sky. Title: The Future Is Female

Author: Lisa Yaszek (Editor)

Publisher: Library of America

Publication Date: September 25, 2018 for this anthology. All stories in it were originally published between 1928 and 1969.

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 432 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Space-opera heroines, gender-bending aliens, post-apocalyptic pregnancies, changeling children, interplanetary battles of the sexes, and much more: a groundbreaking new collection of classic American science fiction by women from the 1920s to the 1960s

SF-expert Lisa Yaszek presents the biggest and best survey of the female tradition in American science fiction ever published, a thrilling collection of twenty-five classic tales. From Pulp Era pioneers to New Wave experimentalists, here are over two dozen brilliant writers ripe for discovery and rediscovery, including Leslie F. Stone, Judith Merril, Leigh Brackett, Kit Reed, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree Jr., and Ursula K. Le Guin. Imagining strange worlds and unexpected futures, looking into and beyond new technologies and scientific discoveries, in utopian fantasies and tales of cosmic horror, these women created and shaped speculative fiction as surely as their male counterparts. Their provocative, mind-blowing stories combine to form a thrilling multidimensional voyage of literary-feminist exploration and recovery.

Review:

Content warning: War, radiation, pregnancy,  childbirth, pandemics, sex reassignment surgery, kidnapping, and birth defects. I will be discussing pregnancy, radiation, and birth defects in my review.

Buckle up for a wild ride.

I can’t review all of the stories in this collection in my review, so I’ll pick a few of the most interesting ones.

Leslie Perri’s “Space Episode”  began with the terror some astronauts felt at the exact moment they realized that they’d either need to find a way to dislodge the meteor stuck in their engine immediately or crash onto Earth and die. There wasn’t even time to share the characters’ names with the audience in that scene, and yet I immediately sympathized with them and couldn’t stop reading until I’d found out their fates.I can’t say much else about the storyline without giving away spoilers, but I thought was well paced and exciting. While I must continue being vague, the ending also had a nice twist in it that made me wish for a sequel.

Margaret’s fear of having accidentally exposed her fetus to dangerous amounts of radiation was overwhelming in “That Only a Mother” by Judith Merrill. It wasn’t difficult to figure out where the plot was going from there, so I was mostly interested in Margaret’s character development as she went through her pregnancy and began adjusting to being a new mom. I found myself wishing I could sit down with the author to confirm whether this was what she was hoping her audience would do given how easy it was to guess what would happen next. Then again, maybe this sort of storyline was much less used in the 1940s and would have been fresher for readers back then!

I was intrigued by Alice Eleanor Jones’ “Created He Them” immediately. The main character lived in a society where many necessities of life were difficult to get, from eggs to new clothes. She had two young sons to look after and was increasingly having difficulty keeping everyone in her family fed and warm. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover more about her world, but I thought it was a memorable (if also depressing) place that could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel.

The Future Is Female was a memorable introduction to plenty of vintage science fiction authors I’d never heard of before.

Vintage Science Fiction Month: Vintage Images

Vintage SciFi Month was created by Little Red Reviewer and is moderated by Red Star Reviews. Any science fiction film, short story, play, or book released before 1979 is eligible for this celebration of classic science fiction. Click on the links above to participate, read other entries, or for more information in general. 

Most of my entries for Vintage Science Fiction month tend to be reviews of films, books, or TV shows. Today I thought I’d mix things up a little by sharing some interesting vintage science fiction artwork, covers, and logos I found on various parts of Wikimedia.

" Festus, a poem" artwork by Philip James Bailey. Image is of an angelic creature flying up towards a triangle that is emitting many rays of light.

The book cover for “Festus, A Poem” by Philip James Bailey. This book had about 22,000 lines of blank verse poetry written across 50 scenes about the legend of Faust. It is quite hard to find these days.

 

Science Fiction Quarterly cover. Shows man turning into a tree and a woman who appears to be causing it.

A cover of Science Fiction Quarterly from the summer 1942 issue.

 

Universe Science Fiction cover from 1953. Image on cover shows small group of people watching a rocket ship take off.

A cover of Universe Science Fiction from May 1953.

 

Cover of Super-Science Fiction, June 1959. Image on cover shows two astronauts fighting a house-sized monster that has many tentacles.

A cover of Super Science Fiction from June 1959.

 

1911 sketch of A man seeing live television in his bed.

This is an illustration from Camille Flammarion’s 1894 science fiction novel La Fin du Monde. It predicted that a man could lie in bed and watch (what we would now call) television in bed in 1911.

Science Fiction League logo. Image on logo shows rocket ship flying past earth from the perspective of someone who is in outer space looking below at both of these things.

The logo of the Science Fiction League from 1934.

 

Completing the Set: A Review of The Crown Derby Plate

Book cover for Marjorie Bowen's "The Crown Derby Plate- A Ghost Story for Christmas." Image on cover is of a ghost, tombstone, and house.The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Crown Derby Plate – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Marjorie Bowen

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Holiday, Historical

Length: 56 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: An antique collector hears of an ancient woman with a large collection of china. Hoping to complete a particular set, the collector pays a visit to the woman’s ramshackle house, where she makes a terrifying, ghostly discovery.

Review:

One of the first things that intrigued me about this short story was that was written about a single woman who was a senior citizen. The speculative fiction genre is sadly pretty short on protagonists who fit that demographic, so I’m always in the market for writers who buck that trend.

Martha, the antique collector, was the character who greedily went off in search of a Crown Derby Plate that was the only piece missing from her prized collection. She struck me as the sort of person who has memorized all of the etiquette rules and social niceties while also having a deep understanding of how to use them to quietly get exactly what she wants. While I’d never want to befriend her, I did find the combination of her impeccable manners and selfish motives to be fascinating.

The paranormal elements of the plot were ridiculously easy to figure out in advance. I’d suspect that anyone who has read more than one ghost story in their life would know where this piece was going as soon as Martha set off to visit her neighbour’s dilapidated estate.  It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was happening there.

With that being said, I loved the spooky atmosphere of the Hartley’s house. This is one of those things that can quickly make or break a ghost story, and it was done well in this case. Miss Lefain, the frail old woman who lived there, was not well enough to do even simple tasks like dusting, so Martha was in for quite a surprise when she saw how run-down the property was.

While it wasn’t specifically written for these groups, this is something that could be a fun story to read to kids or people learning English as a second language who are in the market for something short, simple, and scary.

An Alluring Trap: A Review of One Who Saw

Book cover for A.M. Burrage's One Who Saw. Image on cover is of a pair of green eyes with long eyelashes. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: One Who Saw – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: A.M. Burrage

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A sensitive writer flees the clatter of London for a sleepy French city. After settling in at quiet hotel, he spies a ghostly, solitary young woman weeping in a walled garden, her features hidden from view. Compelled to see the woman’s face, he ventures forward…. Originally published on Christmas in 1931, “One Who Saw” is regarded as A.M. Burrage’s masterpiece.

Review:

Secondhand stories aren’t always correct, but in this case they just might be!

I was expecting Simon Crutchley to tell his tale to the audience directly. The fact that we learned about it through a group of his neighbours gossiping at a dinner party beginning with the opening scene came as a surprise to me, but it somehow made his experiences even more harrowing than they might have already been.

Humans are good at filling in the gaps when they have some information but not necessarily all of it. Simon’s reaction to his paranormal experience was so life-changing that it made sense his neighbours would speculate about it. While I would have loved to read this from his perspective, it did make sense that he wasn’t up for that given what his neighbours described happening to him.

Gardens aren’t supposed to be scary places, so I was intrigued by how much effort the author put into showing how a lack of sunlight can make what should be a cheerful place to sit and write into a spot that anyone looking for some peace and quiet would best avoid.

By far my favourite part of this story had to do with what happened to people who attempted to see the face of the ghost who was sitting in the sunless garden. This wasn’t something that hauntings typically include, and it added a twist to the plot that I appreciated.

One Who Saw was deliciously chilling. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories.

Vintage Science Fiction Month: It’s a Bird

Vintage Science FictionVintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 

This week I’m going to be talking about “It’s A Bird,” a three-minute, stop-motion animation film from 1930 that featured Charley Bowers and a metal bird that was capable of turning metal scraps into something incredible.

Harold L. Muller was the director of this film. Click here to watch it or check out the embedded version below. It is safe for viewers of all ages.

Caution – Major Spoilers Below

Think about all of the hours of work that went into creating this film! Every single frame of it had to be painstakingly recorded and then stitched together. There weren’t any computers, much less CGI, to make that job easier.

I loved the world building of this film. Charley was just as surprised as the audience was by the existence of a metal bird who ate metal and turned all of those scraps into a beautiful, white egg.

The fact that the egg hatched into a brand new car made me laugh! I was expecting another metal bird to start running around. Honestly, the only thing better than that was the parent-bird’s response when Charley said that he wanted to take the bird and start making a whole factory’s worth of new cars for them to sell.

I might have done the same thing if I were in his shoes. When you find yourself in a surreal situation, why not take it to its logical conclusions?

This is something I would love to see a sequel for. Where are the other metal birds, if they still exist or ever existed? Where did this metal bird come from? At what point does a car evolve into a bird in this universe? Or does every mechanical creature spawn offspring that look nothing at all like itself?

What a fun story it was at any rate. I’m glad I had a chance to blog about it for Vintage Science Fiction month.