Tag Archives: Vintage Science Fiction Month

Stay Home, Stay Safe: A Review of The Machine Stops

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. 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 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. 


Title
: The Machine Stops

Author: E.M. Forster

Publisher: The Oxford and Cambridge Review

Publication Date: November 1909

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 25 pages

Source: I read it for free on the UC Davis site 

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“The Machine Stops”” is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster’s The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories.[1] In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.The story, set in a world where humanity lives underground and relies on a giant machine to provide its needs, predicted technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet.”

Review:

Book cover for The Machine Stops Here by E.M. Forster. Image on cover shows a big, red bow on an analogue clock. Who needs in-person contact when you have virtual gatherings?

There were some fascinating parallels between how Vashti had lived her entire life and what the Covid-19 pandemic was like for those of us who were lucky enough to work from home and order many necessities online. Vashti could summon anything with the touch of a button, from food to a warm bath, to an assortment of friends who wanted to hear a lecture on human history. She virtually never had reason to leave her home at all, and neither did the rest of humanity. It was supposed to keep everyone safe and content, and yet not everyone Vashti met was necessarily happy to live this way for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to explore. What I can say is that staying home to reduce the spread of a pandemic is quite different from spending your entire lifetime in one room no matter how nice that room is. The various human reactions to them are similar, though!

The ending was confusing to me. I needed to google it to make sure that my understanding of what happened in that scene matched what the author was trying to convey. While I did find my answer, I do wish the author had been more forthcoming about what was going on there. He had several thought-provoking ideas he was working with throughout the course of this tale. All he needed to do was develop them a little more fully and I would have given this a much higher rating.

With that being said, I did think the conclusion was much more realistic than what typically happens with dystopian tales published in modern day. I appreciated the fact that the themes and hints embedded in earlier scenes were allowed to play out so naturally. While I did wonder if this twist was coming in advance, that was a good thing. It was nice to have a consistent experience even if it wasn’t something that most contemporary authors would do.

The Machine Stops was ahead of its time. Anyone who likes dystopias should check it out.

Suspicious Town: A Review of The Dunwich Horror

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. 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 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. 

 

Title: The Dunwich Horror

Author: H.P. Lovecraft

Publisher: Weird Tales

Publication Date: April 1929

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Historical

Length: 58 pages

Source: I read it for free here

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Dunwich Horror is the story of Wilbur Whateley, son of a deformed albino mother and an unknown father, and the strange events surrounding his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade–all the while indoctrinated him into dark rituals and witchcraft by his grandfather.

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft book cover. Image on cover is an abstract drawing of a white smoky blob against a black background. Review:

Content warning: Murder. I will not be discussing this in my review.

Nobody really knows what goes on behind their neighbour’s front doors.

Lovecraft had such a descriptive writing style. Whether he was telling the reader what the unwelcoming landscape looked like or exploring the hidden depths of the people whose families had lived there for generations, he knew exactly how to pull the audience in and make them listen closely to what he was saying. This is a special gift, and it’s something that leads me back to his stories over and over again even though I completely understand the many valid criticisms of his work and personal beliefs. I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the flaws in famous creators while still leaving room to enjoy the ways they used their talents.

There were some parts of the storyline  that I struggled to understand, especially when it came to Wilbur’s origins. While I completely understood why the surrounding community wouldn’t know all of the details about his parentage, especially in an era when children born to single mothers were so heavily stigmatized, I had a ton of unanswered questions about this stuff that would have really helped me to understand later developments. Was there perhaps something lost in the nuance of it all over the last century? Is the world I grew up in too different from this one to easily make comparisons between the two? Sometimes I wondered if this was the case since the characters seemed to piece some of this stuff together in ways that I as a modern, urban reader did not. This was still an enjoyable read, but those passages did make it feel dated at times.

Small, rural communities can be pretty unwelcoming places to live, especially for anyone who stands out from the crowd due to their appearance or membership in a minority group. I liked the way the author stretched the tendencies of some members of our species to be insular and suspicious of outsiders to its limit. It truly brought out the absurdity of it all while also explaining why humans can react so harshly to people they don’t understand or relate to for any number of reasons.

I’d recommend The Dunwich Horror to anyone who is at least occasionally little disquieted by small, sleepy towns.

Following the Old Ways: A Review of The White People

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. 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 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. 


Title
: The White People

Author: Arthur Machen

Publisher: Horlick’s Magazine

Publication Date: 1904

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Historical

Length: 56 pages

Source: It’s free to read here

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A discussion between two men on the nature of evil leads one of them to reveal a mysterious Green Book he possesses. It is a young girl’s diary, in which she describes in ingenuous, evocative prose her strange impressions of the countryside in which she lives as well as conversations with her nurse, who initiates her into a secret world of folklore and black magic.

Review:

Content warning: Death of a child. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Be careful what you wish for.

One of the things I liked the most about this short story was the scientific and methodical manner in which the two main characters went about trying to determine what the Green Book truly was and what happened to the young girl whose diary entries lead them to discover the existence of this book. They were truly interested in getting to the truth. While some portions of the storyline definitely veered further into horror and fantasy than they did pure science fiction, the fact that the protagonists believed everything should have a logical explanation kept me reading until I’d reached the final sentence. That urge to discover the truth is one of the reasons why I love science fiction so much!

This was set at a time when scientific explanations for all sorts of natural phenomena were rapidly beginning to replace the fairy and folk tales that had once explained any number of things that wouldn’t have made sense to the average person. There are some things that lay beyond the purview of science, however, and other ones like psychology or what could be interpreted as certain mental or physical illnesses by modern day readers that weren’t well understood at all in this era.

The epilogue was my favourite part of this tale due to how much effort Ambrose and Cotgrave put into deciphering the unnamed young girl’s diary. She was so purposefully vague about certain details that they could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways as I mentioned earlier. This was also a nice addendum to the conversation Cotgrave and Ambrose had earlier about what the definition of sin should actually be and why many people’s understanding of this topic might not be as well-rounded or accurate as they assume. I can’t go into any more detail about that, but I do encourage anyone who is intrigued to read this for themselves.

If you love the fuzzy area between facts and flights of fancy, The White People might be right up your alley.

Making Things Right: A Review of The Canterville Ghost

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. 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 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. 

Title: The Canterville Ghost

Author: Oscar Wilde

Publisher: The Court and Society Review

Publication Date: February 23, 1887 and March 2, 1887

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 54 pages

Source: This review was inspired by Little Red Reviewer’s post about The Canterville Ghost last year. Go to Wilde Online to read this story for free for yourself.

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde book cover. Image on cover is a black-and-white photo of Mr. Wilde holding a cane as he bends over and gently touches his face. Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Horace B. Otis, a wealthy American, purchases Canterville Chase, an ancient English manor-house, despite warnings that the house is known to be haunted. He moves into the house accompanied by his wife, his eldest son Washington, his daughter Virginia, and his two younger twin sons. Immediately upon arrival, the family is confronted by a bloodstain in a sitting room. The housekeeper, Mrs. Umney, explains that the stain has been there since 1575 and is the result of Lady Eleanore de Canterville having been brutally murdered by her husband, Sir Simon de Canterville.

The Otis family takes a pragmatic perspective and scrubs the stain away; they repeat the process when the stain continues to reappear every morning. The stubborn reappearance of the stain, as well as other strange occurrences around the house, leads them to consider that the rumor of the ghost may not be totally unfounded.

Review:

Content warning: Murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

What happens when the ghost haunting your new home might not be as scary as he thinks he is?

I adored the way Mr. Wilde played around with the tropes of the paranormal and fantasy genres. Most character are at least mildly alarmed by the presence of a supernatural being in their home, so I was delighted to meet an entire family who genuinely didn’t care who or what roamed the halls as night so long as they didn’t wake anyone up or make a mess. Honestly, they actually seemed to enjoy playing pranks on their new roommate of sorts whenever he irritated them too much with his various haunting activities. This is so rare for this genre that I can’t remember the last time I read anything like this story.

One of the things I was never quite able to do with this tale was categorize it into one specific genre. It went into far more investigative detail than I’d normally expect to find in the fantasy genre, but it was also more metaphysical than I’d expect to find in the science fiction genre. In my experience, classics science fiction often does this, especially as you read further back into time when this genre was closer to its infancy. I’m the sort of reader who usually prefers harder science fiction, but this was well told once I accepted the fact that the characters weren’t going to perform the same sorts of scientific experiments I would if I were in their shoes. If the writing style had been a little firmer about what sort of speculative fiction this was actually supposed to be, I would have gone with a five-star rating.

The ending threw me for a loop. Normally, conflict between ghosts and humans escalates over time in tales like these. Sometimes it can even do so violently depending on what the author has in mind, so I was thrilled to see how everything was resolved for the Otis family and their resident ghost. It made perfect sense for the plot, but it also gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Those aren’t emotions that happen very often in stories about the restless souls of murderers of all things, so it was satisfying to have it here.

The Canterville Ghost was one of those delightful pieces of speculative fiction that defies categorization. If you like stories that leap between genres and sometimes swirl them all up together, this classic short story might be right up your alley.

Vintage Science Fiction Month: Unusual Food and Drinks

glass of alcohol on white surfaceVintage 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. 

One of my favourite things about exploring a new science fiction universe is finding out what they eat or drink that is not available in our world (or that humans don’t generally consume for whatever reason).

This week I challenged myself to come up with as many unusual foods and drinks that were mentioned in pre-1979 science fiction stories as I could remember.

Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yes, this was from the 2005 film, but the book was published in 1978 and the idea remains the same.

 

Spice (gigantic sand worm secretions) from Dune.

 

The Low-Carb, High-Protein, and High Fat diet from Woody Allen’s 1973 film Sleeper.

 

captain kirk from star trek bringing a cup of liquid down from his lips and looking stunned

I couldn’t find a copy of it online, but I was also always mesmerized by the brightly coloured food on Star Trek: The Original series. It looked so futuristic and delicious!

How many of these items would you to eat or drink? What would you add to this list?

Vintage Science Fiction Month: My First Taste of Vintage SciFi

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.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane today. My family didn’t have cable* for most of my childhood, and there were… Read More

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… Read More

Vintage Science Fiction Month: A Trip to the Moon

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.  A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lun) was a short silent film released in 1902 by French film… Read More

Vintage Science Fiction Month: The Trouble With Tribbles

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 also interested in participating this month,… Read More

Vintage Science Fiction Month: It’s a Bird

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 also interested in participating this month,… Read More