Friday, May 22, 2015

FFS/eB: Walter M. Miller, Jr.: "Command Performance" (GALAXY, November 1952); "Conditionally Human" (GALAXY February 1952); "MacDoughal's Wife" (THE AMERICAN MERCURY March 1950)

We consider three important stories from early in the relatively short literary career of Walter M. Miller, Jr., best remembered for the linked novelets published as a novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller stopped publishing new fiction, as far as I know, with the release of the Canticle volume in 1959; he had one notable national publication in The Nation in 1962 (an essay about the ongoing legal/investigative antagonism between Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa) and, in an anthology Miller edited with Martin H. Greenberg, published in 1985, a new poem appeared.  That was all till after  Miller's suicide, when the long-stalled sequel to Canticle, completed by Terry Bisson, was published in 1997.

"MacDoughal's Wife" was apparently Miller's first published work of fiction, though his second, "Mother of Mary" (Extension Magazine, May 1950) is mentioned in the footnote blurb in the March 1950 issue of The American Mercury and was presumably accepted/bought earlier by the Catholic outreach magazine (their current website is careful to cite contributions by Taylor Caldwell and a first sale by Mary Higgins Clark, but no mention of Miller; I've advised them of the above facts, and perhaps he isn't considered too heretical by them, though he was a RC convert who eventually strayed from the church).  Apparently, while never a particularly
doctrinaire Catholic, Miller did have some rather fixed traditionalist ideas about men and women, to judge (I suspect not quite unfairly) by their recurrence in his fiction.  MacDoughal, in this contemporary-mimetic story, fumes over his wife's consistent flirtation with other men, even as she makes some pointed comments about his tendency toward alcohol abuse, during a Sunday at the beach; he's particularly obsessed, in his interior monolog, with her miscarriage three years earlier and what he sees as her nonchalance about that, and the apparent result that she has been left infertile; their childlessness seems to bother him at least as much as her flirting and supposed shallowness, and his emotional and wedding-contractual yoke with her. 

"Conditionally Human," Miller's first story for Galaxy, is available in ebook format with an introduction by Barry N. Malzberg, the series editor for The Galaxy Project reprints from the early years of the magazine. Here, much is made of maternal instinct as the driving force behind the breeding of hyperintelligent dogs and cats, and human-appearance chimps with tales appended to help make it clear that they are not human, since "genetically flawed" humans are constrained from reproducing. The protagonist is a latter-day animal-control agent whose bailiwick is specifically to keep tabs on these surrogate children and their keepers/"parents"...consistently, he and the other men in the story are, or seem to be, the Rational, Rule-bound characters, the women the ruled-by-emotion and -biological imperative foils to their rationalizations for the frequent extermination of very sentient creatures; even a priest, who opposes the extermination, still sees the Child/Pets as soulless and not human enough to be considered on a par with us (genocide metaphor not be lost here). Thus, both women and men are damned, and while some of the men are allowed to make some moral choices, the women are mostly not quite allowed to demonstrate a similar intellection, so much as hopeless conformity or apparently lunatic rebellion. 

"Command Performance" was Miller's second Galaxy contribution; slightly contrary to Barry's assertion, Miller published his first sf story with Amazing  but didn't go on to publish more or less exclusively with Astounding Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Galaxy, but would place many more stories with Howard Browne's Amazing, Fantastic, and Fantastic Adventures, and such magazines edited by old colleagues of Browne as If, initially edited by Browne's once and future assistant Paul Fairman, and Other Worlds, edited by Browne's old boss Ray Palmer, among many other magazines in the sf and fantasy fields.  The blurb on the Rosetta Books page for this one is also particularly bad, as the protagonist has no idea at the outset she's a telepath, nor that the telepath she meets will have such insanely pseudo-rational (and reproductive) designs on her.  But the introduction, by fantasy/sf/historical fiction writer David Drake, like Miller a combat veteran, is quite good in limning the shared history of combat-driven PTSD between Miller and Galaxy founding editor H. L. Gold (not completely unknown to Drake, as well), and noting how Miller's World War II bombing crew experience shaped his later life and career...though Drake also suggests that Astounding, later retitled Analog, editor John W. Campbell, Jr. is raked over the coals for his support of a variety of questionable pseudo-scientific notions, not least his obsession with telepathy and other psi powers,  while, say, Fantastic Universe and Saint Mystery Magazine editor Hans Stefan Santesson isn't faulted for his consistent use of UFO-related "nonfiction" in his f/sf magazine...when, of course, Santesson is tweaked and mocked for just that among those who remember FU under his editorship.

Three worth seeking out; I don't quite agree that these demonstrate that Miller was the best writer in 1950s sf and fantasy at novelet or novella lengths (we did have Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon and Damon Knight, among many others, doing much of their best work at this time), but they are compellingly written, and certainly the passions and desire to tackle the tough subjects are amply present.

For more of today's books (actual books, no less!), please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: new links

aka I Promised to Pay in the US and other markets
This week's selections  (reviews and citations at the links below) of undeservedly (and a few deservedly) underappreciated audio/visual always, thanks to all the contributors and you readers. Two George Baxt scripts this least! And the late addition of Dan Stumpf's second film is a David Goodis adaptation, happily, rather than the two absolutely miserable films based on the famous early story by Isaac Asimov...

Allan Fish: Ikarie XB-1

Anne Billson: 15 of the Best Movie Car Chases

Bill Crider: Mr. Brooks [trailer]; "Dime Crimes #34"

B.V. Lawson: Media Murder

Comedy Film Nerds: Kristen Carney

Dan Stumpf: Possession; Nightfall (1957 film)

David Vineyard: A King without Distraction
Mr. Brooks

Elizabeth Foxwell: Secret Mission

Evan Lewis: Yancy Derringer

George Kelley: Eddie and the Cruisers

How Did This Get Made?: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996 film)

Iba Dawson: A Ballerina's Tale

A Ballerina's Tale
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Creature with the Atom Brain; biker movies on TCM

Jack Seabrook: the Roald Dahl episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents:

Jackie Kashian: Michelle McNamara, true crime researcher

Jacqueline T. Lynch: a play about being a fan of The Best Years of Our Lives

Jake Hinkson: The Lady from Shanghai
Club Havana

James Reasoner: Club Havana

Jeff Flugel: Hombre

Jerry House: God, the Universe and Everything Else: Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan in conversation, 1988; The City of the Dead (1960 film)

John Grant: The Groundstar Conspiracy; The Night Won't Talk; Lotte Eisner on early German cinema

Kate Laity: "Bear Feast Polska"

Kliph Nesteroff: Slick Slavin (comedic musician and '60s scenester)

Laura: 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival; Las Vegas Shakedown

Martin Edwards: Crimefest 2015; Brian Clemens

Marty McKee: Enforcer from Death Row

Patrick Murtha: Dennis Hopper

Patti Abbott: To Each His Own

Randy Johnson: Reverend Colt

Rick: My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon; Fritz Lang's 5 Best

Rod Lott: Death Curse of Tartu; Abby
The Late Show

Scott Adlerberg: The Late Show (1977 film)

Sergio Angelini: Payroll

Stacia Jones: 42nd Street

Stephen Bowie: Peyton Place (tv series)

Stephen Gallagher: pan and scan on television

Walter Albert: Thundering Hoofs; Jazz Mad

Yvette Banek: Three Husbands

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Saturday Music Club on Sunday: "and when you're dead, you're done..."

Dedicated to the memory of Shirley Mason Gauthier, and to the generosity of her family and mine.

B. B. King: "Let the Good Times Roll"

Johnny Gimble and Marc O'Connor (with Brent Mason among others): "Fiddlin' Around"

Jerome Cooper: [title, if given, unknown]

Patty Waters: "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair" recorded for the late Bernard Stollman's ESP-Disk Records, 1965

Lew Soloff and the Harmonie Ensemble New York: "Solea"

Guy Carawan (with Marc Gunther, eventually): "Old Molly Hare" and others

Miriam Brickman: "The White Peacock"

Marty Napoleon, Bill Crow, Ray Mosca: "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"

Doc Watson and his band: "Amazing Grace"

Friday, May 15, 2015

FFB redux: BEST SF '71 ed. by Harry Harrison & Brian Aldiss (Berkley 1972); YEAR'S FINEST FANTASY ed. by Terry Carr (Berkley 1978)

Redux, due to attendance to a funeral and prepping the house for guests, at this link. Back with new next Friday.

Please see Patti Abbott's list of old and mostly new FFB reviews here.

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: BEST SF '71 ed. by Harry Harrison & Brian Aldiss (Berkley 1972); YEAR'S FINEST FANTASY ed. by Terry Carr (Berkley 1978)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the full complement of links

This week's selections of undeservedly (and a few deservedly) underappreciated audio/visual always, thanks to all the contributors and you readers.  And apologies for the delay in the second half being posted...Life really is one damned thing after another. 

Allan Fish: The Plea

Anne Billson: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (among other melancholy PI films); George Miller, 1985

Anthony Neil Smith: against author readings

Bill Crider: Soldier [trailer--the 1998 Kurt Russell film]

B.V. Lawson: Media Murder

Comedy Film Nerds: Chris Denson; The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, The Secret of Kells, and others

Dan Stumpf: It Always Rains on Sundays

David Vineyard: Corto Maltese and the Gilded House of Samarkand

Dorian TB: His Kind of Woman

Ed Lynskey: The Killers (1946 film)

Eddie Deezen: The Party at Kitty and Stud's

Elizabeth Foxwell: London Belongs to Me (aka Dulcimer Street)

Evan Lewis: Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace

George Kelley: Dig

How Did This Get Made?: A View to a Kill

Iba Dawson: I am Michael

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: The Ed Sullivan Show

Jackie Kashian: Alexandra Klimavich on Harry Potter World (Orlando, FL)  and related matters

Jacqueline T. Lynch: Ann Blyth and railroad films

Jake Hinkson: Orson Welles' Centennial Festival; Welles and his films

James Reasoner: The World's End

Jeff Flugel: 1970s US tv: independent commercial stations and their rerun slates, Kojak and The Streets of San Francisco

Jerry House: The Baby Snooks Show

John Grant: Silent Dust; I Start Counting

John-Henri Holmberg: Raumpatrouille Orion (1960s German sf tv series)

Jonathan Lewis: Taza, Son of Cochise

Juri Nummelin: Finnish neo-noir films 

Kliph Nesteroff: Paul Krassner

Laura: South of St. Louis

Lucy Brown: Funny Lady

Mark Fertig: Out of the Storm

Martin Edwards: Murder Without Crime

Marty McKee: Hustler Squad

Patrick Murtha: Hell's Half Acre

Patti Abbott: Bouchercon 2006

Randy Johsson: Range Feud; Death on High Mountain (aka...)

Rick: High Society (both the Bowery Boys film and that other one)

Rod Lott: Popcorn

Sergio Angelini: Killjoy

Stacia Jones: The Velvet Touch

Stephen Bowie: Peyton Place and how episode guides are published now...

Walter Albert: The Motorla Television Hour: "Thirteen Clocks"