39 thoughts on “The Big Book of Science Fiction

  1. THE STAR (1897) by H. G. Wells

    “It is nearer.”

    The incantatory and the deadpan commentary; this has impact potentially macrocosmic. A precursor of Byron’s Darkness, but whether that is exactly right would be a plot spoiler to end all plot spoilers. This star is not necessarily the unexpected one from the Wells of Space now in ricochet with Neptune then toward US, but not only US, Europe, too. It could be the shock of Brexit in the blackening skies of politics, social/lreligious and cultural history, but NO … let me tell you THE STAR is THIS BOOK itself! Its beginning outdoing its never-to-be-reached end. Well, for someone of my age, I suggest that is true; this is the Star in the sky of my darkness that is a death to say ‘it is nearer’ again and again.
    To tell you that the book has over one thousand two hundred pages is to tell you nothing at all. They are very large pages, you see, with double columns, and small neat print. A story of say six pages as this first one turns out to be could well be a lot more pages in a normal book. The body of the book’s physical gestalt wallops on the lap and flows like solid lava with further lolloping and a lithe bend. My life’s cold white star but still molten enough to probe my reading fingers into it and pray that I will transcend it before IT transcends me. Before I reach the gestalt that is the whole of my life’s leitmotifs, now to be impacted by this mighty tome.

  2. SULTANA’S DREAM (1905)
    By Rokheya Shekhawat Hossain

    “You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.”

    This is an entrancing dream, or am I enchanted by it to believe it to have been a dream, when it was all so perfectly true? It is, whatever one believes, a type of utopia where men are in purdah in their mardana rather than the women being so in their zenana. A history giving birth to this present day by means of women’s quick brains creating better scientific inventions than men’s bigger brains, inventions to meet immediate contingencies of war or whatever. The inventions themselves are intriguingly described in an SFictional manner by this 1905 story. It even has a reference to “lady-warriors”, although it seems none were needed to wreak this victory over men.
    Meanwhile a question is asked within the ‘dream’ regarding the world outside of Ladyland, the world of the Sultana’s native India: “Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?”

    [This work resonates beautifully, in style and tone, with my reading so far in PF Jeffery’s duodecology of novels entitled ‘The Warriors of Love.’]

  3. THE TRIUMPH OF MECHANICS (1907) by Karl Hans Strobl
    Translated by Gio Clairval

    “One could say he invented as easily as he drew breath.”

    Hopkins, an American, in some Germanic town, taken in Kafkaesque stages to seek permission to open his own toy factory after leaving the competing firm Stricker and Vorderteil (themselves characters in the story) comes up against the Mayor’s Trade Restraint Order against him. He threatens the town with a billion mechanical rabbits, a bit of a Trump of a Flashmob, I guess, and — even knowing this is a frighteningly futuristic vision of asexual reproductions-lines, devices for defying death (like this endless book itself) and Artificial Intelligence for the masses — we are also hilariously amused by the various events that ensue, till Hopkins pulls the cleverest rabbit of all from his hat on Schiller day!

    “A more lugubrious impression occurred when the trumpets released a discordant tune, caused by the rabbits obstructing the instruments.”

  4. THE NEW OVERWORLD (1911) by Paul Scheerbart
    Translated by Daniel Ableev and Sarah Kassem

    “Couldn’t we use this hot, very light crater air as a balloon carrier?”

    With a paradoxically controlled feel of sinuously processional improvisation, this engaging text (combining, inter alios, Leena Krohn and Jonathan Swift) builds a world uoon Venus (as some once built ‘real’ or since built SF universes upon Turtles, and there are turtles, here, too, even “turtle fur”) – and the striving for inventions to establish Eco-comfort for and by the two breeds of Venusians known as the Dynamic Ones and the Unhurried. This building of such a universe of fiction involves countering things like overpopulation and surface tension, using, say, balloons and sub-balloons,. And there is also a would-be saviour named Knax scientifically brainstorming (like the ladies in Ladyland earlier in this book) for the population’s consensual accommodation. A lesson for our times? The eyes of the new overworld, indeed. Knax evolving inevitably into the new-old Citizen Kane with a huge image behind him of himself projected like Trump sitting on a giant balloon? Only if all hyper-imaginative fiction literature ever published is preternaturally connected – which phenomenon, as dreamcatching, hawling or brainstorming, I contend, this type of gestalt real-time reviewing somehow taps into!

  5. imageELEMENTS OF PATAPHYSICS by Alfred Jarry
    Translated by Gio Clairval

    Although I anticipate this anthology of SF being eclectic as well as catholic with a small c, this text can only be taken seriously as part of it IF this is genuinely an SF anthology of SF.
    I take the text seriously, though, per se, and I recall seeing Père Ubu performed in the 1960s. By my green candle!
    [My marathon real-time review of Finnegans Wake here. And of Conflagration wherein Jarry appears at least three times.]

  6. MECHANOPOLIS by Miguel de Unamuno
    Translated by Marian Womack

    “I sucked at the dark black blood that flowed from the fingers that I had torn in scrabbling at the dry ground in the mad hope of finding some water beneath it.”

    The narrator, having crossed a trackless desert, with several of his companions perishing, arrives, with some abrupt relief, eponymously.
    A worrying and fascinating vision of the believably future AI city. He yearns for human contact. But it was a comfort to me to note the art gallery with all the world’s famous paintings in their original forms, implying that those paintings the rest of the world hold are copies. And a real newspaper in his hotel room. At least, I thought, although they have nothing but thinking machines in Eponymous, they have eschewed the dreaded Internet in this eclectic future. As well as human beings!?

  7. THE DOOM OF PRINCIPAL CITY (1918) by Yefim Zozulya
    Translated by Vlad Zhenevsky

    “We want to have your old, beautiful culture in the cellar, so to speak, and to age it like wine. . . .”

    This is a very engaging satire of a city on one level, with laughable Governmental Quangos, sky propaganda etc., a hyper-imaginative satire of a Orwell or Huxley pre-breed, but on another level there is yet another city of implication. But which city is the Principal which the Agent? Names don’t always give the right clue, but I was very intrigued by this war between two cities, one eventually built as victor ABOVE the other, with all the machinations you can imagine arising from such a building feat.
    This war was eventually written about leading, it seems to publication in 1918, that period of real war history which was a perfect storm of cirumstances, as TODAY in our world there is another perfect storm of circumstances, but leading to what!
    As is my wont, I tried to think of topical pareidoliac parallels, whether it be Daesh layering itself above our civilisation or the two levels of Man-City in ‘Nemonymous Night’. No, neither of these, I suggest, this story is about Brexit. It all fits.

  8. THE COMET by W. E. B. Du Bois

    “Not that he was not human, but he dwelt in a world so far from hers, so infinitely far, that he seldom even entered her thought.”

    – as if he were foiled against the Webwood itself? There is something tantalising about the author’s name that gives an apocryphal meaning to his depiction of the destruction of all mankind, a destruction by dint of passing through the toxic tail of a comet, no, on second thoughts, not the destruction of mankind, just of New York – a once hopeful purity of purpose now in entropy and tapping into the tensions between the Christian Religion and race relations where a black man is tantamount to non-existent, but ironically becoming this text’s survivor mentioned alongside the dated use of the word ‘nigger’, now due to be one of two people deemed to start a new Creation process or Genesis along with the only other survivor being a white woman. We understand how he managed to survive the comet in the bank’s vault, but it never seems to be explained how she survived, except she is perhaps the Angel of Annunciation hovering over the dead? No mere woman? When factored into the earlier Hossain story, and when Survivor’s Guilt is eventually transcended by all her hangers-on turning up from outside of New York, everything is highly poignant and we realise that not only is “Death, the leveler” or “revealer”, but, for me, today’s reveller, too, in our own dark webwood, full of social justice warriors and their evil enemies in continued entropy.
    The sometimes elusive language and style of an otherwise ‘thrilling SF impact’ story seems susceptible to such a cross-wired or Jungian interpretation as I have just given it. I did not concoct it from thin air, I feel.

  9. THE FATE OF THE ‘POSEIDONIA’ (1927) by Clare Winger Harris

    “‘Yes, yes,’ agreed the keeper affably. ‘We’ll let you see the secretary of war when that fellow over there’ — he jerked his thumb in the direction of the cell opposite mine — ‘dies from drinking hemlock. He says he’s Socrates and every time he drinks a cup of milk he flops over, but he always revives.'”

    …a bit like this story that often revives when there are shown genuine moments of spectacular wonder, with our male Earthman protagonist — jealous of his girl being attracted to a strange cove who turns out to be a Martian in charge of raiding our world to steal ocean water for the depleting seas back home — watching the nefarious process of the Martian fleets and the unshorn spiky-feathered Martians themselves on the shorn cove’s own five-levered TV set…
    But I actually think it is all in the Earthman’s mind, and one of the reasons I think that to be the case results from the dates he gives us. They seem confused. A futuristic story “in the winter of 1994-1995” but later it is “6th April 1945”, and I don’t think the explained calendar changes solve that confusion.
    The female lead is interesting, meanwhile, in a Du Bois and Hossain sort of way and thought-provoking are the inimical movements of seas becoming inter-planetary rather than merely global as they are in today’s Gaia.

  10. THE STAR STEALERS (1929) by Edmond Hamilton

    Pages 77 – 86

    “I gave a sharp catch of indrawn breath as they dropped lower toward us, and we crouched with pounding hearts while they dropped lower toward us, and while they dropped nearer.”

    An energetic, wonder-filling space adventure (so honestly, and unself-consciously, energetic the language flows by just like what I see as cone-zeroes themselves) where the narrative protagonist with mixed crew in charge of a Federation battleship in the far corners of our galaxy is called back to the Solar System to meet the dangers of a huge dark star about to ‘steal’ our sun like the Martians stole our seas in the previous story. The vision of the dark star whereto they plummet, is my mind-gymnastics, and the city where its motive force resides? I am genuinely caught up in a cliffhanger reminding me wonderfully of the Saturday Morning Pictures of my 1950s childhood. I can’t wait till I read the second half of this novelette.
    One thing, meanwhile, is that I note the word “bridgeroom” appears like a constant incantatory refrain, and I kept seeing it as “bridegroom”, in spite of myself. And I have just noticed that the former always autocorrects to the latter on my screen as I write this. I have to grit my teeth to ensure it stays correct…

    • Pages 86 – 97

      In its own way, I appreciated the swashbuckling battle for the saving of the sun and our earth, a battle against the spectacularly described tentacle-cones on the Dark Star. But I sensed something more, something ultra vires, perhaps apocryphal…

      “….while Dal Nara, after the manner of her sex through all the ages, sought a beauty parlor, and I asked only to continue with our cruiser in the service of the Federation fleet. […] We would be star-rovers, she and I, until the end.”

      …so there was to be no romantic ending to this work as there would have been had the narrator and Dal Nara clinched some sexual knot. Indeed, that lack of romance was twofold. You see, I feel sorry for the cold Dark Star, as it continues to wander as a bridgeroom not a bridegroom throughout infinity and eternity of purdah – without its own companion and bride, our sun. Abandoning, thus, in its wake, what has turned out to be a human race as dubious no-good hangers-on.

  11. THE CONQUEST OF GOLA (1931) by Leslie F. Stone

    “we were also freaks to those freakish”

    Unlike the superb Hossain gender story, earlier, this one seems a bit ungracious or ‘patronising’ to me. A bit grudging about the males:-
    “Their bodies were like a patchwork of misguided nature.”
    “–ugh, it was terrible when we dissected one of the fellows for study. I shudder to think of it.”
    “Although their hand movements were perfectly inane and incomprehensible, Tanka could read what passed through their brains, and understand more fully than they what lay in their minds.” (My bold.)
    Or ironic? Or, at best, tongue in cheek? (“…for the first time I knew the pleasure to be had in the arms of a strong man,”)
    Meanwhile, the text is, arguably, a major inversion of the usual sexual mores of the age in which it was written. And the concept is indeed striking of the gentle male consorts in the female-controlled world, a world attacked by “ignoble” men from outside it…
    However, one wonders, radically, at the nature of the ‘women’ and ‘men’ that compete in this inter-planetary warfare. Supposedly, this text is an early example of first person narrative through a non-human alien form, here the narrative of a ‘woman’ (and her description of these aliens, ‘male’ and ‘female’, is enjoyably imaginative). They are so non-human, I don’t think it is ever made clear what strictly differentiates the two bodily genders! A storm in a teacup? An own gola?

  12. A MARTIAN ODYSSEY (1934) by Stanley G. Weinbaum

    “Mare Chronium was just the same sort of place as this — crazy leafless plants and a bunch of crawlers;”

    The previous story in Gola had this passage amid its ending: “and they no sooner appeared beneath the mists than they too were annihilated…” – as if that was a straight lead-in to the Weinbaum southern reach upon Mars, where the ANNihilation has turned this four man expedition to a four woman one in Area X, and the resonances don’t end there. The Weinbaum text itself is absolutely delightful, with the expedition’s jokey multi-language jokes between the four of them, and the parallel of more knotty communication difficulties with the aliens, ironed out by brilliant cartoonish nosedive ostrich-in-the-sand antics of the Martian creature that one of the four meets. This text is in fact the mind-tantalising debriefing by that one of the four to the others, in dialogue exchange, of his adventures on Mars, and the crazy creatures he meets there, before being rescued by the German among the other three. As well as the ostrich creature, there are the ones who build endless pyramid homes with excreted bricks from their rocky selves, and others, including happily conducted suicide creatures. All of this leading to a possible cure for human cancer… Very southern reach, if you ask me. Gender goals et al, as are sweetly accreting throughout this book so far, give or take adventures and wonders for their own sake.

  13. THE LAST POET AND THE ROBOTS (1934) by A. Merritt

    “I do not like this which they call so quaintly the Wrongness of Space — nor the stone he threw into my music .”

    A group of multi-cultural Renaissance men (and women) organised for this story, too, if organised by a mad scientist?
    I have long been interested in astrological harmonics, in cone zero or cones zero, and in the music, as specifically mentioned in this text, of Beethoven, Mussorgsky and Chopin, even in “crippled music”, as this text has it, like Stockhausen? I almost feel I might BE the arguably ‘mad scientist’ as poet and composer who is said here to have created the caverns within the earth, a bit like those rock-excretors in the previous story, a bit also like in Nemonymous Night, as he comes up against the “common identity–group consciousness” of robots (now known as the Internet?), and the collateral human damage that defeating them entails…as well as the “grotesque rigadoons” and “bizarre sarabands” of simply factoring Jupiter and Saturn into Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata…?
    I’ve felt it all before! Glad to see its Jungian counterpart was already being once induced by Merritt.

  14. THE MICROSCOPIC GIANTS (1936) by Paul Ernst

    “It happened toward the end of the Great War of 1941,…”

    An entertaining tale of copper mining and the frightening discovery of living doll-sized human creatures with menacing eyes and extreme specific gravity, creatures that can walk easily through concrete…
    Meanwhile, to brainstorm upon the theme and variations of this work … A war’s heavy use of copper as a symptom of the macro-economics of scarce resources at the time of this future past … an alternate world system seeming to form into a copper electric circuit with fiction as its only ohm resistor. Retrocausality existing BEFORE the Tiny Hadron Collider was built – as well as the sliding through of earthen rock formations by Man-City in Nemonymous Night…?

  15. TLÖN, UQBAR, ORBIS TERTIUS (1940) by Jorge Luis Borges
    Translated by Andrew Hurley

    “Every mental state is irreducible: the simple act of giving it a name — i.e., of classifying it — introduces a distortion, a ‘slant’ or ‘bias’.”

    This is a work of apparently dense speculative philosophical texture, with real famous names rubbing shoulders with neologisms and fictions and unknowns. I have always considered it to be the apotheosis of retrocausal Nemonymity as well as, now, the hawling or dreamcatching labyrinths of this Jungian or preternatural site where you read this review. For the rest, it is mere Pataphysics. Or Sir Thomas Browne coupled with Berkeley.
    image.jpeg

    “Books are rarely signed, nor does the concept of plagiarism exist: it has been decided that all books are the work of a single author who is timeless and anonymous.”

    Paradoxically, despite such texture, this work has a text that, when dug up, proves to be a shallow grave, and I positively wreaked more ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ from earlier, arguably deeper, otherwise adventurous or wonder-filled yarns in this book. But…

    “A book that does not contain its counter-book is considered incomplete.”

    So be it. Meanwhile, we already have had the cone zeroes and the over-heavy specific gravities in this book.

    “Those small, incredibly heavy cones…”

  16. DESERTION (1944) by Clifford D. Simak

    “Four men, two by two, had gone into the howling maelstrom that was Jupiter and had not returned.”

    Another foursome, sussed out by biologists, as ‘converted’ by a woman. A tontine prize of men, sent to transcend or optimise the Jovian ‘climate’, its Ernst-like heavyweightness and its Merritt-like trilling music…to do that or die?
    A fifth man, then, does not return. Then our narrative viewpoint sends and thus sacrifices himself and his dog Towser, and soon, now alongside them, we begin to understand fully… And somehow the reader, as my Desertion almost literally, does not, for equal reasons. want to return from having been in this story itself. Send the woman ‘converter’ into the Jovian soup next, I say, to bring back this review of it!

  17. SEPTEMBER 2005: THE MARTIAN (1949) by Ray Bradbury

    “…and a gentle breathing.”

    An author who is in these editors’ massive THE WEIRD as well as in this massive SF book, both stories with a telling comparison of accreting crowds…
    Also, with arguably amazing serendipity, I read and reviewed here an hour ago BREATHING by Steve Rasnic Tem, about another aging couple, his couple still on earth, echoing each other, also with a visitation, as if on Bradbury’s Mars, their yearned for presence of loving loss is returned to them. Quite dissimilar as stories, but with a kindred spirit, seeming to enhance each other over the intervening years, and give added mutual meaning, especially as I happened to read them both together for the first time in a fateful process of dreamcatching just now.

  18. BABY HP (1952) by Juan José Arreola
    Translated by Larry Nolen

    “To the Lady of the House:”

    Interesting to whom this amusing Swiftian ‘Modest Proposal’ of Harmonious Paediatrics by piggy-banking children’s and babies’ diurnal movements is addressed.

  19. SURFACE TENSION (1952) by James Blish

    Prologue, I and II

    “There may be just the faintest of residuums of identity — pantropy’s given us some data to support the old Jungian notion of ancestral memory.”

    Wonderful stuff, and I almost understand it all!
    “We can’t very well crowd a six-foot man into a two-foot puddle.”
    I can now see that THE STAR was indeed this massive book coming across the horizon towards us and now this book starts, for real, its first major attempt at colonisation of us (as this story itself is a about a human-adapted colonisation) – colonising us with a personal vision of SFiction, stemming along the way into rotiferously parthenogenetic fiction and late labelling with which I was involved just after the turn of the last century. And exploratory small groups into various versions of a retrocausal AreaaaaaaX. “Most eternities went by.” This is the quintessential exploratory party, here five men and two women, leaving etched metal plates for posterity’s attempts at reading by their progeny amid their wet wet wet waterloggings and small puddles of pantropy’s sporification or sporulation, evolving into a mess of variously named contestants for existence on this planet around the star Tau Ceti. The different warring breeds, and genders, remind me of the trans-Internet today. “–but nobody kills the males anyhow, they’re harmless.” And the text’s language, evoking such sporifications, flows like the very biological rotifers etc amid the latent spoor of the reading mind, beautifully insumed as it is, even by my cyst-riddled lower skull… Blish, not Bling, around my neck. So far.
    “The Paras had exploded the trichocysts…”

  20. [SURFACE TENSION – continued]

    III of Cycle One, I & II of Cycle Two

    “…but we still do not know what the thing is that it labels.”

    As I started this massive book, I claimed it was a device to defy death, as an ironic reference to the seemingly endless process of my reading it, knowing I couldn’t possibly die till I finished it, by both a felt need and a faith in destiny. Now I believe it is such a device to defy death, not simply by need or destiny, but by dint of the words in the various texts and their meaning. Maybe these words are now starting to brainwash me…bringing me through the three surfaces of Blish, of which brain-washing is literally its motive. It is overtly a text about human adaptation by seeding this book-star’s planet, seeding us through the “book-lungs”, and the complex avant-garde gaia that ensues, battles, wars, proto-internets, para-logistics, puddle genders, eater-crawlers and a human-made religion of what is written on the metal plates as some sort of instilled ‘happening’. Not SF so much as colonisation of the colonisers with a swathe of Joycean Finnegans Wake word-music in the guise of an audit trail of human high-minded exploration and base-instinctual crawling, with the reader stuck between, inspired via his or her book-lungs and face-book, while also dreading the moment when the words end and he or she expires – or re-spires? A new parable for parthenogenesis? Top-of-the-sky thinking? Bottom-fishing? Lavon as Laver, Lavatory or Lovecraft?

    More food-thought for mulching…

    “We saw that men were poor swimmers, poor walkers, poor crawlers, poor climbers.”

    “Someone to whom the word stars was important enough to be worth fourteen repetitions, despite the fact the word doesn’t seem to mean anything.”

    “…unable to learn that a friendly voice did not necessarily mean a friend.”

    “When the Protos decided something was worthless, they did not hide it in some chamber like old women. They threw it away — efficiently.”

    “But, of course, it was impossible to enter a bubble. The surface tension was too strong.”

  21. [SURFACE TENSION – concluded]

    III, IV, V

    “I can see the top of the sky! From the OTHER side, from the top side! It’s like a big flat sheet of metal.”

    The survival of Lavon in a web of mud, at first pitied as my empathisable “encysted” one, then emergence and ready for the ‘stars’ (15th repetition of the word?), useless knowledge or not, iconography of the metal history plate or not (as, for me, a defining ‘necklace’). Significant there are five of them planning for this travel to the stars (or from one puddle to another puddle?), as there were five of us at the start, and now at least one girl to save at the end.

    “…what man can dream, man can do.”
    And each work of great fiction has its preternatural nub from one’s own hawling, dreamcatching or dowsing its words. But that nub being, say, a star or a puddle, little matters. It’s the mission that counts, such as the mission of this book in which this work still miraculously evolves (parthenogenetically?), even while its text stays fixed from when it was first written.

  22. BEYOND LIES THE WUB (1952) by Philip K. DIck

    “‘I wonder what the outcome will be,’ the cook said.”

    The WUB is either this book itself or one of its editors. Better pan-fried than oven-cooked. Arguably.
    A “semantic warehouse”, ergo, WUB: Warehouse Under Biologicalisation.
    “Tolerant, eclectic, catholic.” A fable regarding the social justice or democracy of not being eaten when viewed from both sides of the mouth. But being eaten can perhaps be another form of passing on myth and wisdom, better than by publishing books or being a book thus published, a process Odysseusly separate from the finite life cycle, because such passing-on is ever-mulched and pantroped.
    Lavon, eat your heart out.
    Beautiful gem, but probably untypical of Dick. I once loved Dick. Must get back to him.

  23. THE SNOWBALL EFFECT (1952) by Katherine MacLean

    “Would that change the results?”

    Asking someone, in media res, about how something they are running is going, does that affect how that thing eventually goes, for good or bad? Reminds me tellingly of a story (The Moans) by Brian Evenson that I happened synchronously to review this morning.
    Meanwhile, any story, like this one, that contains the expression “institutional accretion” is bound to be a winner, too, whether that winner is one of a tontine or a sweepstake or a chain-letter distribution method or a Republican Trump pyramid-scheme (on this very day he threatens to assassinate Hillary!)
    I loved some of the interaction between the gamblers in this race, two university academics with algebraic equations as to snowballing their resources and fees-intake for a sociology department. And it was simply lovely for this book as a gestalt that the experimental guinea-pig for these sophisticated equations – and the determinant for the contest between the two men – was an all-woman sewing circle, one with no endgame factored in!
    Eating Wub may have been a better answer?

  24. THE LIBERATION OF EARTH (1953) by William Tenn

    The concept of passive-aggressive behaviour starts here. A series of liberations and reliberations of us breathless humans by other collaborationist and warring races alike. Warring and collaborationist, by turns, sometimes simultaneously. Ranging from pre-Bengali to other languages with irregular verbs galore, and sporadic biological differentiations, and this is like the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans conquering England where we intermittently became them and them us. I don’t trust this story, however enjoyably and wittily cosmos-swashbuckling it is, as Tenn, I infer, is also a collaborationist, for one elastically-long moment, then an enemy, for the next elastically-long moment, to those of us he imagines reading his words over the cycles of human history. I loved the bouts of his gusty style between immaculate textured descriptions. It’s as if he’s hedging his bets.

    “…from water puddle to distant water puddle.”

  25. LET ME LIVE IN A HOUSE (1954) by Chad Oliver

    “Somewhere in this madness there is a pattern that will reduce it to sanity.”

    Which is ostensibly a blasphemy to my concept of gestalt real-time reviewing? Dreamcatching, hawling, dowsing fiction’s truth… This story represents a bubble of sanity, two ordinary simple-minded couples each in their idyllic pair of neighbouring cottages inside that far-space bubble, with a Frigidaire wheezing in the background, a state of the art TV called a tri-di, with game shows, exchange dinner parties, the perfect suburban sanity…but one of the four has inched beyond that bubble, a bubble millions of miles from Earth when something, looking like a man, inches into this bubble, threatening the whole construction. The other three sit at the “bridge table”, cards in hands. The outcome of this story is that they never crossed that bridge. What price sanity?
    A telling pattern of what is sanity and madness, and the finite nature of man’s mind. And what we are and what we would want to be if we were not what we are already. Even, today, with the help of books like this one, we cannot reach beyond our respective bubbles, unless we Dreamcatch these words beyond what they mean so as to stop ourselves descending into a sudden storm of multi-bubbling (no longer a single over-arching bubble), an inchoate bubbling that awaits each of us beyond the final Frigidaire.

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