Book log: John Carnell — New Writings in SF 10

New Writings in SF was an anthology series that ran from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s, doing exactly what it said on the tin — showcasing what the editor considered examples of the best in new authors and new techniques in written science fiction. Volume 10 is from 1966, and as such a fascinating look at what was new and exciting more than forty years ago. It’s a slightly surreal experience reading an introduction to “new American author, Thomas M Disch”…

Seven stories in this volumes, plus an introduction by editor John Carnell.

The longest is “The Imagination Trap” by Colin Kapp, and I suspect this one was the reason I bought the book in the first place when I found it in a second-hand shop, because as a teenager I was very fond of Colin Kapp’s work. It’s a fifty pager about a test flight of a new faster-than-light ship; a test flight that is almost certain suicide, as it’s a last ditch attempt to find out why most of the previous test flights didn’t come back, and those that did had suffered strange dimensional effects. It’s an interesting combination of serious thinking about psychology and about physics. It’s also very sixties in feel, not least because it comes over to me as being partly an attempt to describe the time/space distortion and hypersensory experiences reported by LSD users in controlled experiments with the drug which were being carried out at that time.

John Baxter’s “Apple” is something that required me to actively operate my disbelief suspenders, because it uses an apple mutated to the size of a hill by the after-effects of nuclear war as a metaphor for… well, something. But it was well worth gagging the bit of my brain that insisted that this is not physically possible. There’s a lovely brief exploration of human nature woven through a clever piece of world-building in this short.

G L Lack’s “Robot’s Dozen” is an exchange of letters between a gentleman who has rented a robot to impersonate him as a burglar deterrent while he is on holiday, and the firm from which he hired it. The outcome is predictable enough, but that’s not the point — the joy is in watching how the story gets there.

Joseph L Green’s “Birth of a Butterfly” considers an expedition to find intelligent life, and how easily humans might recognise it once they had found it.

Thomas Disch’s “The Affluence of Edwin Lollard” examines the problem of wilful poverty in a society wealthy enough that nobody need be poor. The editor suggest that it’s about the end product of the welfare state, but to me it looked much more like the end product of conspicuous consumption.

Brian W Aldiss’s “A Taste for Dostoevsky” is another heavily psychological piece, one which didn’t really work for me even though I can see objectively that it’s good.

John Rankine’s “Image of Destruction” is a space opera romp, a short from a series of stories about the character Dag Fletcher. Lots of fun, if rather dated now.

I didn’t like everything in this anthology, and some of it looks dated by current standards, but it’s a solid collection which lives up to its stated aim.

LibraryThing entry
New Writings in SF 10 at Amazon UK
NEW WRITINGS IN SF 10 at amazon US

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