Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And a Little Something Else for National Short Story Month -- 12 Robert Sheckley Collections from Open Road

     If you enjoy good sf short stories, you want to read Robert Sheckley if you haven't already.  Don't take my word for it.  Among the comments on Sheckley at Amazon and Wikipedia, we find the following:

** "Science fiction’s premier gadfly." —Kingsley Amis
** “If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists, they would have been Robert Sheckley.” —Harlan Ellison
** "Let’s say you are a devoted fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, love the sardonic comeuppance stories of John Collier and Roald Dahl, own all of Edward Gorey’s little albums and enjoy watching reruns of 'The Twilight Zone.' Where else can you find similar instances of sly, macabre wit, of such black-humored, gin-and-tonic fizziness in storytelling? The answer may be unexpected: among the many masters of satirical science fiction and fantasy. Robert certainly a leading example."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
** "I had no idea the competition was so terrifyingly good." - Douglas Adams
** "Probably the best short-story writer during the 50s to the mid-1960s working in any field." -- Neil Gaiman

     Those sound like pretty good recommendations, don't they?

     On May 13, Open Road will release a dozen short story collections by the late great Robert Sheckley.  A number of these titles have been fairly hard to come by for years.  E-Reads had begun reissuing Sheckley's work prior to that publisher's acquisition by Open Road; it's nice to see Open Road continue with those releases.  The collections that will be released are:

Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?
Citizen in Space
Divine Intervention
Is That What People Do?
Notions: Unlimited
The People Trap
Pilgrimage to Earth
The Robot Who Looked Like Me
Shards of Space
Store of Infinity
Uncanny Tales
Untouched by Human Hands

     And at just over three bucks each, they're a real bargain.  You'll find a lot of great sf in these collections; don't take my word for it -- listen to those other guys I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

     (I'd like to note one of my favorite Sheckley stories -- it's not science fiction or fantasy, but it's got that nice macabre feel that Michael Dirda refers to in his comment.  The story is a lovely little blood-freezer called "Fear in the Night," and you'll find it in Is That What People Do? and also in Pilgrimage to Earth.  If you liked John Collier, Roald Dahl, and the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents tv shows, you'll like this one.  Worth the price of the book all by itself.)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Few Suggestions for National Short Story Month

     So.  May.  National Short Story Month.  And that's been going on for a few years now.  And if I noticed in previous years that May was National Short Story Month, I'm bleeped if I remember...
     So.  National Short Story Month.  And is there a ton of good stuff out there to load up your Kindle?  Jeez, is there ever.  For instance...

     One of the best deals out there at the moment is Irwin Shaw's SHORT STORIES: FIVE DECADES, Shaw's own selection of his best short work; Shaw is perhaps best remembered for his best-selling novels such as THE YOUNG LIONS, VOICES OF A SUMMER DAY, and RICH MAN, POOR MAN, but if memory serves Shaw's short stories were regarded more favorably than his novels.  In long form or short, Shaw was a terrific story-teller, and SHORT STORIES: FIVE DECADES is an excellent collection.  Some of the stories, like "The Eighty Yard Run" and "Girls in Their Summer Dresses," will probably be familiar already, having been standards in literature classes for some time now, but many of them will not.  There are only a couple of things wrong with this collection -- first, it's too bad it didn't include the introductions Shaw wrote for the books in which the stories were first collected, and second, it would have been nice if Open Road Media had gathered all of Shaw's short fiction for this ebook rather than sticking to the contents of the original print edition of the title.  But those are extremely minor quibbles.  This book is $2.99 this month, and believe thee me, for the amount of good reading included, it's an absolute steal.

     If you're into classic short fiction, Delphi Classics is a name to watch for -- this publisher tries to put an author's complete works into a single ebook.  In some cases, US copyright terms keep later work out of the volume (a few of the last Kipling titles, for instance), but usually it's all there.  And their prices are delightfully low, usually under $4.00.  All of Henry James, all of Dickens, all of Hawthorne, all of Chekhov, and many more.  And Delphi includes extras: for example, the Henry James collection includes not only his short fiction (as well as his novels, criticism, autobiographical writings, a selection of his letters), but also a number of short titles about James by other writers.  Finally re: James -- if you couldn't get through his novels, try his short stories.  He's one of those writers who gets better as you get older.  Some years back I went to a library conference and the schedule left me with nearly a full day at the hotel in Wichita waiting for my bus to leave late the next morning.  I settled back with a couple of collections of James' short stories -- high point of the trip.

     They're not ebooked, but a while back the Library of America put out a nice set in three volumes of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short stories.  The New England Science Fiction Association has been doing complete-stories sets of major sf and fantasy writers for years, among them Poul Anderson, William Tenn, Roger Zelazny, and C. M. Kornbluth.

     I've already mentioned some of the collections by Robert Silverberg, Jack Finney, Ray Bradbury, and Gerald Kersh in previous posts.

     To return for a moment to Open Road Media: the company recently acquired E-Reads and is reissuing E-Reads titles under its own imprint.  Included are nearly all of Fritz Leiber's titles -- Leiber was equally adept at science fiction, heroic fantasy, and horror, and if you've missed stories like "Smoke Ghost" or "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" you should stop reading this post and grab yourself a whole bunch of Leiber (if you don't snatch up everything available from Open Road, go for the Night Shade Books SELECTED STORIES volume with the Neil Gaiman intro).

     Also formerly from E-Reads and now from Open Road is the work of Harlan Ellison.  Even if you don't know his name, chances are you've noticed his work.  The best episodes of the original OUTER LIMITS, "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand," were his.  The best episode of the original STAR TREK, "City on the Edge of Forever," was his (and Ellison's original script was much stronger than the version that aired).  The best episodes of the 1980s TWILIGHT ZONE series, "Shatterday," "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty," and "Paladin of the Lost Hour," were adapted from his stories.  Novelist, essayist, screenwriter, short story writer, editor -- he's one of the writers who can do it all.  I can remember a time when finding many of his titles required a LOT of scrounging through second-hand book stores; E-Reads and now Open Road have made most of his backlist easily available.  I've started to write a post on Ellison for this space half a dozen times and trashcanned it every time -- Ellison's work has been important to me since I was in high school nearly fifty years ago and found a copy of I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM on the drug store spinner rack, and I just don't know how to do even a little bit of justice to the subject.  The title story of that book, and the even better stories that followed in other collections through the years, blew this kid away.  If you'd like a good sample of fiction from one of the absolute powerhouse short story writers of our time, try the following: DEATHBIRD STORIES, I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM, SHATTERDAY, GENTLEMAN JUNKIE, SLIPPAGE, and LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED;  ANGRY CANDY and MIND FIELDS are also must-reads, but they're not available as ebooks.  Many of his stories are fantasies, but you'll find he's a terrific writer of mainstream fiction as well -- check out "Daniel White for the Greater Good," "No Fourth Commandment," "Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine," "All the Lies That Are My Life," and "The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie."  A writer not to be missed, and if you've not read him before, what better time to discover his work than during National Short Story Month?