Retrospeculative View:1954

HergeSome short fiction:

All Summer in a Day, by Ray Bradbury.
Fondly Fahrenheit, by Alfred Bester.
The Tunnel under the World, by Frederick Pohl.
The Cold Equations, by Tom Goodwin.
Explorers on the Moon (On a marché sur la Lune), by Hergé

Some movies from 1954:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an adaption of Jules Verne’s novel (1870)
Creature from the Black Lagoon, the iconic ‘man-in-the-rubber-suit’ film.
Godzilla (Gojira): the original.
Them!: the classic big-bug (ant) movie

And now, on to the speculative novels of 1954…

They’d Rather Be Right, by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (serialized in 1954). This novel is generally considered to be the poorest choice for a Hugo Award winner (which is saying something!). I haven’t read it, so I cannot comment.

Children of the Lens, by E.E. Smith. I was never captivated by the Lensman series, but I suppose it is a classic in its own right. Childern of the Lens was the sixth and final book in the series.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror fiction, but this book isn’t too bad at all.

The Brain Wave and The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson, one of the most imaginative and prolific writers of speculative fiction. His writing career spanned over fifty years and he garnered numerous major awards. I wonder if Vernor Vinge read Brain Wave and reimagined Anderson’s idea in his Zones of Thought stories (A Fire Upon the Deep, et cetera)?

The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov. His first book to feature R. Daneel Olivaw and Elijah Baley, the protagonists of his science fiction (robot)/mystery novels, which Asimov eventually connected to the Foundation series (it would seem that Asimov had a special place in his heart for R. Daneel Olivaw). This is one of Asimov’s call-time classics, but it was published in a year with a couple of very good speculative novels.

A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn, which won the International Fantasy Award for best fiction of 1954 (the award was presented from 1951 – 1955 and in 1957). This book is difficult to categorize and describe in a brief space, but I’ll try anyway: using two dissenting Martian perspectives and the lives of children in a rural town, the author manages to reflect on the state of humanity, and its possibilities, without being pedantic. This book would have been my choice for best of the year if not for…

the-lord-of-the-ringsMy pick for the Retrospeculative Novel of 1954:

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I enjoyed the movies, but they pale in comparison to the depth of Tolkien’s universe. The Lord of the Rings  is not perfect (more strong, female personalities throughout the story would have been nice), but I refuse to nitpick. Unsurpassed by any work of fantasy, I consider the books — originally published in three volumes (The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers in 1954; The Return of the King (with appendices) in 1955) — to be one long novel, breathtaking in scope and vision; Tolkien has had many imitators, but no peers. Brilliant!

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