Retrospeculative View: 1960

Some of the short fiction:

The Voices of Time, J.G. Ballard

Need, Theodore Sturgeon

The Prize of Peril, Robert Sheckley

Borges and I (Borges y Yo), Jorge Luis Borges

The Longest Voyage, Poul Anderson (Hugo Award for short story, 1961)

Some of the movies:

Psycho (based on the 1959 novel by Robert Block). Alfred Hitchcock’s famous psychological thriller, starring Anthony Perkins (who became typecast) and Janet Leigh. Near the end of the movie, the policeman guarding Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is played by an uncredited Ted Knight (Ted Baxter in TV’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

The Time Machine (based on H.G. Well’s 1895 novel), starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux,  Alan Young (better known to me as Wilbur Post in the TV show Mr. Ed, the talking horse. Alan Young was also the voice of Disney’s Scrooge McDuck), and Sebastian Cabot (a.k.a. Mr. French on TV’s Family Affair).

Village of the Damned (based on John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos), starring George Sanders (Addison DeWitt in All About Eve), Barbara Shelley (a scream queen), and child actor Martin Stephens.

And the speculative novels of 1960:

The High Crusade, Poul Anderson. A pleasantly humorous novel about an alien starship that lands in medieval England. The aliens are attempting to ascertain the strength of Earth’s defenses. Things don’t quite turn out as the aliens planned and the consequences are improbable, but delightfully droll.

Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon. I haven’t read the novel, but it sounds intriguing, and I’ve always enjoyed Sturgeon’s stories. Charlie Johns is transported to a utopian world where gender and sex do not exist. For some reason, the peoples of this world want Charlie’s approval. Amazon describes the book as a visionary work of wisdom and lyricism, offering insightful speculations on gender. I think I’ll have to read it.    

Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys. An alien artifact is discovered on the Moon; attempts are made to explore the artifact, ending in death. The investigations continue, and slowly, but surely, a path through the artifact’s maze is forged (the Strugatskys’ story Roadside Picnic (1971) echoes some of the atmosphere of Rogue Moon).  A shortened novella version was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B (Ed.: Ben Bova), but I prefer the full-length novel.

And my pick as Retrospeculative Novel of 1960 is…

A Canticle for LeibowitzA Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (Hugo, 1961). The only novel of his published in his lifetime (a sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman was completed by Terry Bisson and published in 1997). A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the absolute classics of science fiction, lauded by literary critics (David N. Samuelson’s 1969 doctoral dissertation regarding the novel is apparently excellent (I haven’t read it)). The recurrence of the rise and fall of technological knowledge and the conflict between Church and State are the two main themes of the novel, which was built around three short stories he’d written from 1955 to 1957: A Canticle for Leibowitz (which he re-worked into the first part of the novel, Fiat Homo, Let There Be Man), And the Light is Risen (which he re-worked into the second part of the novel, Fiat Lux, Let There Be Light), and The Last Canticle (which became the third, and final, part of the novel, Fiat Voluntas Tua, Let Thy Will Be Done). It is a remarkable post-apocalyptic novel; literate, humorous, provocative, and a good science fiction book to share with mainstream fiction readers. Highly recommended.

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