Retrospeculative View, 1965

books1965 was the inaugural year for the Nebula Awards, which I’ve always considered to be an award for literate and experimental science fiction works. In comparison, I’ve assumed that the Hugo Award is generally presented to more popular works. It should be interesting to see if my theory bears fruit as the Retrospeculative years roll along on this blog (it doesn’t appear to be the case in 1965: both the Nebula and the Hugo were awarded to the same novel and the same short story). 1965 was a banner award year for Roger Zelazny, who won two Nebula Awards (for best Novella and best Novelette) and a Hugo Award (for best novel, in a tie with Frank Herbert’s Dune)…

Some of the short stories:

Harlan Ellison’s Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman, the Hugo and Nebula Award winner for short story.

Brian Aldiss’ The Saliva Tree, the Nebula Award winner for best novella (tie)

Roger Zelazny’s He Who Shapes, the Nebula Award winner for best novella (tie)

Roger Zelazny’s The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, the Nebula Award winner for best novelette

Philip José Farmer’s Day of the Great Shout,

Poul Anderson’s Marque and Reprisal

Fritz Leiber’s Stardock.

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New television shows in 1965:

Lost in Space, a forgettable TV show that included a ‘Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot’ (reminiscent of Robby the robot from Forbidden Planet, et al.) that often enunciated: “Danger, danger,” while waving its articulated arms and flashing lights in its chest region. An equally forgettable movie version was made in 1988, starring, among others, Matt LeBlanc (Joey, from the TV sitcom Friends), Gary Oldman and William Hurt.

Thunderbirds, a British science fiction television series that used AP Films’ style of marionette puppetry they christened Supermarionation. The Thunderbirds were a fleet of five types of vehicle-machines: a rocket plane, a rescue aircraft, a spaceship, a submersible, and a space station.

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Some of the movies released in 1965:

The War Game depicted a fictionalized, nuclear war between Russia and Britain. The show was intended for television, but the BBC decided it was too graphic and frightening. The show, presented in the form of a news commentary, had a limited release in cinemas and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature (I’m a bit confused about this: wasn’t the film fiction?).

Alphaville (subtitled une étrange adventure de Lemmy Caution). Lemmy Caution is a private detective in a futuristic city on an alien planet. The city’s despot has forbidden love and self-expression. A curious movie that blended science fiction and Film Noir.

Die, Monster, Die! A minor B-Horror classic, apparently very loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 story The Colour Out of Space. Stephen Reinhart (played by Nick Adams) visits his fiancé’s father (played by Boris Karloff), a scientist who is confined to a wheelchair and who has discovered a radiation-emitting meteor that transforms things.

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And a sampling of the speculative novels of 1965:

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick. I’ve enjoyed a couple of PKD’s novels; this isn’t one of them, but the common perception seems to be that it is one of his better books. It examines similar themes to his other novels, including questions about ultimate reality, paranoia and identity; but, to me, the novel breaks no new ground and reads like PKD’s typical adrenaline-charged pulp, filled with cardboard characters that are indistinguishable from each other. Perhaps this is what the author intended, but it didn’t work for me. In case you’re interested, Palmer Eldritch’s three stigmata consist of an artificial arm, steel teeth, and electronic eyes.

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, the second book in The Prydain Chronicles, a high fantasy series inspired by Welsh mythology. The novel was a Newbery Honor book, short-listed for the year’s “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” An animated Disney movie — loosely based on the story — was released in 1985, but it was a commercial failure at the box office.

God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut. I haven’t read this novel and I probably never will (too many books, too little time). I’m sure it’s enjoyable, but I’ve read what I think is a good representation of Vonnegut’s works (Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan, Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and several short stories). In his book Palm Sunday (Chapter 18, The Sexual Revolution), Vonnegut graded his works — as a comparison with himself, not others — and gave God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater an ‘A’ grade, so he obviously thought it was one of his better novels (three other novels — The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night, and Jailbird — received an ‘A’ grade, and only Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five received a higher mark, an ‘A+’).

…And Call Me Conrad (alternate title: This Immortal) by Roger Zelazny. I haven’t read this novel, but I should probably read more Zelazny because I think that his short story A Rose for Ecclesiastes  is exceptional. …And Call Me Conrad shared the Hugo Award with Dune, but certainly hasn’t shared the lasting popularity of Frank Herbert’s book. Zelazny is probably better known for his Chronicles of Amber series and his novel Lord of Light (which didn’t appeal to me, but I seem to be in the minority). The novel was serialized as …And Call Me Conrad, and novelized as This Immortal, apparently with the restoration of many of the portions that were cut for serialization.

And my choice for Retrospeculative novel of 1965 is…

Dune 1965 coverDune, by Frank Herbert, which won both the Hugo Award  (a tie with Zelazny’s …And Call Me Conrad) and the inaugural Nebula Award, and is a classic, multi-layered science fiction novel, bursting with politics, religion, ecology (of the desert planet Arrakis), and technology. The setting for action mostly takes place on the desert planet Arrakis, the source of an incredibly valuable commodity called mélange, or ‘spice.’ Separate factions vie for control of mélange, and the maneuverings, betrayals, and acts of heroic loyalty are examined as the plot unfolds. I found the story fascinating and impressive when I first read it, but I now find the writing a bit unrefined; nevertheless, it is a worthy classic of the genre. Herbert wrote five sequels, and several other sequels and prequels were co-authored by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert (Frank Herbert’s son). The original Dune novel towers above the rest.

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