June 23, 2014

The Drowned World.

P1100781 - Version 2

That's "The bridge shadow," posted yesterday, turned upside down, as recommended, in the comments, by The Crack Emcee.

"The Drowned World" floated into my head as a good title for this picture, and I had to look it up to remember what it was.
The Drowned World is a 1962 science fiction novel by J. G. Ballard. In contrast to much post-apocalyptic fiction, the novel features a central character who, rather than being disturbed by the end of the old world, is enraptured by the chaotic reality that has come to replace it....

[A] natural catastrophe causes the real world to transform itself into a dream landscape, causing the central characters to regress mentally.
Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory.
The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard... p. 41.
I'd like to read that. Perhaps there's an insight into how we might adapt to the future of rising sea levels. Maybe I have that book in the house, in amongst the old SF paperbacks that my first husband left behind when he moved out:

Untitled

I was reading this New Yorker article about the book genre of books about books, where the author undertakes some reading project, like "The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading," where writer reads through a set novels that just happened to be shelved together because of the authors' names and alphabetical order.  Also: "The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World" (2004), "Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages" (2008),  and "The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everthing Else" (2010).

I got the idea of reading all the sci-fi books in that box. They're from an era in the past. They are the selections of my ex-husband, and he left them in the house. Who knows what all I could bullshit about reading all that and riffing however the mood strikes me?

.... plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory....

61 comments:

Nonapod said...

Looks like some good stuff in there. I enjoy Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber books but I haven't read his other stuff.

Ralph Hyatt said...

I used to read a lot of science fiction in my youth and I have read most of those books. It might be interesting to get your take on "Stranger in a Strange Land" (60s era hippie ideas on sexual mores combined with human raised by Martians who has supernatural powers).

Or Farnham's Freehold, family accidentally gets blasted into the far future during a nuclear war - a future where Caucasians are subordinate to blacks and there is cannibalism.

Ann Althouse said...

"Stranger in a Strange Land" is one of the few books I actually read at the time.

I've also read "Day of the Triffids" and "Crytozoic" and "Lord of Light."

Somehow, I feel that if I was starting this project, I'd begin with "Tarzan at the Earth's Core."

Ann Althouse said...

So, anyway, "S in an S L" would be interesting to revisit, and I'd have to try to piece together what it might have meant to me when I was a teenager.

All I can remember is the alien lying at the bottom of a swimming pool and the word "grok."

Garry Geer said...

You might like Zelazny's "Lord of Light" but I would steer clear of "Creatures of Light and Darkness." Its a bit too experimental.

Bryan Townsend said...

How could he have left all those great books behind?

Douglas said...

Ann,
What great books those are! You've brought back happy memories of my youth making weekly treks to the Boston Public Library to get another stack of SciFi books to read. I seem to recall that Day of the Triffids was also made into an excellent movie.

Ann Althouse said...

"Pellucidar, as every schoolboy knows, is a world within a world, lying, as it does, upon the inner surface of the hollow sphere which is the Earth.... Tarzan of the Apes paused to listen and to sniff the air. Had you been there you could not have heard what he heard, or had you you could not have interpreted it...."

Sean Gleeson said...

"...writer reads through a set [of] novels that just happened to be shelved together because of the authors' names and alphabetical order."

I have done similar exercises, and it can be a lot of fun, and can yield some serendipitous results. (I don't want to be accused of self-promotion, so I will not put up a link to "Subjective Grounds: Writings by Persons with the Initials S.G.")

oleh said...

Those are some good books there.

Unknown said...

"The Mote in God's Eye" and "Ringworld" are two very good hard science fiction novels that would be worth reading.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

So you're not going to give me back the books? We'll have to take up this matter in future frank and candid discussions.

S in an S L would undoubtedly look extremely dated now.

Tarzan at the Earth's Core is the one I read at the earliest age. I have fond memories of being given it by a hot neighbor lady when I was about nine. I think I'd still love it -- the book, I mean -- and, well, you know... She was a redhead.

I'd like to reread Cryptozoic. And the stories in those anthologies, including Kornbluth's The Explorers.

Sorry not to see Aldiss's Starswarm, and the great 50s anthology Star Science Fiction Stories #2, in there. I wouldn't have thrown them out, and I don't have them here.

lgv said...

All I can say is that I loved "Day of the Triffids".

I wish more people had experienced it.

Helenhightops said...

"The Mote in God's Eye" is a fantastic potboiler hard sci-fi book.

harrogate said...

Ballard is freakin' incredible. As much as any author, he and Zelazny harnessed what was great about "Golden Age" Sci Fi and then showed the new things that were possible. Ballard was crucial to the rollout of what we now call New Wave. Even by today's high bar standards for special effects and all manner ot "trippiness," his language often rises to the level of mesmerizing psychadelia, too.

Moose said...

Wow - good selection there. My favs - Niven and Zelazny...

Ralph Hyatt said...

"S in an S L would undoubtedly look extremely dated now."

I don't recall any non-juvenile book by Heinlein that didn't include some form of polyamorous marriage.

He was convinced that all social customs concerning sexual relationships were pernicious superstitions imposed by blue nosed busybodies whose only enjoyment in life was to suppress other peoples fun.

It never seemed to occur to him, as an atheist, that absent a God and objective morality, that human customs concerning marriage would have arose in response to our evolved predilections concerning mating and child care.

tim in vermont said...

"All I can remember is the alien lying at the bottom of a swimming pool and the word 'grok.'"

I am not surprised that the quote:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”


zipped right over your liberal little head.

dbp said...

Ringworld Is a classic of science fiction. I think Larry Niven ended up spinning-off a large number of further novels based on the world created in this one.

VAILIS: What can you say? By Phillip K. Dick, so it has to be weird. A scifi novel which is also autobiographical.

Michael said...

I would not touch that box of books with a ten foot pole. Those books are filled with messages from your ex to you, messages best left unread.

tim in vermont said...

The most dated scene from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was when the guy was outside the station, walking away from it, and his progress was limited by his phone cord.

I laughed out loud at that one. Still a great book though.

kfb said...

I agree with Douglas...especially the Larry Niven offerings "Ringworld" and "The Mote in God's Eye"...

The Godfather said...

In the mid '60's Stranger In A Strange Land was very popular among the hippies, who knew nothing about Heinlein. I used to wonder what would happen if one of those flower children read Glory Road or Starship Troopers - talk about blowing your mind!

Carl Pham said...

A first-class collection there. Your ex had excellent taste in sf.

I wonder if it would really work to read them now, however. I think perhaps they belonged to an era now gone, and would seem a bit naive and quaint in this the long dispiriting evening of the republic they did not anticipate.

Freeman Hunt said...

I read RLC's book many months ago. I wonder what it would have been like written as sci-fi.

tim in vermont said...

Sorry, that quote was from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"

I don't remember much beyond Grok in SSL either.

Embarrassed shame....

Gahrie said...

Ringworld Is a classic of science fiction. I think Larry Niven ended up spinning-off a large number of further novels based on the world created in this one.

There is indeed a "Ringworld universe" in which much of Niven's writing is set. It includes works written both before and after the main Ringworld novel.

John Constantius said...

I will second the many mentions of Ringworld. A marvelous hard sci-fi book based around one of the most creative concepts seen in sci-fi in any decade. The Ringworld is an elegant solution to many of the problems inherent in its ancestor, the Dyson sphere, especially how you generate gravity and how you keep the whole thing from superheating in nano-seconds.

The fact that both hippies and die-hard conservatives can find things to love and hate about Heinlein's work demonstrate that he is that rarest of things: a non-partisan independent thinker. AKA a libertarian and therefore loathed by every partisan out there.

Joan said...

I think you should start with the (if you have it) and go from there. I read many of these titles also. I used to read actual books before there was an internet to surf.

I also loved Day of the Triffids, think Larry Niven is brilliant, and am kind of iffy on Zelazny, though I can't remember exactly why.

I love sf short stories best. Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthologies were amazing.

Bruce Hayden said...

I thought I saw RLC around a day or two ago, and thought that this was interesting. And, indeed, he was watching.

I started reading the stuff back in the early 1960s, and continue to this day. Back then, it was Heinlein, and then maybe Norton. And, then, to my surprise, a completely different Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange land about the time I was in college.

There are a couple of modern problems with the genre. One is that a lot of it is too preachy. Often politically correct, but sometimes more of the self-reliance/Ayn Rand type. Another is that the shelves are now filled with this sort of urban vampire romance type nonsense. What is really bad is that some of the authors I was enjoying reading have moved into writing that sort of trash, and have quit doing the sort of stuff that I will read.

One of the things that I like about the genre is that it can make you think. All along, you have had ideas, philosophy, etc. made interesting and acceptable by being wrapped in a sci-fi mantle. Not the "what happens if global warming continues" (esp. since apparently many of the recorded temperatures used in that scare were massaged from actual temperature readings that show the 1930s as the hottest recent decade). But authors can talk about gender roles, longevity, wealth, technology, etc. in a less threatening, and more brain expanding way.

BTW - I think that RLC seems to have picked out some of the better ones. (Just noticed that using those initials is a bit weird for me, since I have an RLC figuring prominently in my life, though of the opposite sex).

Carter Wood said...

J.G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical "Empire of the Sun" is quite good and was turned into a great movie by Spielberg.

Your ex had Valis. Ayee! After A Scanner Darkly, the microstrokes turned Dick into an unreadable mystic.

MadisonMan said...

That's an awesome image upside down. Really cool.

Robert Cook said...

I've been reading Ballard's novels one by one over the past year and a half--after having already read CRASH just before Cronenberg's film adaptation of it was released, (after having first tried to read it in the early 80s and finding it too disquieting to get through). Cronenberg's film doesn't come close to the intensity or disturbing quality of the novel.

I was inspired to start reading his novels when I bought the huge COMPLETE STORIES OF J.G. BALLARD, a literal doorstop of a book, a couple of years ago.

I read THE DROWNED WORLD--his second novel--about a year ago, and am now about halfway through his novels, having just completed THE UNLIMITED DREAM COMPANY last month. This last is his most surrealist novel, (Ballard always said he was a frustrated painter, and his obsession was with the surrealists.)

(Although Ballard disowned his first novel--THE WIND FROM NOWHERE--I found a bootleg ebook of it somewhere online and thought it quite good, if too abrupt in its ending.)

I think my favorite Ballard books to date are CONCRETE ISLAND and HIGH RISE, this latter novel a sort of CLOCKWORK ORANGE featuring adult bourgeoisie rather than teenaged hoodlums.

Robert Cook said...

I read nearly all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels in my youth, and have been a devoted fan of Philip K. Dick since 1975, and have read ALL his science fiction novels at least once--several of them more than once, with plans to reread more of them--and all save two of nis non-science fiction novels, (all but one of those were published posthumously). I'll get to those two remaining unread novels soon.

Dale Light said...

I read nearly all of these back in the day and enjoyed them, but only have vague memories of some of them these days. SF was an episode in my youth. You can download nearly all the ERB novels from Project Gutenberg for free. I wouldn't advise reading them though -- they're embarrassingly crude, more interesting as historical artifacts than as literature. REHs work doesn't hold up very well either. Our culture has moved on to another place.

Joan said...

Sorry for my clumsy editing removing content, up there -- I meant to say, start with the Kornbluth anthology if you have it, but then I also noticed you have some Cordwainer Smith, whom I also loved.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

"Glory Road" was my favorite Heinlein as a kid, and "Starship Troopers" second. I started rereading "Glory Road" a couple of years ago -- yes, it had blown my mind when young -- and couldn't recapture the thrill that a horny teenage boy had felt for it. I read less science fiction these days, but Greg Egan and sometimes Ted Chiang blow my mind.

VALIS is the favorite PKD of hipsters, but IMO it crosses the line between fiction and psychosis. I like A Scanner Darkly (book and movie), The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Do Androids Dream...?, Palmer Eldritch, Flow My Tears, Confessions of a Crap Artist (realistic), and others.

There's a great two-volume hardback box set of nine classic sf novels from the 1950s in the Library of America -- The Space Merchants, The Stars My Destination, The Shrinking Man, More than Human, etc. I think there's also a set for the 1960s. And there are at least three big volumes of Philip D. Dick in Library of America. Library of America is the most prestigious and ambitious literary collection in the U.S. -- everything from Puritan sermons to David Goodis.

John Constantius said...

ERB embarrassingly crude? REH doesn't hold up well? Sounds like a fourteen year old who thinks no one holds a candle to Neil Gaiman and China Mieville (Gaiman at least has the grace to acknowledge that he stands on the shoulders of giants).

"I don't get the big fuss people make about Shakespeare. His writing is just a bunch of cliches."

The Crack Emcee said...

It looks like something I could fly through now,...

David53 said...

Where to start...where to start.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Bruce Hayden: In Austin? Which coffeehouse?

Ballard has two excellent, moving autobiographical books in addition to Empire of the Sun. The Kindness of Women is a sequel to Empire, covering his life in Britain -- which also had big tragic elements -- and Miracles of Life, a nonfiction autobiography. I love his Vermillion Sands stories and stories about the decay of space exploration. I'm not keen on his more experimental stuff.

As long as I'm throwing in titles (it gives me the chills just to type them), the old-time sf stories I read in youth that most blew my mind were C. L. Moore's "Vintage Season," Alfred Bester's "Disappearing Act," and Poul Anderson's "The Martyr." And a lot of Bradbury up through 1965.

Pianoman said...

I wouldn't read VALIS until you've read a few earlier PDK novels. It's a great book, but very strange.

I second/third/fourth everything that's been said about Mote In God's Eye. A classic of the "hard SF" genre. If you like it, you should get the sequel, "The Gripping Hand".

Anything by Zelazny is good, except for the last few Amber books. He got to where he was just milking the series after a while.

I see "Cat's Cradle" in there too. Vonnegut is always enjoyable, if not depressing. They're great books to read on gloomy cold days.

The great thing about all these books is their size. Books written during the Golden Age were typically 200-300 pages, so they're perfect for summer vacations. I generally get through "a book a day" when I've got a stack of these things. Van Vogt, Simak, and the Groff Conklin collections are some of my other favorites.

Enjoy your reading, I look forward to seeing your opinions about these books. (You should consider doing a post for each book.)

rhhardin said...

I live at 1000 feet MSL and am looking forward to a backyard beach.

The Godfather said...

E.R. Burroughs -- Dale Light may be right that his work doesn't stand the test of time or maturity, but when I was 10? 12? something like that, I found an old hard cover copy of Princess of Mars in the reading room of the old hotel in Maine where my family spent our Augusts. Until then, I didn't know Burroughs had written anything except Tarzan books. I was captivated! The four-armed green Martians! Beautiful Martian women! Fights with swords and radium revolvers! Airships with sails!

At the end of the book, some villain has captured John Carter and imprisoned him in a dungeon, awaiting his certain death. How will he escape?!!!

Some devil had torn the last two pages out of the book! There was no Project Gutenburg in those days. It took me years before I was able to find a copy of book in which I could read the last two pages. I won't spoil it for you by telling you how it ends (hint: There's a sequel).

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Roger Zelazny rocks. I loved how, whatever fantastic milieu he put you in, there was always an incidental character in horn rimmed glasses smoking a cigarette-- Zelazny himself.

Joe Schwind said...

If that's a first edition of Ringworld it's worth some money.

Joe Schwind said...

If that's a first edition of Ringworld it's worth some money.

Carol said...

ehhh,, not into sci fi. But I did read Everything by Evelyn Waugh and Everything by Flannery O'Connor.

Still working on Everything by Tom Wolfe.

Gahrie said...

"I don't get the big fuss people make about Shakespeare. His writing is just a bunch of cliches."

I hear something like this all the time when I try to get the English teachers at my school to teach Shakespeare. The look on their face when I respond "exactly!" is classic. People really have no idea of the impact Shakespeare has had on our language and culture.

Meade said...

"I have fond memories of being given it by a hot neighbor lady when I was about nine. I think I'd still love it -- the book, I mean -- and, well, you know... She was a redhead."

I'm agnostic when it comes to his SF selections. But, when it comes to RLC's discernment to know the very best of the best in redheads, well, you know... I am a true believer.

Robert Cook said...

Regarding Dick's VALIS, I've read it twice, and I can't say it captivated me either time. Much better--or, more to my taste, let's say--is RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH, Dick's sort of "first draft" of the ideas in Valis, including there bing protagonist and his friend, "Philip K. Dick," both of whom are sort-of analogs to the real Philip K. Dick, but the story is COMPLETELY different, a paranoid political fantasy in the 1984 vein, inspired by Dick's fear and hatred of Richard Nixon. It's really compelling, Dick at his story-telling best, but mixing in the spiritual/cosmic elements that appear in VALIS. (I'm really peeved at Jonathan Lethem, editor of the three Library of America omnibus collections of Dick's best novels, that he did not include RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH in the volume that collected VALIS, THE DIVINE INVASION, and THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER. How rare is it to see collected together two novels on the same ideas by the same writer but handled in completely different ways? But Lethem considers RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH sub-par; he's wrong.)

I read it when it was first published posthumously and then again a couple of years ago and, having forgotten the plot, was blown away!

BTW, there's an independent filmed adaptation of RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH making the rounds of a few cities this month and next, the result of a Kickstarter campaign. See if if it comes to your town. It was completed several years ago and has played around at SF conventions and other places. The Kickstarter campaign will also result in a dvd of the film becoming available, so watch for that.

Robert Cook said...

"I hear something like this all the time when I try to get the English teachers at my school to teach Shakespeare."

It's a damning indictment of your (or any) school that one has to "try to get the English teachers" to teach Shakespeare.

Scott said...

Those are some very good books available there. I'd definitely suggest Mote in God's Eye, it does a great job of doing first contact with a (very) alien species. Likewise Ringworld is very very good hard sci-fi. Heinlein and Edgar Rice Burroughs are great (if technology has marched on, especially for ERB). Keeping in mind that with ERB, he wrote for a magazine format, so every chapter ends on a cliffhanger (so you have to find out what happens next), he stands up reasonably well. Certainly it's very two-fisted adventure and a useful insight to the way people thought in the early 1900s.

southcentralpa said...

Mrow! Watch those claws!!

The Godfather said...

I've pretty much given up reading SF for the last 30 years or so. Science has ruined science fiction: No ruined cities along the canals of Mars, no clipper ships sailing over the Venusian oceans, no faster than light space ships exploring the galaxies. Many of the good writers abandoned "hard" science fiction in favor of what is essentially fantasy -- like Zelazny. Most of the new stuff doesn't appeal to me (except Scalzi who is intentionally retro). Maybe I'll go back to reading or re-reading some of the old stuff. Mr. Cohen has provided a good list. Thanks.

gpm said...

I actually started with some Andre/Alice Mary Norton stuff from the library, but my main arc was from Asimov in grammar school (fiction and non-) in the mid-60s to Heinlein in high school in the late 60s to Niven in college in the early 70s (though I also recall reading Lord of the Rings around about 1968). My library is currently in New Hampshire, where I'm currently not, but I know there's also a ton of Harry Harrison and Poul Anderson (especially liked the Dominic Flandry series). Tons of ERB as well, though it always seemed a bit silly.

Never got into Zelazny, but I concur with the recommendations for Ringworld and Mote, as well as Niven in general.

As for the immortal Heinlein, I think there has been a new edition of SSL (and I know because I have it that there's a new and unexpurgated version of Podkayne, one of my faves). Not in this box, but Moon is a Harsh Mistress may be the top of the Heinlein list. Farnham's Freehold, which is in the box, is also a treat. Like RLC, I thought both Glory Road and Starship Troopers were awesome when I read them as a teenager, OK but not that great when I came back to them at more like 50. The juveniles are also fun. So many have the typical Heinlein twist of completely changing the thrust of the plot halfway through.

R/H referred to the Heinlein's polyamorous marriages, but what always amazed me was how characters of whatever gender were always jumping into bed within minutes of meeting (and them showering because they were so "stinky"). I remember reading a long time ago that Heinlein had introduced religion, sex, and politics to SF, but the sex was kinky, the politics were wrong, and I don't remember what the religion was. But the Oz crap got more and more tedious in the last books.

That Hideous Strength is flat out weird, like the rest of the Lewis stuff (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, never read the witch and wardrobe stuff).

I pretty much recognize all of the authors here, but haven't read half of these particular books.

And, in closing, Adam Selene says TANSTAAFL to Crazy Eddie, and hello to Manny, my only friend.

--gpm

RazorSharpSundries said...

I really love the looks of that collection. Just started reading the Pellucidar books again. Tarzan At the Earth's Core was my favorite. All very simplistic but brilliant adventure stories nonetheless. The AVClub did a great series a few years ago of reviews of a box of sci-fi paperbacks found in a garage sale or something. They've changed their format at the website though and I don't think it's as easy to scroll through the whole series.

RazorSharpSundries said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren said...

Only one Heinlein in the bunch?

Loren said...

Oops, two Heinlein's in there.

Nichevo said...

What, no H. Beam Piper?!