Monday, November 21, 2011

A foundation of my psyche

kw: book reviews, story reviews, science fiction, future fiction, anthologies

Richard Matheson is one writer whose stories helped me find myself and build myself as a young person. I began reading science fiction in a big way in 1967, and before long, I would simply go to the library's Science Fiction shelves each week and take out the next five books. It was a small library; I read everything they had in two years. I am Legend was one of the first novels I read that really affected me. Two stories by Matheson have also stuck with me in the years since: "Steel" and "The Traveller". How pleasant it was to find a recent collection of Matheson's stories, including the two last named: Steel and Other Stories. I'll simply provide teaser blurbs here:
  • Steel – In the boxing ring, human flesh is obsolete. A robot fighter breaks down, and ex-fighter Kelly decides to find out just how obsolete he is.
  • To Fit the Crime – A demented poet, who never refrained from speaking his (acid) mind, is dying. What will his Hell be like?
  • The Wedding – A prospective groom is obsessed with getting everything just perfect for his wedding.
  • The Conqueror – A city boy with extraordinarily fast reflexes decides to make his name in the Old West as a gunfighter.
  • Dear Diary – Women of different eras pour out their woes to their diaries.
  • Descent – A giant bomb is going to destroy the surface of the Earth. People prepare to live underground.
  • The Doll That Does Everything – A poet and his artist wife try to cope with an excessively destructive one-year-old by purchasing a robot playmate for him.
  • The Traveller – A pioneer time traveler is sent to observe at Golgotha. The premise of this story helped me later attain faith.
  • When Day is Dun – The last man on Earth after a disaster, a poet tries to chronicle his last feelings. (Matheson likes demented poets)
  • The Splendid Source – Did you ever wonder who makes up all the dirty jokes going around?
  • Lemmings – When overpopulation causes lemmings to clear out their food resources, they undertake mass migrations, with tragic results. Could this happen to people?
  • The Edge – After a hard day, he just wants to take a break, but meets a total stranger who knows him. It gets stranger…
  • A Visit to Santa Claus – A man with much on his mind tries to "help" his little son visit Santa Claus in the Mall.
  • Dr. Morton's Folly – The last patient of the day has rather long teeth, but one needs a filling.
  • The Window of Time – A man finds himself among scenes of his childhood. Is there any way to correct old mistakes?
The last two stories were published in 2009 and 2010, respectively; the others are from 1953-1958. They do stand the test of time.

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