Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit

Fred Pohl, at The Way the Future Blogs, has a nice reminiscence of Cyril Kornbluth. Kornbluth has become unfashionable, maybe permanently so, even among the few who still remember his work, but I’ve always liked his stuff. For instance, I think The Syndic is the greatest work of social sf to come out of the Fifties–maybe out of any decade. And the genetics of “The Marching Morons” (see in that story, its predecessor “The Little Black Bag” and the Pohl/Kornbluth collaboration Search the Sky) may be all wrong (and when I say “may be” I mean they are), but the complaint about the dumbing down and coarsening of public life still packs some emotional punch. His best story is the horrifyingly pessimistic but strangely not-unhopeful “Shark Ship”.

I didn’t know (until I saw FP’s blog-post) that CK had worked as first reader for F&SF where he discovered, among other things, Fritz Leiber’s The Silver Eggheads.

Of course, the late sf writer everyone is talking about today is J.G. Ballard–indeed a sad loss. I was not too crazy about his novels (except for Empire of the Sun; and I admit I never even looked at Crash), but I was crazy about his crazy stories–e.g. “The Drowned Giant” or “The Assassination of JFK as a Downhill Race”, etc. The satisfactions aren’t exactly like reading stories–more like reading poetry where the words seem meaningful, but the meaning is just out of reach. Not comfort reads, by any means, but not everything should be.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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6 Responses to Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit

  1. james_nicoll says:

    Kornbluth has become unfashionable, maybe permanently so, even among the few who still remember his work

    I will point out that despite the above the SFBC selected The Space Merchants to reprint as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

    • JE says:

      I think Pohl overshadows Kornbluth in the P&K collaborations, though, so that people tend to think of CK just as Pohl’s collaborator. Maybe I’m wrong about this, though.

      • james_nicoll says:

        A little (very little) research suggests that in fact most of his stuff has been out of print for decades. Exceptions include:

        The Space Merchants with editions in 2003 from SFBC and also Gollancz/Orion.

        Gunner Cade and Outpost Mars are in (with Merrill) Spaced Out: Three Novels of Tomorrow, which NESFA released in 2008.

        Wolfbane had a 2000 edition from Gollancz.

        The most recent collection of his short stories that I saw was NESFA’s 1997 release, His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cyril M. Kornbluth.

        • JE says:

          This is a good chunk of his work that has a chance at being permanent, I guess: not so bad for a writer who died youngish more than fifty years ago.

          I bet people don’t plonk down the thirty bucks for His Share of Glory unless they’re already Kornbluthians (or some other kind of semi-deranged completist). (I’m willing to strike off the “semi” in my case.)

  2. newguydave says:

    On a happier note, I bought this great looking book yesterday at B&N. “Blood of Ambrose” by James Enge. Are you related?

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