By Colleen McMahon: I’ve had some upheaval in my personal life in the last month, and I haven’t been keeping up with this column or with some of the older comments. So I’ll start by taking an opportunity to clarify a couple of things which may have been misunderstood, based on some of the comments on older entries.
First, when I mention a work here, it’s generally because it’s either one that I have come across in my own “wanderings”, or because it has some tie to something recently discussed, such as when an author’s birthday comes up in the daily listing, and it turns out that they have some public domain books or stories available.
It’s not meant to imply that a book is just now entering the public domain (unless otherwise stated, as in the recent discussion of the 1923 copyright expirations) or that it is in any way a new discovery to anyone but me. So, for example, Flatland by Abbott has indeed been in the public domain for many years, and only came up here because a new audiobook recording of it was recently released.
Second, someone apparently took offense at my passing observation that John W. Campbell is better known nowadays for his role as an editor as a writer. That is no judgement on Campbell as a writer, or any of the other forgotten or less-remembered names that come up. It’s just a general impression of the overall collective memory or focus of 2019 fandom and who tends to be well-known and who does not. If I’m off base on my estimation of how well-known any particular writer is at this point, I welcome correction.
Most stories and novels pass out of popular notice in a few decades, no matter how worthwhile they are. There’s no point in hand-wringing about this or decrying the crappiness of modern fandom for not being sufficiently aware of certain writers. I prefer to look at it as a vast realm of potential buried treasures, and poke about looking for some forgotten books that are worth unearthing. I started writing this series merely to share some of these finds.
On that note, let’s turn to some of the recent diggings:
In Cat Rambo’s introduction to this month’s StoryBundle featuring contemporary female speculative fiction authors, she mentions four names as examples of women authors who have largely faded away. This, as usual, sent me off to see if anything by those authors is available on my favorite sites.
Miriam DeFord was already covered in a previous installment. I could not find any public domain works by Zenna Henderson, alas. However, the other two authors that Rambo mentioned, Judith Merril and Katherine MacLean, are each represented by several short stories on Project Gutenberg.
Judith Merril (1923-1997):
To date, neither story has been recorded for Librivox.
Katherine MacLean (1925- )
- Pictures Don’t Lie (Galaxy, August 1951)
- The Snowball Effect (Galaxy, September 1952)
- Contagion (Galaxy, October 1950)
- The Man Who Staked the Stars (Planet Stories, July 1952)
- Games (Galaxy, March 1953)
- The Natives (Science Fiction Stories, 1953)
- The Carnivore (Galaxy, October 1953)
All of these stories have been recorded at least once for Librivox.
Speaking of women authors, Andre Norton (1912-2005) had a February birthday. She has short stories as well as several full-length novels available on Project Gutenberg:
- Plague Ship
- Star Born
- Key Out of Time
- Star Hunter
- Voodoo Planet
- The Time Traders
- Storm Over Warlock
- The Defiant Agents
- The People of the Crater (Fantasy Book, 1947)
- The Gifts of Asti (Fantasy Book, 1948)
- All Cats are Gray (Fantastic Universe, August-September 1953)
In addition to her science fiction, Norton has a YA adventure novel (Ralestone Luck) and two Westerns (Ride Proud, Rebel! and Rebel Spurs) on PG. All of her works have been recorded, most in multiple versions, for Librivox.
Staying on the topic of women authors, Leigh Brackett’s (1915-1978) name is probably most recognizable as one of the credited screenwriters of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. She was well-known enough as a screenwriter in the 1940s that Howard Hawks is said to have once demanded, “Get me that guy, Brackett” to help William Faulkner finish the script for The Big Sleep. Brackett is also notable as the first woman author to receive a Hugo nomination, for her 1956 post-nuclear-war novel The Long Tomorrow.
The Long Tomorrow does not appear to be in the public domain, but two stories by Brackett are available on Project Gutenberg:
Both stories have been recorded for Librivox.
Recent Librivox releases:
- The Mermaid’s Message and Other Stories by Various
This is a collection of fairy tales and fables compiled in 1919. The stories contain original but old-fashioned tales which modern children and grown-ups will enjoy.
- Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg (1935- )
When Roy Walton becomes the new director of the UN division of population control, after the director is assassinated, he becomes the most hated man in the world. Being Director involved him in not only population control, but a terra-forming project on Venus, and negotiations with aliens. Not only that, but some people were trying to kill him. To stay alive, he had to become The Master of Life and Death.