Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Bug-Eyed Monsters

Today I am featuring a book of science fiction short stories, Bug-Eyed Monsters, edited by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg. My husband bought this book several years ago at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, and has now passed it along to me. The cover has a lovely wrap around illustration by Ruby Mazur.

From the Introduction to this book, by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg:

The Bug-Eyed Monster has been an important, if not always approbated, subtextual figure of science fiction virtually from the field's inception as a distinct subgenre of American popular fiction.

Established almost thirty years before then by H.G. Wells in his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds (a work made even more famous by Orson Welles's 1938 radio​ adaptation), the BEM had his heyday in the 1920s and the 1930s. Such writers as Raymond Z. Gallun, Edmond Hamilton, and H.P. Lovecraft built their careers on the seemingly endless confrontation between man and hideous​ beings from alien worlds (or, on occasion, from right here on Earth).

The stories in this book were published between 1927 and 1980, with most of them written in 1950s and 1960s. The stories and their authors are:

"Stranger Station" by Damon Knight

"Talent" by Robert Bloch

"The Other Kids" by R.F. Young

"The Miracle of the Lily" by C.W. Harris

"The Bug-Eyed Musicians" by Laurence M. Janifer

"Puppet Show" by Frederic Brown

"Portfolio (Cartoons)" by  Gahan Wilson

"Wherever You Are" by Poul Anderson

"Mimic" by D.A. Wollheim

"The Faceless Thing" by Edward D. Hoch

"The Rull" by A.E. Van Vogt

"Friend to Man" by C.M. Kornbluth

"The Last One Left" by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg

"Hostess" by Isaac Asimov

I have not read any of the stories in this book yet, but I will be doing that soon.

For more information, check out:

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database

Reviews at Steve A. Wiggins' blog, Monster Book Club, and Black Gate.


Cath said...

What a fab book! I love that cover and the stories sound like fun. As a teen my favourite sci-fi author was Damon Knight and I was lucky as my library had a few of his books. You don't see him talked about much these days but he was my introduction to the wonderful world of science fiction.

George said...

Like Cath, I love the cover on BUG-EYED MONSTERS! Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg edited several anthologies. I've read and enjoyed many of them including BUY-EYED MONSTERS. You're in for a lot of fun when you read this book!

Steve A Oerkfitz said...

Odd mixture. Of the stories I have read here the Damon Knight is the stand out.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Pretty sure I have never read a story of a confrontation between man and an alien being. Have seen movies about it though.

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds really interesting, Tracy! It looks as though there's a solid variety there, and I like collections that have some sort of underlying theme/subtext. I hope you'll let us know what you think as you read there.

Rick Robinson said...

I've not thought of "The Rull" as a BEM story, but my definition of that is of those written and published in the 1920-1940 period. After you have read this, I'll be interested in your opinions.

TracyK said...

Rick, a good number of these authors are new to me, including A.E. Van Vogt, author of "The Rull". And I hadn't heard of Bug-eyed Monster stories. So this will be very new to me. I will let you know what I think.

John Kerry said...

That is as solid a line-up of authors as one is likely to find in an anthology from that period. All those names would have been known to sci-fi ands of the time. I will be interested to know if the Edward D. Hoch story is one from the Simon Ark series.

TracyK said...

Cath, I don't know much about Damon Knight, but I have one or two books by his wife, Kate Wilhelm (which I have not read yet, of course). I will have to try a novel and some short stories by both of them.

TracyK said...

George, I was thinking that you would be familiar with this book of stories. It sounds right up your alley. I don't see how Bill Pronzini had time to write so much and put together anthologies. I do look forward to reading these stories.

Sam Sattler said...

Oh, wow, what a fun book cover on this one. And I see that there are stories by several of my old favorites from the SciFi genre. I'm wondering if this one is still available, or even in print...off now to find out.

TracyK said...

Steve, I read science fiction short stories when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and I remember a few of the authors (Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon) but not specific stories. Until recently I haven't read short stories in any genre. So these stories will be interesting.

TracyK said...

Patti, Glen has read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft stories. My experience with science fiction stories is limited but I have enjoyed what I have read. We both enjoy science fiction TV series and some movies of that type.

TracyK said...

Margot, I especially like this anthology because the stories were first published over several decades. And several authors I haven't tried.

TracyK said...

John, I was glad to see an Edward D. Hoch story because I have not read many of them (maybe only one, and it was a spy story). I definitely want to hunt down more stories by him.

TracyK said...

Sam, it is a wonderful cover. I must have seen the book when Glen first bought it, but I had forgotten about it, so I was thrilled when he passed it on to me.

I hope you find a copy. Glen paid very little, but it was a big book sale. But I would think that there would be reasonable used copies.

Todd Mason said...

It is an interesting mix of mostly but not exclusively light-hearted stories (particularly the Bloch and Brown and Janifer, and obviously Wilson's cartoons, as I remember them...the latter two I haven't reread since the book was relatively new, wow, forty years ago...) Knight's story is definitely Not a lighthearted one (he, like Kornbluth, usually leavening even his grimmest stories with some dark wit) and Asimov's story digs a little deeper into uncomfortable emotional places than his fiction usually does. Wollheim's is an eerie, almost Lovecraftian (but much more concisely-written than HPL usually managed) borderline horror vignette (and the source of the '90s film). "Bug-eyed monsters" being a mostly affectionate but lightly mocking term. I think the Hoch is at least borderline horror, as befits it being first published in Robert Lowndes's MAGAZINE OF HORROR...Hoch was one Lowndes's editorial "discoveries", along with Carol Emshwiller, Stephen King and F. Paul Wilson. (Bloch was "block", Hoch was "hoke", btw.) A fun book, indeed...Pronzini znd Muller published both more comedic and more serious anthologies of sf and of other lit.

I suspect you'll like Kate Wilhelm's novels and short fiction; Knight wrote a Lot of brilliant short fiction, from vignettes to novellas, but most of his novels before his last several weren't quite as good. Knight and Wilhelm (and Emshwiller) at their best have much of the same appeal as Sturgeon at his. Claire Winger Harris was one of the best of the early sf-magazine writers, in what I've read from her that I remember (I don't remember this story!).

Lark said...

That cover and the title makes this story collection irresistible!

TracyK said...

Lark, I agree, and with all the information that Todd has provide (above), I am even more interested in checking out the stories.

TracyK said...

Todd, sorry to take so long to reply -- it has been a long day, gardening and stuff, and I had to absorb all your information.

Thanks so much for all your thoughts on the stories. Also how to pronounce Hoch. I think I knew it was "hoke" at one time but never can remember.

I look forward to trying Kate Wilhelm's novels (and short fiction). I was not sure what to expect but your recommendation helps.

Todd Mason said...

You're quite welcome...I was tired enough while writing to forget to note that I don't remember more than the ghost of a memory of the Hoch story, and to write Pronzini and Muller anthologies (which they also have done!) when I meant Pronzini and Malzberg anthologies (Pronzini and Malzberg have written horror, fantasy, sf, suspense, mystery and black humor fiction together as well)...

NancyElin said...

Today I am searching for my next book.
Still " Reading with Tracy" this summer!
This book cover introduces me to a few writers I think
are worth a try. I especially like what I read about
Damon Knight...and his coined phrase "idiot plot"
Robert Bloch....and his coined phrase "cosmic horror".
Thanks for showing me this vintage book!
It opens a lot of "reading doors".

TracyK said...

Nancy, I hope you find some science fiction authors you like. The variety of authors here appealed to me, especially the ones I had never read. I agree, Damon Knight sounds good.

col2910 said...

Funny coincidence I read a co-authored collection from Pronzini and Malzberg at the beginning of the month - Problems Solved. Most of the stories were crime/mystery but actually my favourites concerned a space travel customs/immigration agent - kind of borderline sci-fiction. The titles elude me, but I wonder if it was the same as their one here. I'll find out when I post some thoughts.

TracyK said...

That is a coincidence, Col. It is amazing how many short story collections that Pronzini put together either by himself or with others.