Forgotten jewels

Our bit of stress over the last few weeks has left me burned out and a bit battered. On the good news, we were JUST in time – the polyp was malignant, but not the stalk. So, saved in the nickers of time, thanks to Australia’s screening programme.

Chris’s post on Harry Harrison got me thinking about the sf/fantasy novels I’ve loved…. that no-one else seems to know. Books I think deserved to do far better. Books like William Burkett’s Sleeping Planet (which I am sure would be panned by Kirkus – seeing as the hero is white anglo-saxon male hunter, and humans beat the hell out of the Llarans by sheer gutsy cleverness.). I thought I’d toss up a few and you could add a few. Paula Volsky’s Curse of the Witch Queen (which I suspect is YA by modern definitions) which has a delightful cast of weird characters, including the professor who grows intelligent and carnivorous squashes, and gypsy types who are nothing more than thieves – and who get their come-uppance. Stanley G Weinbaum’s Martian Oddessey – with the really alien Tweel – and some of the most fascinating ideas on alien life I’ve seen. Michael Scott Rohan and Alan Scott, A Spell of Empire – the Horns of Tartarus – is absolutely brilliant alternate history meets fantasy meets satire (yes, it was an inspirational force).

Your turn :-).


  1. Good news!

    And still stink William Tenn’s Of Men and Monsters is vastly underrated. It is about the only book of that era I remember.

  2. Volsky’s Curse of the Witch Queen is brilliant. Uses the traditional folktale structure of “I need A to break the curse. Z has A. Z needs B, and won’t give me A unless I get him B.” I think the poor prince ends up questing for about fifteen different things for people, and meanwhile learns huge amounts of What’s Going On. Very clever fusion of fantasy and fairy tale.

    (And btw, pretty much all of Volsky’s fantasy takes place in the same world over time, including this one. Sad that Volsky hasn’t come out with much lately… (searches) WhAT??? She’s written a trilogy under the name of Paula Brandon, and I DIDN’T KNOW IT?? (Hurries to buy….))

    “A Martian Odyssey” has been routinely praised as a great work of sf since it first came out, but today’s readers are more likely to encounter it in an academic course on sf than in their fun reading. Which is sad, because it is fun, too.

    I don’t know your other examples. I’ll have to think of my own.

    1. I’d better hunt up the other Volsky’s too. I only have ‘The Luck of Rellian Kru’ which is good too, just not as good. Definitely some the cleverer and nicer fantasy I’ve read though.

  3. Cherry Wilder’s The Rulers of Hylor, especially the first one, A Princess of Chameln. They are probably considered YA today. Racha Sabeth Aidris am Firn was one of the first strong female fantasy characters I encountered and she left such a mental mark that I ended up naming one of my MCs after her.

  4. Best of wishes, and thanks for the reminder that regular screening can save lives. I hope it all goes very well from here. Phew! I didn’t even know the stalk and the polyp could be different. It isn’t fun – but it IS necessary.

  5. Michael Scott Rohan’s “Winter Of The World” series and “Spiral” series are both good. IIRC the book you mentioned of Rohan’s is somewhat set in the “Winder Of The World” universe.

    1. Really in neither Paul. Very worth reading though. It’s available as secondhand copy through Amazon. I loved chase the morning, and gates of noon. I am ambivalent about Cloudcastles. I liked the first winter book a lot. The rest, not so much

  6. The Unorthodox Engineers by Colin Kapp. Basically its 7 or 8 short stories but they are all good – although the “science” is a bit dated as are the attitudes.

  7. Jane Yolen’s Dragon’s Blood trilogy (YA) and Allan C. Wold had a couple books, the first was Jewel of the Dragon and the sequel was Crown of the Serpent. For truly vintage I’d have to go with Burroughs or Haggard, but they don’t exactly fit the unknown criteria.

    1. Funny I only have read one of Wold’s – great idea, medium execution IMO – trying to remember the name. Yolen I liked the earlier books

      1. I liked Jewel of the Dragon, I would agree with you on execution in Crown of the Serpent. Also it’s been a while since I read them and sometimes on rereading I don’t think as highly of a book; or very rarely like it better the second time around.

  8. “Venus Equilateral” by George O. Smith. I loved the idea of a bunch of scientists and engineers out in the middle of space inventing cool stuff. They were so good, they invented themselves out of their own satellite.

  9. Biggle Lloyd Junior’s The Still Small Voice of Trumpets. (Can’t think of any others because I’m bad with authors names and I read them in Portuguese! Sigh.) I’d say Seven Steps From The Sun, which I loved at fourteen, but I have no idea how it would hold up.

  10. Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds, the Story of the Stone, and Eight Skilled Gentlemen. Delightful Chinese-themed fantasy with a lovely eye for human frailties.

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