The Future Is Now; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax


I was beginning to question my taste, my abilities as a “critic”.

Do I just like anything I read? Sure, I read slow and not as much as I like so I’m somewhat careful what I chose, but still …

The Future Is Now has reassured me that I have retained some powers of discernment. Its execrable collection of stories cleared my palate and reminded me what crap tastes like.

You will note the particularly hideous or disturbing, depending on your temperament, cover. In case you care, it’s the work of one Don Baum.

One is tempted to credit the preponderance of bad stories that feature a lot of sex to the Playboy Press imprint. But Playboy published a lot of decent science fiction, and this book is a reprint with the original cover from Sherbourne looking pretty standard for its time.

I read it solely for the Tom Purdom story which I discussed at length — and more seriously — last posting.

Update: MPorcius Fiction Log did a three part review of the book starting here. He’s way more patient than I am and even gives you detailed plot synopsis.

Review: The Future Is Now, ed. William F. Nolan

Man, this was a downer of a book. Not downer, like, sad. Downer, like, bad.

Not all bad. Just mostly bad. Which made the stuff even kind of ok remind you how bad the rest was.

Long titles trying to be, I don’t know, like profound or poetic or some crap. Typo crap too. Funny pictures and equation things like the authors thought they were Alfred Bester. Ain’t no Alfie Bester’s in this bunch.

Thing is with a lot of this crap Nolan’s notes warn you off. Lot of trying for yucks here. It’s really just yucky.

Like how he introduces Frank Anmar’s “Jenny Among the Zeebs”. He says it

 … mixes rock slang, futuristic music and elements of the classic French farce. The result is double-bottomed.

Yeah, double bottoms. The aliens got double butts, see.

Terry Dixon comes off all hard-ass with an attitude in his little opening sneer before he gets to his “story”:

 … a put-on and put-down of certain undesirable elements in the New Wave, a small band of charlatans best synthesized in the form of a composite or hypothetical New Raver I’ll call Mr. Phew …

I think he was maybe referring to Harlan Ellison. You ain’t no Harlan, Terry. I can see why your “career” lasted two more stories.

Nolan got Anthony Boucher’s “A Shape in Time” out of Tony’s estate. Story should have stayed buried with Anthony. Time traveler thinking a bustle matches a woman’s real shape ain’t funny even if you throw out a couple of mentions of Gilbert & Sullivan.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention Dixon’s crap is called “Hate Is a Sandpaper Ice Cube with Polka Dots of Love on It”. Nolan has a title of his own just as long if not as crappy: “Toe to Tip, Tip to Toe, Pip-Pop As You Go”. Ad man gets tired of pushing the Man’s drug and getting felt up by his eroticizer’s rubber parts and goes for the real thing and stone cold sobriety. Ironic inversion like this don’t cut it, man. Nor does telling me that’s too simple a way just like free love and getting high.

And that Walter Perkins thing in Raymond E. Banks “Walter Perkins Is Here!” is just a way too long a thing about how this all powerful computer decides to make a nobody into a celebrity and start a 10 year long party on the way to the end of time. I think maybe Banks was trying to mumble, in kind of a good natured way, something heavy and important. Or maybe Nolan just scammed himself when he took this.

Nolan lays it on straight when he introduces Norman Corwin’s “Belles Lettres, 2272”: “pithy exchange between computers in which poetry becomes a very exacting and totally obscure electronic art”. Five funny looking pages of weird typing.

It seemed like something important was going on in Dennis Etchison’s “Damechild”. Couldn’t really tell from the beginning what was going on though. Some old baby-like woman hanging around a generation starship letting the last surviving humans cry on her shoulder as they totter into old age.

The rest of the guys here kind of got screwed by being surrounded by such crap even though their stuff is at least halfway decent.

Robert F. Young’s “The Ogress” has this guy with a Dammerung rifle hunting down big monsters created out of the collective unconscious of alien minds. Ray Russell’s “The Darwin Sampler” knows what it’s doing. It don’t waste no time getting to its ironic punch line. (Air pollution ain’t no joke.) Ron Goulart knows what he’s doing too with “The Whole Round World”, but most of the jokes are past the sell-by. And it makes the book wobble, 70 pages out of its 190.

Tom Purdom’s not even at his best. “A War of Passion” is about war and doing it. I mean, can old guys really do it? I mean like do it and care about it even if they’re all modified and souped up to be 1200 years old and trying to bed a messed up hooker who’s 268? Needed a bit more background to fill out a story about a really bad generation gap.

The star, the one guy that don’t have to hang his head in shame is Richard C. Meredith. His “Earthcoming” is like bolted down, hardcore. It’s got this fungus alien that’s taken over a human body and’s trying to infect Earth once he gets past a bunch of space weapons we got. Some heavy machine details on this one like some astronaut dude wrote it.


It’s always interesting to see how much the march of science and technology changes the perennial dreams and concerns of science fiction. For instance, we now refer to antioxidants and lengthening telomeres when discussing plausible rationales for achieving longer life and immortality. At the turn of the 20th century, injections from monkey glands might have been mentioned with some element of plausibility.

Banks’ and Corwin’s stories have large, mainframe computers who are intelligent and run things. Yet, how different their extrapolations seem from the ones we make starting from an age of dumb, but very distributed, computers. For that matter, a more serious extrapolation of a world run by mainframes, far more serious than anything here, is featured in H.A. Hargreaves North by 2000+ from roughly the same time period.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

2 thoughts on “The Future Is Now; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax

  1. Joachim Boaz June 8, 2014 / 8:34 pm

    It always surprises me that Playboy was actually a serious market for fiction — Nolan probably was paid MUCH more than he was for other markets at the time. I love the cover…

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