ppint., the proprietor of Interstellar Master Traders in Lancaster, continues this three-part exploration of the very best funny fantasy and science fiction around.


part two

or, A Second Glance at what came Before Terry

A short introduction to some of the funniest SF and fantasy books published "Before Terry" - stories amongst which anyone who's enjoyed his will find fun. It's not comprehensive, nor does it pretend to identify all - or any - influences upon him. Terry, in his work, shows that it's real people in the real world that amaze, baffle, bewilder, delight, terrify, shock, and horrify him - and that the main source of his ideas is Real Life, somewhat modified by the eye of the beholder in question...

"Meet Galloway Gallegher - genius inventor and drunk. CORRECTION - genius inventor when drunk. In fact. Gallegher's only reason for ever inventing anything is to raise the cost of getting drunk. And when he's thoroughly plastered, his subconscious takes over, and invents as required... almost. Being as lazy as Gallegher sober, his subconscious has a nasty habit of combining all his clients' machines into one - leaving Gallegher with the problem of working out what exactly his subconscious has produced.

So, meet Galloway Gallegher, genius inventor when drunk. And meet Joe, the Proud Robot, who won't do anything but admire himself - but surely must have some purpose, or purposes? - the role model for Marvin, the Paranoid Android?" [my blurb for Hamlyn UK p/b 1978 The Proud Robot Henry Kuttner; also published as Robots Have No Tails Gnome Press US h/cvr 1952, as by "Lewis Padgett", one of his many pen-names, and Lancer US p/b 1971, as by Kuttner.]

Kuttner's other comedies include a delightful series of short stories concerning a family of immortal hillbillies, the Hogbens, including the 400-pound baby, and the 'perfesser' they keep in a bottle. Never fully collected, these are well worth searching out, but may be credited to "Lewis Padgett" or "Lawrence O'Donnell", rather than to "Henry Kuttner".

One of the best, and one that Terry has on occasion said was a formative influence, is Roy Lewis' What We Did To Father. It tells the story of the rise of humanity, from caveman to civilisation, by watching the particularly quarrelsome Stone Age family responsible for all the major advances - led by a father constantly worrying about such things as whether they've yet reached the Pleistocene, and are true Homo Sapiens, or are merely cave-apes of the Holocene - with arch-conservative Uncle Vanya looking on, thoroughly scandalised by their newfangled innovationss, and forever predicting that doom, or at least no good, will come of it, and they should all get back to the trees. Responsible for all the major advances towards civilisation, yes; but through accident or ill-interpreted foreknowledge, as often as not - and always for the very worst possible reasons. [Hutchinson embellishments by Hewison (in no p/b) UK h/cvr 1960; p/b as The Evolution Man, Penguin UK p/b 1963, and in America as Once Upon An Ice-Age Berkley US p/b 1968. Corgi UK p/b c.1980 adds intro. by Terry.]

And I'll only whisper the name "R. A. Lafferty": track down his short story collections. First Nine Hundred Grandmothers [Ace US p/b 1970,82; Dobson UK h/cvr 1975]; second Strange Doings [Scribners US h/cvr 1972, Daw US p/b 1973], third Does Anyone Else Have Something Further To Add? [Scribners US h/cvr 1974, Dobson UK h/cvr 1980]; the next even fairly common collection is Ringing Changes [Ace US p/b 1980]. Look out for his weird and wonderful stories in the SF & fantasy magazines Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy & If, and in the anthologies - especially in Damon Knight's series, Orbit. 'Lafferties' stretch their readers' minds in unpredictable and at times very strange ways; it's generally not a good idea to read more than three without a break to allow reality, or at least normality, to reassert itself. My all-time favourite is "Snuffles", or maybe "All Pieces of a River Shore"; but NB: - "Warning: this man can severely test your mental elasticity."

Many of these will take some hunting down, but all of them will, in their very different ways, repay the effort - and the hunt itself is fun.

- Enjoy !

copyright p.pinto 31/5/97

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December 1997