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Edgar Pangborn

Edgar Pangborn (February 25, 1909 – February 1, 1976) wrote a number of novels and short stories in various genres. In the early 1950s he published a series of science fiction stories in prominent magazines like Galaxy Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His work helped establish a new “humanist” school of science fiction, and inspired writers such as Peter S. Beagle and Ursula K. Le Guin, the latter who has credited Pangborn and Theodore Sturgeon with convincing her that SF and fantasy can be about human emotional stories. His best-known works are A Mirror For Observers (1954) and Davy (1964).

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A Mirror for Observers: Aliens struggle over the soul of one young man

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A Mirror for Observers by Edgar Pangborn

It's somewhat surprising that this 1954 International Fantasy Award winner has never found a very large audience in the SF genre. The writing style is reminiscent of Theodore Sturgeon or Ray Bradbury, very much focused on the characters and their inner thoughts and struggles, a big contrast with the more pulpy science and space-adventure tales featured in pulp magazines like Galaxy and Astounding.

I knew about A Mirror for Observers only because it was included in David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels. Although it is ostensibly the story of two undercover Martian Observers who battle over the heart and soul of a promising young b... Read More

Davy: My favorite coming-of-age SF novel of all time

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Davy by Edgar Pangborn

Davy (1964) is a wonderfully-written coming-of-age story set in a post-apocalyptic Northeastern United States 400 years after a brief nuclear exchange destroyed high-tech civilization, where life has become far more like the frontier days of the early US, with a scattered group of city-states dominated by the Holy Murcan Church. Far from what you might expect, it is a tale filled with humor, pathos, and charm. It is the narrative voice of Davy as he grows up from a simple boy to a randy young man that captures the reader from the start. His early days are dominated by wanting to escape from his bondsman life (in between freeman and slave), his desire for the tavern owner's daughter, and his discovery of a golden horn in the possession of an innocent and ignorant mutant.

Taking this horn propels him on a series of adventures with deserters ... Read More

Science Fiction Super Pack #1: A generally above-average anthology

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Science Fiction Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Like the companion fantasy volume, Science Fiction Super Pack #1, edited by Warren Lapine, only has one story I didn't think was good, and it's a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction. H.P. Lovecraft's overwrought prose doesn't do much for me even when Lovecraft himself writes it, and much less so when it's attempted by imitators. And Lovecraft's stories at least have something frightening that happens in them; these two stories (in this volume and the other) only have visions of aspects of the Mythos and crazy people ranting, which isn't scary or interesting. Everything else was good, occasionally even amazing.

Again like the fantasy volume, it more ... Read More