Engineer Al shares his love of sci-fi literature.
I have always loved Science Fiction. Maybe it all started with Saturday Morning cartoons, but I disappeared into novels and short stories at a very young age. When I was a kid in grade school my mother would force me outside on nice days for exercise and “fresh air”, but most of the time I would bring my current science fiction escape and sit beneath a tree in the backyard, lost between the pages. At this point in my life I have collected quite an impressive library full of old favorites and new acquisitions waiting to be devoured. I thought it would be fun to share my library with my F:ATie friends.
Lin Carter is for me a guilty pleasure. “Pleasure” because I very much enjoy reading his books, but “guilty” because I know I really shouldn’t. Why not? Because they are not “art”? No, that doesn’t quite capture it. Because they are “derivative” of other authors work? Possibly, but it is done intentionally. Carter is very good at taking concepts from older established authors and elaborating on them. This should not be a surprise since he made his fame coauthoring many Conan stories with L. Sprague de Camp. Carter takes older ideas and, while not quite making them his own, he does bring them into his own time. Since Carter wrote most of his novels in the late 60’s and 70’s this means he takes concepts from Burroughs, Howard, Verne and others and brings them into a world of psychedelic sensibilities. I am tempted to describe his stories as tainted by LSD, but I remember reading an interview years ago where Carter claimed the only drugs he ever used were alcohol and nicotine. Perhaps. Nonetheless he brings us stories of telepathic Mind Wizards living on Jupiter’s moon and fanciful flights riding on the back of a giant firefly from a planet orbiting a distant green star.
I have never read any of Carter’s Conan stories because I am simply too much of a Robert E. Howard fan to ever go down that road. I have however, read a number of his more “original” stories and loved many of them. When I was a teen I read the five books of THE GREEN STAR series (starting with UNDER THE GREEN STAR). A crippled man learns to transport his soul/mind to a distant planet orbiting a strange green star and has fantastically psychedelic adventures. I read the first book because I met Lin Carter at a Sci-Fi convention in Manhattan, and he was just an incredibly nice guy who took the time to talk to fans, even adolescent geeks. Also, have you seen the covers of these books? The art is just beautiful. Ever since then I was hooked.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed a number of Carter’s science fiction stories, most notably STAR ROUGE, OUTWORLDER, and THE MAN WHO LOVED MARS. The most fun I ever had with Carter though is with his outlandish stories in the CALLISTO series. Starting with JANDAR OF CALLISTO this eight book series chronicles the adventures of a downed helicopter pilot in Vietnam who finds an ancient lost city, which just happens to contain a portal that leads to Callisto, one of the moons of Jupiter. Here our hero trips through many Burroughs like adventures which include a beautiful princess in distress, Sky Pirates in zeppelins, and in one of the books Lin Carter himself becomes a character and enjoys a bit of adventuring as well. All in all it is a fantastically fun romp. Not literature, just fun. If you can enjoy B-movies and comic books, you can probably find some guilty pleasure in Lin Carter.
Other opinions? Any other Carter fans? I would love to know!