“Pest House”

The James Gunn series continues.

Review: “Pest House”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

This was Gunn’s 64th story. Michael R. Page’s Saving the World Through Science Fiction puts the composition date at 1957. As of the 1996 publication date of The Unpublished Gunn, Part Two, it was his last unpublished story. Page says it was also the last piece of fiction Gunn wrote until the late 1960s.

This was a story aimed at the “slick” science fiction magazine market. Gunn defines that market as having

a more general theme, a setting in the not-too-distant future, and an idea that did not present serious difficulties for an unsophisticated readership.

Like “Jackpot for Julie” and “The Man with One Talent”, I don’t discern any flaws that would have made its publishing questionable. Page says the story would have undoubtedly been published if the science fiction magazine market had not collapsed in the late 1950s. Continue reading ““Pest House””


“The Big One”

The James Gunn series continues.

Review: “The Big One”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

This was Gunn’s 45th story. Like “Jackpot for Julie” and “The Man with One Talent”, it was an attempt to break into the “slick”, higher paying magazines. It seems to have been written in 1953 or 1954.

It is not at all science fictional.

It’s a boxing story.

It’s the classic setup: our narrator Champ – and that’s all he’s ever called, but, at 34, he’s an over-the-hill champ vs. Johnny, a 23-year old up and coming fighter with a contract and the chance to make a reputation. Continue reading ““The Big One””

“The Man with One Talent”

And the James Gunn series continues.

Review: “The Man with One Talent”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

This was Gunn’s 42nd story. I’m not sure when it was written, seemingly in 1953 based on Gunn’s autobiography Star-Begotten.

Like “Jackpot for Julie”, it was an attempt to do a light romantic story for the higher paying “slick magazines”. And, like that story, it works just fine for what it is.

This one is borderline science fiction, and I can almost see it as an episode of The Twilight Zone though I suspect Rod Serling would have rejected it for being a bit too happy in its ending.

Essentially, it’s a story of two people, one cursed by money, one cursed by a freakish talent, and how love solves their problem. Continue reading ““The Man with One Talent””

“Jackpot for Julie”

The James Gunn series continues with a look at another of his unpublished stories.

Review: “Jackpot for Julie”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

In the early 1950s, bolstered by the number of stories he’s sold, Gunn decided to crack the slick magazine market. He decided, after analysis, a “light romantic story” was his best bet, and the result was this, his 35th story.

It doesn’t have any fantasy element, but I think it’s a successful story. I’m surprised it was not accepted. Perhaps the competition was just better. I could see this as a light hearted tv drama from the era.

The story is set in Las Vegas and is full of coincidences appropriate to a story centering on gambling. The style is quite different and more humorous than Gunn’s usual. Continue reading ““Jackpot for Julie””

“The Whip”

The James Gunn series continues, and I’m starting my look at The Unpublished Gunn, Part Two.

Review: “The Whip”, James Gunn, 1996.c87e19c4f9c12b7596945497167434f414f4141

Seemingly, from the introduction in The Unpublished Gunn, Part One, this story was written in late 1952 or early 1953.

Gunn said, in that volume, that he thought this story might have been rejected by editors because it was too depressing. It’s a near miss, but I think the story suffers from the same problem many other unpublished Gunn stories do: too obscure. This one also has some loose ends I would have liked wrapped up.

It’s a fairly long story, the 23rd that Gunn wrote. It takes up 20 pages of a 68 chapbook. Continue reading ““The Whip””

“The Black Marble”

The James Gunn series continues with the last work in The Unpublished Gunn, Part One.

Review: “The Black Marble”, James Gunn, 1992.Uncollected Gunn 1

This was the 22nd story Gunn wrote, and it seems to be from 1953.

Gunn thinks it may have been rejected by editors for being too depressing.

For me, it’s a near-miss of a story; it almost works, but I think its failings have more to do with logic and obscurity than a morbid tone.

Two scientists are trying to develop a teleportation device.  One, Dean, has a wife dying of an inoperable brain tumor.

They think their device might work if they can just use some non-material way of priming the system. Continue reading ““The Black Marble””

“Broken Record”

The James Gunn series picks up again with …

Review: “Broken Record”, James Gunn, 1992.Uncollected Gunn 1

This was Gunn’s 19th story and written in the 1951-1952 period when Gunn lived in Racine, Wisconsin.

It’s an experimental story, written in the always fraught-with-artistic-peril second person. It’s surreal, a time loop story not at all rationalized. Hence, it’s a fantasy or weird story, not science fiction.

It’s easy to see why this one was never published. It was probably considered, rightly, as too obscure by editors who saw it.

It reminded me, with its chronological confusions inside a temporally closed pocket universe, of “The Rabbit Hole” chapter of Gunn’s Gift From the Stars. Continue reading ““Broken Record””