Transwarp Tuesday! The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham

Engage warp drive…

 

Since horror is really best suited to dark nights and howling winds, Tuesday Terror! has been put on hold for a while. The fretful porpentine is hibernating. So in its place, welcome to…

TRANSWARP TUESDAY!

Many moons ago, I used to read quite a lot of sci-fi, but somewhere along the way I lost interest – so time to see what I’ve been missing. I’ll be sticking mainly to short stories and as with Tuesday Terror! I’ll be aiming to read a mix of classic and current sci-fi writers. I will be delighted if any of you would like to pop a recommendation or two in the comments – short stories rather than books, though, please.

My own interest lies in space stories – either human exploration of other worlds or alien invasions of our own – but no doubt I’ll wander beyond those boundaries from time to time.

 

And who better to start with than the great John Wyndham?

* * * * * * * * *

The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham

Sci-fi as it used to be…

 

the seeds of timeThough always categorised as sci-fi, John Wyndham was probably one of the least science-based writers of the genre. There are very few gadgets in his stories and even when technology is being used – in order to time-travel for example – he doesn’t usually bother to give any kind of made-up science to explain the working; he simply expects his reader to accept it as possible and real. His stories might take the reader towards the fantasy side of sci-fi on occasion, but at heart they’re about humanity and Wyndham’s contemporary society even if they may be set on Mars in some distant future.

This collection, originally published in 1956, brings together ten stories, ranging from comedy to horror, with touches of romance and occasionally social commentary built in. There’s no real common theme – this is a collection where each story is individual rather than being part of a greater whole. But most of the stories are more than strong enough to stand alone and even the weaker ones are well worth reading. Wyndham is a great storyteller and the variety in this book allows him to show off his impressive versatility.

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me…

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The stories are:-

 

Chronoclasm – a story that addresses the paradoxes inherent in time travel and throws in a nice little romantic comedy along the way.

Time to Rest – the tale of a human stranded on Mars after the destruction of Earth, and how his perceptions of the indigenous Martians gradually change as he struggles to accept his situation.

Meteor – a threatened species sends explorers out into space to find a new home, and the planet they find is Earth. Comedy and tragedy all rolled into one – a beautifully imaginative story, this one.

Survival – when a systems failure leaves a spacecraft drifting in space, the passengers and crew must find a way to eke out their food supplies till help arrives. There’s only one woman aboard and she is desperate to find a way to ensure her unborn child survives. Gruesome, horrific and yet kinda fun too…

Pawley’s Peepholes – the people of the future find a way to visit the present and treat it like a peepshow, popping up in the most unexpected and unwelcome places. How will the people of the present respond? A comedy with a satirical edge.

Opposite Number – now we move into the realm of parallel universes, though Wyndham’s reasoning for their existence is…er…somewhat unique! This is Wyndham at his most romantic, and more than any other I found this story felt very dated. Still enjoyable though.

mars-comic

Pillar to Post – time travel again, but this time by body swapping with people from the past. But what if the person you’ve swapped with doesn’t want to swap back? Imaginative and with a lot of humour, but this story also takes a rather grim look at the horrific injuries some soldiers were left with after the Second World War.

Dumb Martian – our nasty narrator buys a Martian woman to take with him on his solitary five-year posting to an uninhabited moon orbiting Jupiter. Fooled by the shape of her face into thinking Lellie is stupid, the narrator is soon to discover he has under-estimated her. This is a thinly disguised attack on racism, but despite the fairly overt message, it’s still a good story.

Compassion Circuit – a future when robots have been designed to take care of all our needs, including health-care. But what happens when the robot decides that it knows what’s best for us – without asking our permission? A theme that has recurred many times in sci-fi over the last half-century, and handled with a lovely touch of horror here.

John Wyndham
John Wyndham

Wild Flower – a strange little story foreshadowing the whole nature/technology debate that is still going on today. Not the most successful of the stories in terms of entertainment but still interesting.

It’s hard to pick favourites when the overall standard is so high, but I particularly like Meteor, Survival and Pillar to Post. But there’s so much variety in the stories that each reader would probably end up with a completely different top three. Great as an addition for anyone who’s read Wyndham’s major novels, and would be equally great as an introduction to his writing for anyone who hasn’t. Highly recommended.

Little Green Men Rating: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

NB I think the book may be out of print at present, but second-hand copies are readily available.

 

99 thoughts on “Transwarp Tuesday! The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham

  1. FictionFan – What a great idea for a feature! I have to admit to not being thoroughly versed in scifi, but I agree some of it is excellent. And Wyndham is definitely acknowledged as one of the greats. I’ll look forward to your other posts on the topic and maybe actually learn something about the genre. Do I sense some Asimov on the way????

    • Thanks, Margot – I hope it will be fun! I’m completely out of touch with current sci-fi though I read my way through a lot of the classics when I was young. And since Asimov was always my favourite, I expect he’ll be appearing soon – and probably often! 😉

  2. This is the weirdest thing – never heard of this author in the blogosphere before but a few weeks ago I finished his novel The Day of the Triffids, and now your review of his collection of short stories pops up. They sounds really interesting.
    If you want recent SF, I recommend Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh – it’s a novel though, but it’s worth a read.

    • I was horrified to discover that some of his books have gone out of print – he must just have dropped out of fashion a bit. We’ll have to see if we can change that… 😉

      Thanks for the rec! I’m trying to avoid books for this slot just due to time restrictions, but I’ll check if I can find any short stories he may have published.

      • Ah! Menken IS a genius after all.

        Well, either I’m winning because my taste is highly refined or you’re winning because you derive enjoyment out of a much wider field of music independent of quality. Ooh, I’m bad… which means I’m losing… but I may be right which means I’m winning. But sometimes it is inconvenient to be right so I may be losing. On the other hand…. I don’t believe in princesses on Mars…

          • Never mind – anyone who can follow the logic of the Punchy Lands can surely find their way around this thread… *winks conspiratorially behind Professor’s back*

        • *laughing lots* I don’t think I’ve ever been insulted so beautifully before! Either you’re winning, because I’m deeply hurt that you think my tastes are so…indiscriminating, or I’m winning because I get to enjoy both the music and the insult…hmm! I’m definitely winning…

          Be careful what you say about Dejah Thoris – I’ve decided I might have been her in a past (or future) life…

  3. Is that from the original Star Trek?

    “Time to Rest” is having me picture Tom Cruise in the MC spot… I wonder why…

    You’ve probably read it but duty compels me to suggest my favorite SF book OF ALL TIME! Fahrenheit 451.

    Good work putting your best on a bad job! These new emoticons are the most unimaginative creatures ever rendered.

    • Yes – well, it’s a spoof of the original and very good impersonations of the main characters.

      I don’t know – why? Has he made a film similar to it? Personally, I prefer to picture Clooney – not in that role particularly…just in general… 😉

      I have read and enjoyed it, but best of all time? I’m not sure…though at the moment I’m stumped to come up with an alternative. Must refresh my memory…

      Aren’t they horrible? At least you could tell the difference between the old ones and some of them moved…

  4. I’m not a big sci-fi reader but I have enjoyed the John Wyndham I’ve read. Have you read any of Ray Bradbury’s short stories? They’re creepy and excellent.

    • I always think the best sci-fi writers cross over into the normal fiction genre, and Wyndham’s one of those. I don’t think I’ve read anything of Bradbury’s other than Fahrenheit 451, which I enjoyed, so I’ll have a go at some of his short stories. Thanks for the recommendation! 😀

  5. Ah, Wyndham superb. Unfortunately the science fiction writers I could recommend are all writing, or wrote, novels. And some of them definitely house bricks (I know I’ve mentioned a little slew of socialist feminist writers before, Doris Lessing, Ursula K Le Guin – often re-read round here, and even one book by Marge Piercey, Woman The Edge of Time, which has sections which are other realities, though little gadgetry. Ballard? Bradbury? I have books of short stories by both, somewhere.

    Oh I see I’m echoing your previous poster, Karissa, so that’s two of us saying ‘go for an author whose surname begins with B (no, that’s not Dan Brown (sniggers) )

    • Yes, it’s not that I have anything against novels – prefer them in fact. But this Tuesday feature has to be shorts since I can’t read enough books to feed the blog monster 4 days a week…

      Hmm…looking at Ballard, I don’t recognise any of the titles so possibly have never read anything by him even back in my sci-fi days. So I’ll add him to the list along with Karissa’s rec of Bradbury. Thanks for the recommendation! 😀

      • I’m on 3 postings a week and am seriously thinking I may go down to 2, (huge cheers from everyone all round) particularly as i was so impressed by Marisha Pessl that I bought her first book, another house-brick, which arrived yesterday, and I made the mistake of reading the first couple of pages in an idle moment, and fell into a worm hole instantly. It is 500 plus pages of very tiny print. I may be there some time. I’ve still got some ‘back-catalogue’ of all those formative reviewing years to plunder, but I think I’m going to get less prolific, unless the books i want to read come in at 50 pages and under!

        Ursula K Le Guin did write some SF short stories, but I didn’t really get grabbed by them, like I did by her novels

        • I’m struggling to keep up too. It must be even harder for you though since you only post books you like. There are some weeks when that wouldn’t net me a single post, I fear! But then I suppose you do music and films as well occasionally so that must fill some holes. My theory is that if I take a couple of weeks off every three months or so, then that should just about work over the year. But the brickishness of books is playing havoc with that plan – not just fiction but factual. The Jenkins biography is monumentally huge and, though interesting, I’m finding a little goes a long way – I reckon it might take me close to two months to get through it. So that means I need to read more fiction to make up the shortfall… Can’t lie, I’m wondering more and more if all the effort is worth it, specially since I doubt if many people are ever actually persuaded to read/avoid a book they wouldn’t have anyway…

          I shall add Ms Le Guin anyway, thanks – the list for these sections is always subject to what I can lay my hands on fairly cheaply anyway…

          • Oh I disagree with your ‘I doubt many people are ever persuaded to read/avoid a book they wouldn’t have anyway I’ve certainly taken MANY punts on things completely outside any existing ‘I know what I like’ mantras. The evidence is there in the frightening mountain of TBR.

            And flicking through reviewers blogs, and also reviewers on Amazon, there seem to be loads of clearly committed readers who are reading all sorts of surprising things, so that just when you think ‘oh so and so likes such and such type of book’ they veer off into another direction – no doubt someone, somewhere, raves about something, saying, reading or whatever’you must try this’ – so you do, and may of course think NOT FOR ME, but equally may find that ‘ME discovers they are more/a little different from what they thought they were’

            • Yes, me too…and Jilanne, and Cleo. But I’m still waiting to see one single review of either Fallen Land or Equilateral, or have anyone pop by to say how much they enjoyed/hated either of them…or any of the other books I’ve raved about over the year. I really think we’re unusual in being influenced by other people’s reviews – or at least certainly unusual in acknowledging it.

              I genuinely think my negative reviews are far, far more popular than my positive ones, as readers all heave a sigh of relief that they don’t have to even consider reading them.

  6. Love the cartoon! The little green men are very persuasive, despite my usual tendency to steer sci-fi in my husband’s direction, so this one may well end up in the TBR pile.

  7. What a great idea for a feature although I will miss the fretful porcupine! I’m going to be watching carefully as sci-fi is the one genre I haven’t been drawn to but as you are going for the more ‘normal’ end of the scale I might just be persuaded to try one. The villain has laid down the challenge 😉

  8. Oh, dear – where to start? And only short stories? Alger Budrys, Poul Andersen, Robert Heinlein, Asimov of course. More recently C.J. Cherryh, Elisabeth Moon, Roger Zelazney….. Some of these are better known as fantasy writers, but they all wrote good “hard” sci-fi as well. Wyndham is a great place to start -I read this collection , ooh, eons ago, but I don’t appear to own it (note to self).

    • Haha! I knew you wouldn’t be able to stick to ‘one or two’! I shall note the names (thanks!) and see what the miracle of Kindle collections can bring me… I’ll be trying to steer clear of fantasy, although the line is so blurry that it’s often hard to tell where one stops and the other starts. But we shall see if I find my taste expanding…hmm!

    • Thanks, Lucy! And I’m glad you enjoyed Tuesday Terror – I suspect it’ll be back next winter when the dark evenings draw in. Of course, that’s the wrong way round for you…hmm! This whole ‘the world is round’ thing can get quite complicated sometimes… 😉

  9. As I’d just read a Ray Bradbury novel and enjoyed it, someone recommended The Illustrated Man to me. It’s a collection of short stories. It’s now on my TBR list and it sounds quite good.

    • Yes, that’s the only Bradbury novel I’ve read too, and I was impressed. I definitely think his short stories will need to be a must for this feature… 😀

  10. These remind me of the kind of science fiction I read as a kid (usually borrowing something of my dad’s when I’d run out of books). They could be fun to re-visit!

    • I read my way through loads of John Wyndham when I was a teenager and often revisit them – he’s a really good writer and not so sciency that you need a degree to understand him!

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