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The Bend at the End of the Road

Barry N. Malzberg

ISBN: 978-1-5154-1038-6

174 pages, $13.99

       

Soon to be available as an ebook, $price

       

   

Barry N. Malzberg's fiction earned him the 1973 John W. Campbell Memorial Award, nominations for the Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, as well as two Hugo and six Nebula Award nominations. Born in 1939, he earned a degree from Syracuse University, worked for the New York City government, and made his first professional fiction sale in 1966. He wrote in a variety of genres under several pseudonyms, and also worked as an agent, editor, and reviewer.

But he is perhaps best known for his essays. His two earlier collections of essays, The Engines of the Night (1982) and Breakfast in the Ruins (2007) both won the Locus Award, and both were finalists for the Hugo Award.

As he says in his own afterword to this volume, "Very few writers of fiction are able to produce personal essays at the level of their best (or even worst) fiction; Mailer is an exception, but it could be argued that he was always a polemicist; Nabokov was usually an exception but VN conformed to no ordinary standard as we know. I did get better, and somewhere in the course of that improvement I found that my interest in fiction was steadily diminishing. The bibliographers can prove that I wrote it to some standard, but ever more as the polity and its politics crawled toward disaster, I found that I was losing patience and faith in the form. In 1960, Phillip Roth had published a subsequently famous essay arguing that in the United States, technology and its disastrous consequences had utterly overwhelmed fiction's feebler ability to invent, influence, sway a wide audience. Evident 58 years ago, that declaration seems now to be inarguable. There was not a novelist in town unshaken by 9-11, the catastrophic event seemed to mock the authors' necessary belief in the importance of the form itself. And now we have encountered a spectacle of power so cruel, remote, distanced, and self-serving that recognizing one's helplessness seems the only logical default. Non-fiction, the personal essay, has at least the possibility of testimony, an unshielded immediacy."

Collected here are nearly fifty of Malzberg's latest essays. They may upset you, may depress you, may shock you, but they will make you think, and lead you to a different view of the world. Also included are introductions by Mike Resnick and Paul Di Filippo.

Reviews:

"The impressions and insights that abound in these columns make this book indispensable for any fan of science fiction." —Publishers Weekly

"Malzberg pulls no punches and bears no fools: even when you disagree with him, you have to admit that he knows his stuff.… If you care about science fiction or just want a peek behind the curtains, this is the book for you." —Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact (July/August 2018)

"…it is very hard not to argue with Barry Malzberg's The Bend at the End of the Road—and it was just as hard to stop reading it.… The Bend at the End of the Road is no more cheerful, though, like the earlier books, it is often strikingly written and shot through with sharp observations of and confrontations with the marginal culture and economic status that has often constrained the field's (and Malzberg's) aspirations. It is this merging of the interesting and insightful with the depressive and depressing that makes the collection as exasperating as it is fascinating.… So what kept me reading these thousand-word lacerations and laments? On the purely literary and historical side, Malzberg has a considerable knowledge of the history of American SF, much of it acquired at first hand from the late 1940s onward, and he has also paid attention to modern literature in general, from the great New York newspaper sports writers to Raymond Carver, Philip Roth, John Cheever, Reynolds Price, and George P. Elliott (his mentor at Syracuse University). Line by line, the writing is dense with allusions from all over the literary-cultural landscape, products of a mind that frantically connects everything to everything. A single page of one essay ("Misunderstanding Entropy") contains a crescendo of references: nine writers, four composers, four books, two media franchises, plus Donald Trump, Tammany Hall, and ComicCon. Prose like this can be, despite the general atmosphere of futility and disappointing, exhilarating." —Russell Letson in Locus (June 2018)

"It's all here, folks. The Malzberg soul. This is saying something special.… [the sf genre] yearns for a reason to exist. It exists… as an escape for the pain and dreariness of a reader's workday, but also, for a brief time at least, to make us feel just a little bit (or a lot more) transcendent." —Andrew Andrews, True Review

"Incisive, wise, mordant, informed by a deep understanding of science fiction in all its aspects—a book of indispensable essays." —Robert Silverberg, SFWA Grand Master

"Elegies and rants, a prose that Mencken might envy, seemingly eidetic recall for everything that has ever happened in science fiction's garish, slightly down-at-the-heels cabaret, plus an outlook on life as clear-eyed and weary-hearted as Edward Hopper's—you'll find them all in The Bend at the End of the Road. Barry Malzberg is sf's institutional memory, and in these pages he transports us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the stars were our destination and every story seemed a door into summer. But he also casts a cold eye on the fiction and fandom de nos jours. Here, then, is a full house of wise, provocative, and plangent essays—read 'em and weep." —Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary journalist

"In this book, Barry Malzberg will tell you what science fiction once was, why it changed, what it changed into, and why it's no longer what it could have been. He won't talk down to you. He'll expect you to pay attention and use your intelligence. And, as he says, 'linear argument or exposition can be a bitch'. So he'll walk you around the subject, leading you gradually into his argument and his viewpoint. It's an important one. Along the way, you'll learn the names of authors you'd love and work that will consume you. And by the end, you'll have read the most important book about science fiction published in the last decade." —John-Henri Holmberg, Swedish author, critic, publisher, and translator