The Stars My Destination

Tiger! Tiger!

My first read of ‘The Stars My Destination’ was a several years back and, it didn’t take.
I had forced myself to continue reading it, begrudgingly, and by the time I had finished I was at a loss.
I felt as if I had missed the things that so many others said made this a great piece of sci-fi.
I didn’t get it.
I was frustrated.

Sometime later I would read ‘The Demolished Man’.
Though I tracked a little better through Bester’s writing, there was still some dissonance between his word craft and my ability to visualize the story.
I simply concluded that I struggled with Bester and left it at that.

Bested by Bester.

During the first part of 2020 just as Covid was ramping up, we went to Albuquerque to do a book fair. This was March and things were just becoming tweaky with travel and events, ultimately the fair was cancelled because of it…an hour after we arrived in town.

Poor Little Book Fair Sign :/

Either on the way there or back, probably both, we listened to the audio book of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The View From The Cheap Seats’ read by Gaiman.
In his words the books is, in part “…a motley bunch of speeches and articles, introductions and essays.”
It’s quite excellent and I very much recommend it, especially the audio book.

In it Gaiman has included his introduction to the 1999 Science Fiction Masterworks edition of ‘The Stars My Destination’.
After listening to it I warmed up to the idea of giving the story another read…at some point.
Gaiman reading Gaiman is a compelling listen.

FF>> a few months.

I grabbed ‘The Stars My Destination’ almost as an after thought as we were packing to leave Colorado…forever?
There were so many books I could have grabbed but when it showed up in a box I was sorting I grabbed it thinking maybe now?
I’m certain that decision was based entirely on Gaiman’s introduction.

The other day, having finished Aldiss’s ‘Starship’ I went for another book to read and pulled ‘TSMD’ from the middle of a small stack.
I flipped the book to a page, Foyle’s Merchant Marine record stared back at me.

FOYLE, GULLIVER —— AS-128/127:006


A man of physical strength and intellectual
potential stunted by lack of ambition.
Energises at minimum.
The stereotype Common Man.
Some unexpected shock might possibly awaken him,
but Psych cannot find the key.
Not recommended for promotion.
Has reached dead end.

Something in that statement resonated with me, something familiar…something fatalistic.

And just like that I had begun ‘The Stars My Destination’ once again.

I am however taking to heart a couple things from Gaiman’s introduction.
The first, a play on Heraclitus:

“You can no more read the same book again then you can step into the same river.”

The second, a word of warning:

“The vintage of the book demands more work from the reader than he or she is used to.”


 So, what shall it be for Bester and me:
“Death’s my destination” or “The stars my destination”


Another atrocious cover…

I prefer the original UK title ‘Non-Stop’ to the American version shown here. Though both appropriate, ‘Non-Stop’ has a better feel in regards to a generational starship…imho.

This is my first venture into this sub-genre but one I’ve been interested in for some time. I’m fascinated by a journey that would take generations to complete. Complications, naturally, would arise between beginning and end of that journey.

There is a solid history to this sub-genre and I’ve decided to start the exploration here with Aldiss, and why not?
Just prior to leaving Colorado I had read this entry in
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and was intrigued.

‘Brian Aldiss has been likened to his friend and colleague J. G. Ballard more often than either could probably care to recall. But Ballard writes dense, monomaniac books, attacking the same themes again and again, and his work cuts deep and narrow, while Aldiss has an exuberant, gregarious, far-seeking imagination, rarely repeats himself, and writes a great deal. He is harder, therefore, to pin down. In the end, however, he is almost certainly a more significant figure than his dark twin.’

I thought I had a copy of Starship in the boxes of Neutral Good books but I was mistaken. Fortunately I found a copy in Fargo last week and now I’m aboard ‘Ship’ and moving through ‘ponics towards ‘Forwards’.

Cordwainer Bird

‘I don’t mind you thinking I’m stupid,
but don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.’

Ellison was hired as a writer for Walt Disney Studios, but was fired on his first day after Roy O. Disney overheard him in the studio commissary joking about making a pornographic animated film featuring Disney characters.

Ellison on occasion used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird to alert members of the public to situations in which he felt his creative contribution to a project had been mangled beyond repair by others, typically Hollywood producers or studios.
Ellison said, in interviews and in his writing, that his version of the pseudonym was meant to mean “a shoemaker for birds” or that it is of as much use as shoes to a bird.
 Stephen King once said he thought that it meant that Ellison was giving people who mangled his work a literary version of “the bird”.