Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Worlds Without End Blog

Seeing the Future Posted at 8:30 AM by James Wallace Harris


I’ve been having a lot of fun collecting digital scans of old pulp magazine covers. It’s great killing time on the Facebook group, Space Opera Pulp, where several thousand other fans of pulp magazines hang out. I save images to a folder called “SF Covers” and use a program, John’s Background Switcher to randomly display them on my computer’s desktop background. (It’s a free program for Windows and Mac computers.)

Then, when I want to take a break I’ll watch a slideshow of science fiction art. Sometimes I listen to a podcast or audio books while watching. I tell JBS to switch images every 15 seconds. It’s pleasantly meditative.

However, this activity is also proving educational. Not only am I seeing a visual history of the science fiction genre, but I’m learning how people saw the future over time. For example, the cover from Amazing Stories, November 1928 shows a rather steampunky spaceship landing on one of the moons of Jupiter. Remember, real rockets had yet to be invented.

Spaceships got very weird, and very long, in the 1930s. And they also imagined some very strange machines. It’s always funny to see current-day technology adapted to look futuristic.

Now take a look Cosmic Science Fiction, July 1941. How many people understood the concept of weightlessness back then? I’m quite impressed with the artist here. I’m not sure if I ever read an old story that conveyed so much in words as what’s drawn here in pen and ink.

Planet Stories, with its notoriously lurid covers, gives another vision of the future. Atomic Blondes have been around a lot longer than that current film in the theater. This artist isn’t imagining our real future, but the future of comic books and Star Wars.

My friend Mike tells me the art in Planet Stories is corny now, but I think it captures a forgotten era. Take a look at “Galaxy Babes: The Gaudy, Brazen Cover Art Of Planet Stories” to get a better sense of its style. I get the feeling these covers convinced a good many adolescent boys in the 1940s to read science fiction. Another popular magazine was Captain Future because it had a similar artistic style on its covers.

One thing I love about the old pulp art is the cover often told a story by itself. There are folks who collect 1950s paperback books because of their visually gripping covers and I think it’s for that same reason artists were so important to the pulps. I’m not sure people would collect them if they didn’t have the cover art they did. The illustrators captured a moment of action and it makes you want to buy the book/magazine to find out what happens next. Modern covers don’t do that. I wonder if 21st-century books and magazines would sell better if their covers showed in-the-moment action?

Just look at the covers below – don’t they make you want to read the stories?


2017 Hugo Award Winner Posted at 6:42 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The 2017 Hugo Awards have been announced at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland, August 9-13, 2017. In the Best Novel category the winner is:

The Obelisk Gate



Our congrats to N. K. Jemisin and all the finalists. You can see the complete list of winners in all categories over at Locus. Jemisin won the Hugo last year for The Fifth Season, book 1 of her Broken Earth series.  She has again been added to our ever-growing list of Award Winning Books by Women Authors.

2017 Mythopoeic Award Winner Posted at 2:33 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The Mythopoeic Society has announced the 2017 Mythopoeic Award winners. In the Adult Literature category the winner is:






Our congrats to Patricia A. McKillip and all the finalists. You can see the complete list of winners in all categories in the official press release.

2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner Posted at 8:05 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The 2017 Arthur C. Clark Award has been announced:

The Underground Railroad




Our congrats to Colson Whitehead and all the finalists.

2017 World Fantasy Award Finalists Posted at 8:00 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Borderline Roadsouls The Obelisk Gate The Sudden Appearance of Hope Lovecraft Country

The 2017 World Fantasy Awards finalists have been announced. The awards will be presented during the World Fantasy Convention, November 2-5, 2017 at the Wyndham Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX.

The finalists in the Novel category are:

Our congrats to all the finalists!  You can see the full list of finalists in all categories on the Locus website.

What do you think of this lineup?

2017 Comic-Con Trailer Park Posted at 2:47 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

As usual, Comic-Con has dumped a huge batch of new trailers on the net and here are a handfu that are worth a look – in no particular order.

THOR RAGNAROK Trailer 2 (Extended) Marvel 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE: “Steppenwolf” Trailer (Extended) 2017

READY PLAYER ONE Trailer (2018)

THE SHAPE OF WATER Trailer (2017)

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE Comic Con Teaser Trailer (2017)

THE DARK TOWER “Magnum Opus” Trailer (2017)

THE DEFENDERS: “Punisher Reveal” Trailer (2017)

BRIGHT Trailer (2017) Netflix

DEATH NOTE: First Clip from the Movie (2017)

Marvel´s INHUMANS Trailer 2 (Extended) 2017

THE DEFENDERS Trailer 2 (Extended) 2017

STAR TREK DISCOVERY Trailer 2 (Extended) 2017

STRANGER THINGS Season 2 Trailer (2017)

WESTWORLD Season 2 Trailer (2018)

Big Headed Humans With Telepathy Posted at 11:17 AM by James Wallace Harris


Our online science fiction book club is reading Before the Golden Age edited by Isaac Asimov and discussing one story a week. The first story is “The Man Who Evolved” by Edmond Hamilton, first appeared in the April 1931 issue of Wonder Stories. The story is very old fashioned, about a mad scientist, Dr. John Pollard, inviting two friends to observe an experiment. The narrator, Arthur Wright, describes what he and Hugh Dutton see when Pollard subjects himself to distilled cosmic rays.

Wikipedia has a nice summary. You can read the story online in a scan of April 1931 Wonder Stories. Also, here’s a “Retro Review” that’s rather nice.

The setting is like something out of Frankenstein. Pollard has built a machine that gathers cosmic rays, which he believes is the agent of evolution. Each 15-minute exposure will alter his body as if had evolved for 50 million years. Wright and Dutton watch Pollard transform six times, each time his brain grows larger and his body becomes smaller. Pollard acquires telepathy and vast knowledge. Of course, all this is ridiculously unscientific. However, Hamilton is using the story to imagine what will happen to humans in the future. Hamilton is mining the same motherload as Olaf Stapledon, H. G. Wells, and many other early science fiction writers when they thought about the future of our species.

I love reading old science fiction stories like this because they give perspective on the nature of science fiction. You must ask yourself when you read such a tale, “What other science fiction stories have explored the same theme?” Right off the bat I thought of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, First and Last Men by Olaf Stapledon, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, and Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear – and of course “The Sixth Finger” from the old TV show, The Outer Limits, which featured a plot that Hamilton should have sued them over.

What all these stories boil down to is this: What will Humans 2.0 be like? Time and time again science fiction predicts people with ESP abilities. 1950s science fiction was full of such stories. And quite often, they predicted people with larger heads. Star Trek often featured many big headed aliens – the first pilot which became the episode “The Menagerie” featured big-headed aliens with telepathy.

I don’t think humans will ever evolve to have ESP powers. But we will create a species of intelligent machines that will have telepathy with radio waves and networking.

I am rather bothered by the constant desire to see humans have telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition and other wild talents. Aren’t they the same talents we assigned in the past to God and gods – prayer, the invisible hand of God, and prophecy? The reason why this country is so politically divided today is most citizens reject science for magic. They can’t accept evolution or global warming because it means giving up on an immortal soul and heaven.

Why can’t science fiction imagine evolution creating non-magical abilities for us? I consider science fiction failing if all it can come up with for our future evolution is reprocessed abilities from myths and religions. The insights of The Enlightenment are evolutionary. Compassion is evolutionary. Technology is evolutionary. Global cooperation is evolutionary. Computers and networking are evolutionary.

What natural abilities could we expect for biological evolution to give us in the future? I think the epitome of gifts would be a better understanding of reality without the desire for magic. If you watch the nightly news what we need is better bullshit detectors rather than telepathy. Personally, I’d like a better memory or a body that’s less prone to disease and decay. I wish I could synthesize more information and model bigger concepts in my head. I admit that telepathy could be useful, but I just can’t see any way that nature would give us built in radios. However, I can imagine us becoming more empathetic. Could that lead to being able to read each other’s moods or feelings?

One lesson I’ve learned from writing is my thoughts are not very coherent. It takes a lot of writing and editing to make them gel into something understandable. I’m not sure telepathy would be very effective. Writing takes work and time, and even then, it’s very hard to make a coherent message that others will read and interpret in the same way it was intended.

Let’s say you are Edmond Hamilton in 1931 and want to convey the ideas of “The Man Who Evolved” to friends. Would telepathy have worked better than Wonder Stories?

I think science fiction needs to get out of the rut of big headed humans with ESP.

2017 John W. Campbell Award Winner – A Belated Recognition Posted at 2:21 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Note: This announcement was made the day after I left on my vacation and I’ve only just now realized that I missed updating the award.  Thanks to WWEnder madirondack for the heads-up.

The winner of the John W. Campbell Award for 2017 The awards were presented during the Campbell Conference held June 16-18, 2017 at the University of Kansas Student Union in Lawrence KS.

Central Station John W. Campbell Memorial Award



Our belated congrats to Lavie Tidhar and all the finalists. What do you think of this result?

2017 Gemmell Award Winners Posted at 6:30 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The winners for the 2017 David Gemmel Legend and David Gemmel Morningstar awards have been announced.

Warbeast David Gemmel Legend Award

The Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel:


  • Warbeast by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)



Steal the Sky David Gemmell Morningstar Award

The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer:




2017 Prometheus Award Winner Posted at 6:12 PM by Dave Post

Dave Post

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the winner of the 2017 Prometheus Award, honoring pro-freedom works published in 2016.

The Core of the Sun prometheus Award



Our congrats to Johanna Sinisalo and all the noms!