Paperback Picnic
a newsletter about weird old books

Latest

Feb
15
book cover depicting a woman in a silvery bikini, standing before a spaceship and a reddish alien sky

Linguistic Superpowers: Samuel R. Delany's "Babel-17"

the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis jacked up on steroids
5 min read
Jan
29
an old map of the North Sea depicting both real and fictional islands

The First Secondary World

independent fictional worlds were invented more recently than the steam train
13 min read
Nov
29
A woman in a red silk blouse looks uncertainly at a man in a fur cloak, riding a green alien horse

Love and Hate in Superposition: "The Quantum Rose" by Catherine Asaro

The sci-fi romance novel that's also an in-depth allegory for quantum physics
7 min read
Nov
04
A man in medieval clothes clutches a bloody blade. Behind him is a pile of skulls and an emerald serpent.

Go Directly To Hell: Michael Shea’s “Nifft the Lean”

A face-melting feast
8 min read
Sep
18
Lurid 70s sci-fi painting, woman in alien landscape with tentacle emerging from her chest

Death is the Soul-Vulture: Ian Watson’s “Deathhunter”

A psychedelic afterlife fantasy that comes so close to greatness
9 min read
Aug
14
Book cover featuring a fantasy castle, a river of lava and mushroom-shaped mountains

"The Wizards and the Warriors": A Lost Treasure of 80s Fantasy

At first glance, Hugh Cook’s The Wizards and the Warriors (1986) presents a very unpromising prospect. There is the
8 min read
Jul
14
Book cover: a huge horizontal crucifix looms over a longhaired man, the Eucharist in front of him

"Behold the Man": Michael Moorcock's Big Middle Finger to Christianity

a juvenile and mean-spirited novel from one of SFF's greatest authors
9 min read
Jun
17
Cover depicting a crying blue-skinned woman in front of a celestial door in front of an exploding planet

Eden Among the Stars: Pauline Gedge’s “Stargate”

An obscure science-fantasy explores the bounds of Tolkien's legacy
9 min read
May
15
Book cover with greenish salamanders in front of a tidal wave and a volcano

Timeless Warning: Karel Čapek’s “War With The Newts”

Nearly a century old, Čapek’s satire remains chillingly prophetic
9 min read
Apr
16
Book cover depicting a trollish figure, white rats, and a ring hanging from a string

Liminal Labyrinth

Magic and modernity in Margaret St. Clair's "Sign of the Labrys"
10 min read