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The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations
by Robert Bloch, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz
Subterranean Press, 300 pages

Robert Bloch
Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is remembered primarily for his novel Psycho (1959) the source of Alfred Hitchcock's film (1960). However, much of his horror, be it psychological or occult, had a strong sense of black humour. This sense of humour runs more to the slapstick in such works as his Lefty Feep stories (1942-46, reprinted 1987) and It's All in Your Mind (1971; orig. mag. appearance: The Big Binge, 1955).

Born in Chicago, he first discovered Weird Tales and the works of H.P. Lovecraft at age 10. By 1933, now living in Milwaukee, Bloch began a correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft which lasted until the latter's death in 1937, and resulted in Bloch's use of Lovecraft as a character in one of his stories and vice-versa. Bloch's 1978 novel Strange Eons was an obvious homage to Lovecraft. Much of Bloch's early pulp tales were collected in The Opener of the Way (1945, reprinted 1976) and Mysteries of the Worm (1981). Bloch was also involved in early fandom and an SF writer's circle, the "Milwaukee Fictioneers," which included Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ralph Milne Farley, and Raymond Palmer.

His first novel The Scarf (1947), the first-person narrative of a psychotic killer, was the first of many novels in the genre. In 1953, Bloch moved his family to Weyauwega, WI, where he continued writing suspense novels. In 1959, Bloch won the Hugo for best short story for his horror tale "That Hell-Bound Train" and moved to California. There, over the years he wrote numerous short stories, scripts for TV (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, Star Trek), and for suspense films (Strait-Jacket, The Night Walker, The Skull, The Psychopath, The Deadly Bees, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood). His autobiography, Once Around the Bloch, was published in 1993, a year before his death from cancer.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Hell on Earth
Robert Bloch Tribute Site
Robert Bloch Bio
Obituary from The Buffalo News
The Robert Bloch Award
Subterranean Press
MOVIE: Psycho excerpt (Quicktime and Real Player versions)
MOVIE: Straight-Jacket with *.MOV clip
E -TEXT: "I Was a Fake Fan for the FBI!"
E-TEXT: "Left at the Post"
E-TEXT : "Poe and Lovecraft"
E-TEXT: "Chips off the Old Bloch" by Dean A. Grennell
E-TEXT: "Robert Bloch" by Esther Cole
E-TEXT: "I Remember Me" by Walt Willis

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations The Fear Planet and Other Unusual Destinations, a book which is part of a series of previously unreprinted Robert Bloch stories, begs the question "why?" If Bloch himself did not see the value in reprinting these stories after they provided him with initial payment, why would a publisher and editor think they have value at this late date? One part of the answer is for the collectors, but another part of the answer is to compare the stories to chocolate. Any chocolate is better than no chocolate at all.

There is a wide range of story types in The Fear Planet, from lightweight humorous tales like "Have Tux -- Will Travel" to more serious stories like "Red Moon Rising." While few of the stories would be classified specifically within the horror genre for which Bloch is best known, many of the tales do have horrific elements in them. Most of the stories are well written in and of themselves.

Unfortunately, the stories are frequently dated. Some are dated by their concerns, such as the aforementioned "Red Moon Rising," which clearly belongs to a period of the cold war or "How Bug-Eyed Was My Monster," an entertaining story which seems somewhat simplistic in its view of the way the world works in light of modern procedures.

Many of the stories are recursive tales which reference science fiction.

Most notably, "The End of Science Fiction" which is a precursor of sorts to the Hugo Award-winning film "Galaxy Quest" or "The Man Who Walked Through Mirrors," a tale of vengeance against a science fiction editor. These tend toward the lighter and more humorous than the non-recursive stories, which does not necessarily mean that they don't have a more serious undertone to them.

Of course, there are also the more horrific stories generally associated with Bloch's writing. "The Black Brain," for instance, has a very Cthulhu-esque feel to it, similar to Bloch's stories included in his collection Mysteries of the Worm. Other tales, like "The Tempter" provide a nice mixture of horror and humor.

Many of the stories appear to be, if not clichés, then predictable.

This is in part due to their age. Many of these ideas, which may have been fresh when Bloch was writing, have been picked up again and again by subsequent authors.

While The Fear Planet is an entertaining collection with many good stories, those who are not familiar with Bloch's work would be better served by picking up a collection of some of his more famous work, such as The Best of Robert Bloch. For those who have even a passing familiarity of with Bloch's writing, The Fear Planet adds added dimension to his work and presents stories which, in many cases, are unjustly neglected, even if dated.

Copyright © 2005 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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