Barry N. Malzberg

Start Your Free Trial

Download Barry N. Malzberg Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Malzberg, Barry N.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Malzberg, Barry N. 1939–

Malzberg, an award-winning American novelist and short story writer, is best known for his science fiction, for which he has occasionally used the pseudonym K. M. O'Donnell. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 61-64.)

[Whatever] else you do, look for Barry Malzberg. (If in the process you run across K. M. O'Donnell, grab it too: same man.) Malzberg is the angriest writer now writing. There is little arrogance in his anger; unlike the purveyors of spleen one usually encounters, Malzberg seems, somehow, to have escaped completely the personal or caste elevation that seems intrinsic in all the others. "My anger bespeaks the fact that I/we are better (or know more) than you. You are unjust to your superiors," they seem to say; while Malzberg's protagonists [in The Falling Astronauts] express his anger by being bumbling, fearful, perplexed and complicated—yet unremittingly driven by this mountainous anger of his. And so it is that he hates the space effort (but not exactly) and astronauts (but not precisely) and the NASA hierarchy (or perhaps what it represents, or what it has therefore become). (pp. 535-36)

Malzberg's preoccupation—nay, obsession—in this book is that of the third man in an Apollo crew, the one who orbits the moon while the others put their footprints in the pumice and the history books, and his temptation to say the hell with it and leave them there. Malzberg/O'Donnell has written many short stories and novelettes about this and its furthest extrapolations, but The Falling Astronauts is a close-knit and unsparing study-in-depth of such a man. (p. 536)

Theodore Sturgeon, in National Review (© National Review, Inc., 1972; 150 East 35th St., New York, N.Y. 10016), May 12, 1972.

[Though Herovit's World] is by a science fiction writer, and though it is being reviewed in a science fiction magazine, and though it bears some of the outward appearances of a science fiction novel, it is not a science fiction novel. Like Bradbury and Vonnegut and Daniel Keyes before him, Barry Malzberg is wisely attempting to remove the frequently commercially crippling words "sci-fi author" from the space in front of his byline. (p. 26)

Having paid his dues in sf—pulp magazine stories, Ace "Doubles," Lancer originals, internecine warfare in SFWA—he has, at last, confronted his core desires. He wants to be famous, he wants to be wealthy, he wants to be widely read, he wants to be free to write all the wonders within him. And so, to this end, he has assiduously pursued a policy of having his new books packaged and marketed simply as novels, not as science fiction novels.

Because what he proffers to the genre is far beyond the petty gifts of many writers who cling to the neologism for fear emergence into the larger arena would destroy them. Malzberg, a big frog in the biggest pond, continues to grow and grow in richness of ideas, excellence of prose, daringness of themes and ability to set down the harsh truths of the world he sees (admittedly a paranoid world, but then, when was the last time you heard a click! on your telephone line?) in novels that keep bending the traditionalists so far out of shape that they have wrested from me the hard-earned title of AntiChrist and conferred it on Malzberg.

(Proof: Malzberg's winning the John W. Campbell Award for the best sf novel of 1972 with Beyond Apollo has caused such shrieks of pain throughout the field, one can only assume the judges possessed a group death-wish, and that their choice was not only a correct one, but a very courageous one.)

Which brings me, at last, to Herovit's World, not a science fiction novel … merely a book that will cause teeth-gnashing in our little world guaranteed to register eight points on the Richter scale. (p. 28)

[Herovit] is a portrait, etched in blood and vitriol, guaranteed to send shudders through every professional in or out of the sf field. He, like all of us, is a doomed soul, driving himself madder by the moment.

And because of the loathesome...

(The entire section is 1,415 words.)