Vintage Treasures: ATTA by Francis Rufus Bellamy/ The Brain-Stealers by Murray Leinster

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Atta Francis Bellamy-small The Brain-Stealers Leinster-small

For the past 17 months I’ve been surveying Ace Doubles here at Black Gate; this is the eighteenth in the series. Donald Wollheim, the founding editor of Ace Books and the man who created the Ace Double, had excellent taste, and he published countless successful titles that would remain in print for decades — and help launch the careers of major stars, including Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Andre Norton, and a great many others. I’ve really enjoyed tracking down later printings and presenting them in these articles as testament to just how enduring the Ace Double selections were — including books like Jack Vance’s Big Planet and Andre Norton’s The Beast Master, both of which have been reprinted more than a dozen times over the decades, with an eye-opening gallery of cover art.

And then we have ATTA and The Brain-Stealers, by Francis Rufus Bellamy and Murray Leinster, published as an Ace Double in 1954.

It’s obvious not even Don Wollheim could pick a pair of winners every time. When I started researching both books, I was fairly certain neither had ever seen another printing. That turned out to be incorrect (but not by much). At least this installment will be short.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid-small Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid 2-small Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid 3-small

For this installment of Vintage Treasures, we’re going to set the Wayback Machine for that far distant era of American publishing, when it wasn’t at all unusual for a midlist science fiction writer to publish a paperback collection clocking in at a slender 174 pages… and have it go through nearly a dozen printings in as many years. Ah, for the days when the American public had a greater appetite for short stories!

Starshine was Sturgeon’s thirteenth collection (thirteen short story collections! It boggles the mind). It included three novelettes and three short stories, spanning just over two decades of his career: 1940 to 1961. I’ve captured the covers of all the paperback editions in this article — if you’re an old-timer like me, maybe one of them will jog your memory.

The first edition of Starshine was the December 1966 Pyramid paperback (above left, cover by Jack Gaughan.) It was back in print less than two years later, in March 1969, with a new cover by Gaughan again (above middle). Why it needed a new cover, I dunno – I much prefer the original one.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick/ The Skynappers by John Brunner

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Vulcan's Hammer-small The Skynappers-small

One of the things I love about the early Ace Doubles is that they frequently paired young writers who later became superstars. It’s like finding a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Elijah Wood when they were both 10 years old (that move exists, by the way. It’s called North. Don’t see it.)

The 1960 Ace Double Vulcan’s Hammer/The Skynappers is a fine example. It paired the 32-year old Philip K. Dick — well established by that point, with seven novels under his belt — with an up-and coming British author, the 26-year old John Brunner, whose first novel Threshold of Eternity had appeared as an Ace Double the previous year. Both went on to stellar careers. Indeed, they’re two of the most highly regarded SF writers of the 20th Century.

Neither of these two books is particularly well remembered, however. In fact, if you’re a Brunner fan and interested in reading The Skynappers, this 55-year old paperback is pretty much the only way to get it.

Read More »


An Ancient Egyptian Temple in Madrid

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Templo de Debod in Madrid by flickr user jiuguangw

Templo de Debod in Madrid by flickr user jiuguangw

When the Egypt government began its massive Aswan Dam project in 1960, it realized that a large number of temples and archaeological sites would be submerged forever. Teaming up with UNESCO, it started an ambitious project of survey and excavation, as well as the relocation of several key monuments.

Read More »


The Royal Armory of Vienna

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

This highly decorated harness was made in Nuremberg around 1555.

This highly decorated harness was made in Nuremberg around 1555. Many of the pieces in the Vienna collection retain their paint and gold inlay.

Last week we looked at the Royal Armory of Madrid, founded by the Hapsburgs in the 16th century. Another of the great Hapsburg armories of Europe is the one in Vienna. Part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and housed in the Neue Burg palace, it is one of the most impressive collections of royal arms and armor anywhere.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Bow Down to Nul by Brian W. Aldiss / The Dark Destroyers by Manly Wade Wellman

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bow Down to Nul-small The Dark Destroyers-small

We’re back to our survey of Ace Doubles, this time with a volume from 1960 containing lesser-known novels from two of science fiction’s brightest stars: Bow Down to Nul by Brian W. Aldiss and The Dark Destroyers by Manly Wade Wellman. Ace Doubles didn’t always have a clear connecting theme, but they did in this case, as both novels feature the struggle against brutal aliens who have conquered Earth.

Bow Down to Nul is a Galactic Empire novel, a fairly common theme in early pulp SF, made popular by writers like Asimov and Van Vogt. The empire in this case is a huge stellar realm controlled by the Nuls, an ancient race of giant three-limbed creatures. Earth is a backwater colony world, ruled by a Nul tyrant. The human resistance is disorganized, but aided by a Nul signatory attempting to bring to light abuses on Earth.

As Aldiss noted in his Note From The Author, the set-up strongly parallels the complex colonial relationships he witnessed first hand while serving in India and Indonesia in the forties.

Read More »


Fearie Tales Has the Best Cover Art of the Year

Friday, December 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fearie Tales 2-smallOne thing I miss about the lack of a print edition of Black Gate is that I no longer shop for cover art.

I still do, sort of, by keeping an eye on the best pieces of art every year. And as we close out 2014, I think I can say that my favorite cover this year was for the deluxe limited edition of PS Publishing’s Fearie Tales, painted by Alan Lee (click on the image at left for a bigger version.) What can I say? I’m a sucker for castles and crows.

Fearie Tales was edited by Stephen Jones and takes inspiration from the original versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Jones invited some of today’s top fantasy and horror writers to create new Grimm Fairy Tales, with a decidedly darker twist. It contains retellings of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Robber Bridegroom, and more from Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Garth Nix, Robert Shearman, Michael Marshall Smith, Christopher Fowler, Angela Slatter, Brian Hodge, Joanne Harris, John Ajvide Lindqvist, and many others. Check out Goth Chick’s review of the US edition here.

Cover artist Alan Lee was, along with John Howe, the lead concept artist for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films. He has illustrated dozens of fantasy novels, including the covers of the 1983 Penguin edition of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, and several works by J.R.R. Tolkien, including the centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings (1995), a 1999 edition of The Hobbit, and The Children of Húrin (2007).

Fearie Tales was published PS Publishing in a deluxe signed traycase edition limited to 200 copies on July 1, 2014, priced at £249.00. It is also available in a trade edition (with a different cover), published by Jo Fletcher Books on September 23, 2014, priced at $24.99.


AD&D Figurines: Youth In a Box?

Monday, December 15th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

DSC04791A few weeks back, a friend (quite unexpectedly) handed me the boxed set of AD&D miniatures pictured at right. I say “unexpectedly” because so far as I know, this friend had no idea that I ever played D&D. Nor were the figures intended for me; the note she enclosed made it clear the box was for my fourteen-year-old son, “just in case.”

My son was marginally interested, but not seriously so. I, however, was kind of downright sorta hypnotized.

Confession: I never gravitated to miniatures. My twin objections were, first, that the figures never, ever looked the way I pictured either my characters or those of my fellow gamers, and second, they were small enough that painting them to my own exacting standards was next to impossible.

I had Testor’s model paint, of course (most boys I knew in the late seventies and early eighties did), so accessing a mouth-watering color palette wasn’t the issue.

Application, however: yipes!

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Gateway to Elsewhere by Murray Leinster / The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Gateway to Elsewhere-small The Weapon Shops of Isher-small

And now we come to one of my favorite Ace Doubles: Murray Leinster’s Arabian Nights fantasy Gateway to Elsewhere, paired with the classic science fiction novel The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt.

Of the two, Gateway to Elsewhere is significantly lesser known. It was Leinster’s first fantasy novel, although he’d previously published two SF novels, The Murder of the U.S.A. (as Will F. Jenkins, in 1946) and The Black Galaxy (in Startling, March 1949). Gateway to Elsewhere originally appeared in a two-part serial in the seventh issue of the small circulation digest Fantasy Book in 1950/51 under the title Journey to Barkut. The entire novel was reprinted in the January 1952 issue of Startling Stories, still under the title Journey to Barkut, with a handsome cover by Earle Bergey (see below).

Two years later, it appeared as half of Ace Double D-53, with the new title Gateway to Elsewhere, and a splendid cover by Harry Barton.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick / Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cosmic Puppets-smallWe’re back to looking at Ace Doubles.

This month, I have a special treat for you. A 1957 pairing of two major science fiction writers, both early in their careers, which resulted in a very collectible paperback: The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick, published back-to-back with Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton.

Let’s start with The Cosmic Puppets because, while Dick was never as popular as Andre Norton while he was alive, over the past three decades his fame has grown steadily, to the point where he’s now considered one of the most important SF writers of the 20th Century. The Cosmic Puppets was his fifth novel, and appeared here for the first time (in this form, anyway). While Sargasso of Space is a popular and important SF novel — for reasons I’ll get to shortly — The Cosmic Puppets is the primary reason this paperback commands real interest among collectors.

The Cosmic Puppets is a tale of alien invasion… although, as usual for Dick, it disregards most of the typical conventions of an alien invasion story. Some readers consider it Dick’s most approachable novel (although that doesn’t mean you won’t close the book with a lot of questions.) It’s also the Dick novel that skirts closest to pure fantasy.

The novel opens almost like a Twilight Zone episode, as our protagonist returns to his home town, only to discover that the inhabitants have no memory of him at all. Here’s the summary from the 1957 Ace edition.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2015 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.