Browsed by
Category: Books

Vintage Treasures: Tales from the Spaceport Bar edited by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer

Vintage Treasures: Tales from the Spaceport Bar edited by George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer


Tales from the Spaceport Bar and Another Round at the Spaceport Bar
(Avon Books, 1987 and 1989). Covers by James Warhola and Doug Beekman

Science fiction has a rep for being serious stuff. Tales of dystopias, climate catastrophes and environmental collapse, dire warnings about worrying trends, that’s SF in a nutshell. Even dressed up in its best story-telling adventure garb, Star Wars or Mad Max-style, it’s still often perceived as all about desperate battles in apocalyptic settings.

Of course, science fiction is much broader and richer than that, and most of its best writers have amply demonstrated their love of whimsy and fun. One of SF’s best-loved sub-genres is the Club Tale/Bar Story, exemplified by Arthur C. Clarkes famous Tales From the White Hart, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s long-running Gavagan’s Bar stories, Lord Dunsany’s Jorkens tales, Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers mysteries, Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Bar, Larry Niven’s spacefaring tales of Draco Tavern, and many others.

In the late 80s Weird Tales editors George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer assembled a collection of the best such stories, Tales from the Spaceport Bar. It made the Locus Award list of Year’s Best Anthologies (in 11th place), and was quickly followed by Another Round at the Spaceport Bar. Both books are a fine antidote to anyone who’s dabbled just a little too long on the dark side of science fiction.

Read More Read More

The Pandemic Was Really Quite Good to Me

The Pandemic Was Really Quite Good to Me


Tune in Tomorrow (Solaris, August 23, 2022), and the author

The pandemic was really quite good to me.

Don’t get into a snit – there are caveats: The horrible ongoing forever pandemic was terrible for everybody, including me. Millions had their lives wrecked, or died, and if the “quite good” experience I had could be swapped for a retcon in which “Covfefe” was as close as we ever got to saying “COVID,” I’d do it in a hot second.

Since that isn’t happening, let’s start again.

The pandemic was actually quite good for my debut novel, Tune in Tomorrow. See, back in 2020 I received an email from my agent saying that a publisher was interested in publishing the book, with a few alterations. Was I game?

As someone who struggled for decades to get a damn novel published, the answer was a quick, “Hell yes!”

Read More Read More

Carving Out Destiny: Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock

Carving Out Destiny: Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock

There came a time when the destiny of Men and Gods was hammered out upon the forge of Fate, when monstrous wars were brewed and mighty deeds were designed. And there rose up in this time, which was called the Age of the Young Kingdoms, heroes. Greatest of these heroes was a doom-driven adventurer who bore a crooning runeblade that he loathed.
His name was Elric of Melniboné…

from the Prologue to Stormbringer

That cover, more than any other, depicts the absolute coolness of swords & sorcery and what I like about it. Michael Whelan’s painting for the 1977 DAW edition of Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer (1965) is the first time in over two hundred essays I haven’t put the first edition cover first. You can talk about heroism, barbarism vs. civilization and whatnot until the end of the day but, ultimately, this is what I dig. That depiction of Elric, runeblade held high, Horn of Fate trailing behind him, under the storm-wracked heavens, says more about what brings me back to the genre than any book-long disquisition ever could. It’s just so stinking cool. Its appeal is purely and mind-blowingly visceral.

When I was in my mid-teens, all my friends and I devoured these books relentlessly. As soon as one of us finished one series we plunged right into the next. The gradual realization that all of Moorcock’s S&S stories were linked in some crazy pattern made our reading even more compulsive. Many, many elements in his books wound up in roleplaying sessions. I ended at least one universe in a very Moorcockian style.

I did a quick count of how many Moorcock books I’ve read and got over thirty. Some of them, particularly the assorted Eternal Champion books (Elric, Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum, etc.), I’ve read numerous times. I’ve probably read all six Corum novels five or six times. I have definitely not reread any other S&S books, neither Robert E. Howard’s nor Karl Edward Wagner’s, anywhere near that number of times. Moorcock’s books have done more than any other’s to build the framework of what S&S writing is for me if by no other measure than number of pages read. There’s more creativity when it comes to characters and world-building in almost any of his slim DAW yellow-spine books than nearly any monstrous tome I’ve bludgeoned my way through.

Read More Read More

New Treasures: World Breakers edited by Tony Daniel and Christopher Ruocchio

New Treasures: World Breakers edited by Tony Daniel and Christopher Ruocchio


World Breakers (Baen mass market reprint, July 26, 2022). Cover by Dominic Harman

If you’re one of the (very few) folks who pay attention when I complain, you know that I frequently lament the decline of the mass market science fiction anthology. Book store shelves used to be full of ’em, and nowadays they’ve all but vanished. Folks don’t have an appetite for short fiction these days, at least not in the way they used to. And that’s a shame — anthologies are a great way to discover new writers, fil the time when you can’t commit to a longer work, and just read some great stories.

Tony Daniel and Christopher Ruocchio previously edited Star Destroyers (2018) for Baen, and with Baen senior editor Hank Davis, Ruocchio has produced nearly half a dozen others, including Space Pioneers (2018), Sword & Planet (2021), and Time Troopers (2022). Last year Daniel and Ruocchio released World Breakers, a collection of original stories of super tanks, and what did I find in my local bookstore last week but a handsome and affordable mass market edition. Civilization isn’t dead after all.

Read More Read More

DEMONS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND: Call of the Cambion (The Cambion Journals — Book Two) by Andrew P. Weston

DEMONS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND: Call of the Cambion (The Cambion Journals — Book Two) by Andrew P. Weston

Call of the Cambion (The Cambion Journals: Book Two), by Andrew P. Weston. (Raven Tale Publishing. Kindle edition. 190 pages. Released May 2022. Paperback coming soon.)

Augustus Thorne is a Cambion — a human/demon hybrid. Cursed with a hunger he can barely control, it’s been a struggle to retain his humanity. All he’s ever wanted to do is enjoy what everyone else takes for granted. To lead a normal life. Fall in love. Start a family. Alas, such things are denied him because of what he is. Fated to feed off humans, he has channeled his self-loathing into a quest for revenge. For over two hundred years, Augustus has hunted and executed every Incubi and Succubae he can find. But he has yet to track down and kill the one responsible for attacking his mother and causing decades of suffering: his own spawn-father, Fanon.
— From the Prologue to Call of the Cambion

Andrew P. Weston’s second outing is just as good as the first book in his new series, A Hybrid’s Tale, which I have also reviewed here. This time around, in Call of the Cambion, Weston delves deeper into Augustus Thorne’s past, his relationships and his character. Born in 1760, Thorn has sworn to seek out and destroy the Demondim and its “department” of Incubi and Succubae assassins, known as the Forge, as he hunts for Fanon, the Incubus who sired him, then abandoned him and his mortal mother. Thorne is a complicated man: in spite of his supernatural and magical powers, and his killer’s instinct, he is an honorable and loyal man, not without mercy and his own code of ethics. Once again, Weston combines magic, metaphysics, science fiction, and the paranormal to tell his tale and give substance to his world and his characters.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: The New Hugo Winners edited by Isaac Asimov

Vintage Treasures: The New Hugo Winners edited by Isaac Asimov


The New Hugo Winners, Volume I & II and The Super Hugos
(Baen, 1991, 1992, and 1992). Covers by Vincent Di Fate, Bob Eggleton, and Frank Kelly Freas

Last month, as part of my master plan to examine every interesting science fiction paperback ever printed, I surveyed five of the finest SF anthologies of all time: the first Hugo Winners volumes, all edited by Isaac Asimov and published by Doubleday between 1962 and 1986.

Although the first two volumes, collected in one big omnibus by the Science Fiction Book Club in 1972, were on the bookshelf of every serious SF fan in the 70 and 80s (and much of the 90s), by the time Volume IV and V were released in the mid-80s, sales had fallen off so significantly that neither one was reprinted in paperback. Asimov, who frequently noted that “the fine folks at Doubleday have never said no to me” — even indulging him with a massive 1,005-page, highly uncommercial vanity project in 1974, Before the Golden Age, a bunch of pulp stories threaded together with Asimov’s reminiscences of growing up in Brooklyn — found Doubleday saying ‘No” to further Hugo volumes.

It was Martin H. Greenberg, Asimov’s frequent collaborator, who talked him into doing additional installments. Together they produced three more: The New Hugo Winners, Volume 1 (1989) & Volume II (1992) and The Super Hugos, released after Asimov’s death in April 1992.

Read More Read More

Lush Fantasy Inspired by Indian Epics: Tasha Suri’s The Burning Kingdoms

Lush Fantasy Inspired by Indian Epics: Tasha Suri’s The Burning Kingdoms


The Jasmine Throne and The Oleander Sword (Orbit, June 2021 and August 2022). Covers by Micah Epstein

The Jasmine Throne, the opening volume in Tasha Suri’s Burning Kingdoms fantasy epic, was named one of the best books of 2021 by Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Public Library. The second installment, The Oleander Sword, is due August 16, and early reviews have only heightened the anticipation. This is  shaping up to be one of the major fantasy series of the decade.

Suri is also the author of two well-received fantasy volumes, Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash — though, as Liz Bourke at Tor.com points out in her review of The Jasmine Throne, “[I] admired them as well-constructed epic fantasy with a strong romantic component, but they never made me feel like this — gobsmacked, a little awestruck, violently satisfied, painfully engaged.”

Read More Read More

New Treasures: Never the Wind by Francesco Dimitri

New Treasures: Never the Wind by Francesco Dimitri


Never the Wind (Titan Books, June 2022). Cover design by Julia Lloyd

I first learned about Francesco Dimitri’s new novel Never the Wind when I heard Paul Tremblay describe it as “”Susanna Clarke meets Robert Aikman,” not exactly a description I hear every day. Publishers Weekly calls it “truly spooky…plenty here to fascinate fans of cerebral horror.”

That was more than enough to pique my interest. I set out to learn more and quickly found Dimitri’s guest post at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, My Favorite Bit:, where he discusses the narrative use of magic. It certainly cemented my interest — but I also found the way he approached magic on the page fascinating, and enormously useful for anyone using the supernatural in fiction.

Read More Read More

A PRELIMINARY LOOK AT DAW BOOKS

A PRELIMINARY LOOK AT DAW BOOKS


The Rape of the Sun by Ian Wallace (DAW 1982). Preliminary sketch and final cover by David B. Mattingly

As a teenaged science fiction and fantasy fan growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I loved DAW Books. They had some great authors and great cover art, and all those yellow spines looked sweet next to each other on the bookshelf.

As some of you may know, I collect and sell original SF and fantasy art. I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to acquire a number of those DAW cover paintings that I admired growing up. Recently I was given on consignment one of the cooler items that I’ve sold. This was a sketchbook, compiled by artist David Mattingly, containing 34 preliminaries. Mattingly had glued a preliminary to each right hand page. The sizes of the preliminaries varied, but they generally ranged between roughly 4.25” x 7” to 6” x 8”. There were clearly more pages at some point that had been cut out; presumably these contained other preliminaries that were sold separately over the years. Mattingly had given each preliminary a number; these ran from 62 through 113, in order, with gaps for missing pages.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing preliminaries, as they give a glimpse into the artist’s process as well as, in the case of preliminaries there were rejected, a view of what might have been. Most of the prelims in the sketchbook weren’t for DAW books – there were many for Del Rey/Ballantine Books as well as SF digests – but ten of them were. I thought that fellow DAW enthusiasts might enjoy seeing these earlier cover concepts.

Read More Read More

High Fantasy Romance from New-Minted SF Royalty: A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

High Fantasy Romance from New-Minted SF Royalty: A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance (Tor, July 26, 2022)

Foz Meadows is conquering the world.

She won a Hugo Award in 2019 (as she puts it, “for yelling on the internet”), and she’s been a widely acclaimed essayist and blogger — at Strange Horizons, The Huffington Post, and Black Gate, among many other fine places — for nearly a decade. Her fantasy novel An Accident of Stars and its sequel A Tyranny of Queens were publishedby Angry Robot in 2016/17, and last year Tor Books announced they’d acquired her massive new fantasy novel, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance.

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance finally arrives next week and, if the early buzz is anything to go by, it’s shaping up to be one of the major fantasy novels of year. Publishers Weekly calls it “lushly drawn fantasy romance… skillfully integrates gripping mystery and satisfying slow-burn romance,” and Library Journal proclaims it ““an emotionally gripping, delightful queer fantasy filled with political intrigue.” But my favorite notice came from SF Chronicle, which heralds Foz as “newly minted royalty of sci-fi fantasy.”

Read More Read More