Take a Visual Tour of the Early SF and Fantasy Pulps in Futures Past #1

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Futures Past 1926-smallI have a great curiosity about the beginnings of science fiction and fantasy in the United States — particularly what’s known as the Gernsback Era, beginning when Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories in 1926, and virtually created modern science fiction. Nearly simultaneously, Weird Tales (founded in 1923) was publishing the first stories of the greatest fantasists of the 20th Century: Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith.

So I was delighted to discover a brand new magazine devoted to covering the birth of modern science fiction: Futures Past: A Visual History of Science Fiction, edited by Jim Emerson. The first issue of this 64-page, full color magazine, subtitled 1926: The Birth of Modern Science Fiction, appeared in July 2014, and is now available in e-book PDF format. Future issues will cover the whole field of science fiction — including magazines, books, movies and conventions — year by year, in an attractive and easy-to-read format.

Here’s the description of the entire undertaking from the publisher:

Welcome to one of the largest and most ambitious projects ever attempted in the field of science fiction.  In the pages of Futures Past we will be covering, in detail, the birth and development of modern science fiction over its first 50 years – from 1926 to 1975. Designed in a yearbook format, each issue of Futures Past will cover all the works, people, organizations and events in detailed chronological order.

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Black Static #44 Now on Sale

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Static 44-smallI stumbled on my first copy of Black Static, issue #40, at a Barnes and Noble here in Chicago last year, and I was very impressed. The magazine is beautifully designed and illustrated, with top-notch writing and some great columns. It’s exactly the kind of thing I like to take with me on long plane rides.

I’ve been tracking down subsequent issues and writing about them here, because I think you deserve to know about them. Also, because really excellent fantasy magazines are a vanishing breed, and they deserve your support. Issue #44 is cover-dated January/February, which means it’s still on sale here in the US. The fiction contents are:

“Going Back to the World” by Simon Avery
“The Absent Shade” by Priya Sharma
“The Fishers of Men” by Jackson Kuhl
“Sweet Water” by E. Catherine Tobler
“Samhain” by Tyler Keevil

Yes, that’s our own Jackson Kuhl in the TOC. Jackson’s last article for us was his review of Jeffrey E. Barlough’s The Cobbler of Ridingham, which appeared here last week. On his blog, Jackson talks a little about selling his story, “The Fishers of Men,” to a British market like Black Static:

I was a little shocked when [Black Static editor] Andy Cox accepted “Fishers;” it is a very American story and when I sent it I wasn’t sure the historical background would translate. But I suppose I don’t have to know the intricacies of lines of royal succession or the industrialization of Greater Manchester to enjoy M.R. James, Robert Aickman, or Susanna Clarke (to name the three most recent authors I’ve read), so perhaps the width of the Atlantic isn’t as great as I sometimes imagine.

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Short Fiction Reviews: “Tuesdays,” by Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March 2015)

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction March 2015-smallFor today’s column I’m covering for our regular Tuesday short fiction reviewer, Fletcher Vredenburgh, who’s goofing off this week. Which is a nice excuse for me to blow off other stuff I’m supposed to be doing, and settle back in my big green chair with the latest issues of my favorite magazines.

I started with the March issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction (which used to be called Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, back when the pace of life was slower and people had time to read a title that long.) Partly because it’s been far too long since I’ve read an issue, but mostly because I love Paul Youll’s delightful cover, with a strangely sinister UFO hovering outside a diner. I opened the magazine hoping that it’s illustrating the featured story, Suzanne Palmer’s “Tuesdays,” because I think I’d enjoy a good UFO story, and also because I want to know what that mischievous-looking blonde on the cover is up to.

The Table of Contents lists “Tuesdays” as starting on page 13. I flip to page 13. It’s an ad for a crossword magazine. I chuckle a little. Getting the Table of Contents 100% right was always the biggest pain with the print edition of Black Gate, too. I usually did it last, because last-minute changes were constantly messing with story placement.

I flip to page 14. Page 14 opens in mid-sentence. I glance back at page 12. It’s the last page of James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net column. I flip back and forth for a minute, confused, before the truth finally dawns: the first page of “Tuesdays,” the cover story for the issue, is missing.

Now, I haven’t been an editor of a print magazine for almost four years. But that doesn’t dull the sympathetic horror that crawls up my spine. This is every editor’s nightmare (and probably every writer’s horror — but let’s be truthful, writers are terrified of everything). No one understands just how easy it is to make a mistake like this.

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Is This Where John Norman Got His Inspiration?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


I spotted this in the classifieds at the back of the March 1962 issue of Amazing. Too bad I didn’t know about this when I met John Norman!

Sean McLachlan is a freelance travel and history writer. He is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and the post-apocalyptic thriller Radio Hope. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.

The Dark Issue 7 now on Sale

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dark Magazine Issue 7-smallI’m jealous of the fabulous covers that grace The Dark magazine.

Selecting cover art for a magazine is no simple task. I know, I did it for over a decade — sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. A great cover has to be a great piece of art, both eye catching and unique, but that’s not enough. It also has to clearly communicate the tone and content within. It won’t help you, for example, to have vibrant sword and sorcery heroes on your cover month after month, if you never actually publish sword & sorcery (as Realms of Fantasy was notorious for.)

The Dark has great covers. And they faithfully convey the macabre tone of the stories within… and, occasionally, the magazine’s playful side as well, as Lane Brown’s cover for the February issue, featuring a young girl feeding a bat, does marvelously (at right, click to embiggen.)

The Dark is a quarterly magazine co-edited by Jack Fisher and Sean Wallace. The seventh issue features four all-original short stories:

“Bearskin” by Angela Slatter
“In the Dreams Full of Sleep, Beakless Birds Can Fly” by Patricia Russo
“Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald
“A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheel” by Brooke Wonders

You can read issues free online, or help support the magazine by subscribing to the ebook editions, available for the Kindle and Nook in Mobi and ePub format. Issues are around 50 pages, and priced at $2.99 through Amazon, B&N.com, Apple, Kobo, and other fine outlets. If you enjoy the magazine you can also support it by buying their books, reviewing stories, or even just leaving comments. Read issue 7 here, and see their complete back issue catalog here. We last covered The Dark with Issue 6. A one-year sub (six issues) is just $15 - subscribe today.

Fantastic Universe, September 1959: A Retro-Review

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fantastic Universe September 1959-smallHere is probably one of the less-remembered digest SF magazines of the 1950s. Fantastic Universe was founded in 1953 and lasted until 1960, publishing 71 issues overall… it was a bimonthly briefly then a monthly until its demise (with a missed issue or two along the way). Thus it survived the collapse of the pulps in about 1955, and the American News Company disaster in 1957 or so, and even Sputnik. That’s not a bad run, all things considered.

But what does historian of the field Mike Ashley say of it (in Tymn/Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines):

Fantastic Universe was born at the height of the SF magazine boom in 1953, and perhaps the most surprising fact about it was that it survived the boom and appeared regularly throughout the rest of the 1950s.  Because if FU had any distinguishing feature it was its remarkable lack of memorable or meritorious fiction.


Alas, a skim through the TOCs of its run supports that notion: the most memorable stories were perhaps “Short in the Chest,” by “Idris Seabright” (Margaret St. Clair); “The Large Ant,” by Howard Fast; “Be My Guest,” by Damon Knight; and Robert Silverberg’s “Road to Nightfall.”

Add a couple of stories more famous for either their novel expansion, or the movie version: Algis Budrys’ “Who?” and Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” and a couple decent but minor stories each by Poul Anderson and Jack Vance, oh, and say Walter Miller’s “The Hoofer” and Avram Davidson’s “The Bounty Hunter.” There was a short Borges story in translation as well (before Borges was all that well known in the US). Not all that much to show for 71 issues: even these stories I mention are solid works but not their authors at their very best.

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January Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1743017Z1jBJggOHere we are again with a new batch of short stories for your reading pleasure. Some were good, some were alright, you know, the usual. Remember, though, whatever I write about these stories, take the time to go check them out yourself and let the writers and magazines know what you think.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine Issue 36 marks three years of continuous publication and is one of its best in a while. The first tale, “The Fourth River” by Brandon Ketchum, is a good old bit of monster-fighting set in the forests of a magical land called Ohio, in a seventeenth century filled with fantastical beasts. The story tells of the violent encounter between a party of colonial traders and a bunch of Shawnee with a Kinepikwa — a giant serpent with antlers and the power to paralyze any unlucky enough to view the evil gem embedded on its brow.

“The Fourth River” is good example of the continuing movement by some writers away from the too, too common medieval trappings of much fantasy. There’s not much to the characters — they’re too busy struggling to save the Ohio Territories from destruction — but Ketchum does a good job limning out his alternate reality in six thousand words.

Issue #36′s second story is “Warden’s Legacy” by Daniel Moley. It’s only his second published story, but it feel like it’s part of a much longer tale. Dane is a talented soldier hoping to join up with an elite unit, the Phantoms. They are the frontline in a war against a force of wizards bent on resurrecting the Forshai, a race of reptilian beings who once ruled mankind. Not a bad story at all, with enough tantalizing refrences to a larger world to make me want to read more.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1951: A Retro-Review

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Galaxy June 1951-smallHere’s a review of a magazine issue that Matthew Wuertz has already covered here in his excellent ongoing traversal of Galaxy from its beginning … but I happened to read it and John O’Neill assures me that another (not necessarily dissenting) view is always welcome.

This is from the first year of Galaxy‘s existence. To me it reflects an magazine increasingly confident of its place. The cover doesn’t illustrate any story: it’s by Ed Emshwiller, titled “Relics of an Extinct Race”, and it depicts lizard-like aliens investigating rock strata containing remnants of human civilization.

The back cover advertises a book called The Education of a French Model, which was the memoirs of “Kiki de Montparnasse” (real name Alice Prin), who was somewhat famous as a nude model, and mistress of, among others, Man Ray, in the early part of the 20th Century. Her memoirs featured an introduction by Ernest Hemingway, which the ad happily trumpets. Other ads were for Saran Plastic Seat Covers, and for weight reducing chewing gum (called Kelpidine!), and other than that for books.

Interior illustrations were by Elizabeth MacIntyre, David Stone, David Maus, and “Willer” — this last a somewhat transparent (and, I would have thought, unnecessary) pseudonym for Ed Emshwiller (who usually signed his word Emsh). I note that except for Emshwiller the names are all unfamiliar, suggesting that H. L. Gold may have been looking for “new blood.” (For that matter, Emshwiller was “new blood” himself, a Gold discovery who had only begun illustrating for the SF magazines that year. It’s just that he’s the one of these illustrators who became a legend.)

Elizabeth MacIntyre is interesting as one of very few women SF illustrators in that era (the only other one I can think of offhand is the great Weird Tales artist Margaret Brundage). Todd Mason suggests, I think sensibly, that both the different set of illustrators and the unexpected advertisements can be attributed to Galaxy‘s publisher, World Editions, which had wider ambitions than just publishing SF.

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Clarkesworld 101 now on Sale

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

Clarkesworld 101-smallIssue 101 of Clarkesworld contains fiction from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Greg Van Eekhout, Nicola Griffith, and others. Non-fiction includes “What in the World Do They Want, Anyway? The Myth of the Friendly Alien” by Mark Cole, “Another Word: YA is the New Black” by Dawn Metalf, interviews with Locus editor Liza Groen Trombi and Chinese author Tang Fei, and an editorial, “The Next Hundred,” by Neil Clarke.

This issue’s podcast is “The Last Surviving Gondola Widow,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, read by Kate Baker.

Why should you pay attention to Clarkesworld? It’s a three-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, and stories from the magazine have been nominated (and won) countless awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and Stoker Awards. In 2013 Clarkesworld received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines (Asimov’sAnalog, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) combined, and last November the magazine was awarded a World Fantasy Award.

We last covered Clarkesworld with Issue 100. If you prefer print, I highly recommend Clarkesworld: Year Six edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace — an inexpensive and a great way to introduce yourself to Clarkesworld. Every purchase helps support the magazine… definitely worth considering if you’re a fan of short fiction.

Clarkesworld 101 was published by Wyrm Publishing. The contents are available for free online; individual issues can be purchased for $1.99, and a 12-issue subscription is $23.88. Learn more and order individual issues at the magazine’s website. This issue’s cover, “Lady and the Ship,” is by Atilgan Asikuzun.

Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1952: A Retro-Review

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction June 1952-smallThe June, 1952 issue of Galaxy is another good one. It included six pieces of fiction and a science article by Willy Ley.

“Gravy Planet” (Part 1) by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth – Mitch Courtenay works at Fowler Shocken, the top ad agency in the world. And now, the agency has its eyes on the possibility of colonizing Venus with governmental approval to exclusively profit from the venture. Fowler Shocken chooses Mitch as chairman of the Venus Section, leaving Mitch to all the details around drawing public interest to going to Venus and actually making it hospitable.

Besides his work duties, Mitch tries to revive his failing marriage. His wife is a talented surgeon, but she’s seen Mitch try to pull her away from her career to become a housewife. With the news of his advancement, she’s willing to date him again, albeit with boundaries.

As if the stress of the campaign and a sinking love life isn’t enough, Mitch becomes a target. He narrowly survives two attempts on his life, and the private sector detectives aren’t much help. He pursues the man likely responsible for the attempts (along with sabotages to the Venus campaign), tracking him to Antarctica. Unfortunately for Mitch, he’s heading straight into an ambush.

“Gravy Planet” was published as a novel under the title The Space Merchants in 1953. It moves very well, and the futuristic world the authors seems close to modern in 2015. It doesn’t try to turn Venus into an Earth-like planet, but it’s not quite as inhospitable to life as we know it presently. (The Mariner 2 probe sent to Venus in 1962 measured surface temperature among other data, so the authors didn’t have access to all of that information.) Letting the details about Venus go, this novel (so far) is a great ride.

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