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Amazing Stories Turns 88 and Celebrates with a Special Issue

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

amazing-2014Amazing Stories is one of those legendary magazines of the first fandom age. Launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback (ie: the guy the Hugo Awards are named after), it was the first magazine devoted to science fiction stories.

This forerunner status didn’t assure it success and the magazine suffered bankruptcy, changes in ownership, editorial style, legal troubles, and so it has had many incarnations.

In recent years, Steve Davidson and a small army have been making efforts to resurrect Amazing Stories as an e-magazine, at first as a magazine focusing on fandom, and now, more consciously approaching the role of a magazine that will be offering new fiction and a new editorial voice. But, as Davidson notes, baby steps is the key.

The 88th Anniversary issue features articles of science fact, articles about fandom, reprinted short fiction, and some new stories as well. It is a visually-powerful magazine, with some great interior and cover art, so it was beautiful to toggle through on my Kindle.

On the content side, I have strong feelings about the sf field and this magazine pulled those feelings in a couple of directions.

I’ll admit I floundered a bit trying to discern the editorial taste, until I looked at the first fandom context of Amazing Stories and the aura of nostalgia around the age and history of science fiction as a genre.

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Vintage Treasures: Subterranean Magazine, Issue #2

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

SubterraneanMmagazine 2-smallAfter the the 2014 Windy City Pulp & Paper show in April was over, I collected all the pulps, vintage paperback, fanzines, art books, and old magazines I’d acquired and packed them snugly in two boxes next to my big green chair. I’ve been digging into the boxes at my leisure ever since.

I highly recommend this. Strange as it sounds, it’s a little like time travel. Most of the old magazines I bought — including OMNI, Interzone, Weird Tales, Starlog, Cosmos, Galileo, and the great Fantasy Review — are from the 80s and 90s. Which means they’re largely concerned with the same group of writers, movies, and books.

After a few weeks of reading ads and reviews from the early 80s, you start to feel oddly plugged in to the state of the industry thirty years ago (and realize just how much good reading you have to catch up on – and I’m not even caught up on my reading from last year!)

You also start to appreciate what a fabulous resource magazines are. No one can keep up on even a fraction of the genre novels published every year. But the best fiction magazines will keep you current on the exciting, new, emerging writers, with a diverse range of short fiction — not to mention novel reviews.(And the ads. Let’s not forget the ads.)

One of the great delights I pulled out of those Windy City boxes was a pristine copy of the second issue of Subterranean Magazine from 2005, back when it was still available in print. The magazine is still very much alive and excellent as ever, published these days as Subterranean Online (see their latest issue here.) But nine years ago, you could curl up with a thick issue printed on quality paper, and believe me, it was definitely worth your time.

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Cemetery Dance #71 Now on Sale

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Cemetery Dance 71-smallCemetery Dance is a magazine I buy rather sporadically. I should probably remedy that, as its non-fiction features – especially their news and reviews columns – are consistently excellent. It does a terrific job of keeping you up on the latest in the horror field.

I’m usually a fiction guy, which is why their All Fiction Special Issues are particularly appealing. There’s only been two others in their 25-year history, so when I saw this one on the magazine rack a few weeks ago, I bought it immediately.

This issue has a stellar cast of contributors, including Bentley Little, Simon Clark, Darrell Schweitzer, Jack Ketchum, and many others. The cover is by Alan M. Clark, and the issue is cover-dated May 2014. Here’s the complete table of contents:


“In the Room” by Bentley Little
“Sacred Duty” by Simon Clark
“Odd Man Out” by Darrell Schweitzer
“A Million Miles from Graceland” by Christopher Reynaga
“Gorilla in my Room” by Jack Ketchum

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June Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1525953ATtCjv09It’s story time, kids! For the newcomers, that’s when I pore over the new short heroic fiction stories published in the previous month and let you know what I think about them. My goal is to shine a spotlight on the authors and magazines doing the yeoman-like work of creating new swords & sorcery tales and getting them into the reading public’s hands. It is my contention that S&S is a genre best served by short stories. I hope, with Black Gate as my bullhorn, I’m helping draw readers to some exciting and interesting new writing with each installment of the roundup.

For two-and-half years, Swords and Sorcery Magazine, published and edited by Curtis Ellett, has presented two new stories every month. That’s over fifty stories so far — the equivalent of four or five Lin Carter-edited anthologies. I’ve written before that the magazine’s sensibilities are pretty much exactly aligned with what it says on the masthead: swords and sorcery. But there are times the magazine shifts its focus a little.

By Any Other Name” by S. A. Hunter is about what happens when a nameless young girl and her guardian are visited by a minstrel. The girl suffers under a curse and despite strong warnings, the bard proves too persistent for his own good and tries to overcome it. The story and the minstrel put me in mind of a host of fairy tales that tell of the unfortunate older brothers who die before their youngest one shows up and saves the princess.

Keshia Swain’s “Inner Strength” is narrated by a trainee healer, Damali. When her mistress travels to spend time with her dying brother, Damali is confronted by intruders and finds herself drawing on heretofore unrealized reserves to confront them. There was just enough going on here to keep me interested and enough questions left unanswered to leave me wanting more.

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The Original Bug-Eyed Monster: Astounding Stories, May 1931

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Astounding Stories May 1931-smallPulps are my weakness. I discovered them when I was just 12 years old, in Jacques Sadoul’s marvelous art book 2000 A.D. Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps (which I discussed back in May). That book sparked a lifetime interest in pulp magazines, where American science fiction was born.

Of course, I was too young to have purchased or read any pulp magazines myself in 1976. Pulps died out in the 1950s, killed off by wartime paper shortages and changing economics. So I’ve relied on the collector’s market to supply me with magazines — an expensive proposition, especially if you’re a completist.

Over the years, I’ve gotten more discriminating in my collecting. I dearly love Planet Stories, Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder, Unknown, Air Wonder Stories, and many other pulps. But my favorite is Astounding Stories (later Astounding Science Fiction), the magazine which — under legendary editor John W. Campbell — ushered in the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, discovering Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and many, many others. Campbell became editor with the October 1937 issue and he quickly transformed the entire field. 

Curiously, the most expensive and in-demand issues of Astounding aren’t from Campbell’s reign, however. They’re from its first three years, 1930-1933, the period known as the Clayton Astounding, when it was owned by Clayton Magazines. That’s their symbol, the little blue pennant, in the top right of the cover at left.

Very little fiction from the Clayton period is remembered today — and if you’ve never heard of the Clayton Astounding, you’re not missing much. The magazine’s early editors, like most of the American public, didn’t really understand science fiction and mostly filled the magazine with thinly disguised westerns in space and early space operas. But the covers… ah. They’re a very different story.

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Reading the Entrails

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Lord of the RingsBrowsing about the Internet recently, I stumbled on something that interested me. Several things, actually. Specifically, the results at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database of various Locus audience polls; more specifically, the results of the all-time polls in the fantasy field. I was struck by how some things stayed constant across the years, and how some other things have changed.

Now, it’s important to be wary of making overly-sweeping statements about the fantasy field based on these polls. These are things that can be compared with one another; I don’t know if they can be said to have weight beyond that. But, given that, what can one take away from them?

Let me be precise about what I’m looking at. The polls that interest me are the 1987 poll for best all-time fantasy novel, the 1987 poll for best all-time fantasy novelist, the 1998 poll for best fantasy novel before 1990, the 1998 poll for best all-time fantasy novelist, the 1999 poll for best all-time fantasy author, and the 2012 poll for best fantasy novel of the 20th century (John O’Neill wrote about that last poll for Black Gate). There are also all-time polls for science fiction, and some older polls that just asked the Locus readership for best all-time author or novel without specifying genre; I’m interested in fantasy, though, so that’s what I’m focusing on.

You can see some constants in the rankings of the books, but also movement. Some books and authors fell out of favour, some maintained their positions, and a few new titles emerged over time. So together the lists are potentially a glimpse of how attitudes to the genre developed over the course of twenty-five years among fans.

But even assuming that the poll respondents represent a group relatively knowledgeable about fantasy, do the polls say more about fantasy or more about the Locus readership?

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July/August Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction now on Sale

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine July-August 2014-smallHoly cats! C.C. (Charles) Finlay is the guest editor of the July/August issue of F&SF.

How did this happen? Did Charles win some kind of contest? Did he travel back in time and convince regular editor Gordon van Gelder that the previously-planned July/August issue would lead to an apocalyptic future timeline? Was he selected in a process of elimination from a group of a dozen contestants in a grueling and deadly contest of wills?

Nah. Gordon asked him to do it, and Charles said, “Sure.”

Here’s how Charles says it went down on his blog:

About 13 years ago, I made my first short story sale… it was to Fantasy and Science Fiction – the magazine that published writers I grew up with, like Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Stephen King. That was a rush. Nothing since – not award nominations, not other short story sales, not book sales – has been quite as exciting as that first sale.

Until now.

I’ve wanted to try editing for a while. Maybe it’s all the workshopping I’ve done, the excitement of seeing a great story for the first time before anyone else gets to read it. Maybe it’s the time I’ve spent as resident editor at the Online Writing Workshops… So when F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder asked me if I was interested in guest editing an issue of his magazine, I immediately said “Yes.”

Actually, I think I said “HELL YES.”

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A New Literary Fantasy Magazine: A Review of Lackington’s #1

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Issue 1 CoverI live in Ottawa, Canada and despite being up to my eyeballs in the sci-fi and fantasy and geek scenes, I’m still caught flat-footed by the talent this city seems to pack in the woodwork.

I’ve blogged previously about our science fiction publisher Bundoran Press, our indie comic publisher Mirror Comics, and a couple of our writers like Geoff Gander, module-writer extraordinaire, and novelist Robin Riopelle.

This week, I was surprised by editor Ranylt Richildis, who, apparently not content with co-editing an amazing dark fantasy and horror anthology series called Post-Scripts to Darkness, decided to launch a new online magazine.

Richildis details Lackington’s very clear editorial vision in the foreword to the debut issue, where she quickly establishes how important storytelling rules are before eviscerating that concept and planting her flag on the goal that Lackington’s provides something different to the world. The territory she’s staking out is overtly literary, poetry in prose.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951: A Retro-Review

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction December 1951-smallGalaxy’s December issue hit newsstands with a holiday cover: Santa Claus smoking a pipe on an alien world in a restaurant patronized by humans and aliens. This was a very strong issue and I loved it.

There are other Galaxy stories I would place above those in this issue, such as Bradbury’s “The Fireman” or anything by Poul Anderson, but the contents of December 1951 are amazing. I couldn’t even pick a favorite story. Authors include Damon Knight, Fritz Leiber, and Jack Vance, so that might be part of the reason for its greatness.

“World Without Children” by Damon Knight — George is the last recorded birth for humanity, and even though that was 200 years ago, people still refer to him as The Child. The birth prohibition is firmly in place to prevent overpopulation — a reasonable precaution since scientists have figured out a way to extend a human lifespan by fifty times.

But even if it were repealed, very few of the populace would have the ability to procreate. George is part of a small group of individuals who realize that the trade-off for longevity was sterility, and since they cannot convince the government to take action, they plan to start an underground birthing organization.

The story seemed to start out a bit slow, but it soon moved into a cloak-and-dagger, resist-the-all-powerful-government thriller. I’m not sure if I liked the ending, though. It seemed too upbeat after everything else that took place.

“A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber — The earth has been ripped free from its orbit around the sun by the gravitational pull of a dark star. One family works together to survive in the frozen world.

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May Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1662641OEwJwWbpMay’s come and gone by several weeks, but I’m only just getting to the short fiction review now because, well, I was busy with stuff. I’m glad I’m finally getting around to it, though, because there were some really ace stories last month and I hope I can convince you to check them out for yourselves.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #28 starts off with “The Witch of Anûn” by Raphael Ordoñez. It’s the third story of his I’ve read in the past year (both reviewed here at BG previously), all set on the world Antellus, a “paleozoic counter-earth at the cosmic antipodes.”

Cuneaxe has brought his daughter, Una, to a thaumaturge to cure her of an “infestation.” When this fails, he is sent to a temple in the swamps. The clerics there send him in search of the titular witch. Willing to do whatever’s necessary to save his daughter, Cuneaxe journeys to the witch’s home. There he will meet danger he is willing to face and a deal he’d rather not.

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