Art of the Genre: Owning a Time Machine

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Working with artist Den Beauvais on a new Chess cover was a thrill beyond words for an old art geek like me!

Working with artist Den Beauvais on a new Chess cover was a thrill beyond words for an old art geek like me!

It’s true, in a sense. You see, I work as the Art Director for Gygax Magazine, and as such I’m tasked with trying to recreate the artistic feel of Dragon Magazine circa 1984. So, I spend my days not only going over old art, but also trying my best to discover new talent that somehow reflects some of the best aspects of the OSR.

Certainly, there have been others that have tried this type of nostalgia-based marketing. Goodman Games comes to mind with their initial line of Dungeon Crawl Classics, and the same could be said for Rob Kuntz and his Pied Piper Press in the mid-2000s.

Still, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You can’t simply plug in old artists and make everything perfect. Talents evolve, and in some cases erode, and working with established artists who have trademark styles sometimes limits your ability to direct them inside a product.  Egos must be taken into account, as well as their vision versus yours, and finally how a price point that satisfies everyone can be achieved.

It can be a position of highs and lows, and I’ve had some great successes as well as failures along the way, but never once did I say ‘this just isn’t worth it.’

Why?  Because I love the art.  I love the artists, and having gone so deep into their world, I understand all too well the struggles they face on a daily basis. Each time I get the opportunity to pick up a phone, call an artist, and offer them work is what gives my job meaning.

Gygax provides this incredible vehicle to do just that, and when you finally get to hold the magazine in your hands, feel it just like you did that Dragon Magazine when you were in your teens, you understand just how special it really is.

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Robert Silverberg on Cannon Propulsion in Space

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Original Science Fiction Stories February 1959-smallIn my Sunday article on The Art of The Original Science Fiction Stories magazine, I called out the bizarrely goofy February 1959 cover (right), illustrating “Delivery Guaranteed” by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg). It’s the kind of gonzo image that only could have fit on a 1950s science fiction digest; but I was dying to know if Bob’s story actually had an intrepid couple piloting a cannon-powered wooden raft in space, and how the cover came about. Bob was gracious enough to answer; here’s what he said:

I often worked with Ed Emsh to produce cover/cover story combos for [editor Robert] Lowndes. Ed would come into the office with an idea, I would wrap a plot around it, Ed would go home and paint a picture, and I would write the story. It was Ed who thought a cannon might be sufficiently Newtonian to provide reaction mass in space; I agreed in delight, and that was how “Delivery Guaranteed” happened. (Randall Garrett sometimes wrote cover stories too, and one time Ed turned in a painting showing the drive room of a spaceship, with his signature, EMSH, on the base of the biggest gizmo. Randy promptly dubbed the gizmo “the Remshaw Drive” and made it clear that the four visible letters were part of the manufacturer’s label.)

I also asked about the cover of the November 1955 issue, illustrating Clifford D. Simak’s “Full Cycle,” which was re-used on the March 1959 issue of Double-Action Detective and Mystery Stories. (See the full article for details.)

In the case of the Simak/Silverberg story, Bob Lowndes was just being thrifty toward the end of the life of his magazine group, and recycled that Simak painting to use with my story in his crime mag a couple of years later.

Read the complete article here. And thanks to Robert Silverberg for being gracious enough to solve those mysteries for us!


Alien Quakes, Space Birds, and Door-to-Door Salesmen in Space: The Art of The Original Science Fiction Stories

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Original Science Fiction Stories May 1956-small The Original Science Fiction Stories January 1957-small The Original Science Fiction Stories November 1958-small

I recently bought a small collection of The Original Science Fiction Stories, a 1950s digest magazine that lasted for only 36 issues. I paid $18 for a dozen issues (including shipping), which was more than I usually pay for SF digests — but still a bargain, especially considering the great shape they were in. I was willing to pay a little more because I’ve had a hard time finding copies. Analog, Galaxy, F&SF — they’re all pretty easy to obtain in the same vintage. But Original Science Fiction Stories has done a good job of eluding me.

When they finally arrived, I was immediately struck by the cover art. It was vibrantly colorful and frequently gorgeous. But more than that, it was downright playful. Most SF magazines of the era took themselves very, very seriously, with intrepid, square-jawed explorers and sleek spaceships on their covers. But The Original Science Fiction Stories featured much more prosaic images, frequently showcasing less-than-heroic characters. They featured very ordinary-looking space pioneers reacting to an alien earthquake, a man on a remote planet hiding from a door-to-door salesmen, and a space-suited explorer dealing with an unexpected alien threat — a bird pecking at his air hose (all images above by Emsh).

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Art of the Genre: The Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers of the 1970s & 80s

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Dragon_88_Cover_largeToday would have been the 56th birthday of artist Keith Parkinson, and so I dedicate this post to his memory.

Over on my own Art of the Genre site, I talk a lot about Dragon Magazine.  And why not, there are tons of them, and most are filled with great artwork. Typically, I review at least one Dragon a week, and after doing this for a couple of years I felt it was high time I composed one of my infamous ‘Top 10’ lists here on Black Gate, this time around ‘The Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers of the 1970s & 80s!’

First off, apologies to the 1990s and 2000s, but you all didn’t make the cut for this list and I’ll have to address those two decades in a later post.

Now, for me, finding 10 ‘top’ covers is a hard list to make, primarily because so many Dragon magazine paintings have strong feeling of nostalgia attached to them. The greatest of these, of course, would be the very first Dragon magazine I ever saw, #88, with cover by Jim Holloway. That, in my book, is #1, but I’ll do my best to take a step back, evaluate with a more critical eye, and see what that list actually shakes out as.

And remember, I’ve been blogging Art of the Genre for five years, am approaching a quarter of a million unique page views, all for free, so please don’t troll my list, I think I’ve earned the right to post it, but feel free to share memories or your own favorites!

So, without holding you hostage any further, I present my list of the Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers from the 1970s & 80s!

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Black Static #41 now on Sale

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Static 41-smallLast month, I reported on the first issue of Black Static magazine I ever purchased, issue 40. I was very impressed.

Good thing, too, because I took a chance and bought issue #41 at the same time. I have no idea why two issues of the same magazine were simultaneously on the stands, but I’m glad they were.

On the magazine’s website is this friendly but blunt request:

Magazines like Black Static cannot survive without subscriptions and always needs more support than it gets. If you enjoy it please blog about it, review it, tell your friends, and encourage other people to subscribe. Thank you!

Truer words were never spoken. Magazines like Black Static are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. I hope this magazine survives for a good long time — but it won’t without reader support. In that spirit, I am very happy to shine a spotlight on Black Static here on the blog. If it sounds intriguing, I hope you’ll consider buying an issue next time you find yourself browsing the magazine rack.

Black Static is a British magazine of dark fantasy and horror, edited by Andy Cox. It used to be called The 3rd Alternative, until that magazine went on hiatus in 2005. It was acquired by TTA Press, the publishers of Interzone and Crimewave, and in 2007 it was relaunched as Black Static.

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Selling Short Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Fiction, Part I

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Asimov's Science Fiction February 2014-smallA little while ago, I blogged about The Economics of Short Fiction and feedback was that there’s interest in a short series (no pun intended) on the selling of short fiction, which is a fascinatingly complex topic.

To be clear, this won’t be about the craft of writing. I’ve got lots of thoughts on creativity and the craft, some of which came out in an interview I gave to the excellent podcast the Creative Writer’s Tool Box.

In this first post on selling short fiction, I want to tackle three important pieces: (1) finding markets, (2) knowing the markets, and (3) knowing yourself.

So let’s assume you’re reading this post because you’ve written a short story, of say 5,000 words, and you’ve never looked at markets before. That’s where I was about eleven years ago.

Finding markets

There are a few places that compile market information on publishers of short fiction. I know some people swear by others for their multifunctionality [like www.duotrope.com or The (Submission) Grinder], but I find www.ralan.com far easier to use because independent of filters, there’s a list I can just browse. I’ve donated money to Ralan because I find this site so useful.

At Ralan, under the banner, you’ll see links to click on Pro markets, Semi-Pro markets, Pay markets, and Token markets (which I believe was once called 4-the-luv markets, which seemed more evocative to me). Pro markets pay SFWA rates, which are 6 cents a word and more. Semi-pro markets pay 3-5 cents a word, pay markets pay 1-2 cents, and token markets are anything below that. Ralan also shows you the lengths they publish and any sub-genres (ex.: sf/f/h means they take science fiction, fantasy and horror).

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Clarkesworld 97 now on Sale

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 97-smallYou know, we don’t pay enough attention to Clarkesworld.

Clarkesworld, founded by Neil Clarke and edited by Sean Wallace, is one of the genre’s pioneering online magazines — and also one of its most successful. It has been published monthly for over eight years, since October 2006. Each issue is packed with fiction, interviews, and articles, and the cover art — like this month’s gorgeously gonzo piece from Sandeep Karunakaran — is consistently excellent. (Click the image at right for the full-size version.)

Clarkesworld is 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, for example, Clarkesworld received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) combined.

If you’re not fond of reading online magazines, Clarkesworld also makes its fiction available in ebook editions, audio podcasts, print issues, and in an annual print and ebook anthology. How convenient can you get?

Issue 97 contains four new stories from E. Catherine Tobler, Maria Dahvana Headley, Helena Bell, and Rahul Kanakia, as well as reprints from K. J. Parker and Alexander C. Irvine. Non-Fiction this issues comes from Brian Francis Slattery and Daniel Abraham, plus an editorial by Neil Clarke and an interview with Robert Reed by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 3 Now Available

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine 3-smallThe third issue of the new Fantasy Scroll Magazine is now available, and I’m very happy to see it.

Fantasy Scroll is edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Alexandra Zamorski. It’s a quality publication and issues appear online every three months. The contents include all kinds of fantastic literature — science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction — and run the gamut from short stories to flash fiction to micro-fiction.

This issue looks very solid, with original fiction from Piers Anthony, Alex Shvartsman, and many others. The cover art is by Suebsin Pulsiri.

Here’s the complete fiction Table of Contents:

“Descant” by Piers Anthony
“The Peacemaker” by Rachel A. Brune
“My Favorite Photos of Anne” by Aaron Polson
“Verisimilitude” by Alan Murdock
“Orc Legal” by James Beamon
“Kindle My Heart” by Rebecca Birch
“Burn in Me” by Carrie Martin

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Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1952: A Retro-Review

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

March 1952 Galaxy magazine-smallThe March, 1952 issue of Galaxy opens with a word from the editor, H. L. Gold. Gold introduces Willy Ley, who’s beginning his monthly department, “For Your Information,” that will vary from complete articles to brief reports on “significant developments in science.”

Along with the introduction, Gold states that a number of readers have asked what he’s like, so shares some details. Of his name, he writes, “Named H(orace) L(eonard) after a prompt casualty in the Princess Pat Regiment. I can’t pretend to be fond of my name, but I don’t use initials to escape it; that was decided upon by an editor, though other editors have used the whole thing. Having had 32 pen names, I find the problem shrug-worthy.” 32 pen names? Was he going for a world record?

About Galaxy, Gold writes, “Galaxy, of course, is my own dream come true. I know I sometimes push too hard, but that’s because everyone wants his dream to be perfect.” I’m glad he did. It was a good dream.

“The Year of the Jackpot” by Robert A. Heinlein — Potiphar Breen is a numbers guy — statistician, analyst, or any role where he can use his skills in numbers and patterns. The latest pattern is an increasing number of odd behaviors, such as women publicly disrobing for no apparent reason. He interviews one of the women, Meade Barstow, and the two of them begin meeting routinely. When the statistics show the approach of an unknown climactic event, Potiphar and Meade flee the city, hoping to avoid becoming a statistic of their own.

I couldn’t quite buy in to the premise of the story, but I let that go. It does move along pretty quickly, and when things start to go bad, they go really bad. And by that point, the predictability of it all isn’t as important as pure survival.

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Twelve Tomorrows: MIT Technology Review SF Annual 2014 now on Sale

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Twelve Tomorrows MIT Technology Review SF Annual 2014-smallMIT Technology Review has published two highly regarded SF anthologies over the past few years: TRSF (2011) and Twelve Tomorrows (2013). Both included 12 short stories inspired by recent developments reported in the pages of MIT Technology Review and featured an impressive list of contributors, including Neal Stephenson, David Brin, Brian Aldiss, Nancy Kress, Cory Docotorow, Joe Haldeman, and many others.

The 2014 edition has arrived and it looks just as impressive. Edited by Bruce Sterling and featuring original short stories by William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Bruce Sterling, Joel Garreau, Paul Graham Raven, Lauren Beukes, and Christopher Brown, this latest volume envisions the future of the Internet, biotechnology, computing, and much more.

It also includes a gallery of work by the great artist John Schoenherr and an interview with fantasy legend Gene Wolfe. See the complete details at the website.

The volume is currently available at better bookstores around the country. It’s also available for Kindle and the iPad, or in a three-volume bundle with TRSF and Twelve Tomorrows (2013) for just $29.95.

Twelve Tomorrows 2014 was edited by Bruce Sterling and published by MIT Technology Review on August 25, 2014. It is 234 pages in magazine format, priced at $12.95 for the print edition and $9.99 for the digital version.

The cover, by John Schoenherr, was also the cover of the original Ace paperback edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1967 (click the image at left for a high-res version).


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