Sample the Best of the Pulps with Wildside Pulp Classics

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Amazon of Mars-small Far Below and Other Horrors-small Hellhounds of the Cosmos-small

Back in September, I wrote a Vintage Treasures article about Clifford D. Simak’s Cemetery World. Simak is one of my favorite authors and much of his work — especially his early pulp fiction from the 30s and 40s — is tragically long out of print.

While I was researching the article, I discovered to my delight that Wildside Press had produced several slender volumes reprinting some of Simak’s pulp short stories, as part of the Wildside Pulp Classics line. I mentioned two: Hellhounds of the Cosmos and Other Tales From the Fourth Dimension and Impossible Things: 4 Classic Tales. As soon as I was done with the article, I ordered a copy of the former. The paperback edition was just $6.99 and it was hard to resist. It’s hardly the comprehensive Complete Short Stories I might wish for, but it did include the title story, a novelette from the June 1932 Astounding Stories that had been uncollected and out of print for nearly 80 years. And that was pretty cool.

When the book arrived, I was very pleased with it. It’s an oversized trade paperback with a glossy cover and quality paper. As I expected, it’s quite short — 142 pages — but it includes four complete tales, and the price is right.  It also includes an (uncredited) introduction, as well as a nice review of Simak’s career and the themes common in his work.

Naturally, I went back on the hunt to see what else Wildside had produced in a similar vein. It wasn’t long before I found collections for Leigh Brackett (Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps), Fredric Brown (Daymare and Other Tales from the Pulps), E. Hoffmann Price (Satan’s Daughter and Other Tales from the Pulps), H. Bedford-Jones (The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps), Ray Cummings (The Fire People: Classic Science Fiction from the Pulps), Murray Leinster (The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Tales from the Pulps), and many others. Most were priced from $10-$15 or less (much less, for the digital editions).

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New Treasures: Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Gifts for the One Who Comes After-smallRecently I’ve talked at length (or “droned on and on,” as a few friendly readers have commented) about wandering through the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention and discovering the splendid books produced by many of the most dynamic and exciting small press publishers in the industry, including  ValancourtHippocampus Press, Chizine, Prime Books, Taychon Press, and many more.

Of course, the Dealer’s Room isn’t the only way to discover fabulous new titles. Another is to talk to your fellow attendees and see what they recommend. Or you can attend the marvelous reading series put on by the convention. Or if you’re very lucky — as I was with Helen Marshall — you can do both. After hearing multiple rave review of her second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, from panelists, authors, and fellow attendees, I was able to change my schedule  at the last minute and slip into Helen’s reading — where I was thoroughly delighted. I dashed down to the Dealer’s Room and bought her book immediately. She is a major new talent, and you should investigate her work as soon as possible. I know I am.

Ghost thumbs. Microscopic dogs. One very sad can of tomato soup.

Helen Marshall’s second fiction collection offers a series of twisted surrealities that explore the legacies we pass on to our children. A son seeks to reconnect with his father through a telescope that sees into the past. A young girl discovers what lies on the other side of her mother’s bellybutton. Death’s wife prepares herself for a very special funeral.

In Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Marshall delivers seventeen tales of love and loss shot through with a profound sense of wonder. Dazzling, disturbing, and deeply moving.

Gifts for the One Who Comes After was published by ChiZine Publications on September 16, 2014. It is 268 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Erik Mohr.

Keep Your Blaster Close: The Many Horrors of Outbreak: Deep Space

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Outbreak Deep Space-smallBeing at the Games Plus Fall Auction can be an exhilarating experience. Take my discovery of Outbreak: Deep Space, just as an example.

There I am, sitting in the second row of the auction on October 4th, ninety minutes into the auction, wondering if I’ve blown my budget already. I’ve just made the decision to add up my purchases when the auctioneer holds up a brand new copy of Outbreak: Deep Space and starts the bidding at $5.

What the heck is that?, I think. And then, I have no idea, but it looks fantastic.

I immediately hold up my bidding card. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to be intrigued by this strange gaming artifact. About a dozen bidders have their cards in the air, and the auctioneer quickly runs the price up to ten bucks. This is how you get in trouble, I remind myself. Bidding like mad on a book when you have absolutely no idea what it is. 

But my card stays in the air. The bidding hits 15 bucks, then blows past it. The cards around me are starting to waver and drop.

This thing could be on sale at Amazon for $10. Just because you’ve never seen a copy doesn’t mean it’s hard to find.

But I keep my card in the air. It’s a sharp-looking and professional bound hardcover — my instincts tell me it’s going to cost a lot more than 10 bucks to track down a copy if I miss out on this one. And besides… there’s more going on now than just bargain hunting. It looks like a science fiction horror RPG, and a very professional one. I’m deeply curious and willing to pay more than $15 for the opportunity to find out what it is.

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Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Best New Horror

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

25th-anniversay-edition-best-new-horror-1-small 25th-anniversay-edition-best-new-horror-2-small

Stephen Jones has been editing an annual Best New Horror collection since 1990. The first five volumes were co-edited with Ramsey Campbell; since 1995 Jones has edited them solo. The 25th volume, now retitled The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 25, was published by Robinson back in October.

Now PS Publishing is celebrating 25 years of Best New Horror by re-releasing the first two volumes in this groundbreaking series, with brand new comic-inspired covers by Lee Elias and Ken Bald. The first volume won both the 1991 British Fantasy Award and the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. They contain short fiction by Robert R. McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Karl Edward Wagner, Peter Straub, K.W. Jetter, Jonathan Carroll, Ian R. MacLeod, Kim Newman, Gene Wolfe, and dozens of others.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Best New Horror volumes 1 and 2 were edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell and published in trade paperback in September and October of this year. They are priced at £11.99 and £12.99 respectively. Get more information, including the complete table of contents and snaps of the gorgeous wraparound covers, at the PS Publishing website here and here.

New Treasures: The Shotgun Arcana by R. S. Belcher

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shotgun Arcana-smallWe covered R.S. Belcher’s first Golgotha novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, in April, as part of my review of the current crop of Weird Westerns. Now Belcher returns to the bustling frontier town of Golgotha, Nevada, a place that hides more than its fair share of unnatural secrets, in The Shotgun Arcana.

Don’t know much about this R. S. Belcher fellow. He doesn’t have a website, and his only other publications are two short stories that appeared in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 and Deep Cuts.  A background check on the Black Gate supercomputer reveals that he runs Cosmic Castle, a comic book shop in Roanoke, Virginia, and that interviewed him in October. That’s enough to make him alright in our book.

1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before — and some of them will never be the same.

The Shotgun Arcana was published by Tor Books on October 7, 2014. It is 400 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The deliciously creepy cover is by Raymond Swanland.

New Treasures: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Alexandra Monir Suspicion-smallEvery reader has a guilty pleasure. I know people who secretly read Warhammer 40K novels on their lunch hours. Not me — those books are great, and I read them proudly. (Except for Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons, which made me cry. I read that stupid thing three times, and I hate it every time. Magnus the Red, you’re a big doofus.)

No, my guilty pleasure is supernatural romances. It used to be easier to get away with the occasional peek, until my daughter caught me stealing her books and gave me that Dad, you’re being weird look. But honey, I just read them for the articles.

I knew Suspicion was going to be hard to resist the moment Taylor brought it home. I love books with creepy mazes. Plus Jessica Brody described the book as “If Alfred Hitchcock had directed Downton Abbey,” which, let’s face it, doesn’t make matters any easier. The killing blow was Amy Plum’s blurb on the back cover: “Take The Princess Diaries and add magic, murder, and mystery and you’ve got Suspicion.” Aaargh. I love all those things. Now I’m secretly reading it late at night, and I hope no one sees me.

“There’s something hidden in the maze.”

Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford has never forgotten the last words her father said to her, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

For seven years, images of her parents’ death have haunted Imogen’s dreams. In an effort to escape the past, she leaves Rockford Manor and moves to New York City with her new guardians. But some attachments prove impossible to shake — including her love for her handsome neighbor Sebastian Stanhope. Then a life-altering letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor in England, where she quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind Rockford’s aristocratic exterior. At their center is Imogen herself — and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.

Combining spine-tingling mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters, Suspicion is an action-packed thrill ride.

Suspicion was published on December 9 by Delacorte Press. It is 295 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Alison Impey.

A Preliminary Look at Dragon Age: Inquisition

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

daI-coverIf you or anyone you know are into video gaming at all, you’ve been hearing a lot about Dragon Age: Inquisition lately (Official Bioware trailer here). Bioware’s latest installment in the Dragon Age series was released November 18th, and some of us have vanished down the rabbit hole after it. Well, more than a few of us: it premiered to strong sales and consistently solid reviews across the board. And having played it, it’s not hard to see why.

A little background first. When I was ten, my brother got a Nintendo. Dating myself, aren’t I? The original grey brick. My brother loved that thing. And I loved watching him play. But when I sat down to play Super Mario Bros., I couldn’t get past the first few levels. I tried for a while, then gave up in absolute frustration. I was convinced I was terrible at video games.

Then Final Fantasy VII came out. By then, I was in college and lived with three other friends. My then-fiance brought home a Playstation and we all took turns playing obsessively. I discovered that I COULD play. In fact, I was pretty good at it. I just had to find the right kind of game.

Flash forward another :cough: years, and Dragon Age: Origins. My eldest daughter was a newborn nurseling, and I played through four times. So it was with great excitement (and many warnings to my husband about his upcoming increase in child-related duties) that I anticipated November 18th, 2014.

And I have not been disappointed.

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A Red & Pleasant Land

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

araplWhen I started school in the mid-1970s, our teachers used the New Macmillan Reading Program. The books in that program, in addition to featuring original stories, also included excerpts from world literature. I credit those readers with instilling in me a lifelong love of reading; to this day, I still remember many of the stories I read within their pages. In the seventh grade – this would have been 1981 or ’82 – one reader included a lengthy excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

The excerpt in question dealt with Alice’s encounter with Humpty Dumpty, in which the anthropomorphic egg boasts that  ”When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” He illustrated his point by quoting from the nonsense poem Jabberwocky. I can’t begin to tell you how profoundly I was impressed with and affected by this excerpt. Humpty Dumpty’s perspective was (and is) abhorrent to me and, along with Alice, I found myself feeling anger at his articulation of it. Despite that, I eventually memorized the whole of Jabberwocky (which I can still recite to this day) and headed to the library to read the whole book, as well as its predecessor, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I should clarify that, before this point, I was, of course, already broadly familiar with Wonderland and its denizens. Some of that familiarity was achieved via “cultural osmosis” – the same way I “knew” about, say, Davy Crockett or the Headless Horseman. These were things “everyone” knew about, regardless of whether or not they’d ever actually read a book (or even seen a TV show or movie) on the subject. And, as it happened, I had seen Disney’s 1951 film adaptation, inadequate though it was.

Seventh grade also coincided with the high water mark of the early years of my involvement in the roleplaying hobby. By that point, I’d been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs for a couple of years. My friends and I considered ourselves “veterans” and prided ourselves on how many different games we’d tried. I was also deep into the idolization of Gary Gygax. I hung on the man’s every word in the pages of Dragon magazine (though, to my credit, I never got around to building a literal shrine to him in my basement). It was probably through one of Gary’s articles that I first encountered the idea of combining D&D and Wonderland, an idea that initially struck me as bizarre, but that slowly grew on me as my love for both Carroll and RPGs did. Besides, I reasoned, if such a pairing was good enough for Gygax’s fabled Greyhawk campaign, who was I to think otherwise?

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New Treasures: Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Monday, December 8th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Haxan-smallI’ve written a few times now about the terrific finds I made in the Dealers Room at the World Fantasy Convention. I know I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, but when you have the opportunity to sample the very best new books from the most dynamic and exciting independent publishers in the industry, the need to share is pretty strong. So you’ll have to bear with me a bit until I get this out of my system.

I’ve already covered the treasures piled high on the Valancourt and Hippocampus Press tables, as well as Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine and Lois H. Gresh’s anthology Dark Fusions – Where Monsters Lurk! But I haven’t even mentioned the Chizine table yet, and that’s a serious oversight. A catalog of the agonizing choices would take more time than I have tonight, so I’ll have to content myself with the first book I bought: Kenneth Mark Hoover’s weird western Haxan, the first in a new series.

Thermopylae. Masada. Agincourt. And now, Haxan, New Mexico Territory, circa 1874. Through a sea of time and dust, in places that might never be, or can’t become until something is set right, there are people destined to travel. Forever. Marshal John T. Marwood is one of these men. Taken from a place he called home, he is sent to fight an eternal war. It never ends, because the storm itself, this unending conflict, makes the world we know a reality. Along with all the other worlds waiting to be born. Or were born, but died like a guttering candle in eternal night… Haxan is the first in a series of novels. It’s Lonesome Dove meets The Punisher… real, gritty, violent, and blatantly uncompromising.

The sequel, Quaternity, will arrive March 31, 2015.

Haxan was published by Chizine Publications on July 1, 2014. It is 250 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.

New Treasures: Dark Fusions – Where Monsters Lurk!, edited by Lois H. Gresh

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dark Fusion Where Monsters Lurk-smallA month ago, I was wandering the Dealer’s Rooms at the World Fantasy Convention like a kid in a candy store, finding treasure after treasure. I’ve already written about the great finds I made at the Valancourt and Hippocampus Press tables, and Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine.

But if I’d had to leave the convention with only one book, I think it would have been a pretty simple choice. Lois H. Gresh, author of the Blood and Ice and The Twilight Companion, and PS Publishing have teamed up to produce a glorious anthology of “weird tales, dark science fiction, dark fantasy, and pure horror” tales, Dark Fusions, subtitled Where Monsters Lurk!

It was released in a limited edition hardcover last year, but I didn’t set eyes on it until this year. Packed with original short stories by Cody Goodfellow, Darrell Schweitzer, Nancy Kilpatrick, James Alan Gardner, Yvonne Navarro, Mark McLaughlin, Robert M. Price, and many others, I knew I wanted this one the moment I set eyes on it.

Sometimes, darkness is internal, generated by our minds or bodies. Sometimes, it’s due to external devices, such as monsters, shadows, or lurking dangers. A dark fantasy story requires an otherworld, an imaginary realm, a supernatural story requires a creature or event that exists beyond our natural universe, and a dark science fiction story revolves around science gone bad.

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