Vintage Treasures: Gateway to Elsewhere by Murray Leinster / The Weapon Shops of Isher by A. E. van Vogt

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Gateway to Elsewhere-small The Weapon Shops of Isher-small

And now we come to one of my favorite Ace Doubles: Murray Leinster’s Arabian Nights fantasy Gateway to Elsewhere, paired with the classic science fiction novel The Weapon Shops of Isher, by A. E. van Vogt.

Of the two, Gateway to Elsewhere is significantly lesser known. It was Leinster’s first fantasy novel, although he’d previously published two SF novels, The Murder of the U.S.A. (as Will F. Jenkins, in 1946) and The Black Galaxy (in Startling, March 1949). Gateway to Elsewhere originally appeared in a two-part serial in the seventh issue of the small circulation digest Fantasy Book in 1950/51, under the title Journey to Barkut. The entire novel was reprinted in the January 1952 issue of Startling Stories, still under the title Journey to Barkut, with a handsome cover by Earle Bergey (see below).

Two years later it appeared as half of Ace Double D-53, with the new title Gateway to Elsewhere, and a splendid cover by Harry Barton.

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Culture, Corporate and Otherwise

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!It’s been a while since I posted anything here at Black Gate. There’s no one reason; a number of things have kept me busy or occupied, most recently a persistent head cold and ear infection. I mention this because being under the weather has indirectly to do with the following post. Firstly, being sick led me to watch some TV shows which I now want to write a bit about. Secondly, my mental state shaped the way I thought about what I experienced; I can only hope now to capture the sense of coherence I had then. This essay will be more shapeless than usual, I’m afraid, an attempt to explain the connections that drifted through my mind between Alan Moore, Doc Savage, and Scooby Doo, among others.

When you’re feeling sick — or at least when I’m feeling sick — it’s sometimes restful to read or watch something familiar. As it was coming up to Halloween when I caught a bad cold, I decided to watch something spooky but unchallenging. And it turned out that Canadian Netflix had both the very first Scooby-Doo TV series, 1969’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears), and the most recent, 2010’s Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (created and produced by Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone, and Mitch Watson).

I’d read some very good things about the latter show, some here on this blog from Nick Ozment, so I decided I’d rewatch the series I knew from my youth and then see the modern reboot. Because curiosity takes many odd forms, I also ended up drifting around Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database, reading up on the creation of both shows. Which touched off a few reflections on the shape of stories, generational differences, and popular culture.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Seven – Temple Tower

Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

BD06-01Temple_Tower_1st_edition_book_coverTemple Tower (1929) was the sixth Bulldog Drummond novel and marked a departure from the series formula. Having killed Carl Peterson off at the conclusion of the fourth book and dealt with his embittered mistress Irma’s revenge scheme as the plot of the fifth book, Sapper took the series in an unexpected direction by turning to French pulp fiction for inspiration.

Sapper also placed Hugh Drummond in a supporting role and elevated his loyal friend Peter Darrell to the role of narrator. The subsequent success of the venerable movie series and the future controversies generated by Sapper’s reactionary politics and bigotry obscured the versatility of his narratives and led to his being under-appreciated when considered with his peers.

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Vintage Treasures: The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt

Friday, November 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt-smallWe haven’t discussed A.E. Van van Vogt at Black Gate very much, and that’s probably a significant oversight.

True, he’s primarily thought of as a science fiction writer (when he’s thought of at all these days.) But however you categorize him, van Vogt was one of the most important writers of the pulp era. I looked at one of his most famous novels, a fix-up of his early pulp stories from Astounding Science Fiction, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, back in September, but that’s really the first time we discussed van Vogt at any length.

Well, that leaves us a lot of ground to cover, so we better get started.

Van Vogt’s longer works include some of the most famous early novels in the SF canon, including Slan (1946), The World of Null-A (1948), and The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951). If you’re interested in sampling his shorter work, there are a lot of collections to choose from — including Transfinite: The Essential A. E. Van Vogt (2003), the deluxe, 576-page hardcover collection of his best work from NESFA Press (still in print, you lucky dog.) If you’re looking for something a little more economical, I highly recommend Transgalactic (2006), a handsome trade collection containing eleven short stories and a short novel, The Wizard of Linn, still in print from Baen.

Of course, you know how I feel. If you want to experience Van Vogt in the pure state, the way his original fans did, you should collect pulps, like any decent person. Failing that, I recommend tracking down a few of his most important paperbacks. Besides, that’s the truly economical approach.

I suggest starting with The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt, a generous sampling of his short fiction spanning 1941 – 1971. It was originally published in 1974 and is still easy to find and very inexpensive. Twelve of the stories within (plus Forrest J. Ackerman’s one-page introduction) appeared in a smaller paperback, The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt, in 1968; but this edition includes all of those stories plus three long novelettes, adding over 100 pages. It’s the one you want.

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Tête-bêche: Can a 2-in-1 Book Revival Offer New Life for Genre Novellas?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 | Posted by G. Winston Hyatt

Cat Rambo Near and Far-smallNovellas (usually considered to be 20,000 — 50,000 words) are notoriously difficult for authors to place with publishers, which is unfortunate because it’s a wonderful length for genre stories. Sword-and-sorcery, science-fiction adventure, hardboiled crime, and horror stories all lend themselves to lean, compact novellas.

Most short fiction markets top out at about 5,000-7,000 words, though, due to the practical considerations of available space in the publications, as well as available editorial reading time. Stand-alone novellas struggle even more.

Digital printing has eliminated the technical issues of shorter print editions in last-generation printing presses, but the length is unfamiliar to readers (who often are hesitant to pick up a smaller book).

This is compounded by pricing issues. A book needs to provide the publisher a certain margin of profit. However, a novella can’t be priced in the same way as a novel that offers two or three times as many pages.

This means it’s tough to price a print novella in a way that makes editing, layout, cover design, and publishing economically viable.

Some publishers have taken to releasing novellas in limited, collectible editions — a good route if the author already has an established following, but a harder sell for emerging authors.

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Vintage Treasures: Weird Tales #1, edited by Lin Carter

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Tales 1 paperback-smallIf you’ve hung around Black Gate for any length of time, you’ve heard us talk about Weird Tales, the greatest and most influential pulp fantasy magazine every published.

Weird Tales has died many times, and crawled out of the grave and shambled back to life just as often (if you’re a Weird Tales fan, you’ve heard countless zombie metaphors about your favorite magazine). When the pulp version of the magazine died in September 1954 after 279 issues, many believed it was for the final time. But it returned to life in the early 1970s, edited by Sam Moskowitz and published by Leo Margulies, and then perished again after four issues.

Bob Weinberg and Victor Dricks purchased the rights to the name from Margulies some time after that, and in December 1980 a brand new version appeared: Weird Tales #1, an original paperback anthology of horror and weird fantasy edited by none other than Lin Carter. On the inside front cover (under the heading The Eyrie, the name of the old editorial column in the pulp magazine) Carter introduced his anthology to a new generation of fantasy readers:

WEIRD TALES was the first and most famous of all the fantasy-fiction pulp magazines. It featured tales of the strange, the marvelous, and the supernatural by the finest authors of the macabre and the fantastic, old and new, from its first issue in 1923 until its 279th and last consecutive issue in 1954.

Now it is back, with all new stories — and even such an exciting find as “Scarlet Tears,” a recently discovered and never before published novelette by Robert E. Howard.

Over the years many great writers were published in the pages of WEIRD TALES, and now a great tradition is being continued into its second half-century.

“Scarlet Tears,” a Robert E. Howard story featuring his private detective Brent Kirby, never sold in his lifetime, and it’s not hard to see why (Kirby, a brawler who leads with his fists, doesn’t actually do much “detecting.”) Nonetheless, this kind of star billing for a Robert E. Howard trunk story gives you some indication just how much his reputation had grown since his death 44 years earlier.

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See a 1942 Pulp Magazine Rack in All Its Glory

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

1942 pulp magazine rack picture-small

The Shorpy Historic Picture Archive, a terrific photo blog which posts vintage high-definition pics from the 1850s to 1950s, has posted an absolutely gorgeous picture of a 1942 magazine rack, crammed to overflowing with pulp magazines, slicks, comics, and much more. It’s a reminder of what newsstands were like in the heyday of the pulps. Visible in the (much reduced) image above are Astounding, Planet Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Future, Fantastic Adventures, and nearly a hundred others.

What’s truly unusual about this image is that it’s in color. The original image, however, is black and white — the finished product was hand colorized after nearly a year of painstaking detective work, matching the pulp images in the racks (sometimes barely visible) to actual covers. See the complete tale of the research involved here, and see the astounding high-resolution original (all 4.2 million pixels) here.


Sax Rohmer at Towers of London

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51xCPS2lXQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_190px-FaceoffumanchuA couple weeks ago, I finally read Mr. Towers of London, the posthumously published memoirs of Harry Alan Towers, the unflappable veteran British radio/TV/film writer-producer with well over a hundred works to his credit. It wasn’t Towers’s first stab at writing his memoirs, but this final work was notable as his most personal.

Anyone who actually knows major figures in the entertainment industry is likely aware of some of the salacious stories of debauchery, sometimes even criminal activity, that are never far from the surface. Towers’s memoirs are unique for being perhaps the most honest ever committed to print. If he pulls any punches or whitewashes any parts of his adventures, he can surely be forgiven for what he does dish out about himself and others.

That said, the most disappointing part of the book for me is that he tells the reader very little about his experiences as a writer. I would have loved to have understood more about the more private side of his profession as the book places all of the emphasis on his role as a producer. Today, he is unfairly remembered as the producer of genre films and exploitation fare. While that accounted for much of his output after 1960, he was also a respected writer-producer of family drama who frequently cast some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in his radio, TV, and film productions.

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The Best One-Sentence Reviews of H.P. Lovecraft: Announcing the Winners of The Madness of Cthulhu

Monday, October 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Madness of Cthulhu-smallEarlier this month month, we invited Black Gate readers to send us a one-sentence review of their favorite H.P. Lovecraft tale.

In return, we offered to give out two copies of S.T. Joshi’s major new horror anthology, The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One, on sale this month from Titan Books. The winners were randomly drawn from a list of all qualified entries.

And what entries they were! This was the most popular contest we’ve run in some time — by a wide margin. Before we announce the winners, let’s have a look at some of the best entries. We can’t reprint them all, but we can share the Top 20 or so with you. (But fret not — all qualifying entries received before October 21 were included in the drawing.)

We left the choice of what story to review up to you, and we weren’t too surprised to find most of Lovecraft’s most famous stories represented — starting with one of the most famous horror stories in the English language. A reader who went simply by “Bob” kicked off the contest with his brilliantly concise entry:

What could possibly be better then rats…..in the walls?

The Rats in the Walls

Rich Miller beautifully sums up the appeal of this classic tale with his entry:

For fans of large rodents, ruined estates, underground caverns, degenerate humanity, and dark family secrets better left undiscovered, you can’t go wrong with this classic Lovecraft tale from 1924.

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The Savage Influence of Doc Savage

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Doc Savage magazine 1-smallToday I’m turning over the Black Gate rostrum to the talented Jonathan Wood. Take it away, Jonathan!

Doc Savage is one of the most influential and poorly known literary characters of all time. Forget Cthulhu, if you’re really looking for a pulp-era monster that’s torn through 20th century popular culture, he’s your man. But you won’t know him, because when you do encounter him, he’s always in disguise.

But make no mistake, he’s there. Because he’s Superman. He’s Indiana Jones. He’s every chisel-jawed action hero you can name.

Doc Savage first tore his way onto the bookshelves in the 1930s. The Man of Bronze. Golden-haired, golden-skinned, golden-eyed. A veritable Midas of two-fisted action. There wasn’t a problem he couldn’t punch out. There wasn’t a deus-ex-machina he couldn’t invent.

Seriously, what the A-Team needed a barn full of industrial machinery to invent, the Doc could probably do with a paperclip and some wax paper. He was the original infallible hero. Victory was assured.

And his true super-powers? Calisthenics and mathletics. This was pulp action madness at its deranged best.

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