Future Treasures: Old Venus, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

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

Old Venus-smallA while back I was lamenting the disappearance of the modern SF anthology, and commenting that very few editors (or publishers, for that matter) have been successful at individual anthologies — let alone the anthology series, like the old Orbit and New Dimensions.

In so saying, I was overlooking the team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, who have produced a loose series of top-selling SF and fantasy anthologies over the last few years – including the massive heroic fantasy volume Warriors (2010), the star-crossed love story collection Songs of Love and Death (2010), the massive Jack Vance tribute Songs of the Dying Earth (2010), the urban fantasy-focused Down These Strange Streets (2011), the even massive-er 800-page Dangerous Women (2013), and the just-released Rogues (2014).

My personal favorite was Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do” — which, if you’ve read even a handful of posts here at Black Gate, you’ll understand is the kind of thing that makes me very happy. When I blogged about it in January, Gardner sent me this intriguing message:

Glad you enjoyed it… If you liked this one, keep an eye out for Old Venus from the same publisher; same kind of thing, although I think it’s even stronger than Old Mars. Pub date is sometime in 2015.

I was delighted to hear it. Now Bantam has released the cover, and it looks gorgeous — and makes a terrific companion piece to the Old Mars cover. These will look very handsome indeed, back-to-back on my bookshelf.

Old Venus will be published by Bantam Books on March 3, 2015. It is 608 pages, priced at $30 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. No news on who the contributors are — when we learn more, so will you.


Vintage Treasures: Night Fear by Frank Belknap Long

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Night Fear-smallFrank Belknap Long isn’t well remembered today. He wrote nearly 30 novels, including Space Station 1 (1957), Mars is My Destination (1962), The Horror from the Hills (1963), and Survival World (1971), most of which have been out of print for over 40 years.

But his short fiction has fared a little better. Long was part of the Lovecraft Circle, and indeed was a close friend of Lovecraft’s for many years (James McGlothlin has a great pic of the two, accompanying his article on The Lovecraft Circle at the First World Fantasy Convention.) His contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, including “The Hounds of Tindalos” and “The Space Eaters,” are still highly regarded today.

Long’s short fiction was gathered in four paperback collections: Odd Science Fiction (1964), The Rim of the Unknown (1972), The Hounds of Tindalos (1978) and Night Fear (1979). They are long out of print, but most of his finest short fiction was collected in Masters of the Weird Tale: Frank Belknap Long (2010), a gorgeous limited edition hardcover from Centipede Press.

Night Fear collects fiction spanning nearly three decades from 1925 to 1953, originally published in the pulp magazines Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Unknown, Super Science Stories, and Dynamic Science Fiction. It includes the famous Cthulhu Mythos novella ”The Horror from the Hills,” first serialized in Weird Tales in 1931 and built on a dream H. P. Lovecraft had which Long incorporated in the tale nearly verbatim, and ”It’s a Tough Life,” a 1942 essay from Astounding Science-Fiction in which Long discusses L. Sprague de Camp’s 1940 article on bizarre terrestrial life.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer… In the Beginning, Part Four

Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

illo-Sax Rohmerrohmer2We already noted in our last installment that Arthur Henry Ward had adopted the pseudonym of Sax Rohmer for his relatively successful career as a music hall songwriter and comedy sketch writer. He would later claim that he worked as a newspaper reporter during these years, but that his articles were published anonymously. Allegedly he covered waterfront crime in Limehouse, but he also claimed to have successfully managed interviews with heads of state. There is little doubt the man was a great raconteur, but none of the anonymously published articles and interviews Rohmer credits himself with writing have ever been located by researchers. It is highly questionable whether he ever actually worked as a journalist or at least to the extent he claimed. What is factual is that he did begin having works published anonymously.

As a young man, he ran with a crowd of self-styled bohemians who occupied a clubhouse on Oakmead Road in London. Each member of the gang was known by rather fanciful nicknames with Rohmer being known as Digger. Their activities ran from simply hanging around the clubhouse to picking up girls and attempting various get-rich-quick schemes to avoid making an honest living. Some of their schemes were of questionable legality.

Around this time, Rohmer decided he would fictionalize their exploits. It is believed he authored seven stories about the Oakmead Road Gang. Five manuscripts were known to have survived their author’s death: “Narky,” “Rupert,” “Digger’s Aunt,” “The Pot Hunters,” and “The Treasure Chest.” All seven stories were submitted for anonymous publication to Yes and No. It appears only the first of the group of stories ever saw print. The surviving four manuscripts passed upon the death of Rohmer’s widow to Cay Van Ash. When Van Ash died in Paris twenty years ago, Rohmer’s unpublished manuscripts were being held by a friend in Tokyo (where Van Ash lived for many years while teaching at Waseda University). When the friend had his visa rescinded on short notice in 2000, he was forced to leave his  belongings behind, where they were junked by a Japanese family who thought the storage boxes contained worthless garbage.

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What Would it Look Like to Pull a Watchmen on Planetary Romance? Part III

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

flash-gordon-smallWhen we last left our intrepid blogger (me) two weeks ago and four weeks ago, he was blogging (very roughly) about the superhero genre, pre- and post-Watchmen, and the kind of light that Alan Moore’s Watchmen shone onto superhero comics, as well as the core elements of the planetary romance form. I was setting up this conversation about what a Watchmen-like treatment of planetary romance would look like, both the pretty parts and the ugly ones.

This is a fun exercise and it’s quite possible that I’m way off in what I construct next, so if I am, please offer up your ideas, views, suggestions. Debate is good!

And, I’ve been ending on a cliffhanger, like any good pulp. So now, here’s Part III, What a Watchmen Treatment of Planetary Romance Might Look Like….

We’ll need a hero, a youngish white male paragon to travel to another world, because that’s the core of the form. And let’s have the aliens of this world be as close to humans as possible in physique and psychology, otherwise other assumptions become much harder to play with.

While Carson traveled to Venus, Carter to Barsoom, and Rogers to the future by themselves, we may need companions for the hero, like Flash Gordon did. And for later grist for the dramatic mill, it will probably serve us that one is a strong, well-characterized, complex woman, preferably from another political viewpoint or culture.

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Future Treasures: The Baen Big Book of Monsters, edited by Hank Davis

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

The Baen Big Book of Monsters-smallMonsters!! And lots of ‘em.

That’s all you need to know. Big monster book comin’. A Halloween-themed monster anthology, with a tantalizing a mix of classic reprints and original stories, all featuring REALLY BIG MONSTERS. Contributors include names that will be very familiar to Black Gate readers, such as Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, William Hope Hodgson, Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz, Arthur C. Clarke, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, David Drake, and many more.

It even includes the pulp classic “The Monster-God of Mamurth” by Edmond Hamilton. And Harlan Ellison told us that story sucked when we wanted to reprint it. What does he know?

I approve of this Hank Davis fellow. His last anthology for Baen was the awesome In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, released last Halloween. This man is doing God’s work. Next time you run into him tell him he is blessed, and we’ll be rubbing elbows with the saints in the line to buy his book.

Here’s the book description, and the complete Table of Contents.

SIZE MATTERS

From the dragons of legend to Jack the Giant Killer’s colleague to King Kong and Godzilla, people have found the idea of giant creatures both scary and fascinating. Why so many should find accounts of a critter big enough to gulp down a puny human like an insignificantly small hor d’oeuvre or step on said human and leave a grease spot might be explained by the psychologists, but such yarns are undeniable fun.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer… In the Beginning, Part Three

Friday, September 5th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

illo-Sax Rohmerrohmer2“The M’Villin” was first published in Pearson’s Magazine in December 1906. Rohmer was still writing stories under the modified version of his real name, A. Sarsfield Ward. The story represented a quantum leap forward in the quality of Rohmer’s fiction and shows the influence of Alexandre Dumas’s swashbucklers.

Dumas remained a surprising influence on the author who still turned out the odd swashbuckler as late as the 1950s. It should also be noted that the character of Lola Dumas in President Fu Manchu (1936) is said to be a descendant of the famous author, while The Crime Magnet stories Rohmer penned in the 1930s and 1940s feature Major de Treville, a character whose surname suggests he is a descendant of the commander of the Musketeers from Dumas’s D’artagnan Romances.

Colonel Fergus M’Villin may be oddly named, but he makes for a fascinating character. An expert swordsman and fencing master, he is also a bit of a cad. The story of how he comes to avenge the honor of the man he previously slew in an earlier duel maintains the breezy good humor and spirit of adventure that colors The Three Musketeers in its earlier chapters. Rohmer thought well enough of the character to have penned a sequel, “The Ebony Casket,” but it was never published. The manuscript survived up until the year 2000, when it was junked in Tokyo by a family who did not imagine its worth to collectors.

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Vintage Treasures: The Best of Murray Leinster, edited by Brian Davis

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Murray Leinster UK-smallHere’s a vintage curiosity for you.

Last June, I wrote a blog article on The Best of Murray Leinster, volume 14 in Lester Del Rey’s famous Classics of Science Fiction line. It’s one of my favorite titles in a series filled with great books.

Then earlier this year, I stumbled across the UK version of The Best of Murray Leinster for sale on eBay, with a gloriously pulpy cover by Peter A. Jones. I mean, just look at that thing (at left, click for bigger version.) Any time a guy with a 6-inch knife takes on a monster bigger than a Winnebago, you’ve got my attention. Especially when it involves that much purple.

Of course I wanted it. But it was expensive — $16.99, including shipping — and I couldn’t really justify it. (But believe me, I was sooooo close.) Besides, there seemed to be errors in the listing. The book was edited by J.J. Pierce, not Brian Davis. Also, it was first published in 1978, not 1976 as the listing claimed. Unless there were two books with the title The Best of Murray Leinster which, ha ha, would pretty ridiculous.

Turns out publishing is a pretty funny industry. According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, there are two books titled The Best of Murray Leinster. The first, subtitled A Memorial Anthology Selected by Brian Davis, was published in paperback in the UK by Corgi in 1976, the year after Leinster’s death. The US edition, from Del Rey, didn’t arrive until two years later.

Well, that’s all the excuse I needed to order the UK version. It arrived a few weeks later, and I was delighted to discover that it’s a completely different book, with only three stories in common with its American cousin: “The Ethical Equations,” “Symbiosis,” and ”Pipeline to Pluto.” The remaining seven include some of Leinster’s more entertaining short stories, which were somehow left out of the US edition — such as ”Sam, This Is You” and ”If You Was a Moklin.”

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Part Two

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Shadow of Fu ManchuShadow ZebraThe Shadow of Fu Manchu was serialized in Collier’s from May 8 to June 12, 1948. Hardcover editions followed later that year from Doubleday in the U.S. and Herbert Jenkins in the U.K. Sax Rohmer’s eleventh Fu Manchu thriller gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith in New York on special assignment with the FBI. He is partnered with FBI Agent Raymond Harkness to investigate why agents from various nations are converging on Manhattan. Sir Denis suspects the object of international attention is the special project being handled by The Huston Research Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Morris Craig. However, Smith initially chooses to keep the FBI in the dark on this matter until he is certain.

The Si-Fan has succeeded in closing in on The Huston Research Laboratory by drawing a net around parent corporation Huston Electric’s director, millionaire Michael Frobisher and his wife, Stella. The Frobisher marriage is not a happy one. Michael lives in fear that his flirtatious wife is unfaithful to him and Stella is likewise tormented by a series of neuroses. The family physician, Dr. Pardoe, recommends an eminent European psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Professor Hoffmeyer, to treat Stella Frobisher. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frobisher are concerned that Asians have been spying on them, going so far as to break into their home and infiltrate their country club. As their marriage is not a healthy one, neither husband nor wife confide in the other, but rather let their paranoia grow until their nerves have frayed. What neither suspects is that Carl Hoffmeyer is really Dr. Fu Manchu in disguise.

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Vintage Treasures: Horrors Unknown, edited by Sam Moskowitz

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sam Moskowitz Horrors Unknown-smallI think of Sam Moskowitz primarily as an SF historian, perhaps the greatest the field has ever known.

His book The Immortal Storm, a history of early fannish feuds, is still read and discussed today, and his numerous biographical articles on 20th Century SF writers — published in an assortment of SF digests in the 50s and 60s — were eventually collected into two popular books, Explorers of the Infinite and Seekers of Tomorrow. He was a tireless advocate for SF, and was famously the chairman of the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City in 1939 at just nineteen years of age. He was so strongly associated with early pulp SF, primarily as a collector and genre evangelist, that Isaac Asimov dedicated Before the Golden Age to him.

But Moskowitz was also an editor of no little note, with some two dozen titles to his name. I recently stumbled on one of his first horror anthologies, Horrors Unknown (1971), which collects early 20th Century short fiction from Edison Marshall, Fitz-James O’Brien, Ray Bradbury, and many others — including a Jules de Grandin novelette by Seabury Quinn, a Northwest Smith novelette from C. L. Moore, and an incredible round-robin Cthulhu Mythos tales by none other than H. P. Lovecraft, C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long.

Two more horror anthologies followed this one: Horrors in Hiding (1973; edited with Alden H. Norton) and Horrors Unseen (1974). The latter was his final anthology. Sam Moskowitz died in 1997, at the age of 76.

Sam wrote fascinating and detailed introductions — author appreciations, really — for each story, and his love and knowledge of the field shine through in every one.

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Vintage Treasures: Big Planet by Jack Vance

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Startling Stories September 1952-small Big Planet Jack Vance Ace-small Big-Planet-Ace-1978-small

I’m embarrassed to admit that I became a Jack Vance fan only late in life. I blame a misspent youth.

I first discovered him through his short fiction — especially “The Dragon Masters” and “The Moon Moth,” two brilliantly imaginative tales of far-off worlds. But I was slow to discover his novels and I’ve spent the last few years trying to catch up.

The one I want to read next is Big Planet, his 1952 novel of a massive but technologically backwards world known simply as Big Planet, settled over the centuries by a host of criminals, malcontents, and outcasts from Earth. Claude Glystra is sent to Big Planet to investigate rumors of a dark plot against Earth, but his ship is sabotaged and crash-lands 40,000 miles from his destination. Glystra and his crewmates must undertake an impossible journey on foot across a dangerous landscape filled with aliens, human colonies isolated for centuries, and the treacherous agents of his enemies.

Big Planet was Vance’s first major SF novel, and it is one of the classic adventure fantasies of the 1950s. It has been reprinted over a dozen times. I have several different paperback editions — and they are, in fact, very different. All I have to do is figure out which one to read.

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