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Vintage Treasures: The Shores of Space by Richard Matheson

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

The Shores of Space-smallI’ve told you about a few really excellent single author collections recently, including Eric Frank Russell’s Men, Martians, and Machines, Michael Shea’s Polyphemus, and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and Others. As long as I’m on a roll, I figure I should continue in the same vein. So this week, I want to talk about Richard Matheson’s 1957 collection The Shores of Space.

Matheson is rightly revered by both SF and horror fans as a genius, especially at short length. He passed away in June, at the age of 87, and was productive right up to the end — with new novels (Other Kingdoms, 2011, and Generations, 2012), collections (Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales, 2011), and even a new movie (Real Steel, staring Hugh Jackman, based on his short story “Steel” from the May 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.) That’s damned impressive… the closer I get to 55, the harder I find it just to summon the energy to change channels.

The Shores of Space was Matheson’s second collection (after his groundbreaking Born of Man and Woman, 1954) and it proved very successful, with half a dozen reprintings and new editions over the next 20 years. The last one was in 1979, with an intriguing (and rather purple) cover by Murray Tinkelman. But overall, I prefer the 1969 Bantam paperback (shown at right), with a defiant spaceman standing on a harsh alien landscape, ready to shake his fist at the first person who suggests he put pants on. You show ‘em, naked spaceman.

Here’s the back cover copy (it helps if you imagine Rod Serling reading it in a slow, urgent monotone).

A Shattering Journey into the Supernatural

Thirteen extraordinary stories that explore the slippery edge of madness — and beyond — into a chilling nightmare of bizarre and unexplainable occurrences… into a world where unspeakable horror becomes normal — where murky darkness from space works on the minds of men — in a time when creatures of dreadful, unearthy powers can control human beings… and humans create beings beyond their control. Weird fantasy and eerie imagination inspire stories of unforgettable force and unpredictable conclusions!

There’s some pretty good stuff in The Shores of Space. It includes, among many other fine tales, the short story “Steel” that was the basis for Real Steel.

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The Best One-Sentence Reviews of Edmond Hamilton: The Winner of The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Collected Edmond Hamilton Volume Four-smallLast month, we invited Black Gate readers to send us a one-sentence review of their favorite Edmond Hamilton novel or short story.

In return, we offered to award a copy of the long-awaited fourth volume of The Collected Edmond Hamilton from Haffner Press to one lucky winner. The winner was randomly drawn from the list of all qualified entrants.

Before we announce the winner, let’s have a look at some of the entries. We can’t reprint all of them, but we can hit the highlights. (But fret not — all qualifying entries received before April 20 were included in the drawing.)

We left the choice of what novel or story to review up to you and we weren’t too surprised to find the most popular topic was Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings series. Robert James Parker kicked things off with this review:

John Gordon, suffering from an existential crisis, agrees to travel through time and space to the far future where he gets caught up in a sweeping space opera full of cosmic space battles, beautiful princesses, and bizarre monsters.

Andy Sheets gets bonus points for a completely à propos Alan Rickman reference.

How can you not be enticed by a story about an out of step WWII veteran getting mind-swapped into the body of a prince 200,000 years in the future, hooking up with a foxy future princess, and battling The League of Dark Worlds, lead by a guy who should totally be played by Alan Rickman in the movie, with a super-weapon called the Disruptor, all tightly packed into a fast-moving novel not even 200 pages long?!

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Vintage Treasures: Men, Martians, and Machines by Eric Frank Russell

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Men Martians and Machines-smallLast Sunday, I posted the latest article in my Ace Double series, this time focusing on Sentinels of Space by Eric Frank Russell and Don Wollheim’s The Ultimate Invader.

It made me realize that I’ve given precious little coverage to Eric Frank Russell over the years — really, a pretty serious oversight, considering what a fine writer he was. So I thought I’d remedy that here, starting with his 1955 volume Men, Martians, and Machines.

Men, Martians, and Machines is something of a problem child for catalogers. Wikipedia lists it as a novel, but it’s really not — it’s a collection of four linked stories, three published in Astounding during World War II, and one original. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry for Russell lists it as neither a collection nor a novel, creating a separate category for it.

In some ways the book is an early precursor to Star Trek. The stories follow the exploits of the rough-and-tumble crew of the solar freighter Upskadaska City, known more commonly as the Upsydaisy, who follow their Captain as he takes charge of one of the first faster-than-light starships, the Marathon. Captain McNulty leads his mixed crew of humans, jovial tentacled Martians, and one robot on voyages of discovery to far stars and strange alien planets.

Star Trek fans will certainly enjoy these proto-Trek stories and see how they influenced that seminal series two decades later. For me, these tales represent something even more primal. When I think of Golden Age robot stories, I think of Asimov; when I think of military science fiction, I think Heinlein. When I think of tales of brave exploration and camaraderie in the face of the vast mystery and terror of deep space, I think of Eric Frank Russell.

It’s his unique voice, I think, and the poetry and humanity of his prose, mixed with all the marvelous ray-gun trappings of pulp science fiction, that makes him such a joy to read. Here’s a snippet from the first story, “Jay Score,” as our unnamed narrator meets with the imposing new emergency pilot shortly after blast off.

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The Mind and Soul of an Honest Creator: Paul Di Filippo on Robert Moore Williams

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Time Tolls for Toro-smallOver at Locus Online, author Paul Di Filippo reviews the latest in the Masters of Science Fiction line from Armchair Fiction, Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams, which collects a nice assortment of pulp fiction from Super Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Universe, Planet Stories, and Imaginative Tales from 1950 – 1959.

Like a combination of Asimov’s robot stories and Simak’s robot stories, “The Soul Makers” (Super Science Stories, 1950) takes us to the far-off year of 1987, in the middle of an atomic war. Humanity’s sentient robots are going AWOL, and the two men sent to discover the reason uncover more than they anticipated. Williams extracts a fair measure of pathos from the noble actions of the robots, and the inevitable doom and rebirth of humanity… “The Diamond Images” (Fantastic Universe, 1959) is one of those “Old Venus” tales so common in the consensus future history of this era. A butterfly collector named Wolder has made friends with the seemingly unsophisticated Venusians after eight years among them. But then his son arrives, unwittingly leading pirates to the treasure of the natives…

There’s an almost Ballardian feel to the opening of “To the End of Time” (Super Science Stories, 1950). A Venusian song, brought back to Earth, is literally driving people insane. Into the jungle wastelands of Venus, our psychologist hero Thorndyke sets out to find a cure, encountering a strange race of Venusians and the human missionary and his beautiful daughter who minister to them…

Reading this volume is no chore or dull swotting up of past history for academic purposes. The stories, however creaky at times, remain very entertaining and illustrative of the mind and soul of one honest creator, doing the best he could to enrich the soil of the genre.

Read the complete article here. We covered the launch of Armchair Fiction back in January 2012 and Paul’s review of Masters of Science Fiction Vol. #8, Milton Lesser’s A is for Android, last May.

Masters of Science Fiction, Volume Ten: Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams was published by Armchair Fiction on January 22, 2014. It is 320 pages, priced at $16.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition. No word on who did the cover… Emsh, maybe?

Last Chance to Win a Copy of The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four from Haffner Press

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

The Collected Edmond Hamilton Volume Four-smallIn a moment of weakness earlier this month, I decided to give away a copy of the long-awaited fourth volume of The Collected Edmond Hamilton from Haffner Press. Too late to back out now. How do you win one, you lucky dog? Just send an e-mail to with the title “Edmond Hamilton” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Hamilton novel or short story. And don’t forget to mention what story you’re reviewing.

That’s it. One winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

But time is running out — the contest closes April 18. If you need more inspiration. we recently covered several Edmond Hamilton books — including Starwolf and The Best of Edmond Hamilton — and we reprinted his very first story, “The Monster-God of Mamurth” (from the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales) in Black Gate 2.

Haffner’s archival-quality hardcovers  — including The Complete John Thunstone by Manly Wade Wellman; Henry Huttner’s Detour to Otherness, Terror in the House: The Early Kuttner, Volume One, and Thunder in the Void; Leigh Brackett’s Shannach – The Last: Farewell to Mars; and Robert Silverberg’s Tales From Super-Science Fiction — are some of the most collectible books in the genre and you won’t want to miss this one.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law. Or anywhere postage for a hefty hardcover is more than, like, 10 bucks

The Reign of the Robots, The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four was published by Haffner Press on December 30, 2013. It is 696 pages, priced at $40 in hardcover. There is no digital edition. Learn more here.

Forgotten Treasures of the Pulps: Tony Rome, Private Eye

Friday, April 11th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Miami HaleMiami PBOThe paperback original (PBO to collectors) was the immediate successor to the pulp magazine as the home of pulp fiction. Marvin Albert was one of the bright lights of the paperback original market for detective fiction.

Albert’s work is revered in France, where he is considered a master of the hardboiled form, but he is largely forgotten stateside since his work lacks the literary polish of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler and was never shocking like Mickey Spillane. Albert may not have broken new ground, but he did excel at crafting hardboiled private eye stories in the classic tradition from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Much like Max Allan Collins or Michael Avallone, he also supplemented his income by adapting screenplays as movie tie-in novels for the paperback original market. Oddly enough, Albert specialized in bedroom farces for his movie tie-in assignments, in sharp contrast to his tough guy crime novels and westerns.

Albert utilized a number of pseudonyms during his career (although many of these titles were reprinted under his real name towards the end of his life). He published three hardboiled mysteries featuring a tough private eye called Tony Rome in the early 1960s. The books were published under the byline of Anthony Rome, as if to suggest the tales being told were real cases.

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Kirkus Looks at The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press

Monday, April 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

judgment-nightThe legendary Gnome Press, founded by David Kyle and Martin Greenberg in 1948, put some of the most important SF and fantasy ever written between hard covers for the first time — including C.L. Moore’s Judgment Night and Shambleau and Others, The Coming of Conan and Conan the Conqueror by Robert E. Howard, Clifford D. Simak’s City, Robert A. Heinlein’s Sixth Column and Methuselah’s Children, Two Sought Adventure by Fritz Leiber, plus Arthur C. Clarke, Edward E. Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Leigh Brackett, Murray Leinster, A. E. van Vogt, and dozens of others. It kept the genre’s most important writers in print, at a time when they appeared only in magazines, and in the process introduced them to a whole new generation.

Andrew Liptak at Kirkus Reviews has dug into the history of the press with an excellent piece, part of his ongoing look at the origins of SF and fantasy in America. Here’s his retelling of one of Gnome Press’s most famous acquisitions:

In 1950, Isaac Asimov began looking for a new home for some of his short stories… Rebuffed by his current publisher, Doubleday (who wanted new material, rather than repackaged short stories), Asimov approached Greenberg, who was eager to publish his stories. Asimov pulled together nine of his robot stories… into a single volume called I, Robot. Gnome released the collection at the end of 1950, with some of the stories reworked to include his character, Susan Calvin, telling a larger story of the evolution of robotics. The collection was a successful one, and Asimov brought Greenberg another series of books for which he would be well known: Foundation. First serialized in magazines, Gnome brought Asimov’s Foundation trilogy to hardcover between 1951 and 1953.

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Win a Copy of The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four from Haffner Press

Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Collected Edmond Hamilton Volume Four-smallHaffner Press has released the long-awaited fourth volume of The Collected Edmond Hamilton and we have a copy to give away to one lucky winner.

How do you enter? Just send an e-mail to with the title “Edmond Hamilton” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Hamilton novel or short story (don’t forget to mention the title of the story). One winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog. To give you the idea, here’s my one-sentence review of my favorite Hamilton story, “The Man Who Evolved.” (read the complete story here)

Arthur Wright and Hugh Dutton visit Dr. John Pollard on the night he first tests a ray that allows him to experience millions of years of human evolution… and witness a deadly experiment that threatens the entire human race.

See how easy that was? If you need more inspiration. we recently covered several Edmond Hamilton books — including Starwolf and The Best of Edmond Hamilton — and we reprinted his very first story, “The Monster-God of Mamurth” (from the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales) in Black Gate 2.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law. Or anywhere postage for a hefty hardcover is more than, like, 10 bucks. Seriously, this thing is huge and postage is killing me.

The Reign of the Robots, The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four was published by Haffner Press on December 30, 2013. It is 696 pages, priced at $40 in hardcover. There is no digital edition. Learn more at the Haffner website.

The Thankless World of the Continuation Author

Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

black-eyed blonde hi res cover.JPGblack_eyed_blondeDespite the title, this article is not intended as a forum for a continuation author to lament how unforgiving his critics are. Bad reviews are an inevitability and, in this instance, I’m the one bad-mouthing another continuation writer. I do not feel pangs of guilt, since the author in question is not only talented, but very successful and lauded in his industry. In other words, I’m an insignificant mouse picking on an elephant and that hopefully protects me from charges of betraying one of my own.

I recently read Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, the first Philip Marlowe continuation novel in nearly 25 years. I can think of only one nice thing to say about the book and that is at long last Robert B. Parker need no longer be disparaged as the man who wrote the two worst Philip Marlowe mysteries. I am a fan of Black’s original historical mysteries, but my familiarity with his work did nothing to convince me he was a good choice to revive Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye hero, particularly when a talent such as Ace Atkins is active in the field writing new Spenser mysteries that do justice to the originals.

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New Treasures: The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith

Saturday, March 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dark Eidolon and Other FantasiesAt long last, Clark Ashton Smith gets a little respect.

The highly regarded Penguin Classics line — which scholars and teachers love to rely on when drawing up things like course reading lists — has been slow to embrace pulp writers, and especially pulp fantasy writers. But in the last decade or so they’ve been correcting that oversight, starting with Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, Oct. 1999, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, Oct. 2001, and more.) They’ve done a little better with other fantasy writers, including Lord Dunsany (In the Land of Time: And Other Fantasy Tales, February 2004), Arthur Machen, Shirley Jackson, M. R. James, and others.

Much of this has been the result of the efforts of editor S.T. Joshi, who now brings Penguin Classics their very first pulp sword & sorcery collection, gathering together the best work of the great Clark Ashton Smith.

Called “unexcelled by any other writer, dead or living” by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, a prolific poet, amateur philosopher, bizarre sculptor, and unmatched storyteller, simply wrote like no one else. Now, The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies, the much-awaited collection of poetry and prose from Clark Ashton Smith, introduces him into the Classics as a cosmic master artist who saw horror and wonder in all things, and in whose pen note a single sentence was safe.

This collection of his very best tales and poems, selected and introduced by supernatural literature scholar S.T. Joshi, allows readers to encounter Smith’s visionary brand of fantastical, phtantasmagorical worlds, each one filled with invention, terror, and a superlative sense of metaphysical wonder. The volume’s title story — a revenge tale that ends with macrocosmic stallions returning to trample a house they had formerly spared — is set in Smith’s Zothique story circle, in which the last inhabited continent on Earth watches humanity at the end-time regress to a pre-modern state.

The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies was published by Penguin Books on March 25. It is 370 pages — including 32 pages of Explanatory Notes on the stories by Joshi — and priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.

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