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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Blogging Sax Rohmer… In the Beginning, Part Five

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Sax-Rohmer-smallSax Rohmer 2-small“The Secret of Holm Peel” was first published in Cassell’s in December 1912 and was the last story Arthur Henry Ward published under the byline of Sarsfield Ward (having dropped the first initial A.).

Rohmer scholar Robert E. Briney rescued it from obscurity for the 1970 Ace paperback Rohmer collection of the same name. Many years later, Gene Christie selected the story for inclusion in the first volume of Black Dog Books’ Sax Rohmer Library, The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense, in 2011.

The story’s inspiration can be found in Rohmer’s article, “The Phantom Hound of Holm Peel,” which was first published in Empire News in February 1938 and was later collected by Rohmer scholars Dr. Lawrence Knapp and John Robert Colombo in the 2012 Battered Silicon Dispatch Box collection of Rohmer’s articles, Pipe Dreams: Occasional Writings of Sax Rohmer. The article was also recounted by Rohmer’s widow, Elizabeth Sax Rohmer, and his former assistant, Cay Van Ash, in their 1972 biography of the author, Master of Villainy, as well as by the aforementioned John Robert Colombo in his 2014 collection, A Rohmer Miscellany.

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Vintage Treasures: The Compleat Werewolf, by Anthony Boucher

Friday, December 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Compleat Werewolf-smallI like classic werewolf tales, in much the same way I like old-fashioned vampire stories. Tales of spooky nights, full moons, and ancient family curses are both frightening and warmly familiar.

Along with J. Francis McComas, Anthony Boucher was the the founding editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; he edited the magazine from 1949 to 1958, winning the Hugo Award twice for his efforts. He was equally acclaimed for his mystery novels, including Nine Times Nine (1940) and Rocket to the Morgue (1942), which featured thinly-disguised versions of Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Julius Schwartz, Henry Kuttner, Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton and John W. Campbell. He died in 1968. His 1969 collection The Compleat Werewolf is a delightful gathering of SF and fantasy tales originally published in the pulp magazines Unknown Worlds, Adventure, Astounding Science-Fiction, Weird Tales, and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Here’s the book description.

Anthony Boucher was long known as an important book critic and editor, master of languages and successful novelist. He was also a superb short story writer of science fiction and fantasy: inventive, prolific- and always entertaining.

The stories and novelettes in this titanic collection were chosen for the sheer virtuosity of their themes, moods, backgrounds; for their insights; for their laughter. They are wonderfully peopled by moth-eaten little demons, grim interplanetary predators, rebellious androids and dopplegangers; by humans with otherworld talents; and finally, not least, by one very special werewolf.

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New Treasures: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft and I. N. J. Culbard

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

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath-smallIn January of this year, I reviewed I.N.J. Culbard’s graphic novel adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness. And I loved it.

Since then, Culbard has produced several additional Lovecraft volumes, including comic adaptations of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Shadow Out of Time. And while I was at my local comic shop on Saturday, buying D&D dice for my kids, I spotted another one in the new arrivals rack: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, a thick 144-page adaption of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s lesser-known fantasies.

Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.” Randolph Carter embarks on an epic quest across a world beyond the wall of sleep, in search of an opulent and mysterious sunset city. When he prays to the gods of dream to reveal the whereabouts of this magical city, they do not answer, and his dreams stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, and beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath, and no one even knows how to get there — but that won’t stop Randolph Carter from trying.

While The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is not as celebrated as some of Lovecraft’s more famous work, it is highly regarded by many of his most dedicated fans. It’s also received several high-profile graphics adaptions in the last few years, including a gorgeous hardcover edition from P.S. Publishing (part of their new Pulps Library), and a Kickstarter-funded graphic novel from artist Jason Bradley Thompson. (And if you insist on going old school, of course, there’a also the Ballantine Adult Fantasy paperback.)

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was published by SelfMadeHero on November 18, 2014. It is 144 pages, priced at $19.95. There is no digital edition.


The Doom That Came to Lovecraft

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

santhulhuI turned 45 right before Halloween and once again I feel the cold claws of senescence tighten their grip around my throat. I used to pride myself on my memory, which, while not truly “photographic” – assuming such a thing even exists – was always extremely keen. Note that that I said “was.” Lately, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep the details of my wasted youth straight in my mind.

A good case in point concerns when I first encountered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. I know for certain that it was after I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons, but before Chaosium released its Lovecraft-inspired RPG, Call of Cthulhu. That suggests, then, the likeliest date is sometime in 1980, since, by then, I’d not only have acquired a copy of Gary Gygax’s masterwork, the Dungeon Masters Guide, whose Appendix N cited HPL as one of “the most immediate influences upon AD&D,” but had also made the acquaintance of older players who frequently extolled the virtues of pulp literature to my friends and I.

What I do remember is that, at the time, the very name “Lovecraft” sounded fantastical to me. I almost couldn’t accept that it was a real name, since I’d never heard of anyone with such a moniker before. This probably contributed greatly to the reverence in which I’d later hold his writings, a reverence that has only increased as I’ve grown older and had occasion to read and re-read his stories countless times.

What I also remember was that, not long after learning about the Gentleman from Providence, I rushed to my local library to find copies of his “books,” not yet realizing that most of his output consisted of short stories. What I found were battered copies of some of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy collections, along with the Scholastic Book Services edition of The Shadow over Innsmouth and Other Stories of Horror. The latter had a lasting effect on my imagination, thanks to its creepily comical depiction of a spectral inhabitant of the titular New England town. From then on, Lovecraft’s creations struck a powerful chord with me and, as I later learned, with so many of my fellow gamers. They were the epitome of horror.

How times have changed.

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Vintage Treasures: Revelations in Black by Carl Jacobi

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Revelations in Black-smallCarl Jacobi is a hard guy to collect.

Part of the problem is that he just didn’t publish many books. Five collections of horror stories in his lifetime. No novels. All of the collections were released through small presses, including Arkham House and Fedogan & Bremer, and only one was reprinted in paperback. Pretty thin pickings, especially if you like paperbacks.

However, the ISFDB listing for Carl Jocobi includes over 120 short stories, three chapbooks, and a poem, among other publications. Guy was certainly prolific enough, even if only a fraction of his output ended up reprinted in more permanent editions. He wrote for most of the major pulps all through the 30s and 40s, including Startling Stories, Wonder Stories, Ghost Stories, Thrilling Wonder, Amazing, and especially Weird Tales.

He was widely respected, too. Stephen King called him “One of the finest writers to come out of the Golden Age of Fantasy,” and his stories were reprinted in numerous SF and fantasy anthologies. They were also translated into French, Swedish, Danish, and Dutch.

On May 6th of this year, the marvelous Centipede Press released Masters of the Weird Tale: Carl Jacobi, the latest volume in their deluxe Masters of the Weird Tale series. Clocking in at 900 pages, with new and reprint art and lots of photos, it’s the definitive collection of Jacobi’s fiction. It’s also $350 retail. Considering that I recently bought a vintage collection of some 1,000 SF and fantasy paperbacks in nearly new condition for about a third that price, let’s just say that spending $350 on a single book is not a good option for me, and move on.

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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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