Retro Review: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Edmond Hamilton’s Galaxy

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

SFBC edition (1977)

… square jawed heroes… solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower

He remembered his father, the Valkar of years ago, teaching him from a great star-chart on the wall of the ruined palace.

“The yellow sun that neighbors the triple-star just beyond the last rim of the Darkness only to be approached from zenith or the drift will riddle you –”


Yes, as an escape from the current sadness-of-the-canines, I’ve been reading Edmond Hamilton. Ironic really, since Hamilton’s an author with rockets on the cover, square jawed heroes within, and solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower.

Actually, Hamilton’s politics evolved with the century.

His early books are all about paternalistic bureaucracies and mighty empires. His later books are more questioning, with bureaucrats as antagonists, and Imperialism something one might sensibly turn one’s back on.

(I’m torn here, because I want to say more, cite examples, but I don’t want to spoiler the books for you. If you like vintage SF, and haven’t read Hamilton, then you’re in for a treat. Imagine if EE Doc Smith could actually write. )

All that said, reading Hamilton for politics is like listening to Hendrix for theme and variation — it’s there if you insist on looking for it, but the visceral impact is much greater.

I think of Edmond Hamilton as Hubble Telescope fanfiction.

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Future Treasures: The Watcher at the Door: The Early Kuttner, Volume Two, edited by Stephen Haffner

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Watcher at the Door-smallWe’ve given a lot of space over to Stephen Haffner’s books here at Black Gate, and it’s for a very simple reason: no one else is doing the kind of superb work he is, bringing pulp authors back into print in gorgeous archival-quality hardcovers that are also within reach of the average collector.

Terror in the House, the first volume in The Early Kuttner, focusing on his weird-menace stories, was released in 2010. I dropped by Stephen’s booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago last week, hoping to find early copies of the highly anticipated second volume, The Watcher at the Door. No luck — but Stephen assures me it’s coming soon.

Henry Kuttner, alone and in collaboration with his wife, C.L. Moore, was one of the most talented and prolific writers of pulp SF and fantasy. The Early Kuttner gathers many of Kuttner’s earliest stories, most of which have never been reprinted. The series will run to three volumes.

The Watcher at the Door collects thirty stories published in a three year period between April 1937 and August 1940, in pulps such as Weird Tales, Thrilling Mystery, Strange Stories, Unknown, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and many others. The cover art is by Jon Arfstrom.

It was during this period that Kuttner married C.L. Moore, on June 7, 1940. They met in 1936, when Kuttner wrote her a fan letter. After their wedding, they wrote almost everything in collaboration, under their own names and under the joint pseudonyms C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, and (especially) Lewis Padgett, a combination of their mothers’ maiden names.

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The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Black Suns-small Ghouljaw and Other Stories-small The Wide Carnivorous Sky-small

When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.

I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.

One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.

I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)

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Future Science Fiction, July 1953: A Retro-Review

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Future Science Fiction July 1953-smallI’ve been tracking down some less well-known Jack Vance stories, and that’s what led me to this issue of Future Science Fiction.

Future was one of two magazines (the other being Science Fiction Stories  — in its later years sometimes called The Original Science Fiction Stories, though that was never its official title) that Robert A. W. Lowdes edited for Columbia Publications, off and on, first for a couple of years in the late ’30s and early ’40s, after which the titles were revived in 1950, and continued to be published until 1960, under a set of titles and numberings that frankly make my head hurt.

I’ve written about Lowdes’ magazines before, and noted that he always had a tiny budget and still managed to produce pretty fair issues. This issue isn’t a particularly strong one, but it does have a quite distinguished list of authors, only one of whom could be called “Little Known.”

The format at this time was that of the classic pulp, about 7” by 10” with low quality paper. The cover here is by Milton Luros, illustrating Charles Dye’s “The Aeropause.” The features include “Down to Earth,” an extended letter column, this time featuring mostly letters suggesting alternate endings to Clifford Simak’s “… And the Truth Shall Make You Free,” which had appeared in the March issue.

It seems Lowndes had requested just this. I’m not familiar with the story, so I really couldn’t make head nor tail of the discussion. The only name I recognized among the letter writers was Robert Coulson, later a Hugo winner (with his wife Juanita) for the fanzine Yandro (which began appearing in this year, 1953), and also a novelist (mostly in collaboration with Gene De Weese.) Coulson was also credited as cowriter on Piers Anthony’s Laser Books novel But What of Earth?, but that was entirely against Anthony’s wishes, as Coulson made a number of changes at the behest of Laser series editor Roger Elwood, changes Anthony completely opposed. (Thanks to Ian Covell for this tidbit).

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David Drake on E. Hoffmann Price

Monday, April 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Far Lands Other Days-smallDavid Drake, author of The Tank Lords, The Sea Without a Shore, and dozens of other fantasy and SF novels, was also the man behind Carcosa, a small press he co-founded with Karl Edward Wagner in 1973. Carcosa published only four volumes — including Far Lands Other Days, a 590-page illustrated collection of the classic pulp fantasy of E. Hoffmann Price — but ah, what volumes they were!

Andy Duncan has started a new blog, Past and Present Futures, and he invited David to share his memories of Price. Yesterday he shared the results. Here’s a slice.

In fact [Price] spent only 30 days in the Philippines before the 15th Cav was recalled to the Mexican Border where Pancho Villa was raiding. Shortly after that they were shipped to France where they acted as mule skinners unloading freighters in Bayonne, France. He had stories about the prostitutes in all three continents.

When WW I was over, Ed was on garrison duty on the German border. The army created a service-wide scheme by which enlisted men could take an entrance exam for admission to West Point. Ed was one of the extremely few who gained admission through that test. He graduated in 1922 and was briefly a 2nd Lieutenant assigned to a Coast Artillery unit in NJ. He resigned ahead of a court martial because he had gotten to know the battalion commander’s wife rather better than the major was pleased to learn.

I’ve told the story this way to make it clear that though Ed was very smart, he was also an iconoclast who was not even slightly interested in polite society or its norms. He was acting out in the introduction [to Far Lands Other Days], but I don’t doubt he meant what he said.

Read David’s complete comments here, and visit Andy’s excellent new blog here.

Vintage Treasures: Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II edited by Carol and Frederik Pohl

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Science Fiction The Great Years Volume II-smallI think it’s kind of cool that I can remember when and where I found Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II, some 36 years after I bought it.

In the spring of 1976 my friend John MacMaster introduced me to science fiction, by bringing me Shakespeare’s Planet by Clifford D. Simak and Piers Anthony’s Ox when I was home sick from school. I was in the seventh grade, and I felt very adult, reading grown up books instead of Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (not that there’s anything wrong with Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators — those books rule.)

I was thoroughly captivated by both novels, and afterwards began looking for anything labeled “science fiction.” One of the first items I found was Jacques Sadoul’s 2000 A.D: Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps, a dazzling art book containing hundreds of illustrations from American SF and fantasy pulps — showing stalwart men and women piloting spaceships into the dark reaches of space, curious aliens, sinister robots, mist-covered landscapes on far planets, and stranger things. It ignited a burning curiosity in me for all things pulp-related, and I began to haunt bookstores looking for any relics of that bygone era of pulp SF.

Shortly after we moved to Ottawa in 1976, I discovered that Canada’s capital was crowded with old bookstores, many of them hidden away in small shops on Bank Street and Sparks Street in the heart of downtown. I took the bus downtown every Saturday, returning home with bags filled with marvelous old paperbacks. It was in those crowded old shops that I first discovered Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, and countless others.

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Help Uncover the Birth and Rise of Science Fiction: Support the Futures Past Kickstarter

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Futures Past 1926-smallLast month I was delighted to shine a spotlight on the first issue of Futures Past, a new magazine devoted to covering the birth of modern science fiction. Futures Past was originally a highly-regarded print fanzine, which published four issues in the early 1990s, each covering one year of SF history, from 1926-29. Editor Jim Emerson has resurrected it as a 64-page digital magazine, with gorgeous full-color pages illuminating the highlights of science fiction publishing in magazines, books, books and even conventions. The first issue, covering 1926, was released last July, and it looks terrific.

Now Emerson has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a print edition of the magazine:

In the pages of Futures Past we will be covering in unprecedented detail, the birth and development of modern science fiction from 1926 to 1975. Unlike other science fiction reference works which offer a mere page or two to a given year, highlighting only the most notable items, we will be devoting an entire volume to each year. This will not only include comprehensive coverage of all the books, films and magazines published, but also in-depth review of less prominent topics such as early fandom, conventions, fanzines, old time sf radio plays and serials, as well as extensive consideration to international science fiction. Each volume of the series is presented in proper sequential order, beginning with 1926 when the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, was published.

The money raised by the Kickstarter will be used to pay for backer rewards, printing costs and computer upgrades, and content for future issues, including reprints and “new articles by the top science fiction writers and historians in the field” — folks like Mike Ashley and Bud Webster.

The campaign has a goal of $16,800, and will close on April 29. See all the details and pledge your support here.

Vintage Treasures: Science Fiction: The Great Years edited by Carol & Frederik Pohl

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Science Fiction The Great Years Pohl-small Science Fiction The Great Years Sphere-small

Science Fiction From the Great YearsOne of my favorite pulp reprint anthologies is Science Fiction: The Great Years, edited by Carol & Frederik Pohl and released by Ace Books in 1973 (cover artist unknown), and by Sphere in the UK in 1977 (cover by Peter Jones).

Part of the reason I like it is because it’s part of a series I remember very fondly. The second volume, Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II, was released in 1976. It was also part of an Ace imprint, Science Fiction From the Great Years, a line of 17 pulp classics edited and selected by Fred Pohl and published in paperback between 1972 and 1976. All bore the colophon at left. I first discovered pulps in the mid-70s, in Jacques Sadoul’s marvelous art book 2000 A.D: Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps, and finding these paperbacks on the shelves proudly proclaiming their pulp roots at around the same time was an exciting discovery.

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Vintage Treasures: Not Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Not Without Sorcery 1961-small Not Without Sorcery-small

Theodore Sturgeon’s first short story collection was Without Sorcery, a handsome hardcover published in 1948 with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. As you can imagine, it’s a tough book to find these days, even for collectors.

The paperback edition, released 13 long years later, dropped five stories and the introduction, and was re-titled Not Without Sorcery. It became Sturgeon’s tenth collection and was released in two editions, from Ballantine (in 1961, with a rather drab cover by an unknown artist) and Del Rey (in 1975, with a far more interesting cover from artist Darrell K. Sweet.) 1975 was the last time the book saw a mass market edition; it remained out of print for 35 years, until Kessinger Publishing did a facsimile reprint edition in 2010.

Sturgeon was a Campbell writer through and through, and all eight stories in Not Without Sorcery appeared in the two pulp magazines John W. Campbell edited: Astounding Science Fiction, and its sister magazine Unknown Worlds. The stories were published over a two-year period, 1939-1941. I’ve assembled some of the original covers below, because I can never resist an excuse to showcase pulp magazines.

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Vintage Treasures: The Boats of the Glen Carrig by William Hope Hodgson

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Famous Fantastic Mysteries June 1945-small The Boats of the Glen Carrig-small The Boats of the Glen Carrig Grafton-small

The Boats of the Glen Carrig was first published in 1907, and it has been reprinted countless times over the last hundred years. It is currently in print in no less than five separate editions, including multiple digital formats. In virtually every sense it is a classic horror novel, by one of the great 20th Century horror writers.

It wasn’t always recognized as such. In fact, after its first appearance, it languished for decades, before it was showcased in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in June 1945, with a terrific cover by Lawrence. It was reprinted in the seminal omnibus volume The House on the Borderland and Other Novels the following year, one of the most important and collectible volumes Arkham House ever published.

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