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The 1939 Retro Hugo Award Winners Announced

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sword in the Stone T. H. White-smallBack in April, we told you about the nominees for the 1939 Retro Hugo Awards, for the best science fiction and fantasy first published 75 years ago.

The Hugos were first awarded at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention in 1953. The 1939 Retro Hugo Awards celebrate the finest work published in 1938, which fans would have voted on at the very first Worldcon in New York in 1939 (if the Hugos had existed in 1939).

The Retro Hugos were awarded at Luncon 3, the The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held from Thursday, August 14th through Sunday, August 17th, in London, England. The 2014 (non-Retro) Hugos will be awarded tomorrow in a ceremony just before the close of the convention.

The Retro Hugo awards were presented by Mary Robinette Kowal and Rob Shearman.

Without further ado, here are the winners:

Best Novel:

The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Collins)

Best Novella:

“Who Goes There?” by Don A Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)

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Collecting Lovecraft

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

HP Lovecraft Ballantine Paperbacks-small

Last month I wrote about the first Arkham House books I ever bought, the beautiful 3-volume 1964 edition of the complete stories of H.P. Lovecraft. It was a splendid purchase, and a great introduction to the master. But, as I mentioned last month, collecting Lovecraft can be a lot of fun, and that initial purchase robbed me of the joy of tracking down his fiction in paperback. Until I finally decided to do it anyway.

Now, if you’re going to start collecting Lovecraft in paperback (and why wouldn’t you?) I recommend starting with the 1958 Avon paperback Cry Horror!, originally released as The Lurking Fear. That’s a terrific little book.

Of course, it’s just one book, and one that’s pretty easy to find, really. Amazon has copies starting at $7.95, and eBay has around a dozen copies, starting at $6.99. You want more of a challenge than that, don’t you?

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Vintage Treasures: Sturgeon in Orbit by Theodore Sturgeon

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sturgeon in Orbit-smallA few weeks ago, I wrote about my surprise in finding a Theodore Sturgeon collection I hadn’t known existed: To Here and the Easel, a handsome Panther Books paperback from 1975 that never had a US edition.

That book re-ignited my interest in Theodore Sturgeon, whom I consider one of the finest short story writers to dabble in SF and fantasy in the 20th Century. And it reminded me that I have by no means exhausted the Sturgeon titles I already have in my collection.

So this week I pulled another one off my shelf — the 1978 paperback edition of Sturgeon in Orbit, which I’ve never read before. It collects a fine sample of Sturgeon’s work from the early 1950s, the era of flying saucers, national paranoia, and a newborn fear of nuclear Armageddon. It features mysterious alien invaders, noble scientists facing terrifying choices, and stranger things.

The unusual cover, by Stanislaw Fernandes, was a departure for Sturgeon, whose books usually featured abstract space scenes. This one features… well, I’m not sure really. A runway model wearing three capes and a swami headdress, who looks like she’s about to level up. I get it.

Whatever the case, it’s a nice, slender volume that promises to be something I haven’t enjoyed in a while – a very quick read. So far, it’s been a lot of fun and I look forward to finishing it this weekend.

Here’s the description from the back of the book.

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The Long-Awaited Return of Bulldog Drummond

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Dead Mans GateEven more than the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu, Bulldog Drummond has become more and more obscure with each passing decade. The original ten novels and five short stories penned by H. C. McNeile (better known by his pen name, Sapper) were bestsellers in the 1920s and 1930s and were an obvious and admitted influence upon the creation of James Bond. Gerard Fairlie turned Sapper’s final story outline into a bestselling novel in 1938 and went on to pen six more original novels featuring the character through 1954.

While the Fairlie titles sold well enough in the UK, the American market for the character had begun to dry up with the proliferation of hardboiled detective fiction. By the time Fairlie decided to throw in the towel, the long-running Bulldog Drummond movie series and radio series had also reached the finish line. Apart from an unsuccessful television pilot, the character remained dormant for a decade until he was updated as one of many 007 imitations who swung through a pair of campy spy movies during the Swinging Sixties. Henry Reymond adapted both 1960s screenplays for a pair of paperback originals, but these efforts barely registered outside the UK.

Fifteen years later, Jack Smithers brought Drummond out of retirement (literally) to join up with several of his clubland contemporaries in Combined Forces (1983). Smithers’s tribute was a sincere effort that found a very limited market to appreciate its cult celebration of the heroes of several generations past. Finally thirty years later, Drummond is back in the first of three new period-piece thrillers from the unlikely pen of fantasy writer Stephen Deas. In a uniquely twenty-first century wrinkle, the three new thrillers are being published exclusively as e-books by Piqwiq.

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My Inspiration: Black Canaan

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

Black Canaan-small

He was clad in ragged trousers, but on his head was a band of beaten gold set with a huge red jewel, and on his feet were barbaric sandals. His features reflected titanic vitality no less than his huge body. But he was all Negro — flaring nostrils, thick lips, ebony skin. I knew I looked upon Saul Stark, the conjer man.
– “Black Canaan,” by Robert E. Howard

A poor man, a black man, but still a king. A king with a realm he carved out himself.

In my first story collection, The Jack Daniels Sessions EP, there is a novella about a young boy who sees dead people. Very original, I know. The gist is that he has shamanist powers that have lain dormant in his genes. At one point, he is told a story about a plantation shaman who empowered the slaves with his magic, enabling them to sabotage the farm. There is also a legend about runaways joining up with Indians in the swamp, my own riff on the Black Seminoles. The boy’s exposure to his African roots is an uncomfortable one for him, sometimes physically so, as it is a part of his lineage he had no awareness of.

The episodes of slave revolt are based on history. It was also history I had to seek out myself. The teaching of black history in schools is such an insidious con job, it angers me to write about it. Fifty years ago, there were downtrodden blacks, then good white people passed laws and they could sit at a lunch counter. One hundred and forty-six years ago, there were slaves, then good white people passed a law and they were free. (Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot that slavery ended 500 years ago, or 600, or whatever it is now.)

The most we learned about slavery in elementary school was the cakewalk, and that as a form of cornpone entertainment, not the satire on whites that it was. American history classes largely leave out the stories of blacks’ role in their own liberation. They also leave out any information on Africa, continuing the stereotype of the continent as a savage place, not the fertile land of kingdoms it was prior to colonization.

Ironically, one of my earliest introductions to black liberation was a story by someone decried as a racist, Robert E. Howard’s “Black Canaan.”

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A Must for Sax Rohmer Fans – A Rohmer Miscellany

Friday, August 8th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Rohmer Miscellanysumuru-cover-final+flapsJohn Robert Colombo is a Canadian author and poet with over 200 titles to his credit. Apart from the acclaim his creative work has brought him, he is also a lifelong Sax Rohmer fan and collector, who has distinguished himself in this rarefied circle. A charter member of the now-defunct Sax Rohmer Society and early contributor to the society’s official publication, The Rohmer Review, Colombo never lost his passion for the weird fiction of this former bestselling thriller author. Rather late in his prestigious literary career, Colombo decided to contribute to Rohmerania by expanding the author’s catalogue in conjunction with Dr. George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box imprint.

Colombo edited the definitive collection of Rohmer’s female variation on Fu Manchu with The Sumuru Omnibus, a massive tome which brought together all five Sumuru novels, penned during the author’s last decade, and preserved them in their original unexpurgated text. Colombo also compiled a monograph of Sumuru’s aphorisms direct from Rohmer’s original text with Tears of Our Lady. The unique feature of the monograph being that this same title exists within the fictional universe of the books and is referred to and quoted from frequently. Now, thanks to Colombo’s efforts, Sumuru’s fictional monograph exists as a real world collectible. Colombo and Vanderburgh also competed (unknowingly at first) with Will Murray and Altus Press in publishing the first book to collect all of Rohmer’s tales of The Crime Magnet. Still later, they teamed to produce the first anthology of Rohmer’s non-fiction articles and autobiographical essays, Pipe Dreams, spanning the author’s entire career.

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New Pulp Delivers its own Occult Anti-Hero in Magee

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

22ca6069f22a20114e9bdbb1f223deb7f3ce43c715119I’ll come right out and admit I have mixed feelings about ebooks. I travel considerably for my day job and don’t mind having portable versions of books I own for quick reference, but the idea of owning books that cannot be found in print editions on my shelves at home irks me. That said, I recognize the market for digital-only titles is steadily growing, particularly among small press publishers. This, of course, is having its impact on the “New Pulp” community. Witness Pro Se Press’s decision earlier this year to discontinue their pulp magazine, Pro Se Presents and replace it with their Single Shot Signatures line of short stories available exclusively as ebooks.

My first sampling of the above is the newly published Magee, Volume One – “Knight from Hell” by David White. At first glance, I was struck by the apparent illustration of publisher Tommy Hancock on the cover, but on second glance I determined it was actually author David White wearing one of Tommy’s trademark hats. Of course, I was wrong on both counts since the illustration actually depicts the anti-hero of the piece, Magee.

Magee, it transpires, is actually the fallen angel Malachi who was exiled from Heaven after a fight over a woman with the archangel Michael. We’ll pause right here and note that David White is not a theologian and plays fast and loose with Christian tradition on such celestial matters. Following that disclaimer, we’ll make mention of the fact that Michael likewise banished the archangel Lucifer from Heaven following a similar fight. It seems that God is an absentee deity in these proceedings as He has abandoned Heaven to putter around in the Garden of Eden for several thousand years now.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Five – “The Final Count”

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

1189621421509Sapper’s The Final Count (1926) saw the Bulldog Drummond formula being shaken and stirred yet again. The first four books in the series are the most popular because they chronicle Drummond’s ongoing battle with criminal mastermind Carl Peterson. The interesting factor is how different the four books are from one another. Sapper seemed determined to cast aside the idea of the series following a template and the result kept the long-running series fresh, as well as atypical.

The most striking feature this time is the decision to opt for a first person narrator in the form of John Stockton, the newest member of Drummond’s gang. While Drummond’s wife, Phyllis, played a crucial role in the first book, she barely registers in the early sequels. One would have expected Sapper to have continued the damsel in distress formula with Phyllis in peril, but he really only exploits this angle in the second book in the series, The Black Gang (1922).

The Black Gang reappear here, if only briefly, and are quickly dispatched by the more competent and deadly foe they face. This befits the more serious tone of this book, which has very few humorous passages. The reason for the somber tone is the focus is on a scientific discovery of devastating consequence that threatens to either revolutionize war or end its threat forever. Robin Gaunt is the tragic genius whose invention of a deadly poison that could wipe out a city the size of London by being released into the air proves eerily prescient.

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The Original Bug-Eyed Monster: Astounding Stories, May 1931

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

Astounding Stories May 1931-smallPulps are my weakness. I discovered them when I was just 12 years old, in Jacques Sadoul’s marvelous art book 2000 A.D. Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps (which I discussed back in May). That book sparked a lifetime interest in pulp magazines, where American science fiction was born.

Of course, I was too young to have purchased or read any pulp magazines myself in 1976. Pulps died out in the 1950s, killed off by wartime paper shortages and changing economics. So I’ve relied on the collector’s market to supply me with magazines — an expensive proposition, especially if you’re a completist.

Over the years, I’ve gotten more discriminating in my collecting. I dearly love Planet Stories, Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder, Unknown, Air Wonder Stories, and many other pulps. But my favorite is Astounding Stories (later Astounding Science Fiction), the magazine which — under legendary editor John W. Campbell — ushered in the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, discovering Robert A. Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and many, many others. Campbell became editor with the October 1937 issue and he quickly transformed the entire field. 

Curiously, the most expensive and in-demand issues of Astounding aren’t from Campbell’s reign, however. They’re from its first three years, 1930-1933, the period known as the Clayton Astounding, when it was owned by Clayton Magazines. That’s their symbol, the little blue pennant, in the top right of the cover at left.

Very little fiction from the Clayton period is remembered today — and if you’ve never heard of the Clayton Astounding, you’re not missing much. The magazine’s early editors, like most of the American public, didn’t really understand science fiction and mostly filled the magazine with thinly disguised westerns in space and early space operas. But the covers… ah. They’re a very different story.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Four – “The Third Round”

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

510+vaEqotL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_20974339Sapper’s The Third Round (1926) marked a return to the more humorous tone of the first book in the series. Not only the humor, but the premise of that initial book is invoked with the decision to again build the plot around a spunky female whose doddering old father has fallen prey to heinous villains. All trace of The Black Gang (1924) and its doom-laden paranoia over England likewise falling prey to a communist revolution has been removed. In its place we have Hugh Drummond once again eager to escape the boredom of everyday life and engaging in comical banter with friends and foes alike.

The starting point for the adventure this time is the impending nuptials of Algy Longworth, Hugh’s old friend who has finally been reduced to the silly ass familiar from the stage play and film adaptations. The catalyst for Algy’s descent into idiocy is his having fallen head over heels in love to the extent that he now horrifies his friends by reciting poetry. So serious is his obsession with the girl of his dreams that he has become a literal walking disaster shunned by all who know him.

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