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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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: REH Goes Hard Boiled

Monday, March 16th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Steve Harrison's CasebookYou know how people say “No offense intended,” and then offend like it’s an Olympic sport? I’m a major Robert E. Howard fan. In fact, I think his writing in the Conan stories is the best you’ll find in the entire genre.

However, he was not much of a hardboiled writer. The pulpster did (half-heartedly) give it a try, with nine completed Steve Harrison stories, as well as one unfinished tale and a synopsis.

In February of 1934, Strange Detective Stories introduced Steve Harrison in “Fangs of Gold.” It also included another Harrison story, “Teeth of Doom:” except that it didn’t. Not wanting to include two stories from the same author in one issue, the magazine renamed the hero Brock Rollins, changed the title to “The Tomb’s Secret” and used a Howard pseudonym, Patrick Ervin!

The next month, “Lords of the Dead” (retitled “Dead Man’s Doom”) was going to appear in Strange Detective, but alas, the publication folded. That story remained unprinted until 1978. Though, oddly enough, its sequel, “Names in the Black Book,” was included in the May, 1934 issue of Super Detective Stories. Those readers were probably looking for some history on Erlik Khan, the villain in both stories.

The fourth and final story to see publication during Howard’s lifetime was “Graveyard Rats,” appearing only four months before the writer committed suicide in 1936.

“The House of Suspicion” was printed in 1976. In that one, Fred Blosser completed Howard’s “The Mystery of Tannernoe Lodge” and added Khan in to make it a trilogy with Harrison’s antagonist. “The Black Moon,” “The Silver Heel” and the untitled synopsis all saw first printings in the nineteen eighties.

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An Astounding Science Fiction Testimonial

Friday, March 13th, 2015 | Posted by John Boston

Astounding Science Fiction February 1958-smallI started reading Astounding with the February 1958 issue. 1958 was the last good year under editor John W. Campbell.

Consider the short fiction:

L. Sprague de Camp’s “Aristotle and the Gun”
Charles V. de Vet and Katherine MacLean’s “Second Game”
Fritz Leiber’s “Try and Change the Past”
Jack Vance’s “The Miracle Workers”
Clifford D. Simak’s “The Big Front Yard”
Rog Phillips’s “The Yellow Pill”
Katherine MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice”
J.F. Bone’s “Triggerman”

(Also Randall Garrett’s “The Queen Bee,” but we won’t think about that right now.)

The serials: two substantial ones by Poul Anderson, “The Man Who Counts” (a/k/a War of the Wing Men) and “We Have Fed Our Sea” (a/k/a The Enemy Stars), Hal Clement’s admirable if clumsy Close to Critical, and another Anderson, very lightweight but appealing to a 10-year-old, “A Bicycle Built for Brew” (The Makeshift Rocket).

Then the bottom dropped out. The only short fiction in 1959 on a level with the 1958 items cited were Ralph Williams’ “Cat and Mouse,” Chad Oliver’s “Transfusion,” A. Bertram Chandler’s “Familiar Pattern” (undeservedly obscure), and Theodore L. Thomas’s “Day of Succession” — and that’s being generous.

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

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallI think my favorite book of the year (so far) is George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s new anthology, Old Venus, which imagines Venus just as the pulp writers of old: a steamy, swampy jungle planet with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation.

Old Venus is a follow-up to Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do.” It includes brand new fiction from Lavie Tidhar, Paul McAuley, Joe Haldeman, Eleanor Arnason, David Brin, Garth Nix, Joe R. Lansdale, Ian McDonald and many others. Russell Letson at Locus Online offers an enthusiastic review, saying:

In the introduction, co-editor Gardner Dozois writes that he and George R.R. Martin were looking for a return to the ‘‘heyday of the Planetary Romance,’’ when ‘‘the solar system swarmed with alien races and civilizations, as crowded and chummy as an Elks picnic…’’ These 16 stories, mostly of novelette length, aspire to resuscitate not only the obsolete, imaginary planetology of Old Venus, but the iconography and tropes that filled the pulp adventure stories once set there: the rain-soaked frontier outback where questionable characters meet in roughneck saloons before setting out to find abandoned temples or lost cities, guided or preyed upon by aquatic or amphibious natives, pursued by hungry local fauna, and perhaps tempted by exotic-erotic possibilities…

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Vintage Treasures: Horrors in Hiding edited by Sam Moskowitz with Alden H. Norton

Friday, March 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Horrors in Hiding-smallHorrors in Hiding is the second in the trilogy of anthologies Sam Moskowitz edited for Berkely in the early 70s, and the only one we haven’t covered. The first was Horrors Unknown (1971), and the last (and the final anthology Moskowitz ever produced) was Horrors Unseen (1974).

It’s also the only one co-edited with Alden H. Norton, a noted anthologist in his own right, who co-edited four books with Moskowitz, including The Space Magicians and Ghostly By Gaslight (both in 1971).

I like Vincent Di Fate’s cover, which is moody and very striking. Although it’s awfully purple, and a little puzzling if you stare at it too long. (Is that dude eating a rock?)

The blurb on the back is short and to the point:

WARNING: Lock your doors before unleashing Horrors In Hiding. Ten grim and gruesome tales of the macabre guaranteed to chill your blood and shatter your nerves.

I count only nine stories, but let’s not be picky. They are grim and gruesome, and that’s what matters.

Moskowitz was a die-hard pulp fan, and half the stories within — those by Seabury Quinn, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, August Derleth and Ray Bradbury — are culled from pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Strange Stories. The rest — by Arthur Conan Doyle, O. Henry, John Kendrick Bangs and Nathaniel P. Babcock — are much older.

As usual, Sam wrote fascinating and detailed introductions — author appreciations, really — for each story, and his love and knowledge of the field shine through. Sometimes I think Moskowitz produced these anthologies just so he’d have an excuse to talk about his favorite writers.

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Vintage Treasures: Echoes of Valor III, edited by Karl Edward Wagner

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

Echoes of Valor III-smallAnd so we come to the end of our all-too-brief series on Karl Edward Wagner’s ambitious and highly regarded sword & sorcery anthologies. Echoes of Valor III was published in paperback by Tor Books in September 1991, just three years before poor Karl drank himself to death in 1994.

The three Echoes of Valor books are perplexing in some regards, especially for collectors. Wagner had taken a huge step towards literary respectability for Robert E. Howard in 1977, by compiling and editing the definitive three-volume hardcover collection of the unexpurgated Conan for Berkley: The People of the Black Circle, Red Nails, and The Hour of the Dragon. It’s clear that he intended Echoes of Valor to accomplish the same feat for a wider rage of his favorite writers, by assembling the defining collection of their best heroic fantasy in hardcover — and with non-fiction commentary that treated them to genuine scholarship.

It didn’t quite work out that way. The first volume of Echoes of Valor appeared only in paperback in 1987, and it had no non-fiction content at all. It was also burdened with a Ken Kelly cover that pretty obviously had originally been intended for Tor’s Conan line — I wouldn’t be surprised if most book shoppers in 1987 mistook it for just another Conan pastiche, and didn’t give it another glance.

With the second volume, Echoes of Valor II, Wagner finally got the book he’d aspired to. It appeared in hardcover in 1989 with an original cover by Rick Berry, and no less than eight non-fiction pieces (autobiographical sketches, forwards, and author appreciations) from four distinguished writers: C.L. Moore, Forrest J. Ackerman, Sam Moskowitz and Wagner himself.

Echoes of Valor II was one of the first books to treat sword & sorcery as serious fiction, and the hardcover format meant that Tor was able to sell it into libraries and schools across the country. It was a groundbreaking book for the genre. So it was a bit puzzling when Echoes of Valor III appeared three years later — exclusively in paperback, and with only one brief essay from Sam Moskowitz.

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Take a Visual Tour of the Early SF and Fantasy Pulps in Futures Past #1

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Futures Past 1926-smallI have a great curiosity about the beginnings of science fiction and fantasy in the United States — particularly what’s known as the Gernsback Era, beginning when Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories in 1926, and virtually created modern science fiction. Nearly simultaneously, Weird Tales (founded in 1923) was publishing the first stories of the greatest fantasists of the 20th Century: Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith.

So I was delighted to discover a brand new magazine devoted to covering the birth of modern science fiction: Futures Past: A Visual History of Science Fiction, edited by Jim Emerson. The first issue of this 64-page, full color magazine, subtitled 1926: The Birth of Modern Science Fiction, appeared in July 2014, and is now available in e-book PDF format. Future issues will cover the whole field of science fiction — including magazines, books, movies and conventions — year by year, in an attractive and easy-to-read format.

Here’s the description of the entire undertaking from the publisher:

Welcome to one of the largest and most ambitious projects ever attempted in the field of science fiction.  In the pages of Futures Past we will be covering, in detail, the birth and development of modern science fiction over its first 50 years – from 1926 to 1975. Designed in a yearbook format, each issue of Futures Past will cover all the works, people, organizations and events in detailed chronological order.

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