Vintage Treasures: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Voyage of the Space Beagle by van Vogt, A. E. Mission Interplanetary-small The Voyage of the Space Beagle 1963-small

And now we move to one of the great SF classics of the Golden Age: A. E. van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle, the tale of an intrepid crew of space explorers and their adventures on distant and deadly worlds, frequently cited as an obvious influence on both Star Trek and Alien.

But first, a few words about A. E. van Vogt, one of the greatest and most prolific writers of SF’s Golden Age, whom we haven’t discussed much at Black Gate (probably because he didn’t write a lot of fantasy). I read his classic novel Slan (1946) at an early age, and it had a big impact on me, pulpy and simplistic as it was. Van Vogt wrote nearly 40 SF novels between 1946 and 1985 — including the classics The World of Null-A (1948), The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951), and The War against the Rull (1959) — and published two dozen short story collections. He received the 14th Grand Master Award by The Science Fiction Writers of America in 1995.

Van Vogt has taken something of a beating from modern critics for his pulpy style and rather sloppy plotting, but he had many ardent fans, including Philip K. Dick, who said:

There was in van Vogt’s writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null A. All the parts of that book did not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think that’s sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else’s writing inside or outside science fiction.

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Beautiful Women, Alien Landscapes, and Santa Claus: An Ed Emshwiller Gallery

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Science Fiction Quarterly February 1957 Ed Emshwiller-smallEd Emshwiller was one of the greatest cover artists our genre has ever known. He painted hundreds of covers for many SF digests and paperbacks, primarily Galaxy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the Ace Double line, starting in 1951 and continuing through the late 70s. His covers were filled with beautifully detailed alien settings, sultry and mysterious women, strange technology, and eye-catching fashions — frequently all at once, as in the cover of the February 1957 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly at left (click for bigger version).

The Geeky Nefherder blog has posted a gorgeous gallery of 75 Emsh cover paintings, including some of his very best work. Many of the images are available in high-resolution (click each one to see the high-res pic).

Warning: You could easily waste a lot of time on this site (I know I did).

The gallery includes cover art from Space Stories, Galaxy, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fantastic Story, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Planet Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Infinity, The Original Science Fiction Stories,  Future Science Fiction, Venture, Science Fiction Quarterly, Super-Science Fiction, IF, and Amazing Stories — as well as classic covers for Andre Norton’s Daybreak — 2250, Galactic Derelict, and Star Born, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, Frank Belknap Long’s Space Station #1, Murray Leinster’s The Black Galaxy, Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, John Brunner’s Threshold of Eternity, and many others.

Even if you’re already an Emsh fan, you’re sure to appreciate having so much great art by the master together in one place. And if you’re not, this site will make you one.

See the complete gallery here. (And thanks to Charlie Jane Anders at io9 for the tip!)


New Treasures: The Casebook of Sexton Blake, edited by David Stuart Davies

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Casebook of Sexton Blake-smallI continue to accumulate these Wordsworth Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural whenever I can, as I find them consistently entertaining and well worth the price.

When I wrote about Mark Valentine’s anthology The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths, in the comments Paul R. McNamee remarked on an additional volume I wasn’t familiar with:

I just picked up their Casebook of Sexton Blake this week… it is surprisingly thick – 545 pages. 7 classic Blake stories by different writers between 1907 – 1923. A succinct introduction goes over Blake’s history – an evolution from Baker-Street-Residing-Pipe-Smoking-Holmes-ripoff to his own niche of catch-all pulp adventurer. I wanted to try these classic tales before delving into some James-Bond-mode stories from the early 1960s that a friend (Charles R. Rutledge) had sent me… When I ordered Blake Amazon was displaying the gray cover, but they sent me crimson – which has complete new artwork, I might add, not just a color scheme change.

I was intrigued enough to order a copy of The Casebook of Sexton Blake myself and it arrived last month. Paul is quite correct. There are seven pulp tales within, by six different authors. My copy had the crimson cover, with artwork by Nathan Clair, shown at right (click for bigger version), although there was a first edition paperback with more pulp-inspired artwork (see below).

It didn’t immediately help me understand who this Sexton Blake fellow was though, or why the seven stories within were written by six different authors. That was curious, to say the least. The Wikipedia entry for Blake cleared that up, however.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Six – The Female of the Species

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

female altFemale HC 1stSapper’s The Female of the Species (1928) is quite likely the best book in the long-running Bulldog Drummond thriller series. Its one failing comes late in the narrative and spoils it as assuredly as Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed yellow-face performance as Mr. Yunioshi sours Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) for modern audiences. As a devoted fan of both Blake Edwards and Sapper, I do my best to make exceptions for both artists’ failings, particularly when they were acceptable in the times they lived in.

In the case of the former, the suggestion of pornographic photos in Truman Capote’s novella could never have been transferred to the screen with an Asian actor in the role of Audrey Hepburn’s frustrated landlord. Edwards soft-pedaled the material and defused a scene that never would have slipped by the Production Code if handled dramatically by offering Mickey Rooney in a broad caricature of an Asian. It was a star cameo in a comic stereotype still common in television sitcoms of the 1960s and Jerry Lewis films. Audiences at the time laughed at the fact that it was Mickey Rooney making a fool of himself and nothing more. Today, the classic status of the film makes the sequence stick out as an unfortunate example of racial insensitivity in a fashion that does not taint comedies of the day which are now viewed as an example of what then passed for juvenile humor.

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What Would it Look Like to Pull a Watchmen on Planetary Romance? Part IV – The Conclusion

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

carson of venusWhen we last left our intrepid blogger (me) two weeks ago, he had blogged (see Parts I, II, and III) about the superhero genre, pre- and post-Watchmen, the kind of light that Alan Moore’s Watchmen shone onto superhero comics, as well as the core conventions of the planetary romance form. He had set up a planetary romance situation that was ripe for a Watchmen-like treatment, both the pretty parts and the ugly ones.

And now, Part IV, What a Watchmen Treatment of Planetary Romance Might Look Like….

So our classic, morally unambiguous pulp hero has overthrown the dictator. This is where the classic planetary romance ends, with the hero riding off into the sunset or basking in his successes. But in an Alan Moore universe, this is only the set up.

We have two other heroes, Radulovic and al’Barri, connected to other parts of the alien world’s society in less overtly heroic ways, and they see things that Smith does not. True, the dictator is gone, and ostensibly, some new, more benevolent power is on the throne, or perhaps it is even a presidency or prime ministership if we want to be more modern.

Without moral judgment of any kind, I will point out that dictators can have the effect of imposing an unwilling peace. Tito in Yugoslavia, backed by Soviet help, kept ethnic tensions between Serb and Croat and Bosnian from flaring.

And under Saddam in Iraq and Assad in Syria, the large-scale ethnic violence we’re seeing now was not occurring. To be clear, I am not advocating dictatorships. I note only that one of the major foreign policy risks of the modern world is touching a situation that could get even worse than it was before.

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

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallA while back, I was lamenting the disappearance of the modern SF anthology, and commenting that very few editors (or publishers, for that matter) have been successful at individual anthologies — let alone the anthology series, like the old Orbit and New Dimensions.

In so saying, I was overlooking the team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, who have produced a loose series of top-selling SF and fantasy anthologies over the last few years – including the massive heroic fantasy volume Warriors (2010), the star-crossed love story collection Songs of Love and Death (2010), the massive Jack Vance tribute Songs of the Dying Earth (2010), the urban fantasy-focused Down These Strange Streets (2011), the even massive-er 800-page Dangerous Women (2013), and the just-released Rogues (2014).

My personal favorite was Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do” — which, if you’ve read even a handful of posts here at Black Gate, you’ll understand is the kind of thing that makes me very happy. When I blogged about it in January, Gardner sent me this intriguing message:

Glad you enjoyed it… If you liked this one, keep an eye out for Old Venus from the same publisher; same kind of thing, although I think it’s even stronger than Old Mars. Pub date is sometime in 2015.

I was delighted to hear it. Now Bantam has released the cover, and it looks gorgeous — and makes a terrific companion piece to the Old Mars cover. These will look very handsome indeed, back-to-back on my bookshelf.

Old Venus will be published by Bantam Books on March 3, 2015. It is 608 pages, priced at $30 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. No news on who the contributors are — when we learn more, so will you.


Vintage Treasures: Night Fear by Frank Belknap Long

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Night Fear-smallFrank Belknap Long isn’t well remembered today. He wrote nearly 30 novels, including Space Station 1 (1957), Mars is My Destination (1962), The Horror from the Hills (1963), and Survival World (1971), most of which have been out of print for over 40 years.

But his short fiction has fared a little better. Long was part of the Lovecraft Circle, and indeed was a close friend of Lovecraft’s for many years (James McGlothlin has a great pic of the two, accompanying his article on The Lovecraft Circle at the First World Fantasy Convention.) His contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, including “The Hounds of Tindalos” and “The Space Eaters,” are still highly regarded today.

Long’s short fiction was gathered in four paperback collections: Odd Science Fiction (1964), The Rim of the Unknown (1972), The Hounds of Tindalos (1978) and Night Fear (1979). They are long out of print, but most of his finest short fiction was collected in Masters of the Weird Tale: Frank Belknap Long (2010), a gorgeous limited edition hardcover from Centipede Press.

Night Fear collects fiction spanning nearly three decades from 1925 to 1953, originally published in the pulp magazines Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Unknown, Super Science Stories, and Dynamic Science Fiction. It includes the famous Cthulhu Mythos novella ”The Horror from the Hills,” first serialized in Weird Tales in 1931 and built on a dream H. P. Lovecraft had which Long incorporated in the tale nearly verbatim, and ”It’s a Tough Life,” a 1942 essay from Astounding Science-Fiction in which Long discusses L. Sprague de Camp’s 1940 article on bizarre terrestrial life.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer… In the Beginning, Part Four

Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

illo-Sax Rohmerrohmer2We already noted in our last installment that Arthur Henry Ward had adopted the pseudonym of Sax Rohmer for his relatively successful career as a music hall songwriter and comedy sketch writer. He would later claim that he worked as a newspaper reporter during these years, but that his articles were published anonymously. Allegedly he covered waterfront crime in Limehouse, but he also claimed to have successfully managed interviews with heads of state. There is little doubt the man was a great raconteur, but none of the anonymously published articles and interviews Rohmer credits himself with writing have ever been located by researchers. It is highly questionable whether he ever actually worked as a journalist or at least to the extent he claimed. What is factual is that he did begin having works published anonymously.

As a young man, he ran with a crowd of self-styled bohemians who occupied a clubhouse on Oakmead Road in London. Each member of the gang was known by rather fanciful nicknames with Rohmer being known as Digger. Their activities ran from simply hanging around the clubhouse to picking up girls and attempting various get-rich-quick schemes to avoid making an honest living. Some of their schemes were of questionable legality.

Around this time, Rohmer decided he would fictionalize their exploits. It is believed he authored seven stories about the Oakmead Road Gang. Five manuscripts were known to have survived their author’s death: “Narky,” “Rupert,” “Digger’s Aunt,” “The Pot Hunters,” and “The Treasure Chest.” All seven stories were submitted for anonymous publication to Yes and No. It appears only the first of the group of stories ever saw print. The surviving four manuscripts passed upon the death of Rohmer’s widow to Cay Van Ash. When Van Ash died in Paris twenty years ago, Rohmer’s unpublished manuscripts were being held by a friend in Tokyo (where Van Ash lived for many years while teaching at Waseda University). When the friend had his visa rescinded on short notice in 2000, he was forced to leave his  belongings behind, where they were junked by a Japanese family who thought the storage boxes contained worthless garbage.

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What Would it Look Like to Pull a Watchmen on Planetary Romance? Part III

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

flash-gordon-smallWhen we last left our intrepid blogger (me) two weeks ago and four weeks ago, he was blogging (very roughly) about the superhero genre, pre- and post-Watchmen, and the kind of light that Alan Moore’s Watchmen shone onto superhero comics, as well as the core elements of the planetary romance form. I was setting up this conversation about what a Watchmen-like treatment of planetary romance would look like, both the pretty parts and the ugly ones.

This is a fun exercise and it’s quite possible that I’m way off in what I construct next, so if I am, please offer up your ideas, views, suggestions. Debate is good!

And, I’ve been ending on a cliffhanger, like any good pulp. So now, here’s Part III, What a Watchmen Treatment of Planetary Romance Might Look Like….

We’ll need a hero, a youngish white male paragon to travel to another world, because that’s the core of the form. And let’s have the aliens of this world be as close to humans as possible in physique and psychology, otherwise other assumptions become much harder to play with.

While Carson traveled to Venus, Carter to Barsoom, and Rogers to the future by themselves, we may need companions for the hero, like Flash Gordon did. And for later grist for the dramatic mill, it will probably serve us that one is a strong, well-characterized, complex woman, preferably from another political viewpoint or culture.

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Future Treasures: The Baen Big Book of Monsters, edited by Hank Davis

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Baen Big Book of Monsters-smallMonsters!! And lots of ‘em.

That’s all you need to know. Big monster book comin’. A Halloween-themed monster anthology, with a tantalizing a mix of classic reprints and original stories, all featuring REALLY BIG MONSTERS. Contributors include names that will be very familiar to Black Gate readers, such as Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, William Hope Hodgson, Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz, Arthur C. Clarke, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, David Drake, and many more.

It even includes the pulp classic “The Monster-God of Mamurth” by Edmond Hamilton. And Harlan Ellison told us that story sucked when we wanted to reprint it. What does he know?

I approve of this Hank Davis fellow. His last anthology for Baen was the awesome In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, released last Halloween. This man is doing God’s work. Next time you run into him tell him he is blessed, and we’ll be rubbing elbows with the saints in the line to buy his book.

Here’s the book description, and the complete Table of Contents.

SIZE MATTERS

From the dragons of legend to Jack the Giant Killer’s colleague to King Kong and Godzilla, people have found the idea of giant creatures both scary and fascinating. Why so many should find accounts of a critter big enough to gulp down a puny human like an insignificantly small hor d’oeuvre or step on said human and leave a grease spot might be explained by the psychologists, but such yarns are undeniable fun.

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