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Category: Vintage Treasures

Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic

Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic

The Zero Stone (Viking, November 1968), Breed to Come (Viking, April 1972), and
Galactic Derelict (World Publishing, 1959). Covers by Robin Jacques, László Gál, and Ed Emshwiller

Andre Norton (1912 -2005): between ages 12 and 16 I probably read more Andre Norton books than any other author. Our small town library didn’t have a huge selection of SF/Fantasy works but someone in their purchasing department seemed OK with Norton, and that was a happy thing for me.

As painful as it is to report, it’s also probably a good thing that Alice Mary Norton chose to write under the name Andre. I just assumed Norton was a man, and I wonder if I would have been as quick to pick up her books if I’d known it was a woman behind the covers. Nowadays it makes no difference, but it might have affected my choices as a teenage boy.

Norton wrote both SF and fantasy, although the earliest books I read by her were firmly in the SF camp. The X Factor, The Zero Stone, and Galactic Derelict. Galactic Derelict is a particular favorite of mine, and one I’ve reread several times (something I very very rarely do.)

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Vintage Treasures: The Augmented Agent by Jack Vance

Vintage Treasures: The Augmented Agent by Jack Vance


The Augmented Agent (Ace Books, September 1988). Cover by Terry Oakes

I need to read more Jack Vance.

It’s not hard to do. Virtually all of his short fiction has been collected over the years, in places like the five-volume The Early Jack Vance, edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan, and the massive The Jack Vance Treasury.

Of course, those are small press collections, and if you’re looking for a more affordable way to dip your toe into the fast-moving waters of Jack Vance, then I recommend one of his fine paperback collections, like The Worlds of Jack Vance, The Best of Jack Vance, or today’s Vintage Treasure, The Augmented Agent, which collects eight Vance rarities, chiefly pulp adventures tales from very early in his career.

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Great Books Make You Cry

Great Books Make You Cry


John Crowley’s Flint and Mirror (Tor, April 2022), Engine Summer (Bantam, December 1983), and The
Translator (William Morrow/HarperCollins, April 2002). Covers: unknown, Yvonne Gilbert, Chin-Yee Lai

Recently I mentioned that passages in John Crowley’s Flint and Mirror made me cry… and it was (nicely) hinted that maybe it’s odd for men to cry while reading.

The thing is, I cry often while reading. Sometimes for sad events, sometimes for joy, sometimes for anger, sometimes for wonder, sometimes for sheer beauty.

I mean, Crowley does it to me all the time. The conclusion of Engine Summer makes me tear up just thinking about it. (“Ever after. I promise. Now close your eyes.”) And the same for a few passages in The Translator. I was tearing up just trying to talk about “Great Work of Time” at a panel at Boskone a few years ago.

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Make Room For Harry Harrison: Anthony Aycock on a Forgotten SF Master

Make Room For Harry Harrison: Anthony Aycock on a Forgotten SF Master


Make Room! Make Room! (Berkley Medallion, July 1967). Cover by Richard Powers

Harry Harrison was a true believer. Like Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, Donald Wollheim, Gardner Dozois, Lin Carter, Damon Knight and a handful of others, he dedicated his life to science fiction, and in a multitude of roles, as writer, editor, critic, and scholar.

His fiction, however, has been largely — and unjustly — forgotten, and in the dozen years since his death in August 2012, all his books have gradually gone out of print, including once-popular novels like Make Room! Make Room! (filmed as Soylent Green in 1973) and The Stainless Steel Rat, one of the top-selling SF novels of the 60s, which spawned a hugely popular series that ran for twelve volumes.

So I was delighted to see Reactor (still known by fans under its secret identity, Tor.com) shine a long-overdue spotlight on our boy Harrison late last year. In “Make Room! Make Room! For Harry Harrison!” Anthony Aycock provides a brief overview of Harrison’s career, and introduces modern readers to his best work.

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Vintage Treasures: The Night Watch by Sean Stewart

Vintage Treasures: The Night Watch by Sean Stewart


The Night Watch (Ace, September 1998). Cover by Tara McGovern-Benson

Sean Stewart has had a fascinating career. He was Creative Director at Microsoft’s Xbox Studios until the studio closed in 2014, then spent five years at Magic Leap. Today he’s a Managing Partner at Cathy’s Book, LLC, publisher of his alternative reality game/novel series Cathy’s Book, and since 2020 he’s been working at a Generative AI stealth start-up as an Interactive Storyteller.

But he began his career the old fashioned way — writing fantasy novels. His debut book Passion Play (1992) won the Prix Aurora Award for Best Canadian Science Fiction novel, and his follow-up Nobody’s Son won the Aurora Award in 1994. His real success came in in 1995 with the appearance of the magic realist fantasy Resurrection Man, The New York Times Best Science Fiction Book of the Year, and the two books set in the same world, The Night Watch (1997) and Galveston (2000), winner of the World Fantasy Award.

The Night Watch is the one I want to talk about today.

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Vintage Treasures: The Last Man on Earth edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh

Vintage Treasures: The Last Man on Earth edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh


The Last Man on Earth (Fawcett Crest / Ballantine, August 1982). Cover by Wayne Barlowe

I continue to dip into the (seemingly endless) supply of anthologies from the three amigos of science fiction, Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh. I’m not sure how many they actually produced together, but I’ve managed to track down around 80. They began collaborating in the 80s, and averaged over half a dozen books a year, until Asimov’s death in 1992.

This time I’ve set aside their popular series in favor of a fine standalone book: The Last Man on Earth, a collection of post-apocalyptic tales that present a wide range of imaginative scenarios built around a popular SF trope. They include William F. Nolan’s “The Underdweller,” the tale of a man living in the sewers of San Francisco, trying desperately to salvage mankind’s most important texts while avoiding the new rulers of the city; Gordon Eklund’s “Continuous Performance,” which sees a man struggling to survive by putting on magic shows for androids; Roger Zelazny’s “Lucifer,” the haunting story of the world’s last man and his visit to the mysterious ruins of a long-dead city, and many others.

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Andrew Offutt’s Greatest Contribution to the Genre: Swords Against Darkness

Andrew Offutt’s Greatest Contribution to the Genre: Swords Against Darkness

The complete run of Swords Against Darkness (Zebra Book, 1977-1979).
Covers by Frank Frazetta, Larry Kresek, Greg Theakston, and Luis Bermejo

In my opinion, Andrew Offutt’s greatest contribution to literary history is the five book anthology series he edited called Swords Against Darkness. They were simply called I through V and published between 1977 and 1979, all by Zebra.

I’ve got them all and have read them all. They knocked my socks off. I was just beginning to write around the time the series ended and one of the first pie-in-the-sky goals I had for myself was to write something good enough to be included in the series. The series ended before I got close to making it, or even submitting.

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Vintage Treasures: Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury

Vintage Treasures: Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury


Courtship Rite (Timescape/Pocket Books, September 1983). Cover by Rowena Morrill

I still remember the buzz of excitement in Ottawa fandom when a young local writer named Charles de Lint sold his first novel to Ace Books. Riddle of the Wren wasn’t particularly groundbreaking —  not like the breakout books soon to come from Charles — but everyone read it, and it was passed around and enjoyed with the kind of hometown pride that quickly catapulted Charles into literary stardom, at least on the local Ottawa scene.

The kind of thing didn’t happen often in Ottawa in those days. In fact, the only thing like it was the fuss made about Donald Kingsbury, a math professor at McGill University in Montreal, who burst out of the gate in the late 70s with a series of major award noms for his early fiction. His first novel Courtship Rite won the Locus and Compton Crook Awards for Best First Novel, and was shortlisted for the Hugo Award. In 2016 it won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. That’s the sort of thing that got Canadian fans worked up — and that hasn’t changed much over the years.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Ebenezer Scrooge

 

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, published first in 1843, is nearly two hundred years old, and nothing remains to be said about it, it would seem. Charles Dickens’s fairy tale has become one of the great secular staples of the Christmas season. It’s been filmed many times; both wonderfully as in the Alastair Sim 1951 and George C. Scott 1984 versions and less wonderfully in the Reginald Owen 1938 film and the 2010 Jim Carrey motion capture monstrosity. Furthermore, there have been animated adaptations, musicals, and comics. It’s an isolated person, I suspect, who doesn’t know at least the basic setup: the uplifting story of a cold-hearted miser who turns to the good after the visitation of a trio of ghosts representing the spirit of the season. All I can do is comment on the bits that stood out for me while liberally quoting from this mordantly funny novel and Gothic fantasy of redemption.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator who intrudes on the story constantly, digresses from the narrative, and questions the reader at every turn. The opening words of A Christmas Carol, or at least a fair gloss on them, are well-known, particularly the seventh sentence: “Old Marley was a dead as a door-nail.” It’s a blunt matter-of-fact statement that lets the reader know where things stand. The narrator, though, immediately continues with something else.

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From Mystery to Horror: Darker than You Think by Jack Williamson

From Mystery to Horror: Darker than You Think by Jack Williamson

Darker Than You Think (Fantasy Press, 1948). Cover by A. J. Donnell

Jack Williamson had an impressively long career in science fiction, from the pre-Campbell era into the twenty-first century. His first sale, in 1928, was to Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories; his last book came out in 2005, the year before his death at 98. Darker than You Think is one of the high points of that career, published in 1948 as a novel expanded from a 1940 novella that appeared in John W. Campbell’s fantasy magazine Unknown.

Despite this venue, though, Darker than You Think is highly rationalized “fantasy,” to the point where it’s more accurately described as science fiction. Near the end of the novel, an important secondary character, Sam Quain, tells the protagonist that “supernatural” really means “superhuman.”

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