Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dunwich Horror and Others Lee Brown Coye 1963-small At the Mountains of Madness Arkham House Lee Brown Coye 1964-small Dagon and Other Macabre Tales Lee Brown Coye 1965-small The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions 1970-small

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

In Part I of this series, I looked at the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s. In Part II, we examined the Lancer and Ballantine paperbacks of the late 60s and early 70s. In Part III, I want to showcase the volumes that most serious Lovecraft collectors start with — the Arkham House collected works, published in three volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, plus a collection of Lovecraft’s revisions, those tales he re-wrote for various clients to make them acceptable for Weird Tales, The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions.

Now I want to start off by saying that, while these four books are some of the most important in 20th Century Horror — and, indeed, they form the cornerstone of any serious horror collection — they still represent a pretty hinky way to gather Lovecraft’s fiction. Why? The Dunwich Horror is subtitled “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.” At the Mountains of Madness collects his longer tales (At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the rest of the Randolph Carter stories.) Which leaves Dagon with the unofficial subtitle, All the Stuff That’s Not Lovecraft’s Best. Seems a strange way to assemble a third volume, that’s all I’m saying.

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Vintage Treasures: Madouc by Jack Vance

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Madouc Jack Vance Ace Books-small

I’ve spent some time recently talking about some of Jack Vance’s most popular series, including The Dying Earth and Planet of Adventure. But the book that introduced me to Vance was the third volume of his high fantasy Lyonesse trilogy, Madouc, originally published in hardcover by Underwood Miller in 1989, and reprinted in trade paperback by Ace Books with a gorgeous Sanjulian cover in 1990 (above).

It’s usually tough to come to a fantasy trilogy with the third volume, but Vance made it easy. In fact, I was only dimly aware that it was part of a series as I read it. What I most remember about Madouc was that it was funny, gripping, vivid, and unlike anything else I’d ever read. Vance took subject matter wholly familiar to every modern fantasy reader — the Land of Faerie — and made it fresh and new.

Madouc won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1990, beating out some pretty stiff competition, including Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, Soldier of Arete by Gene Wolfe, and The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. My friend Rodger Turner, with whom I founded SF Site a few years later, was a Judge that year, and I remember asking him about it shortly after I finished reading Carrion Comfort, which I was convinced would be the hands-down winner. “The process took… compromises,” Rodger deadpanned.

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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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Vintage Treasures: Razored Saddles, edited by Joe R. Lansdale

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Razored Saddles-smallI was at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback convention here in Chicago over the weekend — hands down one of my favorite shows, and absolutely the place where I make my best finds, year after year — and I stumbled across a paperback I’d never seen before.

Now, this really isn’t all that unusual. Last year I found Carl Jacobi’s Revelations in BlackThe Bumper Book of Ghost Stories, Stephen E. Fabian’s luscious art book Ladies & Legends, and a bunch more things, just as examples. But I expect to be surprised by odd British books and small print run paperbacks from the 1970s. I don’t expect to discover that a major anthology from the 1990s — from one of the biggest paperback publishers in the country, and edited by no less a personage than Joe R. Lansdale — has completely slipped my radar.

Razored Saddles was originally released in a limited edition hardcover by Dark Harvest in September 1989, and nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. The hardcover is relatively easy to come by, and in fact I’ve seen plenty of them over the years. But the paperback must have come and gone in a flash, because I’ve never come across a copy in over 25 years.

The dealer who was offering it for sale was well aware of its scarcity — he wanted more than I would expect to pay for the limited edition hardcover. Well, I’m loathe to pay more than the cover price of a modern paperback for any vintage paperback, and I didn’t in this case. But I admit I was tempted… Razored Saddles looks like a stellar collection of weird western tales from a Who’s Who of early 90s horror writers, including Neal Barrett, Jr., Robert R. McCammon, David J. Schow, Lewis Shiner, Howard Waldrop, Richard Christian Matheson, F. Paul Wilson, Richard Laymon, and many others. And let’s face it. That cover, with a gun-toting skeletal cowboy mounted against a stark blue sky, very nearly seals the deal.

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The Omnibus Volumes of H. Beam Piper

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Complete Fuzzy The Complete Paratime-small

H. Beam Piper is one of my favorite Twentieth Century writers. He died a few months after I was born, on November 4, 1964, but his books are still in print today in handsome omnibus collections from his long-time publisher, Ace Books.  And if you’re willing to hunt for a few vintage paperbacks (and why wouldn’t you?), you can also find some terrific collections of his earlier novels and stories.

Let’s start with the classic series for which Piper is most remembered today: The Fuzzy novels (also published as The Fuzzy Papers), collected in the omnibus volume The Complete Fuzzy. An enduring favorite among Golden Age SF fans, the series began with Little Fuzzy (1962) and The Other Human Race (1964; also called Fuzzy Sapiens), and continued in Fuzzies and Other People, which was found among Piper’s papers and published two decades after his death, in 1984.

The Fuzzy novels have inspired several writers to pen new adventures featuring the titular aliens, notably William Tuning, Ardath Mayhar, Wolfgang Diehr, and most recently John Scalzi, who published Fuzzy Nation in 2011.

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Vintage Treasures: The Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Hawkwood's Voyage The Heretic Kings The Iron Wars

Paul Kearney’s first novel was The Way to Babylon (1992), followed quickly by A Different Kingdom (1993) and Riding the Unicorn (1994). With his fourth novel, Hawkwood’s Voyage (1995), he began an extremely ambitious story cycle that eventually ran to five volumes and over 1,600 pages: The Monarchies of God.

The Monarchies of God was originally published in the UK by Gollancz, with each volume released as it was written. In the US, however, publisher Ace Books tried an unusual experiment. They waited until the series was virtually complete, publishing the first volume here in the US in February 2002, and subsequent books one per month, in March, April, and May. The final volume was released in January 2003, virtually simultaneous with its UK release.

I have to assume the experiment was not a success, as the books went out of print rather quickly, and Ace has shown no particular appetite to repeat it since.

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Vintage Treasures: The Dubric Bryerly Mysteries by Tamara Siler Jones

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts in the Snow-small Threads of Malice-small Valley of the Soul-small

There’s really nothing quite like Tamara Siler Jones’ Dubric Bryerly Mysteries out there today.

They were a fascinating mix of fantasy, forensics, and crime thriller involving the head of security at Castle Faldorrah, Dubric Byerly, who is cursed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who deaths demand justice. Three volumes were published: Ghost in the Snow (2004), Threads of Malice (2005), and Valley of the Soul (2006), all by Bantam Spectra. Ghost won the Compton Crook Award, given out at Balticon every year for Best First Novel. All three have great covers by Les Edwards.

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The Parallel Worlds of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Operation Chaos Poul Anderson-smallI may have got ahead of myself by reporting on three novels of 1960. This is because, in opening Operation Otherworld, an omnibus edition of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos and Operation Luna, I learned that Operation Chaos was not merely published in 1971 but also as four novellas or novelettes beginning in 1956. Their titles mark the four episodes that make up Operation Chaos: “Operation Afreet,” “Operation Salamander,” “Operation Incubus,” and “Operation Changeling.” All were published in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

This book in many ways is a return to or continuation of the ideas first presented in Three Hearts and Three Lions. Indeed, Sandra Miesel in Against Time’s Arrow spends most of her analysis of Anderson’s concepts of Chaos and Law in this book rather than in the former. I, however, found myself more interested in Anderson’s presentation of parallel worlds and his technique of introducing the concept. The very first words:

Hello, out there!

If you exist, hello!

We may never find out. This is a wild experiment, test of a wilder hypothesis. But it is also a duty.

I lie dream-bound, only half aware of my world. They are using me to call for them across the time streams because that which happened to me, so many years ago, has left its traces beneath my ordinariness; they believe a message thought by me has a better chance of finding a resonance in you than if it came from almost anyone else…

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Return to the Witch World: The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_14001ZDaNwY6NI started slowly working my way through Andre Norton’s splendid Witch World series three years ago. I’ve written several reviews for my site and Black Gate that you can read at the links.

In The Year of the Unicorn (reviewed here) we saw the end of the great war between High Hallack and Alizon. We go back in time to the war’s vicious start in The Crystal Gryphon (1972), the seventh published novel in the series.

The Crystal Gryphon is the first volume of a trilogy about Joisan and Kerovan, a young noblewoman and her husband, a prince tainted at birth by strange magics. Married in absentia when they were only six and eight respectively, the book is told in chapters narrated by one then the other. They hail from two distant parts of High Hallack, and are not to meet for ten years, when Kerovan comes of age. As the years pass, each must struggle to forge his and her way in a conservative land wracked by local power politics and a brutal invasion.

Kerovan of Ulmsdale was born in the ruins of a building erected by the Old Ones, the magically powerful race that lived in and vanished from High Hallack long before the arrival of men. The forces that still lingered in the place changed him, giving him slanted eyebrows over yellow eyes and cloven hooves instead of feet. His mother refuses to see him ever and his father, while declaring Kerovan his heir, gives him over to a crippled soldier to raise and train.

The orphaned Joisan lives with her childless uncle, Cyart, lord of Ithkrypt, and his widowed sister, Dame Math. Together, her aunt and uncle teach her to run an estate. When war with the raiders from the land of Alizon becomes imminent, basic sword and archery skills are added to her education.

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