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Tales From Windy City Pulp and Paper

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Weapon Shops of IsherThis coming weekend, Friday April 25th through Sunday, April 27th, is Doug Ellis’ magnificent celebration of all things pulp, the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention here in Chicago, in nearby Lombard, Illinois.

Windy City is one of my favorite local cons. I’ve written about it before, and in fact I’ve been attending the show for around 10 years. 2012 was perhaps the most successful, considering I returned with a fabulous assortment of mint-condition fantasy and science fiction paperbacks from the collection of Martin H. Greenberg. See the article and photos from that show in my 2012 post, “Thank You, Martin H. Greenberg (and Doug Ellis).”

The show has been growing steadily over the years. Doug and his cohorts have added a film program, an Art Show, panels, an auction, readings, and more programming, but the real draw continues to be the massive Dealer’s Room, a wall-to-wall market crammed with pulps, paperbacks, rare DVDs, posters, artwork, comics, and much more.

I jotted down a few notes last year, and promised myself I’d write them up before the 2014 convention, to let folks who may be on the fence about attending (or those sad and lonely souls, like me, who just enjoy reading far-off convention reports), know what they’re missing.

In 2013 the list of Dealers was the longest I’ve ever seen, boasting some 80 vendors. They had to add more space, and it took even longer to walk the floor. Doug reported that he sold more tables than at any previous convention, and in record time.

If there’s a drawback to the show, it’s that the Dealer’s room closes at 5:00 pm. That made it impossible for me to make it there after work on Friday. My weekly D&D game with my kids kept me tied up until after 3′:00 pm Saturday, which meant that by the time I made the show on Saturday, I had less than half an hour to walk the floor before it closed.

I put the time to good use. After a few years you tend to find a few favorite sellers, and I searched them out immediately.

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Hope Among the Ruins

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

Gamma World First EditionAs I creep closer to the half-century mark, I find myself reflecting ever more often on my childhood. Though born at the tail end of the 1960s, I consider myself a child of the ’70s, since it was the images and obsessions of that decade that left the strongest impressions on my young imagination. I’ve mentioned before that popular culture in the 1970s was awash with the weird, the occult, and the apocalyptic. The latter saw its expression in the flowering of the “disaster movie” genre, which attained a kind of Golden Age in those days. Nowadays, the disaster films people most recall are fairly conventional ones, like Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974) – all of which I watched on network television after their theatrical releases – but the ones that had the greatest impact on me were those with a more global scope, like The Andromeda Strain (1971), The Omega Man (1971), and Meteor (1979). These were the motion pictures that fed my lifelong fascination with The End of the World as We Know It.

Growing up, I was possessed of the sense that life wasn’t necessarily as stable or as safe as it seemed to be on the surface. Real world events during the 1970s only made this point more forcefully. From the Energy Crisis to stagflation and fears of overpopulation and social unrest, life appeared awfully precarious in those days. And, of course, the ups and downs of relations between “the Free World” and the Soviet Bloc did little to suggest otherwise. Being a child, even a precocious one, I didn’t completely understand the full implications of a global thermonuclear war. I only knew that World War III (as my friends and I conceived it back then) was a virtual certainty, a belief reinforced by all manner of adults, from political commentators who publicly fretted about the implications of Ronald Reagan’s possible election in 1980 to my childhood idol, Carl Sagan, who regularly voiced his opinion that mankind was far more likely to destroy itself than to travel to other worlds.

Despite this, I can’t say that I was frightened by the prospects of the world’s end. Sure, I didn’t look forward to it, but I was just a kid and and I knew that, regardless of my feelings, there was nothing I could do to stave off Armageddon, so why worry? I’d read enough history by this point to realize that no world truly ends. Wars, plagues, and other sundry catastrophes were frequently devastating, marking the end of one era, but something almost always came afterwards. At my young age, I found it hard to countenance the possibility that even a nuclear war would spell the end of everything (despite that being the very reason why so many people lived in utter terror of it). I’d also read enough fantasy and science fiction to conclude that the End of the World might be adventuresome.

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In A Land Before Atlantis and Mu: The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_214202658YPxSzMI imagine that when most people hear the name Brian Lumley, they think of his vast Necroscope series. You know — the books with the malformed skulls on the covers. If your memory is a little longer, you might think of his August Derleth-influenced contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos series, featuring the supernatural sleuth Titus Crow. And in case you didn’t know, he’s also a prolific writer of really great horror short stories. Even if I didn’t love the stories in his collections, Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi and Beneath the Moors and Darker Places, I’d still love them for their titles.

While I did know about all those books and stories, what I didn’t know was that he’d written a whole series of swords & sorcery tales set in Earth’s earliest days on the primeval continent Theem’hdra. I had read a story in Andrew Offutt’s anthology, Swords Against Darkness IV, called “Cryptically Yours,” but hadn’t realized it was part of a much longer series of adventurous stories of wizards and warriors.

Recently, I learned from from Paul McNamee that Subterranean Press was making a lot of Lumley e-books available at $2.99 a volume. I immediately bought three story collections: Haggopian and Other StoriesThe Taint and Other Novellas, and No Sharks in the Med. I’ve dipped into all three already and recommend them all.

My buying spree led me to check out Lumley’s website, which led me to something called The House of Cthulhu: Tales of the Primal Land (2010). I learned it was the first of three collections of adventures from the dawn of time. While Tor Books wasn’t selling it as cheaply as the Subterranean collections, I still hit the buy-button. Within minutes, I was traveling back into the deep ages of the world to the Primal Land, encountering giant slug-gods, sorcerers striving for immortality, amoral barbarians, and old Cthulhu himself.

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Don’t Just Buy on Faith: Finding Your Own Deities & Demigods

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAny collector of older RPG material will tell you that one of the “Holy Grails” is a first edition Deities & Demigods (DDG) from 1980. It is of interest not only to Dungeons & Dragons aficionados, but also to fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and Michael Moorcock’s Melnibonean Mythos (not to mention Fritz Leiber’s World Nehwon, home of the greatest sword-wielding duo of all time: Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser). This is because the first edition (actually, the first printing of the first edition) featured gods and characters from all three of those pantheons. Later editions dropped the first two for legal reasons.

A first edition of this coveted tome just went for $56.98 (plus 5.95 shipping) on eBay after 17 bids. The winning bidder was probably ecstatic, because I’ve seen them go for a lot more (I paid more for one myself).

But if you start scouring the listings, you’ll soon notice many first editions being offered for as low as twenty bucks. What gives?

As with the gods themselves, when it comes to DDG, not all first editions are created equal. The Cthulhu and Melnibonean pantheons were pulled midway through the print run of the “first edition” (which throws the normal meaning of first edition right in the shredder, but never mind).

The best tip-off is the number of pages. The one you want has 144 pages; later printings have 128. Some sellers will advertise that they have a bona fide “Cthulhu” edition or that it contains the “Chaosium thank you,” but these are not indicators of veracity.

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Vintage Treasures: The Shores of Space by Richard Matheson

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shores of Space-smallI’ve told you about a few really excellent single author collections recently, including Eric Frank Russell’s Men, Martians, and Machines, Michael Shea’s Polyphemus, and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror and Others. As long as I’m on a roll, I figure I should continue in the same vein. So this week, I want to talk about Richard Matheson’s 1957 collection The Shores of Space.

Matheson is rightly revered by both SF and horror fans as a genius, especially at short length. He passed away in June, at the age of 87, and was productive right up to the end — with new novels (Other Kingdoms, 2011, and Generations, 2012), collections (Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales, 2011), and even a new movie (Real Steel, staring Hugh Jackman, based on his short story “Steel” from the May 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.) That’s damned impressive… the closer I get to 55, the harder I find it just to summon the energy to change channels.

The Shores of Space was Matheson’s second collection (after his groundbreaking Born of Man and Woman, 1954) and it proved very successful, with half a dozen reprintings and new editions over the next 20 years. The last one was in 1979, with an intriguing (and rather purple) cover by Murray Tinkelman. But overall, I prefer the 1969 Bantam paperback (shown at right), with a defiant spaceman standing on a harsh alien landscape, ready to shake his fist at the first person who suggests he put pants on. You show ‘em, naked spaceman.

Here’s the back cover copy (it helps if you imagine Rod Serling reading it in a slow, urgent monotone).

A Shattering Journey into the Supernatural

Thirteen extraordinary stories that explore the slippery edge of madness — and beyond — into a chilling nightmare of bizarre and unexplainable occurrences… into a world where unspeakable horror becomes normal — where murky darkness from space works on the minds of men — in a time when creatures of dreadful, unearthy powers can control human beings… and humans create beings beyond their control. Weird fantasy and eerie imagination inspire stories of unforgettable force and unpredictable conclusions!

There’s some pretty good stuff in The Shores of Space. It includes, among many other fine tales, the short story “Steel” that was the basis for Real Steel.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Playing the Game With the Master Blackmailer

Monday, April 21st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Milverton_SP1Far more than with any other character, Sherlock Holmes has been treated as if he had really lived. It’s not just that people believe in the character as they read the story. That’s usually the case in good fiction.

But there are hundreds of books that treat Holmes and Watson as if they were alive. Speculation about Holmes abounds. No other character’s life is explored in such detail, expounded upon and speculated about.

This treating Holmes (and Watson) as if he were a real person is called, ‘Playing the Game.’ And there’s no shortage of Holmes fans that have done it in new stories and scholarly writings about the great detective. An example of my own follows.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton is one of my favorites stories of the sixty that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Holmes.

If you haven’t read it before, I strongly suggest you do so before reading the rest of this post. It won’t take you very long. The fifty-six short stories are quick reads.

Milverton is a master blackmailer. No one is better at it. Sherlock Holmes tells Watson that Milverton is the worst man in London. For someone who seemingly knew about every type of depravity and ruffian in the city, that is quite a statement.

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The Best One-Sentence Reviews of Edmond Hamilton: The Winner of The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Collected Edmond Hamilton Volume Four-smallLast month, we invited Black Gate readers to send us a one-sentence review of their favorite Edmond Hamilton novel or short story.

In return, we offered to award a copy of the long-awaited fourth volume of The Collected Edmond Hamilton from Haffner Press to one lucky winner. The winner was randomly drawn from the list of all qualified entrants.

Before we announce the winner, let’s have a look at some of the entries. We can’t reprint all of them, but we can hit the highlights. (But fret not — all qualifying entries received before April 20 were included in the drawing.)

We left the choice of what novel or story to review up to you and we weren’t too surprised to find the most popular topic was Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings series. Robert James Parker kicked things off with this review:

John Gordon, suffering from an existential crisis, agrees to travel through time and space to the far future where he gets caught up in a sweeping space opera full of cosmic space battles, beautiful princesses, and bizarre monsters.

Andy Sheets gets bonus points for a completely à propos Alan Rickman reference.

How can you not be enticed by a story about an out of step WWII veteran getting mind-swapped into the body of a prince 200,000 years in the future, hooking up with a foxy future princess, and battling The League of Dark Worlds, lead by a guy who should totally be played by Alan Rickman in the movie, with a super-weapon called the Disruptor, all tightly packed into a fast-moving novel not even 200 pages long?!

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Vintage Treasures: Men, Martians, and Machines by Eric Frank Russell

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Men Martians and Machines-smallLast Sunday, I posted the latest article in my Ace Double series, this time focusing on Sentinels of Space by Eric Frank Russell and Don Wollheim’s The Ultimate Invader.

It made me realize that I’ve given precious little coverage to Eric Frank Russell over the years — really, a pretty serious oversight, considering what a fine writer he was. So I thought I’d remedy that here, starting with his 1955 volume Men, Martians, and Machines.

Men, Martians, and Machines is something of a problem child for catalogers. Wikipedia lists it as a novel, but it’s really not — it’s a collection of four linked stories, three published in Astounding during World War II, and one original. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry for Russell lists it as neither a collection nor a novel, creating a separate category for it.

In some ways the book is an early precursor to Star Trek. The stories follow the exploits of the rough-and-tumble crew of the solar freighter Upskadaska City, known more commonly as the Upsydaisy, who follow their Captain as he takes charge of one of the first faster-than-light starships, the Marathon. Captain McNulty leads his mixed crew of humans, jovial tentacled Martians, and one robot on voyages of discovery to far stars and strange alien planets.

Star Trek fans will certainly enjoy these proto-Trek stories and see how they influenced that seminal series two decades later. For me, these tales represent something even more primal. When I think of Golden Age robot stories, I think of Asimov; when I think of military science fiction, I think Heinlein. When I think of tales of brave exploration and camaraderie in the face of the vast mystery and terror of deep space, I think of Eric Frank Russell.

It’s his unique voice, I think, and the poetry and humanity of his prose, mixed with all the marvelous ray-gun trappings of pulp science fiction, that makes him such a joy to read. Here’s a snippet from the first story, “Jay Score,” as our unnamed narrator meets with the imposing new emergency pilot shortly after blast off.

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Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Twelve

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Barry Gordonkurtzman_flash_gordon_cvr11“Starling” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 11 to September 3, 1955. “Starling” starts off with Flash visiting Dr. Zarkov one evening to find his old friend depressed, as the U.S. Government has turned down his request for an additional million dollars funding to finish construction of the Super-S Rocket. It is a nice hint of direction for the strip to come, which will take the series closer to its roots. Flash and Zarkov are startled by the discovery of a prowler outside, but the man gets away.

Over the next few days, similar disturbing incidents occur. Flash and Dale are nearly run down by a speeding car while out walking one afternoon on the grounds of Zarkov’s estate. Later, a crate is dropped off the roof of a downtown building when Flash is walking beneath and just misses him. Shortly thereafter, Zarkov receives a telephone call from B. B. Remsen, the billionaire industrialist requesting an interview with Flash.

Upon visiting Remsen’s estate, Flash is outraged to discover Remsen hired his goon, Byron, to test Flash’s reflexes by nearly running him down with a speeding car and dropping a crate off a building. Byron was the prowler at Zarkov’s estate who learned of the need for financing for the Super-S Rocket. Remsen agrees to finance the rocket if Flash will take on a unique assignment. Remsen’s very wild granddaughter, Starling, wants to travel in space and Remsen wants Flash to pilot the rocket that will take her to the stars.

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The Mind and Soul of an Honest Creator: Paul Di Filippo on Robert Moore Williams

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Time Tolls for Toro-smallOver at Locus Online, author Paul Di Filippo reviews the latest in the Masters of Science Fiction line from Armchair Fiction, Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams, which collects a nice assortment of pulp fiction from Super Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Universe, Planet Stories, and Imaginative Tales from 1950 – 1959.

Like a combination of Asimov’s robot stories and Simak’s robot stories, “The Soul Makers” (Super Science Stories, 1950) takes us to the far-off year of 1987, in the middle of an atomic war. Humanity’s sentient robots are going AWOL, and the two men sent to discover the reason uncover more than they anticipated. Williams extracts a fair measure of pathos from the noble actions of the robots, and the inevitable doom and rebirth of humanity… “The Diamond Images” (Fantastic Universe, 1959) is one of those “Old Venus” tales so common in the consensus future history of this era. A butterfly collector named Wolder has made friends with the seemingly unsophisticated Venusians after eight years among them. But then his son arrives, unwittingly leading pirates to the treasure of the natives…

There’s an almost Ballardian feel to the opening of “To the End of Time” (Super Science Stories, 1950). A Venusian song, brought back to Earth, is literally driving people insane. Into the jungle wastelands of Venus, our psychologist hero Thorndyke sets out to find a cure, encountering a strange race of Venusians and the human missionary and his beautiful daughter who minister to them…

Reading this volume is no chore or dull swotting up of past history for academic purposes. The stories, however creaky at times, remain very entertaining and illustrative of the mind and soul of one honest creator, doing the best he could to enrich the soil of the genre.

Read the complete article here. We covered the launch of Armchair Fiction back in January 2012 and Paul’s review of Masters of Science Fiction Vol. #8, Milton Lesser’s A is for Android, last May.

Masters of Science Fiction, Volume Ten: Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams was published by Armchair Fiction on January 22, 2014. It is 320 pages, priced at $16.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition. No word on who did the cover… Emsh, maybe?

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