A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – October, 1933

Monday, August 20th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne


“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

October of 1933 featured yet another solid issue of Black Mask under Joseph ‘Cap’ Shaw’s direction. The cover art was by J.W. Schlaiker, who had about fifty covers from 1929 to 1934. I don’t know why he abruptly stopped drawing for Black Mask. He served in France during World War I and was the War Department artist during World War II. He did portraits of Eisenhower, MacArthur and Patton.

With “Murder in the Open,” Race Williams made his forty-second appearance in Black Mask, dating back to June 1, 1923. For several years, Williams on the cover had guaranteed increased sales, but Carroll John Daly would be gone from Black Mask in just over a year and he was already regularly appearing in Dime Detective.

Daly was the first author to write in what became the hardboiled style with “Three Gun Terry” (which, of course, you read about here…) in the May 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask. Williams would follow in “Knights of the Open Palm in June, with Dashiell Hammett introducing his famous Continental Op in “Arson Plus” in October of that year. Daly’s writing style was far less polished and developed than Hammett’s, though I feel that it did improve over the years.

W(illiam) T(odhunter) Ballard was Nero Wolfe creator Rex Stout’s first cousin (which would explain why they shared such an unusual middle name). Ballard, who went on to become a very successful western author, wrote extensively for the detective pulps in the thirties and forties. He explained that he was struggling to sell to the lesser pulps when he saw The Maltese Falcon starring Ricardo Cortez. Hammett’s terse prose spoke to him and he bought an issue of Black Mask. He stayed up all night, wrote a story and sold it to the magazine. He would go on to a long career in the pulps and as a novelist.

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Birthday Reviews: Greg Bear’s “Schrödinger’s Plague”

Monday, August 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Greg Bear, considered one of the “Killer B’s” with Gregory Benford and David Brin, was born on August 20, 1951 and is married to Astrid, daughter of Poul and Karen Anderson.

Bear won the Nebula and Hugo Award for his novelette “Blood Music” and his short story “Tangents.” He also won the Nebula Award for the novella “Hardfought” and the novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio. Moving Mars also won the Ignotus Award and Darwin’s Radio earned him his second Endeavour Award, the first was for Dinosaur Summer. He won the Prix Apollo for Blood Music and the Prix Ozone for /Slant. He won the Seiun Award for his story “Tangents” and “Heads.” In 2006, he received the Robert A. Heinlein Award and he was the Worldcon Guest of Honor for Millennium Philcon in Philadelphia in 2001.

“Schrödinger’s Plague” first appeared in the March 29, 1982 issue of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, edited by Stanley Schmidt. Bear included it in his short story collected Tangents in 1989 and in 1992, the story was translated into Dutch and into German in 1997. Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery included the story in The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction: 1960-1990. Bear against included it in a collection with The Collected Stories of Greg Bear and when that volume was divided into three smaller books, it was invluded in Just Over the Horizon: The Collected Stories of Greg Bear Volume I.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 12, Part 1: The Dark

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The DarkI had four movies on my schedule for Monday, July 23. Three of them were the work of one director. But before I got to those, I had an intriguing horror film at the J.A. De Sève Theatre to watch first: The Dark.

That screening was preceded by a short written and directed by Benjamin Swicker, “A/S/L.” I didn’t know what the title meant (an internet abbreviation for ‘age/sex/location’) and briefly thought I was about to see a film about American sign language; I was not. A middle-aged man chats up a young teenager on the internet, gets her to invite him over, and then finds out that all is not what he had thought it was. It’s competent enough, and brief, but I don’t think it gives too much away to say this is basically a vehicle for some admittedly spectacular gore effects. As such, it does the job.

The Dark was written and directed by Justin P. Lange. It’s the story of Mina (Nadia Alexander), a damaged and possibly undead girl who subsists in the woods, known by others only as a monster who kills any who enter her territory. Then one day fate brings to her an abused, blinded boy, Alex (Toby Nichols), who she doesn’t kill at once. In fact the two wounded children develop a strange bond. There’s a search afoot for Alex, though, and both police and volunteer seekers are coming into her woods. The two children go deeper into the wild, looking for some refuge together.

This is an atmospheric but highly graphic film that lets the images carry the story for long stretches. It doesn’t avoid having the characters speak to each other, but seems to invest each line with meaning. For example, it seems weirdly resonant that the first line of the movie is “You have to pay for that.” There are a lot of dark deeds done in this movie and a lot of those things come back to haunt the doer — and sometimes the sufferer. This is a movie about the cycle of abuse and characters trying, however instinctively, to move past it. But the world doesn’t make it easy, and the choices the characters make aren’t always ideal. You can literally see the damage the characters have suffered on their faces in the form of disturbing make-up effects. Whether that damage will destroy them is essentially the theme of the film.

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From the Moon to Mars: The British Library Science Fiction Classics by Mike Ashley

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Todd McAulty

Lost Mars The Golden Age of the Red Planet-small Moonrise The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures-small

The Moon and Mars have fascinated science fiction writers for generations, although I thought the era of classic Mars and Moon anthologies was over. But it turns out that’s not the case. At least not while editor Mike Ashley is on the job, anyway.

Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet, which collects pulp-era tales (and pre pulp-era tales) from Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories, Astounding, and Worlds of If, was published in April 2018. Its sister anthology Moonrise: The Golden Era of Lunar Adventures, with stories from F&SF, Amazing, Tales of Wonder, Astounding, New Worlds, and Fantastic, arrives in September. Both are part of the British Library Science Fiction Classics, which I’ve never heard of, but for which I immediately have a deep and passionate love. Near as I can figure out, it’s a relatively new imprint devoted to early 20th Century SF. Or maybe just stories of Mars and the Moon, I dunno. But either way, love love love.

These are very welcome books. They include tales of adventure and exploration from the pre-spaceflight era (the most recent stories are from 1963, only two years after the start of the Apollo space program), which means they’re not particularly concerned with getting the science right. Scientific verisimilitude was the province of late 20th Century SF; these stories concern themselves chiefly with imagination and adventure.

And when it comes to the Moon and Mars, human imagination has been pretty darn fertile. These books contain some of the greatest SF ever written, including Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant tale “The Sentinel,” which inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Stanley G. Weinbaum’s groundbreaking “A Martian Odyssey,” which Isaac Asimov said, “had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science fiction writer.” There’s also a Martian Chronicles tale by Ray Bradbury, an excerpt from H.G. Wells’ classic First Men in the Moon, and stories by Walter M. Miller Jr, J. G. Ballard, Gordon R. Dickson, Edmond Hamilton, John Wyndham, E. C. Tubb, and many others.

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Birthday Reviews: D.G. Compton’s “In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing”

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

D.G. (David Guy) Compton was born on August 19, 1930.

Compton’s 1971 novel The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award, and in 2007 he was named Author Emeritus by the SFWA. In addition to writing science fiction, Compton also writes Gothic novels and crime novels. Compton has used variations of his own name, and has also published using the pseudonym Frances Lynch. Compton collaborated with John Gribbin on the novel Ragnarok.

“In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing” appeared in Starlight 3, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden in 2001. It is Compton’s most recent science fiction short story, and has not been reprinted.

The characters in Compton’s “In Which Avu Giddy Tries to Stop Dancing” live in a world where it is illegal not to dance, although Compton never fully describes what life is like in a world in which everyone dances as they go about their private lives. Instead, he looks at Avu Giddy’s decision to set himself apart from the law-abiding masses and the effects it has on his relationships, none of which were particularly good to begin with.

Avu’s main relationship for the purposes of the story is with the narrator. Although the narrator doesn’t particularly like Avu, the two are of a similar age and have known each other a long time, having grown comfortable in each other’s presence. They work relatively close to each other and meet for lunch in a park with some regularity. When Avu makes his decision to quit dancing, the narrator is dragged into the situation by Avu’s estranged daughters, Jenna and Karen who sought his help in talking sense to their father.

Jenna, who had a husband and children of her own, was mostly concerned with the perception people would have of the family with such an out-law father, while single Karin, who only recently left Avu’s house, firmly believed her father had made his decision with the sole purpose of embarrassing her.

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Fantasia, Day 11, Part 2: Wilderness Parts One and Two, and Parallel

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

WildernessI like to make out a rough schedule for Fantasia well ahead of time. But things always change. You hear things about movies as the festival goes on. What seems important a few days out seems less important in the moment. And then some choices are just hard to make. On Sunday July 22 I had one of those tough choices, which I’ll walk through here for the sake of recreating a bit of the subjective experience of Fantasia.

The Hall Theatre would host Our House, a science-fictional horror film, at 4:45. Then The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, an action-superhero film, at 6:45; then I Am A Hero, a Japanese zombie film, at 9:15. On the other hand, starting at 4:20, the J.A. De Sève would host a five-hour-plus screening of a near-future boxing story called Wilderness, a two-film series playing here back-to-back with a brief intermission between the two parts. That would be followed by a science-fictional suspense film called Parallel at 9:45.

I was initially planning to stick with the movies at the Hall. Then I began to reconsider. The Witch and Hero had second screenings. Parallel did not. That meant it made more sense to watch that one, and catch Hero on its second screening on the 23rd. Witch had a question-and-answer session afterward, which I wouldn’t get at the second screening. But I found myself intensely curious about Wilderness. It was a bold programming choice to schedule a five-hour block. And I wondered how its setting would inform its story; it was adapted from a novel written and set in the 1960s. I decided at the last minute to choose Wilderness over Our House. I missed what I later learned was a touching question-and-answer session, where the lead of The Witch was surprised with the festival’s award for Best Actress. But in terms of the movies I ended up seeing, I was quite pleased.

Wilderness (Ah, kôya, あゝ、荒野) was directed by Yoshiyuki Kishi and written by Takehiko Minato based on the novel by Shuji Terayama. Terayama’s Ah, kôya was published as a serial in 1965, and in one volume the year after; the film’s set in 2021, imagining a near future filled with social unrest. As the government mulls over legislation imposing a kind of conscription on Japan’s youth, and the numbers of suicides spike upward, two different men are drawn to take up boxing. One, Shinji (Masaki Suda, who voiced the lead in Fireworks and appeared in Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, and the Assassination Classroom movies), is looking for revenge on a former friend, Yuji, who himself has taken up boxing. The other, the introverted stuttering Kenji (Ik-joon Yang), finds boxing is simply something he can do, something in which he can take confidence, something that might help him stand up to his abusive father. Both men are trained by gym owner Horiguchi (Yûsuke Santamaria, the voice of Hideo in Giovanni’s Island) as they learn how to box and go pro. A subplot sees a group of college activists planing an art project about the rise of suicides across the country.

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Deadpool Writer Gerry Duggan Creates New Image Series: Analog

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Analog Image 1-small

Many people know Gerry Duggan from his long run as the writer of Deadpool, or possibly as a TV writer on Attack of the Show. He’s recently paired with artist David O’Sullivan, colorist Mike Spicer and letterer Joe Sabino on Analog, a future noir action comedy Image comic set in a world where internet communications are not secure. The first trade is coming out soon, and a feature film adaptation is in the works at Lionsgate with the director of the John Wick trilogy, Chad Stahelski.

In the world they’ve created, computers and internet are no longer secure, so valuable corporate information must be carried by private couriers, who go armed and anonymous.

Jack McGuinness is one such courier, who has to fight his way through a lot of resistance to deliver his packages. His larger problem is that NSA’s surveillance function is also adapting to the analog world and he’s part of their answer. I managed to catch up with Gerry and David for an e-interview.

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The Complete Carpenter: Village of the Damned (1995)

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


Here’s a crossover I want to see in a comic: Superman vs. The Village of the Damned. I just thought of that as I sat down to write because Christopher Reeve is in this movie. Hey DC, you’re welcome! You need all the help you can get.

Anyway, welcome to the late period of John Carpenter’s career. It’s downhill from this point, dear readers.

Village of the Damned came about when Carpenter and his producer Sandy King (whom he married in 1990) signed a contract with Universal and tried to set up a Creature From the Black Lagoon remake. When project planning bogged down, Tom Pollock at Universal handed Carpenter a script for a remake of the 1960 British SF/horror picture Village of the Damned (based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham) and asked the director if he’d make this before continuing with Creature. Carpenter agreed to do it as part of his contract.

Village of the Damned was a commercial failure when released in April 1995 after Universal rushed its release schedule. The Creature From the Black Lagoon remake never got the greenlight from the studio and faded away. So rather than getting a John Carpenter remake he was passionate about, sort of a follow-up to The Thing, we got a John Carpenter remake he was just trying to get out of the way.

The Story

A bizarre phenomenon strikes the Northern California town of Midwich: for six hours, every person and animal in the town and surrounding countryside falls unconscious. Pretty weird. But weirder is that a month later local doctor Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve) finds out that ten Midwich women are pregnant — and the conception date is the day of the blackouts. Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley), an epidemiologist studying the occurrence for the US government, offers financial incentives for the pregnant women to carry their children to term so the offspring can be studied.

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Birthday Reviews: Brian W. Aldiss’s “Tarzan of the Alps”

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

Brian W. Aldiss was born on August 18, 1925 and died on August 19, 2017, the day after his 92nd birthday.

Aldiss won a Hugo Award in 1962 for his short story “Hothouse” and a non-fiction Hugo in 1987 for his history of the science fiction field, Trillion Year Spree, written with David Wingrove, in which they continued to popularize Aldiss’s contention that science fiction began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In 1966 his novella “The Saliva Tree” received the Nebula Award. He has won the British SF Association Award five times and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award once. His novel Helliconia Spring won both of those awards as well as the Kurd Lasswitz Preis. Trillion Year Spree also won the Eaton Award. Aldiss has won a Ditmar Award for Contemporary Author and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Prix Utopia, Pilgrim Award, IAFA Award, and World Fantasy Award. He was inducted into both the First Fandom Hall of Fame and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. Aldiss was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2000. In 2005, Aldiss was awarded the title Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth as part of the Birthday Honors list for his service to literature.

Aldiss first published “Tarzan of the Alps” in the first issue of the magazine Postscripts, edited by Peter Crowther in 2004. The following year, the story was used by Aldiss to lead off his collection Cultural Breaks. The story has not appeared anywhere else.

Aldiss sets “Tarzan of the Alps” in Patagonia, about as far from Africa or Switzerland as one could get. It tells the story of José Pareda, whose truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere and Alejo and Maria Galdos, who just happen to live in the middle of nowhere and come to his aid, along with their son who works in the nearest town as a mechanic. In the days that Pareda stays with the Galdoses while his truck is being repaired, they bond over their shared life experiences, being of a similar age, and Pareda thanks his hosts with his stock in trade, a traveling movie that he projects from his van.

The Galdoses live so far from anything that this is the first film they have ever seen, a version of Tarzan of the Apes, which they misunderstand as Tarzan of the Alps. Being the first film they saw, the movie made a huge impression on the Galdoses and they decide that they wanted to visit the jungles of the Alps before they die. Unfortunately, Alejo dies before they have enough money for the trip and the story ends with Maria preparing their son for his journey to see the Alps as they imagine they existed in Tarzan.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 11, Part 1: Fireworks and Lôi Báo

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

FireworksI knew Sunday, July 22, was going to be a long day for me at Fantasia. That was a good thing: it meant I’d be watching a lot of movies. At a certain point, I knew I’d have to make a choice about which ones I’d be seeing. But at least the first two were set in my mind, both playing at the Hall Theatre. The first was Fireworks, an anime tween love story with a time-twisting aspect. The second was Lôi Báo, a Vietnamese super-hero movie.

Fireworks, or to give its full title, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or The Bottom? (Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?, 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか?横から見るか?), was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi from a script by Hitoshi Ohne, and is based on a 1995 film of the same name written and directed by Shunji Iwai. It follows youngsters Norimichi (Masaki Suda, Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, Assassination Classroom, Princess Jellyfish) and Nazuna (voiced by Suzu Hirose, the lead in Laplace’s Witch), schoolmates in a seaside Japanese town. One morning, the morning her mother plans to leave town with her, Nazuna finds a strange glass sphere. Norimichi has a crush on her and had been planning to ask her to watch a large fireworks display with him that evening, but things go awry and Nazuna chooses to go with Norimichi’s friend Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano) instead. Only, at about the halfway point of the film, everything changes: a secret property of the strange glass sphere emerges, and the day begins again with Norimichi given another chance to get together with Nazuna.

Stylistically, this is a very realistic-looking movie with a few departures into fantasy sequences. Lighting effects, as you might imagine given the title, are extensive and often beautiful. This is a bright film in general with highly saturated colours. The design and direction works with the animation to create a strong sense of place — the village feels like a real hillside village, laid out in three dimensions. You get the idea swiftly where everything is relative to everything else, and a few shots of the town as a whole help. The character animation is mostly effective; I didn’t notice especially subtle touches to Norimichi or the boys he hung around with, but their body language does do a decent job of establishing who they are. The coltish Nazuna’s a little more distinctive, with a dream sequence near the end giving a sense of her character through movement (as well as through exposition and imagery).

Narratively, the movie uses a setup not unlike Groundhog Day, with a protagonist who gets to live through a day and change things as needed. Fireworks presents a useful twist, though, in that the world around Norimichi gets a little smaller and a little more deformed each time he does this. You can see that the final version of the world won’t be stable. But then you can also see that there are limits to how much the young people in this film can affect the world in any case; their ability to connect with each other is limited by circumstance, and in a way that’s what the movie’s about. If one of the characteristics of a fireworks display is its intensity, another is its transience: however beautiful, fireworks fade.

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