At the 2015 Worldcon, Sasquan, one of the dealers had a nice stash of old magazines. I bought a bunch of Goldsmith-era Amazings and Fantastics. This is one from quite early in Cele Goldsmith’s editorial career. Indeed, Norman Lobsenz’s editorial calls it “the first issue of the “new” Amazing that we have been talking about.”
He adds “There is one problem facing us … the constant shortage of first-rate stories.” This is a point he would make other times in editorials (and in the letter column), to a greater degree than I have ever seen from an editor in the pages of a magazine.
The cover here is by Alex Schomburg. The interiors are by two of the greatest artists in the field’s history, Virgil Finlay and Ed Emshwiller, and a name I didn’t recognize, Bernklau, who seems to have been active in the field only from 1959 to 1961 (in a variety of magazines). He was probably the Art Bernklau who did covers for Beacon Books in the same period.
Besides the editorial, the features include S. E. Cotts’ book review column, the Spectroscope; a science article by Lester Del Rey, “Homesteads on Venus,” and the lettercol, “Or So You Say.”
Cotts opens the book review column be celebrating that the column has more space. There is mention of SF in other media: an article in the National Review (“SF seems a strange bedfellow for such a right-wing magazine” says Cotts – a curious remark), SF on TV (Twilight Zone), on record, and an opera. This last is Harry Martinson’s Aniara (music by Karl-Birger Blomdahl). Martinson eventually (quite controversially) shared a Nobel Prize for literature.
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Grimdark is a quarterly magazine of dark fantasy. Editor Adrian Collins summarizes the latest for us nicely in his Issue #5 Line Up post:
Grimdark Magazine issue #5 is chock full of grimdark goodness. We’ve pushed the genre boundaries of grimdark a bit more in this issue, with zombie apocalypses and cold-hearted near-future sci-fi to go with the three fantasy pieces, which include a Dominion of the Fallen short story by Aliette de Bodard.
The Line Up post even has a nifty teaser trailer. Check it out. In his review of the first few issues, Fletcher Vredenburgh seems to like what he sees:
From a swords & sorcery perspective, the biggest — and potentially most interesting — new publication out there is Grimdark Magazine… grimdark fantasy is nihlistic/realistic storytelling that moves the genre forward/destroys the genre, and features characters with realistic motives/who are utterly vile. Whether you like or hate the fiction coming out under the rubric, Grimdark Magazine, by its very nature, is going to feature S&S… At only $2.99 a pop, I’ll be keeping up with Grimdark Magazine…
The latest issue went on sale in October, and contains new fiction by Aliette de Bodard, Chadwick Ginther, Sean Patrick Hazlett, David Annandale, and T.C. Powell, as well as an excerpt from Victor Milan’s new novel The Dinosaur Lords, book reviews, interviews with James A. Moore and Peter Orullian, and an article titled ‘Who is the Grimdark Hero?’ by C.T. Phipps.
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Once upon a time, said the storyteller, a band of brave travelers set off into the wilderness in desperate hope of destroying a mighty dark lord. The only thing that could destroy the villain was a single magic talisman wielded by one specific young man. Along the way they were beset by enemies known and unknown and eventually became separated. Some continued on the original quest while others decided to warn their allies in a mighty walled city of impending attack.
In the end, the young hero, after confronting his own inner demons, defeated the villain. At the same time, the walled city staved off defeat long enough that it could be saved by the propitious arrival of an ally’s army. The world was set right.
“Stop! Stop!” cried some in the audience. “We already know this one!”
“Shut up!” yelled others. “We liked it before and we like it this time too!”
The storyteller said, “I know you’ve heard it before, but I’m telling it my own way and I think you’ll like it.” Much of the audience cheered.
In the back of the room, a man and a woman smiled and smelled success.
In 1977 when I was eleven, I, along with hundreds of thousands of others, was part of the group that yelled “Shut up!” For us it didn’t matter that chunks of Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara read like he’d simply xeroxed The Lord of the Rings, sped it up, and stripped out the hard parts, songs, and poetry. So what if the Skullbearers bore an uncanny resemblance to the Ring Wraiths and the city of Tyrsis to the city of Minas Tirith? Did it matter that gnomes were suspiciously like orcs? That the whole point of the book was to get a single young man into the dark lord’s kingdom and bring him down with a certain magic item? Heck no! We loved the first iteration of those things and wanted them all over again. We were happy to read even a slavish imitation of LotR. I read the book in about three days. At over seven hundred pages it was the longest book I had read to date. One friend stayed in his room and read it in a day.
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Garrett Calcaterra’s most recent posts for us were “Fantasy Clichés Done Right and “Can SF Save the World From Climate Change?” In addition to investigative reporting, he also dabbles in writing fantasy novels. Dreamwielder, the opening novel in his Dreamwielder Chronicles, is a terrific sword & sorcery adventure, and has been widely acclaimed. James P. Blaylock called it “fast-paced, colorful, and richly detailed… My kind of book,” and Tim Powers proclaimed it a “good solid fantasy adventure.” Souldrifter, the long-anticipated second volume in the series, finally went on sale last month.
In the shadow of Emperor Guderian’s fallen empire, young Queen Makarria finds her throne ― and her life ― in grave danger. The Old World Republic has come, demanding that Queen Makarria bring order to the struggling Five Kingdoms by forming a new empire, one she would rule as the Old World’s puppet. When Makarria refuses them, the Old World threatens war and unleashes a nefarious spy to sow discord in her court. Before she knows it, Makarria’s budding romance with Prince Caile has been exploited by the spy, and Makarria finds herself embroiled in a complex game of power and lies in which she can trust no one.
Betrayed and lost, Makarria is forced to shed all pride and discover the true nature of her power as a dreamwielder in order to recreate herself and face the sprawling threat that is the Old World Empire.
Souldrifter was published by Diversion Publishing on September 29, 2015. It is 298 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition. Try a sample chapter right here at Black Gate.
Jay Maynard’s “A Proposal: An Award for SF Storytelling” was the most popular post on Black Gate last month. It’s been read over 30,000 times since September 10th, and garnered nearly 500 comments. If there’s a topic BG readers really care about, it’s clearly SF awards.
The #2 post on the list was our look at the breakout success of Cixin Liu’s novel The Three-Body Problem, the first Chinese-language novel to win the Hugo Award. #3 was Guy Windsor’s very first contribution to Black Gate, “Tips on Writing a Great Swordfight from a Professional Swordsman.”
Rounding out the Top Five for September were Scott Taylor’s Art of the Genre Kickstarter essay, “Why I Hate Stretch Goals and You Should Too,” and Jay Maynard’s report on game designer Ken Burnside’s experience as a Sad Puppy at the Hugo Award ceremony, “Ken Burnside Tells the Hugo Story from the Inside.”
Our Top Ten posts last month also included articles by M. Harold Page (“Conan is My Spirit Guide”), Neil Clarke on “The Sad Truth About Short Fiction Reviews,” William I. Lengeman III defending Children of Dune, Sarah Avery’s “How One Award-Winning Author Thinks About Awards,” and a detailed look at the classic Durdane Trilogy by Jack Vance.
The complete list of Top Articles for September follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular blog categories for the month.
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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction was founded in 1949 by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas, who believed science fiction and fantasy could aspire to a literary niche far above the level of the pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s. With F&SF they succeeded brilliantly, launching a magazine with a discerning adult readership that published some of the best fiction of the 20th Century — and is still published today.
Anthony Boucher remained editor of F&SF from Fall 1949 to August 1958. After his death in 1968, McComas assembled a tribute anthology called Special Wonder, collecting stories from 29 of the top writers in the field. It was published in hardcover in 1970 by Random House, and then reprinted in paperback in two volumes in January and February of 1971 by Beagle Books (above). Special Wonder contained reprints that were “to Tony’s taste,” most of which had been published in F&SF, and in aggregate they provided a splendid representative sample of the kind of writing that Boucher sought out, nurtured, and made a home for in the field.
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Back in July, in a post on Sidney Paget, I wrote “Along with Frederic Dorr Steele, Paget is certainly one of the two most significant illustrators of the great detective.” Having covered Paget, now we look at Dorr Steele.
In 1893, Doyle, feeling that writing Holmes stories was holding him back from more important works, did the unthinkable: he killed the world’s most popular detective. In 1902, he revived Holmes for one adventure in his most famous story, The Hound of the Baskervilles, with good old Sidney Paget illustrating again. Doyle made it clear this was an earlier case of Holmes’ and that the great detective was, in fact, still dead.
The stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes had been illustrated by various artists in America, where they appeared in different magazines and newspapers. There was no sole source for the stories, as there was in England with The Strand. For the most part, the drawings were rather uninspired
Some of Paget’s were also used, but often just a few, not the full set for each story. Thus, a common image of Holmes had not evolved from the drawings. There was no Sidney Paget in the United States. But there was about to be!
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The first volume of Year’s Best Weird Fiction appeared last October, and was a complete success. Edited by Michael Kelly and guest editor Laird Barron, it gathered the very best weird fantasy of the year, from John R. Fultz, Jeffrey Ford, John Langan, Sofia Samatar, Simon Strantzas, Paul Tremblay, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others (see the complete TOC here.)
I’ve been highly anticipating the second volume, and I’m not the only one. The one is edited by Kelly and Kathe Koja, and the Table of Contents looks just as stellar. According to publisher Undertow Publications, it will be available November 1st. The cover art is by Tomasz Alen Kopera.
The cover price for the print edition is $18.99, but Undertow currently has a bundle special — get Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 2 and their acclaimed annual anthology Shadows & Tall Trees 5 (regular price $14) for just $25 — including shipping, anywhere in the world. That’s a hard offer to refuse. Check out the details here.
Who is Your Point of View Character?
It Might Not Be Your Protagonist. The most common POV choice, particularly for short stories, is for the protagonist to be the POV character. Stories of this type can be written in 1st Person, or Tight Limited 3rd. (More on these terms later in this article.) In very rare cases, they can also be told disguised in 2nd Person.
Your protagonist is the one facing the problem and must be the one who takes the final action that solves the problem and saves the day.
It often makes sense for the protag to be the POV. But there are times when an author chooses to use a sidekick or an observer as the POV character, even when choosing to write the story in 1st Person.
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Ben Okri’s 1991 novel The Famished Road won the Booker Prize and was followed in 1993 by Songs of Enchantment and in 1998 by Infinite Riches. Riches called itself “Volume Three of The Famished Road cycle,” which seems an apt term. The books individually are visionary accomplishments, filled with ecstatic and elegant prose; and they are concerned with cycles, of lives and stories. They are concerned with myth, and themselves create myth, a mythology of history or at least a mythology intersecting with history.
They follow Azaro, whose name is short for ‘Lazarus.’ He is an abiku, a spirit child, in what appears to be pre-independence Nigeria (the country where the books take place are never named). Abiku, we are told, are supposed to be born many times, dying young repeatedly; Azaro has decided to stay in this world, but can see spirits and in fact remembers his existence before birth. His friends in the spirit world remember him, too, and want him back. The first book in particular revolves around his determination to stay with the family into which he has been born, and his desire to make his mother happy. The second book, as Azaro himself observes, changes focus; it is less about his struggles with the other world, as his spirit friends change tack: “They chose to draw me deeper into the horrors of existence as a way of forcing me to recoil from life.” The focus here moves away from Abiku, toward his parents and his ghetto community; by the third book we are caught up in their myth, following their story as it moves on toward the end of its cycle.
The books are about, among other things, story and history and the ending of one cycle in a people’s existence and the beginning of a new. They are about the creation of a new nation. Are they fantasies? I suppose it’s mostly possible to read them as realistic — to see Azaro as delusional, to dismiss all the myths and visions as unreal. I am wildly skeptical that such an approach would produce any useful understanding of the books. On the other hand, these books are involved with myth as opposed to the kind of writing normally described by the word “fantasy.” Personally, I’d describe them as fantasies because to me “fantasy” includes the visionary — which these books are, 1990s equivalent to the prophecies of William Blake. It’s fair to argue that I’m getting those words backwards, that fantasy is a subspecies of the visionary instead of the reverse; but I think that “fantasy” perhaps also implies the kind of creative response demanded here of readers. As I said, I don’t think approaching these books with a perspective that privileges the realistic will get very far. Whatever world you use for them, it’s worth acknowledging that these are books of myth that call out to the mythic sensibility.
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