Vintage Treasures: The Five Star Novella Collections

Monday, November 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

In Another Country and Other Short Novels-small Behind the Eyes of Dreamers and Other Short Novels-small Immersion and Other Short Novels

Five Star Publishing was the short-lived but extremely prolific genre publishing arm of Gale, which produced almost exclusively hardcovers aimed at the library market. John Helfers at Teckno Books was the acquisitions editor, delivering an impressive 48 mystery, 36 romance, and 24 SF & fantasy titles per year.

Five Star didn’t get a lot of attention from the mainstream genre press, and many of their more interesting efforts sailed well below the radar. As a result, I didn’t learn that they’d produced a quartet of novella collections — by Robert Silverberg, Pamela Sargent, Gregory Benford, and Mike Resnick — until a few weeks ago. As soon as I discovered the existence of In Another Country and Other Short Novels by Robert Silverberg, I tracked it down immediately. I found a brand new copy for sale through Amazon for just $3.65, and ordered it on the spot. It arrived last week, and I’m extremely pleased with it.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Stanford Does Holmes and More…

Monday, November 30th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Stanford_CoverI don’t know how many Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle related books I have on my shelves. But it’s certainly several hundred. And I know almost every one of them and where they are. Some days, I like to simply pull various volumes out, look at them a bit and put them back. And once in awhile, I run across something I had forgotten about. Such happened to me as I was trying to decide what to write about this week.

Did you ever hear of the Stanford Victorian Reading Project? This admirable effort, currently on hiatus, released facsimiles of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes stories. Regarding Dickens, they explored Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times.

I’m not much of a Dickens reader, so I’m only going to look at the Holmes project here.

You could sign up and they would send you, in the mail, free, an issue with a recreated cover from The Strand Magazine, a very short essay somehow related to Holmes or Doyle, a facsimile of a story with Sidney Paget’s illustrations, and annotations, often including a map or other picture. Quite simply, these are neat! Starting in January of 2006, I received (on a weekly basis), ”A Scandal in Bohemia,” The Speckled Band,” The Hound of the Baskervilles in nine installments, and “The Final Problem.”

Beginning in January of 2007, the sent out “The Empty House,” “Silver Blaze,” “The Musgrave Ritual,” “The Reigate Squire,” “The Greek Interpreter,” “Charles Augustus Milverton,” “The Abbey Grange,” “The Second Stain,” “The Bruce-Partington Plans,” “The Devil’s Foot,” “The Dying Detective” and “His Last Bow.”

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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Elizabeth Massie

Sunday, November 29th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Elizabeth Massie-smallOur Pro-Tip this week comes from Elizabeth Massie – a Bram Stoker Award- and Scribe Award-winning writer of horror and historical novels, short fiction, media tie-ins, poetry, and nonfiction, with works published by Simon & Schuster, Tor, Crossroad Press, Apex Books, Pocket Books, Berkley, Dark Fuse, and more.

What Do You Do to Get Unstuck and Solve Writer’s Block?

Some people believe there is no such thing as writer’s block…I know it to be a real problem at times, but it can be overcome. I always have at least two, sometimes three, projects going on at a time. A novel, a short story, a poem. Or any combination. When I get stuck on one, I can slide over to the other to work. Then when I come back to the first, that “locked down” feeling is usually gone and I can see it with a fresh eye.

Another trick is to always stop your day’s writing in the middle of a scene or in the middle of a sentence, even. Then the next day, when you come to it, you will find yourself more excited to get back into the story because you aren’t having to re-heat your engine from scratch.

A third suggestion is to give yourself a day away from writing. Sometimes we need to let our creative wells refill – and they will. So while there are times to push through, there are times to step back.

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John DeNardo on Why I Love Retro Science Fiction

Sunday, November 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Thrilling Wonder Stories-smallOur bud John DeNardo, editor of the fabulous SF Signal, writes on a topic near and dear to our crusty little hearts, “Why I Love Retro Science Fiction,” over at Kirkus Reviews.

More than anything, retro-futurism is a flavor… It’s the way writers wrote science fiction in the past. Generally speaking, writers today are much more rigorous in their writing than the writers who were trying to meet the demand of weekly pulp publication serials. The resulting science fiction from that past era was plot-driven and didn’t spend pages discussing, say, some planet’s terrain. That made the stories shorter as well. Books from decades ago were 150 pages long and that was just fine.

Retro-futures are also kitschy. There’s a nostalgic quality to it. This is a little harder to describe. I tend to like the kind of science fiction that was written before I was born. Perhaps it’s because when I started reading science fiction, I often read older books that crossed my path. In the 1970s, I was weaned on sci-fi from the Golden Age and that mode of science fiction still appeals to me….

Today’s retro sci-fi is written by today’s writers, and while modern writers may try to emulate the science fiction of yesteryear, what they rarely, if ever, do is reflect the outdated thinking of those times. In today’s retro sci-fi, you will find more discussions of multiple viewpoints and philosophies, you’ll see diverse cultures portrayed on a galaxy-wide scale — and you’ll see it through the derring-do of space adventurers zipping around in the foreground.

Read the complete article here.

New Treasures: The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales edited by Justin Everett and Jeffrey H. Shanks

Sunday, November 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales-back-small The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales-small

I was extremely pleased to receive a review copy of Justin Everett and Jeffrey H. Shanks’ The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales, a fascinating collection of essays exploring the history and enormous impact of the most important fantasy magazine of all time.

While it’s primarily an academic volume (the first essay, by Jason Ray Carney, is titled “‘Something That Swayed as If in Unison’: The Artistic Authenticity of Weird Tales in the Interwar Periodical Culture of Modernism”) the book has plenty to offer casual fans. I’ve spent a few days with it now, dipping into various articles, and found it both educational and highly entertaining. This is a great volume for anyone who wants to understand why Weird Tales was so crucially important to the development of American fantasy, and the fan who’s just looking for recommendations on the best fantasy from the early Twentieth Century.

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Sea Trolls, Spaceship Captains, and Immortal Warriors: Publishers Weekly on Warrior Women

Saturday, November 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Warrior Women-small

Publishers Weekly has given a starred review to Paula Guran’s latest book Warrior Women, calling it an “Epic anthology… truly impressive.”

Two dozen stories of women warriors form this epic anthology of stories about those forced to fight, those who chose to fight regardless of odds, those who ran from their destiny as warriors, and those who will end war at any cost. In Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “The Sea Troll’s Daughter,” the titular daughter of a fearsome beast reluctantly confronts the woman who slew her father. In Carrie Vaughn’s nonspeculative “The Girls from Avenger,” a WWII pilot tries to determine the cause of her friend’s mysterious crash. An immortal wandering warrior meets an immortal prisoner in George R.R. Martin’s hopeful but bleak “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr.” Spaceship captain Tory Sabin must battle bureaucracy and physics to locate a missing friend in “The Application of Hope” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The warriors include girls as well as grown women: young Thien Bao is offered the chance to end a cataclysmic war at an unimaginable cost in Aliette de Bodard’s “The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile,” and a girl who discovers her father is a “monster” grows into a woman who tries to save others from his fate in Ken Liu’s “In the Loop.” Each story contains strength and compassion, even when the personal cost is high. The depictions of battle and trauma are rarely graphic, but they’re as hard-hitting as the subject demands. This is a truly impressive accomplishment for Guran and her contributors.

See the complete table of contents here, and the complete Publishers Weekly review hereWarrior Women will be published by Prime Books on December 17, 2015. It is 384 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback. The cover is by Julie Dillon. See more details at the Prime Books website.

Future Treasures: Your Brother’s Blood by David Towsey

Saturday, November 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Your Brother's Blood-smallHere’s an imaginative debut novel set centuries in the future, that sounds more like a weird western than science fiction. And you know how we feel about weird westerns! I’ve already pre-ordered a copy.

An unnamed event has wiped out most of humanity, scattering its remnants across vast and now barren lands reminiscent of the 19th century western frontier of America. Small clusters of humans still cling to existence in a post-apocalyptic world that is increasingly overrun by those who have risen from the dead — or, as the living call them, the Walkin’.

Thomas, a thirty-two year old conscripted soldier, homeward bound to the small frontier town of Barkley after fighting in a devastating civil war, is filled with hope at the thought of being reunited with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Mary, both named after characters in the Good Book. As it turns out, he also happens to be among the Walkin’.

Devoid of a pulse or sense of pain, but with his memories and hopes intact, Thomas soon realizes that the living, who are increasingly drawn to the followers of the Good Book, are not kindly disposed to the likes of him. And when he learns what the good people of Barkley intend to do to him, and to his family, he realizes he may just have to kidnap his daughter to save her from a fate worse than becoming a member of the undead.

When the people of Barkley send out a posse in pursuit of father and daughter, the race for survival truly begins…

Your Brother’s Blood will be published by Jo Fletcher Books on December 1, 2015. It is 336 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital edition.

Collecting Philip K. Dick

Saturday, November 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Philip K Dick paperback collection-medium

Recently I wrote here about a handsome collection of 35 books by Isaac Asimov I bought on eBay for $82.17 — a lofty price for vintage paperbacks, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed what great shape they were in. Last week I also reported on the set of 32 paperback of the same vintage by Arthur C. Clarke I purchased at the same time. Clarke is still highly regarded these days, but not in the same category as Asimov. I expected to pay much less for them, and I was right — I won the auction for $27.

The same seller was also offering the striking set of Philp K. Dick books above (click for bigger version). While not virtually brand new like the Clarke and Asimov collections, they were nonetheless in terrific shape, especially for 40-year old paperbacks. I bravely took part in the auction, but bowed out before it hit $100. I expected it to go a lot higher, and it did.

The set sold for $536 and change, about $9.50 per book — a bargain, considering what Dick paperbacks in that kind of condition sell for individually.

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November/December Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction now on Sale

Saturday, November 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy and Science Fiction November December 2015-smallThe November/December issue of F&SF is packed with lots of great stories, including tales from Robert Reed, Jeffrey Ford, Carter Scholz, Bruce McAllister, Naomi Kritzer and others.

Robert Turner at Tangent Online enjoyed the issue, particularly the stories by Ford, Scholz, and Kritzer:

In “The Winter Wraith” Jeffrey Ford puts together a tale of dread based only on an old Christmas tree and some uncanny events tied to being home alone in winter. The language is evocative and effectively paints the picture of the house and the narrative voice. The inconclusive nature of the story fits well with the tone and provides the reader with an enjoyable frisson as the tale ends…

“Gypsy” by Carter Scholz is a novella length work that is well worth the time needed to digest. Starting from the standard refugees-from-a-dying-Earth narrative, Scholz creates a believable world in which desperate geniuses make a last ditch attempt to settle a new planet. The differing POV’s and the way in which they create a patchwork story is well done and provides a satisfying read. The story is at its best as the various characters deal with entropy over the course of their trip.

In “Cleanout” by Naomi Kritzer three sisters are faced with the task of cleaning out their mother’s home after she has a stroke. As they do, they come across hints that their immigrant parents came from further away than they had suspected. The story mixes the stresses and concerns of contemporary life with elements of magical realism and the conclusion is pitch perfect.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Decadent Alien Races and Electricity Creatures: Rich Horton on Warlord of Kor/The Star Wasps

Friday, November 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Warlord of Kor-small The Star Wasps-small

Terry Carr made his reputation in the field as an extremely talented editor. He edited 16 volumes of the Best SF of the Year, from 1972-1987, five volumes of Fantasy Annual (1978-1982), 17 volumes of Universe, and over a dozen standalone anthologies. But early in his career he also wrote a small number of novels, starting with Warlord of Kor, an Ace Double paired with Robert Moore Williams’ The Star Wasps (1963). Over at Strange at Ecbatan, Rich Horton took a look at the book as part of his ongoing series of Ace Double reviews.

This one qualifies as pretty forgotten, and mostly for good reasons… But it does feature a major major SF figure, Terry Carr. Carr is not widely known as a writer, but he was a hugely significant editor… while he didn’t write a whole lot of fiction, some of it was very good, including an admired novel (Cirque (1977))…

In all honesty, Warlord of Kor isn’t all that bad, though it’s not all that great either… The protagonist is Lee Rynarson, something of an archaeologist who is studying the only intelligent race humans have ever found in their expansion through the Galaxy (or perhaps multiple galaxies). These are the Hirlagi, sort of a horse/dinosaur mix on Hirlaj. There are only 26 Hirlaji surviving — they seem a tired [and] decadent race. They have a long racial memory, and Rynarson, in talking with one of them, hears stories of a warlord in the distant past, who united much of the planet, only to decide, after “communing” with the mysterious god Kor, that the Hirlaji must abandon not just war but science… a reasonable first effort.

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