The Boxed Set of the Year: American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s edited by Gary K. Wolfe

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Paul Lehr

Gary K. Wolfe is one of my favorite Locus columnists. He also reviews science fiction for the Chicago Tribune and, with Jonathan Strahan, co-hosts the excellent Coode Street Podcast. But more and more these days I think of him as an editor. He edited the Philip Jose Farmer retrospective collection Up the Bright River (2011) and, even more significantly, American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s: A Library of America Boxed Set (2012), a massive 1,700-page, 2-volume omnibus collection of classic novels by Pohl & Kornbluth, Sturgeon, Brackett, Matheson, Heinlein, Bester, Blish, Budrys, and Leiber, all in gorgeous hardcover with acid-free paper, sewn binding, and full cloth covers.

So I was thrilled to hear that, seven long years later, Wolfe has fulfilled that promise of that first beautiful boxed set with a sequel: American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s. Like the first, it will be sold as two separate hardcovers, and also available in a handsome boxed set edition. It contains eight of the finest SF novels of the 60s:

The High Crusade, Poul Anderson (1960)
Way Station, Clifford D. Simak (1963)
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes (1966)
…And Call Me Conrad (This Immortal), Roger Zelazny (1966)
Past Master, R. A. Lafferty (1968)
Picnic on Paradise, Joanna Russ (1968)
Nova, Samuel R. Delany (1968)
Emphyrio, Jack Vance (1969)

The whole package comes wrapped up in a boxed set featuring artwork from the brilliant Paul Lehr. It will be in bookstores on November 5th — and is available now at $15 below retail if you order direct from Library of America.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 John W. Campbell Memorial Award: Beyond Apollo, by Barry N. Malzberg (plus Special Award to Robert Silverberg for Dying Inside)

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

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Beyond Apollo (Random House, 1972, Pocket Books, 1979, Carrol & Graf, 1989). Covers by Roger Hane, Don Maitz, and unknown

Two separate awards were established in 1973 in memory of the profoundly influential long time editor of Astounding/Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr., who had died in 1971. We have already covered the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (which has just been renamed the Astounding Award), which went to Jerry Pournelle.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award is given for the Best Science Fiction Novel of the year. It is a juried award. It was first established by Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss, to, well, let’s reproduce Harrison’s words:

When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.

The first award was presented at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The jury for the first award consisted of Harrison, Aldiss, Thomas Clareson, Willis McNelly, and Leon Stover.

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Quixotic Striving for Happiness: The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Saturday, October 19th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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As much as I can, I’m trying to keep up with the best comics in the field. I don’t normally gravitate to the sad tragedy inherent in family drama, so I had started and stopped Marvel’s 2015 Vision series a few times. That’s a statement about me rather than the 12-issue masterpiece by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Knowles. The series is a brilliant science fiction tragedy.

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A Glorious Tapestry of Alternate History: The Empire of Fear by Brian Stableford

Saturday, October 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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British science fiction writer Brian Stableford has published more than 70 novels across a career spanning nearly five decades. His first novel was The Days of Glory (Ace, 1971), his most recent was The Tyranny of the Word (Black Coat Press, 2019), which appeared just last month. He’s produced a number of popular series, including six Hooded Swan science fiction novels, beginning with The Halcyon Drift (DAW 1972), six Daedalus Mission books, his famous werewolf trilogy (The Werewolves of London, The Angel of Pain, and The Carnival of Destruction), the Genesys trilogy, and the more recent six-volume Emortality series from Tor, beginning with Inherit the Earth (1998) and Architects of Emortality (September).

Back in 2013 I wrote a brief Vintage Treasures piece on his 1998 horror novel The Empire of Fear, and in the Comments section BG blogger Joe Bonadonna offered a splendid mini-review.

I read this one right after reading George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, and these are 2 of my favorite vampire novels, because they are so much more than that. Empire of Fear is a glorious tapestry of alternate history a, “what mine have been,” had Van Helsing not slain Dracula. Beautifully written, with flesh-and blood characters, and quite well told. My only complaint — it’s too bloody short.

Joe’s comments stayed with me, and as I celebrate the spooky season by selecting classic horror novels to read in October, I picked up a copy to read this weekend.

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A Thrilling Gothic Fantasy: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Friday, October 18th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Sorcery-of-Thorns-smallElisabeth has sworn to do her duty onto death, and death has just shown up.

Panicked horses draw a carriage up to the Great Library. A Class Eight grimoire, bound in an iron coffer secured with more than a dozen locks, rattles inside the vehicle. A pair of wardens jump down from the driver’s seat.

The grimoire – the Book of Eyes – is centuries old and has driven dozens of people mad. As an apprentice librarian, Elisabeth shouldn’t be anywhere near it. But the library’s Director specifically summoned her here to help.

The Director must be testing Elisabeth. If she fails, the Book of Eyes will claim her life. But if she manages to survive this encounter, then she’ll show she really is a warden in the making. That is Elisabeth’s dearest wish: to prove herself worthy to the Director by becoming a warden herself. After all, she owes the Director everything. If it hadn’t been for her, Elisabeth would have been raised in an orphanage.

As Elizabeth and the Director carry the foul-smelling book down into the vault where the most dangerous tomes are isolated, it lurches in its bindings and tries to break free. When they reach its appointed cell, the table in the middle is gouged with enormous gashes. It looks like a demon clawed it. Grimoires that are damaged turn into Maleficts, huge monsters of ink and leather that kill the villagers and ravage the countryside. The wardens risk their own lives in hunting down and destroying them.

A Malefict must have been born on that very expanse of wood.

While the Director examines the Book of Eyes for damage, keeping the greasy black volume contained in a circle of salt and wearing iron-lined gloves, the grimoire opens its warty eyes and fastens them on Elisabeth. Sensing her inexperience and vulnerability, it calls to her, a whisper that threads through her mind…

She tries to ignore the voice, but it’s no use. Her gaze drifts down to the book… She feels like she’s sinking… The Director’s voice comes from very far away, as though she’s speaking underwater…

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In 500 Words or Less: Lost Transmissions by Desirina Boskovich

Friday, October 18th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

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Cover by Paul Lehr

Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy
By Desirina Boskovich
Abrams Image (304 pages, $29.99 hardcover, $13.99 eBook, September 10, 2019)

Did you know that Johannes Kepler wrote speculative fiction that got his mother imprisoned for witchcraft? Or that Weezer almost had an epic concept album to rival Pink Floyd and Rush? Or that Space Island One was even a thing?!

Maybe you did. We can’t quite use the excuse that an almost-thirty Millennial like myself obviously wouldn’t know a lot about the rich history of sci-fi and fantasy, however, since Lost Transmissions focuses on far more than the Golden Age. Desirina Boskovich has accumulated information on lesser-known SFF from across history, and I guarantee there are things in here you weren’t aware of. I had to tweet at Desirina while I was reading my ARC, for example, because the chapter “Speculative Music of the New Millennium” outlined artists and albums I’d never heard of, even though I should have grown up paying attention to them in the nineties and early 2000s. (My “To Listen” list doesn’t need to be any bigger, Desirina.)

My To-Read and To-Watch list doesn’t need to be any bigger, either, but too late now. After Charlie Jane Anders’ passionate and excited article about Space Island One, I’m determined to find a way to watch it, even though a DVD or streaming version doesn’t exist, apparently. Now that I’ve read the premise and background of Clair Noto’s The Tourist, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for a Netflix or Amazon adaptation. I need to look into the Mellon Chronicles to explore Lord of the Rings fandom. I want to find a group of people to try Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. And so on and so on and so on.

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Goth Chick News: When the Size of Your Spirit Matters

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

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Long before the Travel Channel’s obsession with spirits and professional ghost hunters, folks in the mid-1800’s became obsessed with spiritualism and all it’s trappings. Among the ‘spirit photography,’ levitating tables, and crystal balls, perhaps the most famous and long-lasting are ‘talking boards.’

First appearing around 1848, talking boards were used to summons and communicate with spirits. Most Americans, especially anyone who has ever attended a teenage sleepover, are aware of the most famous talking board, Ouija, which was first introduced in 1890 by the Kennard Novelty Company and sold today by Hasbro, Inc. These days there is even an organization in Massachusetts called Talking Board Historical Society, whose mission is to research, preserve, and celebrate the history of talking boards along with the people who continue to use them.

Now, just in time for Halloween, the Talking Board Historical Society have gone and outdone themselves by breaking a world record with “Ouijazilla,” officially declared by Ripley’s as being the world’s largest Ouija board.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sitting there absorbing the fact there was even a Ouija board record to be broken, but moving on…

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New Treasures: A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by John Hornor Jacobs

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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I’m hearing a lot about John Hornor Jacobs’ new book, A Lush and Seething Hell. Like, a lot.

Like this starred review from Kirkus:

Two lush, sprawling novellas that are nothing like each other except that they’re both scary as hell… Two spectacular novellas. After a glowing foreword by Jacobs’ fellow fabulist Chuck Wendig, the book launches into “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky,” a Lovecraft-ian horror story set in a fictionalized South American nation. In it, a young academic named Isabel Certa becomes involved with a famous one-eyed poet named Rafael Avendaño, a cavalier scoundrel who’s heading into a war zone… Then there’s the chill-inducing, artfully paced “My Heart Struck Sorrow,” in which we’re introduced to Cromwell, a librarian from the Library of Congress who specializes in oral tradition [who] accidentally stumbles upon a long-hidden treasure trove of blues recordings from the 1930s… Falling somewhere between House of Leaves (2000) and The Blair Witch Project, it is a terrifying, gothic descent into madness… This book has a fitting title if there ever was one, and these nightmares are worth every penny.

And Sam Reader’s rave review at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

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On the Virtue of Patience in Publishing

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 | Posted by Pierce Watters

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At a publishing convention in New Orleans in the 80: Ralph Arnote, book sales guru; Jim Baen,
Editor-in-chief for Tom Doherty at Ace; C.M. “Dink” Starns, my mentor; Tom Doherty, founder
and publisher of Tor; Ed Gabrielli, Macmillan VP; Jane Rice, career sales rep at Ace; and others

I was thinking of the importance of patience. Beth Meacham brought it to mind with a post.

An example: In the 80s, there was a time when my income was neither stable nor plentiful. At the time, Pocket Books was distributing Zebra Books. The local wholesaler was feuding with Pocket. As a consequence, Zebra was not being distributed either.

The Zebra Publisher, Walter Zacharius, was a power in publishing and a friend. But a dear friend of mine, one of Walter’s comrades, was Harry Hills. A mentor.

Harry and I went back to the 70s at Ballantine together. Harry started out doing marketing stunts at Bantam. One involved 6 people, including Harry, holding a very large python on a California beach. I’m not sure if Ian Ballantine was still at Bantam then.

Harry’s memos always started, “Attention All Hands!”

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Future Treasures: Quillifer the Knight by Walter Jon Williams

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Gregory Manchess and Alejandro Colucci

Walter Jon Williams is one of the most versatile writers we have. Space opera, military science fiction, cyberpunk, alternative history, SF police procedural — you name it, he’s done it. He’s written historical adventures, disaster novels (The Rift) and even a Star Wars novel (The New Jedi Order: Destiny’s Way). In his Locus review of the opening novel in William’s ambitious new fantasy series, Quillifer, Gary K. Wolfe says “Williams has been cheerfully genre-hopping for most of his career, sometimes even in the same novel.”

Quillifer is worth a second look — and not just because it’s one of Williams rare attempts at historical fantasy. Booklist calls it a “swashbuckling tale reminiscent of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman.” The second novel in the series, Quillifer the Knight, arrives in three weeks. Here’s Gary on the first volume.

Quillifer belongs to the ranks of what we might call displaced historical fantasies, stories which make meticulous use of actual historical detail (Williams’s character quote Elizabethan poets, and his weapons and ships are all historically real), but which are set in imaginary nations or kingdoms, often with restrained use of fantasy elements – such as we see from writers like Ellen Kushner, K.J. Parker, or Guy Gavriel Kay (although Kay is far more specific in his historical analogues).

In classic adventure-novel tradition, Quillifer comes from modest beginnings: the son of a butcher, he studies law in the port city of Eth­lebight, but is also something of a classic 18th-century rake, and the novel opens with his comical escape out the window of the young woman with whom he’s currently in love… things quickly begin to change when Ethlebight is invaded, plundered, and destroyed by pirates from the rival empire of the Aekoi. Quillifer survives, but is later captured by a notorious bandit calling himself Sir Basil…

With the aid of a nymph-goddess who finds him appealing, he manages to escape again, but rejects her advances as he realizes that joining her in her kingdom might result in his returning to his world as much as a century later (one of the few classic fantasy motifs that Williams employs). Spurning her sets up a threat that will hang over Quillifer for the rest of the novel, which consists largely of fully realized independent episodes: Quillifer finds his way into the court of Duisland, where he assumes the title “Groom of the Pudding” and almost accidentally proves himself to be a champion stag-killer (drawing on his background as a butcher), later a brilliant naval strategist, and eventually an effective field-marshal in a crucial land battle to save the kingdom from usurpers…  a thoroughly enjoyable series of historical adventures in a faux-Europe that is as meticulous in its details as it is vague in time and place.

Here’s a look at the back cover.

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