Boxed Set of the Year: American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

american-science-fictionWe’re lucky enough to receive a lot of review books here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters. Having the latest fantasy and SF novels arrive at our door before they’re available in stores never gets old, let me tell you.

Of course, cataloging them all and dropping them in the mail for our trusted circle of reviewers gets a little routine after a while. But it’s worth it for those special titles that come in once or twice a month, the ones you drop everything to gawk at. I’ve been a blogger for 16 years, and a publisher and editor for over a decade, but at heart I’m still a fanboy. And every month there’s at least one new book that proves it.

And then there are those special items that come in once or twice a year that you know that you’re not going to bother cataloging or telling the reviewers about. Because you’re never going to part with it. Such a treasure arrived a few weeks ago.

I’m talking about American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, a two-volume set published by The Library of America and edited by Gary K. Wolfe. If I were stranded on a desert island tomorrow, this is the one item I would bring. For one thing, it’s big enough to practically be a life raft.

But just don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Western Civilization’s finest Arbiter of Taste, the distinguished Mr. James Enge, had to say on Wednesday:

Wow. Fritz Leiber, Leigh Brackett, Pohl & Kornbluth, Blish, Heinlein, Matheson, Bester, Sturgeon, and Burdys — all swept into the Library of America, and in appropriately lurid covers, too. Overdue, but somehow I never thought I’d see it.

Indeed. American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s is a gorgeous set of volumes collecting the most essential SF of perhaps the most important decade in the history of the genre.

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Dredd Sentences You to a Bloody Good Time

Friday, September 21st, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

dredd2012posterThe Charge: Attempting to re-start a film franchise about a classic comic book character.

The Verdict: Guilty.

The Sentence: Director is hereby ordered to make more Judge Dredd Movies.

Any Last Words: I am the law.

The upcoming re-make of RoboCop now feels even more unnecessary than it did before. Dredd has just handed us an over-the-top violent buddy cop SF flick that fills up that niche for the next year, maybe two. Dredd is an old-style Paul Verhoeven film in feel, although missing much of his satirical glee, and hits perfect for a September action movie, trading in any “mainstream” credentials for hard-R blood and guts on a narrow budget. It’s a wet blast for action fans and dark SF junkies.

You may recall a similar film, Judge Dredd, from 1995, which starred Sylvester Stallone as the dispenser of justice in the fallen future. Based on the character created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra that appeared originally in the UK anthology magazine 2000 AD, the Stallone movie was a big-scale epic aiming for broad appeal to become a summer blockbuster, hence the inclusion of a comic sidekick played by Rob Schneider and the sanding away at the harsher elements of the setting. Because of Stallone’s celebrity status, he spent much of the film without the Judge’s eye-shielding helmet on, which the character never removes in the comics. I haven’t seen Judge Dredd ’95 since it was in theaters, but I do recall enjoying it.

I can’t imagine I would feel the same way about Stallone’s colorful but silly film if I watched it today, and this new take on Wagner and Ezquerra’s character has crushed any wish to revisit it. Costing a tight $45 million (pocket change among today’s blockbusters), the British/South African production Dredd sticks closer to source material and ditches any compromise for the general audience: it is authentically brutal dystopian action that works on the simple plane of crunchy ultra-violence.

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New Treasures: Cult Magazines: A to Z

Friday, September 21st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

cult-magazine-atozYou get to meet a lot of great people at science fiction conventions. For some, the draw is the Featured Guests, and it’s certainly cool to meet Neil Gaimen, Pat Rothfuss, John Scalzi, Connie Willis, and other top-selling authors.

For me though, the true delights are in meeting exciting writers and artists I’m not always familiar with. A few years ago, as we were setting up our booth at Dragon*Con, author Rob Thurman, who had the booth next to us, wandered over and introduced herself. She turned out to be extremely cool and delightfully entertaining, and when I finally staggered home, bone weary from five days in Atlanta, I dropped into my big green chair with one of her Cal Leandros novels. If it hadn’t been for lucky booth placement, I might never have discovered what an entertaining writer she was.

The same thing happened at Worldcon in Chicago two weeks ago. During the rare slow moments in the Dealers’ Room, I was able to wander a bit and check out the nearby booths. I discovered to my surprise that we were next to Nonstop Press — publishers of Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010, The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, and Cult Magazines: A to Z.

Nonstop’s Emshwiller: Infinity x Two: The Art & Life of Ed & Carol Emshwiller, by Luis Ortiz, is one of my favorite art books. The distinguished Mr. Ortiz was in the booth, and I was able to introduce myself. He had several intriguing new titles on display and — keeping a wary eye on the empty Black Gate booth — I was able to peek at them.

My eye was drawn immediately to Outermost: Life + Art of Jack Gaughan, a beautiful 176-page hardcover packed with over 500 images, many familiar from countless Ace and DAW paperback covers of the 60s and 70s. Over lunch, Rich Horton had talked about Robert Silverberg’s captivating memoir of writing SF in the 50s, Other Spaces, Other Times: A Life Spent in the Future, and there it was. I couldn’t resist Damien Broderick & Paul Di Filippo’s entertaining Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels – 1985-2010 either.

But the most fascinating book on the table, by a considerable margin, was Cult Magazines: A to Z, edited by Earl Kemp and Luis Ortiz, a gorgeous oversized softcover jam packed with articles and full-color pictures of hundreds of pulp, horror, science fiction, fantasy, comic, monster mags and men’s magazines published between 1925 and 1990.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Mask of Fu Manchu – Part Two

Friday, September 21st, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

mask-of-fu-manchu1roh_fu5_djSax Rohmer’s The Mask of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from May 7 to July 23, 1932. It was published in book form later that year by Doubleday in the US and the following year by Cassell in the UK. It became the most successful book in the series thanks to MGM’s cult classic film version, starring Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy, that made it into theaters later that same year.

The second part of the book sees Sir Denis Nayland Smith of British Intelligence, the renowned archaeologist Sir Lionel Barton, his foreman (and the book’s narrator) Shan Greville, and the expedition’s photographer Rima Barton (Sir Lionel’s niece and Shan’s fiancée) make their way from Ispahan to Cairo, where they are reunited with Dr. Petrie, Sir Denis’s oldest friend (and the narrator of the first three books in the series). Believing that Dr. Fu Manchu is behind the El Mokanna uprising that has already spread to Egypt, Petrie is relieved that his wife is safely visiting her in-laws in Surrey at present and out of harm’s way.

While Petrie drives the group into town, an incident occurs where it appears Petrie has struck a pedestrian. An angry mob, resentful of the British colonialists, soon gathers. While Petrie examines the victim and concludes the man had been dead three hours before his corpse was pushed in front of Petrie’s car, Sir Lionel is nearly abducted. The aim of the accident was to get at the large trunk he carries with him, containing the relics of El Mokanna’s tomb from his recent excavation in Persia. The timely arrival of the colonial police is all that saves them from the enraged mob.

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Goth Chick News: The Grass May Be Greener Over There, Because That’s Where the Bodies Are Buried

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0041As you know from last week, we here at Goth Chick News are very busy relishing the many tasty offerings that come along with the season.

In the Midwest, haunted attractions are dominating the GroupOn offerings, temporary Halloween stores have popped up in every vacant strip mall store-front with Midnight Syndicate music wafting out of their doors and even our friends over at Gorilla Tango Burlesque have gotten into the act with their latest show Boobs of the Dead.

Ah the season… no one can resist it.

From the West Coast, we are about to be smothered under a virtual onslaught of new holiday (i.e. scary) films including Frankenweenie, V/H/S, Sinister and…you must have seen this coming, Paranormal Activity 4.

So it was only a matter of time before the East Coast weighed in.

And there it was.

I just knew the New York-based team at Wunderkind PR wouldn’t let the season pass without gifting me a new horror offering, and considering this might well be the very last season ever (being it is 2012 and all), they really outdid themselves.

Instead of introducing me to a new Master of Horror, they introduced a new Mistress – and about time as well.

Ania Ahlborn, author of The Neighbors.

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Cynthia Ward Reviews The Gods of Opar

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

farmer08_bGods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa
Philip José Farmer & Christopher Paul Carey
Subterranean Press  (576 pp, $65.00 Limited Edition Hardcover, $45.00 Trade Edition Hardcover)
Reviewed by Cynthia Ward

Once upon a time, in a lost civilization known as West Germany, the Kreuzberg Kaserne U.S. Army Base let fifth graders leave school grounds at lunchtime. Every week, I crossed the street to the little base bookstore. In the late winter of 1972, I bought the first DC Comics issue (#207) of “Tarzan of the Apes” because I wanted to learn how the heck a human being ended up living with apes. When the writer/artist, the late, much-lamented Joe Kubert, ended his adaptation with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s original cliffhanger, I read Burroughs’s sequel, The Return of Tarzan, to finish the origin story. Then I found myself devouring every other Burroughs book reprinted in the early 1970s.

I couldn’t have been the decade’s only new Burroughs fan, because by the mid-1970s, his estate had authorized two different Tarzan-related series by other authors: the Bunduki novels by J.T. Edson and the Ancient Opar novels by Philip José Farmer. Both series produced a novel or two and then, as far as I knew, ended. The tie-in titles went out of print, their copyright was probably owned or controlled by the Burroughs estate, and Philip José Farmer died in 2009. I figured none of these books would ever see another reprint.

I figured wrong, because Subterranean Press has just released Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa, which is an omnibus of the two Ancient Opar novels by Philip José Farmer – Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976) – together with a third, new novel in the series, The Song of Kwasin, by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey (Black Gate recently ran essays from Carey about the history of his remarkable collaboration with Farmer, and his discussion of Farmer’s ambitious creation, the lost civilization of Khokarsa.)

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Teaching and Fantasy Literature: Meeting Them Halfway

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Avery

eragon-coverThe new school year has brought me a fresh crop of tutoring students, which means I get to ask one of my favorite questions: What do you read when nobody’s making you read anything? In the nine years since I left the classroom and started making house calls, almost all my students have named fantasy as their favorite genre.

Not this year.

Mystery won’t be too big a stretch, especially since my mystery mavens have a taste for Poe. But what on earth will I do for my new kid who only truly enjoys sports biographies? Eventually, after I’ve earned his trust, I might be able to entice him to stretch his taste.

Meanwhile, here I am staring Tim Tebow’s memoir in the face, trying to stretch my taste to meet the kid’s. I suspect my Scarlet Letter trick would break down if I tried to read a football memoir as a failed fantasy novel.

Oh, man. What I wouldn’t give to face the Eragon quandary again.

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Spiritualism during the American Civil War

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

a-fine-likenessSpiritualism was well established by the time the Civil War started. As the death toll mounted — a new estimate puts the body count at 750,000 — spiritualists enjoyed ever-greater demand for their “services.”

When you consider that the 1860 census showed only 31 million people living in the U.S., pretty much everyone had a reason to go to one. The Banner of Light newspaper ran a column with messages from dead soldiers of both armies channeled through a Mrs. J.H. Conant. One such message said,

As a favor of you today, that you will inform my father, Nathaniel Thompson of Montgomery, Alabama, if possible, of my decease. Tell him I died… eight days ago, happy and resigned.

Séances became popular with all social classes and even Abraham Lincoln attended a few hosted by the medium Nettie Colburn, a society favorite in Washington, D.C. The details of these meetings are hazy, but from what we know he went with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, who grieved over the deaths of two of her young sons. The President may have gone along just to humor her. Apparently he found séances entertaining, once reportedly sitting on a piano with several soldiers as it levitated into the air.

It might seem strange that the President of the United States would engage in such activities, but his experiences were more the rule than the exception. Spiritualism was hugely popular with upper and middle class whites. Less is known about the working class or black experience with the Spiritualist movement during the Civil War, as there is little written record.

In my Civil War novel, A Fine Likeness, Union Captain Richard Addison visits a medium in order to speak to his son, who was killed at Vicksburg.

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Try the first Four Issues of Innsmouth Magazine for Just $3.99

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

innsmouth-magazine-collected-1-4I haven’t done as much reading on my Kindle Fire as I thought I would. It’s not that I don’t like it — it’s more that I flat out haven’t done as much reading as I thought I would in the last 10 months.

But buying? That’s a different story. It reminds me of the months after we bought our first DVD player. Excited by our new purchase, we went a little crazy, buying all kinds of weird stuff. Two seasons of the marionette puppetry show Thunderbirds from 1966? Check. Every episode ever made of Space: 1999? Check. First season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? Still in the shrinkwrap. God help me.

It was the same with the Kindle. Give me a new toy, and I immediately want to dress it up. It wasn’t out of the box a month before I crammed forty books into it. I told myself I’d read them, but I didn’t. I think at heart I just loved seeing the little book icons show up on the menu page. It’s like having a library in your pocket.

I’m better now. Mostly I use my Kindle these days to read manuscripts, advance galleys from publishers, and online magazines like Locus. But there’s still the occasional digital title that grabs my attention and won’t let go until I hit the “Buy it Now” button.

The most recent is Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. Stiles, the author of “Roundelay” in Black Gate 15, is an up-and-coming dark fantasy writer in her own right. Collecting the first four issues of the highly regarded digital Innsmouth Magazine, this omnibus edition is impressive indeed. Individual issues are priced at $1.99, so it’s also a bargain.

It demands to be read, too. So far, I’m quite enjoying it. Nick Mamatas’ cleverly-titled “And Then, And Then, And Then…,” which takes its title from a type of denigrated narrative technique, takes that same narrative technique and uses it to very chilling effect. Most of the tales are very short — David Conyers’s “The Swelling,” the intriguing but rather predictable tale of a woman who’s suffered a devastating loss at sea and then inexplicably finds herself on a cargo vessel bound for Carcosa, is the longest I’ve encountered so far, and it barely qualifies as a novelette.

My only complaint about Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4 is the complete lack of any editorial content — or indeed, a table of contents of any kind. The only way to find out what writers or stories are in each issue is to painstakingly page through it. I expect magazines to have a little more structure, maybe an editorial or house ad, reviews. Something. It’s more like an anthology, in fact. Its starkness in this regard is almost, dare I say it, Lovecraftian.

Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4 was published by Innsmouth Free Press on April 8, 2012. It is available exclusively in digital format for $3.99.

Vintage Treasures: From Off This World, edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

from-off-this-worldBack in May, at the Windy City Pulp & Paper show here in Chicago, I purchased four boxes of books from the vast collection of Martin H. Greenberg. I’ve been slowly unpacking them ever since. They’ve been a treasure trove of vintage paperbacks and fantastic old anthologies, occasionally with scribbled notes from (presumably) Greenberg in the margins.

I’ve written about a few finds already, including a fabulous anthology edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend, The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction, first published in 1954. This week, I want to talk about another Margulies and Friend title, a collection of science fiction culled from Wonder Stories/Thrilling Wonder Stories and published in 1949: From Off This World: Gems of Science Fiction Chosen From “Hall of Fame Classics.”

The first thing to note is the gorgeous cover illustration, by none other than Virgil Finlay (click the image at left for a bigger version).

But equally impressive is the Table of Contents, which includes some of the best pulp SF stories ever published, including “The Man Who Evolved” by Edmond Hamilton; “The City of the Singing Flame” and “Beyond the Singing Flame” by Clark Ashton Smith; “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum; and others by Jack Williamson, Henry Kuttner, Eando Binder, P. Schuyler Miller, and many more.

Editor Leo Margulies, who as editorial chief of Standard Magazines was also editor of pulp magazines Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, featured “Hall of Fame Classic” SF reprints in Startling. The 18 stories here are taken from those selections, all originally published between 1929 and 1937, as Margulies and Friend explain in their introduction:

Compiled as they are from ten years of HALL OF FAME reprint selections in Startling Stories magazine, they are in effect, the pick of science fiction stories that have survived both the years and today’s amazingly swift scientific progress. In themselves they compose a history of the growth of science fiction over the vital decades just passed.

Actually science fiction — or scientifiction if you will — is the newest development in contemporary literature. It is far and away the most imaginative.

Their comments become even more interesting when the editors turn to the rapid (and frequently horrifying) advance of science during World War II, ended just a scant four years before these words were written.

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