Kirkus Looks at Astounding Science Fiction

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Astounding Science Fiction May 1938Andrew Liptak at Kirkus Reviews has posted a nice retrospective of one of the most influential figures in the history of our genre: John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction and the short-lived Unknown magazine. Here’s a snippet:

In 1938, science fiction would run into another personality who would change science fiction again: When 28-year-old author John Campbell Jr. was hired to edit Astounding Magazine. Campbell’s influence in the magazine market is commonly cited as the beginning of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, and represented a major shift away from the conventions of Gernsback’s pulp era…

With the release of the July 1939 issue of Astounding, the gloves came off. The issue’s table of contents contained a number of high quality stories from new and regular Astounding writers: “The Black Destroyer,” the first published story by A.E. van Vogt; “Trends,” Isaac Asimov’s first sale to the publication; “City of the Cosmic Rays,” by Nat Schachner; “Lightship, Ho!,” by Nelson S. Bond; “The Moth,” by Ross Rocklynne; Amelia Reynold’s “When the Half-Gods Go;” and “Greater than Gods,” by C.L. Moore.

Subsequent issues of Astounding featured a regular stable of authors who have become household names: Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov, amongst many others. The magazine had changed the landscape…

The complete article is here. Thanks to John DeNardo at SF Signal for the tip.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu, Part Three

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51rhbeFgQTL__SL500_AA300_b70-968Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from May 6 to July 8, 1933 under the variant title, Fu Manchu’s Bride. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The US edition retained the original magazine title until the 1960s when the UK book title was adopted for the paperback edition published by Pyramid Books.

Our narrator and hero, botanist Alan Sterling has found himself a Companion of the Si-Fan along with numerous other scientific geniuses conscripted into their service after falling victim to the catalepsy-inducing drug that leads the outside world to believe them dead. Fah lo Suee, the daughter of Fu Manchu, has conspired to prevent Sterling from being subjected to her father’s mind control drug in order to use him as a pawn to remove Fleurette, raised since childhood to bear Fu Manchu a son, from the household.

Attempting to escape, Sterling stumbles upon Fu Manchu in an opium trance. He considers murdering him to avenge Dr. Petrie’s death, but finds he is unable to lift a hand against him for some unknown reason. Retracing his steps, Sterling works to find an escape route through the elaborate cave system that leads from Mahdi Bey’s estate down to the beach at Ste. Claire. Rohmer builds suspense well as Sterling’s path through the dark is made more dramatic as he becomes aware someone is stalking him. Both Sterling and the reader are startled to learn the pursuer is none other than Nayland Smith.

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Goth Chick News: Amazon Studios Scores Zombie Invasion

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image006Further proof — assuming you needed it after New York Fashion Week — that zombies are mainstreaming.

Amazon Studios, the offshoot of online retailer Amazon.com whose purpose is to source scripts and test movies to eventually air on the Amazon Instant Video service, is heading into original content production with a pretty intriguing announcement.

Zombieland the TV series, which has been in discussions for some time, is no longer going to air on a regular broadcast network. Instead, Amazon has snapped it up and is developing the series for their own use.

30-minute episodes, produced by Sony Pictures Television, will appear on Amazon as original programming and the show will continue to center around the original Zombieland group of post-apocalyptic survivors. Amazon will be replacing the all-star 2009 lineup of Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin with a more budget-friendly group, but things are getting interesting now that the larger-than-life character “Tallahassee” has finally been cast.

Invasion Iowa star Kirk Ward has been tasked with filling Harrelson’s snakeskin boots as the iconic, Twinkie-seeking, zombie-slaying hero.

The interesting bit is that rumors indicate Ward might have been the first choice for the role, from back in the day before Zombieland became a feature film.

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Nebula Award Nominations Announced

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Glamour-in-GlassThe Nebula is one of the most prestigious awards our genre has to offer. Indeed, since the winners are chosen by science fiction and fantasy writers rather than a popular vote, many people consider it the most prestigious genre award.

The 2012 Nebula Awards Nominees were announced yesterday by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the voting body that grants the awards. The nominees are:

Novel

Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
Ironskin, Tina Connolly (Tor)
The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (OrbitUK)
The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

Novella

On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s SF)
“All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus)
“Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF)
“Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)

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New Treasures: The Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

unearthed arcanaThe Premium 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons reprint series is one of the best ideas Wizards of the Coast has ever had.

By bringing Gary Gygax’s original AD&D rulebooks back into print in deluxe editions, Wizards is making the groundbreaking work of the father of role playing available to a modern audience. More than that, it’s a tacit acknowledgement of the growing popularity of retro-gaming, a nod to those players who still enjoy playing first edition (or OE, Original Edition) D&D and AD&D.

I’m one of them. My most recent game of D&D was last Sunday, and one of the books we reached for during play — as a troop of goblins chased my player characters through a dark wood — was the first edition AD&D volume Unearthed Arcana.

Unlike the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide, Gygax’s Unearthed Arcana — which, among many other innovations, introduced the Cavalier, Barbarian, and Thief-Acrobat classes — had never been reprinted, and the copy we used to quickly check the effects of my daughter’s druid’s “Goodberry” spell was the original TSR printing from 1985. That’s a hard book to come across these days, as one of my young players lamented.

But no longer. Wizards of the Coast released the Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint on Tuesday of this week. Best of all, this edition incorporates the corrections and updates published under Gygax’s supervision in Dragon magazine, making this the definitive edition of the text. At long last, players can assemble a complete collection of the most essential rule books for the greatest role playing game ever written, without having to pay collector’s prices for long out-of-print volumes.

The Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint was published by Wizards of the Coast on February 19, 2013. It is 128 pages in hardcover, priced at $49.95. There is no digital or softcover edition.


Teaching and Fantasy Literature: Babe the Barbarian (Ruth, That Is)

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Avery

sword-and-sorcery-anthologyMy newest students beg for sports writing, and cannot abide either dragons or spaceships. They’re good kids, 8th graders who used to read voluminously for pleasure until junior high. Their parents are desperate to get them reading again. The boys are desperate to read freely again. So now I get to be desperate to learn about sports writing.

Meet the students where they are. They can’t very well meet you where they’re not.

Fortunately, I had just started reading, on my own time, The Sword and Sorcery Anthology, edited by David Hartwell and Jacob Weisman. At first, as I pulled likely prospects from the sports shelves at Barnes & Noble, I grumbled quietly to myself about how I was going to have to set The Sword and Sorcery Anthology aside, perhaps for weeks, and for what? For Babe Bleeping Ruth and Joe Bleeping DiMaggio. I settled in at the cafe to cull the candidate books in my pile and tried to find a bright side. Some of the masters of the golden age of pulp also wrote boxing stories, or stories that happened to be about boxers. For people who see athletes as heroes, sports writing might hit the same sweet spot as heroic fiction. If I had to sink my time into this stuff, I would find some way to make it serve my writing.

Something David Drake said in his introduction to The Sword and Sorcery Anthology helped me cull that pile of books, and has been with me as I’ve started picking my way through the essays.

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“Reminiscent of the Old Sword & Sorcery Classics”: Tangent Online on “The Find” by Mark Rigney

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

AppleMarkLouis West at Tangent Online reviews “The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, published here on Sunday, February 17th:

In Mark Rigney’s “The Find” we meet the young Gemen and learn his terrible secret: at age ten, Gemen followed his sister through an arcane portal and lost everything – sister, family, seven years of life and his entire world line. For decades he has crisscrossed this world, recovering the scattered portal stones to rebuild the gateway and return home…

Gemen… acquires Velori, sharp-tongued warrior priestess of Dominion, from the Courtyard of Trials where she deigns to kill her four attackers because her hidden weavers (giant spider friends) counseled “mercy.” The massive, bear-like Dorvic joins the pair by happenstance, an encounter that leads to a fight for their lives against several dozen Corvaen soldiers…

An enjoyable, often boisterous tale, reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics. I can’t wait to see what fate awaits Gemen. A must read.

“The Find” is the sequel to “The Trade,” Part I of The Tales of Gemen the Antiques Dealer, which Tangent Online called a “Marvelous tale. Can’t wait for the next part.”

Read Louis West’s review at Tangent Online, and read “The Find,” a 14,000-word novelette of weird fantasy, completely free here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Vaughn Heppner, E.E. Knight, Jason E. Thummel, Gregory Bierly, Judith Berman, Howard Andrew Jones, Dave Gross, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.


Richard Matheson Turns 87 Today

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

richard mathesonHappy Birthday, Richard Matheson!  Today, the prolific author turns 87.

Matheson wrote over 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories. Some of his better-known work includes The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and A Stir of Echoes (all adapted for film).  Additionally, the 2011 film Real Steel was partly based on Matheson’s short story, “Steel.”

He was also a screenwriter for both film and television. He wrote 14 episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” In this classic episode, William Shatner plays an airline passenger who sees a humanoid monster on the wing, but whenever he gets others to peer out the window, they see nothing. For me, this ranks in my top 5 favorite Twilight Zone episodes.

Matheson began his professional writing career with the publication of his short story “Born of Man and Woman” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. Later that year, Galaxy Science Fiction published two of his short stories; “Third From the Sun” appeared in Galaxy’s premiere issue.

Later this year, Matheson will be one of the Guests of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention in London. To those attending, I hope you’ll take a moment to wait in the long line at his table during the autograph session. I doubt you’ll regret spending the time in exchange for a few words with the author.

Even if you haven’t read his stories, Matheson’s writing has undoubtedly influenced something you’ve read or watched. His work will leave a noticeable impact for many years to come. Perhaps he should reuse his novel’s title I Am Legend for an autobiography.


Echoes of the Goddess: Schweitzer’s Newest Classic

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Echoes of the GoddessImagine a golden treasure chest filled to overflowing with rare and sparkling jewels. Now imagine the literary equivalent of that bounty: The jewels are visions of a fantastic world filled with dark magic, dead gods, and exotic cultures.

The latest book from Darrell Schweitzer is a treasury of obscure tales woven into a single, epic tapestry of high fantasy. Echoes of the Goddess collects eleven stories set in the same weird world as Schweitzer’s second novel The Shattered Goddess (1982). However, Echoes is not a sequel to Shattered. Instead it serves as a prequel, and a fine introduction to both the world of Goddess and the superb fantasies of Darrell Schweitzer.

Echoes of the Goddess: Tales of Terror and Wonder From the End of Time was released by Wildside Press in February 2013, but it was literally decades in the making. All of these stories were written between the years 1979 and 1985. Wildside describes the book: “This is an Earth of the far future, when the planet has declined into chaos, and darkness looms at the end of human history. Here you’ll meet… a wizard’s shadow attempting to become a man; two sorcerers grotesquely transformed by their fratricidal hatred; a musician who becomes the lord of death; a boy-priest consumed by divine visions; and a witch who loves a god, and many others. Here’s strangeness, wonder, and terror in the tradition of Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique or Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth.”

Nobody works in the “story cycle” tradition quite as well as Schweitzer does. While most of today’s writers focus on cranking out novels, he prefers the short story form and is one of the widely acknowledged masters of the form. Some of his previous story cycles have been collected as the books We Are All Legends and The Book of Sekenre. Yet the stories in Echoes of the Goddess represent the author in the formative stages of his career, when his imagination was raw and unbounded. This was years before he would go on to win a World Fantasy Award for co-editing Weird Tales with the late George Scithers, and well in advance of his “To Become a Sorcerer” novella being nominated for that same prestigious award.

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New Treasures: Low Town by Daniel Polansky

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Low TownOne of our most popular articles in 2012 was Matthew David Surridge’s brilliant “The Enjoyment of Fantasy: Open Letters to Adam Gopnik, Mur Lafferty, and John C. Wright,” the latter part of which he spends taking Wright to task for some of his criticisms of Low Town. Matthew’s points are many and varied and I’m not going to summarize them here. I will admit, however, that after reading his article, my first reaction was, “What the heck is Low Town? It sounds kinda cool.”

A little investigation revealed that Low Town is Daniel Polansky’s debut novel. Here’s the description:

Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops… and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.

In the forgotten back alleys of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, sits Low Town. Here the Warden —  forgotten war hero and independent drug dealer — protects his turf. However, the Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his dis­covery of a murdered child down a dead-end street… set­ting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House — the secret police — he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investi­gated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psy­chotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.

I’m intrigued. And while both Matthew and Wright seem to argue that Polansky doesn’t necessarily understand fantasy, it seems to me he’s grasped the basics just fine: he’s already written a sequel, Tomorrow the Killing, published in October 2012. Our man Myke Cole posted the following mini-review on Goodreads:

Polansky does it again. As with Mark Lawrence with King of Thorns, he shows progression as a storyteller with an even more twisted plot, more compelling and sympathetic character voice and more engaging setting.

Anybody who plugs Mark Lawrence in a one-sentence review has my immediate confidence. I purchased a copy of Low Town last month, and hope to check it out soon.

Low Town was published by Anchor Books in August, 2012. It is 341 pages in trade paperback, priced at $15 ($11.99 for the digital edition).


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