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Discover the 20th Century’s Great SF & Fantasy Writers with Bud Webster’s Past Masters

Sunday, July 21st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Past Masters Bud Webster-smallI’m always proud of the work our contributors do at Black Gate. We’ve explored virtually every aspect of fantasy in our print edition and here on the blog — from Games to Comics to Conan, from Vintage Treasures to Art to Music and even Fashion. We’re hip, it’s true.

Occasionally, of course, I see a brilliant article in some other zine that makes me think, “Dang. I wish I had published that.”

That’s exactly what happened the first time I stumbled upon Bud Webster’s marvelous Past Masters column at Jim Baen’s Universe, in which Bud examined the history and contributions of the most important and creative writers in SF and Fantasy, in his entertaining and highly engaging style.

My usual procedure in such circumstance, naturally, is to sulk for several days, snarling at passersby until my black mood passes. Bud has a jovial disposition however, and is famously approachable, so in this case I postponed my jealous rage and shot him a quick note. Would he ever think of publishing some of these brilliant pieces in my humble magazine, I asked?

And, gentleman that he is, Bud said yes. The first new article, with the new title “Who?” appeared in Black Gate 15, and examined the short but magical career of Tom Reamy, author of San Diego Lightfoot Sue.

Bud wrote nearly 20 Past Masters columns, starting in the online Helix SF magazine; when it ceased publication in Fall 2008 he took the column to Jim Baen’s Universe, and then to Eric Flint’s Grantville Gazette.

He wrote so many, in fact, that demands to collect them in a more permanent format became a constant chorus. The diligent Merry Blacksmith Press, run by the talented John Teehan, saw an opportunity and seized it, and three weeks ago Past Masters: and Other Bookish Natterings finally appeared as a handsome trade paperback.

Past Masters collects all of Bud’s columns, including entries on Leigh Brackett, Clifford D. Simak, Murray Leinster, Cyril M. Kornbluth, H. Beam Piper, Eric Frank Russell, R.A. Lafferty, Fredric Brown, Hal Clement, Tom Reamy, Catherine L. Moore, Nelson Bond, Zenna Henderson, Cordwainer Smith, Edgar Pangborn, Henry Kuttner, Judith Merril, William Tenn, and Stanley G. Weinbaum.

Bud Webster

Bud Webster, selling books

It also includes several of his “Curiosities” column from the back of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and three pieces co-written with Jerry Pournelle. The introduction is by Mike Resnick. A complete list of his online columns (with links) is here.

The book is the capstone to an impressive career. Bud received the Service to SFWA Award at the Nebula Awards banquet in 2012, for his tireless work on the Science Fiction Writers Association Estates Project.

His previous book was the delightful The Joy of Booking: Webster’s Guide to Buying and Selling Used SF and Fantasy Books; we discussed his first, a collection of his columns examining classic SF anthologies, Anthopology 101: Reflections, Inspections and Dissections of SF Anthologies, here.

Bud became the Poetry Editor for Black Gate in January 2011. He’s written several columns on bookselling and collecting here on the BG blog, including “Selling Your Books Ain’t as Easy as it Looks,” “Spreading the Word (or, “Book ‘em, Bud-O”),” and “What I Do and Why I Do It.”

Past Masters: and Other Bookish Natterings  is a gateway to understanding the men and women who truly shaped science fiction and fantasy. More than that, it is an introduction to the joys of reading and collecting. It is, quite literally, a guidebook to a lifetime of rewarding reading. It gets my highest recommendation.

Past Masters: and Other Bookish Natterings was published by Merry Blacksmith Press on June 28, 2013. It is 402 pages in trade paperback, priced at $19.95.

There is no digital edition. Get more details at the Merry Blacksmith website.


  1. […] There’s been a surge of interest in Henry Kuttner lately, however, and he’s been in the news half a dozen times this year at Black Gate alone. The most recent was just last week, when we listed him as one of the luminaries covered by Bud Webster’s Past Masters. […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Vintage Treasures: The Best of Henry Kuttner - July 29, 2013 4:21 pm

  2. […] Discover the 20th Century’s Great SF & Fantasy Writers with Bud Webster’s Past Masters […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in July - August 30, 2013 2:22 pm

  3. […] his marvelous retrospective of 20th Century SF Past Masters, our own Bud Webster does a better job than I could explaining what made Men, Martians, and […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Vintage Treasures: Men, Martians, and Machines by Eric Frank Russell - April 20, 2014 2:23 pm

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