Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1951: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction March 1951-smallGalaxy’s March, 1951 issue is succinct, offering only five pieces of fiction.

I noticed this on the table of contents: “Next issue at your newsstand first week in March,” which means that the March, 1951 issue was available in early February. That’s fairly standard for magazines (probably so the reader feels like an issue is current), but I admit I still find it confusing.

“The Wind Between the Worlds” by Lester Del Rey – Instead of exploring the solar system, mankind inadvertently figures out how to transport between worlds, drawing the attention of the Galactic Counsel. As a provisional member, Earth can exchange matter with other members of the council. When someone sabotages one of the matter transmitters, it remains open, sucking in large amounts of air from Earth every second. It’s up to a couple of engineers and a bureaucrat to figure out how to switch off the transmitter before the U.S. (under increasing pressure to fix the problem) bombs the facility, which would leave the transmitter permanently open.

I like science fiction like this, where there are a variety of alien races with vastly different cultures and appearances. I also enjoyed how mankind never figured out how to travel through space; we simply figured out how to transport matter to distant areas. Plausible and entertaining.

“The Other Now” by Murray Leinster – Jimmy’s wife is killed in a car accident. But in the weeks that follow, he begins to see glimpses of another reality within his home – her cigarette butts in the ashtray, doors opened that he knows were closed. Then he sees her diary open and reads the latest entry. Not only is it the current date, but she writes of missing Jimmy since his untimely death.

This has a great Twilight Zone feel to it. Yes, I know it predates the show, but the comparison is still valid. Leinster may have been the first author to use the idea of parallel universes, given that his story “Sideways in Time” appeared in the June, 1934 issue of Astounding. I leave this open for discussion.

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When the 21st Century was Far Future: Frank R. Paul: The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Frank R Paul The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration-smallI consider Frank R. Paul to be one of the most important — if not the most important — artist in the history of science fiction.

It’s odd then that so few readers today are familiar with his work. Jerry Weist set out to correct that with Frank R. Paul: The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration, a dream project of his that was released only after Weist’s death in 2011.

Paul virtually created American Science Fiction, alongside Hugo Gernsback, in the late 1920s. He was the cover artist Gernsback chose for the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories — every single issue, for over three years, until Gernsback lost control of it in 1929.

That meant Paul crafted many of the defining images of early science fiction, including his interpretation of Buck Rogers (on the cover of Amazing August 1928), H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (August 1927), and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars (Amazing Stories Annual 1927). He made exciting new concepts like space travel, picture-phones, aliens, and robots vivid and real to an America where most people didn’t even own a telephone.

When Gernsback left Amazing behind and founded a new stable of magazines — including Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories — he took Paul with him. Altogether, Paul painted over 300 magazine covers before his death in 1963, most of them for Gernsback.

Paul had numerous artistic firsts. He was the first to paint a space station, for the cover of the August 1929 Science Wonder. He painted the cover for Marvel Comics #1 in October, 1939, giving the world its first look at the Human Torch.

Paul did countless interior illustrations as well. In addition to his striking cover art, he executed a famous series of original paintings imagining life elsewhere in the solar system for the back covers of many of Gernsback’s magazines.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in June

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Death of the NecromancerWe were pleased and honored to present Martha Wells’ Nebula-nominated novel The Death of the Necromancer as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction lineup last month. The complete text of the novel — all 22 chapters — was offered here for free, for the first time anywhere.

Not surprisingly, The Death of the Necromancer was far and away our most popular fiction offering last month. But it was by no means the only widely-read tale we had for you. Our exclusive excerpt from Howard Andrew Jones’ second Dabir and Asim novel, The Bones of the Old Ones, was our second most popular post, and Aaron Bradford Starr’s 35,000-word epic fantasy mystery featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, “The Sealord’s Successor,” was a close third, followed by Joe Bonadonna’s adventure fantasy “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” and Judith Berman’s sword & sorcery novella “The Poison Well.”

Also making the list were exciting stories by Ryan Harvey, E.E. Knight, Michael Penkas, Jason E. Thummel, Mary Catelli, Robert Rhodes, Emily Mah, Vaughn Heppner, and many others.

If you haven’t sampled the adventure fantasy stories offered through our new Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Every week, we present an original short story or novella from the best writers in the industry, all completely free. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in June:

  1. The Death of the Necromancer,” by Martha Wells
  2. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  3. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  4. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  5. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  6. The Sorrowless Thief,” by Ryan Harvey
  7. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  8. The Daughter’s Dowry,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  9. The Worst Was Yet to Come,” by Michael Penkas
  10. Assault and Battery,” by Jason E. Thummel


  11. Read More »

Support the Spellbound and Spindles Kickstarter

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Raechel Henderson

Spellbound and Spindles

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”
— Johann Christoph Friederich v. Schiller

There is a tendency, I think, to not take fairy tales seriously. A hundred years of relegating them to the nursery has hidden their power: to educate, to entertain, to challenge and change us. And yet, the magic of “Once upon a time …” remains. Televisions shows and movies borrow from them. Comic books and stories are filled with sleeping princesses, talking animals, spells to be broken and kingdoms to be saved.

Fairy tales endure not in spite of their plasticity, but because of it. The story of Cinderella is found all over the world, in hundreds of different versions. Details vary depending upon the culture that tells the tale. Despite the alterations, though, the story is recognizable time and again.

And it is this malleability that I am counting on in my project, Spellbound and Spindles. To give a brief introduction and history, Spellbound is a children’s fantasy magazine published by my company, Eggplant Literary Productions. In each issue we publish fiction, poetry and art, all fantasy related. One of our priorities is putting out a publication that reflects our global readership. We actively solicit submissions that are diverse in their settings and characters.

It is with that goal in mind, coupled with my belief in the power of fairy tales, that I launched the Kickstarter campaign for Spellbound & Spindles. The plan is to publish a special edition of Spellbound, as well as a companion adult anthology, of fairy tales retold to include POC, LGBT, and disabled characters. The anthologies will be produced in both e-book and limited edition hardcover.

We — myself, and the staff at Eggplant — view this as an opportunity to build upon what we’ve already done and to push the field of children’s and fairy tale literature into a more inclusive direction. As the mother of a biracial child, it is a project that is close to my heart. If the idea intrigues you, please check out the campaign and back us.

New Treasures: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Steven Silver, Holly McDowell, and Mary Robinette Kowal in at the Without a Summer launch party

Steven Silver, Holly McDowell, and Mary Robinette Kowal in at the Without a Summer launch party. Click for bigger version

Back in April, I was invited to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Without a Summer launch party here in Chicago, to celebrate the publication of the third volume of her Glamourist Histories fantasy series (which we covered right here at Black Gate on April 6).

It was a great chance to catch up with a lot of local writers, including Steven Silver, Holly McDowell, and Kelly Swails — and to meet Mary’s husband Rob, who is a winemaker (seriously!) at City Winery Chicago.

I’d like to pause here to note that I don’t get to write a sentence like that every day.

And, of course, it was a chance to see Mary, who was modeling one of her trademark empire style dresses. Brilliant writer, killer fashion sense, married to a winemaker… you can see why one just doesn’t turn down an invitation from this woman.

About an hour after I arrived, Mary introduced me to Wesley Chu, another local Chicagoan and recently published author.

Now, this never gets old. I’ve been in publishing a long time now, and I meet aspiring writers, wannabee writers, and Gee-I’ve-got-a-great-idea-for-a-novel writers all the time. But introduce me to someone who’s published an honest-to-God novel, and I turn into an instant fanboy.

I can’t help it. At heart I’m still a reader, and I’m not so jaded by this industry that I can’t appreciate that behind all the marketing spin, crushing deadlines, commercial pressures and compromises, is true magic — the fragile creative spark nurtured and nudged onto the stage by the diligent and the brave. I’m in awe of these people, and when I meet a new author I want to hear all about their creations.

I had a great talk with Wesley, and he was gracious enough to indulge me a little and tell me about his book. And the more I heard, the more fascinated I became.

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The Fantasist Manqué? Robertson Davies and The Deptford Trilogy

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Deptford TrilogyNormally, I write here about fantasy (which to me includes science fiction and horror). But some mimetic novels have a lot to say about the fantastic. Or a lot to say about related themes; wonder, for example, or the numinous. Those books are sometimes worth discussing at Black Gate, I think. Which is why I want to write now about Robertson Davies’s Deptford Trilogy — classics of Canadian literature, novels deeply concerned with wonder — and consider whether they should have been even more open to the fantastic than they in fact are.

For there are moments in these books that at least touch on the fantastic. They’re a set of three interrelated bildungsromans, life stories told in different situations to different audiences. Running through them are themes of magic (both stage magic and actual magic), of dreams, of sainthood and miracles. They’re books concerned with the transfiguration of the mundane by the perception of the numinous. That’s risky terrain, something that can easily come off as banal, but Davies avoids the easy romanticisation of the miraculous in favour of a more complex romanticism — a self-aware examination of the joy that comes with Romance, faced with the claims of the soi-disant Real.

The books are also an in-depth investigation of the subconscious, from a primarily Jungian standpoint; one of the novels, in fact, is essentially the record of a man’s therapy with a Jungian analyst. The trilogy seems to suggest that it’s important to dig a recognition of the magic of the world out of the subconscious. To an extent, it anticipates Urusla Le Guin’s idea in her essay “Why are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” of fantasy as threatening to the North American Puritan mentality, which reacts with censorship and repression. But reading Davies, I found myself wondering, in fact, whether he and his writing had been hindered by that drive to repress the fantastic; whether that repression had been internalised more than Davies and his early critics realised. To explore this, I’ll need to write a bit about Davies and his times and the Canada from whence he came. But it’s best to start with the books themselves.

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Adventures on Stage: Fantasy Literature’s Missing Link

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

1002747_514919775228258_344973762_nA few weeks back, I had the good fortune to take in productions of The Tempest and Peter and the Starcatcher at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (Cedar City, Utah). As I drove away afterward, I could not but help thinking that plays, too, are literature, and that more than a passing handful of theater’s best, these two titles included, are outright, unabashed fantasies. Adventures, even.

It is admittedly difficult to keep current with theater, since stagecraft is not, as books, comics, and film/television most surely are, a truly mass media. Access is tricky; productions are both local and fleeting. Also, the habit of theater can be expensive.

Nevertheless, I’m going to make a case, here and now, that Black Gate’s readership should take stock and keep track of contemporary theater. Scripted plays, after all, predate the novel as a form by many centuries, and we would be as blind as Tiresias were we to forget that were it not for Oedipus Rex, we would know nothing of that fantasy staple, the talking, riddling sphinx.

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Vintage Treasures: Avalon Hill’s Elric Young Kingdoms Adventure Game

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Elric Avalon Hill-smallAll the recent fuss over The Kingkiller Chronicles TV adaptation has reminded me just what it takes to really break into public consciousness in this industry. I’m glad quality fantasy like A Game of Thrones and The Name of the Wind has been catapulted into the big leagues… especially since I know that most fantasy novels on sale this month will vanish from shelves long before the end of the year.

It takes a really exceptional property to endure without some kind of media tie-in. Fantasy like Michael Moorcock’s Elric, for example — still extremely popular among Black Gate readers, at least, despite the fact that the character first appeared, in the short story “The Dreaming City,” over 52 years ago.

Of course, just because Elric hasn’t been made into a Peter Jackson trilogy doesn’t mean he’s been completely ignored. Maybe there hasn’t been a Hasbro action figure or Saturday morning cartoon or feature film — but who needs all that stuff when you can play a board game from Avalon Hill, publishers of Magic Realm and Titan?

Avalon Hill’s Elric Young Kingdoms Adventure Game — man, that’s a mouthful of a title — was a deluxe board game published in 1984 and, to be honest with you, it wasn’t all that popular out of the gate. It was a re-packaging of Chaosium’s 1977 Elric: Battle at the End of Time, designed by Charlie Krank and Greg Stafford.

Avalon Hill had had some success re-publishing a handful of Chaosium’s products, especially Dragon Pass (1981), one of the most popular fantasy board games ever made, and I always kinda figured Chaosium threw in Elric as part of a package deal.

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Arak 4: “A Tree from Some Dark Hell!”

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

arak 4Four issues in to this reading of the entire 50-issue run of Arak, Son of Thunder, and I’ve got to admit…I’m enjoying it.

I didn’t know if that would be the case. I mean, the last time I read one of these comics, I wasn’t even old enough to drive a car. Not all stories fondly recalled from childhood hold up so well to a reunion visit.

But here in this issue we have a killer tree. You gotta love this issue’s title: “A Tree From Some Dark Hell.” (This one has by far the best, most eye-catching cover yet, with Arak and Valda dramatically poised to chop at the hell-tree with their sap-spilling blades.) Ernie Colon’s art seems just about right for the epic tale of Arak, and I’m really starting to appreciate Thomas’s storytelling, which is more interesting and nuanced than one might typically expect from an early ‘80s comic. And did I mention there’s a killer tree!

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Black Gate Online Fiction: “The Highwater Harbor” Part Two, by Aaron Bradford Starr

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

The Highwater Harbor-smallGallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh find more than they bargained for as their sea voyage in search of the enigmatic Highwater Harbor becomes embroiled in strange intrigues.

“Your ship is in danger,” Gloren said without preamble. “Someone has been tampering with the sigils, altering them subtly so that they may very well not work at all.”

Pelico’s face darkened at this news. “Are you sure?”

Yr Neh told the Captain the general consensus we’d reached, that Fallon and his secondary crew were a growing danger.

To our surprise, Pelico burst out laughing at this revelation. “I can vouch for Fallon,” he said. “I’d bet the life of every man on board of his reliability. In fact, given his crew has taken one out of four shifts, I already made that bet, and have won every time.”

Something’s going on, Pelico,” Gloren said. The Captain stood, laughing, clapping a mighty hand on Gloren’s shoulder.

“Something’s always going on when you gather scholars together,” the man said.

Louis West at Tangent Online called “The Sealord’s Successor” a “gripping tale of fantasy, mystery, murder and intrigue. A must read” and “The Tea-Maker’s Task” “an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek fantasy… I wanted more.” We’re more than happy to oblige with this fourth exciting installment of the adventures of Gallery Hunter Gloren and his cat companion, Yr Neh.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Jamie McEwan, Martha Wells, Mary Catelli, Michael Penkas, Vera Nazarian, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here.

“The Highwater Harbor”  is a 35,000-word novella of fantasy mystery presented in three parts, with original art by Aaron Bradford Starr. Part I appeared last week; the final installment will appear next week; all three parts are offered at no cost.

Read Part II here.

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