The contents of the May issue of online magazine Nightmare are now fully available at the magazine’s wesbite. This issue contains original short stories from Adam-Troy Castro and Lisa Goldstein, and reprints from Joe Hill and Sarah Langan.
“The Old Horror Writer” by Adam-Troy Castro He’s harder to find than most. I have the basis for comparison because I’ve gotten to all of them sooner or later, from the big names to the obscurities. There are some who give up so thoroughly, and disappear so completely, that it’s as if they never existed at all. This guy’s far from the worst. He’s an old man now, twenty years removed from his last novel and ten from his last short story; he’s no longer a member of HWA or SFWA, and the agency that used to handle his interests now has him in their estate file.
“Sawing” by Lisa Goldstein Clarissa watched from the wings as the Great Bertoldi sawed a woman in half. Down went the saw through the coffin-like box, then up, then down again. A cigarette burned at the side of his mouth, on the edge of his smile. The saw broke through the box. He put it down and slid metal plates between the two halves, then rolled the sections apart. The woman’s head poked out from the end of one of the sections, feet from the other.
We often talk about coming out as a process that has a beginning and an end. You come out to your family, friends and once everyone knows, that’s it. You’re done.
It’s not true though. We keep coming out throughout our lives, to every casual acquaintance. That means that in the past month I got to come out to a whole whack of new people at the Nebulas, including the Tor admin and sales people we sat with at the banquet table. Alyx and I also got to come out to the staff at the new coffee shop up the street, and the new condo concierge.
In June, I get to come out to the new hire in Accounting (he looks like a nice guy) and my new dental hygienist (assuming he or she is chatty — they usually are). Probably a few other people too.
It’s always a risk. An increasingly small risk — nothing compared to what it was in 1989 — but a risk nonetheless.
Kelly Robson’s short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and at Tor.com. Her novella “Waters of Versailles” was nominated for a Nebula Award this year. She lives in Toronto.
Pathfinder Goes to the Stars (and Other Announcements)
The dividing line between fantasy and science fiction can be difficult to define. I’ve been on convention panels on the subject a few times, at both ConFusion in Detroit and Windycon in Chicago, and have been in the audience of even more of them, but never once have I seen a group of people fully agree on where that diving line is, or even that such a definition exists. The genre is so fluid, including settings with science so fantastic and magical systems so dogmatic that the dividing line seems impossible to lay out. Many of us are fans of both and always have been, though perhaps we appreciate science fiction and fantasy for different reasons, regardless of how we define them.
This weekend, at PaizoCon, the creators of the Pathfinder RPG announced that they would be happily dancing along this boundary with the new Starfinder RPG. With the Starfinder RPG Core Rulebook slated for an August 2017 release date, it looks like this will create whole spacefaring options set in the distant future of the Pathfinder setting, as described in the announcement blog post:
Starfinder is set in Golarion’s solar system, but far in a possible future—one in which the gods have mysteriously spirited Golarion away to an unknown location, and refuse to answer questions about it. In its place, the cultures of that world have evolved and spread throughout the solar system, especially to a vast space platform called Absalom Station. Gifted access to a hyperspace dimension by an ascended AI deity, the residents of the system suddenly find themselves with the ability to travel faster than light, and the race is on to explore and colonize potentially millions of worlds. But there are horrors out there in the darkness…
While I was wandering the aisles of the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show here in Chicago last month, I came across a delightful find… the second volume of Steve Davidson and Jean Marie Stine’s The Best of Amazing Stories, covering 1927 (above right). I snatched it up immediately, and hunted up the first volume online (above left).
My fascination with Amazing Stories began with Isaac Asimov’s biographical anthology Before the Golden Age, in which he collected his favorite pulp SF stories. Asimov noted that Amazing had the best reputation at the time, saying “It was Amazing Stories all the way with me.” But there hasn’t been much attention paid to the early days of perhaps the greatest SF magazine, so I was very pleased to see an anthology series that attempts to collect the best of the Grand Old Lady of the pulps, year by year.
In my report on the 2016 Nebula Awards weekend, I talked about my two-part interview with SF and fantasy writer Jane S. Fancher, author of the Groundtiestrilogy and the Dance of the Rings novels. (It turned into a two-part interview because the memory on my new iPhone maxed out while recording CJ Cherryh’s epic Grand Master talk, and my first attempt at an interview lasted all of three minutes. Fortunately, Jane was understanding enough to pick up our interview 24 hours later.)
The Dance of the Rings novels were some of the first review copies I ever received, back in the late 90s when we were first getting the review site SF Site off the ground, so they meant a lot to me personally, and it was a delight to finally meet Jane in person. Turns out we had a lot in common, not the least of which was fond memories of the 90s comic scene (especially WaRP Graphics, publishers of ElfQuest, where Jane got her start in the industry), and a fascination with SF publishing. She was kind enough to share her stories of breaking into the industry, the tumultuous ups and downs of starting with short-lived Warner Questar, publisher of her first three novels, and switching to DAW for her first fantasy series.
Last month we announced that Sean Wallace’s quarterly magazine of dark fantasy and horror The Dark was making some welcome changes — including switching to monthly publication, relaunching their podcast series, and starting up a Patreon account. Their last quarterly issue, May 2016, is now available, with original stories by Steve Berman and Kali Wallace, and reprints by Kaaron Warren and Angela Slatter.
The Dark is edited by Sean Wallace, with assistance by Jack Fisher. Here’s the Table of Contents.
You can read issues free online, or help support the magazine by buying the ebook editions, available for the Kindle and Nook in Mobi and ePub format. Issues are around 50 pages, and priced at $2.99 through Amazon, B&N.com, Apple, Kobo, and other fine outlets. A six issues sub used to be just $15, but I can’t find anything on their website (or at Amazon) about subscriptions — but you can still buy back issues.
If you enjoy the magazine you can contribute to their new Patreon account. Read the complete announcement, and sign up here. You can also support The Dark by buying their books, reviewing stories, or even just leaving comments.
Read the May issue here, and see their complete back issue catalog here. The cover for May is by Vincent Chong. We last covered The Dark with Issue 11; the next issue is due in June.
See our May Fantasy Magazine Rack here, and all of our recent Magazine coverage here.
The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Watson for Comic Relief?
For many (especially of a certain age), the image of Doctor Watson is that of a buffoon who provides little assistance and lots of laughs. And the “credit” for that perception can be laid at the feet of Nigel Bruce. Bruce appeared in fourteen popular movies opposite Basil Rathbone’s beloved Holmes, and he also played the good doctor in well over two hundred radio plays – most with Rathbone.
In the first two films, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, he was a bit of a clown. But after the franchise shifted from Fox to Universal, that portrayal was understated compared to the next twelve movies he made with Rathbone. The scripts called for Bruce to play a dolt – his daughter said that the disappointed Bruce made up the term ‘Boobus Brittanicus’ to describe his un-Doyle like character.
The poem below appeared in Punch Magazine. Unfortunately, after digging through my shelves, I cannot find where I got this from (I thought that it was one of Peter Haining’s books, but that didn’t pan out). But it is from the nineteen forties, when Rathbone was the brilliant, active Holmes and Bruce provided comic relief.
I think it’s both an amusing and insightful commentary on the Bruce phenomenon:
The stately Holmes of England, how beautiful he stood
Long, long ago in Baker Street – and still in Hollywood
He keeps the ancient flair for clues, the firm incisive chin,
The deerstalker, the dressing gown, the shag, the violin.
But Watson, Doctor Watson! How altered, how betrayed
The fleet of foot, the warrior once, the faster than Lestrade!
What imbecile production, what madness for the moon
Has screened my glorious Watson as well nigh a buffoon?
Jack Vance was one of the most prolific fantasists of the 20th Century at both long and short lengths, producing some 55 novels and dozens of short stories. Underwood-Miller published no less than 60 hardcover volumes of his work during his lifetime, chiefly collections, and Subterranean Press produced some eleven volumes of his short stories and novellas, starting with the massive Jack Vance Treasury in 2007, and including The Early Jack Vance, a thoroughly delightful five-volume set that ended with Grand Crusades.
All those marvelous hardcover volumes were aimed at the collectors market, however, and sadly Vance had precious little fantasy short fiction reprinted in paperback. In fact, he had relatively few mass market collections at all. Ace gave us a handful of science fiction collections, including The Worlds of Jack Vance (1973), Galactic Effectuator (1981) and The Augmented Agent and Other Stories (1988); DAW published Dust of Far Suns (1981) and The Narrow Land (1982); and Pocket just one: The Best of Jack Vance (1976).
But what Vance lacked in quantity, he made up in quality. His 1979 collection Green Magic: The Fantasy Realms of Jack Vance, one of the very few collections that focuses on his fantasy work, gathers some of his very finest work, including the title story and the brilliant “The Moon Moth.” It appeared in hardcover from Underwood Miller in 1979, and was reprinted in paperback by Tor in 1988.
Walt Simonson’s published eight issues so far of his ongoing comics series Ragnarök, along with a trade paperback collecting issues 1 through 6. Simonson, a veteran master of the comics form, is joined for the book by colorist Laura Martin and letterer John Workman. Edited by Scott Dunbier, Ragnarök’s published through IDW, and Chris Mowry’s credited with “production” on the first seven issues while Neil Uyetake gets the production credit on the eighth. What is Ragnarök beyond that? A fast-paced, adventurous saga. A grim playing-about with Norse myth. A super-hero high fantasy that nods to the past while telling a new and distinctive tale. And: a comic as exuberant as it is well-crafted.
The Viking legends say that at the end of time the heroic gods battle the assembled forces of evil, lose, and the fire giant Surtur destroys the world. Simonson’s imagined a story that takes place after the great final battle, but before the burning of the earth. In Ragnarök years have passed since the defeat of the gods. Then a mysterious figure hires a family of black elf assassins to kill a dead god. Things go wrong, and that god, a very familiar god who wields an unstoppable warhammer, instead awakens. Alone in a world ruled by his enemies, the zombie-like god that once was Thor seeks divine vengeance.
Difficult, in talking about this book, not to talk about Simonson’s stunning work in the 1980s on Marvel Comics’ version of Thor, one of the greatest post–Jack Kirby runs on any book in Marvel’s history. After having drawn some issues of the book a few years previously, he took over as both writer and artist with issue 337 and began a long-ranging story that finally ended in issue 382 (he’d given up art duties a bit more than a year before). Simonson brought a new awareness of myth to the book, and a striking design sense grounded in Norse culture as interpreted through a Kirbyesque lens. He also brought a powerful grasp of comics craft and storytelling technique.
When I started my new job last month, I began taking the train into the city every day for the first time. St. Charles to Chicago, an hour each way. That’s a long time to be staring at all those suburbs going by. So I did two things immediately: I upgraded to a new iPhone 6s, which allowed me to keep up with all my blogs on the go (especially Politico, Tor.com, and MSNBC), and I started catching up on graphic novels.
For my first month on the job (at least until Alice got me a subscription to The New York Times as a birthday present last week), I read almost exclusively comics and graphic novels on the train, digging into the huge stack I’d accumulated over the past eighteen months. I read Original Sin, a cosmic mystery featuring Marvel’s greatest heroes as they attempted to solve the murder of The Watcher. I enjoyed Rick Remender’s gonzo dimension-hopping adventure Black Science, and the 2016 Hugo nominee Invisible Republic, a really superior far-future political thriller, and lots more.
In short, I read some pretty fine stuff. But the crème-de-la-crème was a two-volume story featuring Aurora West, a compelling heroine who was completely new to me: The Rise of Aurora West and The Fall of the House of West. Aurora accompanies her father Haggard West, greatest hero of the beleaguered city of Arcopolis, as he races across rooftops, investigates the mysterious origins of the strange plague of monsters bedeviling his city, and solves bizarre crimes. But in the process Aurora stumbles on clues relating to a long-forgotten crime, and begins an investigation of her own… one that leads to a series of revelations that challenge everything she knows, and threatens the very future of Arcopolis.