Birthday Reviews: Richard A. Lupoff’s “Black Mist”

Birthday Reviews: Richard A. Lupoff’s “Black Mist”

Cover by Nicholas Jainschigg
Cover by Nicholas Jainschigg

Richard Lupoff was born on February 21, 1935. He edited the fanzine Xero, which included articles from Avram Davidson, L. Sprague de Camp, and Roger Ebert. In 1963, Lupoff and his wife, Pat, received a Hugo Award for Best Amateur Magazine for their work. In 2005, a hardcover The Best of Xero would be nominated for a Hugo for Best Related Work.

He published his first novel One Million Centuries, in 1967 and is perhaps best known for Circumpolar! and Circumsolar! Lupoff is not averse to using pseudonyms such as Ova Hamlet or Addison E. Steele. He collaborated on the graphic novel The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and His Incredible Aether Flyer with Steve Stiles. Lupoff edited three volumes of short stories he felt should have won the Hugo Award (What If? Volumes 1-3).

“Black Mist” was originally published in the April 1995 issue of Omni Online. Orson Scott Card reprinted it in Black Mist and Other Japanese Futures and Lupoff included it in his collection Claremont Tales. The story was also reprinted in Robert Reginald’s To the Stars—And Beyond: The Second Borgo Press Book of Science Fiction Stories.

Many stories set in the far future of space exploration select a human culture and have them expand into space, as L. Sprague de Camp did with his Viagens Interplanetary series. Often these space-faring cultures have little to do with the original terrestrial country beyond nomenclature. In “Black Mist” Lupoff has postulated a future in which Japan has taken over planetary exploration after the United States and Russia’s programs have collapsed.

The Japanese are attempting to terraform Mars and part of that effort takes place from a small outpost on Phobos. Not only do Japanese ideas of honor and caste play a big role in the story, but other aspects of Japanese society are interwoven and provide an integral part of the plot. “Black Mist” opens with a lowly kitchen worker, Jiricho Toshikawa, discovering the murdered body of a scientists on Phobos. When the body disappears, the head of operations on Mars sends his friend Hajimi Ino to investigate the disappearance.

Science fiction has long been open to combination with mystery, and Ino serves as an investigator into the crime, interviewing the suspects and coming to his conclusions while dealing with the alien, and dangerous, landscape of Phobos. Although there are a limited number of suspects, Lupoff provides misdirection and red herrings to make the story more complex and satisfying. Furthermore, Ino is not depicted as a omnipotent detective, but suffers his failures and set backs that not only endanger himself, but those with whom he is working. Lupoff’s Japanese future is interesting enough that additional stories about Hajimi Ino would be welcome.

Reprint reviewed in the collection Claremont Tales, Golden Gryphon Press, 2001.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

I think Lupoff is an underrated writer. Don’t forget his SPACE WAR BLUES, and the related story in AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS (“With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama”).

I recently read and reviewed LIEUT. GULLIVAR JONES: HIS VACATION, by Edwin Arnold, a once forgotten piece of pre-Burroughs proto-SF set on Mars, which Lupoff rediscovered and arranged to be published by Ace in the mid-60s.

I enjoyed the CLAREMONT TALES books a good deal as well when they came out. (Golden Gryphon did some beautiful books.) I recall “Black Mist” as being quite good.

Rich Horton

Yes, THE BEST OF XERO is excellent. The Very Big Names include people you might not think of, like Donald Westlake and Roger Ebert.

John ONeill

> I was discussing Golden Gryphon recently, not only the design of their
> books (which influenced my own ISFiC Press), but their demise.


Me as well. I had reached out to Gary Turner many months ago, as I was slowly preparing a survey retrospective of the entire line. I discovered they had a half-price sale on their entire stock (and promptly re-titled my piece “Check out the Half Price Sale at Golden Gryphon!”) But when I double checked their site in January, it had vanished. After a month, I assume it’s gone for good.

Needless to say, I’m relieved now that I took advantage of the sale to get the last half-dozen or so titles I needed to complete my collection (and upgrade a few that were a little battered). But their loss is a real blow. They hadn’t published anything new in roughly a decade, but they had kept virtually all of their titles in print at very reasonable prices.

Those days are over, I’m afraid. When I checked this morning, the price of CLAREMONT TALES at Amazon had leaped to $100.

> In my collection, the GG books are all shelved together in release order rather than in the general collection by author.

Mine too! They were so distinctive in look and quality that I filed them separately, like my Arkham House books.

They will be missed.

Joe H.

I don’t have specific memories of Lupoff’s fiction, but I would be very sad not to have my copy of his Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure.

Nick Ozment

Joe H.,

You and me both: I was not familiar with Lupoff’s fiction but knew his name from my own beloved copy of his biography of ERB.

I now have a couple of his later works on my shelf (signed by him no less!), but I haven’t gotten around to them. They’re mysteries with the gimmick that they tie into a collectors’ base — one revolves around comic-book collectors and, the other, cars I think.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x