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 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.