Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1954: A Retro-Review

Monday, April 30th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction February 1954-smallThe cover for the February, 1954 issue is titled “Spaceship Hydroponics Room” by Ed Emshwiller. We’re growing some hydroponic tomatoes at home, so the future is now!

“Beep” by James Blish — The Dirac communicator allows instantaneous communication between two devices, regardless of their distance. This gives an immense military advantage to those in the galaxy who possess it. But a shrewd reporter named Dana Lje uncovers something of much greater importance, hidden within a beep that precedes each message. And she sets her own terms for revealing her findings.

This story felt more like a science article expanded into a narrative, where characters are talking about the theoretical science. It didn’t feel much like a story to me. I found the science intriguing enough, but it makes me wonder if a concise article on the subject would have had the same effect.

“The Boys From Vespis” by Arthur Sellings — The Vespians arrive on Earth for their own purposes, and they’re all extremely attractive men. Herbert and other local guys can’t get any attention anymore because of the recent competition, and he’s had enough. He goes straight to the leader of the Vespians to demand that something be done.

It’s a pretty short tale, and it earned a light laugh from me toward the end. Arthur Sellings is a pseudonym for Arthur Gordon Ley, a British author and scientist. He had six novels and many short stories published. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at age 47 in 1968.

“Pet Farm” by Roger Dee — A three-man team explores the planet Falak — a small, arid planet that doesn’t rotate. Their job is to look for survivors from the war with the Hymenops — an insect race that attacked humans 200 years ago. The humans they find are all in their mid-twenties or younger and unable to communicate effectively in English. While there are a myriad of explanations for the absence of older humans, they hope to find the cause so that the planet can be recolonized in the future.

There’s a good, mysterious plot that unveils nicely. This story is part of his series that follows the crew of the Marco Four. I reviewed a previous story titled “Wailing Wall” that appeared in the July, 1952 issue.

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Future Treasures: Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson

Monday, April 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Blood Orbit KR Richardson-small Blood-Orbit-back-small

Kat Richardson is the author of the bestselling Greywalker paranormal detective novels. For her first off-world SF noir novel Blood Orbit, the opening book in the Gattis Files, she’s chosen to don a new literary identity, “K.R. Richardson.” Comic writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Shipwreck) calls it,

A clever, twisting, and savage science fiction crime story that fuses colonization fiction with genuine deep noir. The end result is original, culturally rich, and as ruthless as a novel about murder, secrets, and lies should be.

And author Diana Pharaoh Francis (Diamond City Magic) says,

Richardson has written a diabolically delicious twisty murder mystery set on a faraway planet against a backdrop of corporate greed, racial tensions, corrupt law enforcement, and secrets that refuse to stay buried. This is Criminal Minds meets Sherlock Holmes in space.

Blood Orbit will be published by Pyr on May 8, 2018. It is 493 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Maurizio Manzieri. Read the first three chapters over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, and get more details at K.R. Richardson’s website.

Birthday Reviews: Larry Niven’s “Convergent Series”

Monday, April 30th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March 1967-small The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March 1967-back-small

Cover by Jack Gaughan

Larry Niven was born on April 30, 1938.

Niven won his first Hugo for the short story “Neutron Star.” His novel Ringworld received the Hugo and Nebula Award as well as a Seiun Award and Ditmar Award. He went on to win three additional Hugo Awards for the short stories “Inconstant Moon,” and “The Hole Man” and for his novelette “The Borerland of Sol.” Niven won a second Ditmar Award for Protector and additional Seiun Awards for his short stories “Inconstant Moon” and “A Relic of Empire.” Footfall, written in collaboration with Jerry Pournelle, received a Seiun Award and Fallen Angels, written with Pournelle and Michael Flynn, received both a Seiun and a Prometheus Award.

Niven has received the Forry Award from LASFS and the Skylark Award from Boskone. Niven was the Author Guest of Honor at ConFrancisco, the 1993 Worldcon. In 2005 he received the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society and the following year received a Writers and Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, SFWA inducted Niven as a Grand Master.

In addition to his frequent collaborator Jerry Pournelle, Niven has worked with Steven Barnes, Michael Flynn, Edward Lerner, Gregory Benford, Dian Girard, David Gerrold, Brenda Cooper, and Matthew Joseph Harrington. He has also allowed other authors to write in the Known Universe series in the Man-Kzin Wars anthologies.

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Gary K. Wolfe on Cecelia Holland’s Floating Worlds and Other Classics That Deserve Modern Attention

Sunday, April 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Cecelia Holland Floating Worlds-pocket-small Cecelia Holland Floating Worlds-pocket-back-small

1977 Pocket Books paperback. Foil cover by Harry Bennett

On Episode 328 of The Coode Street Podcast, my recent audio addiction, Jonathan Strahan asked his co-host Gary K. Wolfe if there was some book of value, “or simply that you loved when you were a younger reader,” that he wished he could bring modern attention to.

If you know Jonathan and Gary, you appreciate that’s precisely the kind of question that could fill an hour-long episode all on its own. But Gary provided what I thought was a remarkably cogent and focused reply, all the more remarkable for its brevity. After noting that “When you get to be my age, a younger reader covers a span of decades,” and paying homage to Andre Norton’s Cat’s Eye and Star Man Son, Gary called out a long-forgotten SF novel from 1976.

One of the classic one-off science fiction novels, I think from maybe 40 some years ago now, was Cecelia Holland’s Floating Worlds, a historical novelist using her historical imagination to construct a pretty powerful solar system space opera. I’ve not re-read that in a long time. I’d like new people to look at that and see if, hey, was I right? Was this as good as I thought it was?

Although Floating Worlds is a neglected classic here in the US — its last paperback printing was in 1979 from Pocket Books — it has a much richer history in the UK, with eight print versions and an e-book edition between 1976 and 2014.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunday, April 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Akata Warrior-small Sunny and the Mysteries of Osis-small

Nnedi Okorafor is one of the most exciting novelists at work in the field of fantasy. She’s won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. She writes Black Panther comics for Marvel, and her World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death is being developed by George R.R. Martin as an HBO series.

Her latest novel, Akata Warrior, was published by Viking Books for Young Readers last October (above left, cover by Greg Ruth). It was republished in the UK in March by Cassava Republic Press under the title Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi (above right, design by Anna Morrison). Both books (er, the single book) are (is?) the sequel to 2011’s Akata Witch.

Although the books are being sold to separate markets with different titles and different covers, I was struck at just how similar the cover images are. In fact, both use Greg Ruth’s core image of a woman with a black scarf (albeit flipped), and both make use of overt spider imagery, along with an overlay of curvy white Nsibidi symbols on her skin. Both also use the same quote by Neil Gaiman. Note the differences, however — the British cover has markedly different hair, and a completely different color tone. She’s looking in different directions as well.

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Birthday Reviews: Jack Williamson’s “The Cold Green Eye”

Sunday, April 29th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Fantastic March April 1953

Cover by Richard Powers

Jack Williamson was born on April 29, 1908 and died on November 11, 2006.

Williamson famously traveled from Arizona to New Mexico in a covered wagon when he was 7 years old. He went on to publish science fiction, beginning when he was twenty. Over the years, he frequently collaborated with Frederik Pohl and occasionally with James Gunn, Edmond Hamilton, and Miles Breuer.

Williamson received the Hugo Award for his autobiography Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction. He won a second Hugo, as well as his only Nebula Award, for his story “The Ultimate Earth.” His novel Terraforming Earth received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Williamson is also the recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards. He has received them from the Writers and Illustrators of the Future, the Pilgrim Award, the Forry Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award. He received the Skylark Award from Boskone and the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society. In 1968, he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame and into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1976, he was named the second SFWA Grand Master. Worldcon recognized him with the Big Heart Award in 1994.

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Win a Copy of The Annotated Watchmen by DC Comics

Saturday, April 28th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

The Annotated Watchmen Leslie S Klinger-small

I don’t think DC’s 1985 Watchmen needs a whole bunch of introduction (or any). As both a reader and a writer, I’ve read, re-read, analyzed, watched other people analyze, and blogged about the seminal work by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

DC Comics has released a retrospective edition of the story that landed on Time magazine’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In Watchmen: The Annotated Edition, Leslie S. Klinger looks at each of the series’ twelve issues in detail, moving page by page and panel by panel. Klinger drew on critical and scholastic commentary, interviews with Dave Gibbons, and previously unseen original source material.

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Tarzan Swing-By: Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928–29)

Saturday, April 28th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


Readers have asked me, but the answer is still no: I can’t tackle the entire Tarzan series the way I did Edgar Rice Burroughs’s other book series, Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar. There are twenty-four Tarzan books, not counting the juveniles, and I’d burn out long before the end if I tried to read them in sequence over a compressed time period.

But since I’m always glad to pick up a Tarzan volume here and there among my other Burroughs readings, I’ll negotiate. I’ll do an occasional Tarzan book “swing-by” to give spotlight time to ERB’s biggest contribution to popular culture. No particular order, just whatever Tarzan adventure grabs me at the moment.

So I’ll start with … let’s see … Book #12, Tarzan and the Lost Empire. Wherein the Lord of the Jungle finds yet another civilization lost in time in the heart of Africa: a remnant of the Roman Empire still living the ancient ways. Tarzan also gets a little monkey sidekick.

Tarzan and the Lost Empire falls into a period of the Tarzan novels that I think of as the “Filmation Era” because of how much the 1970s Filmation animated series Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle reflects it. After the tenth book, Tarzan and the Ant Men, Tarzan was distanced from the Greystoke legacy and his former supporting cast, and now has the companionship of both Nkima the monkey and Jad-bal-ja the golden lion. Jane vanished except for a single reappearance in Tarzan’s Quest (1936). The plots became standalone and repeated certain formulas, such as Tarzan discovering lost civilizations or facing a Tarzan imposter.

The writing quality of these books was still high in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, and Burroughs hadn’t lost his skill at executing pulse-racing action set-pieces. But the plotting was often perfunctory as ERB became a bit fatigued with having to go back to the Tarzan well again and again. The story ideas and the prose popped, but the plots often meandered with overstuffed casts and too much incident that doesn’t go anywhere. Tarzan and the Lost Empire falls prey to these faults. But it also contains one of the most interesting hidden civilizations of the series and a setting that energized Burroughs.

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Birthday Reviews: William Sanders’s “When This World Is All on Fire”

Saturday, April 28th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Fred Gambino

Cover by Fred Gambino

William Sanders was born on April 28, 1942 and died on June 29, 2017.

Sanders wrote under his own name as well as the pseudonym Will Sundown. His novels included Journey to Fusang, The Wild Blue and the Gray, The Ballad of Billy Badass and the Rose of Turkestan, J., and, under the Sundown name, Pockets of Resistance and The Hellbound Train. Sanders has also written mysteries and the non-fiction Conquest: Hernando de Soto and the Indians, 1539-1543. From 2006 to 2008, he edited the online magazine Helix.

In 1989 Sanders was a nominee for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer. He won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for his stories “The Undiscovered” and “Empire.” “The Undiscovered” was also nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His story “Dry Bones” was also nominated for the Nebula and Sturgeon and Sanders was also nominated for the Sturgeon Award for “Jennifer, Just Before Midnight.” In 2008, he and Lawrence Watt-Evans were nominated for the Hugo Award for editing the Semiprozine Helix.

“When This World Is All on Fire” was originally published by Gardner Dozois in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the October-November 2001 issue. Dozois included it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Nineteenth Annual Collection and Sanders used it in his two short story collections: Are We Having Fun Yet? American Indian Fantasy Stories and East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith. Grace L. Dillon reprinted the story in Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction.

The world of “When This World Is All on Fire” has been ravaged by climate change, which has caused a rise in sea levels and temperatures making coastal areas and parts of the American south uninhabitable. For the Indians on the reservation in North Carolina, this means having to deal with a constant stream of white squatters who feel they should have access to the Indians’ open lands, a solution that the Indians and their police force disagree with.

Although climate change has caused the refugee problem, the story is more about the interaction between one of the Indian deputies, Davis Blackbear, and a family of squatters he had to chase off the reservation. The encounter should have been brief and Blackbear did his best to de-escalate it, but he found himself enamored by the squatters’ young daughter’s singing voice. When he sees her in a nearby town a couple weeks later, he steps in to stop her from being arrested.

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Future Treasures: The Poppy War by R. F Kuang

Friday, April 27th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Poppy War-smallThe Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is calling R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War “the Buzziest Fantasy Debut of 2018.”

Last year, Harper Voyager introduced us to two exciting new voices in fantasy, Nicky Drayden (The Prey of Gods) and S.A. Chakraborty (City of Brass), so when David Pomerico, the imprint’s editorial director, R.F. Kuang, whose debut The Poppy War Harper Voyager will publish in May, “an incredible new talent in the speculative fiction industry,” we’ve got reason to trust his judgement (and track record). Certainly the book sounds like just the thing — a richly detailed epic born out of 20th century Chinese history, with an adult sensibility and a narrative hook that gives it the addictive appeal of the best young adult literature.

The official summary for this first-in-a-trilogy novel makes a compelling case… Pomerico, who acquired the book after a heated auction on what turned out to be the author’s 20th birthday, promises it blends military fantasy and a coming-of-age story, combining the author’s “cultural authenticity with personal creativity at a time when both qualities are very much demanded by readers.”

Hey, I’m as big a fan of writing prodigies as the next guy. But is a fat 544-page fantasy written by a teenager really what I’m looking for? Especially one that’s the start of a trilogy?

Well, maybe I’m just a grumpy old man. Certainly there’s been no shortage of praise from people less grumpy than I. Kameron Hurley calls it, “A blistering, powerful epic of war and revenge that will captivate you to the bitter end.” And Publishers Weekly praises it as “An ambitious fantasy reimagining of Asian history populated by martial artists, philosopher-generals, and gods… a strong and dramatic launch to Kuang’s career.”

You can decide for yourself when the book arrives in hardcover from Harper Voyager next week. Here’s the description.

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