Birthday Reviews: Irving E. Cox, Jr.’s “Too Many Worlds”

Thursday, May 24th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Walter Popp

Cover by Walter Popp

Irving E. Cox, Jr. was born on May 24, 1917 and died on February 13, 2001.

Cox began publishing in 1951 with “Hell’s Pavement,” which appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. He published most of his work during that decade, with only his final two stories, “Impact” and “Way Station” appeared during the 1960s. During that time, however, his stories appeared in several different magazines as well as in original anthologies.

“Too Many Worlds” was originally purchased by Howard Browne for Amazing Stories, where it appeared in the November 1952 issue. It was reprinted in May of the following year in the British edition of the magazine. In 1973, the story appeared in the May issue of Science Fiction Adventures. More recently, is appeared in Science Fiction Gems, Volume Twelve, edited by Gregory Luce.

Science fiction authors have long had their characters travel from one version of the world to another similar version, which is how Cox begins “Too Many Worlds.” He dumps Albert Hammond into a world that resembles his own. In the new world, however, Hammond’s shipping company is much more successful than the one he knows. Where Cox tries something different is by making Hammond very aware of who he is, but unable to respond to things the way he wants to, instead, no matter how hard he tries, the words and tone that come out of his mouth belong to the new world’s Albert Hammond, who is a much harder man.

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When Long-Sheathed Knives are Drawn Again: The Waking Land by Callie Bates

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Waking Land-small The Memory of Fire-small

When Callie Bates’ fantasy novel The Waking Land appeared last June, it was called “A wonderfully stunning debut” by RT Book Reviews, and Terry Brooks said “She is clearly a writer of real talent.” I remember being very intrigued when I picked it up in the bookstore. Here’s the description.

Lady Elanna is fiercely devoted to the king who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder — and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition — powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

I was pleased to see the sequel, The Memory of Fire, will be published early next month. Del Rey reprinted the first volume in trade paperback in January, so there’s plenty of time to grab a copy before the second volume arrives. Here’s all the details, and links to tasty sample chapters.

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A Pair of Gonzo Mysteries from a Fantasy Master: Rich Horton on Pink Vodka Blues and Skinny Annie Blues by Neal Barrett, Jr.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Pink Vodka Blues-small Skinny Annie Blues-small

Neal Barrett, Jr. received a Hugo and Nebula Award nomination for his 1988 story “Ginny Sweethips’ Flying Circus,” and in 2010 he was named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. A discussion of his four Aldair novels — which Fletcher Vredenburgh called “a blast of strangeness and adventure” — broke out in the comments section of my 2013 post about Mark Frost’s The List of 7. And in his 2014 review of The Prophecy Machine, Fletcher wrote:

The late Neal Barrett Jr. wrote around thirty novels and seventy short stories. I’ve only read a little bit from his works, which include sci-fi and fantasy as well as crime fiction and magic realism. He seems to have slipped under the radar of most genre readers. On the other hand, everything I’ve read about the man marks him as one of those special authors held in high esteem by other writers.

As usual, Fletcher is bang on in his assessment. I haven’t read any of Barrett’s crime fiction either, and I’ve always been very curious about it.

But that’s why we have Rich Horton. Over at his website Strange at Ecbatan Rich reviews two of Barrett’s mid-90s mystery novels, Pink Vodka Blues (1992) and Skinny Annie Blues (1996), calling them ‘funny’ and ‘wild.’ That qualifies them for a closer look in my book.

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Birthday Reviews: Joe Patrouch’s “The Attenuated Man”

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Joseph F. Patrouch, Jr. was born on May 23, 1935.

Patrouch was a teacher in Ohio who had a brief career writing science fiction. In the early 1970s, he wrote several essays about Asimov’s fiction and published his first short story, “One Little Room an Everywhere” in the February 1974 issue of Vertex. Most of his fiction has never been reprinted, with the exceptions “The Man Who Murdered Television” and “Legal Rights for Germs.” He also published The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov in 1974.

“The Attenuated Man” was published by Edward L. Ferman in the March 1979 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It has never been reprinted.

Ken Hamilton sneaks into his father’s company to use the Transmat machine to become the first man on Mars, in an attempt to prove to his father than he isn’t completely worthless. Unfortunately, things go wrong for him almost immediately as he starts bleeding from his eyes, ears, and mouth. Back on Earth, Ken’s excursion has been discovered and his father’s staff is trying to figure out how to get him back, especially once they realize something has gone wrong and they can’t send someone after him without the same problems occurring.

Patrouch has an interesting look at some of the dangers of teleportation, although the impact seems to be different when transmatting people to different places, a discrepancy which he discusses in the story. Furthermore, although he indicates that Hamilton has a very low opinion of his son’s intelligence and abilities, the son figures out part of the solution that will allow him to return to Earth safely, and understands what has happened to him.

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Future Treasures: The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Freeze-Frame Revolution-smallPeter Watts is the author of the Rifters Trilogy, which Matthew David Surridge reviewed for us here, the Hugo and Locus Award-nominated Blindsight (2006), which Rich Horton called “Brilliant,” and the collection Beyond the Rift (2013).

His short fiction Sunflower Cycle kicked off in 2009 with the Hugo Award-winning “The Island.” There have been three tales in the series so far; you can read them all at Watts’ website. The fourth, the long novella The Freeze-Frame Revolution, arrives from Tachyon early next month.

“The Island” (The New Space Opera 2, July 2009) — Hugo Award Winner, Best Novelette
“Giants” (Extreme Planets, December 2013)
“Hotshot” (Reach for Infinity, May 2014)
The Freeze-Frame Revolution (Tachyon Publications, June 2018)

Publisher’s Weekly raved about the book, saying:

In this short, tight novel that contains vast science-fictional speculation, the human crew of the construction ship Eriophora spends 66 million years building interstellar wormhole gates, so they have lots of time to ponder issues of purpose. Sunday Ahzmundin, on a quest to find a missing crewmate, has to deal with another coworker, Lian, who is traumatized after the ship is damaged by one of the “occasional demons” that pop out of newly opened gates. Dropping in and out of suspended animation as scheduled by the Chimp, the AI that runs the ship, Sunday begins to uncover the secrets behind Lian’s subsequent death and the disappearances of other crew members, learning what hides beneath the ship’s closed and rigidly structured society… SF fans will love this tale of bizarre future employment and genuine wonder.

Here’s the description.

She believed in the mission with all her heart. But that was sixty million years ago. How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what’s best for you? Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution will be published by Tachyon Publications on June 12, 2018. It is 192 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition. Order copies directly from the Taychon website.


The Poison Apple: What do The Watchmen, Sandman, Frankenstein, Dracula, H.P. Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes have in Common?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Leslie Klinger in Sherlock mode

Leslie Klinger in Sherlock mode

An Interview with Leslie S. Klinger

Crowens: What drew you to the Victorian era? That seems to be the common thread for most of your books except for your annotated graphic novels.

Klinger: When I was young, I was a big science fiction reader. In my second year of law school, my girlfriend bought me a copy of the William S. Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes. I was hooked. Like most people, I probably read one or two stories as a kid, paid little attention to them, and wasn’t really interested in mysteries. Then I started reading this, and I enjoyed the footnotes — the idea that there was this scholarship. One of my responses to the Baring-Gould edition was a weird one: Some day when I’m old and retired, maybe I’ll be the person who will update it. I became immersed and decided I was going to become a Sherlockian.

In 1976, there was a classified ad in the Baker Street Journal placed by somebody selling his collection of 300 books, a real collection, not like the junk I’d been buying. It was very expensive… like thirty-five hundred dollars. I talked it over with my wife. For that time that was a lot of money. She said, “You’re the kind of person who should be a collector. Go for it.”

Suddenly I had the core of a really good collection and became known in some small circles as a nut about Sherlock Holmes. I started giving talks about Sherlock Holmes, and I got invited to a dinner at the BSI back in 70s. It was one of those bucket list things where I never thought about it again. In 1995 a friend arranged for another invitation. I went to the dinner, and I haven’t missed one since then.

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Into the Grimness: Shadows Linger by Glen Cook

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

SHDWSLN1984Let me start off with a warning: there will be spoilers galore in this and all future Black Company posts. There’s just no way to avoid them at this point. So if you haven’t read the books, do us all a favor and read them.

Shadows Linger (1984) amps up the proto-grimness of Cook’s seminal epic fantasy series, at the same time taking much of the focus away from the titular Black Company and the previous book’s narrator, Croaker. It’s a surprising approach when so much of the initial book’s story was about the company itself as an almost living thing, complete with its own complicated history and traditions. It works though, due to Cook’s jaundiced view of human nature, and skill at crafting a harsh, noir atmosphere and setting.

At the end of The Black Company, ex-nobleman and all-around badass Raven realized that Darling, the nine year-old girl the Company rescued, was the White Rose. It was prophesied that the White Rose, who in centuries past had defeated and imprisoned the Dominator and the Lady, would be reincarnated when the need for her again arose. Now is that time.

Shadows Linger begins nine years after the close of The Black Company. The Company has become the Lady’s fire brigade, marching back and forth across her vast empire, forever extinguishing any signs of rebellion. Resistance leaders are hunted down and killed and the peace of iron-fisted repression is enforced. Still, the Company holds on to a sliver of its members’ humanity.

The Lady’s service has not been bad. Though we get the toughest missions, we never have to do the dirty stuff. The regulars get those jobs. Preemptive strikes sometimes, sure. The occasional massacre. But all in the line of business. Militarily necessary. We’d never gotten involved in atrocities. The Captain wouldn’t permit that.

The Dominator, the Lady’s husband and once the the North’s resident Dark Lord, remains imprisoned in the Barrowlands, held in place by spells, soldiers, and a dragon. Something, though, is stirring and it seems as if he is preparing to somehow escape his bonds. An investigation leads members of the Company and two of the Taken, the Lady’s own ringwraith sort of wizards, to Juniper. Juniper exists in the most remote part of the North on a bay that is free from ice only half the year. There, a strange black castle has been growing year by year. Somehow it is connected to the Barrowlands and the Dominator.

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Birthday Reviews: Wallace West’s “No War Tomorrow”

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Milton Luros

Cover by Milton Luros

Wallace West was born on May 22, 1900 and died on March 8, 1980.

West began publishing speculative fiction in 1927 with the story “Loup-Garou,” which appeared in Weird Tales. Working mostly at short fiction lengths, he didn’t limit himself to science fiction and fantasy and his story “Muddy Waters” was turned into the 1933 film Headline Shooter.

“No War Tomorrow” was printed in its the first issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, published in May 1951 with Robert A.W. Lowndes as the editor. In January of the following year, it appeared in the magazine’s British edition. West included the story in his 1962 collection Outposts in Space.

The world of West’s “No War Tomorrow” is something of a mess. The major power is the United Stars, which seems to govern Earth, the Moon, Mars, and part of Venus, all of which appear to be inhabitable and suitable for human life, although there may be domes or terraforming that has occurred on Mars and the Moon. West’s focus, however, is on Venus, which is divided by the United Stars and the local Big Shots, who rule an anarchic area where the laws requires people to fend for themselves, although at the same time there is a civilization and police force, without explanation for how either survive.

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New Treasures: Wonderblood by Julia Whicker

Monday, May 21st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Wonderblood-smallThere have been a lot of intriguing fantasy debuts already in 2018, and to really stand out you need to do something different. Julia Whicker’s Wonderblood, set in a post-apocalyptic America where magic is openly practiced, sounds like it will fit the bill nicely.

Margot Livesey calls it “A stunning debut… Julia Whicker evokes an apocalyptic America where medicine is illegal, everyone is searching for portents and only a severed head can offer protection.” That’s plenty different, anyway. Wonderblood was published in hardcover last month by St. Martin’s Press.

Set 500 years in the future, a mad cow-like disease called “Bent Head” has killed off most of the U.S. population. Those remaining turn to magic and sacrifice to cleanse the Earth.

Wonderblood is Julia Whicker’s fascinating literary debut, set in a barren United States, an apocalyptic wasteland where warring factions compete for control of the land in strange and dangerous carnivals. A mad cow-like disease called “Bent Head” has killed off millions. Those who remain worship the ruins of NASA’s space shuttles, and Cape Canaveral is their Mecca. Medicine and science have been rejected in favor of magic, prophecy, and blood sacrifice.

When traveling marauders led by the bloodthirsty Mr. Capulatio invade her camp, a young girl named Aurora is taken captive as his bride and forced to join his band on their journey to Cape Canaveral. As war nears, she must decide if she is willing to become her captor’s queen. But then other queens emerge, some grotesque and others aggrieved, and not all are pleased with the girl’s ascent. Politics and survival are at the centre of this ravishing novel.

Wonderblood was published by St. Martin’s Press on April 3, 2018. It is 304 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano.


With a (Black) Gat: Raoul Whitfield

Monday, May 21st, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_Whitfield1(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Welcome back to our second post in With a (Black) Gat!

I don’t think that you can argue with the assertion that the Joe ‘Cap’ Shaw era was the highwater mark of Black Mask Magazine (and detective pulps in whole). Some good writers, like Steve Fisher, Cornell Woolrich and John D. MacDonald, made their marks on the Mask with Shaw’s editorial successors, but let’s be real.

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are recognized as the two greatest Black Maskers, though Chandler only wrote eleven stories over three years. It was his novels (the first two drawing heavily on his Black Mask short stories) that launched him to legendary status. Carroll John Daly, creator of Race Williams, was the most popular writer in the stable, though Shaw disliked his work.

Erle Stanley Gardner (better remembered for Perry Mason, though his Cool and Lam stories are great) was one of the favored sons. Frederic Nebel, Shaw’s handpicked successor to replace Dash when he left the pulp field, belongs in the upper echelon. As does the less-well remembered Raoul Whitfield. And today’s gat is in Whitfield’s hand. Boy, did he like to use one!

“About Kid Deth” appeared in the February, 1931 issue of Black Mask. Raymond Chandler famously said, “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” Chandler may very well have developed this axiom by reading Whitfield’s story. I’m kidding!

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