Unbound Worlds on the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of October 2018

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Astounding John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction-small The Dream Gatherer-small The Monster Baru Cormorant-small

Happy Halloween everyone!

Later tonight, as you’re curled up in your favorite chair munching Halloween candy, you’ll remember that today is also the last day of the month, and you’ll wonder what exciting new releases you overlooked. (Trust me. It’ll happen.) I mean, I get it. There are so many great new books being published these days that it’s impossible to keep track.

Impossible without very special resources, that is. Resources like Matt Staggs at Unbound Worlds, who’s curated an impressive list of 45 (yes, 45) new novels, collections, photobooks, anthologies, and nonfiction books representing the very best in science fiction, fantasy, horror and the unclassifiable. Here’s some of his best selections.

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books, 544 pages, $28.99 hardcover/$15.99 digital, October 23, 2018)

Astounding is the landmark account of the extraordinary partnership between four controversial writers — John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard — who set off a revolution in science fiction and forever changed our world.

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Traces of Byzantium in Florence

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


The dome of the Baptistry of St. John, Florence

When we think of Italian art, we tend to think of Ancient Rome and the Italian Renaissance, and forget the periods in between. Considering the achievements of those two high points of human civilization, that’s hardly surprising, but the Middle Ages contained the inspiration of Renaissance art, and much of that inspiration came from further east–from the Byzantine Empire.

Byzantium owned parts of Italy until 1071, and left a legacy of beautifully decorated churches and public buildings. These influences endured, and can be found in some of the most famous buildings and art collections of the Renaissance. This interesting article from Oxford University goes into greater depth about specific important influences.

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Future Treasures: The Thing in the Close by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Thing in the Close-small The Thing in the Close-back-small

While Manhattan publishers spend six-figures promoting the latest fantasy doorstopper, on the other side of the continent Jeffrey E. Barlough is quietly producing one of the best and most original fantasy series on the market. The Western Lights novels have steadily been winning readers since the first volume Dark Sleeper appeared in 2000. In his review of Anchorwick, fifth in the series, Jackson Kuhl summarized the setting this way:

In a world where the Ice Age never ended, a cataclysm has reduced humanity to a slip of English civilization along North America’s western coastline. It’s neither steampunk nor weird western; the technology is early 19th century. It’s kinda-sorta gaslamp fantasy, except there doesn’t seem to be any natural gas. Barlough’s creation is best described as a Victorian Dying Earth — gothic and claustrophobic yet confronted by its inhabitants with upper lips held stiff. As the books are fantasy mysteries, the less said about their plots, the better… mastodons and mylodons mixed with ghosts and gorgons? Yes, please.

In 2016 Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed Dark Sleeper for us, saying:

For nearly twenty years now Barlough has been creating a truly unique series that has seems to have escaped too many readers’ attention… If you have the slightest affinity for the works of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, or the steampunk works of Tim Powers and James Blaylock, then I highly recommend Dark Sleeper.

The Thing in the Close, the tenth volume in the series, arrives in trade paperback in December from Gresham & Doyle. Its has been long awaited in the Black Gate offices.

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Birthday Reviews: Neal Stephenson’s “Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Coast”

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Full Spectrum 5-small Full Spectrum 5-back-small

Cover by Michael Parkes

Neal Stephenson was born on October 31, 1959.

Stephenson won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1996 for The Diamond Age and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2004 for Quicksilver. His novel Snow Crash won the Prix Ozone, the Ignotus Award, and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. Stephenson’s novel Seveneves won the Kurd Lasswitz Preis and the Prometheus Award. Stephenson has also won the Prometheus Award for The System of the World and Cryptonomicon.

“Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of ‘Tribes of the Pacific Coast’” is one of Stephenson’s few short stories and it originally appeared in Full Spectrum 5, edited by Jennifer Hershey, Tom Dupree, and Janna Silverstein in 1995. The story was reprinted in Steampunk, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. It has not, otherwise, been reprinted.

The opening of “Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of ‘Tribes of the Pacific Coast’” has the feel of David McCauley’s Motel of the Mysteries, with a group of men in the ruins of an ancient shopping mall. However, while Stephenson seems to signal that the expedition will explore the mall and come to erroneous conclusions about twentieth century culture, the story itself is quite different.

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Dave Duncan, June 30, 1933 – October 29, 2018

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Dave Duncan-smallLocus is reporting that Canadian fantasy writer Dave Duncan died yesterday.

Duncan was born in the small town of Newport-on-Tay, Scotland, but spent his adult life in Western Canada. His debut novel was A Rose-Red City (Del Rey, 1987), published when he was 53 years old.

In later years Duncan wrote that entering the field using his own name was a risk, due to the lingering popularity of 50s SF writer David Duncan (Dark Dominion, Beyond Eden), who published his last novel in 1957. Duncan was a vocal fan of the elder Duncan, and used “Dave” for his own published work.

Dave Duncan was amazingly prolific, averaging two novels a year for the past three decades, even into his 80s. His 59th novel, Trial By Treason was published this month by Night Shade; his sixtieth, Pillar of Darkness, is due out in January from Five Rivers. He wrote in a wide variety of genres, including history fiction and YA, but he was most at home with fantasy and science fiction. BG blogger Violette Malan called his classic SF novel West of January “brilliant,” saying:

West of January is science fiction that doesn’t, at first, seem to have any science in it. The story is an odyssey, narrated in first person by the main character, Knobil… West of January is a testament to just how important point of view can be. As in the best fiction of any kind, Knobil doesn’t explain anything to the reader that he takes for granted… As in Gene Wolf’s classic series The Book of the Long Sun, the readers are left to deduce most of the planet’s features, and even its history, for themselves.

In 1990 Duncan won the Aurora Award, given annually for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy, for West of January; he won it again in 2007 for Children of Chaos. He was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Duncan had his greatest success with fantasy, including the popular series The Great Game, The Seventh Sword, the linked series A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men, and King of Chivial’s Blades. Under the name Ken Hood he wrote The Years of Longdirk trilogy in the late 90s, and writing as Sarah B. Franklin he retold the story of the Trojan War in Daughter of Troy (1998).

Dave Duncan lived in Victoria, British Columbia. He suffered a fall last week, and died yesterday of a brain hemorrhage. He was 85 years old.

Mark Morris on the New Fears Anthologies

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

New Fears cover-small New Fears 2-small

I was pretty excited by Mark Morris’ New Fears last year. It was a terrific horror anthology, with brand new stories by Alison Littlewood, Angela Slatter, Nina Allan, Chaz Brenchley, Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill, Muriel Gray, Kathryn Ptacek, Christopher Golden, and many others.

I kept an eye out for the second one in the series, and it arrived right on schedule from Titan Books last month. New Fears 2 looks even better, with 21 stories by the most acclaimed writers in the genre, including Priya Sharma, Robert Shearman, Gemma Files, Tim Lebbon, Brian Hodge, V. H. Leslie, Brian Evenson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Aliya Whiteley, John Langan, Paul Tremblay, and many others.

But anthology series are a tough sell in today’s market, as we’ve talked about here a few times (see “Is the Original SF and Fantasy Paperback Anthology Series Dead?” for some extensive discussion on the topic) So I was dismayed, but not too surprised, to see a public plea from Morris last week for support for his new series.

On Sunday New Fears picked up the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. The reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly positive, with a couple of reviewers even saying that it’s the best horror anthology they’ve read for years… And as with New Fears, the reviews for New Fears 2 have been phenomenally good.


Despite all these accolades, New Fears simply hasn’t sold enough copies for Titan, at this time, to recommission the series… However if sales pick up, and the first two volumes earn out their advances, then there’s a possibility they make pick the series up again at a later date.

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Birthday Reviews: Douglas E. Winter’s “Splatter: A Cautionary Tale”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Masques II

Masques II

Douglas E. Winter was born on October 30, 1950.

Winter won the World Fantasy Award for Non-Professionals for his reviewing in 1986 and has won the International Horror Guild Award three times, for his stories “Black Sun” and “Loop” and for the anthology Revelations. He served as the Toastmaster for the 1986 World Fantasy Com in Providence, RI and the Master of Ceremonies for the 2003 World Fantasy Con in Washington D.C. He has collaborated with Melissa Mia Hall at least twice.

“Splatter: A Cautionary Tale” was first published as a chapbook by Footsteps Press in 1987. In June of that year, J.N. Williamson included the story in the anthology Masques II and reprinted it the following year in The Best of Masques. 1988 also saw the story reprinted in David J. Schow’s Silver Scream and Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection the first volume in their long-running series better known as The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Barry Hoffman reprinted it in Gauntlet 1 in 1990 and Williamson again published it in the omnibus volume Dark Masques in 2012. It was translated into Italian in 1988 by Alda Carrer and in 1990, Gisela Kirst-Tinnefeld translated it into German. The story was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1988.

“Splatter: A Cautionary Tale” is told in segments, with each paragraph headed with the title of a horror film. It describes the lives of three people, Cameron Blake, a woman who is crusading against the portrayal of violence in horror films, Thomas Tallis, an artist who is figuring out what the boundaries are, and Renhquist, a horror fan who may have begun to accept the violence in films a little too much. Winter uses language and arguments about horror films which are generally reserved for pornography.

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New Treasures: Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume Five edited by Robert Shearman and Michael Kelly

Monday, October 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume Five-small Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume Five-back-small

We’re almost at the end of our 2018 coverage of the annual crop of Year’s Best anthologies, and today’s title has traditionally been one of the highlights — Undertow Publication’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction.

The series is edited by Undertow publisher Michael Kelly, side-by-side with a different guest editor every year. Past editors have included Laird Barron, Kathe Koja, Simon Strantzas, and Helen Marshall. This year it’s Robert Shearman, author of the celebrated collections Remember Why You Fear Me (2012) and They Do the Same Things Different There (2014), and a man who’s shown up in more than his fair share of Year’s Best anthologies himself.

This is a book I highly anticipate every year, but the arrival of this one is bittersweet because it’s also the last. There’s a lot of reasons why a publisher might discontinue a series, but my guess in this case is that Undertow has been growing rapidly — its releases this year include Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts, Simon Strantzas’s Nothing Is Everything, and the beautiful hardcover magazine The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism — and the sales for Year’s Best Weird Fiction just don’t justify all the work it takes. It’s sad to see, but these are the kinds of decisions a thriving small press has to make.

In the meantime, we still have this year’s brand new volume to enjoy (and if you haven’t checked out the previous ones, you have a lot more than that). Here’s the complete table of contents for Volume Five, including stories by Brian Evenson, Alison Littlewood, Carmen Maria Machado, Helen Marshall, Paul Tremblay, and others — including Chavisa Woods’s Shirley Jackson Award-winning novelette “Take the Way Home That Leads Back To Sullivan Street.”

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Joe Bonadonna’s ‘Hardboiled Film Noir’ (Part Two)

Monday, October 29th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

I reached out to some friends to help me with A (Black) Gat in the Hand, as I certainly can’t cover everything and do it all justice. Our latest guest is author and fellow Black Gater, Joe Bonadonna. Last week, Joe delivered an in-depth look at hardboiled adaptations on the silver screen. So, here’s part two!

Hardboiled Film Noir: From Printed Page to Moving Pictures (Part Two)

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” — Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

Bonadonna_CainDoubleEDITEDAnd now, on to Raymond Chandler, one of the two writers who inspired my Heroic Fantasy, the other being Fritz Lieber, another pulp magazine maestro. Considered by many to be a founder of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction, along with Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and other Black Mask writers, Chandler had been an oil company executive who turned to writing after he lost his job during the Great Depression.

To me, his prose is pure poetry, his use of simile and metaphor, his imagery and turn of phrase are top notch. His novel, The Big Sleep, was turned into a motion picture in 1946, starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. His Lady in the Lake (1947) became an interesting vehicle for Robert Montgomery (the father of Bewitched’s Elizabeth Montgomery.) Farewell, My Lovely was first filmed as Murder, My Sweet (1944), starring Dick Powell. Chandler’s novel, The High Window, was filmed twice: first as Time to Kill (1942) and again in 1947 as The Brasher Doubloon. Chandler also had a lucrative career as a Hollywood screenwriter.

In 1944 he scripted (along with director Billy Wilder) James M. Cain’s masterpiece, Double Indemnity, wrote an original screenplay called The Blue Dahlia (1946), and co-wrote (along with Whitfield Cook and Czenzi Ormonde) the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951), which was based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, the author of The Talented Mister Ripley and Ripley’s Game.

 For me, the 1940s also gave us the last of what I consider to be the truly great gangster films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. High Sierra, released in 1941 and based on the novel by W.R. Burnett, was a departure from the usual gangster epic, in that it portrayed a much more sympathetic criminal, Roy Earle (played by Humphrey Bogart.)

Bogart also played the character of Vincent Parry in Dark Passage (1947), which was written for the screen by David Goodis, who adapted his own novel. Another film, based on the play by Maxwell Anderson, was 1948’s Key Largo, the perfect blend of old-school gangster and the new wave of film noir, and it was a tour de force for Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor.

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Birthday Reviews: Fredric Brown’s “It Didn’t Happen”

Monday, October 29th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Playboy, 10/63

Playboy, 10/63

Fredric Brown was born on October 29, 1906 and died on March 11, 1972.

Although Brown has been nominated for four Retro Hugo Awards (twice in 1996 and twice in 2018), he was deemed deserving of renewed attention and received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2012. In addition to writing short fiction and science fiction novels, Brown also wrote numerous mysteries and his novel The Fabulous Clipjoint earned him an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel. His story “Arena” was adapted into the Star Trek episode of the same name, and several other stories of his have been adapted for television and film, including a cinematic version of Martians Go Home which should be avoided. Brown occasionally collaborated with Carl Onspaugh, Fritz Leiber, and Judith Merril, although his most frequent collaborator was Mack Reynolds.

Brown first published “It Didn’t Happen” in the October 1963 issue of Playboy. It was reprinted in the Playboy science fiction anthology Transit of Earth in 1971 and in 1973 was included in Fredric Brown’s collection Paradox Lost and Twelve Other Great Science Fiction Stories. The story showed up in subsequent Brown collections The Best of Fredric Brown and From These Ashes: The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown, as well as the Wildside Press megapack #33, focusing on Brown. The story has been translated for French and Dutch editions of Paradox Lost and into Italian, by Giuseppe Lippi, for an original Italian collection by Brown called Cosmolinea B-2.

“It Didn’t Happen” is one of those stories which has always stayed with me. It is about Lorenz Kane, who has become convinced that he is the only person in the world. In Kane’s view, everyone else is simply a manifestation of his imagination. Kane’s viewpoint is put to the test when he shoots and kills a stripper who rejects his advances and finds himself in jail awaiting trial. Despite this, he still thinks he is on the right track. As he explains to his attorney, he began to think other people didn’t exist when he accidentally killed a girl on a bicycle and when he reported it to the police, she had completely vanished. He tested his theory by murdering someone, who similarly seemed to have ceased to exist.

Kane relates his theory and his guilt to his attorney, who listens intently, not dismissing any of the craziness Kane brings up. The fact that Brown includes scenes of the attorney apart from Kane indicates that Kane’s theories are incorrect and that he is not the only person who actually exists. Kane’s discovery that killing the stripper has consequences also indicates to Kane that he is wrong, but rather than assume his subconscious is punishing him for murdering her, he simply revises his solipsist theory of existence.

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