Birthday Reviews: Daniel Abraham’s “Pagliacci’s Divorce”

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Kent Bash

Cover by Kent Bash

Daniel Abraham was born on November 14, 1969.

Daniel Abraham won the International Horror Guild Award for his story “Flat Diane” in 2005. The story was also nominated for a Nebula Award. His story “The Cambist and Lord Iron” A Fairy Tale of Economics” was nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Seiun Awards. Abraham has two additional Hugo nominations in collaboration with Ty Franck using the pseudonym James S.A. Corey for their novel Leviathan Wakes and for ther series The Expanse, which has been turned into a successful television series. Abraham has also published using the names M.L.N. Hanover and Daniel Hanover. In addition to his collaborations with Franck, he has collaborated with Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin, Susan Fry, Michaela Roessner, Sage Walker, and Walter Jon Williams.

“Pagliacci’s Divorce” was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Gordon van Gelder in its December 2003 issue. The story has never been reprinted.

Although “Pagliacci’s Divorce” is built around a sting operation based on Pagliacci’s ability to help create fake phenotype cards of illicit purposes, it really focuses on the relationship between Pagliacci and his ex-wife, Carly, whose current husband, Damon Weiss, is the target of the sting. Law enforcement uses people like Pagliacci as informants in return for letting them continue to run their scams and in this case has found a connection to a larger fish.

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Stan Lee, the World’s Greatest Comic Book Writer: 1922-2018

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) The Elder Statesman-small

I never really thought Stan Lee would die. I’ve been saying for years that as long as there was a single nickel to be squeezed, Stan the Man would be making his cameo and taking his executive producer credit and raking in the long green.

I guess we now live in a nickleless universe, and there will be a blank spot around the margin of the next Marvel cinematic blockbuster. Stan Lee took a last intrepid leap into the Negative Zone on Monday, November 12. He was 95.

As W.S. Gilbert wrote long ago, “I often think it’s comical/How nature always does contrive/That every boy and every gal/That’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative!” Gilbert and Sullivan never wrote a comic opera about superheroes (oh that they had!), but the observation applies as much to comic books as it does to politics. It’s certainly possible to appreciate both, but at the end of the day you’re either Marvel or you’re DC.

When I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s, in the prime of my comic book buying and reading years, I was DC all the way. I had hundreds of comics, but very few were Marvels. There was something about them that I just didn’t trust. The combination of self-mockery and over-the-top rhetoric put me off. The goofy syntax and leather-lunged self-promotion that screamed from a thousand Gil Kane-drawn covers proclaimed that unlike the solid, stolid DC products, these weren’t serious comic books. (You know what I mean — titles like “Whence Comes the Werebeast!!” and banners proclaiming that the story is “Another Mighty Masterpiece in the Munificent Marvel Manner!!” and stuff like that.)

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A Tale of Alchemy and Magic in Gilded Age New York: The Last Magician Series by Lisa Maxwell

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Last Magician-small The Devil's Thief-small

I received a review copy of The Devil’s Thief a few months ago. It’s the second volume in Last Magician series by Lisa Maxwell, and I didn’t have a copy of the first one, last year’s The Last Magician.

But The Devil’s Thief still managed to capture my attention. Man, I hate that.

We covered Lisa Maxwell’s previous book, the Peter Pan homage Unhooked, back in 2016. But it was The Last Magician that really put her on the map, becoming an instant New York Times bestseller. The tale of a girl who travels back in time to find a mysterious book that could save her future, The Last Magician was called a “twisty tale of alchemy and magic in Gilded Age New York” by Cinda Williams Chima.

How do I know all this? Because I shelled out for a copy, because I’m a sucker. Here’s the description.

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Ouroboros: The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

I have no way of knowing whether you, who eventually will read this record, like stories or not. If you do not, no doubt you have turned these pages without attention. I confess that I love them. Indeed, it often seems to me that of all the good things in the world, the only ones humanity can claim for itself are stories and music; the rest, mercy, beauty, sleep, clean water and hot food (as the Ascian would have said) are all the work of the Increate. Thus, stories are small things indeed in the scheme of the universe, but it is hard not to love best what is our own—hard for me, at least.

— Severian

oie_1342155N3OR5AdvWith The Citadel of the Autarch (1983) the story ends where it began: Nessus, the great city of the Commonwealth. Severian is no longer a young torturer exiled for an act of mercy, but a figure of incredible power and importance. Realistic depictions of peace and war are interwoven with excursions into phantasmagoria. Severian encounters old friends as well as enemies, experiences mass combat, and meets the strange soldiers of the Commonwealth’s Orwellian enemy, Ascia. Told in Wolfe’s often elliptical style, there are the familiar hints of Clark Ashton Smith, the stench of Wolfe’s time during the Korean War, and a solid whiff of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.

At the end of the previous book, The Sword of the Lictor, Severian’s great sword, Terminus Est, was broken. So too, seemingly, the life-restoring Claw of the Conciliator he means to return to the religious order, the Pelerines. Searching for the blue gem’s pieces, he discovered that at its shattered heart was a simple thorn. The gem itself was mere glass.

Citadel begins with Severian continuing northward in search of the Pelerines and the front between the Commonwealth’s and Ascia’s armies. He soon meets the trailing edge of the Autarch’s armies: supply trains, cavalry patrols, and the scattered remains of the killed. As he pilfers supplies from one dead soldier he is struck by the callousness of his actions and by the contents of a letter written by the dead man to his beloved. He restores the corpse to life with the thorn from the Claw. Whether unable or unwilling to speak, the resurrected soldier travels with Severian until they finally come to a great field hospital run by the Pelerines.

Severian, it turns out, is suffering from a fever and is taken in by the ministering sisters. He strikes up a friendship with several fellow patients, a woman and three men who wish to marry her. And here, Citadel takes a storytelling detour. To choose a husband from among her suitors, Foila decides that whomever can tell the best story will win her hand. She asks Severian to act as judge. Each story has its own strengths, but it’s that of the Ascian prisoner I found the most interesting.

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Birthday Reviews: Stephen Baxter’s “The Twelfth Album”

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Roy Virgo

Cover by Roy Virgo

Stephen Baxter was born on November 13, 1957 in Liverpool.

Baxter’s novel The Time Ships won the Philip K. Dick Award, the Kurd Lasswitz Preis, the Seiun Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the British SF Association Award. He won a second Dick Award for Vacuum Diagrams and has also won the BSFA Award for “War Birds,” Omegatropic, and Mayflower II. He has also won the Seiun Award for Timelike Infinity. He won the first Sidewise Award for Short Fiction for “Brigantia’s Angels” and the next year won the Long Form award for Voyage. Baxter eventually joined the Sidewise judge’s panel for a decade. On rare occasions, Baxter has used the pseudonym Jim Jones. He has collaborated with Alastair Reynolds, Arthur C. Clarke, Terry Pratchett, Simon Bradshaw, and Eric Brown.

“The Twelfth Album” was originally published in the April 1998 issue of Interzone, edited by David Pringle. David G. Hartwell included the story in his Year’s Best SF 4, which was translated into Italian as well. The story was also translated into Polish for inclusion in the magazine Fenix. The story was reprinted in Baxter’s 2002 collection Phase Space: Stories from the Manifold and Elsewhere and in 2014 was translated into French for the anthology Alternative rock.

There are several stories and novels which postulate an alternative history for the Beatles and “The Twelfth Album” is one of them. In this story, the narrator and his friend Lightoller are sitting in the bowels of a long-serving ocean liner which has been turned into a berthed hotel in Liverpool. A friend of theirs known as Sick Note, has died and they are sitting in his apartment in the hotel listening to some of his old vinyl records and reminiscing about him. However, they come across an album called God which has no other label or indication of tracks. When they play it, they hear eleven songs they know were recorded by the Beatles post-breakup, but on the album it is clearly all four musicians playing together.

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Pyr Sold to Start Publishing

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

A Guile of Dragons-small Blood Orbit-small The Hanged Man K.D. Edwards-small

Publishers Weekly is reporting that Pyr, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, has been sold to digital publisher Start Publishing.

Under Editorial Director Lou Anders, who founded the line in March 2005, Pyr was one of the most dynamic and exciting independent publishers in the industry, acquiring books from Michael Moorcock, Ian McDonald, Kay Kenyon, Sean Williams, Alan Dean Foster, Adam Roberts, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Tim Lebbon, Paul McAuley, Brenda Cooper, Jack Dann, Ken MacLeod, Robert Silverberg, and many others. Pyr launched numerous talented new writers as well, including Black Gate authors James Enge, Chris Willrich, Jon Sprunk, and others. Lou left Pyr in 2014 to pursue his own writing career, but under new editor Rene Sears Pyr has continued to be a force in the industry, with a backlist of over 170 titles. Recent releases include K. R. Richardson’s Blood Orbit, Tracy Townsend’s Thieves of Fate series, and the excellent Nebula Awards Showcase anthologies; its forthcoming titles include K.D. Edwards The Hanged Man.

I’m not sure what this means for Pyr, and especially their print editions. But PW claims Start Publishing will continue the print versions, and retain at least two editors from Pyr and their sister crime fiction imprint Seventh Street Books.

Start Publishing began has an exclusively digital publisher but, through a series of acquisitions, now releases print editions as well. Start will publish both print and digital editions of the newly acquired titles. Jarred Weisfeld, president of Start, told PW two editors from Prometheus will stay on to continue to release frontlist titles under both imprints. Start will also hire a new public relations/marketing person to promote the two imprints.

Read the complete announcement here.


Sentient Starships, Cyborgs, and Eerie Horror: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N.K. Jemisin and John Joseph Adams

Monday, November 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018-small The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018-back-small

The Year’s Best season came to a close last month. It was a pretty spectacular year, with no less than 10 volumes from editors Rich Horton, Gardner Dozois, Neil Clarke, Jonathan Strahan, Paula Guran, Jane Yolen, Michael Kelly, David Afsharirad, and others. We’ve covered them all, and we close out 2018 with The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018. This is the fourth volume; the series is edited by John Joseph Adams with a different co-editor every year. His partner this year is N.K. Jemisin, who may be the most honored SF writer in the field at the moment, with three back-to-back-to-back Hugo wins under her belt.

This year’s volume received a rave review from Publishers Weekly. Here’s an excerpt.

An almost unheard-of diversity of tales absolutely sing in this superlative anthology of short speculative stories. Encompassing a wide range of styles and perspectives, the book swings gracefully from thoughtful superhero SF (“Destroy the City with Me Tonight” by Kate Alice Marshall) to nuanced horror based on Congolese mythology (“You will Always Have Family: A Triptych” by Kathleen Kayembe) to musings on the justice and the multiverse (“Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities” by Lettie Prell) without a single sour note. A. Merc Rustad contributes “Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn,” a heartfelt piece about sentient spacecraft and found family, and Caroline M. Yoachim delves further into ideas of family and obligation with the windup characters of “Carnival Nine.” From the Chinese afterlife (“The Last Cheng Beng Gift” by Jaymee Goh) to a future of cyborgs run amok (“The Greatest One-Star Restaurant” by Rachael K. Jones), this anthology delivers.

As always, this volume contains 10 fantasy and 10 SF tales. This year’s contributors include Samuel R. Delany, Charlie Jane Anders, Carmen Maria Machado, Maureen F. McHugh, Caroline M. Yoachim, Peter Watts, Tobias S. Buckell, and two stories from Maria Dahvana Headley. Here’s the complete TOC.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Andrew Salmon Remembers Frederick C. Davis

Monday, November 12th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Salmon_DavisAcesEditedA (Black) Gat in the Hand continues on with quality guest posts (something’s got to make this column work, and it sure as heck isn’t my writing!) this week, as Andrew Salmon holds forth on pulpster Frederick C. Davis. I knew I wasn’t qualified to write about Davis (though I did hold my own on Norbert Davis!). And since Andrew, author of the excellent Sherlock Holmes Fight Club novels, wrote the introductions to Altus’ Press’ Moon Man collections, I knew he was the guy. So, read on! 


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

Any good pulp author from the glory days of Classic Pulp had to be very good at two things: he or she had to be fast and versatile. And, of course, said pulpsmith had to have some modicum of talent thrown into the mix.

Frederick C. Davis (1902-1977) has all of these – in spades. Known today as the author of the first 20 Operator #5 adventures, one doesn’t hear his name come up when Max Brand, Erle Stanley Gardner, Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are being discussed. And yet, you could pick an old pulp at random today and most likely find a Davis story within its crumbling yellow pages.

He wrote hundreds of pulp stories and a lot of them are really, really good. In addition to those Operator #5 yarns, he also created the Moon Man, cranking out 38 tales of the globed gladiator. Throw in Mark Hazard and Ravenwood and his versatility begins to show through.

The Moon Man, long out of print and never collected until recently, had a much more profound effect on comics than the pulp world of yesteryear. It’s long been established that Superman sprang, partially, from Doc Savage and Batman owes much to the Shadow. But few know how much Spider-Man owes to the Moon Man. Not the classic pulp character, the Spider – the Moon Man. Huh? Stay with me.

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Birthday Reviews: Michael Bishop’s “Patriots”

Monday, November 12th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Michael Whelan

Cover by Michael Whelan

Michael Bishop was born on November 12, 1945.

Bishop won back to back Nebula Awards in 1982 for his novelette “The Quickening” and in 1983 for his novel No Enemy But Time. In 2009, he won the Shirley Jackson Award for “The Pile,” His novel Unicorn Mountain received the Mythopoeic Award, and his poem “For a Lady Physicist” won the Rhysling Award. He has twice won the Southeastern SF Achievement Award for his stories “The Door Gunner” and “Bears Discover Smut.” In 1977, he was awarded the Phoenix Award by DeepSouthCon. His novel Brittle Innings is one of the best fantasy baseball novels ever published.

“Patriots” was originally published in issue six of Shayol, edited by Pat Cadigan in Winter 1982. It has been reprinted twice, first in Bishop’s Arkham House collection One Winter in Eden in 1984 and later in his collection Emphatically Not SF, Almost, as part of the Pulphouse Author’s Choice Monthly series.

Bishop’s “Patriots” fits well into his collection Emphatically Not SF, Almost because it really isn’t science fiction. It is the story of two American servicemen stationed on Guam during the Vietnam War, Lieutenant Danny Rojas and Sergeant Monegal. Rojas is concerned that he is facing a court martial and fine for his actions in Southeast Asia. The older Monegal convinces him to go for a walk with the hope that Rojas will share his great crime as a form of atonement and will go back to being his normal self.

On their walk, the two come across an older Japanese businessman, Jinsai Fujita, and his Guamian girlfriend, Rebecca Facpi. The Fujita and Monegal try to jolly Rojas out of his funk when they suddenly come under fire from a Japanese soldier who has been living on Guam since World War II and is not convinced that the war is over, and has been fighting it for longer than Rojas has been alive.

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The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Sunday, November 11th, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction November 1979-small

I didn’t really pick the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction to begin my November 1979 survey of sf/f magazines, it just happened to be on top of the stack. Overall I have to say that I was disappointed.

Lord Valentine’s Castle, Part 1, by Robert Silverberg. Given how much I enjoyed Downward to Earth in the November 1969 Galaxy, I was eager to see how Mr. Silverberg had evolved over a decade. … Lord Valentine’s Castle was a big letdown. You often hear that editors and agents really hate stories that start with a guy waking up not remembering anything, and I can totally see why. Valentine, the main character (MC), walks toward the great city of Pidruid, he meets a herdsman, they join a juggling troupe, Valentine starts to realize he has no real memories before walking to Pidruid, they practice for the grand parade for the King-of-the-World (the Coronal), also named Valentine, he has odd dreams. This goes on for 93 pages (easily 60% of the magazine), of which I only read about 80, and which only started cooking about page 75.

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