As we close out 2018, I’m proud to look back at the last twelve months and all the new authors we’ve championed and celebrated. Dozens of debut novels, and hundreds of new short stories, from a lively graduating class of SF and fantasy writers. Of course, Black Gate isn’t just about the new — we try to spend just as many pixels illuminating the neglected writers of the Twentieth Century, who become more forgotten with each passing year.
We published hundreds of reviews, retrospectives, and Vintage Treasures posts about the forgotten greats of the genre here at Black Gate in 2018. But some of my favorite articles appeared at other venues, including Unbound Worlds, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, and The Verge. One of the better writers showcasing classics this year was James Davis Nicoll, who in a September article at Tor.com asked Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction?
To answer the question he looked at the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, which he rightly laments as underappreciated (“I wish the award were more widely known, that it had, perhaps, its own anthology. If it did, it might look a bit like this.“) James did his part to promote the award by showcasing the winners, including masters such as R.A. Lafferty, William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Pangborn, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Leigh Brackett, Fredric Brown, Mildred Clingerman, and others. Here’s James on three of my favorites.
[Click the images for Classic-sized versions.]
R.A. Lafferty (November 7, 1914–March 18, 2002) was not all that interested in plot. He excelled at setting and literary style. He’s not to everyone’s taste, but those who enjoy Lafferty’s work enjoy it intensely. Lafferty was sidelined by a long illness, during which time he was close to forgotten. In recent years publishers from Wildside to Centipede Press have brought his work back into print.
Our coverage of the great R.A. Lafferty at Black Gate includes:
R.A. Lafferty: An Attempt at an Appreciation by Matthew David Surridge
R.A. Lafferty, the Past Master of Science Fiction
The Hilarity of the Strange: The Man Underneath: The Collected Short Fiction of R. A. Lafferty, Volume 3 by Steve Case
Vintage Treasures: Annals of Klepsis
Vintage Treasures: Nine Hundred Grandmothers
R.A. Lafferty Literary Estate For Sale
Birthday Reviews: R.A. Lafferty’s “Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas” by Steven H Silver
See all our Lafferty coverage here.
Edgar Pangborn (February 25, 1909–February 1, 1976) was active as a mystery writer for twenty years before he turned to science fiction in the 1950s. His humanist science fiction won fan acclaim. His novel A Mirror for Observers won the 1954 International Fantasy Award. Many of his later pieces form the Tales of a Darkening World sequence, set after war, plague, and climate change have reduced humanity to a tiny, barbaric remnant of today’s civilization. 1964’s Davy may be the best known in the series; I prefer the melancholy collection Still I Persist in Wondering. If read in publication order, Tales of a Darkening World betrays Pangborn’s increasingly pessimistic view of humans. Some early pieces are available on Gutenberg. SF Gateway’s Edgar Pangborn Omnibus is also in print.
Because it’s part of our value-add here at Black Gate, here’s the back covers to all three classic paperbacks above.
William Hope Hodgson (15 November 1877–19 April 1918) predated today’s formalized genre boundaries. One might think of him as working somewhere in the intersection of weird fantasy and cosmic horror. His best known works are the dying-Earth horror novel The Night Land and the hallucinatory The House on the Borderland. You may never have read either, but odds are you’ve read works influenced by one or the other. Hodgson died at Ypres, during WWI; hence several of his works are public domain and available at Project Gutenberg.
Our coverage of William Hope Hodgson includes:
Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard by Nick Ozment
Vintage Treasures: The Boats of the Glen Carrig
Vintage Treasures: The Casebook of Carnacki The Ghost Finder
New Treasures: The Ghost Pirates and Others: The Best of William Hope Hodgson
Did you read any articles that highlighted forgotten classics of SF in 2018? Share your favorites with us in the comments.