The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Novella: “The Word for World is Forest,” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Saturday, December 21st, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

The Word for World is Forest paperback-small The Word for World is Forest paperback-back-small

The Word for World Is Forest (Berkley Medallion, 1976). Cover by Richard Powers

The great Ursula K. Le Guin won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1973, for “The Word for World is Forest,” which first appeared in Harlan Ellison’s anthology Again, Dangerous Visions. The story had been written several years earlier, and there exists a letter from Le Guin expressing her frustration with the time it took Ellison to get the story into print.

“The Word for World is Forest” has been a somewhat polarizing tale in Le Guin’s oeuvre for a long time. The conventional view seems to me, at this remove, that Le Guin missed the mark with this story: its tone is too shrill, the story is too preachy. It’s “Bad Ursula,” in a common formulation. And that’s been my position for a long time.

Let’s begin with the obvious: I’ve already discussed the 1972 novellas, in my post about Arthur C. Clarke’s Nebula winner, “A Meeting With Medusa.” Here’s what I wrote:

So, did it deserve its Nebula? Well, in many years it would have. But not this year. Because this year there were two magnificent Frederik Pohl novellas: “The Gold at the Starbow’s End” and “The Merchants of Venus,” perhaps his two best stories ever. Add Joe Haldeman’s “Hero,” the first of the stories that became The Forever War. And even then, we haven’t come to the clear-cut best novella of 1972, one of the very greatest SF novellas of all time: “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” by the late, incomparable, Gene Wolfe.

Does “The Word for World is Forest” stand with “The Fifth Head of Cerberus”? Ummm – no, not even close. I think it’s fair to say that the 1973 awards, both Nebula and Hugo, missed the boat completely. But, eh, that’s happened before. Perhaps not so often so clearly, but there are relatively few SF stories as great as “The Fifth Head of Cerberus.”

The fairer question is, does “The Word for World is Forest” stand up on its own terms?

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Back to the Books for the Theater of the Mind

Friday, December 20th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Johnny Dollar tradeI came to Old Time Radio late in life. My parents were born in 1940 and 1942, respectively. They remembered radio shows from their childhood, but the advent of television made more of an impact on them. During my teen years, one of our local UHF stations briefly picked up reruns of the jazz noir detective series Peter Gunn (1958-1961) in the mid-1980s and I was instantly hooked. A set of Peter Gunn episodes on VHS followed in 1989 from Rhino Records. Before long, I was hunting for Henry Kane’s well-written paperback tie-in and the goofy Dell Comic (where Pete tracks down villains trafficking in counterfeit collectible postage stamps). 2002 would bring the first DVD sets of Peter Gunn. By the time the entire series was on DVD, so was its companion series, Mr. Lucky (1959-1960); and then I discovered the imitation series, Johnny Staccato (1959-1960) which successfully blended concepts from both series before adding a healthy dose of angst-ridden method acting to the mix.

I couldn’t stop there of course, not with gray market sets of Peter Gunn‘s progenitor, Richard Diamond (1957-1960) and Mr. Lucky‘s successor, Dante (1960-1961) circulating among collectors. Eventually, I discovered a terrific, but nearly forgotten television adventure series, Hong Kong (1960-1961) and reached back to find Dante had actually preceded Mr. Lucky via an earlier series, Dante’s Inferno (1956). Having reached the end of the line for the uniquely sophisticated and stylish Golden Age of Television detective and adventure series that appealed most to me, I decided to venture into the largely unknown waters of Old Time Radio.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Short Fiction of 1979

Friday, December 20th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Riverworld and Other Stories

Riverworld and Other Stories

Cover by George Barr

Cover by George Barr

Nightmares

Nightmares

And finally, after looking at various award winners over the past year and articles about authors’ debuts and the novels published in 1979, it has come time to close out this series of articles with a look at some of the non-award winning short fiction published in 1979.

By 1979, Philip José Farmer had published the first three novels in his Riverworld series as well as a novelette set in the same world, entitled “Riverworld.” When he reprinted the novelette in 1979 in his collection Riverworld and Other Stories, Farmer expanded the story from 12,000 to 33,750 words, effectively publishing a new story in the popular series about humanity’s afterlife on an infinite river.

John M. Ford has made the news recently as the rights to reprint his all too few works, plus an unfinished novel, have been disentangled.  In 1979 he published six stories in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (his first sale was in 1976). These stories included “Mandalay,” which kicked off his Alternities, Inc. series of stories, as well as “The Adventure of the Solitary Engineer” and “The Sapphire as Big as the Marsport Hilton.”

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro introduced her vampire, the Count Saint-Germain, in 1978 in the novel Hotel Transylvania. In 1979, she published her first short story about him, “Seat Partner,” detailing his experiences on an airplane, a far cry from the historical settings of the novels he usually inhabits.

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Goth Chick News: “The Wish,” a Haunting (and Forgotten) Winter Tale from Ray Bradbury

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick winter

In 1973, Ray Bradbury published a short story in the December issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It later appeared in his short story collection Long After Midnight, but it was that Christmas that is forever lodged in my memory, along with Mr. Bradbury.

I was wouldn’t turn 9 years old until January but that December I felt much older as I had just experienced real death for the first time. Earlier in the year I had lost my beloved Grandpa and I recall simply not being able to believe I would never see him again. He had loomed exceptionally large in my life and for an 8-years-old me, there had never been a time when he wasn’t holding my hand. But he had gone suddenly from a heart attack and I didn’t get to say goodbye, and that experience had made me feel older than myself.

But my feelings of loss were nothing to my Dad’s. He had been very close with his own Dad his entire life, and when Grandpa died, to me anyway, it seemed like part of Dad went with him. By Christmas, Dad was putting on a brave face and trying to be cheery for me and my very young siblings. But I could see he his grief was winning. Mom tried everything to bring him around from making his favorite dishes to decorating (it looked like Christmas exploded in our house that year), but Dad’s smile was watery and he spent more time than usual ‘working’ out in the garage where I suspected he shed the tears he couldn’t do in front of us.

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Celebrating a Decade of Excellence: Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Thursday, December 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Ten Volume One-small Clarkesworld Year Ten Volume Two-small

Covers by Shichigoro-Shingo and Rudy Faber

Clarkesworld editors Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace have had a busy year.

For one thing, they’ve published a full 12 issues of one of the most acclaimed science fiction magazines on the planet. For another, there’s all those conventions, nominations, and shiny awards to keep them occupied — including a Best Editor Hugo nomination for Neil, a Hugo nomination for Simone Heller’s “When We Were Starless” (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018), and a World Fantasy Award win for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Privilege of the Happy Ending” (Clarkesworld, Aug. 2018). On top of that, Neil was presented with the 2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction community at the Nebula awards weekend in May, one more award to polish on his mantlepiece.

They also have their own projects — Sean edits the fine magazine The Dark and runs Prime Books, and Neil has produced a pair of anthologies this year, The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Four and The Eagle Has Landed: 50 Years of Lunar Science Fiction.

But in addition to all of that, Neil and Sean are also keeping up a hectic pace of Clarkesworld annual anthology volumes — four in the past two months alone. Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two, containing a year’s worth of fabulous tales from 2015 & 2016, were published on October 3, 2019; Clarkesworld Year Ten, Volumes One & Two followed less than a month later, on November 1, 2019. I’m not sure how they do it, but someone should create an award for science fiction overachievement, and give it to both of them. If they can get either one of them to stop moving long enough to accept it.

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The Joy of Starter Kits, Part One

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Dungeons-and-Dragons-Basic-Set-small

The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (TSR, 1977). Cover by David C. Sutherland III

There’s lot of ways to get into role playing these days. But recently the industry has embraced the Starter Kit (sometimes called the Beginner Box, Essentials Kit, Beginner Game, or something similar) in a big way.

They all have their roots in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, the granddaddy of all Beginner Boxes, created by J. Eric Holmes and based on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s original boxed set from 1974. The D&D Basic Set was first published by TSR in 1977. It was the way I learned how to role play, and I wasn’t alone — the D&D Basic Set sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the late seventies, and was so successful it was constantly updated and kept in print by TSR, with revisions in 1981, 1983, 1991, and later.

Gygax’s masterpiece, the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook, was released in June 1978, and was the gateway into role playing for millions of young gamers. Not me, though. That damn thing was a 128-page hardcover, and you needed the Monster Manual and Dungeon Masters Guide just to use it. By contrast, the Basic Set had a slender 48-page rulebook and everything you needed to start playing immediately. That’s right, everything, including dice, a pad of sample maps (“Dungeon Geomorphs), and an introductory adventure we played through at least a half dozen times. I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to role play, but with simple, clear instructions Holmes taught me everything I needed to become an enthusiastic Dungeon Master for my brother and our friends.

At long last the industry is rediscovering the power of Starter Kits to attract and educate new players. The best ones are cheap, easy to learn, and packed with goodies. In just the last few years there have been beginner boxes released for Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Starfinder, Battletech, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, Traveller, Shadowrun, and many others. They haven’t all been well promoted, however, and many gamers who could be taking advantage of an inexpensive entryway into a new gaming obsession are unaware they even exist. Let’s see if we can fix that with a look at a dozen of my recent favorites.

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Before Roomba

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

1899 En L'an 2000 floor sweeper

Launcher of a million cat videos, the Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner was a success from its release in 2002. The catchy name helped, and the even catchier company name, iRobot, solidified the the concept and category of the machine in the public’s mind. The firm was founded in 1990 by three, definitionally nerdy, MIT roboticists, Colin Angle, Helen Greiner and Rodney Brooks. Undoubtedly familiar with Isaac Asimov’s famed collection of robot stories – and probably frequent visitors to the MIT Science Fiction Society’s library in the student center, the world’s largest public open-shelf collection of science fiction – they plucked the name away from thousands of possible competitors, almost guaranteeing success. Admittedly, they wasted a decade on military robots, although the DoD might disagree with the verb, but their cute crawling bug now defines the category.

Although the Roomba is synonymous with “vacuuming robot,” like Apple’s iPad and iPhone, it wasn’t the first of its kind. Who anticipated it? Everybody, in fact and fiction. I’m not even going to mention images of robots pushing old-fashioned vacuum cleaners, but stick to purely automatic machines, anticipated in 1899 by the En L’an 2000 series by French artist Jean Marc Côté.

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The Magic of the Black Earth

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Blood and Iron-small Storm and Steel-small Blade and Bone-small Sun and Serpent-small

The Book of the Black Earth (Pyr Books). Covers by Jason Chan

Six years ago, when I was conceptualizing a new fantasy series, I spent a lot of time thinking about the setting world. And I knew from the start that one of the primary building blocks would be the magic system.

For those of you who have read my Shadow Saga trilogy, you no doubt realized that magic played a big part in the events, especially in the second and third books. I knew that magic would be even more important in the new series, that it would be entwined into every aspect of the story, so I wanted its foundation to be rock-solid from the start.

After considering a few different systems of magic, I decided that one based on the primary alchemical elements (earth, water, fire, and air) would best fit the story I was telling. It been done many times before, perhaps most notably in the Wheel of Time saga by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, but it still appealed to me because it matched well with the non-western philosophies and themes I was aiming to use.

I have studied several disciplines of martials arts over my lifetime, and one of the things which most appeals to me about eastern fighting styles is the concept of balance. Hard versus soft, aggressive versus pliable, offense and defense. These opposites are joined together in a natural back and forth that revolves around finding a balance. A hard style becomes soft, defense turns into offense, and so forth. In developing the magic system for the new series, I ran with this concept. In this world I was building, the cosmic forces had lost their balance and a calamity was approaching.

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Cover Reveal: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by christopher paul carey

EntertheERBUlogo

Science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, wrote four novels and a novella about former stuntman Carson Napier and his wayward adventures on the planet Venus (or Amtor, as it is known to its inhabitants). Now get ready to transport yourself into the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe with the first new Carson of Venus novel to be published in more than fifty years: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts.

The Edge of All Worlds releases Spring 2020 from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and launches the canonical ERB Universe series of interconnected novels.

Stranded on the planet Amtor for nearly two decades, Earthman Carson Napier returns from his latest adventure to discover a mysterious enemy has struck his adopted nation of Korva and reduced one of its cities to ash and cinders. The trail of the mysterious threat leads Carson and his love Duare through dark cyclopean corridors deep beneath Amtor to a distant land, where they must confront both a powerful new alien species and the shadows of Carson’s past.

I’m pleased to present the exclusive cover reveal for Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds, featuring the artwork of the amazing Chris Peuler.

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Christmas Gifts for the Creatives in Your Life

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

wallpaperplay com 1

I don’t think it could have escaped anyone’s notice that Christmas is just about a week away. Is anyone prepared? I know I’m not (Don’t panic, Sonia.  Don’t panic). Many of you might have a creative in your life that you’re struggling really hard to come up with meaningful gifts for. I get it. It’s really tricky. I figured I would put together a small list of gift ideas that perhaps you can draw inspiration from while shopping for the difficult creative in your life.

Disclaimer: Creatives aren’t a monolith with the same tastes and preferences. This list may or may not work for you or your favorite creative. Also, as I’m a writer, I tend to gravitate towards gifts that would suit writers, but many of these would work for an awful lot of creatives.

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