Jim Baen, Warren C. Norwood, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Pierce Watters

Pierce Watters, Anne McCaffrey, Warren Norwood, and Linda Sanders 1978-small

Pierce Watters, Anne McCaffrey, Warren Norwood, and Linda Sanders (1978)

I got an Advance Review Copy of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at Worldcon ’81 (in Denver).

Jim Baen was handing them out at the Simon & Schuster suite. I was working for Ace, sharing my room with Warren C. Norwood, budding author, and one hell of a good friend. A great drinking buddy, too. The night before, Warren and I spent too much time in the SFWA suite and its free beer.

We saw William F. Wu and James Patrick Kelly. Kelly, Wu, and I, all three of us 1974 Clarion East graduates, were there.

I don’t quite remember how we acquired the copies of the book, but I remember Baen’s grinning face in there somewhere.

I like to call that the night Warren and Pierce almost fell out of a hotel window. Don’t try this if your hotel is higher than the first story. If the curtains in your room somehow come loose and now reside on the hotel room floor, leave them there.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1954: A Retro-Review

Friday, November 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction September 1954-small

Art by Ed Emshwiller

I find the cover of the September, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction a bit risque for Ed Emshwiller (a piece titled “Robots Repaired While U Wait”). Editor H. L. Gold produced a magazine that you wouldn’t have to hide from people, unlike other fiction offerings that had much more salacious artwork (please don’t attach any to this article, John). But you may have to keep this issue face-down around coworkers and family.

“The Man Who Was Six” by F. L. Wallace — Dan Merrol doesn’t know who he is anymore. Ostensibly, he’s Dan Merrol, but his body is unrecognizable, even to himself. After a horrific accident, doctors used an amalgamation of human donors to heal Dan’s broken body. With legs of different lengths, arms of varying bulk, and multi-colored hair, Dan’s become a laughable caricature of humanity. But it’s not just his body; his damaged brain was also rebuilt using slivers of other brains, giving him memories of lives he never lived. He wants to return to a normal life as a pilot and try to resume his marriage, if his wife could possibly still love the creature he’s become.

I like how Wallace examines Dan’s predicament. The initial confusion, the stages of grief in dealing with who and what he’s become. It maintains a somber tone but allows for lighter moments.

“A Start in Life” by Arthur Sellings — Em and Jay are robots raising two unrelated six-year-old children (a boy and a girl). Their world is confined, and there are no other humans to interact with. The children begin asking more questions about their world, and Em is hesitant to share anything new. The truth will come out eventually, but is this the right time, she wonders?

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Friday, October 25th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ian Wright

Cover by Ian Wright

Cover by Peter Cross

Cover by Peter Cross

The "42 Puzzle" cover

The “42 Puzzle” cover

The Ditmar Awards are named for Australian fan Martin James Ditmar Jenssen. Founded in 1969 as an award to be given by the Australian National Convention, during a discussion about the name for the award, Jenssen offered to pay for the award if it were named the Ditmar. His name was accepted and he wound up paying for the award for more years than he had planned. Ditmar would eventually win the Ditmar Award for best fan artist twice, once in 2002 and again in 2010. Primarily an Australian Award, for most years from 1969 to 1989, an award was presented for International Fiction. The International Fiction Award was one of the Ditmar’s original awards and the first one was won by Thomas M. Disch for Camp Concentration. In 1980, the Ditmar Award for International Fiction was presented to Douglas Adams for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at Swancon 5, held in Perth. The last time the award was presented was in 1989 to Orson Scott Card for the novel Seventh Son. On two occasions, in 1971 and 1984, no award was presented.

I bought my first copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at a small independent bookstore that, amazingly enough, still exists forty years later. When I bought the book, I had already heard the radio series and knew what to expect. Of course, the novel and the radio series are in no way the same thing.  Adams was able to flesh things out a little more in the book and could add descriptive passages that weren’t possible in the radio show. In addition, jokes that had been in the radio series were dropped if Adams felt they didn’t quite work.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Saturday, June 15th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Media Award was created in 1979, when it was won be the original series of the radio show The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In its first three years, the award was won by the first and second series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show as well as the record. The award was presented annually until 1992, when the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day won the final award.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio show which aired on the BBC from March 8, 1978 to April 12, 1978, with an additional episode (called a fit) airing on December 24, 1978. The show was so popular that a stage show based on the radio show ran from May 1-9, 1979 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The first four episodes of the radio show were also adapted (with some alterations) for release on a double LP set in 1979 (released in the US and Canada in 1982). The recordings used the original scripts, but cut some sections for timing while adding in alternative lines that were cut from the radio shows (including one that I really enjoy). Most of the original radio cast returned for the record, although Susan Sheridan, who had voiced Trillian, was unavailable since she was recording the voice of Princess Eilonwy for Disney’s animated film The Black Cauldron, and was replaced by Cindy Oswin, who had performed the role in the ICA stage production.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1954: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy August 1954-small Galaxy August 1954-back-small

Cover by René Vidmer

The cover of the August, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is “Hunting on Aldebaran IV” by René Vidmer. This was Vidmer’s only cover art for Galaxy. Although Vidmer had cover art on a few other magazines, the majority of his contributions were interior artwork. His art was published between 1953 and 1957 — a very brief career, which remains a mystery to me. I couldn’t find any personal information on him, unfortunately.

“Party of the Two Parts” by William Tenn — An intelligent villain from a distant planet steals a spaceship to evade capture. He lands on Earth, knowing he can’t be extradited by the Galactic Patrol unless he commits a crime against Earth. And when he does attempt a crime, it’s uncertain if it’s only a crime to his species or to humanity, leaving the Galactic Patrol in a conundrum.

Most of the characters within the story aren’t human, but they’re easy to relate to. I liked that Tenn provided part of the ending up front to set the story in place without giving away the entire plot.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1954: A Retro-Review

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy-Science-Fiction-July 1954-small Galaxy-Science-Fiction-July 1954-back-small

The July, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction (cover art by Mel Hunter) opens with a note from H. L. Gold, the editor. Several authors had shared with Gold how it felt to sell a story to Galaxy. But Gold, an author himself, writes, “Do you think anybody has to tell me how that feels?” He was looking for jobs by day and writing by night in the early 1930s when jobs were scarce, and his “manuscripts seemed to be opened by a machine that slipped them unread, along with a rejection slip, into the return envelope.”

As an author myself, I couldn’t help but laugh; how often it feels that way when submitting stories and getting a form reply (by email in more recent years). One day, after being laid off from a position as a busboy, he checked the mail and found that he had sold his first story. He writes, “Don’t kid yourself that writing is a substitute for work. It requires as hard an apprenticeship as any other profession.” And as a final encouragement, he adds, “Magazines don’t have automatic remailing or story-writing machines. I just thought you might be wondering.”

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Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1954: A Retro-Review

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction June 1954-small Galaxy Science Fiction June 1954-back-small

Cover by Emsh

The June, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction opens with a new serialized novel (Gladiator at Law) in addition to other fiction. The cover art by Ed Emshwiller is for the novel.

Gladiator at Law by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth (Part 1) — Charles Mundin is a capable, dedicated lawyer who lacks a degree from the right school to rise in his career. An associate recommends Charles as a lawyer for Norma Lavin and her brother, Don. Their father was one of the owners of G-M-L Homes, the creators of the bubble houses used across the world. When their father died, the company had his stock impounded for years. After Don finally received the stock, he hid it, but the company hired people to arrest him and gave him 50 hours of conditioning — a technique typically used on criminals to reform them. Now, Don can’t speak as to the stock’s location.

Charles realizes that he was given the case because no one thought he could get anywhere with it. But as his investigation deepens, he realizes that he’s becoming a nuisance or possibly a minor threat to those who wish to retain control of G-M-L and all of the other businesses it controls.

Gladiator at Law has a good beginning that sets the stage for later installments. I’m looking forward to them. Pohl and Kornbluth worked together on multiple novels, including Gravy Planet (The Space Merchants), in Galaxy in 1953.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1954: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy May 1954-small Galaxy May 1954-back-small

The cover of the May, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is by Ed Emshwiller, specifically for Theodore Sturgeon’s story “Granny Won’t Knit.” I’ve only noticed a few covers in these early issues that are illustrations of the fiction within. More often, Editor H.L. Gold seemed to prefer unrelated covers for his magazine.

“Granny Won’t Knit” by Theodore Sturgeon — Roan works for his father, who runs a transportation company. Their society has strict rules around proper dress — hiding the bodies and hands of men and women. Families are organized into strict patriarchal units. Though he’s an adult, Roan hasn’t earned the right to begin his own family and remains under the guidance of his overbearing father.

Seemingly by accident, Roan transports himself into the presence of a young woman who has bare arms and hands. She teases him a bit as he flounders to leave. But in the days to follow, he can’t get her out of his mind and is determined to find her again.

Roan also draws closer to his grandmother, who remembers a culture no one speaks of. And she’s not convinced that the current technology for transportation is the best, considering its limitations to the planet Earth. Her strange views are unsettling, yet Roan sees reason in her thoughts and allows that he may be limited in knowledge.

I think this story stands the test of time. There’s not much that glaringly sticks out to make it a 1950s science-fiction story — at least nothing that comes to mind. It works well.

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A Galaxy in its Scope: The Noumenon Series by Marina J. Lostetter

Monday, November 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Noumenon-small Noumenon Infinity-small

If you’ve been reading Black Gate for any length of time at all, you know I’m a fan of space opera. But space opera takes many forms, as demonstrated by Marina J. Lostetter’s tale of a generation ship manned by clones, Noumenon, the opening novel in an epic saga of exploration and adventure in deep space. Publishers Weekly called it “An ambitious and stunning debut… the lingering sense of wonder and discovery thoroughly justifies its title,” and it was selected as one of the Best Books of 2017 by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. Here’s a snippet from the starred review at Kirkus.

In Lostetter’s ambitious debut, the year is 2088, and humankind is finally ready to explore deep space, preparing to send convoys of clones on eons-long missions to investigate the outskirts of the galaxy.

Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer is convinced that something funny is going on with a distant star; there seems to be something surrounding it and obstructing its light. When Straifer convinces the organization building interstellar convoys to send one of its 12 missions to the mysterious LQ Pyxidis, he and hundreds of other brilliant experts are chosen to have their genes replicated into generations of clones who will staff the ships… So far removed from their home planet, are the clones doomed to repeat the flaws written in their DNA, or will they prove that people really can change, even if it takes a few lifetimes to get there? This spectacular epic examines everything from the nature of civilizations and societies to the tension between nature and nurture. Lostetter expertly balances the thrill of discovery with the interpersonal consequences of an isolated community. The tools of speculative fiction are deployed with heart-rending attention to emotional reality in this enthralling odyssey… A striking adventure story that could hold a galaxy in its scope, this is an expedition that delves as deep into the human thirst for purpose as it does into the wonders of the universe.

Noumenon was published last year; the sequel Noumenon Infinity arrived from Harper Voyager in August, and the publisher discounted the digital version of the first to just $1.99. Now’s your chance to check out one of the best SF debuts of last year for under $2. Here’s a look at the back covers.

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Vintage Treasures: 5 Galaxy Short Novels, edited by H.L. Gold

Monday, September 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

5 Galaxy Short Novels-small 5 Galaxy Short Novels-back-small

Cover by Edward Valigursky

I love novellas. They’re the perfect length for idling away those long fall evenings. I miss them in the online magazines I read today, virtually all of which have a submission cap somewhere around 10,000 words (the exception is Neil Clarke’s Clarkesworld, which recently began accepting stories up to 16,000 words. Way to go, Neil!)

It was Matthew Wuertz’s Saturday review of the April 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, including Fred Pohl’s classic “The Midas Plague,” that reminded me just how many great novellas appeared in those old print magazines. Matt’s piece made me want to read the story all over again. In fact, it made me wish there was an easy way to sample Galaxy’s  novellas. Galaxy editor H.L. Gold had an appetite for meaty SF epics, and his authors took ready advantage of that market. Gold showcased dozens of top-notch writers at novella length in the early days of the magazine, and it would be great to have easy access to those hard-to-find tales.

Yeah, that was dumb. As I was sorting paperbacks this morning it finally occurred to me that what I was wishing for already existed. Gold produced nearly a dozen mass market anthologies during his eleven years as Galaxy‘s editor, including six volumes of the Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction. He knew what his readers wanted, and he paid special attention to longer fiction, with Galaxy Science Fiction Omnibus (1955), The World That Couldn’t Be and 8 Other Novelets From Galaxy (1959), Bodyguard and Four Other Short Novels from Galaxy (1960), Mind Partner and 8 Other Novelets from Galaxy (1961), and especially 5 Galaxy Short Novels, which appeared in 1958.

5 Galaxy Short Novels reprints stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, James E. Gunn, J. T. McIntosh, and F. L. Wallace. Even today, it makes a great introduction to the magazine.

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