Vintage Treasures: The Ballantine Paperbacks of Vincent King

Sunday, October 4th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Light a Last Cande Vincent King-small Another End Vincent King-small Candy Man Vincent King-small

The sixties and early seventies were a very fertile era for science fiction in America. Writers like Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delaney, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, and many others were busy launching decades-long careers. Their books are still read and enjoyed today.

And then there are those writers who weren’t so lucky. Who never really connected with a wide audience, and whose entire catalog has been out of print for three decades or more. Folks like the British writer Vincent King, who published three paperbacks through Ballantine in 1969-1971, all with eye-catching covers by Robert Foster and Dean Ellis. None of them was ever reprinted in the US, and they quickly vanished.

There are no digital editions. King is the kind of writer who can only be enjoyed the old-fashioned way: by hunting down his books.

Read More »

The Round Table at Winchester Castle: A Genuine Arthurian Fake

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Cool looking, but not Arthurian. Photo courtesy Martin Kraft.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are shrouded in myth. While stories of their deeds have been popular since the Middle Ages, there’s no hard evidence that they actually existed…

…except that the Round Table hangs in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle!

Well, not really. For centuries it was reputed to have been the genuine article, until archaeologists took it down in 1976 and using radiocarbon and tree ring dating found that it had been made in the 13th or early 14th century, long after King Arthur and his merry knights were supposed to have lived.


The dates vindicate historians’ long-held belief that the table was made by King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307) around the year 1290 to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters. Generally a tournament would be held on such an occasion, and since the chivalry of the day loved to hear stories of Arthurian romance and derring-do, a Round Table would be a fitting decoration. Places around the table are set with the names of Arthur and 24 of his famous knights such as Lancelot and Galahad. One wonders if Edward and his knights actually sat around the table for a feast, and which real-life knights were honored with which places.

Read More »

New Treasures: The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road by Abbie Bernstein

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Art of Mad Max Fury Road cover

Mad Max: Fury Road was a highlight of the summer for me. It was easily one of the best movies of the year, and the long-awaited return to one of the great cinematic settings of my youth, the post-apocalyptic hell of The Road Warrior. It turned both of my teenage sons into Mad Max fans. No small feat, since in general they don’t show much patience with films from the 80s.

Titan Books released a gorgeous art book to accompany the release of the film, The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road, and it’s jam-packed with behind-the-scenes photos, concept art, production stills, interviews with the cast and crew, and an insightful foreword by director George Miller. I received a copy last month, and finally had a chance to sit down with it this week. The timing is actually pretty good, as the Blu-ray was released on September 1, and we re-watched the film at home last Friday.

Below are a dozen photos and art samples from the book.

Read More »

Art of the Genre: Kickstarter, Why I Hate Stretch Goals and You Should Too

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

11708033_10154052455508976_1237746949710068474_oOver the past three years I’ve written a lot about Kickstarter. In fact, I went back and looked at the Art of the Genre archives and found a rather impressive eight articles dedicated to the subject:

The Art of Kickstarter,
The Art of Kickstarter #2
The Pillaging Of Kickstarter
Why and How I Build a Kickstarter
The Pillaging of Kickstarter #2
Front Loading a Kickstarter
The Joy and Pain of Kickstarter (and how backed projects still fail)
Kickstater, It Really Shouldn’t Be About the Stuff We All Get

In those you can find all kinds of advice, statistics, opinions, and introspection, (or as my non-fans like to say, my sour grapes). But if I’ve learned anything over the course of my time on the platform, it is that it is constantly changing.

Sure, there are some static rules, but even those have some latitude if a developer happens to get lucky. And let me tell you, there is a lot of luck involved out there, as well as blind devotion.

Read More »

Ancient Damascus: What We Might Lose Next

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Damascus: the Jupiter temple (III A.C.) in front of Omayyad mosque

Ruins of the Jupiter Temple at the entrance of Al-Hamidiyah Souq. The postcard souq was just to the left.

This week’s destruction of the temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, has brought the Islamic State’s brutality into the international spotlight once again, just like they wanted it to. I’m grateful that at least I got to see the place before it was destroyed. I’ve written about it in my post Memories of Palmyra before ISIS.

Palmyra isn’t just a unique archaeological site, it’s strategically important too. Located at a crossroads in eastern Syria, from there it’s possible for ISIS to supply all their operations in that sector, including their push for the Syrian capital of Damascus.

ISIS is already on the outskirts of Damascus and is renewing military operations there. If they take the city, many more antiquities would be in danger.

Read More »

The Guanches: Prehistoric Culture of the Canary Islands

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Guanche idol. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Guanche idol. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks working on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. This island chain is owned by Spain and sits just off the coast of Western Sahara. Besides having my first flying lesson, I got to drink lots of wine explore the island’s culture and history. In prehistoric times, the Canary Islands were home to a native people called the Guanche. While they had no writing of their own, some of their language has survived in the local dialect and has similarities to Berber. For thousands of years they kept their culture intact, being visited by the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and Arabs but remaining uncolonized until the Spanish landed in 1402.

The Guanches came to the islands by 1000 BC, although some archaeologists claim they arrived much earlier than that. They survived by a mixture of farming and fishing and were divided into several small kingdoms. Each island was fairly isolated from the others and in fact Guanche is only the term for the people of Tenerife. The other islands each had their own distinct term but Guanche has now become the general term.

Sadly, the Guanches suffered a common fate of colonized peoples. Many died off from war and disease, or merged into the Spanish community through marriage. A significant percentage of modern Canary Islanders boast Guanche blood and names. The coolest survival from those times is Silbo, a whistling language that you can see on this video. The sharp whistles used in Silbo carry far across the mountains and valleys of these rough islands and were a common means of communication until very recent times.

Read More »

The Petrie Museum, London’s Overlooked Egyptology Treasure Trove

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Stone bottle with the names of Rameses II and Queen Neferari, Dynasty XIX, 1295-1186 BC.

London is full of museums. While visitors swarm to the Big Three of the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and the National Gallery, there are dozens more that are worth visiting. One that’s of interest to anyone with a taste for history is the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London.

Most international visitors have never heard of this place and head on over to the British Museum to see its stunning collection of mummies and statues. While that experience is hard to beat, I actually prefer the Petrie Museum. The British Museum is a bit of a victim of its own success, and it’s difficult to stand and enjoy the artwork without being trampled by hordes of visitors.

The two museums also have different purposes. The British Museum focuses on Egypt’s Greatest Hits, with lots of gold, fine artwork and, of course, the ever-popular preserved people. The Petrie Museum is a study museum, where Egyptology students come to compare large numbers of objects packed into the cases and see how they changed over time. Cases have drawers underneath that can be pulled out to view more examples. The collection includes some 80,000 items from both Egypt and Nubia, two of Africa’s greatest ancient civilizations.

Read More »

The Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Milk, the Breast of Spanish Renaissance Art

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

In a previous post about Salamanca, Spain, I talked about Salamanca cathedral’s rich collection of Medieval and Renaissance art, inlcuding a splended retablo and some rare wall paintings. Like many cathedrals in this country, it also houses a small museum of some of its treasures. One of the most unusual items is the Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Milk.

It dates to the second half of the 16th century and was produced by an unknown artist. At its center is a breastfeeding Virgin, “La Virgen de la Leche,” part of a tradition of such depictions dating back to at least the 12th century. She is surrounded by other images detailing her Bible story and also related religious figures. Above is her Coronation. On the upper left is the Annunciation, and to the upper right the Archangel Gabriel.  To the left is the Assumption of Mary, to the right the Birth and Adoration of Jesus.

It gets weirder in the lower register, with Saint Agatha on the lower left offering a plate of breasts to Saints Cosmas and Damien. On the lower right Saint Margaret rounds out the picture.


Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

Read More »

Salamanca: Medieval Paintings and Preserved Arms in Spain’s Historic University Town

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The apse of Salamanca's Old Cathedral. Photo courtesy Lourdes Cardenal

The apse of Salamanca’s Old Cathedral. Photo courtesy Lourdes Cardenal

Salamanca is one of Spain’s better-preserved medieval cities. It’s famous for its university founded in c.1130 and chartered in 1218, numerous old stately homes, winding medieval streets, some great bookstores, and a cathedral renowned for its rare medieval paintings. The entire Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read More »

The Omnibus Volumes of James H. Schmitz

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Agent of Vega & Other Stories-small Telzey Amberdon-small TNT Telzey Amberdon & Trigger Argee Together-small

We continue to survey the best omnibus volumes for collectors out there. And at long last, we come to one of my favorite short story writers, and one of my favorite omnibus sets: the seven volumes collecting the science fiction and science fantasy of James H. Schmitz, published by Baen Books.

Baen Books, and especially its long-time editor Eric Flint, have done some really extraordinary work collecting classic SF and fantasy in handsome and highly affordable mass market editions, and they’ve been doing it for decades. Baen has published omnibus collections featuring Andre Norton, P.C. Hogdell, Murray Leinster, A. Bertam Chandler, Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordwainer Smith, Christopher Anvil, Randall Garrett, Keith Laumer, Howard L. Myers, Michael Shea, A. E. Van Vogt, and countless others.

The Baen reprint program largely began with these volumes in 2000, and I still believe they may be their crowning achievement.

Read More »

  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2015 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.