Today’s Bit of Odd Pulp-Related Ephemera

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

Astounding Stories of Super-Science Wesso March 1930-small Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1930-small

A pair of Wesso covers for the Clayton Astounding — March and June, 1930

For today’s bit of odd pulp related ephemera…

Among the material I acquired from the estate of Jack Darrow back in 2001 were his runs of two early fanzines, The Time Traveler and Science Fiction Digest. Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz, destined for even bigger things in the worlds of pulp and comic publishing, were involved in both. In a foolish moment of weakness, I let my friend Jerry Weist talk me out of The Time Traveler set. But I think that I’ll get over that one of these days…

I was looking through some of my Science Fiction Digest issues recently for some info a friend wanted on a project he’s doing, and when I opened the March 1933 issue, I discovered that tucked inside was a notice to Darrow that his subscription expired with this issue. On rare occasions I’ve found a notice like that in an issue of a pulp, but hadn’t encountered one in an early fanzine before, so thought I’d post it below.

The following issue, April 1933,contained an article that Weisinger and Schwartz wrote based on their interview of artist Hans Wessolowski, better known as Wesso. Wesso did a lot of work for the Clayton chain of pulps (taking their name from publisher William Clayton), including the covers to Strange Tales and the Clayton issues of Astounding. I’ve seen a few original interior illustrations by Wesso over the years, but as far as I know, none of his original pulp paintings from the Clayton chain still exist.

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What’s a Fair Exchange for a Frank R. Paul Original? In 1940, It Was $2.15

Monday, May 14th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

fantastic Adventures 1940 05 back cover life on io-small

Back Cover of Fantastic Adventures, May 1940, by Frank R. Paul

After Otto Binder, the most prolific correspondent of SF fan Jack Darrow (real name Clifford Kornoelje) was their mutual friend, Bill Dellenback. In 1935, the three friends drove from Chicago to NYC, to meet up with various SF fans, editors and publishers. I ran Otto’s account of this trip (which were among the papers I acquired at Darrow’s estate auction nearly two decades ago) several years ago in Pulp Vault #14.

A few days ago, I posted a letter from Mary Gnaedinger (editor of Famous Fantastic Mysteries) to SF fan and collector Thyril Ladd, enclosing an original interior illo by Virgil Finlay, and promising Ladd the next Finlay cover. Running that letter reminded of another, even earlier, letter concerning original art, which I picked up from Darrow’s estate, that I’ve been meaning to post for some time.

Dated August 20, 1940, it’s from Dellenback to both Darrow and Binder. The Convention that Dellenback mentions several times on the first page is the upcoming Chicago Worldcon (or Chicon I), which started a few days later, running from September 1-2, 1940. On the topic of original art, Dellenback states that shortly before, he dropped in to the offices of Ziff-Davis and chatted with editor Ray Palmer before leaving town. While there, Dellenback picked out five Frank R. Paul back cover paintings, used on either Amazing Stories or Fantastic Adventures for a series on Life on Other Planets, which were going to be displayed at the Convention but which Palmer was then going to sell to Dellenback. The price isn’t mentioned; just that Dellenback was going to pay Palmer a “fair exchange.” A lot of other art from those pulps would be auctioned off at the Convention.

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A Tale of Three Covers: Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Monday, May 7th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightflyers 1987-small Nightflyers 1989-small Nightflyers and Other Stories-small

George R.R. Martin may be the most popular genre writer on the planet. In terms of global book sales his only living rivals are J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

So it’s not surprising that much of his back catalog is returning to print, including his 1985 short story collection NightflyersNightflyers contains six stories, including the Hugo-award winning novella “A Song for Lya,” but by far the most famous tale within is the title story, a science fiction/horror classic which won the Analog and Locus Awards in 1981, and was nominated for a Hugo for Best Novella.

Nightflyers was originally published by Bluejay in 1985, and reprinted in mass market paperback in February 1987 by Tor with a cover by James Warhola (above left). It was reprinted two years later with a new cover to tie-in with the 1987 movie version (above middle; cover artist unknown). The new edition, with a vibrantly colorful cover from an uncredited artist (above right), is the first over over three decades. It will be published by Tor at the end of the month, in advance of the new series debuting on Syfy later this year.

“Nightflyers” was one of the first major adventures set in Martin’s “Thousand Worlds” universe, home to much of his early short fiction. Here’s my synopsis from my 2012 Vintage Treasures article.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunday, April 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Akata Warrior-small Sunny and the Mysteries of Osis-small

Nnedi Okorafor is one of the most exciting novelists at work in the field of fantasy. She’s won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. She writes Black Panther comics for Marvel, and her World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death is being developed by George R.R. Martin as an HBO series.

Her latest novel, Akata Warrior, was published by Viking Books for Young Readers last October (above left, cover by Greg Ruth). It was republished in the UK in March by Cassava Republic Press under the title Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi (above right, design by Anna Morrison). Both books (er, the single book) are (is?) the sequel to 2011’s Akata Witch.

Although the books are being sold to separate markets with different titles and different covers, I was struck at just how similar the cover images are. In fact, both use Greg Ruth’s core image of a woman with a black scarf (albeit flipped), and both make use of overt spider imagery, along with an overlay of curvy white Nsibidi symbols on her skin. Both also use the same quote by Neil Gaiman. Note the differences, however — the British cover has markedly different hair, and a completely different color tone. She’s looking in different directions as well.

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When Folk Art Makes You Go “WTF?”

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Yes, I just shared a painting of a goat pooping out gold on Black Gate. That’s OK because it’s, you know, art.

This is hanging on my brother-in-law’s wall here in Madrid. It belonged to my late father-in-law, Paco Piñuela, a prominent artist in the Seventies and Eighties. When he wasn’t painting, he was rummaging through Madrid’s great antiques/flea market, the Rastro. Thus we ended up with lots of random things in the family, including this odd piece.

I had never heard of a gold-pooping goat, and besides the date on the panel there’s no other information about this piece. So I decided to Google “gold pooping goat” and see what I got. I like to live dangerously.

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The Robots of Mahlon Blaine

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Mahlon Blaine, Cowering Nude With Robot detail

Mahlon Blaine was born in 1894 and was blind in one eye. People have been writing his biography since the 1920s and that’s about all they can verify. He provided the cover art, a faceless figure carrying a sword and spear, for Sir Hugh Clifford’s The Further Side of Silence. When asked for a few words about his life, he provided these:

Mahlon Blaine has illustrated these Malayan dramas with the magic of his own experience. A New England Quaker descended from staunch old New Bedford Whalers, Mahlon Blaine went to sea at fifteen and sailed before the mast in one of the last of the old wind-jammers. Then under steam he commuted from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic, to the Mediterranean, to the Arctic to all of Kipling’s Seven Seas where a merchantman seeks cargo. It is such eastern ports as Macao, Port Said, Hongkong, Pearl Harbor, that have given him his gallery of wicked, twisted Oriental faces and the museums of the world that have been his art schools. He has sailed up the Congo to make a collection of African masks, rescued fellow countrymen from jails in Indo-China, and nosed into many a Malay river for strange cargo and shipped many a Malay crew. He thinks that Sir Hugh Clifford has an uncanny knowledge of native psychology and can substantiate many of the stories by his own experiences.

Not one word is true, except possibly for the last sentence and “he.”

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Looking at the Density of Comic Book Page Layouts

Saturday, March 17th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Eternals01-003 copy

I may have picked the most boring blog post title in history, but this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I was listening to Kieron Gillen’s excellent podcast Decompressed. Decompressed is a look under the hood at the craft of comic book creation and in the 4th one, he interviewed Matt Fraction and David Aja, the creative team behind Marvel’s Hawkeye from 2012. During the episode, Matt Fraction mentioned that Hawkeye was meant to feel different from most of the mainstream comics at the time, especially with respect to how much compression there was.

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Derek Discovering Web Comics

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Cyko-2

A lot of my Black Gate posts lean into the realm of the fantastic in sequential art, but until now, I’ve primarily stuck to the traditional comic book format, with some occasional diversions into older magazine-sized editions. A few weeks ago, I tweeted out a request for people to recommend web comics to me, because I’d never tried any.

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Greco-Roman Treasures in the Egyptian Museum

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Mummy portrait from the 2nd century AD
of two brothers who appear to have died together

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is an addictive place. On my two writing retreats in Egypt last year I found myself returning again and again. The collections are so vast, the displays so stunning, that no matter how many times you go you always find something that bowls you over.

Much of the museum is laid out chronologically, from the predynastic era all the way up to the Greco-Roman period (332 BC – 395 AD). This last period of ancient Egypt is often overlooked except for the famous mummy portraits like the one pictured above, lifelike paintings of the deceased. The rest of the art from this time is less compelling. Some of it is overdone, almost cartoonish, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. Here’s a small sample of what the museum had to offer.

I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. The Egyptian Museum is poorly lit and many of the cases are dirty, making good photography difficult. Hope you enjoy them anyway!

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Vintage Treasures: The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-small The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-back-small

Cover by Michael Whelan

When Jim Baen left Ace to found Baen Books in 1983, he implemented a publishing strategy that served him well for decades: buying up the back catalog of popular authors and re-issuing them in visually similar covers that could be identified at a glance on crowded bookstore shelves. It was a strategy he learned while working under Tom Doherty at Ace Books from 1977-1980 (and refined under Doherty at Tor Book from 1980 – 1983).

While at Ace, Baen’s genius was to marry popular authors that had substantial back catalogs — like Andre Norton, Gordon R. Dickson, and Keith Laumer — with brilliant new cover artists. For me the exemplar of this strategy was Poul Anderson’s late 70s Ace editions, given new life by the striking world of a rising new artist named Michael Whelan.

When Richard Powers single-handedly remade science fiction art in the late 60s, it wasn’t long before bookshelves were overrun with abstract art. SF paperbacks, once criticized for pulp-era sameness and tired spaceship motifs, now suffered from a very different but no less stifling form of sameness. Plenty of writers were victims of the “Powers revolution” in SF art in the 1960s, but I think Poul Anderson was more victimized than most. His colorful tales of science fiction adventure on far planets were sold to the public under abstract covers that told them nothing about what they were getting.

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