The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Elayne Pelz

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Photo by Chaz Boston-Baden

Photo by Chaz Boston-Baden

The E. Everett Evans/Paul Freehafer Award is named after two members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) and is presented for service to the club at Loscon.

E. Everett Evans, who also went by the nom de fan Triple E or Tripoli, was the first member of LASFS to make the transition from fan to professional author while he was an active member. Evans was born in 1893. He published his story “Guaranteed” in the January 1948 issue of Startling Stories. His first novel, The Planet Mappers, appeared in 1955. He published more than two dozen stories as well as a collaboration with E.E. “Doc” Smith before Evans’s death in 1958. In addition to the Evans Freehafer Award, the Big Heart Award was established in his honor and named for him from 1959 until 2006, when it was renamed in honor of Forrest J Ackerman.

Paul Freehafer was an active fan within LASFS who helped carry club projects to completion during his short time with the club. Born in 1918 in Idaho, he moved to Los Angeles to attend Cal Tech. Freehafer discovered science fiction when he was 13, fandom the following year, and joined the Science Fiction League in 1934. From 1939-1941, Freehafer published the fanzine Polaris and was noted for avoiding many of the trends and fads that fans of the era often got caught up in, such as Esperanto, simplified spelling, etc. He is often credited with maintaining unity among the club’s various factions and keeping the club together. Knowing he was ill, Freehafer resigned his directorship in 1942 and returned to Idaho. In 1944, when he was 27 years old, Freehafer suffered a fatal heart attack, becoming the first LASFS member to die. Following his death, Ackerman published the tributezine Polaris: Paul Freehafer, Only the Good Die Young. In addition to the Evans/Freehafer Award, for many years, one of the buildings at the LAFS Clubhouse was named Paul Freehafer Hall. Remembered in these ways 75 years after his death, Freehafer embodies the LASFS ideal “Death will not release you.”

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That Horrid Question

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

INT. SMALL CONVENTION ROOM – EARLY EVENING

A young AUTHOR, new to pitching, steps cautiously into the room clutching a binder full of papers to their chest. An EDITOR for a well-regarded publisher sits at a table with an empty chair opposite. The EDITOR smiles at the AUTHOR and beckons them to the chair. So nervous they’re shaking, the AUTHOR sits down.

AUTHOR

Thanks so much for seeing me. I really appreciate it.

EDITOR

My pleasure.  So what have you got for me today.

AUTHOR

Well, it’s a [insert genre of choice].  The audience is quite adult.  I think.  I’m not sure.  The young adult/adult distinction is not something I’m all that familiar with.

EDITOR

All right.  So, what’s it about?

AUTHOR

Well, uh, it follows [character] and their team of [insert any kind of unit you like, knights? Rangers? Robot Space Marines?] and they —

EDITOR
(interrupting)

No, that’s what happens.  That’s the plot.  I want to know what the book is about.  What is the theme?

AUTHOR

Internal Screaming

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Fantasy Tales

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jim Pitts

Cover by Jim Pitts

Cover by David Lloyd

Cover by David Lloyd

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Small Press was created in 1977 and has continue to be awarded, although it is now given for Independent Press. The award’s first winner was John Martin for Andurile and it was won from 1978-1987 by Stephen Jones and David Sutton for Fantasy Tales with the exceptions of 1981, 1984, and 1985. A re-alignment of the awards in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Fantasy Tales was a small press magazine published by Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton. The first issue was published in Summer 1977 and the magazine ran for a decade, until Summer 1987, at which time it was relaunched as a professional magazine. Jones and Sutton published 17 issues as, essentially a fanzine, before publication was taken over by Robinson Publishing Ltd, which published an additional 7 issues between 1988 and 1991.

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Hither Came Conan: Scott Oden on The Devil In Iron

Monday, March 18th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Boris Vallejo for 'Conan the Wanderer'

Boris Vallejo for ‘Conan the Wanderer’

There is a weird synchronicity at work, here, Gentle Readers.  Between the time when Bob Byrne solicited a few of us for this series and him handing out our story assignments, I wrote a Conan novella for Marvel (currently being serialized in the pages of the renewed Savage Sword of Conan, over a span of twelve issues).  Specifically, it is a sequel to Robert E. Howard’s “The Devil in Iron”.  Then, a few days later, I received my randomly selected story assignment from the good Mr. Byrne.  My story?  “The Devil in Iron.”  Thus, the gods have spoken . . .

“The Devil in Iron” marked Howard’s return to the Hyborian Age after an absence of about six months.  Written in the autumn of 1933, it employs a technique common to pulp-era writers in that Howard cannibalized plot elements of his own previous stories – the eerie resurrected villain á la “Black Colossus” (also used in The Hour of the Dragon); the greenish stone ruins from “Xuthal of the Dusk” (AKA, “The Slithering Shadow”); the sentient iron statues from “Iron Shadows in the Moonlight”; and even stylistic echoes from “Queen of the Black Coast.”

Howard sent the story off to Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales, who accepted it for publication on December 14, 1933.  It appeared in the August 1934 issue.  The story was lurid enough to take top billing, with Margaret Brundage providing one of her signature covers – this one depicting a rather anemic-looking Conan against a black background, struggling in the grips of a giant serpent while a gauzily-clad woman swooned at his feet.  Hugh Rankin illustrated the story itself.

It is a fairly straightforward tale, if a bit formulaic.  According to both Patrice Louinet and Howard Andrew Jones, who are scholars of Howard and his sources, it’s one of the few stories of the Conan canon that displays the clear and overt influence author Harold Lamb had over Howard.

Lamb wrote primarily for Adventure, his tales of Cossacks and crusaders fitting nicely with the works of Talbot Mundy, Rafael Sabatini, Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur and Farnham Bishop, and Arthur D. Howden-Smith.  These were Robert Howard’s inspirations – writers of what we’d call today pure historical fiction.  REH wrote what he knew he could sell, or what he believed had a good chance of selling; though he’d rather have spent his days writing the kinds of tales he loved from Adventure, it was proving a difficult market to break into. But, he knew by adding a splash of the Weird to the same rollicking adventure yarns, Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright would more than likely buy it.

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Cheque Please

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Violette Malan

Canadian FlagWe’ve got a odd thing here in Canada that I’m not certain exists anywhere else. Oh I’m sure that other provinces, states and countries have Arts Councils, but I’m not sure that any of them do what the Canada Council for the Arts does for writers. Specifically, they have a little program called Public Lending Rights.

For those of you who don’t already know about this, it’s money the government gives us writers (thank you Canadian tax-payers everywhere, including myself) to compensate authors for the royalties they miss from the use of library books.

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The Assured Place of Superheroes in American Popular Culture

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Nick Ozment

avengers assemble!Some people, 24 (or 25?) movies in, are expressing MCU superhero movie fatigue. (Certainly not me or most of my friends — the films continue to be some of the more fun, thrilling entertainments to be had at the cineplex two or three times a year. Is the quality dropping off? Hell no — try to rank ‘em; I’ll bet several of the ones at the top of the list came out just in the last couple years.) I’m talking about a few critics (some of whom were saying the genre was getting “tired” and “played out” 15 films ago), and a few newcomers who didn’t grow up on four-color comics but jumped on the bandwagon when the culture went crazy for costumed crime-fighters.

I can imagine how it must look to them: Now they turn on their TV and it seems like a dozen streaming and broadcast tv shows are about caped crusaders; they check the movie listings and half the films filling up theater screens are about super-powered beings.

They suggest it will eventually play out. They think audiences will finally be sated, the fad will pass. Everyone will grow tired of beautiful people in spandex.

I’ve got news for them.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Convergent Series, by Larry Niven

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Eric Ladd

Cover by Eric Ladd

Cover by Eric Ladd

Cover by Eric Ladd

Cover by Peter Jones

Cover by Peter Jones

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Collection Award was first presented in 1975, when it was won by Fritz Leiber for The Best of Fritz Leiber. Up until that year an award was presented for best reprint anthology/collection, with that award’s final winner also being announced in 1974. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

By 1979, Larry Niven had already delved deep into his Known Universe series, publishing World of Ptaavs, Ringworld, A Gift from Earth, Protector, and Ringworld Engineers as well as numerous stories that had been collected in Tales of Known Space in 1975. Niven was so associated with these stories that when he published the collection Convergent Series in 1979, which did not include any Known Space stories, he felt the need to spell the lack of connection out in the afterword to the first story, “Bordered in Black,” which had the feel, if not the details, of a Known Space story.

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The Monster and the Ape

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

The Monster and the Ape still

A true oddity in the history of robots is the complete absence of robot films in American cinema before the 1950s. By my count studios made exactly zero full-length feature films with a major robot character. Not even Universal, at its twin peaks of fabulously successful and highly profitable monster movies in the 1930s and 1940s, thought to include a robot hero, antihero, or villain.

Would-be robot historians have to cheat mightily to drag a robot into their texts. For unknown reasons they credit Universal’s low-budget Man-Made Monster as a robot film. The title monster is a circus freak who can absorb electricity. Feeding him with ever-greater amounts of volts turns him into a mind-controlled, rampaging but still-human monster. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a favorite because of the Tin Man. The Tim Man – Nick Chopper as he would be named in a later Oz book – has a metal body but retains his human (or Ozian) personality. He’s a cyborg, not a robot. His greatest wish is for a heart, to make him even more human. (Baum created a true mechanical man, Tik-Tok, but just try finding him in a movie.) You might even see a mention of Basil Rathbone’s Fingers at the Window, whose newspaper ads scream “Mystery of the Robot Murders,” but whose monsters are hypnotized humans.

Therefore, even in an era we fondly remember for its pure cheeziness, robots are low-grade Gheeze Whiz. To find any, cinemaphiles need to descend to the bottom of the Hollywood pecking order, the serials.

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Hither Came Conan: Jason Durall on Xuthal of the Dusk

Monday, March 11th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

John Buscsema - Savage Sword of Conan - Issue #20

John Buscsema – Savage Sword of Conan – Issue #20

Welcome back to the latest installment of Hither Came Conan, where a leading Robert E. Howard expert examines one of the original Conan stories each week, highlighting what’s best. Jason Durall is the line editor for Modiphius’ RPG, Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of.

Xuthal of the Dusk on 25 Lunas a Day

Of all of Howard’s Conan stories, “Xuthal of the Dusk” is one of his most emblematic, regardless of its quality compared to the other. If one were to assemble a tasting menu of Conan containing all his recurring themes and story elements, one could look no further than this story and come away with a good sense of the whole. With only one glaringly weak point, the story is an underappreciated gem and worth reconsidering in its place among the overall canon.

First appearing in the September 1933 issue of Weird Tales under the title “The Slithering Shadow”, the story, like many of Howard’s tales, was graced with an extremely risqué cover by Margaret Brundage, no small contributor to the magazine’s sales (more on this later). Though the story’s published title was “The Slithering Shadow”, Howard, in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, clarifies that its original title was “Xuthal of the Dusk”. Given a choice between the title the story was written under versus a title provided by the editor, let us remain true to Howard’s preference in the matter.

“Xuthal of the Dusk” may not be the best of the Conan stories, but it is one of the purest Conan stories. Let’s examine all the notes this story hits, and this should become clear.

 

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Douglas Adams

Monday, March 11th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams

Pat Terry was an Australian fan who was born in the mid-1880 and died in 1970. The Sydney Science Fiction Foundation established an award in his name to recognize Humour in science fiction. The award was only presented 8 times over the course of 12 years, from 1970, when it was given to John Sladek for Mechasm until 1982, when it was presented to Randall Garrett. Despite being an Australian Award, in 1971 and 1980, the award was presented at the Worldcon, which happened to be in Boston both of those years. The 1980 award, for work done in 1979, was presented to Douglas Adams for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was accepted on his behalf by Chris Priest at Noreascon II.

Douglas Adams was born on March 11, 1952. He attended Cambridge, where he formed a comedy troupe called Adams-Smith-Adams with Will Adams and Martin Smith before becoming a member of the Footlights. His work with Footlights brought him to the attention of Graham Chapman, and the two wrote a few sketches together, with Adams being one of only two non-Pythons to receive a writing credit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Adams would also later contribute to Chapman A Liar’s Autobiography.

I first became aware of Douglas Adams in the late 1970s when I received recordings of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show sometime between the first series and the second series, before the publication of the first book based on them. By that time, of course, I had already seen some of his work on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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