Birthday Reviews: Michael Moorcock’s “The Frozen Cardinal”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jim Burns

Cover by Jim Burns

Michael Moorcock was born on December 18, 1939.

Moorcock’s novella “Behold the Man,” won the Nebula Award in 1968.  He has won the British Fantasy Award six times, for the novels The Knight of the Swords, The King of the Swords, The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands, as well as for the short story “The Jade Man’s Eyes.” He won a special committee award from them in 1993. In 1979, he won the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Gloriana. His Elric Saga won the Seiun Award in 1986. Moorcock received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the World Fantasy Con in 2000, the Prix Utopia in 2004, and the Bram Stoker Awards in 2005.  In 2002 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2008. Moorcock was guest of honor at the 2nd World Fantasy Con, held in New York in 1976 and at LoneStarCon 2, the 55th Worldcon, held in San Antonio, Texas in 1997.

“The Frozen Cardinal” originally appeared in the anthology Other Edens, edited by Robert Holdstock and Christopher Evans, in 1987.  Moorcock included it in his collection Casablanca in 1989 and in 1993, it was included in the Moorcock collection Earl Aubec and Other Stories.  Ann and Jeff VanderMeer selected the story for The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection in 2016.  In 1990, the story was translated into French to appear in the anthology Universe 1990, edited by Pierre K. Rey.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask’s Cap Shaw on Writing

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BlackMask_May1934EDITED“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

The hardboiled school was born in the page of Black Mask Magazine under the editorship of George W. Sutton, with Carroll John Daly’s “Three Gun Terry” (which I wrote about here…) and “Kings of the Open Palm,” and Dashiell Hammett’s “Arson Plus,” appearing in 1923. In 1924, Sutton resigned and circulation editor Phil Cody replaced him.

Cody pushed for more stories featuring Race Williams and the Continental Op, encouraged Erle Stanley Gardner to develop Ed Jenkins (‘The Phantom Crook’), and added Frederick Nebel and Raoul Whitfield to the magazine. Cody was pushed out by publisher Eltinge Warner in 1926, with Cody’s approval (he later became President of the company). Joseph Shaw, a former bayonet instructor in the army and an unsuccessful writer with zero editorial experience, took the reins (I mean, sure, why not?).

But it is Shaw who is revered as the editor who shaped and was largely responsible for the success of the hardboiled school. While he did not start the movement, it’s still a reasonable assertion. Shaw honed Black Mask into a razor sharp hardboiled pulp that dominated the field.

In May of 1934, Writer’s Digest featured a cover story titled, Do You Want to Become a Writer or Do You Want to Make Money? by Shaw. I’ve included that essay below, with a few comments of my own included in italics.

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Birthday Reviews: Jack L. Chalker’s “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night”

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Jack L. Chalker was born on December 17, 1944 and died on February 11, 2005.

Although Chalker may be best known for his Well of Souls series of novels, his only Hugo Award nominations were for his amateur magazine, Mirage, in 1963 and his non-fiction book The Science Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History: Third Edition, co-written with Mark Owings.  The book also won the Readercon Award in 1992.  Chalker was a two-time nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  In 1980, he received the Skylark Award from NESFA and in 2005, he posthumously received the Phoenix Award from DeepSouthCon.

Chalker wrote “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” for Mike Resnick’s 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents. The story has never been reprinted. It was his last published piece of short fiction, although Chalker continued to publish novels and non-fiction.

Set in a rooming house in Albany, New York, “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” takes place in a world in which following James Buchanan’s death during the election of 1856, Millard Fillmore is able to capture a second term on the No-Nothing ticket.  Fully embracing his anti-immigration stance, Fillmore is in thrall to the Southerners who helped elect him and promotes pro-slavery policies, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act that was passed during his first term in 1950. His policies have caused unrest in New England, resulting in a second Boston Massacre when troops opened fire on citizens who were trying to stop a runaway slave from being taken back to the South.

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Wordsmiths: Talking Horror and White Noise with Geoff Gander and Tito Ferradans

Friday, December 14th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly


There’s been something about this past year – tons of creators I know are doing awesome things, particularly in my Ottawa backyard, nearby in Toronto and elsewhere across Canada. It sounds cliché, but watching these projects come to fruition is one of the highlights of being a creator myself, and I’ve been lucky to chat with a few people and put together interviews to share with all of you – starting today!

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Ottawa horror author and games writer Geoff Gander about some exciting news: the purchase of film rights to his 2014 short story “White Noise” (published in AE Sci Fi). The short film of the same name is being written and co-directed by Vancouver-based screenwriter Tito Ferradans, who joined us to discuss the process of converting from short story to film, and the horror genre in general. He also shared some screenshots from the film to give you a glimpse of what “White Noise” will look like.

Hope you all enjoy! And make sure to check out links to the White Noise Indigegogo campaign below!

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Endings and Beginnings: The IX: Prelude to Sorrow by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

51h5Zzyi6VLWith The IX: Prelude to Sorrow (2018), Andrew P. Weston brings the curtain down on his trilogy that started with The IX (2015) and continued with The IX: Exordium of Tears (2016). Driven to near-extinction by the all-devouring Horde, the humanoid Ardenese turned their fate over to an AI called the Architect. The Architect transported human military personnel from all across the ages in hope of finding people with new ideas about how to fight the Horde. In The IX, men of the fabled Roman IX Legion and their Celtic adversaries, along with 19th century US Cavalry, Plains Indians, a British SBS team, and some terrorists are dragged away from Earth just at the moment they are about to die.

The first book introduced the various soldiers as well as the Horde. Utterly alien monsters, at first the Horde seem to exist solely to devour every living thing in their path. As the story unfolds it becomes clear they are a far more complex enemy than the Ardenese and their new allies realize. The most striking of Weston’s achievements in the book is conveying the strangeness of the Horde.

In the next installment the temporarily victorious humans and Ardenese, warned by the seemingly mystical insights of the leader of the Native American contingent, Stained-With-Blood, launch a massive interstellar attack on the remaining Horde. Filled with massive space battles and planetary-scale destruction, the book is a blast. In the end, despite great losses, it seems the Horde has been finally defeated and the future of a hybrid Ardenese-human civilization has been ensured.

Prelude to Sorrow reveals that the victory thought won was only temporary. In fact, the situation faced in this new book is even worse than that in the beginning of the series. A new enemy, one that threatens not only the Ardenese’s existence but all existence, is revealed.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #5

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Kornbluth_GhoulEDIT“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Hopefully, by now, you’re aware of the Back Deck Pulp series of posts I ran over on Facebook. Since this is the fifth collection of them I’ve run for A (Black) Gat in the Hand!  I’ve got enough for one more, and this column will run for four more weeks, so there might be another one. You can read the first four Back Deck Pulp posts by clicking the links at the end of this one.


Cyril M. Kornbluth was a science fiction author who died of a heart attack, running to catch a train, at the age of 34. Frederick Pohl cowrote several stories with the author and finished some of Kornbluth’s stories after the latter died, He said that Kornbluth refused to brush his teeth and educated himself by reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. An interesting individual.

It’s Office Desk Pulp! I’m going to have to research C.M. Kornbluth (Apparently, he was known for his science fiction stories). ‘”A Ghoul and His Money” appeared in the September, 1946 Dime Detective. His protagonist, who is the good guy, is completely annoying and I was hoping something non-fatal would happen to him. It’s an interesting take on a hero and I think I’d like to tinker with the concept Fun, short read. Another story from the excellent anthology, Hard-Boiled Detectives.

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Birthday Reviews: Sarah Smith’s “And Every Pebble a Soldier”

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Sarah Smith was born on December 9, 1947.

Although Smith is best known for writing historical mysteries set in Boston, she has also dabbled in speculative fiction, writing the hypertext novel King of Space and more traditional SF novels The Knowledge of Water and The Other Side of the Dark. She won the Agatha Award and the Massachusetts Book Award for The Other Side of the Dark.

Smith wrote “And Every Pebble a Soldier” for the 2015 anthology Deco Punk: The Spirit of the Age, edited by Thomas A. Easton and Judith K. Dial, based on a comment by Dial that linked Art Deco to Nazism. The story has not been reprinted.

Set in the aftermath of a truly destructive war, the protagonist of “And Every Pebble a Soldier,” a builder’s apprentice, is one of the only men to come back from war. Determined to build something useful, he begins to make a clockwork man that will help him clean up the debris that litters his town. When he finds a paving brick used to mark the grave of a friend, he chips away a bit of the rock and incorporates it into the wind-up man, eventually repopulating the village’s lost youth by creating an automaton with a piece of each one’s gravestone.

While some in the town take an interest in his hobby, others mock him or are down-right hostile.  The village priest sees him as someone performing the Devil’s work, as well as a threat to his own power in the Church. The apprentice persists, however, and slowly wins the town over as they begin to see his clockwork men as a way not only to repopulate the town, but to, in some way, bring their lost brothers and sons back to life.

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My Top Five Con Games

Friday, December 7th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

Sting 3A few weeks ago I was looking at my favourite heist movies, and I was struck by the realization that a heist is not a con. It’s not that the two can’t occasionally overlap, it’s just that there are distinctions with shove each of them into their own sub-genres.

This doesn’t mean that a con game doesn’t result in something – and occasionally someone – being stolen, or taken, or perhaps recovered. The point is that looked at a certain way, a con game isn’t a theft, it’s an act of persuasion. You don’t steal the item, you persuade the owner to give it to you.

There’s a simple element that can make the con game more palatable to audiences in general: you can’t cheat an honest man. The marks are always greedy, and the con artist uses that greed against them. It’s not theft, in a con game, the artist gets someone to give them the target item willingly. In the best examples, the mark never even knows what’s happened. And that’s why a common trope of the con, or sting, is that it involves no violence, often not even pretended violence.

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Canco Charlie

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Canco Charlie

I used to live in the pleasant village of Fairport, NY, a short walk from the Erie Canal, by which inland Fairport got its name. A reminder of those industrial days could be found about a mile east along the canal in a long four-story factory owned by the American Can Company. Canco, as locals called it, had been formed in 1901 as one of the 300+ trusts that gobbled up every industry in America into impregnable monopolies. The tin-plate trust was never as famous as Rockefeller’s Standard Oil or Carnegie’s United States Steel yet played just as critical a part in the average household. Canned foods were another hot new technology, because a new method of sealing the cans without solder had just been perfected by the well-named Sanitary Can Company, which ran their experiments in Fairport. After a steep learning curve, leading to many bulging botulistic cans quietly being dumped in the canal, Sanitary perfected the means of crimping can tops on to the body, made of corrosion resistant tinplate steel, the familiar tin can of today. American Can swallowed Sanitary Can in 1908.

World War II changed everything, including food. Millions of young families fled cities for the open spaces of the suburbs and their increasingly gigantic supermarkets, filled with endless aisles of canned foods. Those promised ease from the hours of cooking known by their mothers. Poppy Cannon, author of the Can-Opener Cookbook, apotheosized the tool as “the open sesame to freedom . . . from tedium, space, work, and your own inexperience.”

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A Dungeons & Dragons Holiday Gift Guide

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

MadMageDungeons & Dragons is having something of a renaissance. After a somewhat awkward period era known as “fourth edition,” the most popular roleplaying game in the world has attained a greater reach than anytime in its history.

If you’re looking for some good setting materials or adventures for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, this last year has shown the release of a handful of fantastic resources. Last spring was Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, a great resources of various races, including the Devil/Demon war between Hell and the Abyss. But two books released this fall focused a little closer to our fantasy home, with the classic city of Waterdeep.

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is an urban-based adventure for characters of level 1-5, centered around a massive treasure embezzled from the government of Waterdeep and rumored to be hidden within the city. The GM picks the main villain at the outset from four options, a choice that determines the season of the adventure, which alters how the subsequent chapters will unfold.

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