Silas P. Cornu’s Dry Calculator

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Henry A. Hering Adventures and Fantasy 1930 cover

Digging through the vast, deep landscape of popular culture is very much like being a working paleontologist. Fragments of bones are everywhere, both on the surface and accessible through spadework. Unbroken samples are rare finds, interesting enough in and of themselves but truly valuable only if put into context.

Also as in paleontology, trying to create a proper history grows exponentially more difficult every time a new site is opened. The older metaphor of an evolutionary tree of life that leads to a single branch labeled Homo is now obsolete; modern practitioners see more of a bush with a tangle of branches whose origins are obscure.

The origin of science fictional ideas matches this entropic march toward disorder. Fans of SF once proudly hailed the writers in the field for coming up with fantastic ideas, notions, gadgets, and futures that could be boasted about to their snobbish mundane friends. Years of historical research into the subject make me wonder sometimes if any sf writer ever had a truly original idea.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Sonic Flowerfall of Primes,” by Andrew Joron

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Fiona Preston

Cover by Fiona Preston

The Rhysling Awards, named for Robert A. Heinlein’s poet from “The Green Hills of Earth,” were established by the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. Both the association and the award were founded by Suzette Haden Elgin. Each year, awards are given for Short Form poetry and Long Form poetry. The first award for Long Form poetry was won by Gene Wolfe for “The Computer Iterates the Greater Trumps.” In 1980 Andrew Joron won the award for “The Sonic Flowerfall of Primes.”

Poetry often does not lend itself to literal interpretation, and Andrew Joron’s “The Sonic Flowerfall of Primes” is an excellent demonstration of that. Even just trying to understand the poem’s title in a literal or concrete manner is setting the reader up for failure since the words, when taken together, seem to lack any cohesion or coherence.

In fact, Joron seems to revel in the ambiguity of the title and the poem itself, which is narrated by unidentified beings which might be aliens, possibly some form of fauna, or an artificial intelligence, although the narrator does seem to identify variations of gender.  The poem, which has numerous stanzas, begins by painting a picture, vague though it may be, of the world in which it takes place.  This is followed by lyrical language which incorporates imagery of music as two lovers meet, again, ambiguous as to their identities.

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Yes, Everyone Can

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

thewallpaperco3

This is one of my favorite pieces of art. I found it ages ago at thewallpaper.co.

Good morning, Readers!

I had an argument with a friend the other day, and it’s kind of stuck in my throat a bit. Permit me to indulge myself and get all my thoughts around the issue out. It always helps to write it out. You’re all basically my therapists.

Jokes aside, the argument centered around the idea that not everyone can (as in should) be a writer. He says not, I say absolutely they can, and should if they so desire.

Now, this isn’t an argument about whether people have the time or the will to become writers. That is a separate issue. If the assumption is that they want to, then they absolutely can, and absolutely should.

His argument was something around talent, that just because someone can string a few sentences together, it doesn’t make them writers. Their story ideas may be garbage. They may not be able to spell all that well. They can’t adequately turn what’s in their head into something understandable on the page.

In a way, I suppose, he’s right.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Spillane & John D. MacDonald

Monday, December 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

MacDonald_SpillaneCoverEDITEDFans of my writings here at Black Gate (both of you!) know that John D. MacDonald is my favorite author. And I think he’s one of the best in any genre. So today, I’m going to talk a bit about two times that Mickey Spillane, millions-selling author of Mike Hammer, entered into the JDM story.

THE ENDORSEMENT

Especially before the success of his Travis McGee series, MacDonald was “looked down at” during his time because his books were paperback originals. It was rare that he received reviews or high-profile comments. His work sold, but critics ignored it, or dismissed it with a sneer.
Many of his books were published by Fawcett, part of the (still-collectible) Gold Medal paperback line. His first novel, The Brass Cupcake (more on that below) came out in 1950. It was followed in 1951 by Murder for the Bride, Judge Me Not (Hammett-esque and one of my favorites), Weep For Me, and the science fiction novel, Wine of the Dreamers. Which leads us to 1952’s The Damned.

Ralph Daigh, editorial director at Fawcett, let Mickey Spillane read a set of galleys for The Damned. After I, The Jury, in 1947, every other crime writer out there wished he had Spillane’s sales. When the writer came back in to Daigh’s office and returned them, he said, “That’s a good book. I wish I had written it.”

Daigh was a good book man and he wrote it out on a piece of paper and asked Spillane to sign it, which the latter did. And that endorsement was prominently displayed on the cover of the book when it came out.  Spillane’s agent, editor, lawyer (possibly even his pool guy) contacted Gold Medal and said that Spillane didn’t endorse books, and they had to take that quote off of the cover

Unintimidated, Daigh told them all that he had Spillane’s signature, dated, to back it up. They went away. MacDonald remained a fan of Spillane’s.

The book sold two million copies and MacDonald was continuing to hone his novel-writing ability and increasing his sales.  The Damned is as packed full of tension (leading to an explosion) as any book I can remember reading.

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Why We Write: Rogue Blades Foundation and the Future of Heroic Literature

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Return of the Sword-small Writing Fantasy Heroes-small Crossbones-Crosses-small

Covers: Johnney Perkins, Dleoblack, Didier Normand

Fantasy readers, like those who dwell together here at Black Gate, are long familiar with notions of heroes and the heroic. Each of us might have our own ideas about what makes a hero, but we would likely find common ground in a discussion of the matter.

That being said, is there any doubt our world today is in need of heroes? Heroes do continue to exist in our entertainment, but often enough they are flawed or irrelevant or humorous to the point of being more pastiche than worthy of admiration. Obviously there are examples of the upstanding hero, yet they seem few and far between compared to our increasing occupation with the deranged or the out-and-out vile. It seems we are more often rooting for the fellow behind the hockey mask or clown makeup than we are for the character who boldly steps forward to set things right in a dark world. Too often our heroes seem to stand alone, if they stand at all.

Rogue Blades Foundation is here to stand with those heroes, real and fictional, and to stand for all things heroic. Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) is a non-profit publisher of heroic fiction and heroic-related non-fiction.

Fans of Sword & Sorcery literature might find the name of RBF sounds somewhat familiar. The reason for this is RBF is the not-for-profit sister to Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE), a for-profit publisher of S&S material for more than a decade now. The goals of RBF and RBE are slightly different, thus it made sense to separate the two. RBF will focus upon larger impact projects that would generally be beyond the scope of RBE’s capabilities and intent.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Harry Warner, Jr.

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Harry Warner, Jr.

Harry Warner, Jr.

The Fan Activity Achievement Awards, or FAAN Awards were founded in 1976 by Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz. Created to highlight writing in fandom, they differed from the Fan Hugos in that they were voted on specifically by fanzine fans. The original awards were presented at various convention. Following the 1980 awards, the awards were on hiatus until 1994 and have been presented each year since, with the exception of 1996. Harry Warner, Jr. won the last of the original run of FAAN Awards for Best LoC Writer. He won the first award and also won the award in 1979. The category wasn’t revived until 1998, when it was called Best Letterhack and Warner won the first two. Following his death in 2003, the category was renamed the Harry Warner, Jr. Memorial Award.

Harry Warner, Jr. was known as “The Hermit of Hagerstown,” for his dislike of attending fannish events. He rarely attending science fiction conventions, only agreeing to be the guest of honor at Noreascon I in 1971 when he was promised tickets to attend a Boston Red Sox game. When the first FanHistoriCon was run by Peggy Rae Pavlat (later Sapienza), Joe Siclari, and Bruce Pelz and Hagerstown was selected as the location for its proximity to Warner, Warner refused to attend.  Richard Lynch worked with Warner to arrange to bring small groups of attendees over to Warner’s home to allow them to meet him.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Bob Shaw

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Bob Shaw

Bob Shaw

The Hugo Award was first presented at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention (sometimes called Philcon II), held in Philadelphia from September 5-7, 1953. The awards were not perceived as an annual event at that time and, in fact, no awards were presented the following year. They were presented again in 1955 and have been presented annually since. Although a #1 Fan Personality Award was presented in the first year, to Forrest J Ackerman and a Best Actifan was awarded to Walt Willis in 1958, the Best Fan Writer Award wasn’t created until 1967, when it was won by Alexei Panshin and has been awarded ever since. The Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention. Bob Shaw won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer Award twice, in 1979 and 1980. He was also nominated for the Best Short Story award in 1967 and the Best Novel award in 1987. In 1980 the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

The Doc Weir Award was established in 1963 in memory of Arthur Weir. Selected by the membership of Eastercon, the award is presented to individuals who are seeing as making a significant contribution to fandom who have largely gone unrecognized.  The first Doc Weir Award was presented to Peter Mabey. The award takes the form of a silver cup with names of early winners engraved on the base. The cup comes with a presentation box which has plaques on it that contain the names of the winners since the cup’s based was filled.  A new box was created by John Wilson in 2019. The winner is responsible for having their own name engraved and running the following year’s voting process.

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Lost Classics of the Pulps: Guy Boothby’s The Curse of the Snake

Friday, November 22nd, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Curse of the SnakeThe Curse of the Snake is the Guy Boothby title I have been waiting years to read. I previously covered the five books in his Dr. Nikola series as well as his 1899 novel, Pharos the Egyptian for Black Gate. Boothby is an author whose works have fallen into relative obscurity, but his influence was quite pervasive. A contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, he turned out works that stand up well against their more celebrated efforts. Most importantly, the influence of Dr. Nikola is felt heavily upon Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu series and the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Boothby’s great flaw was that he was a prolific author of serialized novels who made no effort to correct inconsistencies when his works were published in book form. This hurt his reputation and, along with the speed with which he produced new works, unfairly suggested he was little more than a hack.

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The Diamond Service Brigade

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

1931-10-04 Des Moines Register 18 Diamond Service Brigade cropped

In 1931 the Mid-Continent Petroleum Company was hot stuff. Its 6,000 Diamond dealers owned the upper Midwest and could found as far south as Oklahoma, not surprising since it was the biggest employer in its home base of Tulsa. NevrNox Ethyl gasoline, the company boasted, provided the highest mileage of any product on the market. Mid-Continent was cutting edge, both in the science behind their formulations and in the way they presented them. 1931 was the year it pioneered a new type of service station, one that was to take over the field in the 1940s. Mimicking the modernistic International Style, that first Supulpa, OK, station had expanses of plate glass set in unpainted aluminum frames and walls of vitrolite, a black structural glass.

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The Cost of Publishing Through a Small Press

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

chizine-publications

I’m sure many of you by now have heard of the sudden controversy that erupted around Canadian horror/speculative fiction publisher, ChiZine. The story has been picked up by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. You always know it’s bad when Writer Beware gets involved. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the situation, good for you. Stay that way if you can. If you insist on knowing it all, I can recommend a great round-up by High Fever Books (here). Start at the bottom and work your way up through the updates.

It’s bad.

For the most part, there has been an outpouring of support for those affected; the authors who were not paid, and the former staff who were so atrociously abused. As with all controversies, however, there have been a number of bad takes. The worst has come from an editor by the name of Stephen Jones, who had this to say:

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