Five Star Publishing was the short-lived but extremely prolific genre publishing arm of Gale, which produced almost exclusively hardcovers aimed at the library market. John Helfers at Teckno Books was the acquisitions editor, delivering an impressive 48 mystery, 36 romance, and 24 SF & fantasy titles per year.
Five Star didn’t get a lot of attention from the mainstream genre press, and many of their more interesting efforts sailed well below the radar. As a result, I didn’t learn that they’d produced a quartet of novella collections — by Robert Silverberg, Pamela Sargent, Gregory Benford, and Mike Resnick — until a few weeks ago. As soon as I discovered the existence of In Another Country and Other Short Novels by Robert Silverberg, I tracked it down immediately. I found a brand new copy for sale through Amazon for just $3.65, and ordered it on the spot. It arrived last week, and I’m extremely pleased with it.
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I was extremely pleased to receive a review copy of Justin Everett and Jeffrey H. Shanks’ The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales, a fascinating collection of essays exploring the history and enormous impact of the most important fantasy magazine of all time.
While it’s primarily an academic volume (the first essay, by Jason Ray Carney, is titled “‘Something That Swayed as If in Unison’: The Artistic Authenticity of Weird Tales in the Interwar Periodical Culture of Modernism”) the book has plenty to offer casual fans. I’ve spent a few days with it now, dipping into various articles, and found it both educational and highly entertaining. This is a great volume for anyone who wants to understand why Weird Tales was so crucially important to the development of American fantasy, and the fan who’s just looking for recommendations on the best fantasy from the early Twentieth Century.
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Publishers Weekly has given a starred review to Paula Guran’s latest book Warrior Women, calling it an “Epic anthology… truly impressive.”
Two dozen stories of women warriors form this epic anthology of stories about those forced to fight, those who chose to fight regardless of odds, those who ran from their destiny as warriors, and those who will end war at any cost. In Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “The Sea Troll’s Daughter,” the titular daughter of a fearsome beast reluctantly confronts the woman who slew her father. In Carrie Vaughn’s nonspeculative “The Girls from Avenger,” a WWII pilot tries to determine the cause of her friend’s mysterious crash. An immortal wandering warrior meets an immortal prisoner in George R.R. Martin’s hopeful but bleak “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr.” Spaceship captain Tory Sabin must battle bureaucracy and physics to locate a missing friend in “The Application of Hope” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The warriors include girls as well as grown women: young Thien Bao is offered the chance to end a cataclysmic war at an unimaginable cost in Aliette de Bodard’s “The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile,” and a girl who discovers her father is a “monster” grows into a woman who tries to save others from his fate in Ken Liu’s “In the Loop.” Each story contains strength and compassion, even when the personal cost is high. The depictions of battle and trauma are rarely graphic, but they’re as hard-hitting as the subject demands. This is a truly impressive accomplishment for Guran and her contributors.
See the complete table of contents here, and the complete Publishers Weekly review here. Warrior Women will be published by Prime Books on December 17, 2015. It is 384 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback. The cover is by Julie Dillon. See more details at the Prime Books website.
Here’s an imaginative debut novel set centuries in the future, that sounds more like a weird western than science fiction. And you know how we feel about weird westerns! I’ve already pre-ordered a copy.
An unnamed event has wiped out most of humanity, scattering its remnants across vast and now barren lands reminiscent of the 19th century western frontier of America. Small clusters of humans still cling to existence in a post-apocalyptic world that is increasingly overrun by those who have risen from the dead — or, as the living call them, the Walkin’.
Thomas, a thirty-two year old conscripted soldier, homeward bound to the small frontier town of Barkley after fighting in a devastating civil war, is filled with hope at the thought of being reunited with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Mary, both named after characters in the Good Book. As it turns out, he also happens to be among the Walkin’.
Devoid of a pulse or sense of pain, but with his memories and hopes intact, Thomas soon realizes that the living, who are increasingly drawn to the followers of the Good Book, are not kindly disposed to the likes of him. And when he learns what the good people of Barkley intend to do to him, and to his family, he realizes he may just have to kidnap his daughter to save her from a fate worse than becoming a member of the undead.
When the people of Barkley send out a posse in pursuit of father and daughter, the race for survival truly begins…
Your Brother’s Blood will be published by Jo Fletcher Books on December 1, 2015. It is 336 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital edition.
Recently I wrote here about a handsome collection of 35 books by Isaac Asimov I bought on eBay for $82.17 — a lofty price for vintage paperbacks, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed what great shape they were in. Last week I also reported on the set of 32 paperback of the same vintage by Arthur C. Clarke I purchased at the same time. Clarke is still highly regarded these days, but not in the same category as Asimov. I expected to pay much less for them, and I was right — I won the auction for $27.
The same seller was also offering the striking set of Philp K. Dick books above (click for bigger version). While not virtually brand new like the Clarke and Asimov collections, they were nonetheless in terrific shape, especially for 40-year old paperbacks. I bravely took part in the auction, but bowed out before it hit $100. I expected it to go a lot higher, and it did.
The set sold for $536 and change, about $9.50 per book — a bargain, considering what Dick paperbacks in that kind of condition sell for individually.
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Terry Carr made his reputation in the field as an extremely talented editor. He edited 16 volumes of the Best SF of the Year, from 1972-1987, five volumes of Fantasy Annual (1978-1982), 17 volumes of Universe, and over a dozen standalone anthologies. But early in his career he also wrote a small number of novels, starting with Warlord of Kor, an Ace Double paired with Robert Moore Williams’ The Star Wasps (1963). Over at Strange at Ecbatan, Rich Horton took a look at the book as part of his ongoing series of Ace Double reviews.
This one qualifies as pretty forgotten, and mostly for good reasons… But it does feature a major major SF figure, Terry Carr. Carr is not widely known as a writer, but he was a hugely significant editor… while he didn’t write a whole lot of fiction, some of it was very good, including an admired novel (Cirque (1977))…
In all honesty, Warlord of Kor isn’t all that bad, though it’s not all that great either… The protagonist is Lee Rynarson, something of an archaeologist who is studying the only intelligent race humans have ever found in their expansion through the Galaxy (or perhaps multiple galaxies). These are the Hirlagi, sort of a horse/dinosaur mix on Hirlaj. There are only 26 Hirlaji surviving — they seem a tired [and] decadent race. They have a long racial memory, and Rynarson, in talking with one of them, hears stories of a warlord in the distant past, who united much of the planet, only to decide, after “communing” with the mysterious god Kor, that the Hirlaji must abandon not just war but science… a reasonable first effort.
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Ed Greenwood, of Forgotten Realms fame, just announced a slew of new worlds he’s created, all under the banner of Onder Librum. These are all shared world initiatives, meaning that creatives can come and create their own stories in the setting. These worlds offer a variety of settings for readers, including sword and sorcery, space opera, hard SF, gothic romances… something for everyone.
It’s freaking cool, and at a scale that I’m not sure has ever been done before. As soon as Ed told me about these new worlds, I jumped in enthusiastically and without looking (still falling off that cliff, and still haven’t hit a cactus). I signed up with a tight deadline for book set in Hellmaw, a dark urban fantasy shared world. With daemons. It’s pretty fun (the second book in the series, Dragon Dreams by Chris Jackson, just came out).
I was a bit concerned about writing in a shared world. Questions bounced around my head like pop rocks in my mouth. Will I feel stifled? Will I understand the lore well enough? Will there be enough coffee????
So, with these concerns in mind, here’s what writing in a shared world helped me learn about my writing.
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In the mid-90s, Gramercy Books had some success with a line of titles focusing on the supernatural and the occult, including The Book of the Dead, The Witchcraft Delusion, and A Treasury of Witchcraft (a collection of spells from ancient sources, which today has accumulated some hilarious Amazon reviews from folks reporting on their various effectiveness.) All of these were (at least nominally) non-fiction, but in early 1995 they added to their line up A Gothic Treasury of the Supernatural, a thick collection of half a dozen classic horror novels repackaged in an attractive hardcover.
The latter must have been successful enough for Gramercy to dabble in fiction anthologies at least one more time, since later in 1995 they repacked a 1981 Crown anthology by Cary Wilkins, A Treasury of Fantasy, with a brand new wraparound Romas cover (looking very much like Michael Whelan). Except for a rather embarrassing typo on the cover (they misspelled the editor’s name as “Wilkens”), this is the preferred edition of a thick omnibus collection of three novels and eight short stories by William Morris, George MacDonald, Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others.
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John Connolly is the bestselling author of thirteen thrillers featuring P.I. Charlie Parker, which The Independent calls “the finest crime series currently in existence.” Ten years ago he published Nocturnes, a collection of supernatural tales. This follow-up volume contains thirteen new tales — eleven short stories and two novellas, the multi-award-winning “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” and “The Fractured Atlas – Five Fragments” — set in Britain and Ireland. Here’s a clip from Mike Berry’s review in Portland Press Herald:
“The Blood of the Lamb” takes place in Dublin, focused on a married couple as they await the arrival of two Vatican priests who will examine their daughter. The girl has begun to exhibit miraculous healing powers, and her encounter with the visitors reveals itself to be a chilling exercise in misdirection. “Lamia” follows a woman’s quest for vengeance against her rapist, and “The Hollow King” employs the structure of a fairy tale to explore a hellish bargain.
It’s difficult to do anything new with the classic ghost story, but Connolly displays a sure hand when he puts his mind to the task. “A Dream of Winter” spins a creepy spell in exactly 300 words, and “A Haunting” examines the end of a long, loving marriage through the prism of a spectral visitation. Connolly moves farther afield geographically with “Lazarus,” in which the friends and family of the title character discover that corporeal resurrection has its drawbacks. And in “Razorshins,” a group of Maine bootleggers during Prohibition face off against a creature that demands tribute from any who cross its path…
The centerpiece of Night Music is “The Fractured Atlas – Five Fragments,” another tale of the magical properties of literature. Across the centuries, unfortunate individuals in the book trade encounter a mysterious tome that seems intent upon rewriting the very essence of reality. The short novel is nastier and far more unsettling than most of the other offerings here, reminiscent of the darkest horrors of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.
Night Music: Nocturnes 2 was published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on October 6, 2015. It is 464 pages, priced at $17.00 in trade paperback and $12.99 for the digital edition. Click on the covers above for bigger versions.
Jeffrey Ford took a chance on an unknown magazine, and sold us a story for the very first issue of Black Gate. (And a terrific story, too — a gonzo mystery set on an alien world, “Exo-Skeleton Town.” You can read the entire thing at Infinity Plus.) We’ve been pals ever since. One of the things I like about Jeff is he treats his Facebook friends to great, punchy mini-reviews of some excellent (and often hard-to-find) titles. That was the case yesterday, when he wrote the following about Scott Nicolay’s creepy horror tale After. He gave me permission to post it here. Enjoy.
if you get a chance, check out Scott Nicolay’s stand alone novella, After. About a woman who returns to her home in Seaside Heights after super storm Sandy to check on the damages. FEMA says she’s not allowed to stay but she does only to find out that some strange creature has been brought in by the storm and is lurking beneath her house.
This one’s got everything I like in a horror story — the slow burn, deep characterization so I care about the character, and the rare instance of a metaphorical resonance between the fearsome aspect of the world (the monster) and the defining condition of the character (in this case an abusive relationship). All this in a neat little book, well made (from Dim Shore Press) with a great cover and nice illustrations by Michael Bukowski.
Scott Nicolay is also the author of Do You Like to Look at Monsters? and Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed.
After was published by Dim Shores on August 4th 2015. It is 104 pages, priced at $10 in trade paperback. The cover is by Michael Bukowski. The Dim Shores website is here.
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