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Vintage Treasures: The Budayeen Trilogy by George Alec Effinger

Vintage Treasures: The Budayeen Trilogy by George Alec Effinger


The Budayeen Trilogy: When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, and The Exile Kiss
(Bantam Spectra, 1988, 1990, and 1992). Covers by Jim Burns (When Gravity Fails), and Paul Youll & Steve Youll

George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen trilogy, sometimes called the Marîd Audran trilogy, is one of the enduring early classics of cyberpunk.

It had its birth in his short story “The City on the Sand,” originally published in the April 1973 issue The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was his first story set in the futuristic walled city of Budayeen, the city in the sand, a place of dark shadows and even darker inhabitants. Eventually Effinger set nine tales in Budayeen, including his most famous story, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winner “Schrödinger’s Kitten,” and all three of his most popular novels: When Gravity Fails (1987), A Fire in the Sun (1989), and The Exile Kiss (1991), featuring the street-smart detective Marîd Audran.

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A Lush Visual History of Science Fiction: Futures Past by Jim Emerson

A Lush Visual History of Science Fiction: Futures Past by Jim Emerson


The first two issues of Futures Past, a Visual History of Science Fiction, edited and published by Jim Emerson

Way back in the 90s, before most of you young whippersnappers were born, Jim Emerson had a very fine fanzine called Futures Past, covering the birth of modern science fiction. He published four issues, each covering one year of SF history, from 1926-29.

In 2014 Jim resurrected his fondly-remembered zine as a 64-page digital magazine, with gorgeous full-color pages. The first issue covered 1926, the year Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories. Futures Past Vol. 1 illuminated the Birth of Modern Science Fiction, covering all the highlights of science fiction publishing in magazines and books.

A Kickstarter intended to fund full-color print versions of the new version in 2014 wasn’t successful. Undaunted, Jim funded the project himself, and earlier this year I was surprised and very pleased to receive a print copy of Futures Past, Volume 2 in the mail. Covering the year 1927 and the Dawn of the SF Blockbuster, this 144-page publication is a love letter to a forgotten era, when a brand new literary genre was being born in the pages of pulp magazines, books, and on the silver screen.

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New Treasures: The Best of David Brin

New Treasures: The Best of David Brin


The Best of David Brin (Subterranean Press, July 31, 2021). Cover by Patrick Farley

Subterranean Press has done a flat-out fabulous job of producing memorable single-author collections over the last decade.

For one thing, Subterranean mastermind William Schafer has terrific taste. He edited a delightful small press magazine (titled, appropriately enough, Subterranean) for many years, and demonstrated admirable skill at selecting and editing short fiction. For another, he’s been working at it tirelessly for decades, and it shows. He’s produced dozens of Best of retrospective collections from many of the top SF, fantasy and horror writers in biz, including Lucius Shepard (two volumes!), John Kessel, Walter Jon Williams, Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Bear, Michael Marshall Smith, Harry Turtledove, Greg Egan, Chaz Brenchley, Alastair Reynolds, Gregory Benford, Nancy Kress, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Joe Haldeman, Kage Baker, Neal Barrett, Jr., Robert Silverberg, Peter S. Beagle, Michael Swanwick, Larry Niven, and many others.

And thirdly — these are really gorgeous books. They’re generously sized hardcovers, published in both deluxe limited formats and very reasonable-priced trade hardcover editions, usually around 40 bucks retail. The one that grabbed my eye recently was The Best of David Brin, released just last year. It’s a feast of a book, just the thing I need to settle down with after a long and tiring week.

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Magic, Dinosaurs, and Mad Scientists: The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang

Magic, Dinosaurs, and Mad Scientists: The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang


The Tensorate Series (Tor.com, September 21, 2021). Cover by Yuko Shimizu

I love omnibus volumes. They’re the safety blanket of the fat fantasy market. Let’s face it, if your plane’s going down over a desert island and you can only grab one book, you’re gonna secure yourself a thick omnibus, right? Of course you are. Heaven knows how long it will take until that stately cruise liner arrives to rescue you. I plan all my book purchases with this in mind, and it’s worked out well so far.

It’s great to see Tor.com start to produce omnibus editions of their popular novellas. They did it with Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. The did it with Andy Remic’s An Impossible War novellas, and Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo stories. They did it with Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour. They did it with…. well, actually, I think that’s it. But what the hell, it’s a start.

Late last year Tor.com published a tidy omnibus volume of all four of Neon Yang’s Tensorate novellas, a series that has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula, and Locus awards, and it was such a great value I snatched it up immediately. I’m ready for the plane to go down, Captain.

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Alan Brown on Cordwainer Smith’s Classic Norstrilia

Alan Brown on Cordwainer Smith’s Classic Norstrilia


First paperback release of Norstrilia (Ballantine, 1975), with the infamous “dog-derived undergirls”
back cover text (they “smelled of romance all the time.”) Cover by Gray Morrow

For the past six years Alan Brown has had an entertaining biweekly series at Tor.com on our favorite topic — vintage SF & fantasy. He’s covered Keith Laumer’s Bolo, Poul Anderson’s Flandry of Terra, Andre Norton’s The Beast Master, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, David Brin’s Startide Rising, and about a jillion others.

Last week he took a look at Cordwainer Smith’s classic 1975 novel Norstrilia, originally published as two shorter works, The Planet Buyer (1964) and The Underpeople (1968). According to fannish legend, Smith’s publishers at Pyramid Books in the 60s felt it was too long, so he obliged them by breaking it up into two smaller novels. It was eventually published in the original format, under the title Norstrilia, by Lester del Rey at Ballantine Books in 1975.

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Vintage Treasures: The Hugo Winners, Volumes 4 & 5, edited by Isaac Asimov

Vintage Treasures: The Hugo Winners, Volumes 4 & 5, edited by Isaac Asimov


The Hugo Winners, Volume 4 and Volume 5 (Doubleday, April 1985 and April 1986). Covers by Kiyoshi Kanai and Tita Nasol

Last week I looked back at three of the finest science fiction anthologies ever published, The Hugo Winners, Volumes 1, 2, & 3. The first two volumes, included in my introductory order with the Science Fiction Book Club in 1976, were essentially my introduction to science fiction, and they bear much of the responsibility for turning me into a lifelong fan of SF — and especially short SF.

Asimov eventually edited nine volumes of The Hugo Winners before his death in 1992. Each was enriched with his signature breezy and light-hearted story introductions, which portrayed the entirety of the American science fiction community as a tight-knit clubhouse of friendly and brilliant eccentrics. There may have been an element of truth to that at the start (the number of Americans who made a living as full-time SF writers was surprisingly small in the 60s and 70s), but by the 80s Asimov no longer knew the majority of authors he was introducing personally, and it showed.

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Future Treasures: Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson

Future Treasures: Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson

Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson (Tor.com, June 28, 202)

Eddie Robson is the author of Hearts of Oak, which we discussed enthusiastically here back in October 2020. His latest, Drunk on All Your Strange New Words, is a locked room mystery featuring a murdered alien, his occasional ghost, and an alien language that leaves humans drunk.

Linda Codega at Gizmodo calls the book “a darkly tongue-in-cheek comedy,” and Publishers Weekly proclaims it “a memorable exploration of the power of language and technology in a post first-contact world… thoughtful, fast-paced sci-fi.” This is clearly a book that refuses to settle peacefully into a single category, and it’s all the more interesting for it.

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New Treasures: Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus

New Treasures: Sweep of Stars by Maurice Broaddus


Sweep of Stars (Tor Books, March 29, 2022). Cover art by Connor Sheehan

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the The Knights of Breton Court trilogy from Angry Robot, the acclaimed Tor.com novella Buffalo Soldier, and now Sweep of Stars, which James Rollins calls the “opening gambit in a great saga… epic,” and which Publishers Weekly labels a “Powerful, sweeping Afrofuturist space opera … A hugely ambitious and notable work of postcolonial science fiction.” If you’re in the market for a fresh and original space opera, this might be just what you’re looking for.

Sweep of Stars is the first novel of the Astra Black trilogy, and it introduces Muungano, a society of space-faring pan-African people who fled oppression on Earth and have now spread across the solar system. It is 2121, and unknown forces are working against Muungano, forcing its ruling families to make hard choices. Meanwhile, thousands of light years away, Muungano soldiers find themselves in the middle of an alien firefight, and faced with tough decisions of their own.

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Vintage Treasures: The Hugo Winners, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, edited by Isaac Asimov

Vintage Treasures: The Hugo Winners, Volumes 1, 2 and 3, edited by Isaac Asimov


The Hugo Winners, Volumes I & II and The Hugo Winners, Volume 3 (Doubleday, 1972 and 1977).
Cover designs by F. & J. Silversmiths, Inc, and Robert Jay Silverman

I’ve written 1,973 Vintage Treasures articles for Black Gate. (That seems like a lot. Is it a lot? If it were, the paperbacks waiting to be written up wouldn’t be threatening to topple over in a spine-crushing avalanche, right? Still seems like a lot, somehow.) My Vintage Treasures pieces aren’t reviews, sometimes because it’s been so long since I’ve read the book in question that I don’t trust myself to do it justice — and sometimes because I haven’t read it at all.

But mostly because I know from experience it takes me forever to assemble a decently thoughtful piece on a book I really enjoyed (or really didn’t enjoy — that takes even longer). In the time it takes me to produce a review I’m happy with, I can write four or five chatty Vintage Treasures, and that seems like a fair trade.

I’m going to break with that tradition here to offer up at least a partial review of The Hugo Winners, the groundbreaking 1962 anthology edited by Isaac Asimov, and its two follow-up volumes, The Hugo Winners, Volume II (1971) and Volume III (1977), all published in hardcover by Doubleday. They are perhaps the most important SF anthologies ever published, and I’ve read them so many times I’m pretty sure I can talk about them entirely from memory.

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The Sound of Far-Away Music: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Sound of Far-Away Music: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

“Hullo, Mole!” said the Water Rat.

“Hullo, Rat!” said the Mole.

So begins one of the greatest of literary friendships. That simple introduction between two soon-to-be-best friends has stuck with me ever since my dad first read me The Wind in the  Willows (1908). They’re the opening chords of a song like the dream-music Mole and Rat hear on a mysterious river island, that has remained with me my entire life. Even, if like them, I can’t remember all the words, it’s a song that’s “simple–passionate–perfect.”

This book, one I find wonderful beyond measure, is a collection of several distinct tales. The most famous, probably due to Walt Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) and the attendant amusement park ride, involves the foolish escapades of Toad. Those chapters are riotously funny and, I’d imagine, the most easily enjoyable to any child hearing them. More of the book, however, involves Mole and Rat, and those parts are by turns wistful, melancholic, and wondrous. In his memoir, Christopher Robin Milne wrote:

A book that we all greatly loved and admired and read aloud or alone, over and over and over: The Wind in the Willows. This book is, in a way, two separate books put into one. There are, on the one hand, those chapters concerned with the adventures of Toad; and on the other hand there are those chapters that explore human emotions – the emotions of fear, nostalgia, awe, wanderlust. My mother was drawn to the second group, of which “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was her favourite, read to me again and again with always, towards the end, the catch in the voice and the long pause to find her handkerchief and blow her nose. My father, on his side, was so captivated by the first group that he turned these chapters into the children’s play, Toad of Toad Hall. In this play one emotion only is allowed to creep in: nostalgia.

If I thought I could get away with it, I’d just write out all of The Pipers at the Gates of Dawn for this piece and leave it at that. I believe it is one of the most affecting things I’ve ever read. Its beauty only grows with each read. Sadly, I must write more (but I’ll still quote it a lot).

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