A Treasure Trove of Classic British Horror: Darkness Mist & Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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I first saw the three volumes of Darkness Mist & Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basic Copper at Greg Ketter’s booth at Windy City seven years ago. It was a gorgeous set of hardcovers, with magnificent wraparound Stephen Fabian artwork, and it drew my eye immediately.

It was prohibitively expensive, however — nearly $200 for the set, if I remember correctly. Two hundred bucks buys a lot of vintage paperbacks. I put them back on the shelf with a sigh, and headed for the back of the room, where the cheap paperbacks were piled high on countless tables.

Darkness Mist & Shadow was published by Drugstore Indian Press, a division of PS Publishing in the UK, which means it wasn’t widely distributed here in the US. I’ve always been curious about Basil Copper’s fiction… not curious enough to part with $200 on an impulse purchase, but still. Bob Byrne is a fan of his Solar Pons tales (also available from PS Publishing), and Bob has good taste, so that heightened my curiosity.

I’m not always in the mood for classic British horror, but when October rolls around, with its long evenings, hot chocolate, and a cat that insists on climbing into my lap at seven o’clock and staying there, immobile, until midnight, I’m much more receptive. The promise of a virtual library of short stories and novellas — painstakingly gathered from such hard-to-find sources as the Dark Terrors anthology series, the Pan Book of Horror Stories, New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and long out-of-print Arkham House volumes — gets a lot more appealing. So when PS reissued the books in beautiful trade paperback editions, priced at just £9.99 each ($17 from most US sellers), it was simply too hard to resist. I paid $45 for the complete set, and I’m very happy I did.

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A Cherished Contributor, and Hard to be Friends With: Michael Moorcock on Thomas M. Disch

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

New Worlds August 1967 Camp Concentration-small New Worlds October 1967 Camp Concentration-small

Last month I wrote a brief feature on Thomas M. Disch and his 1968 dystopian SF novel Camp Concentration. Michael Moorcock, who serialized the novel in four issues of his magazine New Worlds (July -October, 1967), contacted me to share his own memories, and challenge my portrayal of Tom as “a tragic figure.”

Tom was a close friend. Sometimes hard to be friends with. He was given to depression and to taking offence over imagined insults. In spite of this, I and his other close friends loved him and I still wonder if I could have done more for him, as does Linda. She says that she loved being with us and never laughed so much as when we were together, so I don’t see him as a tragic figure. After Charlie died he became lonely and bitter on occasions but several substantial friends did all they could for him.

I serialised Camp Concentration in New Worlds and was flattered when he said he would not have aspired to make it as good as it was if he hadn’t known it was appearing there. He brought each episode in every month and I was increasingly grateful to have such a fine novel to run in the first of our large size issues. With Ballard, he was my most valued contributor. Camp Concentration was illustrated by our mutual friend, the fine artist Pamela Zoline. He brought John Clute and John Sladek into our circle and the 60s and 70s were wonderful thanks in considerable part to our mutual friendships. Politically, we rarely agreed, but we had so much fun together. I miss him terribly.

“Charlie” was Disch’s partner of three decades, poet Charles Naylor, who died in 2005. I asked Michael for permission to reprint his comments here, and he graciously granted it, and shared some additional memories of Disch.

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Talking to Ghosts: Keri Arthur’s Outcast Trilogy

Saturday, October 6th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Keri Arthur City of Light-small Keri Arthur Winter Halo-small Keri Arthur The Black Tide-small

I quit reading urban fantasy and paranormal romance sometime around 2008, when you couldn’t browse bookshelves without being blinded by a sea of leather-clad heroines wielding crossbows. I mean, I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel as much as the next person, but man. That show has a lot to answer for.

Now that it’s safe to shop again, I’m kinda curious about those books that survived the mass extinction of urban fantasy. I pull them off the shelves at Barnes & Noble and say, “What are you doing here?” They’re like the rebel pilots that survived the attack on the Death Star. They can hold reunions in a phone booth.

Like any publishing boom-and-bust cycle, it’s only the best that endures. So I was naturally intrigued to find Keri Arthur’s City of Light at B&N earlier this year. Arthur is the author of the Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson, Guardian series. She’s written more than forty books, and won Romantic Times‘ Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. City of Light is the opening novel in the Outcast trilogy, a post apocalyptic tale set a century after a devastating war tears a hole in reality, and the last remnants of humanity cling to life in brightly-lit cities that shield them from terrifying spectres. It’s a promising blend of SF and paranormal horror (even if it does have a crossbow on the cover), and has sort of a Resident Evil vibe, with a superhumanly powerful heroine who faces off against both undead nasties and an evil pharmaceutical company whose experiments on adults and children bring unexpected horrors.

City of Light won plenty of acclaim, with Library Journal praising it for “An intriguing world and a marvelous heroine who speaks to ghosts,” and The Speculative Herald calling it “Exciting and well written… a remarkable mix of intrigue and action.” The first two books in the series were published in paperback by Signet, but it didn’t do well enough for them to pick up the third volume, so Arthur self published it in the US in December of last year.

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New Treasures: The Fantastic Four: Behold… Galactus! by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne and John Buscema

Friday, October 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantastic Four Behold Galactus 2

Just how big is the monster-sized Fantastic Four: Behold… Galactus! from Marvel Comics?

HUGE. Several comparison shots have popped up (including Charles R Rutledge’s side-by-side with a Robert Parker hardcover), but my favorite is the one above, borrowed from Bobby Nash’s Patreon page, which shows the book alongside a regulation-size graphic novel. Behold… Galactus! is an impressive 13.5 x 21.2 inches; big enough to double as a kitchen table.

Any way you slice it, this book is a beast. Its massive 312 pages contain virtually all of the early tales of Galactus from Fantastic Four, including Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s beloved 60s classic “The Coming of Galactus” (from Fantastic Four #48-50) and its sequel “When Calls Galactus” (FF #74-77), plus the Lee-Buscema tale “Galactus Unleashed” (FF #120-123), and John Byrne’s 80s take on the Big G, from FF #242-244 (which includes the famous free-for-all “Everyone Versus Galactus,” from FF 243.)

Monster format aside, these classic stories still make terrific reading, especially the Lee-Kirby tales. The Fantastic Four remains my favorite Marvel Comic, and this book will help you understand why. It was published by Marvel on September 11, 2018. It is 312 pages, priced at $50 in hardcover and $24.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Alex Ross. See all our recent Comics coverage here.


Douglas Draa’s What October Brings is a Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween

Thursday, October 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

What October Brings-smallHalloween and Lovecraft. Two great things that belong together. And Weirdbook editor Douglas Draa is the man to make it happen.

His new anthology What October Brings is a handsome collection of original stories by Adrian Cole, Storm Constantine, Tim Curran, Cody Goodfellow, Nancy Holder, Brian M. Sammons, John Shirley, Lucy A. Snyder, Chet Williamson, Black Gate writer Darrell Schweitzer, and many others — all packaged under a gorgeous cover by Italian artist Daniele Serra.

It’s from UK publisher Celaeno Press, a new name to me, but they clearly do good work. Here’s the description.

Halloween, a time for laughing children in white bedsheets and superhero costumes. A time for chocolate candy, and pumpkins, and Trick-or-Treat.

… a time for dark things everywhere to slink out of the shadows and into our lives, reminding those unlucky few that our charades of Halloween cannot erase the centuries of history and pain behind the facade…

What October Brings celebrates the dark traditions of the autumn rituals, of Halloween and Samhain, in homage to the uniquely fascinating fiction of HP Lovecraft. Masters of the short story offer you a “once in a lifetime” Trick-or-Treat experience…

…perhaps your last!

This is a sizable anthology packed with long stories. Over half are 18+ pages, and one, Lucy A. Snyder’s “Cosmic Cola,” is a generous 30 pages. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of September 2018

Sunday, September 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn-small Rosewater by Tade Thompson-small Salvation by Peter F Hamilton-small

Geez, it’s the last day of the month already. I’m used to failing at my ambitious monthly reading plans, but at least I usually try. This month has been so busy that I haven’t even been able to keep track of all the great books I missed, much less crack any of them open.

September still has a few hours left, and I’m going to use that time to educate myself. And the best resource for that are book blogs like The Verge, Unbound Worlds, Kirkus Reviews, and especially the excellent Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, which has gradually become my go-to source for the best new releases. This month Jeff Somers does his usual top-notch job, pointing me to 26 tantalizing titles I might have otherwise overlooked. Here’s the best of them.

The Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot, 448 pages, $12.99 trade paperback/$8.99 digital, September 4)

Fenn is as known for her short fiction as she is for her Hidden Empire novel series — and for her tendency to take stories in unexpected directions, whether on the micro-scale in short stories or the macro-scale of novels. [In] Hidden Sun Fenn kicks off an all new series set in a universe of shadowlands and bright alien skylands. Rhia Harlyn is a well-born woman in the shadowland Shen, struggling against old-fashioned sexism as she pursues scientific knowledge. She gets a tragic opportunity to use his skill for research and discovery after her brother vanishes. She sets off to the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance and finds herself caught between a rebel and a cult leader on an alluring, dangerous world.

Jaine Fenn won the British Science Fiction for her short fiction. She’s the author of the 5-volume Hidden Empire series, published in the UK by Gollancz, which does not yet have a US publisher. The Hidden Sun is the first volume of a 2-part series titled Shadowlands; the sequel, Broken Shadow, will be released on April 4. This is her first US release; if it does well, I hope that means we get to see a lot more of her.

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Vintage Treasures: 5 Galaxy Short Novels, edited by H.L. Gold

Monday, September 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Edward Valigursky

I love novellas. They’re the perfect length for idling away those long fall evenings. I miss them in the online magazines I read today, virtually all of which have a submission cap somewhere around 10,000 words (the exception is Neil Clarke’s Clarkesworld, which recently began accepting stories up to 16,000 words. Way to go, Neil!)

It was Matthew Wuertz’s Saturday review of the April 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, including Fred Pohl’s classic “The Midas Plague,” that reminded me just how many great novellas appeared in those old print magazines. Matt’s piece made me want to read the story all over again. In fact, it made me wish there was an easy way to sample Galaxy’s  novellas. Galaxy editor H.L. Gold had an appetite for meaty SF epics, and his authors took ready advantage of that market. Gold showcased dozens of top-notch writers at novella length in the early days of the magazine, and it would be great to have easy access to those hard-to-find tales.

Yeah, that was dumb. As I was sorting paperbacks this morning it finally occurred to me that what I was wishing for already existed. Gold produced nearly a dozen mass market anthologies during his eleven years as Galaxy‘s editor, including six volumes of the Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction. He knew what his readers wanted, and he paid special attention to longer fiction, with Galaxy Science Fiction Omnibus (1955), The World That Couldn’t Be and 8 Other Novelets From Galaxy (1959), Bodyguard and Four Other Short Novels from Galaxy (1960), Mind Partner and 8 Other Novelets from Galaxy (1961), and especially 5 Galaxy Short Novels, which appeared in 1958.

5 Galaxy Short Novels reprints stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, James E. Gunn, J. T. McIntosh, and F. L. Wallace. Even today, it makes a great introduction to the magazine.

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When Philip K. Dick Reports You to the FBI: Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Thomas M. Disch is a tragic figure. An enormously talented writer who won the enduring respect of his peers — with nine Nebula nominations and two Hugo nominations to his credit, plus a John W. Campbell Award and Rhysling Award, among many other accolades — his work was long ignored by the public. Success eluded him for virtually his entire career, and he gave up writing almost entirely near the end of his life. After the death of his partner in 2005 he lost his house, fought eviction from his apartment, and eventually killed himself in 2008. In the Science Fiction Encyclopedia John Clute wrote of Disch:

Because of his intellectual audacity, the chillingly distanced mannerism of his narrative art, the austerity of the pleasures he affords, and the fine cruelty of his wit, Disch was perhaps the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern sf writers of the first rank.

Certainly his most commercially successful work was the novella “The Brave Little Toaster,” which appeared first in the August 1980 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula. Famed animation director John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life) recalls how he was fired from Disney ten minutes after making a pitch for a film version; Hyperion Pictures eventually produced animated versions of The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and Disch’s sequel, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998).

Perhaps his most successful adult novel was Camp Concentration, which has seen nearly a dozen editions in English since it first appeared in 1968. Alongside On Wings of Song (1979) it’s one of his most acclaimed novels, anyway, and I figure it makes a solid starting point to start reading Disch. It’s interesting for another reason as well — the novel figures prominently in one of the most infamous incidents involving Philip K. Dick, who was so alarmed by Camp Concentration that he wrote a letter to the FBI about it.

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The Priceless Treasures of the Barbarian Prince

Sunday, September 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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A complete set of Dwarfstar games. Probably worth more than my house.

I enjoyed Sean McLachlan’s Black Gate post last month, Wargaming with my Twelve-Year-Old. Sean and his son played Outpost Gamma, a 1981 science fiction board game of man-to-man combat on a distant colony world. You don’t see a lot of coverage of early-80s science fiction microgames these days, so I appreciated being able to share the fun.

Outpost Gamma was published by Heritage Models in 1981, under their celebrated Dwarfstar imprint. Dwarfstar, like Metagaming, Steve Jackson, and Task Force Games, produced a rich catalog of microgames aimed at younger players. Well, budget-conscious players anyway. Metagaming, who pioneered the concept of the microgame with their first release, Steve Jackson’s runaway hit Ogre, charged $2.95 for a two-color game in a small baggie. Dwarfstar did away with the baggie and upgraded to a slim box, added full color, and charged a lordly $3.95.

As a business, the Dwarfstar line wasn’t a success. Unlike Metagaming and Task Force, who released dozens of titles over the years, they produced only eight games between 1981-82. But from a creative perspective, they were a magnificent hit. Their titles included Arnold Hendrick’s classic Demonlord, simulating the desperate struggle against the Demon Empire, Lewis Pulsipher’s Dragon Rage, a game of giant monsters attacking a walled medieval city, Dennis Sustare’s Star Smuggler, a marvelous solitaire programmed adventure following the adventures of a star trader on the frontier, and the peak achievement of Western Civilization, Arnold Hendrick’s Barbarian Prince, a solitaire game of heroic action in a forgotten age of sorcery.

Superbly well-designed as they were, Dwarfstar games had one great weakness: they weren’t built to last. Paper-thin boxes and flimsy components helped keep the cost down, but did nothing for their longevity. More than 35 years later these eight games have a nearly mythical reputation among collectors, but there aren’t a lot of copies to be had. And you know what that means: the scarce copies still in good condition are very, very expensive.

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The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories is a Master’s Course in Classic Horror

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-small The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-back-small

I’m a huge fan of Valancourt Books, ever since I stumbled on their eye-popping booth at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention. They’re an independent small press specializing in rare, neglected, and out-of-print Gothic, Romantic and Horror fiction, and two years ago they had a brilliant idea: why not assemble an annual anthology showcasing stories by some of their authors, modern and otherwise? The Editor’s Forward to the first volume gives you the idea:

The idea behind this anthology was, “What if we distilled the best of each part of our catalogue into a single volume? What would a horror anthology spanning two centuries, and featuring only Valancourt authors, look like?”

Pretty darn good, it turns out. These are substantial and attractive volumes, with terrific covers by M. S. Corley. The series has proven very successful, and the third volume arrives next month, with brand new fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Eric C. Higgs, and Hugh Fleetwood, and thirteen blood-curdling reprints from R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Helen Mathers, Charles Beaumont, J. B. Priestley, Robert Westall, and many more.

The series is edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle. Here’s the details on all three books.

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