Sorcery, Foxkin, Giants, and the Return of Dabir & Asim: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #45!

Monday, September 21st, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Epic Swamp

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #45 was released on an unsuspecting world on the second of August. Four works of fiction, one outstanding poem, plus artwork and audio. A great issue that you should check out!

What have we got? This is what we’ve got:

Fiction Contents

Assailing the Garden of Pleasure, by Danial Ausema, with audio by Karen Bovenmeyer. The wounded apprentices of a corrupt teacher must gather what little power and skill they have to attempt to wrest the stolen parts of themselves from their corrupt master. The mastery of sorcery exacts a price. The search for vengeance exacts an even greater one.

Fox Hunt, by Rebecca Buchanan, with artwork by Simon Walpole and audio by Karen Bovenmeyer. There is a horror worming its way into the world of feudal Japan in this outstanding story. No bold samurai or powerful sorcerer fights against it — only a lone foxkin and a willful old woman stands in its way. A unique tale!

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Analog Science Fiction, January/February 2020, Moby Dick, a Side-Quest, and HP Lovecraft

Sunday, September 20th, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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Part One: Analog

Back in the Before Times, I strolled, maskless and blissful, into Barnes and Noble and bought the Analog Science Fiction, January/February 2020 issue. It is a super-sized double issue with a reprint of a classic story from the 90s. I’ve read it in bits and pieces over the months and one tale stuck out at me — the cover story: “The Quest for the Great Gray Mossy” by Harry Turtledove.

Turtledove mines the classics with an enviable lack of shame in this Moby Dick pastiche. Is it even a pastiche? It is more of an abridged version, but with dinosaurs. Imagine if you had a test due on Moby Dick, but by some outlandish set of coincidences you lacked internet access and couldn’t even get your hands on an old copy of the Cliff Notes — hitting this story the night before would ensure you’d manage the test fine.

Honestly, while there wasn’t anything wrong with the story, it didn’t bring anything new to it, either. I mean, outside of the fact that they are dinosaurs.

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Bigfoot, Uplifted Creatures, and the Largest Black Hole in the Universe: September/October Print SF Magazines

Saturday, September 5th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Soo Lee, Maurizio Manzieri, and Bob Eggleton

When Illinois went into lockdown in March, and retail stores and movie theatres closed, life changed pretty quick. I thought an indefinite nationwide lockdown might be the death knell for the print magazines I’d been reading for decades, not to mention my local bookstores and comic shops. And yeah, I felt I little shallow for being preoccupied with that while tens of thousands of people were dying.

Nonetheless, I’m relieved to see that, with the pandemic (sorta?) under control and the hope of a vaccine on the horizon, stores in St. Charles are gradually re-opening, I can visit my local comic shop again, and the print magazines I love are back on the shelves.

I’m especially relieved because none of the steps I suggested back in April to worried readers worked at all. Chuck Timpko reported he was able to contact the Customer Service team at Asimov’s and Analog and order individual issues; I tried the same thing, but never saw any magazines. I vowed to support F&SF with a subscription, but I never saw that either. So I’m back to haunting the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble, wearing a face mask and furtively looking for the latest issues.

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Weird Tales Deep Read: November 1934

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 | Posted by John Miller

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Weird Tales, November 1934. Cover by Margaret Brundage (for “Queen of the Lillin”)

We’re back on more familiar ground with this issue of Weird Tales from its classic period. More familiar authors are represented, and although not every story is a classic the editors at least avoided any real stumbles this. The issue grades out to a 2.1, which all in all is pretty decent.

Both Howard and Lovecraft appear, although the Lovecraft tale is a reprint and the Howard is the last installment of a serial. E. Hoffman Price, Paul Ernst, and August Derleth, seasoned pulp veterans all, also contributed stories. Price tale’s is part of his Pierre d’Atois stories; , d’Atois, like another Frenchman who appears in a series of WT stories, is an occult detective. The Ernst is one of his slighter efforts. The Derleth is somewhat more unusual, although, as is common, also rather slight. We have to cover already trodden ground with two serials this time around. I’ve included the information on those stories for those who haven’t read all the posts in this series.

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Uncanny Origins

Sunday, August 30th, 2020 | Posted by Uncanny Magazine

Kickstarter Cover Collage

We here at Uncanny Magazine we are in the middle of the Uncanny Magazine Year 7: Space Unicorns Shine On Together Kickstarter, and after six years of bringing our Hugo Award-winning magazine featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with a Parsec Award-winning monthly podcast to readers and listeners, we asked each other, how did we get here?

Specifically, what science fiction and fantasy works started each of us down the path of becoming SF/F interviewers, editors, podcasters, and writers?

Podcast Producer Erika Ensign

SF/F was baked into my very bones. I’m told that mother and father, tried-and-true nerds themselves, went to see Star Wars when I was in utero. I’m not entirely certain that counts as a formative experience, but I like to claim it anyway. Some of my very earliest memories are watching Doctor Who with my mom (or sneakily, from the top of the stairs when I was supposed to be in bed) and listening to my dad read A Wrinkle in Time to my siblings and me. I truly don’t remember a time before SF/F came into my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Are Some “Classics” Best Neglected?: Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier

Thursday, August 27th, 2020 | Posted by Mark R. Kelly

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Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell; Magazine version: Unknown, March 1939.
Cover art H. W. Scott. (Click to enlarge)

Sinister Barrier
by Eric Frank Russell
UK: World’s Work (135 pages, 5/-, hardcover, 1943)
US: Fantasy Press (253, $3.00, hardcover, 1948)

Here’s an early “classic” of science fiction that I came across in a used bookstore in Oakland early last year. I say “classic” with quotes because I had heard of the title for years, but hadn’t recalled ever seeing a copy. Indeed, the invaluable isfdb.com indicates that while it was included in an omnibus from NESFA Press in 2001, there hasn’t been a separate English language edition of the book since Ballantine Del Rey issued it in 1986, nearly 35 years ago. Hmm, why would this be?

Well, because it’s a terribly written book, dated both in language and in plotting and in its sexual and racial attitudes, exhibiting all the worst features of pulp writing, and far worse than the works of, say, Asimov and Heinlein that have survived from that era. That would be the reason modern publishers haven’t kept it in print. If it’s a classic in any way, it’s for its striking conceptual premise, and then only in its historical context. More on that in a bit.

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Understanding Gamers through Belly Laughs: Knights of the Dinner Table by Jolly R. Blackburn

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Three issues of Jolly Blackburn’s long-running Knights of the Dinner Table, all shipped simultaneously: #273, 274, & 275

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with virtually every aspect of life around the globe. That was driven home to me (again) when three issues of my Knights of the Dinner Table subscription were delivered in a single envelope last week.

Given all the upheaval the world has gone through in just the last five months, it was an eerie look into the recent past to open the first of them, issue #273 (planned on-sale date: May 2020) and read Jolly R. Blackburn’s editorial, written in March 2020 and titled “And Just Like That — Everything Changes.” Children of the Apocalypse, gather round and read these words from the long ago before-time:

Hey folks — I hope this finds each of you reading this, healthy, safe and doing well. Clearly, with what has transpired in recent weeks, that is most certainly not the case for everyone. Many of you have likely lost loved ones. are sick, unemployed, wondering what the future will bring or all of the above. This is indeed something that has left no one untouched.

I [know] that Knights of the Dinner Table has always been a refuge of sorts from the hard realities of the real world. Readers come here to forget their worries, have a laugh, possibly be touched and celebrate the love of rolling dice and gaming with friends. That won’t change… we’re all in this together, despite differences.

As I write this, there is a lot going on. The nation is in a state of self-isolation and shut down. I wanted to tell you what that means for KenzerCo and the Knights even though in the grand scheme of things, it might be the last thing on your minds. We are fortunate in that we are a small company with our own warehouse and shipping facility. Barb and I continue to ship product twice a week and can do so without interacting with others. So we are completely safe in doing so.

Here’s the glitch. Our distributors recently announced they will NOT be shipping product to retailers until this is all over. Which is understandable because many game and comic shops are currently shutting down and there’s no place to ship product to.

On top of that. the printer who publishes our monthly deadtree issues is in a shutdown also!

Take it from me: It’s tough to keep a monthly magazine going when both your printer and your distributors cease operations. But Jolly and team battened down the hatches and did it, producing digital issues, and getting out them subscribers, on time. And when their printer opened up again they did a bulk run of all three issues, shipping them to subscribers as quickly as possible. Getting all three at once allowed me to read the issues back-to-back, and re-appraise just what it is that Jolly is doing, and how much it’s impacted the hobby.

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Undertow Publications Announces Weird Horror Magazine

Friday, August 14th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Horror Issue 1-small

Weird Horror issue 1, coming in October. Cover art by Sam Heimer

Undertow Publications is one of the finest small presses in operation today. We’ve covered several of their excellent recent releases, including Shadows & Tall Trees 8, the hardcover journal The Silent Garden, Simon Strantzas’ Nothing is Everything and All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma.

The mad genius behind Undertow is Canadian Michael Kelly, editor and publisher extraordinaire (and a mean writer in his own right). Last month Michael made this announcement on Facebook:

Friends, am very happy to announce the contributors to the inaugural issue of Weird Horror, coming this October.

David Bowman, Shikhar Dixit, Steve Duffy, Inna Effress, Tom Goldstein, Orrin Grey, John Langan, Suzan Palumbo, Ian Rogers, Naben Ruthnum, Lysette Stevenson, Simon Strantzas, Steve Toase.

We’re bringing you a 7″ x 10″ glossy pulp fiction magazine of fun and terror. Pricing and final specs coming soon.

Cover art by Sam Heimer.

This is fantastic news indeed. Michael has proved his editorial acumen time and again in the horror field — with Shadows and Tall Trees, five volumes of the highly acclaimed Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology series, and anthologies like Apparitions (Undertow, 2009). Having Michael at the helm of a major new magazine of weird horror is tremendously promising.

The second issue of Weird Horror is promised for March 2021, and issue 3 in October 2021. Read all the details here.


Weird Tales Deep Read: June, 1923

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller

Weird Tales June 1923

Cover by Heitman for “Murders in the Rue Morgue”

June 1923 was the magazine’s fourth issue, and it was still clearly a magazine in search of itself.

There are very few authors who had a major impact on the magazine appeared in this issue. The most notable name, of course, is Edgar Allen Poe with a reprint of one of his most famous tales (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”) and, secondarily, Otis Adelbert Kline, with a story largely forgotten today, but which I found to be a cut above many of his others, though ultimately somewhat slight. That’s about it. Two of the best stories were by authors totally forgotten today, Paul Ellsworth Triem and Loual B. Sugarman, with only the later tale having fantastic elements. In fact, only seven of the 18 stories in this issue had fantastic elements (39%), all were set in contemporaneous times (of course, the Poe story was written in the 1840s), and most (13 or 72%) were set in the United States.

On the whole, many of the stories were no better than mediocre, but really poor efforts were largely avoided (four 4’s and one 5). Also largely avoided were the overtly racist tropes too readily present in many early WT’s, with the Birch effort going all in on the Yellow Peril theme.  Overall, this issue rated out to 3.00, which notably lags behind the classic early 1930s issues previously covered.

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New Treasures: Shimmer: The Best Of, edited by E. Catherine Tobler

Friday, July 17th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover by Sandro Castelli

How did I not know there was a Best of Shimmer anthology? Time to get some better inside contacts in the publishing biz, I think.

Shimmer was one of the best of the small press fantasy magazines. It received a Hugo nomination for Best Semiprozine last year, and editor E. Catherine Tobler was honored with a Best Professional Editor, Short Form nomination. The magazine published science fiction, fantasy, and “a dash of literary horror.” The final issue, #46, appeared in November 2018.

Shimmer was constantly interesting, and we covered over half a dozen issues as part of our magazine coverage over the years. Their greatest skill was spotting talent, and they did plenty of that. Shimmer: The Best Of contains stories by many of the brightest stars of modern fantasy, including Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Amal El-Mohtar, Karin Tidbeck, Mary Robinette Kowal, Carmen Maria Machado, Sunny Moraine, Arkady Martine, Fran Wilde, Sonya Taaffe, A. C. Wise, Sarah Gailey, Vajra Chandrasekera, K.M. Szpara, and many, many others, all packed into a massive 489-page volume.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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