A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Will Murray on The Spider

Monday, November 11th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Murray_SpiderdoomLegionEDITED“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

You know, of course, that Will Murray carried on the adventure tales of the Doc Savage – because you read about it here!  Will is also carrying on the adventures of another legendary pulp figure – The Shadow.  So, he’s making another guest post here in the series. Read on for: Secret Origins of the Spider.

I have to confess that writing The Spider is a completely different experience for me than writing the Wild Adventures of Doc Savage, Tarzan, John Carter, or any of the other classic pulp heroes I’ve been privileged to bring back to life in new novels.

With these other pulp heroes, it’s largely a matter of concocting a logical plot and having the heroes go through their customary pieces, although I seem to have quickly become an accidental king of crossovers since I’ve managed to convince the various license holders to permit me to have a few of them collide, such as Doc Savage and The Shadow, Tarzan of the Apes and King Kong. Most recently, the Spider encountered both Jimmy Christopher of Operator #5 magazine fame and G-8, but without his Battle Aces in my first Spider novel, The Doom Legion. So some of their customary paces are not so customary.

When I acquired a license to the Spider a few years ago, I asked the late Joel Frieman of Argosy Communications about a mystery that had vexed me for a long time. Namely, why did Canadian novelist R.T.M. Scott write only the first two Spider novels, and then give way to Norvell W. Page, who worked under the house name of Grant Stockbridge?

Joel knew Popular Publications founder Harry Steeger and got the answer from him.

Watching the phenomenal sales growth of Street & Smith’s Shadow Magazine, he naturally itched to produce something in that emerging category. But Steeger didn’t want to get sued. So he conferred with his attorney and asked, essentially, how do we do something like The Shadow and not risk an expensive lawsuit?

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Steve Scott on John D. MacDonald’s ‘Park Falkner’

Monday, November 4th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

MacDonald_BreatheNoMoreEDITED“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Steve Scott runs The Trap of Solid Gold. It’s not just a blog dedicated to my favorite author. It’s THE blog dedicated to the late, great John D. MacDonald. It is absolutely the best place on the web to read about JDM. Period. I was going to do a post on an early, quickly aborted attempt by MacDonald to write a series character – if two stories qualifies as a series. Then I remembered, I had read a post by Steve on one of those stories. Turns out, he’d covered both of them. And his essays were FAR better than anything I could have come up with. So, I got permission from Steve to combine them and run a long post as part of A (Black) Gat in the Hand. Woohoo! Read on about the not-a-private eye, Park Falkner

Story One – “Breathe No More My Lovely”

Long before Travis McGee was even a random thought in the mind of author John D MacDonald, before he had established himself as a first-rate writer of crime fiction, before he had even a full year of life as a published author, MacDonald began experimenting with a “series” character. In two early Doc Savage submissions, “Private War” in December 1946 and “Eight Dozen Agents” in January 1947, he created a hero he called Benton Walters. Having never read either of these stories, I don’t know if Walters was a private eye, a secret agent or a super hero.

According to Ed Hirshberg, he was a “war veteran… working at a humdrum civilian job somewhere in the northeastern United States…” who was disillusioned with his “unexciting” postwar job. Sounds like a great idea for a series. I do know that MacDonald quickly dropped the idea, writing to Babette Rosmond (the editor of Doc Savage):

“Honest to God — I’m never going to start another series. They are limiting and I hate them.”

Sixteen years later Travis McGee was attempting to have a quiet evening a home while Chookie McCall was dancing up a storm in the lounge of The Busted Flush.

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Writing is an Evolutionary Act

Sunday, October 27th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Clarkesworld 157 October 2019-small Asimov's Science Fiction July 1986 Analog-science-fiction-and-fact-december-2016-small

Covers by Beeple, Gary Freeman and Vincent Di Fate

I had an interesting conversation with a newish writer at MileHiCon last weekend. She said that she’d been submitting to small markets until she was “good enough for the biggies.” She meant Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, AnalogTor.com and a couple of others. She said, “I figure you only have two or three chances with those editors before they start tossing your manuscript back because they recognize your name.”

I told her about a panel I attended at WorldCon a while ago where Gardner Dozois and Stanley Schmidt were discussing the same issue. Stanley said he’d been receiving manuscripts from the same author for years without buying one. “But he improved steadily. His last ones were close, and then he quit sending me stuff. I was looking forward to buying one of his pieces.”

Gardner perked up and said, “That sounds familiar. Was it…” and he whispered a name in Stan’s ear. Stan nodded.

“His last story barely missed with me!”

Both editors looked a little sad. “I wonder what happened to him?” Gardner added.

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Analog Announces 90th Anniversary Reprint Series

Friday, October 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Fiction November-December 2019-small Analog on running reprints in 2019-small

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November-December 2019, and an excerpt from Trevor Quachri’s editorial

Gabe Dybing, who clearly gets his issues of Analog faster than I do, tipped me off that editor Trevor Quachri has something very interesting planned for the magazine’s upcoming 90th Anniversary year (90! Holy cats). Gabe sent me the above pic of Trevor’s editorial in the November-December issue, on sale this week. For those of you who don’t like to squint, here’s the relevant text.

As many of you may know, 2020 is going to be Astounding/Analog’s 90th anniversary year, and the January/February issue is the 90th anniversary of our very first issue. Something we’ll be doing that requires a little explanation is a series of limited retrospectives over the year: each issue we’re running a reprint from one of our past decades, with an introduction (in the editorial/guest-editorial space) talking about it either as a historical artifact, an overlooked gem, or just a personal favorite — a story that an editor or knowledagable (sic) author found interesting for whatever reason but didn’t have an appropriate venue in which to chat about it.

The goal is to cover the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, the thinking being that most of the material from the ’30s isn’t really reflective of the magazine’s later identity, and anything from 2000 on is too recent. We’re going to try to keep it to one story per decade, though the nature of the project (tracking down the rights to older material particularly) means that’s not entirely set in stone. Some of those decades had a lot of good stories! But we have to save some ideas for the centennial, after all.

This is great news for classic SF fans, and I look forward to seeing what Trevor chooses (and I hope some bright-eyed new readers will discover a few giants of the genre as a result).

But since I’m old, I also have to grouse a little… Trevor can’t find one pulp story from the 1930s worth a look?? In the 1930s, John W. Campbell and Astounding published stellar fiction by the best pulp writers of the era — including “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr, “Helen O’Loy” by Lester del Rey, “Black Destroyer” by A. E. van Vogt, “Life-Line” by Robert A. Heinlein, “Ether Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon, and many, many more. Maybe Trevor is just looking for suggestions. Shout yours out in the Comments.


Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Eight

Friday, October 25th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

DEADLY_HANDS_OF_KUNG_FU_9_8_5-1Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #9 featured a Doug Moench-Mike Vosburg story whose sole purpose was to reinforce (in the fashion of the hit television series, Kung Fu) that martial arts is about discipline and control and not violence. Of course, making this point provides ample opportunity to portray martial arts violence since conflict is inevitable within the confines of action-adventure storytelling.

The story gets underway when Shang-Chi stops a mugger in the park and finds himself challenged by Johnny Chen, the local martial arts champion whose arrogance and insecurities demand he publicly demonstrate his superiority to Shang-Chi. The fact that Mike Vosburg draws Chen to strongly resemble Bruce Lee (who could exhibit an arrogant side both and on and off screen) only adds another level to the story.

The real key here is the young Asian-American boy who also witnessed Shang-Chi’s heroism and whose hero worship of him leads to unhealthy projection and deception. The dangers of idolizing those we admire is the second plot strand that points back to Bruce Lee in this story. Given that this was another of Doug Moench’s scripts concerned with the non-violent philosophy of martial arts being ignored amidst the martial arts craze sweeping the West, his decision to paint the most recognizable face of martial arts as flawed and highlight the shortcomings of fandom was particularly daring.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Scientifriction #11, edited by Mike Glyer

Sunday, October 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Scientifriction #11

Scientifriction #11

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. Mike Glyer won the last of the original run of FAAN Awards for Best Fanzine, Single Issue for Scientifriction #11. The first winner was Outworld #21/22, edited by Bill and Joan Bowers. The category was not revived after the hiatus, being replaced by the Best Fanzine category.

While Mike Glyer’s File 770 can be considered a newszine of the science fiction fannish community, his zine Scientifriction could be seen as an opinion related work, although it contained far more than simply opinion pieces. In issue 11, Glyer opened up with an inside-baseball discussion of a proposal to add a Non-North American zone to the then current three zone rotation for Worldcons. At the time the Worldcon would rotate between the Eastern US, the Western US, and the Central US, with foreign worldcons being allowed to bid for any year. The proposal would have added a fourth zone, limiting when foreign worldcons could be held, but ensuring one would be held every fourth year. The proposal raised quite a bit of debate, including the opinion that the change would actually further cement worldcon as a US event.

Glyer also published his own article on the game Hell is High, which he would later rework for the second issue of my own fanzine, Argentus, published 23 years later. Glyer’s description of the game mechanics, camaraderie, and rivalry make the evenings spent playing Hell Is High sound like a wonderful place and time to have been able to experience.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Seven

Friday, September 27th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Deadly_Hands_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_15The continuing success of Warren Publishing’s Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella led Marvel to relaunch its black & white magazine division in 1973. While the best of these Marvel Magazine titles supplemented the color comic line with material that could not easily be published in a monthly Code-approved title (Dracula Lives and Savage Sword of Conan, for instance) or offered unique material not spun-off as a companion title to a monthly (Planet of the Apes and Tales of the Zombie, among others), The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu sought a middle ground as a response to the martial arts craze that had taken America by storm on the silver screen, the small screen, comic books, and even the radio (Enter the Dragon, TV’s Kung Fu, Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, and Carl Douglas’ novelty hit single “Kung Fu Fighting”).

Master of Kung Fu may have been the lead feature at the start of the magazine’s run, but the title was never built solely around the continuing adventures of Shang-Chi alone. Articles, interviews, reviews, back-up strips, and reprints were just as important for a magazine that wanted not only to exploit the martial arts fad but also be taken seriously by martial arts students. For the purpose of our continuing series on Shang-Chi, we shall only be considering the black & white Master of Kung Fu strip that featured in most issues with passing reference to other material only where appropriate.

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 launched in April 1974 with Master of Kung Fu as the lead feature written and illustrated by Shang-Chi’s creators Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. Following just a few months after the character’s color comics debut in Special Marvel Edition #15, the story returned us to Shang-Chi’s early years in Honan, China when he trained as an assassin in service of his father. We see that as early as age fourteen, the seeds of doubt were sown in Shang-Chi as he questions the deadly violence of his martial arts training after learning from his mentor, Cho Lin that the assassins he dispatched who infiltrated the temple for the sole purpose of murdering the son of Fu Manchu were actually hired by his father as a lethal training exercise. The largest flaw here is that Starlin clearly drew Shang-Chi without knowledge that Englehart wanted him depicted as a fourteen year old. It is a nice touch to see that the deliberate manipulation of Shang-Chi by Cho Lin is intended as a slow fuse rebellion on his part. The monk recognizes that Shang-Chi will eventually reject his father’s doctrine and the deadly force that is Shang-Chi will be turned upon his maker.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Songhouse,” by Orson Scott Card

Friday, September 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Lucinda Cowell

Cover by Lucinda Cowell

Analog Award was launched in 1979 for works published in the magazine in the preceding year. The award for Best Novelette has been given every year. The first award, presented in 1979, was presented to “Fireship” by Joan D. Vinge, although Orson Scott Card’s “Mikal’s Songbird” was also up for the award. In 1980, Card won the award for the sequel to “Mikal’s Songbird,” “Songhouse,” which appeared in the September, 1979 issue.

“Songhouse” related the story of a young boy over several years, although the passage of time is vague, as he is being trained in the Songhouse on Tew. Ansset Originally came to the Songhouse as an orphan, although the story does mention that he was a kidnap victim, a background feature which is mostly ignored within the confines of this specific novella. The Songhouse trains singers, who use songs, melodies, and harmonies to communicate on a variety of levels. Ansset is early on pegged to be trained for the highest honor of the house, the position of Songbird, and then to be given over to Mikal, the benevolent dictator of the galaxy.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Galaxy The Gods Themselves Part 1-small If The Gods Themselves Part 2 Galaxy The Gods Themselves Part 3-small

Galaxy and IF magazines serializing Asimov’s The Gods Themselves in 1972. Covers by Jack Gaughan

In 1973 the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Best Novel were each won by The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov. The Gods Themselves also won Australia’s Ditmar Award for Best International Novel.

Isaac Asimov had won two previous Hugos, but neither was a “Regular” Hugo – he won a Special Award for his F&SF Science articles in 1963, and in 1966 the Foundation Series was named Best All-Time Series, a one-time category, beating out (to his expressed great surprise) Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History, Doc Smith’s Lensmen novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Asimov had largely stopped writing fiction in the late 1950s, slowing down to roughly a short story a year through the 1960s. Beginning in the early ‘70s, however, he began to produce more fiction, including the Black Widower mysteries, and some more SF. Robert Silverberg coaxed a story out of him for his new original anthology series, New Dimensions, and Asimov wrote “Plutonium-186,” but soon realized it should be a full novel. (He gave Silverberg another story, “Take a Match.”) “Plutonium-186” became The Gods Themselves, his first novel in 15 years (not counting the novelization of the movie Fantastic Voyage.)

The novel was first serialized in a strange way. Galaxy and If were sister magazines, each published bi-monthly. So the three (fairly separate) parts of The Gods Themselves appeared in Galaxy for March-April 1972, If for March-April 1972, and then Galaxy for May-June. The hardcover appeared from Doubleday in May.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Button Molder,” by Fritz Leiber

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Stephen Fabian

Cover by Stephen Fabian

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. A Short Fiction/Short Story category was added the next year, with the first one being won in 1973 by L. Sprague de Camp for his novella The Fallible Fiend. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, Fritz Leiber won the award for his story “The Button Molder,” which was presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Leiber opens the story by teasing about how much can happen within a ten second period of time and the appearance of a ghost. His character then goes on a lengthy discussion about his living situation in San Francisco as he finds a new apartment and sets himself up as an author and amateur astronomer, working from his building’s roof. With long ruminations on what it means to be an author and techniques of story-telling, the story feels very autobiographical in nature and it is only the occasional hints back to those important ten seconds that remind the reader this is a story and not an essay about Leiber’s life.

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