Birthday Reviews: Robert Moore Williams’s “Quest on Io”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Albert Drake

Cover by Albert Drake

Robert Moore Williams was born on June 19, 1907 and died on May 12, 1977. He published under his own name as well as the pseudonyms Robert Moore, John S. Browning, H.H. Harmon, Russel Storm, and the house name E.K. Jarvis. He may have been best known for his Jongor series.

Moore’s story “Quest on Io” appeared in the Fall 1940 issue of Planet Stories, edited by Malcolm Reiss. The story was never picked up for publication elsewhere, but in 2011, that issue of Planet Stories was reprinted as a trade paperback anthology.

Despite the title of Williams’s “Quest on Io,” there isn’t really a quest. Andy Horn is a navigator who is spending some downtime while his spaceship is being repaired prospecting on Io with his talking Ganymedian honey bear companion, Oscar. The two come under attack from another prospector who believes they are claimjumpers and when Andy confronts the other prospector, he discovers it is a woman, Frieda Dahlem. While the two of them quickly straighten out their differences, it becomes apparent that there are three claimjumpers who are out to kill both of them (plus Oscar) in order to keep their activities secret.

The story is essentially a western, although the action has been moved to Io. It feels written for an audience of young boys who know women exist, but think there are gross, only around to get in the way. Andy’s relationship with Frieda is very basic. Frieda appears to be a competent woman until a man is around, whether Andy, who becomes her hero, or the three claimjumpers, who turn her into a puddle of incompetence. Oscar seems to exist in the story purely for comic relief, although the humor misfires repeatedly.

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Birthday Reviews: Murray Leinster’s “Pipeline to Pluto”

Saturday, June 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by William Timmins

Cover by William Timmins

Murray Leinster was born William F. Jenkins on June 16, 1896 and died on June 8, 1975.

Murray Leinster was one of many nom de plumes used by William Fitzgerald Jenkins. He won the Liberty Award in 1937 for “A Very Nice Family,” the 1956 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for “Exploration Team,” and a retro-Hugo in 1996 for Best Novelette for “First Contact.” Leinster was the Guest of Honor at the 21st Worldcon in 1963 and in 1969 was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. In 1995, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History was established, named after Leinster’s story “Sidewise in Time.”

Jenkins holds patent #2727427, issued on December 20, 1955 for an “Apparatus for Production of Light Effects in Composite Photography” and patent 2727429, issued the same day for an “Apparatus for Production of Composite Photographic Effects.”

Leinster first published “Pipeline to Pluto” in the August 1945 issue of Astounding, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Ten years later, Groff Conklin included it in his anthology Science Fiction Terror Tales. It appeared in both versions of The Best of Murray Leinster, the British volume edited by Brian Davis and the American volume edited by J.J. Pierce (each book had a completely different table of contents). The story most recently appeared in First Contacts: The Essential Murray Leinster. Over the years, it has been translated into Japanese, Croatian, German, Italian, and Russian.

“Pipeline to Pluto” is a slight story, focusing on Hill’s attempts to get from Earth to Pluto via a system of cargos shuttles. A bruiser, all that Leinster lets the reader know about him is that he has an urgent need to stowaway in the “pipeline” and he has bought another stowaway’s rights to a place. The majority of the action looks at Hill’s attempts to convince Crowder and Moore, who run the smuggling ring, to get him off Earth that evening.

Hill’s pleading and threats to the men are punctuated with exposition in which Leinster explains how the pipeline works. A series of cargo ships, one launched each day from Pluto and one launched from Earth, forming a long line carrying supplies to Pluto and ores mined on Pluto back to the home planet. Leinster not only describes the vessels and how they launch, but eventually describes the impact of being on board the vessels to humans.

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Birthday Reviews: Richard Parks’s “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng”

Friday, June 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Black Gate Issue 1

Black Gate Issue 1

Richard Parks was born on June 15, 1955.

At the beginning of his writing career, Parks published a few works as B. Richard Parks. He has also used the pseudonym W.J. Everett. Parks received a World Fantasy Award nomination for his collection The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups. In 2012, his novel The Heavenly Fox was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award.

“Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” is the first story to appear in the first issue of Black Gate magazine in the Spring 2001 issue, published by John O’Neill. The story was picked up by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer for inclusion in the inaugural volume of their Year’s Best Fantasy anthology series. Parks also used the story in his 2002 collection The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups.

In “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng,” Seven is a young man living in an ancient China. On a trip to the city, he sees a woman, Jia Jin, and falls immediately in love with her. When it is explained to him that she is a gift to the Marquis of Zeng, who is near to death, and will be entombed with the Marquis along with his other concubines, Seven determines that he must rescue her and marry her.

Seven’s quest takes him far from the capital city and along the way he learns more of Chinese burial customs and a spirit tells him to seek a woman named Golden Bell. Upon finding her, he learns that he must sacrifice his heart and his soul to her in order to gain the knowledge to save Jia Jin from her fate. Although Parks glosses over it, the idea that Seven can give his heart and soul to one woman but later give it to another is glossed over, although it is an interesting point not often included in stories.

Eventually, Seven finds himself confronting the Marquis of Zeng in an attempt to marry Jia Jin, whose desires are not particularly important to either the Marquis or Seven.

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Birthday Reviews: Yves Meynard’s “Tobacco Words”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Kelly Faltermayer

Cover by Kelly Faltermayer

Yves Meynard was born on June 13, 1964.

Meynard’s novel The Book of Knights was nominated for the Mythopoeic Award and his anthology Tesseracts5, co-edited with Robert Runté, was nominated for the Aurora Award. He won the Aurora Award for his novellas “L’Enfant des mondes assoupis,” “La Marveiolleuse machine de Johann Havel,” “L’Envoyé,” “Équinoxe,” and “Une letter de ma mère.” He won the Aurora for best book for La Rose du desert. In 1994, he won the Quebec Grand Prize for Science Fiction and Fantasy. He served as the literary director for Solaris from 1994 until 2002. He has collaborated with Élisabeth Vonarburg and Jean-Louis Trudel, occasionally using the pseudonym Laurent McAllister for the latter collaborations.

“Tobacco Words” was originally published by Algis Budrys in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction #19 in February 1996.  David G. Hartwell selected the story for inclusion in Year’s Best SF 2 the following year and in 1998 the story was translated into Italian by Annarita Guernieri as “parole di fumo” when Hartwell’s anthology was published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.

Yves Meynard’s “Tobacco Words” is set on a space station with a strange culture.  The story focuses on Caspar, a twelve year old boy who can’t speak, and his sister, Flikka, who hears the sins of those who travel between the stars. In this world, their sins can have deadly affects if not confessed and absolved, although Meynard never offers any explanation for the phenomenon.

Meynard fills the story with details of three characters: the grandmother who is traveling through the universe at relativistic speeds, and whose life is broadcast to their home in slow motion; Aurinn, a first timer who doesn’t believe she has any sins, but when she confesses and is absolved winds up hospitalized; and an alien, whose sins are more human than those found in humans.

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Birthday Reviews: Mary A. Turzillo’s “Thumbkin, Caesar, Princess, and Troll”

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Randy Asplund

Cover by Randy Asplund

Mary A. Turzillo was born on June 12, 1940. She is married to fellow science fiction author Geoffrey A. Landis.

Turzillo won the Nebula Award for her novelette “Mars Is No Place for Children,” which also topped the readers poll for Science Fiction Age, the magazine in which it appeared. She won two Elgin Awards for poetry chapbooks for her collection Lovers & Killers and for the collection Sweet Poison, written in collaboration with Marge Simon, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, as was the poetry collection Satan’s Sweetheart, written by Turzillo and Simon. Turzillo’s poetry has also been nominated for both the Dwarf Star Award and the Rhysling Award. She has also been nominated for the British SF Association Award.

Turzillo sold “Thumbkin, Caesar, Princess, and Troll” to Stanley Schmidt and the story was published in the October 2002 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It has not been reprinted.

“Thumbkin, Caesar, Princess, and Troll” has a title reminiscent of a fairy tale , and despite its setting in a future Ohio focusing on nanotechnology, it has the trappings of a fairy tale to go along with the title. Thumbkin is a genetically modified genius who was bred to be only twelve centimeters tall by parents who though it would improve his chances to become an astronaut before an anti-science wave swept the country and destroyed the space program.

At Thumbkin’s graduation, Harry P. Caesar promised his company and his daughter’s hand to anyone who could solve three seemingly impossible problems. Naturally Thumbkin, as the hero of the story, was able to come up with solutions. Of course, Princess Caesar didn’t necessarily want to marry a twelve centimeter tall genius, especially when she was already dating a drug lord, Dick Troll.

The idea of a father giving his daughter in marriage to the winner of a contest is pervasive in fairy tales and despite his offer, Caesar, Thumbkin, and Princess are all well aware of how misogynistic the arrangement is. When Thumbkin goes to Caesar to seek his prize, Caesar explains that the decision must be Princess’s, something Thumbkin acknowledges, even as he works to “win” her from Troll.

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Birthday Reviews: Basil Wells’s “The Laws of Juss”

Monday, June 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by David A. Hardy

Cover by David A. Hardy

Basil Wells was born on June 11, 1912 and died on December 23, 2003. In addition to publishing under his own name, he occasionally published using the name Gene Ellerman. The majority of Wells’s stories appeared between 1940 and 1960, although throughout the 60s and 70s he occasionally had stories appearing in the magazines. After disappearing in the 1980s, he again began to publish in the 1990s. He published four collections of his work between 1949 and 1976.

“The Laws of Juss” appeared in the third and final issue of Expanse, a magazine published between 1993 and 1994 and edited by Steven E, Fick. The story has not been reprinted.

In just a few pages, Wells plays games with the reader’s expectations in “The Laws of Juss.” At first, it appears that Grayson Brand is a captive of Dudley Feeber. Wells quickly reveals that the two men have a long-standing friendship, which adds an element of betrayal to Brand’s captivity.

In a datadump, Feebler explains two important things to Brand. The first is that a wealthy woman, Lynne Holmes, has set her sights on making Brand her sixth husband. The second is a description of the legal system on Juss, which Brand is relatively unfamiliar with since he is not a native to the planet.

As the title of the story implies, it is the legal system of Juss that is of interest, and although Feeber spells it out for Brand in a way that telegraphs the story’s ending, it feels like Wells has created an interesting enough punishment that it could stand to be more fully explored than within the confines of the story. According to Feeber, murder is punishable by essentially taking the murderer’s body and reforming it to resemble the victim’s body. The victim’s memories are then downloaded into the re-formed body, supplanting the memories of the murderer.

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Birthday Reviews: Jay Lake’s “The Water Castle”

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Realms of Fantasy, 8/04

Realms of Fantasy, 8/04

Jay Lake was born on June 6, 1964 and died from cancer on June 1, 2014. He openly blogged about his battle with cancer and about a year before his death hosted a wake for himself. His fight with cancer was also the subject of the documentary Lakeside—A Year with Jay Lake.

From 2002-2006 Lake, along with Deborah Layne, edited the six volume anthology series Polyphony. Lake went on to edit several additional anthologies, including All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, with David Moles, Other Earths, with Nick Gevers, and TEL: Stories.

Lake won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2004 and decided the award needed some paraphernalia. He arranged to have pins made up for future nominees. Later winners added to the collection by creating a tiara and scepter to go along with the prize, both of which are passed along from winner to winner. Although he was nominated for a Nebula Award, two Hugo Awards, and three World Fantasy Awards, he didn’t win any of them. He did receive a posthumous Worldcon Special Convention Award in 2015, presented at Sasquan, a well as the Endeavour Award for his collection Last Plane to Heaven.

“The Water Castle” appeared in the August 2004 issue of Realms of Fantasy, edited by Shawna McCarthy. The issue contained a second Lake story, “The Angel’s Daughter,” as well. While “The Angel’s Daughter” was reprinted the following year in Jonathan Strahan and Karen Haber’s Fantasy: The Best of 2004, “The Water Castle” has never been reprinted.

Lake’s story of Arcadia follows the girl from her father’s death by drowning through a dangerous, tribal world trying to set itself right after an unnamed cataclysm in “The Water Castle.” Told with a series of time jumps, Arcadia finds herself in a market where, shortly after a man accosts Arcadia to try to sell her into slavery downcountry, she becomes involved in an incident in which a woman is accused of belonging to the “Poison People.” Arcadia’s involvement in this case, and her quick-witted thinking to resolve the issue, thrusts her into the spotlight and makes her the leader of a movement.

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June Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_534842mahYRSEFIt’s a short roundup this month, with only Swords and Sorcery Magazine from the pack of usual suspects. There is a special treat, though, making up for the lack of magazine stories. Multi-talented Robert Zoltan has created another wonderful audio adventure with his series duo, Dareon Vin and Blue.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #76 has the publications’s usual two stories. One I don’t like, one I sort of like. I’m sorry, but I just can’t like everything.

The opening story, “Remnants” by Lynn Rushlau, is the one I don’t like. Returning from a night of revelry at the Festival of Liberation, Callery hears a voice in her home and runs screaming. Over the next week, she begins to see ghosts, lots of ghosts.

These aren’t human ghosts, but those of the Fairies who once ruled over all humankind. The best single part of the story is the description of that era.

Her hand lingered over the rebel costume. She could use some of the courage of her ancestors. They’d risen up three centuries ago and destroyed the fairies who’d kept humankind enslaved for untold millennia. Literally untold. Human history survived as rumor and tall tales. Nothing written went back before the Rising.

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Birthday Reviews: Nictzin Dyalhis’s “Heart of Atlantan”

Monday, June 4th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ray Quigley

Cover by Ray Quigley

Nictzin Dyalhis was born on June 4, 1873 and died on May 8, 1942.

Dyalhis’s writing career began with the story “Who Keep the Desert Law” in 1922 and saw the publication of fewer than 20 stories over the next 18 years. His first story in Weird Tales, “When the Green Star Waned,” may have been the first use of the word “blaster” for a ray gun. Although L. Sprague de Camp has stated that Nictzin Dyalhis was his birthname and appears on his draft card, people have suggested that he changed the spelling of his last name from Dallas. Dyalhis also appears to have changed the date of his birth as suited him. One of the few members of the science fiction community to have actually met him was Willis Conover, Jr.

“Heart of Atlantan” first appeared in the September 1940 issue of Weird Tales, edited by D. McIlwraith. It remained out of print for 30 years before Lin Carter selected it for his anthology The Magic of Atlantis. In 1976, Peter Haining published a retrospective of Weird Tales and chose the story to represent Dyalhis’s contributions to the magazine. Wildside Press issued several of Dyalhis’s stories, including “Heart of Atlantan” in their e-book The Golden Age of Weird Fiction Megapack: Volume 4 in 2015. The story most recently appears in The Sapphire Goddess, published in 2018 by DMR Books and edited by Dave Ritzlin. “Heart of Atlantan was Dyalhis’s final published story.

Framing techniques in weird fiction were a common device in the early pulp era, an attempt to give some sort of credence to the tale. The events didn’t often happen to the narrator, but to a friend, or were found in a book. In “Heart of Atlantan,” Henri d’Armond describes how he was having a conversation with his friend, Leonard Carman, about the possibility of lost ancient civilizations. Carman is convinced they exist and to prove his point calls a woman, Otilie, to join them. Bent, broken, ugly, and illiterate, Otilie has the ability to serve as a medium, writing messages from a lost race.

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Birthday Reviews: Tony Richards’s “Discards”

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by R.J. Krupowicz

Cover by R.J. Krupowicz

Tony Richards was born on June 3, 1956.

Richards was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, The Harvest Bride in 1988.  His collection Going Back received a British Fantasy Award nomination in 2008.

“Discards” originally appears in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where editor Edward L. Ferman published it in the September 1983 issue. The next year it was translated into Italian for inclusion in Urania #964. The British Fantasy Society included the story in the Spring/Summer 2004 issue of Dark Horizons. Richard used the story in two collections of his work that were published in 2008: Passport to Purgatory and Shadows and Other Tales. The following year it appeared in the anthology The 4th Book of Terror Tales, edited by John B. Ford and Paul Kane.

Richards breaks free from several of the expected norms of a speculative fiction short story, which sets it apart from most of what appears in the magazine. Robin Brookard was born into a middle class family, married, and had children, but what sets him apart is that he lost everything due to his addiction to alcohol. The story opens with him walking the streets of London trying to figure out where he is going to spend the night and realizing he’ll either have to sleep outdoors or find his way to a hostel. His pride doesn’t allow for the latter choice since it seems a more “official” acknowledgement of his state.

Brookard eventually finds a group of tramps gathered around a fire and he approaches them in hopes of keeping warm and finding some companionship. Something about the group doesn’t strike him as quite right, however, and he is torn between joining them and keeping his distance, partly because of the sense of wrongness and partly because being accepted into their group means admitting that he can no longer find his way back to the life he once had.

The group’s leader, known as Padre, explains to Brookard that gods are created and gain power when they have believers and indicates that the homeless of London, and in fact, the homeless around the world, have brought their own god into existence. The god he describes is a vengeful one, however, and their goal is to eventually overthrow the current world order. The introduction of the god of the homeless has an undertone of Lovecraftianism, but it doesn’t quite lead down that path.

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