Birthday Reviews: Fiona Kelleghan’s “Secret in the Chest”

Saturday, April 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Luis Royo

Cover by Luis Royo

Fiona Kelleghan was born on April 21, 1965. Most of her writing is non-fiction. She produced Mike Resnick: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to His Work in 2000 and two volumes in the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature series. She has also published a variety of essays and  reviews over the years.

Kelleghan’s only fiction is the fantasy story “Secret in the Chest,” purchased by Shawna McCarthy for Realms of Fantasy, which published it in the October 1998 issue. The story has never been reprinted.

Although “The Secret Chest” seems to start out as a standard damsel in distress/knight on a quest story, it quickly demonstrates that Kelleghan is doing something very different. Sir Palavere comes across a castle while he is seeking to save his village and finds himself having to respond to three challenges from Darcia, a woman who is tied to the castle. The reasons for her link to the castle and the rules surrounding the three challenges are unimportant and Kelleghan doesn’t delve into them. They are part of the fantasy narrative and by ignoring them, Kelleghan is challenging them.

Throughout the story, Kelleghan also frequently breaks the structure of fiction, addressing the reader directly in phrasing which is designed to make the reader consider the clichés which the story includes and deconstructs. These asides are unnecessary to the story Kelleghan is telling, which works perfectly well without them, but they adds depth and additional humor. And “Secret in the Chest” makes the reader want to see additional fiction from the author.

Reviewed in its only publication in the magazine Realms of Fantasy, edited by Shawna McCarthy, October 1998.

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Birthday Reviews: Steven H Silver’s “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium”

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Galaxy's Edge March 2018-smallSteven H Silver was born on April 19, 1967. Despite allegations that the H stands for Hodputt, Horatio, or Horseshoes, in fact the initial is his entire middle name.

Silver has been nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo 12 times, putting him in contention for the Susan Lucci Award in that category. He is the long-time editor and publisher of Argentus. He has edited three anthologies for DAW in collaboration with Martin H. Greenberg, celebrating the first sales of prominent SF, Fantasy, and Horror writers. His first story appeared in Helix magazine in 2008, and he has published several further stories in anthologies such as Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies; and Little Green Men — Attack! He is widely regarded as the primary heir to the legacy of the great Jerome Walton.

“Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” was published in the March 2018 issue of Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Shockingly, the story has not been reprinted since.

As the titles of the anthologies mentioned above might hint, many of Silver’s stories are comical in nature. So it is with “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium.” The narrator, Garoa, is an alien who has come to the title location, a notorious black market. He’s planning to sell his crop of hydroponically grown Brussels Sprouts, which evidently are a prized drug to a certain category of aliens.

He is accosted by a thug working for a gangster with whom he had done business, accusing him of cheating his boss before. He denies this, and things might get tricky, but the huge Hodputt intervenes. However, when Garoa unwisely agrees to leave the premises with a prospective customer, he is beaten up by the aforementioned thug, and on reviving, realizes that all his valuables are gone, including the key to his spaceship. He makes his way back there and begins to take revenge — but the prospective customer instead makes him an offer…

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Birthday Reviews: Keith R.A. DeCandido’s “A Vampire and a Vampire Hunter Walk into a Bar”

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Amazing Stories

Amazing Stories

Keith R.A. DeCandido was born on April 18, 1969.

DeCandido has written the Precinct series as well as works in a number of licenses series, including Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, StarGate SG-1, and Dungeons and Dragons  In 2005, he published the official novelization of the film Serenity. DeCandido has also written numerous comics and blogs for Tor.com. In 2009, he was inducted as a Grand Master by the Scribe Awards for his work on media tie-in publications.

“A Vampire and a Vampire Hunter Walk Into a Bar” was published in the final print issue of Amazing Stories from Paizo Publishing, cover dated February 2005. The story has not been reprinted since.

The very clichés which DeCandido skewers in “A Vampire and a Vampire Hunter Walk Into a Bar” are what cause the story to work. On its surface, it’s the tale of the two title characters sitting in a bar complaining about the expectations the public has about them, particularly the vampire, based on the films Nosferatu, Dracula, and the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, the very sense of camaraderie the characters show is based on the idea that during the Victorian period, when Dracula was first published, gentlemen antagonists would have a level of respect for each other’s abilities.

The story is a lighthearted look at two individuals whose (incredibly long) lives are linked together. The humor of the piece comes from how pedestrian their interaction is under the most extraordinary of circumstances. The story also serves to deconstruct the vampire story by questioning all of the things people “know” about vampires.

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Birthday Reviews: Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s “Gypped”

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Galaxy Science Ficiton July 1956-small Galaxy Science Ficiton July 1956-back-small

Cover by Jack Coggins

Lloyd Biggle, Jr. was born on April 17, 1923 and he died on September 12, 2002.

Biggle was nominated for the Hugo Award for his short story “Monument” and for the William Atheling, Jr. Award for Criticism or Review for his essay “The Morasses of Academe Revisited.” He was a musician and oral historian and helped found and run the Science Fiction Oral History Association. He was also the founding treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America.

His first published short story was “Gypped,” which was bought by H.L. Gold and published in the July 1956 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. It was translated into French for an appearance in the French edition of the magazine the following year. Its only other appearance was in the anthology Science Fiction for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads, edited by Tom Easton and Judith K. Dial.

“Gypped” is the story of a bureaucrat assigned a desk in a distant backwater. Occasionally he has to deal with strange cultural requests and in order to make his life easier, he sends people on wild goose chases covering many light years, figuring that if they ever returned, he could deal with the situation then. In the meantime, he continues his work reasonably uninterrupted and amuses himself by thinking of the places he’s sent people.

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A Brief History of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine

Saturday, April 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Pulphouse the Hardcover Magazine-small

In 1988 I had just started grad school at the University of Illinois, and finally moved out of my parent’s basement. I’d also left my book collection behind and settled into a small dorm room. I continued collecting, albeit in a much more cramped space, and as the years went by the book piles on the floor gradually grew into towering stacks that made moving around tough. I graduated just in time in 1991, before I completely ran out of floor space, and moved into my first apartment (with real bookcases!) in Wheaton, Illinois.

While in grad school I missed my regular runs to the shops to buy magazines, and during my periodic trips back to Ottawa I was hungry for any fiction mags I could find. My friends were talking about a strange book/magazine crossbreed titled Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine and, curious, I picked up a few issues at the House of Speculative Fiction on my next visit. It turned out to be very impressive indeed, and over the next few years I bought copies whenever I found them.

Pulphouse was closer to a regular anthology series than a magazine; its quarterly issues varied between 243 and 311 pages, and featured a compelling mix of new and established authors. It was the brainchild of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch; the first issue appeared in 1988, and it stuck to a quarterly schedule for three years, before wrapping up with issue #12 in Fall of 1993.

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Birthday Reviews: Bill Pronzini’s “Cat”

Friday, April 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by David Palladini

Cover by David Palladini

Bill Pronzini was born on April 13, 1943.

Although he has written significant science fiction, Pronzini is better known as a mystery author, specifically of the Nameless Detective series. He has also served as an editor on nearly 100 books, including some science fiction and fantasy anthologies, and occasionally with co-editors such as Martin H. Greenberg, Marcia Muller, to whom he is married, Ed Gorman, and others.

In 1981 Pronzini was nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award for his story “Prose Bowl,” co-written with Barry N. Malzberg. He received a World Fantasy Award nomination the following year for his anthology Mummy! A Chrestomathy of Crypt-ology.

“Cat” was originally published by Edward L. Ferman in the November 1978 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was reprinted in a Portuguese edition of the magazine within a few years and was also translated into Italian for publication in Urania.

Cat stories are ubiquitous in science fiction, enough so that Andre Norton was able to publish five volumes in her Catfantastic anthology series, and other authors have also published anthologies of feline science fiction and fantasy. Pronzini’s “Cat,” surprisingly, hasn’t been reprinted in any of these anthologies. It is a sort of recursive science fiction, not in the usual sense, but because Benson, Pronzini’s main character, not only reads science fiction, but refers to the stories, by author and title, giving shout-outs to multiple Fredric Brown stories, as well as works by E. Hoffman Price, Jerome Bixby, George Langelaan, James Thurber, and others.

The basic premise is that a cat has wandered into Bronson’s house and he doesn’t know how it got there. Allowing his imagination to run wild, Bronson begins to feel uneasy about the cat’s presence, eventually turning to fear. Bronson’s emotion and response to the cat builds quite rapidly, until he decides to shoot the animal.

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Birthday Reviews: James Patrick Kelly’s “Rat”

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction June 1986-small The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction June 1986-back-small

Cover by Michael Garland

James Patrick Kelly was born on April 11, 1951.

Although Kelly has published the novels Wildlife and Look Into the Sun, the majority of his fiction has been at shorter lengths, including the stories “Bernardo’s House,” “Mr. Boy,” and “One Sister, Two Sisters, Three.” In addition to his own novels and short stories, Kelly has edited several anthologies with John Kessel, and has collaborated with Kessel, Jonathan Lethem, Robert Frazier, and Mike Resnick on stories and poems.

Kelly won the Hugo Award for his novelettes “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1.” His novella Burn won the Nebula Award as well as the Italia Award. His works have also been nominated for the Seiun Award, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He is the author most published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, with both fiction and a regular column appearing in the magazine.

“Rat” was originally published in the June 1986 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Edward L. Ferman. It received a Nebula Award nomination for Best Short Story and was picked up by Orson Scott Card for the anthology Future on Fire and by Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery for The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-1990. Card reprinted it again in Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century and Kelly included it in his collection Think Like a Dinosaur and Other Stories. When F&SF’s new editor, Gordon van Gelder, edited The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2, he selected the story to be in the table of contents. The first two times the story was reprinted, it was translated into German for an appearance in Wolfgang Jeschke’s L wie Liquidator and French for Scott Baker’s Ombers portées.

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March Short Story Roundup: Part 2

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Cirsova 7-smallThe past month saw a bumper crop of new short fiction arrive in my mailboxes, digital and physical. This time out, I looked at Cirsova #7, Swords and Sorcery Magazine #74, and the bonus story I forgot to read for my review of Tales from the Magician’s Skull.

I love Cirsova. When it first appeared two years ago, I was impressed with what I saw, and ended my review of its first issue with these words:

If this is what the first issue looks like, I expect future ones will blow me away.

Subsequent issues have upheld that initial promise, but I found this particular issue’s heavy dose of space opera and sword & planet tales not to my liking. I’m too easily bored by rockets and rayguns these days.

#7 commences the proceedings with “Galactic Gamble” by Dominka Lein. It opens with a line that demands more funny than is delivered by the story:

Rasmuel lost his keys on the asteroid Zalima-46. 

Space gangsters, space monsters, and even a fight in a pit did not manage to make this one a winner for me.

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Birthday Reviews: Barrington J. Bayley’s “The Way into the Wendy House”

Monday, April 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Gerry Grace

Cover by Gerry Grace

Barrington J. Bayley was born on April 9, 1937 and died on October 14, 2008. He often collaborated with Michael Moorcock, and the two variously used the names James Colvin and Michael Barrington for their joint projects. He also used the solo pseudonyms John Diamond, P.F. Woods, and Alan Aumbry.

Bayley won the 1996 BASFA Award for Short Fiction for “A Crab Must Try.” He won the Seiun Award for Best Translated Long Story for Collision Course, The Zen Gun, and The Garments of CaeanThe Zen Gun was also a Philip K. Dick nominee. His story “Tommy Atkins” was also nominated for the BSFA Award.

“The Way into the Wendy House” appeared in the May 1993 issue of Interzone, whole number 71, edited by David Pringle and Lee Montgomerie. It has not been reprinted. The story is not only an example of recursive science fiction, but also incorporates Bayley as a character in his own right.

The narrator of “The Way into the Wendy House” is a snob who sits in a pub and reads science fiction novels, imaging himself more intelligent than the boors who inhabit the out-of-the-way village of Donnington. Against his will, he is drawn into conversation with Alan. Alan turns out to be highly educated, although the narrator can’t understand why Alan would not only want to live in the village, but revel in conversing with those the narrator feels are beneath him.

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Birthday Reviews: Henry Kuttner’s “Ghost”

Saturday, April 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by William Timmins

Cover by William Timmins

Henry Kuttner was born on April 7, 1914 and died on February 4, 1958. From 1940 until his death in 1958, he was married to science fiction author C.L. Moore. The two had their own careers and also collaborated, although they claimed that they each worked on all of the other one’s stories, sitting down and continuing whatever was in the typewriter at the time. Kuttner (or Moore/Kuttner) also used the pseudonyms Lawrence O’Donnell, C.H. Liddell, and Lewis Padgett.

In 1956, their collaboration “Home There’s No Returning” was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novelette and Kuttner was nominated for two Retro Hugos in 2014 for his novelette “Hollywood on the Moon” and the novella “The Time Trap.”  In 2004, he and Moore were named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award recipients.

“Ghost” was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in May 1943, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. and credited only to Kuttner. Kuttner reprinted it a decade later in his collection Ahead of Time. In 2005, it appeared in the Centipede Press collection Two-Handed Engine. The story has been translated into French, where it was credited to Kuttner and Moore, as well as Italian, where it was only credited to Kuttner.

In “Ghost,” Kuttner attempts to do quite a bit, which means that he only succeeds at some of it. The story is about a modern ghost, perhaps the first real ghost in history, haunting a research facility in Antarctica. Elton Ford has been sent down to investigate what is causing the men assigned to the base to go insane. Ford arrives to find the base’s sole caretaker Larry Crockett. The main lesson of the story, given the set up, is that perhaps having a single man in an isolated research base might not be the best idea, although we see it even in the present day in films such as Moon. That, however, is not where Kuttner takes his story.

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