Wendy N. Wagner will Assume Editorial Reins at Nightmare Magazine with Issue #100

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Recent issues of Nightmare Magazine. Covers by Alexandra Petruk / Adobe Stock Images

Nightmare may well be the best magazine of horror and dark fantasy on the market. In the last twelve months, under the skilled editorial guidance of John Joseph Adams, it’s published original fiction by Simon Strantzas, Adam-Troy Castro, Brian Evenson, Rich Larson, Ray Nayler, Senaa Ahmad, and many others.

However, JJA is a busy guy. In addition to Nightmare he also edits the acclaimed Lightspeed magazine, a line of popular anthologies, including the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy and the upcoming Dystopia Triptych, and — let’s not forget — John Joseph Adams Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published my novel The Robots of Gotham. I guess holding down three full time jobs starts to wear on a guy after a while, and on May 20 John announced that, effective with issue #100, Managing Editor Wendy N. Wagner would be taking over the reins at Nightmare.

Soon yours truly will be passing the editorial torch… although she will be newly minted in title, the editor has a name and face you already know: Our long-time managing/senior editor, Wendy N. Wagner. If you’re a diligent Nightmare reader, you’re already familiar with her editorial contributions: She was the guest editor for our Queers Destroy Horror! special issue back in 2015. But in truth if you’ve read any issue since 2014 you’ve seen Wendy’s input; she’s been my stalwart advisor and lieutenant for more than six years. I know that I’m leaving the magazine in the best possible hands…

Issue 100 will be my last issue as editor of Nightmare, but despair not, friends, for I honestly can’t think of a better person to take the reins . . . and I for one can’t wait to see where Wendy leads us next.

Wendy is a terrific choice, in my opinion. In addition to her editorial chops, she’s a fine author. We’ve covered two of her previous novels here, An Oath of Dogs (Angry Robot, 2017), and the Pathfinder Tales novel Starspawn (described as “Pathfinder Meets Lovecraft”). Garrett Calcaterra interviewed her for Black Gate back in 2013.

Read the full announcement here, and check out the latest issue of Nightmare, with fiction by Yohanca Delgado and Claire Wrenwood, Jarla Tangh, Adam-Troy Castro, and Steve Toase. You can purchase individual issues for $2.99 each, or subscribe for just $11.94 for six months here.

Weird Tales Deep Read: March, 1933

Friday, May 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John Miller

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Weird Tales, March 1933. Cover by Margaret Brundage

This installment of the deep read of the Unique Magazine examines the nine stories in the March, 1933 issue of Weird Tales. We see some familiar names from the previous column: Seabury Quinn, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Harold Ward, as well as a couple who might be familiar to fans of pulp fiction, Otis Aldebert Kline and Paul Ernst. Kline is probably best known for his imitation Edgar Rice Burroughs planetary adventure novels. He was also Robert E. Howard’s literary agent for awhile, which will no doubt come up for discussion at the appropriate time. Paul Ernst was a rather prolific pulpster, possibly remembered mostly today for writing the Avenger hero pulps, but he was also a frequent contributor to Weird Tales.

Some stats for this issue before we get to the individual stories, then a few comments on some of this issue’s offerings. Locations: US (4/9; 44%), fictional realms (2/9: 22%), Venus, UK, France, Tibet (all 1/9: 11%). Contemporary setting: 6/9; 67%). Past: (2/9; 22%), Future: (1/9; 11%). Four of these stories (44%) are part of a series: Quinn, Howard, Kline, and Smith.

Seabury Quinn [Jules de Grandin] (2) “Thing in the Fog, The” [US, PA, Harrisonville, fictional town; Contemporary] Occultist de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge literally run into a man on the street being attacked by a werewolf. He’s only injured but his companion is killed by the creature. They soon learn that his future wife was once the werewolf’s fiancee and that he’d initiated into his clan. After the wedding, the bride is again transformed into a wolf by a potion given her anonymously by her werewolf ex, but she attacks him while both are in their canid forms, giving de Grandin the opportunity to deliver a fatal shot. De Grandin then releases her from her curse by using an incantation in the form of a prayer. [Medical doctor. Occultist. Occult being, werewolf. Death by occult being, werewolf. Love triangle. Magic potion. Werewolf transformation by magic potion. Magic incantation, prayer]

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Star System Politics and Factions: Dell Science Fiction Reviews

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

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Dominica Phetteplace is a name to which I pay attention, after having read many of her works now in Asimov’s. If I don’t point out her work enough, it’s because Phetteplace doesn’t usually construct whirling plots or astonishing metaphysics*, but instead sculpts a very convincing and immersive (what the literary genre calls “slice of life”) simulation of normal people living in a near-normal future. Phetteplace’s vision, on average, is ingenious, and “Digital Witness,” in the current issue of Asimov’s, is a standout.

Phetteplace’s attitude about our social-media-saturated future is both accepting of it and pragmatically cynical. This story, despite all of its darkness, is not a shrill prophecy about dystopia. If there are warnings here, then they are that marketing and digital commodities will have to be altruistically revolutionized. Rather, Phetteplace’s meditation seems resigned to how “business” will be conducted, how it will affect relationships and “true” social lives. Any canny reader should recognize that this reality is upon us now. And, if Phetteplace’s protagonist in the story actively works in the field of data mining, Phetteplace herself seeks to avoid self-commodification. In the editorial foreword, Phetteplace says that the story was inspired by herself choosing not to download an app that her physical therapist claimed would be of use to Phetteplace in monitoring back pain. In context of the story that Phetteplace ended up writing, it is clear that Phetteplace expected that following her therapist’s advice would infringe on her privacy and result in her information being traded within the digital marketplace.

In short, this is what this story is about: data mining as a business, showing what nefarious uses may result from it, and how commonplace in our world this already seems to be. Phetteplace strikes me as a very powerful and literary writer of science fiction.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1954: A Retro-Review

Sunday, May 17th, 2020 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

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Cover art by Mel Hunter

My apologies for an extended absence from posting reviews. Personal matters took my focus and drive, but I’m back again for another retro-review of Galaxy Science Fiction — in this case the October, 1954 issue.

Mel Hunter’s cover art is titled “The Latest in Dugout Canoes.” At least, I think that’s the title. It’s listed inside as “Lastest”, which I think is a typo, given that lastest isn’t a word. But even in a prestigious magazine like Galaxy, mistakes happen. I like finding reminders that professionals of all sorts make mistakes from time to time. I think it lets all of us relax a bit more when we make our own mistakes.

“A World of Talent” by Philip K. Dick — Tim and his parents live among a colony of people who have talents beyond normal humans, including precognition, teleportation, and telepathy. The colony watches vigilantly for attacks from the Terrans, knowing people on Earth have a persistent fear — not only because people on the colony are different but because they’re powerful.

There’s no romantic relationship between Tim’s parents; their union was solely for the benefit of the colony — to try to create a new level of powers through parents who are both precogs. But Tim lives in his own world, remaining in silence much of the time and seeing Others (as he thinks of them) that no one else perceives. What these Others represent slowly unravels the puzzle of Tim’s talent, and it could protect the colony both from Terrans and itself.

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Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 44 Now Available

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly–Q44

Issue banner by Rengin Tumer

The ancient druids used to use gigantic standing stones to precisely chart the passing of the seasons. Me, I have a more accurate and satisfying method. I rely on the mystical and inexorable cosmic cycle that gives birth to a new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, every quarter, without fail.

HFQ 44 is a special treat as it contains a complete story by our very own Greg Mele, whose most recent article for Black Gate, an Interview with Christian Cameron, appeared just last week. Tangent Online gives “Heart of Vengeance” a solid thumb’s up, calling it “A dark tale of betrayal and lethal fury, this thoroughly enjoyable story is as much about the power of love and sacrifice as it is the justice of the grave.” For audiobook fans, there’s also a complete reading of the tale by Karen Bovenmeyer.

The issue also contains “The Whispering Healer,” by Larisa Walk (which Tangent calls “full of the unexpected,”) and “Do Not Fear, for the Work Will be Pure,” by Michael Johnston (which “follows the mission of the royal sculptor Deonoro Zayal… [into] the wilds facing down mutated brigands”).

Here’s the complete TOC, with fiction links.

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Vintage Treasures: Beyond the Beyond by Poul Anderson

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Beyond the Beyond paperback original (Signet first edition, August 1969). Cover artist unknown.

When I pick up an old paperback these days, it tends to be an anthology or collection. There aren’t very many published nowadays, and I miss them.

So naturally I’m reading many of the old paperbacks I missed out on in my youth. One of my recent favorites is Beyond the Beyond, a thick collection of six stories by Poul Anderson. Anderson was one of the most prolific SF writers of the 20th Century, and he produced dozens of collections in his lifetime. This one is particularly interesting to me because, as far as I know, it’s his only collection of novellas.

Anderson was a terrific science fiction short story writer, and he was even better at length. Beyond the Beyond contains six long tales published between 1954-1967, including a story in his David Falkayn: Star Trader series, one in his Technic History, and two in his popular and long-running Psychotechnic League saga. These aren’t Anderson’s best-known stories, not by a long shot, but this is a decent snapshot of his work in the SF magazines during his most productive period in the 50s and 60s.

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Rogue Blades Presents: What Would Your Hero Say to You?

Friday, May 1st, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

weird talesWhen I started out as a writer of fiction in the late 1980s, one of my favorite magazines was Weird Tales. Over the next decade or so, I submitted a half dozen stories to Weird Tales, none of which were ever accepted for publication. Still, even though none of my tales ever landed there, I learned a lot from the letters I received from one of the editors, George H. Scithers.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Mr. Scithers. If not, surely you’ve heard of some of his work. He was the first editor for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, for which he won two Hugo awards. He was also editor at Amazing Stories, and of numerous anthologies. At Weird Tales, he won a World Fantasy Award along with Darrell Schweitzer. He was known among writers and readers and editors.

Unfortunately we lost Mr. Scithers a decade ago, but his legacy lives on in the work he produced and in fandom. Many of today’s readers probably don’t even realize how much they owe to this gentleman.

And “gentleman” is not a word I use lightly. I never knew Mr. Scithers personally. He and I never met. I can’t speak to his everyday attitudes and demeanor. Yet he was always kind and supportive in the reply letters he wrote back to me as a budding writer. He always had good things to say while not being afraid to point out where I needed to polish. He could be critical without being overbearing and negative, a trait that seems lost in today’s world. Also, I’ve met with or had correspondence with other people who actually did know or had at least met Mr. Scithers, and every single one of those individuals has had good things to say about George. So I feel my calling him a “gentleman” is most apt, especially as every correspondence I had with him was most friendly and congenial.

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Weird Tales Deep Read: July 1933

Sunday, April 26th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Somewhat fanciful Brundage cover for “Hand of Glory”

This is the first in a series of posts I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, a detailed look at a single issue of Weird Tales magazine where I do a short analysis of each story, the famous, the infamous, and the forgotten. Just to make things a little confusing, I rate these stories, unlike movies, on a 1-5 scale, with the lower the number, the better the story. You can look at these ratings as A-B-C-D-F, or Excellent – Good – Mediocre – Below Average – Poor.

I wanted to start with a memorable issue, so I chose the July 1933 entry, one of the best I’ve read so far. I’ll start with a short overview and then get into the specifics of each story.

This issue is at the beginning of the Unique Magazine’s (as it sometimes called itself) Golden Age (roughly the early to late 1930’s) with a total of four of the nine stories penned by what I like to think of as the Holy Trinity of Weird Tales writers, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. The ubiquitous Seabury Quinn is also present with one of his ninety-three Jules de Grandin stories, along with tales by early giants of science fiction Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson. Sheridan Le Fanu contributes a classic reprint. The final story is by Harold Ward, a fairly prolific pulp writer noted for complicated plots often bordering on the incoherent.

The Howard story is one of his slightest, but moderately effective. The Smith, set in what is probably the first shared-world universe in science fiction — the Cthulhu Mythos — is also rather slight, but vastly more imaginative. The Lovecraft story under his byline is one of his classic Cthulhu Mythos tales. His second story in this issue appears under the name of Hazel Heald, which requires a bit of explanation.

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The Case of the Missing Magazines

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Every month for roughly the past 40 years I’ve made a pilgrimage to the nearest newsstand to purchase my favorite fiction magazines. The newsstands have changed over the years, and the mix of magazines has too. But it’s a tradition I’ve come to cherish.

Well, this is a time of broken traditions. All the local bookstores are closed (not that there were many to begin with), and I find myself at a loss. New issues of Asimov’s SF, Analog, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction are now available, at least in theory. In practice, I have no way to buy them. And according to their various websites this batch is particularly enticing, packed with new stories by Ian R. MacLeod, Eleanor Arnason, Ian Watson, Bruce McAllister, R. Garcia y Robertson, Dominica Phetteplace, Neal Asher, Derek Kunsken, Richard Bowes, M. Rickert, Bruce Sterling, Robert Reed, and many others. And for the first time in decades, it looks like I’ll miss out.

When I griped about this on Facebook today, there were plenty of sympathetic suggestions. Mark Tiedemann endorsed an independent bookstore that mailed ordered single issues… but it has abruptly stopped carrying magazines. Mark Shainblum suggested digital issues… but I have nearly nine solid decades of print issues of Astounding/Analog, and it sure doesn’t feel right to give up now. Adrian Simmons shared my pain, and suggested he might subscribe, even if sub copies do come with an ugly mailing label. And Darrell Schweitzer shared the hard-won secret of removing those damn mailing labels with a damp cloth.

It was comforting to have so many folks commiserate. And I suppose, in the end, the right thing to do in these tough times is to support the magazines with a subscription. And that’s what I’ll do. If you love — or are curious about — short fiction, I hope you’ll consider doing the same. You can shop for digital and print subscriptions at the Asimov’s SF, Analog, and F&SF websites. Check out the editorial descriptions for each issue below.

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Stories That Work: “Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars” by Mercurio D. Rivera, and “The Million-Mile Sniper” by SL Huang

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 | Posted by James Van Pelt

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The March/April 2020 issues of Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Covers by John Picacio and Mondolithic Studios

I’ve always liked big-idea fiction. That’s the stuff whose premise is so mind-boggling that even if I forget the characters and plot, I keep thinking about the story’s implications.

H.P. Lovecraft struck me that way. I started reading him in my 20s, and once I got past the prose (I used to think of him as Edgar Allen Poe on steroids and methamphetamines), the big ideas behind his stories weaseled their way into my head. Imagine the universe we know as a thin veneer over a cauldron of omnipotent indifference. Brrr! Lovecraft’s creation encouraged me to picture every cave as endless, and every unfathomable shadow at night to be a part of the pupil of a great old one’s eye, staring.

Other writers did a similar trick. Edgar Rice Burroughs gave me ancient civilizations of strange creatures on Mars (and the ability of get there if my desire was as strong as John Carter’s); Larry Niven built a ring structure around a planet so vast that it contained three million times the area of Earth; Alfred Bester imagined personal-teleportation so powerful that “the stars, my destination” was practical, not aspirational; and Douglas Adams relegated Earth to a role so small that it is destroyed to make way for a hyper-spatial express route.

See? Big ideas.

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