Birthday Reviews: M. Rickert’s “The Super Hero Saves the World”

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Walter Velez

Cover by Walter Velez

M. (Mary) Rickert was born on December 11, 1959.

In 2007, Rickert won two World Fantasy Awards,  for her collection Map of Dreams and for the short story “Journey Into the Kingdom.” She won the 2012 Shirley Jackson Award for “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece.” Map of Dreams also received the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for best first fantasy novel. Rickert has also published using her full name.

Rickert originally published “The Super Hero Saves the World” in the June 2003 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon Van Gelder. She also included it in her first collection, Map of Dreams. It has not otherwise been reprinted.

“The Super Hero Saves the World” is a story of magic realism about a young girl, Marcado, who as a young child managed to survive an attack by a python that killed her mother. Rickert follows the relationships between Marcado and her sister, Elsine, and their relationship with their father, who was with Mercardo when the snake swallowed her, although Marcado was cut from the snake’s belly. Perhaps because of her experience, Marcado grows up distant from the rest of her family and sees the world in a different way.

While Elsine has a life filled with boys and fun, Marcado keeps to herself, focusing on dancing whenever she can, finding a freedom and safety in movement, although she understands that it exasperates both her sister and father, so she avoids it when they are around. Her father especially is distant from Marcado, perhaps blaming her for his wife’s death when his daughter survived the same attack. He not only ignores her dancing, but when a teacher praises a poem Marcado wrote about being a super hero, his only response is annoyance at being called from work for something as minor as his daughter’s creativity.

Marcado eventually comes to an understanding with her sister, as well as coming to terms with the death of her mother and her own strange experience, though she never manages to overcome the barrier between herself and her father. The super hero she sees in herself, with the strange origin story, is working to make her world a better place, giving her peace, and eventually building up a friendship with Elsine and her husband. She must, however, continue to strive to save the world until she makes contact with her father.

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Amazing Science Fiction, November 1959: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Amazing Science Fiction November 1959-small Amazing Science Fiction November 1959-back-small

Here’s an issue of Amazing from Cele Goldsmith’s first year as editor. Indeed, this was probably on the newsstands the day I was born (October 5, 1959). So, no, I didn’t read it when it came out!

The cover is by Leo Summers. The interiors are by Summers and Virgil Finlay. Norman Lobsenz’ editorial is about the real-life basis of one of the aspects of the cover novel, Robert Bloch’s Sneak Preview. There is a feature article by Poul Anderson called “Science and Superman: An Inquiry,” which takes a rather skeptical view of the idea that humans might be evolving into “supermen.”

E. Cotts’ book review column covers One Against Herculum, by Jerry Sohl; Tomorrow Times Seven, by Frederik Pohl; and Secret of the Lost Race, by Andre Norton. She gives some mild praise to Sohl, raves about Pohl’s collection, and is a little disappointed with the Norton novel.

The letters in “… Or So You Say” are by Claire Beck, Chris Roe, Craig Wisch, Kenneth E. Cooper, Clayton Hamlin, Michael Carroll, Jonathan Yoder, Richard C. Keyes, Billy Joe Plott, and James W. Ayers. The only name familiar to me is Billy Joe Plott.

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Birthday Reviews: Albert E. Cowdrey’s “Immortal Forms”

Saturday, December 8th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Cory and Catska Ench

Cover by Cory and Catska Ench

Albert E. Cowdrey was born on December 8, 1933.

In 2002, Cowdrey’s short story “Queen for a Day” won the World Fantasy Award. His novella “The Overseer” was also nominated for the World Fantasy Award. He received a Nebula Nomination in 2006 for the novella “The Tribes of Bella” and in 2009 his story “Poison Victory” was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He has on occasion published using the pseudonym Chet Arthur.

Cowdrey sold “Immortal Forms” to Gordon van Gelder for publication in the August 2006 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The story has never been reprinted.

Shortly after Tommy Salvati inherits the house in which Hannah Loewe died, he begins to question the circumstance of her death. Salvati inherited the house because when he was younger, Loewe took care of him while his mother worked following his father’s death and, years later, he was the only person she felt close to, as well as being her lawyer.

His discovery that Loewe may have died after being prescribed a series of drugs by a doctor who was more interested in separating her from her money than treating disease makes him decide that he needs to investigate her death. When that leads to a dead end, he decides to do whatever he can to avenge her by destroying the doctor’s life and practice. As a lawyer, he does so by writing letters urging an official investigation into the doctor’s life.

One he starts his plan, the house, or a spirit in the house, becomes more active, not only haunting Salvati’s workroom, which had been the bedroom in which Loewe had died, but also moving events towards an outcome of revenge against the doctor and those who helped him. Salvati learns to work with the house to avoid the haunted room during the daytime when the spirit is active, and stay out of the way when the spirit seeks revenge.

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Birthday Reviews: Leigh Brackett’s “Interplanetary Reporter”

Friday, December 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Leigh Brackett was born on December 7, 1915 and died on March 18, 1978.

Leigh Brackett was the first woman ever to appear on a Hugo ballot when she was nominated for her novel The Long Tomorrow in 1956, and was nominated for two Retro Hugo Awards in 2016. Her collection Sea Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories was nominated for a British Fantasy Award. In 1978 she received a Forry Award from LASFS, and she was named the recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2005. In 2014 Brackett was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Brackett and her husband, Edmond Hamilton, were guests of honor at Pacificon II, the 22nd Worldcon, held in Oakland, California in 1964. She worked in Hollywood and is one of the credited co-writers of The Empire Strikes Back as well as The Big Sleep, on which she shared a writers credit with William Faulkner. She collaborated on fiction with Ray Bradbury and her husband. She published one of her non-genre novels using the pseudonym George Sanders. The Empire Strikes Back was dedicated to her memory.

“Interplanetary Reporter” was first published in the May 1941 issue of Startling Stories, edited by Mort Weisinger. It wasn’t reprinted until 2002, when Steve Haffner included it in the Brackett collection Martian Quest: The Early Brackett. In 2008 the story was included in an e-collection issued by Baen Books, Swamps of Venus. In 2009 Adventure House reprinted the original issue of Startling Stories that contained this tale.

Brackett was known for her planetary adventures and in “Interplanetary Reporter,” she places IP reporter Chris Barton in the Venusian city of Vhia. A grizzled war reporter, Barton has decided he is done with working as a reporter and is planning on telling IP editor John Sanger of his decision. On the way into Sanger’s office he spots the beautiful Kei Volhan, who is engaged to cub reporter Bobby Lance. Just as Barton announces his decision, Vhia comes under attack by a Jovian military force.

Partly to keep from saving face in front of Volhan, Barton allows himself to be convinced that he need to go into space to report on the Jovian attack. The two reporters and Volham manage to make their escape in an IP news spaceship and once they achieve orbit, they quickly learn that the surprise attack is not Jovian, but rather Martian in origin as Mars is trying to start a war between the Jovians and Venusians in order to gain a better deal on water rights.

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Birthday Reviews: Roger Dee’s “Worlds Within Worlds”

Thursday, December 6th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Science Fiction Plus September 1955-medium Science Fiction Plus September 1955-back-small Science Fiction Plus September 1955 contents-small

Front and back covers by Frank R. Paul

Roger Dee Aycock was born on December 6, 1914 and died on April 5, 2004. He wrote mostly using the pseudonym Roger Dee, although he also published one story as John Starr when he had two stories appear in the November 1951 issue of Planet Stories.

Dee’s story “Worlds within World” initially appeared in the October 1953 issue of Science Fiction +, the final science fiction publishing project of Hugo Gernsback. It was the penultimate issue of the magazine. The story was reprinted in Science Fiction Monthly issue one, in September 1955, an Australian magazine edited by Michael Cannon.

“Worlds within Worlds” may not have been a cliché when it was first published, but in many ways it reads like one now, not just for its central idea that modern readers will see coming, but for the techniques Dee uses to tell his tale. From the earliest part of the narrative, he uses undefined terms and technobabble to give it a futuristic feel and it is only well into the story that the reader fully begins to understand the situation that the main character, Racon, is in, although Racon is fully cognizant of where he is and what is going on. Mostly. He is wondering why he isn’t being allowed on an interstellar research ship that is about to launch.

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Birthday Reviews: Kurt R.A. Giambastiani’s “Intaglio”

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Gary Davis

Cover by Gary Davis

Kurt R.A. Giambastiani was born on December 4, 1958.

Giambiastini’s debut novel The Year of the Cloud was a finalist for the 2002 Endeavour Award. In addition to writing fiction, Giambastiani has performed as a violist in regional orchestras and works as a software developer.

“Intaglio” was published by Algis Budrys in the October 1995 issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, issue #17. The story has never been reprinted.

Giambastiani’s story is set several years after a rebellion was put down on the planet Thessalon. The people of Thessalon and the city of Pellion, where the rebellion was centered, have mostly been ignored by the Central Military Forces, apart from a series of economic sanctions. The Commander of the forces that crushed the revolt, Gavin Price-George, however, takes a series of intaglios, three dimensional photographs which allow the viewer to see depth and perspective, following the revolt and has published them in the years since. To celebrate an anniversary, he returns to Pellion with a showing of his intaglios.

Price-George comes with a full military contingent and announces that he is not only throwing a party for the people of Pellion, but that trade restrictions will also be relaxed. Giambastiani’s story focuses on the differences between the way Price-George is greeted by the younger generation, which doesn’t have a memory of the war and the deaths, and the older generation, for whom the wounds are still fresh and the memories of their killed friends and families shade their dealings with Price-George. The art display drives that home as the younger generation is seeing old images, but the older generation is seeing pictures of their younger selves, often at moments of great anguish.

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Birthday Reviews: John Dalmas’s “In the Bosom of His Family”

Monday, December 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by C.A. Beal

Cover by C.A. Beal

John Dalmas was born John Jones on December 3, 1926 and died on June 15, 2017.

Dalmas first book The Yngling was serialized in Analog in 1969 and published in book form in 1971. Dalmas began publishing regularly in the 1980s, producing the Fanglith books and The Regiment series, as well as many short stories. In addition to his career as an author Dalmas worked for the US Forest Service.

Dalmas originally published “In the Bosom of His Family” in the October 1989 issue of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, Volume 5: Horror, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The story has never been reprinted.

Although “In the Bosom of His Family” is an horror story, the true horror of the tale doesn’t become apparent until near the end. It focuses on Charley Greer, part of a family of ranchers who have been settled in the valley for generations. Everything is done the “Greer Way,” including procreation. The eldest sons are expected to marry and have children while the younger sons are expected to remain single and stay on to help the family ranch. Charley is the second son and is helping out, but he is also dying of cancer and realizes his time is near.

Dalmas focuses on the familial ties and the sense of filial obligation, but Charley also sees his sister-in-law pregnant with a child who will follow in Charley’s role. Charley also reflects on his own uncle Charley, a younger brother who he never met, but whose life he is emulating and who he heard stories about from his grandfather and did his best to evoke his grandfather’s memories of him.

Seeing the life around him and the life expected for his potential nephew, Charley decides that rather than die on the ranch, as is the Greer way, he would head to the hospital, even if it meant an arduous trek overland since he didn’t want to have to ask for a ride. As Charley makes his way, it becomes evident that the Greer way is more than just tradition and Charley wasn’t just channeling his uncle, but rather there is an element of reincarnation at play and Charley’s life as a second son was a continuation of his uncle’s life, just as Charley’s nephew will be a reincarnation of him. Charley’s hope is that by dying far away from the ranch, he might be able to spare his nephew that fate.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1954: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy May 1954-small Galaxy May 1954-back-small

The cover of the May, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is by Ed Emshwiller, specifically for Theodore Sturgeon’s story “Granny Won’t Knit.” I’ve only noticed a few covers in these early issues that are illustrations of the fiction within. More often, Editor H.L. Gold seemed to prefer unrelated covers for his magazine.

“Granny Won’t Knit” by Theodore Sturgeon — Roan works for his father, who runs a transportation company. Their society has strict rules around proper dress — hiding the bodies and hands of men and women. Families are organized into strict patriarchal units. Though he’s an adult, Roan hasn’t earned the right to begin his own family and remains under the guidance of his overbearing father.

Seemingly by accident, Roan transports himself into the presence of a young woman who has bare arms and hands. She teases him a bit as he flounders to leave. But in the days to follow, he can’t get her out of his mind and is determined to find her again.

Roan also draws closer to his grandmother, who remembers a culture no one speaks of. And she’s not convinced that the current technology for transportation is the best, considering its limitations to the planet Earth. Her strange views are unsettling, yet Roan sees reason in her thoughts and allows that he may be limited in knowledge.

I think this story stands the test of time. There’s not much that glaringly sticks out to make it a 1950s science-fiction story — at least nothing that comes to mind. It works well.

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Birthday Reviews: Jerry Sohl’s “Death in Transit”

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Jerry Sohl was born on December 2, 1913 and died on November 4, 2002.

In addition to science fiction, Sohl also wrote screenplays, including scripts for The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek, including the episodes “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “This Side of Paradise,” and “Whom Gods Destroy.” His episodes of The Twilight Zone were ghostwritten for Charles Beaumont, whose failing health meant he couldn’t deliver the scripts he had contracted for. He has published under the pseudonyms Nathan Butler and Sean Mei Sullivan as well.

“Death in Transit” was first published by Larry T. Shaw in the June 1956 issue of Infinity Science Fiction. It was first reprinted in 2003 in Sohl’s posthumous collection Filet of Sohl: The Classic Scripts and Stories of Jerry Sohl. It was published again in Science Fiction Gems: Volume Fourteen, edited by Gregory Luce in 2018.

In 2016 the film Passengers posited a spaceship on a lengthy voyage. Anyone who has seen it will find Sohl’s short story “Death in Transit” familiar.  The story opens with Sohl’s pilot, Clifton West losing his wife, Karen, when she falls down a ventilation shaft on the spaceship one year into a ten year voyage. Although West tries to deal with his loss, the loneliness on the spaceship begins to gnaw at him. He begins to look at the records for the passengers to decide who to wake up for companionship. Although he knows he should wake a man, and even settles on George Hedstrom, he develops an infatuation for Portia Lavester and wakes her, knowing it is a bad idea.

Sohl does not portray West’s actions as well-thought out and even as West tries to behave properly in light of what he did, trying to give Lavester the room she needs to get used to the idea that she has been awakened nine years earlier, West still comes across as creepy. When Lavester does begin to soften towards him, her response to him, even when she claims some affection, never seems quite right. She is aware that even if he hasn’t physically touched her, he has still violated her. Writing in 1956, Sohl did not portray his lone starship pilot as a hero, but clearly shows the horror felt by Lavester at his actions.

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Birthday Reviews: Jo Walton’s “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction”

Saturday, December 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Gary Kelley

Cover by Gary Kelley

Jo Walton was born on December 1, 1964.

Walton’s novel Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award in 2004. In 2008 she won the Prometheus Award for Ha’Penny. She won the Mythopoeic Award in 2010 for Lifelode. In 2012 her novel Among Others won the Hugo, Nebula British Fantasy Award, the Copper Cylinder Award, and the 2014 Kurd Lasswitz Preis. Her novel My Real Children won the James Tiptree Jr Memorial Award in 2015. She was presented with the Skylark Award from NESFA in 2017.

Originally published on, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” was selected by Gardner Dozois for his The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection. It was reprinted in the collection The Stories: Five Years of Original Fiction on and was included in Patrick Nielsen Hayden and David G. Hartwell’s Twenty-First Century Science Fiction. Walton included it in her 2018 collection Starlings.

Set in the same world as Walton’s Small Change alternate history trilogy, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” takes a look at the worldwide Depression that followed her World War II. Linda and Joan Evans live in relative squalor, barely making ends meet with Joan working as a secretary and having an affair with her married boss and Linda working a waitress at Bundt’s Germany Bakery in New York. While Joan tries to enjoy herself without worrying about the ramifications, Linda is constantly afraid that the Bundts will eventually replace her when their daughter is old enough to work in the bakery.

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