Birthday Reviews: Holly Phillips’s “No Such Thing as an Ex-Con”

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Holly Phillips was born on December 25, 1969.

Phillips won the Sunburst Award in 2006 for her collection In the Palace of Repose, which was also nominated for the William L. Crafword – IAFA Award and the World Fantasy Award. The title story had also been an International Horror Guild nominee the year before, while “The Other Grace,” which first appeared in the collection, was also a World Fantasy nominee. Along with Cory Doctorow, she was nominated for an Aurora Award in 2008. Phillips co-edited Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction with Cory Doctorow in 2007.

“No Such Thing as an Ex-Con” was Phillips’s first published story, appearing in the Summer 2000 issue of On Spec, edited by Jena Snyder. The story also appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of Weird Tales. In 2014, it was selected for inclusion in Casserole Diplomacy and Other Stories: An On Spec 25th Anniversary Retrospective.

Emily Lake has served three and a half years for a series of murders she did not commit and upon her release from prison is taking work wherever she can find it, notably on a crew that is doing landscaping work for the city. Lake is always cognizant that once a convict, there are some people who will also see her as a convict, so she has to work harder and keep her head down to avoid drawing attention, knowing that any job is worth preserving since she won’t be able to find another one easily.

Unfortunately for Lake, the area in which she is working brings her into contact with Detective Bailor, who was one of the people responsible for putting her in prison for the murders. Lake had seen, or actually experienced, the murders in her dreams and went to the police to give them the lead that would put the perpetrator behind bars. Unfortunately, nobody believed she was not an accomplice, despite the claims of the murderer that he acted alone. Now, several years later, Bailor has a case of multiple kidnappings that have stymied him and he turns to Lake on the off chance that she was telling the truth and can help him find the lost boys.

Phillips offers a sympathetic view of an ex-con, even before the fact that she was innocent is known to the reader. Lake doesn’t show bitterness about the hand she has been dealt, and is trying her hardest to work within a system that is stacked against her. While Phillips builds the expectation that she’s going to be railroaded or fired, both concerns that Lake has, the reality of the situation turns out to be quite different. Lake’s abilities are described, but never explained, which seems to be more likely than having someone provide an explanation for her dreams.

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Birthday Reviews: Fritz Leiber’s “The Cloud of Hate”

Monday, December 24th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Fritz Leiber was born on December 24, 1910 and died on September 5, 1992.

Fritz Leiber won six Hugo Awards for his novels The Big Time and The Wanderer as well as the novelette “Gonna Roll the Bones,” the novellas “Ship of Shadows” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and the short story “Catch That Zeppelin.” “Gonna Roll the Bones,” “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and “Catch That Zeppelin” also received the Nebula Award. He won the World Fantasy Award for the short story “Belsen Express” and the novel Our Lady of Darkness. He won his first British Fantasy Award for The Second Book of Fritz Leiber and his second for “The Button Molder.” He won the Geffen Award in 1999 for the Hebrew translation of Swords and Deviltry. The 1962 Worldcon presented him with a Special Convention Award in 1962 for his collaboration with the Hoffman Electronic Corporation for their use of science fiction in advertising.

In 1967 LASFS presented him with a Forry Award. He won a Gandalf Award in 1975 as a Grand Master of Fantasy and the next years received a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. In 1981 SFWA named him a Grand Master and he received a Special Balrog Award. He received a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988, and in 2001 he was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Leiber is one of the few people who was a guest of honor at multiple Worldcons, having the honor in 1951 at NOLACon I, the 9th Worldcon, held in New Orleans in 1951 and again in 1979 when he was a guest of honor at Seacon ’79 in Brighton, UK. He was the Guest of Honor at the 4th World Fantasy Con in Fort Worth, Texas in 1978. Leiber has most famously collaborated with Harry Fischer on the concept for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the story “Lords of Quarmall.” He has also collaborated with Judith Merril and Fredric Brown.

Leiber first published “The Cloud of Hate” in the May 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, edited by Cele Goldsmith. He included it as the lead-off story in the Lankhmar collection Swords in the Mist and in 1975 it showed up in Sword & Sorcery Annual. When Donald M. Grant published a collection of three Lankhmar stories in Bazaar of the Bizarre, “The Cloud of Hate” was one of the those chosen. It showed up in the Lankhmar omnibus volumes The Three of Swords and Lean Times in Lankhmar as well as Thieves’ House: Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Volume 2 and The First Book of Lankhmar. The story has been translated into Dutch, German, and twice into French, usually for collections of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.

“The Cloud of Hate” is one of Leiber’s many stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The two are serving as watchmen on the evening of a gala celebration of the betrothal of the Lankhmar Overlord’s daughter to the Prince of Ilthmar. They are stationed far from the festivities on a cold, foggy street. The action, however, starts below the streets of Lankhmar, with a mob of five thousand summoning the physical manifestation of hate to flood the streets and, one assumes, attack the Overlord’s party.

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Galileo Magazine of Science & Fiction, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons


Cover art by Larry Blamire – “Louis Wu Making Good His Escape”

I’m going to start my review of the November 1979 issue of Galileo magazine by talking about Omni. I’ve heard people, people of a certain age — people who were there, man — talk about Omni like it was the second coming of Christ. I bring that up because Galileo magazine was like Christ rolled the stone out of the way and was serving up fancy drinks in the tomb.

I’m also going to start my review of Galileo Magazine by kicking F&SF while it’s down. F&SF can’t scrape together a single piece of internal artwork? Galileo has artwork, multiple pieces at times, for each story, each article. Yes, yes, we know how it ends; slow and steady F&SF eventually wins this race, but you get my point.

In short, Galileo, while not perfect, certainly swings for the fences. It was a science fiction magazine that had one foot well in the world of sf/f writers, one foot well in the world of the serious sf/f fan, one hand guiding the casual sf/f fan, and one hand embracing the growing spheres of TV, movies, and games. It had artwork (although it was all black and white, which is one of the only things about it that seems a bit dated), and yes, it had fiction. Pretty good fiction, all around.

It is a crying shame that Galileo magazine folded in January, 1980 — literally the very next issue! It burned a bright trail in sf/f for a little less than four years.

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Birthday Reviews: Sean McMullen’s “Electrica”

Friday, December 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by David G. Hardy

Cover by David G. Hardy

Sean McMullen was born on December 21, 1948 in Victoria, Australia.

McMullen has won the Ditmar Award 8 times, including five William Atheling, Jr. Awards for Criticism or Review, for short fiction (“While the Gate Is Open” and “Alone In His Chariot”) and for long fiction for Mirrorsun Rising. His novels The Centurion’s Empire and The Miocene Arrow as well as his short story “Walk to the Full Moon” have won the Aurealis Award. He has been nominated one time each for the Hugo Award, the British SF Association Award, the Sidewise Award, and the WSFA Small Press Award. McMullen has published under the pseudonym Roger Wilcox and has collaborated with Paul Collins, Steven Paulsen, Van Ikin, and Russell Blackford.

“Electrica” was first published in the March-April 2012 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon van Gelder. The next year McMullen included it in his short story collection Ghosts of Engines Past and David G. Hartwell selected the story for inclusion in Year’s Best SF 18.

McMullen offers a secret history of the Napoleonic Wars by looking at the career of Lieutenant Michael Fletcher, whose work in intelligence has gotten him transferred back to England to investigate the claims of Sir Charles Calder, who claims that he has used electricity to create a device that can send signals over vast distances, somewhat akin to the later telegraph, but without wires. Calder has even created a form of Morse code to use with the messages.

Fletcher arrives at Sir Charles’s manor to discover a contingent of soldiers guarding it, Sir Charles’s experiments, and Lady Monica, whose voracious sexual appetite appears to focus on any male who isn’t her husband, who she finds boring. As far as Fletcher can tell, Sir Charles feels the same way about Lady Monica. Allowing himself to be seduced by Monica in order to gain access to Sir Charles’s locked laboratory leads to a duel with one of the soldiers and sidelines Fletcher for several weeks while Monica is supposed to be in London. Upon his return to the manor, he learned that Lady Monica never made it to London and Sir Charles’s experiments have taken a dark turn.

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Birthday Reviews: Dave Hutchinson’s “The Trauma Jockey”

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Shaun Tan

Cover by Shaun Tan

Dave Hutchinson was born on December 19, 1960.

Hutchinson’s novel Europe in Autumn was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the British SF Association Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, as was its sequel, Europe at Midnight. The volume Europe in Winter was the only one of the three nominated for the British SF Association Award, which it won in 2017. His short story “The Push” had been nominated for the award in 2010. Hutchinson co-edited the anthology Strange Pleasures 2 with John Grant.

“The Trauma Jockey” first appeared in issue 117 of Interzone in March 1997, edited by David Pringle. In 2000 Thomas Haufschild translated the story into German for inclusion in Wolfgang Jeschke’s anthology Das Wägen von Luft. Hutchinson included it in his 2004 collection As the Crow Flies.

Hutchinson’s main character is a “Trauma Jockey,” someone whose job is to connect to a patient through a series of electrodes to take their emotional trauma away. Hutchinson opens the story by demonstrating how the process is supposed to work, with the trauma jockey siphoning the emotional pain away from Lucy Smith and then eventually downloading it into someone who has been so beaten down by the system that extra trauma doesn’t impact him.

Once Hutchinson has established the normal methodology, his character is visited by a Mr. Jones, who wants to hire his services. It turns out that Jones is a sociopath and the process doesn’t work the same way on him. Instead of downloading his emotions, he downloads images of people he has murdered. When the Trauma Jockey decides to go to the police, Jones threatens not only him, but his extended family, including his young nieces. Unable to turn to anyone for help, he must accept Jones’s continued visits and the horrific images he shares, which gives Jones as much of a rush as the actual murders and sexual crimes.

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A Year of Weirdbook

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Weirdbook 38-small Weirdbook 39-small Weirdbook 40-small

Not all that long ago, Douglass Draa was the Online Editor for Weird Tales, maintaining a lively Facebook presence and posting numerous highly readable articles on the website (which, sadly, have now been removed.) Although the magazine has essentially been dead since 2014, Doug kept the Weird Tales name alive as best he could, and I frequently found myself wondering what someone with that much energy could do with more editorial control.

We found out in 2015 when the much-loved magazine Weirdbook returned to print with Doug at the helm. The first issue, #31, was a generous 160 pages of brand new weird fiction and sword & sorcery from many familiar names, packaged between gorgeous covers by Dusan Kostic and Stephen E. Fabian. Over the next three years Doug has produced no less than 10 issues — a staggering 2,000+ pages of new content — plus the very first Weirdbook Annual in 2017. Issues arrive like clockwork, and the magazine only seems to get better and better.

2018 was a great year for Weirdbook, with three huge issues. It seems to have settled into a comfortable 256-pages, and readers of this blog will be pleased, as I was, to see several Black Gate writers among the contributors — including John C. Hocking, John R. Fultz, and the prolific Darrell Schweitzer, with no less than three stories. I was especially pleased to see Doug’s use of quality interior art, which I think greatly enhances the look of the magazine. The latest issue, which just arrived last week, includes moody and effective spot art by the great Allen Koszowski, who also graced the pages of Black Gate back in the day.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask‘s Cap Shaw on Writing

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BlackMask_May1934EDITED“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)

The hardboiled school was born in the page of Black Mask Magazine under the editorship of George W. Sutton, with Carroll John Daly’s “Three Gun Terry” (which I wrote about here…) and “Kings of the Open Palm,” and Dashiell Hammett’s “Arson Plus,” appearing in 1923. In 1924, Sutton resigned and circulation editor Phil Cody replaced him.

Cody pushed for more stories featuring Race Williams and the Continental Op, encouraged Erle Stanley Gardner to develop Ed Jenkins (‘The Phantom Crook’), and added Frederick Nebel and Raoul Whitfield to the magazine. Cody was pushed out by publisher Eltinge Warner in 1926, with Cody’s approval (he later became President of the company). Joseph Shaw, a former bayonet instructor in the army and an unsuccessful writer with zero editorial experience, took the reins (I mean, sure, why not?).

But it is Shaw who is revered as the editor who shaped and was largely responsible for the success of the hardboiled school. While he did not start the movement, it’s still a reasonable assertion. Shaw honed Black Mask into a razor sharp hardboiled pulp that dominated the field.

In May of 1934, Writer’s Digest featured a cover story titled, Do You Want to Become a Writer or Do You Want to Make Money? by Shaw. I’ve included that essay below, with a few comments of my own included in italics.

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Steve Carper on the Solo SF Art of Leo Dillon

Sunday, December 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Leo Dillon Galaxy art 2-small Leo Dillon Galaxy art-small

Art for Stephen Barr’s “The Back of Our Heads” by Leo Dillon (Galaxy, July 1958)

Leo Dillon, who passed away in 2012, was one half of the famous husband-and-wife art team of Leo and Diane Dillon, who won back-to-back Caldecott Awards in 1976 and 1977, and the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist for their work on Terry Carr’s Ace Special covers. They created some of the most iconic SF and Fantasy cover art of the 20th Century, including Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories and Strange Wine, John Brunner’s The Traveller in Black, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. But before he began to work with Diane, Leo had a career doing interior art for Galaxy magazine from 1957-60. BG blogger Steve Carper unravels some of their fascination history at his blog Flying Cars and Food Pills.

Even though they had been working full-time as illustrators in the publishing industry, they were neither wealthy nor famous nor much recognized in the science fiction community in 1968… They knew Harlan Ellison, though, having done covers for his books as early as 1961, and he naturally recruited them for the cover of his monumental 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions. There weren’t supposed to be any interior illustrations but Harlan, being Harlan, suddenly decided he wanted them. On the Friday before the book was to go to press on Monday. He hied over to the Dillon’s brownstone in Brooklyn and they stayed up the entire weekend taking inspiration from Harlan’s synopses of all 33 stories. For some reason Harlan brought Terry Carr with him…. Diane [recalled]: “After that, Terry began giving us assignments for book jackets, the Ace Specials.”

Read the article here, complete with generous samples of Leo Dillon’s interior art, and a lengthy listing of his art for stories by Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber, H. Beam Piper, Frederik Pohl, Zenna Henderson, William Tenn, Robert Sheckley, and many others.

Birthday Reviews: Arthur C. Clarke’s “Let There Be Light”

Sunday, December 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Playboy, February 1958

Playboy, February 1958

Arthur C. Clarke was born on December 16, 1917 in Minehead, England and died on March 19, 2008 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Clarke won the Hugo and Nebula Awards three times each. Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise both won for best novel (and also both won the British SF Association Award). His novella “A Meeting with Medusa” won the Nebula in 1973 and the short story “The Star” won the Hugo in 1956. He also won the Retro Hugo for his short stories “The Nine Billion Names of God” and “How We Went to Mars.” Both “A Meeting with Medusa” and Rendezvous with Rama won the Seiun Award and Rama also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and Jupiter Award. Clarke won the Geffen Award for Childhood’s End. His novel Imperial Earth was inducted into the Gaylactic Spectrum Hall of Fame in 2001. He received the International Fantasy Award for his non-fiction book The Exploration of Space.

Clarke was the guest of honor at NYCon II, the 14th Worldcon, held in New York in 1956. He received a Forry Award from LASFS in 1982 and was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1986. In 1997 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He won a Gallun Award in 2001, was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2002 and in 2004 received the Robert A. Heinlein Award. The Arthur C. Clarke Award, sponsored by the BSFA, the Science Fiction Foundation, and the SCI-FI LONDON Film Festival, was established in 1987 to honor science fiction published in the UK.

Clarke collaborated on fiction with Gregory Benford, Gentry Lee, Stephen Baxter, Mike McQuay, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, and Frederik Pohl. His story “The Sentinel” formed the basis for his novel and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the sequel of which, 2010, was also turned into a film. His novel Childhood’s End was adapted into a television mini-series.

“Let There Be Light” was initially published on September 5, 1957 in the Dundee Sunday Telegraph. It was first reprinted in February 1958 in Playboy magazine. It would eventually be reprinted in the Playboy Press science fiction anthology Transit of Earth in 1971. Clarke included it in his collection Tales of Ten Worlds in 1962 and it also appeared in The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke in 2000. The story appeared in German in the 1963 collection Unter den Wolken der Venus. In 1980 it was translated into Croatian for the March issue of Sirius #45. A French translation of the story appeared in the Arthur C. Clarke collection Le Livre d’or de la science-fiction: Arthur C. Clarke (a.k.a. Et la lumière), in 1981. Guido Zurlino and Beata Della Frattina translated the story into Italian for inclusion in the January 1987 issue of Urania #1039. It appeared in French again in 2013 as part of the collection Odyssées: l’integrale des nouvelles. Although the story fits into Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart series, it was not included in that collection, which was first published eight months before the story first appeared.

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Birthday Reviews: John Sladek’s “Stop Evolution in Its Tracks!”

Saturday, December 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Josh Kirby

Cover by Josh Kirby

John T. Sladek was born on December 15, 1937 and died on March 10, 2000.

John Sladek won the British SF Association Award in 1984 for his novel Tik-Tok, which was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Ditmar Award. His novel Roderick was nominated for the Seiun Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award. His essay “Four Reasons for Reading Thomas M. Disch” was nominated for the William Atheling, Jr. Award for Criticism or Review. Sladek also collaborated with Disch on several short stories. Sladek has also written several parodies of famous science fiction authors using pseudonyms which either replace all the vowels of the parodied author’s names with asterisks or with pseudonyms that are acronyms of the authors’ names (for instance, R*y Br*db*ry or Barry DuBray).

Sladek published “Stop Evolution in Its Tracks!” in issue 24 of Interzone in December, 1988, edited by David Pringle & Simon Ounsley. Pringle, Ounsley, and John Clute selected the story to appear in Interzone: The 4th Anthology the next year and in 1994, David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer included the story in The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF. The story was also collected in the posthumous Sladek collection Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek, published in 2002.

“Stop Evolution in Its Tracks!” is a satire on the creationist belief, told through the eyes of a science reporter who has been sent to observe and write an article about Professor Abner Z. Gurns, a creationist who claims a background in science and runs a school whose sole mission is to denigrate evolution in favor of creationism. Sladek provides Gurns with all the traditional claims made by creationists in their attempts to refute evolution without offering an overt defense of evolution.

The humor, such as it is, comes from how ridiculous the claims of the creationists are when piled one on top of the other. In order to drive the point home, Sladek offers up even more ridiculous claims when he has exhausted the usual ones. The story takes on a reductio ad absurdum tone which allows the reader to dismiss everything which precedes it. However, because Sladek doesn’t provide a counterargument to the satirical, an understanding of evolution is necessary to fully appreciate the story and see the fallacies for what they are, aside from the lack of logic they present.

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