Exploring the Weird through Poetry: Spectral Realms

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Spectral Realms 9

I’m not much a poetry buff, I admit. But I want to be.

Coincidentally, I’m also a huge fan of Hippocampus Press, whom I first discovered when I stumbled on their amazing booth at the World Fantasy Convention in 2015. I’ve been sampling more and more of their wares over the years. BG blogger James McGlothlin famously labeled them “A very excellent publisher, and at the forefront all things Lovecraftian and weird – new and old,” but in the last few years they’ve been expanding well beyond their original Lovecraft-esoterica focus with popular titles such as Simon Strantzas’ collection Burnt Black Suns, John Langan’s acclaimed The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, and John Langan’s upcoming Sefira and Other Betrayals.

One way to make modern poetry more accessible to casual readers like me is to package it in an attractive and easy-to-read package, and that’s precisely what Hippocampus has done with their bi-annual weird poetry journal Spectral Realms. It’s been published since Summer 2014, and the 9th issue (above) includes poems by John Shirley, Ashley Dioses, Fred Chappell, Darrell Schweitzer, Wade German, K. A. Opperman, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and many others. As usual, it also includes a few classic weird poems and non-fiction articles as well.

Issues are perfect bound, 130+ pages, and retail for $10 — and frequently have terrific art, like the wraparound piece above by Daniel V. Sauer. You can order copies (with free shipping) right from their website, as well as through online booksellers like Amazon.

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Call for Backers! DreamForge: A Magazine of Science & Fantasy Fiction Campaign on Kickstarter

Sunday, January 20th, 2019 | Posted by Emily Mah

A new science fiction and fantasy market is about to launch, and they’re calling for Kickstarter backers to help get them off the ground. DreamForge, headed up by Scot Noel, is recruiting “dreamers, heroes, and optimists” to back, submit to, and subscribe to this new magazine. Check out their Kickstarter video above!

This magazine is an exciting addition to the publishing market and Noel is open to all the subgenres of speculative fiction. The overarching theme is hope.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Palely Loitering,” by Christopher Priest

Friday, January 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ron Walotsk

Cover by Ron Walotsky

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Short Fiction (later Short Story) award was created in 1980, and Christopher Priest’s “Palely Loitering” won the award in its first year. The award was presented every year until 2017, when it was won by Jaine Fenn for “Liberty Bird.” In 2018, it was replaced with an award for Shorter Fiction.

Originally published by Edward L. Ferman in the January 1979 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Palely Loitering” is a time travel story set in a future England that has the feel of a story set in an England of the 1920s. Mykle comes from a wealthy family who goes on an annual picnic to a park where they can cross bridges into either the future or the past. When Mykle leaps from one of the bridges, he finds himself much further in the future than anticipated and can only get home with the help of a stranger, who also points out a beautiful woman, Estyll, who will become a focus for Mykle, who often returns to the park and that future to find her.

“Palely Loitering” is reminiscent of Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time) and the film Citizen Kane. The former also deals with a man who travels through time to meet a woman he has become obsessed with. For Richard Collier in Matheson’s novel, it is actress Elise McKenna. For Mykle in Priest’s story, it is the enigmatic Estyll.

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The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism is a Beautiful New Fantasy Magazine

Thursday, January 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Silent Garden-small The Silent Garden-back-small

I don’t usually buy books or magazines sight unseen. But I made an exception for the inaugural volume of The Silent Garden, a beautiful new “Journal of Esoteric Fabulism.”

Part of the reason was the publisher. Mike Kelly’s Undertow Publications has produced some of the most memorable dark fantasy and horror of the past few years, including the anthology Aickman’s Heirs, Simon Strantzas’s new collection Nothing is Everything, and five volumes of Year’s Best Weird Fiction. To be honest the list price, $50 for a deluxe full color hardcover on 70lb. paper, gave me sticker shock, but the list of contributors — V.H. Leslie, Nick Mamatas, Helen Marshall, Brian Evenson, D.P. Watt, and many more — and the discounted 4-volume “The Year in Weird” bundle pricing on their website eventually won me over.

I’m very glad it did. At 249 pages, there’s a whole lot of content crammed into this journal, including eleven short stories, poems, book reviews, articles, and a 24-page full-color gallery devoted to the work of Manchester artist David Whitlam. But just describing the contents doesn’t do it justice. The real strength of The Silent Garden is its top-notch design. It looks fantastic, and every piece is accompanied by at least one striking visual or full-color work of art. Here’s a few pics of the gorgeous interiors.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Stephen Fabian

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Artwork was created in 1977 and ran for three years until 1979. Stephen Fabian won the award in its second year. In 1980, the Artwork Award was replaced by an award for Best Artist and Fabian won the inaugural award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Fabian was born on January 3, 1930 in Garfield, New Jersey. Fabian was self-taught and heavily influenced by Edd Cartier, Hannes Bok, and Virgil Finlay. He began creating sketches for fanzines in the mid-1960s, but it wasn’t until he was laid off from a job due to the oil embargo of the 1970s that he turned his skills towards professional artwork. On the day that he received word of the layoffs, he also received invitations from Sol Cohen and Jim Baen to submit work for their consideration for inclusion in Amazing Stories (Cohen) and Galaxy (Baen). His first paid work was a cover for Robert E. Howard’s Western The Vultures.

His work was also championed by book collector and publisher Gerry de la Ree, who published several portfolios of Fabian’s work, bringing him to the attention of both fans and publishers who were able to give him work.

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Closing Out 2018 with Interzone Magazine

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Interzone 276-small Interzone 277-small Interzone 278-small

I don’t get to pick up British SF magazine Interzone as often as I like, though I buy it whenever I see it. I was lucky enough to find three issues recently on the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, and they’ve help remind me what a terrific magazine it is. If you’re at all interested in what’s going on in modern SF, I urge you to check it out.

Interzone is published and edited by Andy Cox, who has assembled a top-notched team of writers, artists, and columnists. It is one of the sharpest-looking magazines on the market, with full color interiors and gorgeous art. The most recent three issues of the bi-monthly magazine (#276, 277, and 278, cover dated July-December 2018) include fiction from Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Aliya Whiteley, Natalia Theodoridou, Fiona Moore, Rachael Cupp, James Warner, and many others. They also include some of the best columns and non-fiction in the business, including the long-running Ansible Link by David Langford (news and obits); my favorite film review column, Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe; the excellent Book Zone (book reviews); Andy Hedgecock’s Future Interrupted (column); Nina Allan’s Time Pieces (column); interviews, and guest editorials.

Here’s a few samples of that gorgeous interior art I was talking about.

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New Treasures: Clarkesworld Year Nine, Volumes One & Two, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Nine Volume One-small Clarkesworld Year Nine Volume Two-small

It’s hard to believe Clarkesworld magazine launched over a decade ago (in October 2006, believe it or not). I remember when Neil Clarke announced it, as sort of a side project/marketing scheme for his online Clarkesworld bookstore. I was already a regular customer — Clarkesworld was far and away the best source for small press magazines, and they sold a lot of the print edition of Black Gate — and I was curious to see what he could do with it.

The rest, as they say, is history. The bookstore shut down a few years later, but the magazine exploded. Last time I counted it had a World Fantasy Award, three Hugo Awards, a British Fantasy Award, and in 2013 it received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines combined. Clarkesworld keeps getting bigger and more ambitious every year… although, in one way at least, things haven’t changed much since 2006: I’m still intensely curious to see where Neil and Sean will take it next.

I don’t have time to read every issue, so I greatly appreciate their tradition of producing an annual print volume every year collecting a complete year of fiction under a single cover. Last year’s Year Eight was a huge 448 pages and, given how much the magazine has grown in the past year, I was looking forward to seeing just how big Year Nine would be. When I finally set eyes on it (at the Clarkesworld booth at the World Fantasy convention) I wasn’t disappointed. For the first time it’s been broken into two books, both over 300 pages.

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Mark Finn on the Future of Skelos Magazine

Sunday, December 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Skelos magazine

Skelos magazine, launched as a result of a terrifically successful Kickstarter in 2016, is one of the best new magazines of weird fantasy on the market. Editors Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks produced three of the first four promised issues — all of which look fabulous, and were well reviewed. But the fourth, originally cover-dated Summer 2017, has yet to appear, and after a year of delays and virtually no communication from the editors, there’s been a lot of open speculation around the fate of Skelos. Late yesterday Mark Finn posted a lengthy update with good new for dark fantasy fans.

Starting in 2019, we will resume publishing Skelos at a rate of two issues per year, during the Summer and Winter seasons… We will also pursue a more leisurely publishing schedule with regards to collections and original anthologies. Right now, there are two books in our hopper; a collection of Mythos Fiction by Don Webb, and a collection of Elak of Atlantis stories by Adrian Cole. We are very excited to bring those books out in 2019. Other original volumes and collections will follow and be announced, one at a time, as we can, and still keep our scheduled commitments.

As for the rest of this year: there’s not much left, but we are keen to finish and publish Skelos #4. Also, we are keen to fix/re-organize all of the ebook files so that they are standard and uniform and most important, all available. Once Skelos #4 is out, and the four issues have been secured and locked down in a digital format, we will turn our attention to publishing Skelos #5 and Skelos #6 in 2019, and Skelos #7 and Skelos #8 in 2020. Don’s book, Building Strange Temples, will be available in 2019, along with Adrian’s Elak collection. We will announce their on-sale dates in a timely manner… There are not enough places to read the things we like to read. Skelos was formed to address that, and we’d like to see it flourish.

We thank you for your patience. We will fix this, and try to do better going forward.

Speaking as a fan of the magazine, and one who’s been following the personal difficulties of Mark and his team with considerable sympathy, I’m relieved and impressed at the dedication of the entire team, and very much looking forward to the new issues. Read Mark’s complete Open Letter on Facebook here.


Birthday Reviews: Somtow Sucharitkul’s “Dr. Rumpole”

Sunday, December 30th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Realms of Fantasy, 8/98

Realms of Fantasy, 8/98

Somtow Sucharitkul was born on December 30, 1952. He also writes using the pseudonym S.P. Somtow. In addition to writing science fiction, Sucharitkul is a successful composer and conductor, including the opera The Snow Dragon, which debuted in Milwaukee in 2015, and five symphonies.

In 1981 Sucharitkul won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He has published as both Somtow Sucharitkul and S.P. Somtow and won the World Fantasy Award for his novella “The Bird Catcher” in 2002. His short story “Brimstone and Salt” won the International Horror Guild Award in 1997. He has also been nominated for the Hugo Award twice, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He also won the Silpathorn Kittikhun Award, presented by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture of Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. Sucharitkul was guest of honor at the 15th World Fantasy Con, held in Seattle in 1989.

The story “Dr. Rumpole” was published for the first time when Shawna McCarthy printed the story in the August 1998 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Sucharitkul included the story in his 2000 collection Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from L.A..

Sucharitkul takes a new spin on the story of Rumpelstiltskin in “Dr. Rumpole,” casting the princess with the impossible task as Adam Villacin, a wannabe screenwriter stuck in the mailroom at Stupendous Entertainment. When he happens to meet the studio head in an elevator, his friend’s fast-talking gets him an assignment as a script doctor. If he can’t turn a turkey of a script into a hit overnight, he’ll lose his job. Into this scenario comes Dr. Rumple, a mythic script doctor who can fix any script. However, he takes everything Villacin is paid for his scripts.

Just as Sucharitkul and the reader are aware that the story is a re-telling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, the characters also compare their situation to the fairy tale. Knowing how the fairy ends, they also know what they need to do in order to avoid the threat that Dr. Rumpole could conceivably pose for Villacin and his friend/agent, Bobby Detweiler. The story works because Sucharitkul doesn’t follow the formula slavishly. Rumpole’s name doesn’t matter, but it is when Villacin and Detweiler uncover his past that they figure out a way to get out from under his thumb.

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Birthday Reviews: Charles L. Harness’s “Child by Chronos”

Saturday, December 29th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by George Gibbons

Cover by George Gibbons

Charles L. Harness was born on December 29, 1915 and died on September 20, 2005.

Harness’s novelettes “An Ornament to His Profession” and “The Alchemist” were both nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. His novella “Probably Cause” was nominated for a Nebula and the novella “Summer Solstice” was nominated for a Hugo. He was also nominated for a retro-Hugo for the novella “The Rose.” Harness’s novel The Ring of Ritornel was nominated for the Ditmar Award in 1969.

“Child by Chronos” was first published by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas in the June 1953 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The following year, they included it in the anthology The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Third Series. It was translated into French for the magazine Fiction #26 in 1956, in 1966 for the anthology Historiques fantastiques de demain, and again for Planète #33 in March 1967, the last translation being done by Alain Dorémieux. Jacques Sadoul would also include it in his Anthologie de la littérature de Science-Fiction in 1981. It was published in German in 1969 in 9 Science Fiction-Stories, translated by Brigit Ress-Bohusch and in Italian in 1977 in Il future alla sbarra, translated by Roberta Rambelli. Charles Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg included it in 1980’s anthology Love 3000 and it was reprinted in 1998 in the NESFA Press Charles L. Harness collection An Ornament to His Profession.

In the film Somewhere in Time, based on Richard Matheson’s novel Bid Time Return, Elise McKenna (Susan French) gives Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) a pocket watch in 1972 which he carries back with him to 1912 and gives to a much younger Elise (Jane Seymour). At no time in its existence is the watch out of Elise’s or Richard’s possession, so there is no way for the watch to have been made or purchased, it just is. Charles Harness published “Child by Chronos” 18 years before Matheson’s novel and 23 years before the film, but has a similar paradox at the heart of his story.

Harness’s story focuses on a woman who hates her mother, whom she is amazingly like, and who notes that all the men she has ever loved were also involved with her mother, an unhealthy psychological situation. Her life isn’t made easier by the strange educational regimen her mother instituted. Rather than allow her to attend school, she was made to memorize all the headlines published from the time of her birth. Her mother, who made her living as a highly successful prognosticator, never gives her an explanation for this strange education.

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