Birthday Reviews: Susan Casper’s “Mama”

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction August 1984-small The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction August 1984-back-small

Cover by Paul Chadwick

Susan Casper was born on May 8, 1947 and died on February 24, 2017. Casper was married to author and editor Gardner Dozois.

Casper’s first story was “Spring-Fingered Jack” in 1983 and in 1988, she co-edited the anthology Ripper! (also Jack the Ripper). Other stories included “Covenant with a Dragon,” “Nine Tenths of the Law” and “Up the Rainbow.” Her short fiction was collected posthumously in Up the Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper and she also had a novel, The Red Carnival, published posthumously.

“Mama” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Edward L. Ferman, in the August 1984 issue. It would be reprinted in 2017 in Up the Rainbow.

Gloria’s mother is over-bearing and somewhat typical of a Jewish mother in “Mama,” although she could have been just as stereotypical had she been a mother of numerous other ethnicities. The key is that she disapproves of Gloria’s life choices and while Gloria is just trying to live her own life, suffering from a sudden breakup with the boyfriend she didn’t seem to have much invested it, her mother is trying to “fix” her life, making it better in the only way she knows how.

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Birthday Reviews: Gene Wolfe’s “The Cat”

Monday, May 7th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rowena

Cover by Rowena

Gene Wolfe was born on May 7, 1931.

Wolfe received the Nebula Award for his novella “The Death of Doctor Island” in 1974 and in 1982, he received the Nebula again for the novel The Claw of the Conciliator, the second volume in his Book of the New Sun. He has a total of twenty Nebula nominations and in 20013 was recognized by SFWA as a Grand Master.

He has received the World Fantasy Award for his novels The Shadow of the Torturer and Soldier of Sidon as well as for his collections Storeys from the Old Hotel and The Very Best of Gene Wolfe. The Shadow of the Torturer also won a British SF Association Awards. The Sword of the Lictor received the August Derleth Award from the British Fantasy Society and the final volume of the Book of the New Sun, The Citadel of the Autarch, received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Prix Apollo. The later, fifth volume, The Urth of the New Sun was recognized with the Italia Award.

Wolfe has also received a Rhysling Award for his poem “The Computer Iterates the Greater Trumps.” In 1985, he was the Guest of Honor at Aussiecon Two, the Worldcon in Melbourne and a GoH at the World Fantasy Con in 1983. He received a Skylark Award in 1989 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from World Fantasy Con in 1996. In 2007, Wolfe was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

“The Cat” was first published in the Souvenir book for the 1983 World Fantasy Convention. Gardner Dozois picked the story up for the inaugural volume of his long-running The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection and also reprinted the story in Magicats!, co-edited with Jack Dann. Wolfe included the story in his collection Endangered Species and later in the collection The Castle of the Otter, published by Centipede Press and which included the earlier Zeising Brothers book The Castle of the Otter along with additional material published in the intervening 23 years. In 1990, the story was translated into French as “Le Chat,” and has been published in France at least three times.

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Imaginative Tales, July 1957: A Retro-Review

Sunday, May 6th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Imaginative Tales July 1957-small Imaginative Tales July 1957-back-small

Imaginative Tales was the adventure oriented companion magazine to William Hamling’s Imagination. Imagination (often called Madge) is still affectionately remembered by some older fans — it was a fun magazine, though I can’t say it published much really memorable fiction. Imaginative Tales arguably tried to be even funner, but I think less successfully, based on my limited exposure.

(Hamling, by the way, is a controversial figure, not really remembered, I gather, as affectionately as his magazine. He lived to be 95, dying in 2016. He is reported to have rather gruffly rebuffed any attempts to discuss his SF publishing career over the past few decades of his life. He started Rogue magazine in 1955, as a competitor to Playboy, and much of his latter-day publishing efforts were in the “adult” genre.)

The cover is by Malcolm Smith. The interiors are uncredited, though I recognize a signature for “Becker,” and the ISFDB suggests W. E. Terry for another. The interiors are 2 color, by the way.

This issue features a novella, “World of Never-Men,” by Edmond Hamilton, and five short stories. One is by Robert Moore Williams, “The Red Rash Deaths,” and the other four are by some combination of Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg, who, as I recall, were working together at the time, producing reams of fiction for the likes of Hamling.

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Birthday Reviews: Craig Strete’s “Time Deer”

Sunday, May 6th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rick Sternbach

Cover by Rick Sternbach

Craig Strete was born on May 6, 1950.

Strete was nominated for two Nebula Awards in 1976 for the short story “Time Deer” and the novelette “The Bleeding Man,” both published in December of 1974. He received a third Nebula nomination in 1981 for the short story “A Sunday Visit with Great-Grandfather,” which also placed in that year’s Locus Poll. His first collection was initially published in the Netherlands with subsequent collections appearing in the United States.

He published the magazine Red Planet Earth in 1974, focusing on Native American science fiction, and his novels have been published under his own name and the pseudonym Sovereign Falconer. He is of Cherokee descent and Native American themes and characters often appear in his works.

“Time Deer” was originally published in the November 1974 issue of Worlds of If, edited by Jim Baen. Baen included it in The Best from If, Volume III and Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss selected it for their Best SF: 1974. The story was included in Nebula Award Stories Eleven, edited by Ursula K. Le Guin. Strete included it in his collection If All Else Fails…, which was first published in Dutch. In 1986, Joseph D. Olander, Martin H. Greenberg, and Frederik Pohl picked it as a representative story for Worlds of If: A Retrospective Anthology. The story was been translated into Dutch, French, German, and Italian.

In “Time Deer” Strete takes a look at an eighty year old man whose daughter-in-law and son have decided it is time for him to enter a nursing home. Even as his son, Frank Strong Bull, has conflicted feelings about the action and Frank’s over-bearing wife, Sheila, just wants to get the man put away, he communes with his past, focusing his attention on a deer, although whether the animal is actually there or not is left up to the reader.

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Birthday Reviews: Catherynne M. Valente’s “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica”

Saturday, May 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver



Catherynne M. Valente was born on May 5, 1979.

She began publishing poetry and fiction in 2004 with the appearance of the poem “The Oracle Alone” and the novel The Labyrinth. She has won the Hugo Award twice for her work on SF Squeecast and won the Andre Norton Award for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which had only appeared on her website at the time.

Her novel The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden received the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award and, along with its sequel Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Space, the Mythopoeic Award. Her short story “The Future Is Blue” earned Valente a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. She won the Lambda Award for her novel Palimpsest and her poem “The Seven Devils of Central California” was recognized with the Rhysling Award. Valente has also won five Locus Awards, two each in the novella and young adult book category and one in the novelette category.

“A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica” was originally purchased by Neil Clarke and Nick Mamatas for Clarkesworld issue 20, published in May 2008. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer selected the story for Year’s Best Fantasy 9 and Rich Horton reprinted it in Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 2008 Download. The story was also used in Realms 2: The Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine and Valente reprinted it in her collection Ventriloquism. It was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction.

Maps are cool, and although Valente doesn’t include any actual maps in “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica,” she does provide detailed descriptions of six fictional maps of Antarctica and the South Orkney Islands. Her descriptions, written as if they appeared in an auction house catalog, go far beyond simply providing details of the map.

Valente’s catalog entries paint a picture of two very different cartographers whose lives and interests intertwined. Nahuel Acuña is a serious cartographer who does his best, often under trying conditions, to accurately map the edges of the world. His quest is aided by his ability to garner funding from a variety of sources. On the other hand, Villalba Maldonado, who was on the same initial voyage as Acuña, and scrambles for any money in pursuit his interests, seems to relish depicting the world as he would like it to be, as well as trolling his rival with his creations.

Read More » Celebrates 50 Years of Locus Magazine

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus 1987-small

Over at, Paul Weimer (who comments occasionally at Black Gate and elsewhere as PrinceJvstin) has written a fine tribute to one of my favorite magazines — Locus, the news magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field. He captures exactly what the magazine has meant to readers over the years, especially in the 80s and 90s when it was the trusted news source that tied together the entire genre.

In 1968, the legendary anthologist and editor Charles N. Brown created a one-sheet fanzine about news of the science fiction field. Brown’s intent was to use it to help the Boston Science Fiction group win its Worldcon bid. Brown enjoyed the experience so much that he continued the magazine through Noreascon I, the 29th Worldcon held in Boston in 1971 (where Locus won its first Hugo award). Brown continued to be the steward of Locus until his death in 2009. In that run, Locus won thirty Hugo awards, and for good reason…

Before the internet transformed how we get news and information, Locus, under Brown’s stewardship, and the assemblage of his team of columnists, grew and expanded its reach year after year until it became what I call the semiprozine of record. Locus became the go-to place for SFF news and information, backed up with a strong stable of reviews and interviews. Every issue of Locus was a window into the ever shifting and changing world of SFF.

The magazine was so important that, when we launched Black Gate in fall of 2000 with a very limited advertising budget, there was never any question about where we should spend it — on a full page ad in Locus. It paid us back handsomely.

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Birthday Reviews: Michael Cadnum’s “The Elf Trap”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Michael Garland

Cover by Michael Garland

Michael Cadnum was born on May 3, 1949.

His first novel Nightlight was published in 1990, and he published three more novels the next year. His other works include Ghostwright, The Judas Glass, and Nightsong: The Legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. In addition to novels and short fiction Cadnum also writes poetry, and he received a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship for his poetry. His short fiction has been collected in Can’t Catch Me and Other Twice-Told Tales, Earthquake Murder, and other collections. In novels Starfall and Nightsong deal with mythical themes, while In a Dark Wood and Forbidden Forest explore the Robin Hood mythos.

Cadnum’s story “Elf Trap” was originally published in the April 2001 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon van Gelder. In 2006 Cadnum included the story in his collection Can’t Catch Me and Other Twice-Told Tales, published by Tachyon Publications.

“Elf Trap” is the story of Tina and Norman, a couple who are having some major problems with a rat infestation of their property, although it focuses on rats stealing food from their bird feeders. While Tina works on quilts, Norman’s occupation is to provide the voice for Wise Elf in a series produced by Disney.

Although Tina is worried about the rat problem, her more important concern is that it isn’t clear that Norman is able to discern between reality and the Wise Elf character who has endeared him to a generation of children. When they set a rat trap on their property, Norman becomes convinced that rather than catching a rat, they’ve accidentally caught and killed an elf, a possible delusion which Tina does not dissuade.

Although some aspects of their lives and relationship improve, Norman’s career and reputation take a powerful hit as he can’t deal with the thought that he caused the death of an elf, even inadvertently. Tina, in her own mind, takes credit for breaking Norman from his delusions that the elves are real, however she begins to question whether she or Norman had the more realistic view of the situation.

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Birthday Reviews: Anne Harris’s “The House”

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Don Maitz

Cover by Don Maitz

Anne Harris was born on May 2, 1964.

Harris’s first novel was The Nature of Smoke. In 1999, Harris received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for her novel Accidental Creatures and her book Inventing Memory appeared on the 2005 James Tiptree, Jr. Award Long List. Her short story “Still Life with Boobs” was on the 2006 Nebula Award ballot for Best Short Story. More recently, she published the novels Amaranth and Ash and All the Colors of Love using the pseudonym Jessica Freely, and the novels of the Libyrinth sequence using the name Pearl North.

In “The House,” Harris creates a self-contained society that has arisen after some sort of undefined event which changed the nature of those who inhabited the house. Harris is never quite clear about what is happening in the titular house, or at least now who it is happening to. The house is apparently abandoned except for some sort of feral creatures living in it, possibly human, possibly animal. Some of them seem catlike, others snakelike, but their memories indicate some level of sentience and possibly humanity in their background.

The house’s inhabitant live in a strange game of King of the Mountain, which each of them attempting to gain access to the attic space and the windows onto the world which exist up there, a position held at the opening of the story by Azazel. In the story the main rivalry is between Harris’s narrator and Gustov, who seems to think he knows how to reach the attic and overthrow Azazel.

Because the concept of the House and its inhabitants is never really described to the reader, although the characters do seem to have a reasonably complete understanding of their situation, the story doesn’t entirely work if the reader tries to understand exactly what the situation is or what the inhabitants are. If the reader just accepts the house as a location for a quest and challenge between the narrator, Gustov, and Azazel, or even as a metaphor, the story works much better.

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Birthday Reviews: Joel Rosenberg’s “The Blink of a Wizard’s Eye”

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Dragon magazine March 1983-small Dragon magazine March 1983-back-small

Cover by Clyde Caldwell

Joel Rosenberg was born on May 1, 1954 and died on June 4, 2011.

Rosenberg published the Guardians of the Flame series, beginning with The Sleeping Dragon in 1983, about a group of role playing gamers magically transported to a fantasy world where they must deal with the stereotypical magical world, bringing along their modern points of view and knowledge. The series ran for ten volumes through 2003.

Rosenberg also published the four volumes set in his Thousand Worlds science fiction milieu and his other fantasy series: Keepers of the Hidden Ways, D’Shai, and Mordred’s Heirs. Along with Raymond Feist, he wrote Murder in Lamut, a novel set in Feist’s Riftwar setting. His short story “The Last Time” was set in Robert Adams’s Horseclans universe.

In addition to his speculative fiction, Rosenberg also worked as a gun rights advocate, running gun training classes and writing handbooks on gun ownership specific to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Rosenberg also wrote two volumes about Sparky Hemingway, a mystery series featuring a main character who is a copy-editor. Rosenberg also invited me to my first science fiction convention, which is how I got involved in all of this.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1954: A Retro-Review

Monday, April 30th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction February 1954-smallThe cover for the February, 1954 issue is titled “Spaceship Hydroponics Room” by Ed Emshwiller. We’re growing some hydroponic tomatoes at home, so the future is now!

“Beep” by James Blish — The Dirac communicator allows instantaneous communication between two devices, regardless of their distance. This gives an immense military advantage to those in the galaxy who possess it. But a shrewd reporter named Dana Lje uncovers something of much greater importance, hidden within a beep that precedes each message. And she sets her own terms for revealing her findings.

This story felt more like a science article expanded into a narrative, where characters are talking about the theoretical science. It didn’t feel much like a story to me. I found the science intriguing enough, but it makes me wonder if a concise article on the subject would have had the same effect.

“The Boys From Vespis” by Arthur Sellings — The Vespians arrive on Earth for their own purposes, and they’re all extremely attractive men. Herbert and other local guys can’t get any attention anymore because of the recent competition, and he’s had enough. He goes straight to the leader of the Vespians to demand that something be done.

It’s a pretty short tale, and it earned a light laugh from me toward the end. Arthur Sellings is a pseudonym for Arthur Gordon Ley, a British author and scientist. He had six novels and many short stories published. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at age 47 in 1968.

“Pet Farm” by Roger Dee — A three-man team explores the planet Falak — a small, arid planet that doesn’t rotate. Their job is to look for survivors from the war with the Hymenops — an insect race that attacked humans 200 years ago. The humans they find are all in their mid-twenties or younger and unable to communicate effectively in English. While there are a myriad of explanations for the absence of older humans, they hope to find the cause so that the planet can be recolonized in the future.

There’s a good, mysterious plot that unveils nicely. This story is part of his series that follows the crew of the Marco Four. I reviewed a previous story titled “Wailing Wall” that appeared in the July, 1952 issue.

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