Amazing Stories, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

11 79 Amazing Stories Covered

Cover by Elinor Mavor

Coming in after Asimov’s, Amazing Stories is a svelte 130 pages. One thing that really stood out to me in this issue was that almost everyone in it was a novice writer — many of the stories were first sales. It isn’t the ‘theme’ of the magazine, or of this issue or anything, but it is a thing I noticed. There is something refreshing about a quality amateur story, a certain unpolished plunging-ahead that can sweep the reader along.

That said, there are some of the stories that are, honestly, not that good. Others have said it better, but if you had picked up this issue back in the day (or pretty much any day), and thought to yourself “Hell, I could do this!”, you’d be right.

Here’s a look at the contents.

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Stories That Work: “The Backstitched Heart of Katharine Wright” by Alison Wilgus, and “For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow” by G.V. Anderson

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Interzone 279 January-February 2019-small

Interzone 279, January-February 2019; cover by Richard Wagner

When I was young, books addicted me. I read incessantly, imprudently, and in an unhealthy manner. My mother used to come into my room to check on me after bedtime by putting her hand on my reading light to see if it was warm (what she never knew was that I could read by my closet light that she didn’t check).

I finished novels in uninterrupted binges, starting one when I came home from school, and then reading until dawn. One year for Christmas, I asked for the Tom Corbett: Space Cadet books, which I had just discovered. Two weeks before the holiday, my parents left the house for an all-day outing. I hunted and hunted and hunted until I found the wrapped books, carefully unwrapped them, read them, and then rewrapped and returned them to the hiding place.

When I was in college, I found a dog-eared copy of The Fellowship of the Ring on a table in the student union. Four days of missed class later, I finished The Return of the King and then to my delight discovered that there was a prequel, The Hobbit, which is why I missed the fifth day too.

I was a sick puppy, drunk on story.

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Yes, Weird Tales is Back

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Tales 363-small

Cover by Abigail Larson

A few months ago I started to hear rumors that Weird Tales, the most storied and collectible American fantasy magazine of all time, had returned. Whispers, really. But I’d been hearing whispers for the last six years, ever since the last issue appeared from Nth Dimension Media, and especially since I published the article “Is Weird Tales Dead… Again?” in 2016. So I didn’t pay much attention.

But then I heard more reliable reports, and started to see listings online…. and then I ordered a copy, and right now I’m holding it in my hot little hands. And I can report that, in fact, Weird Tales is back.

It returns with a new publisher, Weird Tales Inc., but the same editor, Marvin Kaye, who took over the editorial reins from Ann VanderMeer in 2011, and managed only three issues in the last nine years. But the magazine looks terrific, with glossy paper and full color interiors, and an impressive Table of Contents, including stories by Victor LaValle, Jonathan Maberry, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and others. Not to mention an eye-catching cover by Abigail Larson, a tribute to perhaps the most iconic Weird Tales image of all time, the famous bat woman cover by Margaret Brundage.

Is Weird Tales back for good? Too early to tell — though to be fair Weird Tales has never exactly been a stable publication. (There’s a reason it’s called “The Magazine That Never Dies,” it keeps having to be resurrected.) There are the usual troubling signs already, including the fact that the website they proudly promote on the back page (weirdtales.com) is down already. But this looks like a quality package, and I’m hopeful. Let’s have a closer look at the contents.

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Stories That Work: “Selfless” by James Patrick Kelly, and “I Met a Traveler In an Antique Land” by Connie Willis

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

Asimov's Science Fiction November December 2017-medium Asimovs-Science-Ficion-November-December-2019-medium

Covers by Eldar Zakirov and Donato Giancola

Do you remember a German pop band called Nena and their single big song, “99 Luftballons”? No? Well, they were a one-hit wonder. How amazing is it, to be a one-hit wonder? Think of all the bands, playing in garages, trying their hardest to line up gigs, who never make the charts, whose songs are never heard by anyone other than family and friends. What do you think the ratio of unheard bands to one-hit wonders is?

Hard to calculate, but I’ll bet it’s huge.

Consider all the factors that have to come together for a song to rise to the prominence of “99 Luftballons,” and then imagine how all the other bands vying for attention would give almost anything to have that single moment of success that Nena enjoyed.

Just one hit.

And then think of Linda Ronstadt or Bruce Springsteen and their numerous triumphs.

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The Best in Modern Sword & Sorcery: The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 3

Sunday, January 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-small The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-back-small

Cover by Zoltan

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has been published, like clockwork, every quarter since June 2009. And every eight issues, like clockwork, the editors of HFQ assemble a Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly volume, as a way to celebrate another milestone and promote their worthy magazine.

These books are top-notch examples of modern sword & sorcery (and I’m not just saying that because I was invited to write the introduction for Volume I.) In his review of Volume I, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is… the most consistent forum for the best in contemporary swords & sorcery. Some may think I’m laying it on a little thick, but The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011, a distillation of the mag’s first three years, should prove that I’m not.

Volume III has just arrived, with a dynamic cover by Zoltan and stories by Charles Gramlich, P. Djéli Clark, Adrian Simmons, David Farney, and many others — plus an introduction by Darrell Schweitzer, and original art for each story by Miguel Santos, Justin Pfiel, Garry McCluskey, Robert Zoltan, and others. It’s an all-around gorgeous package, and a fine reminder that Heroic Fantasy is still a vibrant genre in the 21st Century. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Locus Award for Best Short Fiction: “Basilisk,” by Harlan Ellison

Saturday, January 11th, 2020 | Posted by Rich Horton

Deathbird Stories

Deathbird Stories (Dell, 1976). Cover by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon

In this time period the Locus Award for fiction went to novels, novellas, and short fiction, presumably both novelettes and short stories. (I’m not sure where the exact boundary between short fiction and novella was set.) Perhaps appropriately, the winner of the 1973 award, Harlan Ellison’s “Basilisk” is perhaps 7,000 words long, quite close to the current border between “short story” and “novelette” for both the Nebula and Hugo awards.

Harlan Ellison, who died in 2018, aged 84, was one of the most famous SF writers of my lifetime, and one of the most controversial. He also was one of the most celebrated, having won an astonishing 18 Locus awards, and been named SFWA Grand Master, as well as winning 8 Hugos and 2 Nebulas, and too many other awards for me to count.

Speaking personally, Ellison was one of those writers who, for the most part, I could admire without quite loving. A few of his stories were special to me – “On the Downhill Side” and “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” occur off the top of my head – stories as different from each other as one might examine, but very effective. Much of the rest of his work struck me as impressive but overwrought, and often exchanging affect for effect, or choosing to impress instead of express. If you see what I mean. His technical skill, in the directions he chose, was astonishing, but the end results, at times, seemed a bit empty.

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The Place of Fantasy in Science Fiction: Dell Science Fiction Reviews

Friday, January 10th, 2020 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine January February 2020-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact January February 2020-small

My main apprehension in agreeing with John O’Neill to write regular reviews for Dell Magazines appears to have been realized. This bi-month, for stories published in these issues in particular, I don’t have much — if anything — to say. In regards to the overall discourse, however, I have a few thoughts, and those thoughts might drive this article out of the bounds of a “review” into that of an “essay.”

So here it is: a number of the stories put me in mind of the sometimes-adversarial relationship between the science fiction and fantasy genres.

This time around, my rumination on this topic might have begun with Norman Spinrad’s review of books for the final 2019 issue of Asimov’s. Spinrad has little sympathy for fantasy, particularly when it — in his view — masquerades itself as science fiction.

Therefore, when I read the first of a series of decade-specific reprints of “best” science fiction stories published in Analog, I was sensitive to a bit of dialectic about the science/fantasy disparity, one, admittedly, that is twenty years old now. Moreover, in this same issue of Analog, in the present, some mitigation is brought to this topic through Sarina Dorie’s satire “The Shocking Truth About the Scientific Method that Privatized Schools Don’t Want You to Know,” though it, too, has much to say about a post-Enlightenment ideology that appears to somehow have lost its ability to Reason.

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Weirdbook #41 Now Available

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

weirdbook 41-small weirdbook 41 TOC-small

Cover by Iuliia Kovalova

2018 was a good year for Weirdbook, with three big issues. 2019 was a little more modest, with just one issue in June. (Although editor Doug Draa reports another one is in the pipeline…. possibly a John Shirley issue.)

Issue #41 contained stories by Darrell Schweitzer, Adrian Cole, K.G. Anderson, Steve Dilks, S. L. Edwards, and many others, plus poetry by Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, and others. The cover is by Iuliia Kovalova, with interior art by the great Allen Koszowski. The issue is dedicated to two contributors who passed away in the last year, whom editor Doug Draa salutes in his editorial.

On a very sad note, we lost two giants of the field over the last four months.

Paul Dake Anderson left us on the 13th December 2018, and Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire crossed over on the March 26th, 2019. Both were Weirdbook contributors to whom I will forever be indebted. Knowing them has enriched my life. Both were great writers and ever greater human beings. They will be sorely missed by their fans, friends and families, The world is a lesser place without them.

Jason McGregor has a lot to say in his lengthy and detailed Tangent Online review, which looks at every single one of the 29 stories. Here’s a few excerpts.

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Sixty Years of Lunar Anthologies

Saturday, December 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Men on the Moon-small The Moon Era-small Blue Moon-small

Men on the Moon (Ace, 1958, cover by Emsh), The Moon Era (Curtis Books, 1969), Blue Moon (Mayflower, 1970, Josh Kirby)

This past July was the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — a pretty major milestone in human civilization. A major milestone for science fiction fans as well, and we celebrated it in our own way. Most notably, Neil Clarke published The Eagle Has Landed: 50 Years of Lunar Science Fiction, a fat 570-page reprint anthology that I finally bought last week.

Neil’s book is the best moon-centered anthology I’ve ever seen, but it builds on a long history of classic SF volumes dating back at least six decades. While I was preparing a New Treasures article about it I kept going back to look at favorite moon books in my collection, and eventually I got the idea to craft a longer piece on half a dozen Lunar anthologies that all deserved a look.

I don’t mean to slight Neil’s excellent book, which we’ll dig into in detail. But if you’re like me and you can’t pick up a modern book about the moon without thinking of Donald A. Wollheim’s Ace Double Men on the Moon (from 1958), or Mike Ashley’s terrific Moonrise: The Golden Era of Lunar Adventures, then this article is for you.

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Stories That Work: “The Story of a True Artist” by Dominica Phetteplace, and “An Awfully Big Adventure” by Barbara Krasnoff

Thursday, December 26th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Bing Crosby Holiday Inn poster-small

Someone told me once, “Life is short but art is forever,” which I took to mean that art has no “sell by” date on it. If the art is beautifully rendered, it will always be beautiful and universal, but that’s not true, I’m afraid. Art can have a “sell by” date on it because time changes the window through which we view art.

Time’s cruelty demonstrated itself to me recently when I rewatched the classic Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire musical, Holiday Inn. There was a time when I loved Holiday Inn without reservation. It’s the only musical I know where the singing and dancing don’t seem grafted on to the story. Because it’s a tale of a song and dance partnership, the music arises spontaneously from the plot, and like all good musicals, the music also advances the plot. And what a combination of talent! Bing Crosby, arguably one of the best crooners of all time, teamed with Fred Astaire, a legendary dancer. Mikhaile Baryshinikov said of Astaire, “It’s no secret we hate him. He gives us complexes because he’s too perfect. His perfection is an absurdity.”

Besides, Holiday Inn introduced “White Christmas” to the world.

But time has done its work. As much as I love Holiday Inn, I’m finding it harder and harder to overlook the casual racial stereotypes baked into the structure. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about, starting with the black “nanny” housekeeper to the cringe-worthy black face routine to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.

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