The Golden Age of Science Fiction: SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie

Sunday, September 15th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

SF Commentary: Tenth Anniversary Edition

SF Commentary: Tenth Anniversary Edition

The Ditmar Awards are named for Australian fan Martin James Ditmar Jenssen. Founded in 1969 as an award to be given by the Australian National Convention, during a discussion about the name for the award, Jenssen offered to pay for the award if it were named the Ditmar. His name was accepted and he wound up paying for the award for more years than he had planned. Ditmar would eventually win the Ditmar Award for best fan artist twice, once in 2002 and again in 2010. The Australian Fanzine Award was one of the Ditmar’s original awards and the first one was won by John Bangsund for Australian SF Review. Bruce Gillespie won his first Ditmar for SF Commentary in 1972 and the ‘zine also won the award in 1973, 1977, 1980, 2002, and 2018. He also won the award in 1986 and 1999 for his ‘zine Metaphysical Review and in 2010 for Steam Engine Time. Rich Horton took a look at SF Commentary as the winner of the 1973 Ditmar Award in his companion series looking at his own Golden Age of Science Fiction.

Bruce Gillespie began publishing SF Commentary in 1969 and by 1979 he was ready to publish issues 55 through 57, although the numbering a count was a little screwy. In January, he published a 68 page combination issue, numbered 55-56 and in November, he published the final issue of the year, 57, which came in at 16 pages.

Combined issue 55/56 opens with an editorial by Gillespie extolling the ten years that he has been publishing the fanzine. The article traces the history of the fanzine, and through it Australian fandom, through the ten years of its existence, including the ill-fated attempt in 1976 to turn the ‘zine into a semi-professional magazine. Toward the end of the article, Gillespie turns his attention away from the zine and fandom and discusses the major events and publications in science fiction over the course of the decade, along with a lengthy bibliography of stories published during that time that he would recommend. The article provides a lengthy and full view of the world of science fiction, as seen from Australia, from 1969 through the beginning of 1979. Gillespie summation of the decade runs for about a third of the article.

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Ghost Ships, High-tech Farming, and Prospecting the Moon: September/October Print Magazines

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction September October 2019-small Asimov's Science Fiction September October 2019-small Analog September October 2019-small

The big news among magazine fans this month is the spectacular 70th Anniversary issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which has one of the most impressive line-ups I’ve seen in many years. It contains fiction by Michael Moorcock, Kelly Link, Maureen McHugh, Michael Swanwick, Ken Liu, Esther Friesner, Paolo Bacigalupi, Elizabeth Bear — and one of Gardner Dozois’ last stories. This one will be snatched off the shelf quickly; if you haven’t secured a copy already, I would move quickly.

In his editorial for the issue, C.C. Finlay talks about what really makes the magazine special.

For the past five years, one of my guiding principles as the editor of F&SF has been to find work that still accomplishes those two goals. I scour the submission queue for stories that are fun to read — entertaining, compelling, and well-crafted — with a narrative that pulls you from paragraph to paragraph, page to page, from the first sentence to the final line. At the same time, I’m also hunting for stories that have at least one additional layer to them beyond the surface, something that makes you think, even if it makes you think by making you laugh, that makes you want to discuss the story, to consider the way it reflects our lives and the world we live in. I believe that it’s this particular combination of qualities that has made the stories in F&SF continually feel fresh and relevant in every decade of its existence.

We have a wonderful collection of those kinds of stories for you in this issue as we celebrate the magazine’s seventy years of publication. In typical F&SF fashion, they span the genre from literary fantasy to wuxia adventure, from the near future on Earth to the far future in outer space, from ridiculous satire to thoughtful speculation, from one of the genre’s Grand Masters and some of its most awarded figures to up-and-coming authors, from the debut story of a brand new writer to the final tale from one of science fiction’s greatest writer/editors. Once you add in a couple poems, a special essay from Robert Silverberg, our usual columns and features, and some cartoons, you have an issue that is both like every other issue of F&SF and also something special.

Asimov’s SF and Analog can’t compete with a line-up like that, but they make a good run at it. This is Asimov’s annual “slightly spooky” issue, which is always one of my favorites. The two magazines contain fiction from Andy Duncan, Sandra McDonald, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Rich Larson, James Sallis, Adam-Troy Castro, Tony Ballantyne, Edward M. Lerner, Norman Spinrad, Brendan DuBois, Michael F . Flynn — and Black Gate blogger Marie Bilodeau! Here’s the complete Tables of Contents for all three.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Enemy Mine,” by Barry B. Longyear

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Cover by Vincent di Fate

The Best Novella category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953. I twas introduced in 1968, when it was won by Philip José Farmer for “Riders of the Purple Wage” and Anne McCaffrey for “Weyr Search.” Since then, some version of the award has been a constant, with the exception of 1958. In 1980, the awards were presented at Noreascon II in Boston.

The Nebula Award was created by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and first presented in 1966, when the award for Best Novella was won by Brian W. Aldiss for “The Saliva Tree” and Roger Zelazny for “He Who Shapes.” The award has been given annually since then.

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Book Novella Award dates back to 1974, when the short fiction awards were split into Short Fiction and Novella lengths. Frederick Pohl won the first award. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

In January, I wrote about Barry B. Longyear, the winner of the John W. Campbell Award in 1980 and explored the vast amount of fiction he published in 1978 and 1979. At that time, I dismissed his biggest hit with a single line, “His breakout story, of course, was “Enemy Mine,” which will be covered in more depth in the article on that novella’s various awards for the year.” Now is come the time to discuss that story.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Amateur Magazine: Energumen

Saturday, August 31st, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

energumen cover

The Hugo Award for Best Fanzine was first awarded in 1955 to Science-Fiction Times, edited by James V. Taurasi, Sr. and Ray Van Houten. That was the second year of the Hugo Awards (which began in 1953 and skipped 1954.) It has been awarded every year since then (except 1958) in some form – the name has varied a bit, from Fanzine to Fan Magazine to Amateur Magazine, before settling on Fanzine.

In 1973 the Hugo for Best Amateur Magazine went to Energumen, edited by Mike Glicksohn and Susan Wood Glicksohn. Energumen ran for 15 issues (plus two supplements) from 1970 through 1973, with an additional issue in 1981, published after Susan Wood’s death, aged only 32, in 1980. The fanzine essentially ran for the duration of the marriage of Mike and Susan. Mike Glicksohn died in 2011. Both editors received Hugo Nominations as Best Fan Writer – Mike Glicksohn in 1977, and Susan Wood 8 times, winning in 1974, 1977, and posthumously in 1981.

I can’t say I read Energumen in my Golden Age. Alas, the first fanzines I read were a couple of years later – Locus and Science Fiction Review (aka The Alien Critic), both in 1975 (or maybe late 1974.) So I took the time to head to and look through the 1972 issues of Energumen. The magazine was nominally quarterly, and indeed four issues appeared in 1972, numbers 11 through 14. (The thirteenth issue announced that #15 would be the last.)

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Sandkings,” by George R.R. Martin

Monday, August 26th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

The Hugo Award was first presented at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention (sometimes called Philcon II), held in Philadelphia from September 5-7, 1953. No short fiction awards were presented the first year. In 1955, the first award for Best Novellette, not yet known as a Hugo Award, was given to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “The Darfsteller.” The award for Best Novelette was not presented in 1957 or 1958, returned in 1959 and then disappeared until 1967. It was on hiatus again from 1970 through 1972 and became a permanent ficture in 1973. The Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention. Martin won two Hugo Awards in 1980, for “The Way of Cross and Dragon” in the Short Story Category and “Sandkings” in the Novelette category. He had previously won a Hugo for his novella “A Song for Lya” in 1975 and would win a second novella award for “Blood of the Dragon” as well as a Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form Hugo for season 1 of Game of Thrones. The only fiction category in which he has not yet won a Hugo is the Best Novel category. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Book Publisher Award dates back to 1972, although in 1975 and 1976 the Publisher Award was split into paperback and hardcover categories. Ballantine Books won the award each year from its inception through 1977 (winning the paperback for the two experimental years with the Science Fiction Book Club winning the hardcover award). In 1978, when Del Rey was established as an imprint of Ballantine, Ballantine/Del Rey began winning the award. The award was not presented in 1979 for works published in 1978, but when it was reinstituted in 1980, Ballantine/Del Rey picked up its winning streak. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

In many ways, “Sandkings” is a predictable story. Simon Kress is depicted from the start as arrogant and cruel. Although the world of Baldur is not particularly well depicted, based on Kress’s personality and actions, the world seems to provide a breeding ground for a decadent society, at least the part of it that Kress is part of, although Martin does indicate that he has some sort of business that he must occasionally attend to which provides him with the means to pursue his decadent lifestyle, which centers on the collection, exhibition, and eventual discarding of various exotic animals/aliens.

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John W. Campbell was a Racist and a Loon: A Response to Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech

Saturday, August 24th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton


Jeannette Ng

I don’t think I have anything much to add to the commentariat’s discussion of Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech. But why should that stop me?

The simplest thing to note is this — however you parse the word Fascist (and I would parse it differently than many), John W. Campbell was a racist, and a loon. (However you parse THAT word.) His ideas about how we should best be governed were, if not Fascist by a strict definition, not exactly democratic, to say the least. He cheered on the Kent State massacre, for goodness’ sake. He was sexist too, though in that case I think maybe he was just “a man of his time” — his racism, however, was definitely more virulent than the norm. And loonier! (See his editorial suggesting that black people preferred to be slaves.)

And on those grounds I have no complaint with Ng’s speech. Yes, she misidentified the magazine Campbell worked for (and has apologized for that) — but, heck, she was excited and nervous — these things happen.

The real point is — and I think Alec Nevala-Lee deserves tremendous credit for clarifying this — that “we”, as the SF field, especially those of us who’ve been around a lot longer, kind of ignored how whacko — and downright harmful — Campbell’s views could be. It’s not that they weren’t known — he trumpeted them in the pages of Astounding! — but people tended to sort of excuse them — “Oh, John was just trying to stir conversation,” that sort of thing. It’s pretty clear that he really did believe many or most of the things he wrote. And we should have, collectively and individually, been more forceful in standing against those ideas.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand – II: Will Murray on Doc Savage

Monday, August 19th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Savage_Magazine1EDITED“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)

Back in June, I posted that A (Black) Gat in the Hand was returning this summer. Last year, from May 14th through December 31st, every Monday morning featured a new hardboiled/pulp-related post – mostly by me, but with several friends who wrote some great stuff. I love hardboiled/PI stories and I’m as proud of that series as I am of the two Robert E. Howard ones I’ve helped coordinate here at Black Gate.

So, I called on some more friends this year, and I sought out some wider-ranging topics – the pulp magazines were FAR more than just mystery and detective-based. The Adventure Pulps were the dominant ones for years, with exciting tales of derring do and discovery. Even today, Doc Savage remains the best-known name among adventure heroes. And Will Murray, who is currently writing authorized Doc Savage novels (plus a LOT more), kicks off our series with a look at the Man of Bronze.


Doc Savage was not created so much as he was assembled in much the way Victor Frankenstein stitched together his infamous monster from unconnected charnel parts.

The year was 1932. At the Street & Smith publishing company, they had a surprise runaway success in a magazine called The Shadow. Inspired by a creepy radio voice used to promote their Detective Story Magazine, the mockingly laughing Shadow captured America’s imagination in that dark Depression year. The magazine kept selling out. S&S pushed author Walter B. Gibson into producing two novels a month so they could release the pulp periodical every other week. The Shadow Magazine kept selling.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “giANTS,” by Edward Bryant

Sunday, August 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by John Sanchez

Cover by John Sanchez

The Nebula Award was created by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and first presented in 1966, when the award for Best Short Story was won by Harlan Ellison for “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” It has been given annually since then. Ed Bryant won the award in 1979 for his story “Stone” and again in 1980 for the story “giANTS,” the first time an author won the award back-to-back.

Ed Bryant’s “giANTS” is a strange work of almost fan fiction. It is set in a world in which them 1954 B movie Them! has taken on immense importance. Main character Paul Chavez dreams himself in the movie, with himself in the role of the protagonist, and upon waking has a difficult time separating reality from his dream. Chavez also finds himself the subject of a relentless reporter, Layne Bridgewell, who is seeking an interview with him, one he only begrudgingly gives.

It takes a while to determine the actual role of Them! in the story since it seems to be a film that Chavez and Bridgewell have both seen and are aware of. At the same time, there is definitely something occurring with insects throughout the world and Bridgewell has lost family to bees while Chavez’s wife was killed by fire ants.

It eventually turns out that rather than being the nightmare scenario Chavez fears, Them! provides the solutions to the problem of a world in which normal insects run amok. Bryant cleverly takes the biggest scientific inaccuracy of the film and turns it on his head, allowing Chavez to realize that creating a means of increasing the insects size is the fastest way to destroy them, due to the square-cube law.

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Asimov’s Science Fiction, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Monday, August 12th, 2019 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Asimov’s Science Fiction November 1979-small

Asimov’s Science Fiction, November 1979
Edited by George H. Scithers
Published by Davis Publications. 196 pages, $1.25

I heard you missed me! I’m back!

Technically, this is Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (now known as Asimov’s Science Fiction). It was a refreshing change of pace after Galileo’s ‘story behind the story,’ and Analog’s massive book review. Asimov’s was pretty much fiction and nothing but fiction. 192 pages of it, as the cover advertises!

Also advertised, Dungeons and Dragons — and not ‘Advanced’ D&D, but the original. Takin’ it back! Also, as I’ve said elsewhere, taking readers away from sci-fi magazines in the long run.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Migration of Darkness,” by Peter Payack

Saturday, August 10th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Alex Schomburg

Cover by Alex Schomburg

Cover by Tim Mullins

Cover by Tim Mullins

The Rhysling Awards, named for Robert A. Heinlein’s poet from The Green Hills of Earth, were established by the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. Both the association and the award were founded by Suzette Haden Elgin. Each year, awards are given for Short Form poetry and Long Form poetry. The first three years of the award resulted in ties, with three poems tying in the first year, and two each tying in the second and third year.

Payack’s poem “The Migration of Darkness” appeared in the August 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by George Scithers. The poem postulates that darkness, rather than being the absence of light, is made up of infinitesimal pieces of darkness that breed in dimmer regions, such as the poles, and migrate south each night to cover the world in darkness, only to migrate back to the polar regions, or possible westward, with the coming of night. Pieces of darkness that don’t make the migration congregate behind buildings and trees to form shadows, but their lives of, of necessity, short since the light will eventually find them and kill them off.

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