The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: TCM’s Summer of Darkness

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

TCM_LogoHard boiled and noir are often discussed together. And while a film or story could fit in both categories, they are two distinct genres. Hard boiled is typified by the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and others from Black Mask and Dime Detective magazines.

Noir is usually (but not always) thought of in terms of film: black and white, shadowy movies with dark characters. Much hard boiled is noir, and vice versa. Far more expert folks have discussed the definitions of the two terms for decades.

One example, to me, are the works of Cornell Woolrich, whose “It Had to Be Murder” became the masterful suspense flick, Rear Window. Woolrich’s stories are noir, but not hard boiled.

Many of Humphrey Bogart’s films were hard boiled, including The Maltese Falcon (also noir), The Roaring Twenties and Bullets or Ballots. One of his later films, In a Lonely Place (based on the novel by Dorothy Hughes) is a noir classic but isn’t hard boiled.

So, just know that many films (usually crime related) from the thirties through the fifties and into the sixties, were hard boiled, noir, or both.

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Explore the Best of Early SF With Science Fiction From the Great Years

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Armageddon 2419 AD-small The Mightiest Machine-small The Moon Is Hell-small Alien Planet-small

In the early 1950s, after the end of World War II and the beginning of the Space Race, science fiction experienced an almost unprecedented boom. Some 31 new SF magazines began publishing in that decade alone. Hungry to meet the demands of a new audience, publishers mined the pulps of the 1930s and 1940s for titles they could inexpensively reprint in paperback. Countless SF and fantasy writers enjoyed their very first mass market editions as a result — including Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, John W. Campbell, Lester del Rey, Jack Vance, Theodore Sturgeon, A.E. van Vogt, and many others. Avon, Ace, Berkely and others built their fledgling enterprises into mighty publishing houses repackaging classic SF and fantasy for a new generation.

By the early 1960s, the boom in SF was essentially over. Nearly 80% of the magazines on the market folded. Publishers drastically cut back on SF titles, and the entire industry re-trenched. By the early 1970s, a new generation of young SF readers was starting to show up in bookstores, clutching their dollar bills and looking for great adventure tales, and Frederick Pohl convinced his publishers at Ace that the time was ripe to repackage the great SF of the early 20th Century one more time.

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Vintage Treasures: Under the Moons of Mars, edited by Sam Moskowitz

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Under the Moons of Mars Moskowitz-smallSome folks I know date the creation of modern SF and Fantasy to Star Trek in the mid-60, or the release of Star Wars in 1977. Those who are a little more knowledgeable date it to the first issue of Amazing Stories, in April 1926.

Folks who are really knowledgeable date it even earlier, to the “Scientific Romances” that became popular in early pulp magazines — so popular, in fact, that a young entrepreneur named Hugo Gernsback decided that the time was right for a magazine devoted exclusively to them. That magazine was Amazing Stories, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When editors first began combing the old pulps for stories to anthologize in the late 40 and early 50s, virtually all of them began with Amazing Stories #1. There was a great deal of popular SF and fantasy published well before that, but it was overlooked. And, as the decades went by, it was gradually forgotten.

Where did it appear? I have no idea — the really knowledgeable could tell you, but I’m not one of them. As we look backwards through history, my vision goes dark right around Lost in Space.

Fortunately, the great genre historian Sam Moskowitz was one of the really knowledgeable. And he used his vast knowledge for good. Specifically, he used it to assemble the anthology Under the Moons of Mars, which collected some of the very best of the early science fiction and fantasy from the days before there were magazines dedicated to such things — including stories and novel excerpts from Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, Ray Cummings, Murray Leinster, Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint, and many others.

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Vintage Treasures: Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Argosy April 1943-small Fantastic Novels Magazine July 1950-small Earth's Last Citadel Ace 1964-small

Last week I talked about The Watcher at the Door, the upcoming second volume in Stephen Haffner’s The Early Kuttner. By coincidence, I found a copy of the 1983 Ace reprint edition of C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner’s early novel Earth’s Last Citadel – a novel that’s been blessed with some really fine cover art over the decades — a few days later in a small collection I’d purchased on eBay, and I thought it would be fun to track down all the various covers it’s had over the years.

Earth’s Last Citadel first appeared as a four-part serial in Argosy magazine, April-July 1943 (above left, cover artist unknown; click for bigger version.) When I talk about great art, I’m not talking about this cover. But I suppose in 1943, you couldn’t go wrong with a square-jawed G.I. clocking a soldier in a Nazi helmet.

The entire thing was reprinted seven years later in Fantastic Novels Magazine, July 1950, with a cover by Lawrence (above, middle). Collecting pulps wasn’t easy even in the 40s, and if you were unfortunate enough to stumble on one installments a few years later, and wanted to read the rest… God help you. Trying to track down all four issues was no easy task. Fantastic Novels Magazine is one of my favorite pulps for that reason — it collected countless novels that were originally scattered across 3-4 magazines and reprinted them whole. It also commissioned new artwork, much of it, as in this case, by the great Virgil Finlay. Finlay’s full-page pieces for Earth’s Last Citadel (below) are gorgeous, and just as famous as the novel is today.

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Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dunwich Horror and Others Lee Brown Coye 1963-small At the Mountains of Madness Arkham House Lee Brown Coye 1964-small Dagon and Other Macabre Tales Lee Brown Coye 1965-small The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions 1970-small

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

In Part I of this series, I looked at the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s. In Part II, we examined the Lancer and Ballantine paperbacks of the late 60s and early 70s. In Part III, I want to showcase the volumes that most serious Lovecraft collectors start with — the Arkham House collected works, published in three volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, plus a collection of Lovecraft’s revisions, those tales he re-wrote for various clients to make them acceptable for Weird Tales, The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions.

Now I want to start off by saying that, while these four books are some of the most important in 20th Century Horror — and, indeed, they form the cornerstone of any serious horror collection — they still represent a pretty hinky way to gather Lovecraft’s fiction. Why? The Dunwich Horror is subtitled “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.” At the Mountains of Madness collects his longer tales (At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the rest of the Randolph Carter stories.) Which leaves Dagon with the unofficial subtitle, All the Stuff That’s Not Lovecraft’s Best. Seems a strange way to assemble a third volume, that’s all I’m saying.

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Retro Review: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Edmond Hamilton’s Galaxy

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

SFBC edition (1977)

… square jawed heroes… solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower

He remembered his father, the Valkar of years ago, teaching him from a great star-chart on the wall of the ruined palace.

“The yellow sun that neighbors the triple-star just beyond the last rim of the Darkness only to be approached from zenith or the drift will riddle you –”

THE SUN SMASHER: A PULP MAGAZINE SPACE OPERA CLASSIC (sic)

Yes, as an escape from the current sadness-of-the-canines, I’ve been reading Edmond Hamilton. Ironic really, since Hamilton’s an author with rockets on the cover, square jawed heroes within, and solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower.

Actually, Hamilton’s politics evolved with the century.

His early books are all about paternalistic bureaucracies and mighty empires. His later books are more questioning, with bureaucrats as antagonists, and Imperialism something one might sensibly turn one’s back on.

(I’m torn here, because I want to say more, cite examples, but I don’t want to spoiler the books for you. If you like vintage SF, and haven’t read Hamilton, then you’re in for a treat. Imagine if EE Doc Smith could actually write. )

All that said, reading Hamilton for politics is like listening to Hendrix for theme and variation — it’s there if you insist on looking for it, but the visceral impact is much greater.

I think of Edmond Hamilton as Hubble Telescope fanfiction.

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Future Treasures: The Watcher at the Door: The Early Kuttner, Volume Two, edited by Stephen Haffner

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Watcher at the Door-smallWe’ve given a lot of space over to Stephen Haffner’s books here at Black Gate, and it’s for a very simple reason: no one else is doing the kind of superb work he is, bringing pulp authors back into print in gorgeous archival-quality hardcovers that are also within reach of the average collector.

Terror in the House, the first volume in The Early Kuttner, focusing on his weird-menace stories, was released in 2010. I dropped by Stephen’s booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago last week, hoping to find early copies of the highly anticipated second volume, The Watcher at the Door. No luck — but Stephen assures me it’s coming soon.

Henry Kuttner, alone and in collaboration with his wife, C.L. Moore, was one of the most talented and prolific writers of pulp SF and fantasy. The Early Kuttner gathers many of Kuttner’s earliest stories, most of which have never been reprinted. The series will run to three volumes.

The Watcher at the Door collects thirty stories published in a three year period between April 1937 and August 1940, in pulps such as Weird Tales, Thrilling Mystery, Strange Stories, Unknown, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and many others. The cover art is by Jon Arfstrom.

It was during this period that Kuttner married C.L. Moore, on June 7, 1940. They met in 1936, when Kuttner wrote her a fan letter. After their wedding, they wrote almost everything in collaboration, under their own names and under the joint pseudonyms C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, and (especially) Lewis Padgett, a combination of their mothers’ maiden names.

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The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Black Suns-small Ghouljaw and Other Stories-small The Wide Carnivorous Sky-small

When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.

I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.

One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.

I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)

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Future Science Fiction, July 1953: A Retro-Review

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Future Science Fiction July 1953-smallI’ve been tracking down some less well-known Jack Vance stories, and that’s what led me to this issue of Future Science Fiction.

Future was one of two magazines (the other being Science Fiction Stories  — in its later years sometimes called The Original Science Fiction Stories, though that was never its official title) that Robert A. W. Lowdes edited for Columbia Publications, off and on, first for a couple of years in the late ’30s and early ’40s, after which the titles were revived in 1950, and continued to be published until 1960, under a set of titles and numberings that frankly make my head hurt.

I’ve written about Lowdes’ magazines before, and noted that he always had a tiny budget and still managed to produce pretty fair issues. This issue isn’t a particularly strong one, but it does have a quite distinguished list of authors, only one of whom could be called “Little Known.”

The format at this time was that of the classic pulp, about 7” by 10” with low quality paper. The cover here is by Milton Luros, illustrating Charles Dye’s “The Aeropause.” The features include “Down to Earth,” an extended letter column, this time featuring mostly letters suggesting alternate endings to Clifford Simak’s “… And the Truth Shall Make You Free,” which had appeared in the March issue.

It seems Lowndes had requested just this. I’m not familiar with the story, so I really couldn’t make head nor tail of the discussion. The only name I recognized among the letter writers was Robert Coulson, later a Hugo winner (with his wife Juanita) for the fanzine Yandro (which began appearing in this year, 1953), and also a novelist (mostly in collaboration with Gene De Weese.) Coulson was also credited as cowriter on Piers Anthony’s Laser Books novel But What of Earth?, but that was entirely against Anthony’s wishes, as Coulson made a number of changes at the behest of Laser series editor Roger Elwood, changes Anthony completely opposed. (Thanks to Ian Covell for this tidbit).

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David Drake on E. Hoffmann Price

Monday, April 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Far Lands Other Days-smallDavid Drake, author of The Tank Lords, The Sea Without a Shore, and dozens of other fantasy and SF novels, was also the man behind Carcosa, a small press he co-founded with Karl Edward Wagner in 1973. Carcosa published only four volumes — including Far Lands Other Days, a 590-page illustrated collection of the classic pulp fantasy of E. Hoffmann Price — but ah, what volumes they were!

Andy Duncan has started a new blog, Past and Present Futures, and he invited David to share his memories of Price. Yesterday he shared the results. Here’s a slice.

In fact [Price] spent only 30 days in the Philippines before the 15th Cav was recalled to the Mexican Border where Pancho Villa was raiding. Shortly after that they were shipped to France where they acted as mule skinners unloading freighters in Bayonne, France. He had stories about the prostitutes in all three continents.

When WW I was over, Ed was on garrison duty on the German border. The army created a service-wide scheme by which enlisted men could take an entrance exam for admission to West Point. Ed was one of the extremely few who gained admission through that test. He graduated in 1922 and was briefly a 2nd Lieutenant assigned to a Coast Artillery unit in NJ. He resigned ahead of a court martial because he had gotten to know the battalion commander’s wife rather better than the major was pleased to learn.

I’ve told the story this way to make it clear that though Ed was very smart, he was also an iconoclast who was not even slightly interested in polite society or its norms. He was acting out in the introduction [to Far Lands Other Days], but I don’t doubt he meant what he said.

Read David’s complete comments here, and visit Andy’s excellent new blog here.


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