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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In 500 Words or Less: Short Fiction Roundup #2!

Friday, December 28th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Rich-Horton-Years-Best-SF-2017-medium The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2017 Rich Horton-small

To round out the calendar year, I decided it’s high time I wrote up another Short Fiction Roundup. I will freely admit I read way more novels than short fiction, but here are some of my recent reads that I want to spotlight:

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 Edition

Yes, I realize we’re at the end of 2018, and yes, this edition means stories from 2016. Best Of anthologies are always hit or miss with me, since critic appeal and mass market appeal don’t always mean the same thing. But I was pleasantly surprised here.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Dress Rehearsal” starts with a theater troupe escaping a dangerous patronage and takes a wild turn involving devilish creatures given a furlough from Hell. In “All That Robot Shit,” my Ottawa buddy Rich Larson provides a post-apocalyptic Castaway setting featuring robots that’s equal parts touching and hilarious (which is consistent with Rich). And Charlotte Ashley’s story of honor and respect between paired nemeses in “A Fine Balance” is coupled with the thrills of master warriors hunting each other in the streets. (Oh, and check out Charlotte’s Archipelago project, too!). There are a bunch of other engaging stories here, and I’ll be checking out Rich Horton’s 2018 edition for sure.

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Birthday Reviews: George Zebrowski’s “Lords of Imagination”

Friday, December 28th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts

Cover by Bob Eggleton

George Zebrowski was born in Austria on December 28, 1945. He is married to author Pamela Sargent.

In 1999 Zebrowski’s novel Brute Orbits won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. In 2000 he and Sargent were presented with the Service to SFWA Award by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He has also been nominated for the Nebula Award for Short Story three times, for “Heathen God,” “The Eichmann Variations,” and for “Wound the Wind.” Zebrowski has collaborated on fiction with Sargent, Charles Pellegrino, Jack Dann, Gerald Hull, and Grant Carrington. He has co-edited anthologies with Thomas N. Scortia, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Dann, and Gregory Benford.

Zebrowski first published  “Lords of Information” in the Spring 1990 issue of Science Fiction Review, edited by Elton Elliott. He substantially reworked the story and retitled it “Lords of Imagination” for its reprinting in his collection Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts in 2006.

“Lords of Imagination” is not just a rumination on the role of science fiction in the world of the future once aliens discover Earth and make it a protectorate, but is also a look at the role science fiction plays in our own time, partly, according to Zebrowski’s character, as a means of preparing mankind for the eventual discovery of alien species, and, by extension, technological and cultural advancement as well.

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Birthday Reviews: Fred Lerner’s “Rosetta Stone”

Thursday, December 27th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Alan Bean

Cover by Alan Bean

Fred Lerner was born on December 27, 1945.

Most of Lerner’s writing is non-fiction. In fact, “Rosetta Stone” seems to be his only fictional credit. He has published the fanzine Lofgeornost since 1979 and many of his articles have been collected in the A Bookman’s Fantasy. His scholarly work includes The Story of Libraries, A Silverlock Companion, and Modern Science Fiction and the American Literary Community.

“Rosetta Stone” appeared as the first story in the debut issue of Artemis: Science and Fiction for a Space-Faring Age in Spring 2000, edited by Ian Randal Strock. The story has never been reprinted.

One of the stranger books in my collection is a brief treatise written by Terry Belanger in 1985 called Lunacy and the Arrangement of Books, which discusses a variety of ways private collectors have arranged their libraries to allow them to find the books they want, which may seem to make sense to that individual collection but can look random to anyone else.

The main character of Lerner’s “Rosetta Stone” is, like the author, an information scientist who has an interest in books. Dan is called by his old college roommate, Jack Hawkins, who invites him to the lunar base for some consulting on a confidential matter. When Dan arrives, he learns that a base has been discovered on the moon which looks a lot like the ones built by Lunar Labs, but which was not built by anyone known. Furthermore, the base has a library of human books from a variety of countries. Lunar Labs is hoping that Dan might be able to figure out something about the aliens who are believed to have built the base by the way they organize their books.

There are several points raised in the story, but dropped: Who the aliens are, why they chose the books they did, how they got the books up to the moon. Other questions are actually dealt with, although not always successfully. Jack explains why they decided to call on Dan rather than archaeologists or librarians or other people who might have seemed like a better match for the conundrum. In addition to Dan’s ability as an information scientists, he was also chosen because of late night musings he had shared with Jack when they were in college, a weak reason, perhaps, but it manages to fit into the story and Dan does, eventually, begin to provide results.

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Birthday Reviews: Keith Taylor’s “Sepulchres of the Undead”

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

The Secret History of Vampires

The Secret History of Vampires

Keith Taylor was born on December 26, 1946 in Tasmania.

Taylor has won the Ditmar Award twice. His first win was in 1982 for his short story “Where Silence Rules.” He won a second time in 1987 for his novel Bard III: The Wild Sea. He has been nominated for four additional Ditmar Awards as well as an Aurealis Award.

“Sepulchres of the Undead” appeared in the anthology The Secret History of Vampires, edited by Darrell Schweitzer, in 2007. The story has never been reprinted.

The great pyramids of Egypt have held a fascination for people for millennia. In “Sepulchres of the Undead,” Taylor explains that they are not simply vast monuments to the egos of the early Pharaohs, but actually served an important purpose. After Menkhaf kills a large bat on one of the pyramids, he learns that the pharaohs and their families are actually a separate race from most Egyptians. They are all, to some extent, vampires, and the great tombs are designed to ensure that their corpses are protected from humans and nature, for as long as their corpses remain, the vampires will retain the ability to change shapes and terrorize the population.

Menkhaf is warned that having killed a vampire, and specifically Pharaoh Khufu’s mother, he is a marked man. He joins the Brotherhood of Ra, a group dedicated to destroying the vampires among them. At the same time Prince Hemiunu, the pharaoh’s nephew and a partial vampire, is also out to destroy the vampires. The two vampire killers allow Taylor to play with different tactics, but they also muddy the waters of the story since he never really knits their plans, attacks, or stories, together. In fact, Menkhaf seems to be forgotten by the author as Hemiunu’s plans come to fruition. The resulting story has some interesting ideas regarding both vampires and Egyptian history, but doesn’t quite pull them together.

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Birthday Reviews: Holly Phillips’s “No Such Thing as an Ex-Con”

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Holly Phillips was born on December 25, 1969.

Phillips won the Sunburst Award in 2006 for her collection In the Palace of Repose, which was also nominated for the William L. Crafword – IAFA Award and the World Fantasy Award. The title story had also been an International Horror Guild nominee the year before, while “The Other Grace,” which first appeared in the collection, was also a World Fantasy nominee. Along with Cory Doctorow, she was nominated for an Aurora Award in 2008. Phillips co-edited Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction with Cory Doctorow in 2007.

“No Such Thing as an Ex-Con” was Phillips’s first published story, appearing in the Summer 2000 issue of On Spec, edited by Jena Snyder. The story also appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of Weird Tales. In 2014, it was selected for inclusion in Casserole Diplomacy and Other Stories: An On Spec 25th Anniversary Retrospective.

Emily Lake has served three and a half years for a series of murders she did not commit and upon her release from prison is taking work wherever she can find it, notably on a crew that is doing landscaping work for the city. Lake is always cognizant that once a convict, there are some people who will also see her as a convict, so she has to work harder and keep her head down to avoid drawing attention, knowing that any job is worth preserving since she won’t be able to find another one easily.

Unfortunately for Lake, the area in which she is working brings her into contact with Detective Bailor, who was one of the people responsible for putting her in prison for the murders. Lake had seen, or actually experienced, the murders in her dreams and went to the police to give them the lead that would put the perpetrator behind bars. Unfortunately, nobody believed she was not an accomplice, despite the claims of the murderer that he acted alone. Now, several years later, Bailor has a case of multiple kidnappings that have stymied him and he turns to Lake on the off chance that she was telling the truth and can help him find the lost boys.

Phillips offers a sympathetic view of an ex-con, even before the fact that she was innocent is known to the reader. Lake doesn’t show bitterness about the hand she has been dealt, and is trying her hardest to work within a system that is stacked against her. While Phillips builds the expectation that she’s going to be railroaded or fired, both concerns that Lake has, the reality of the situation turns out to be quite different. Lake’s abilities are described, but never explained, which seems to be more likely than having someone provide an explanation for her dreams.

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Birthday Reviews: Fritz Leiber’s “The Cloud of Hate”

Monday, December 24th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Cover by Vernon Kramer

Fritz Leiber was born on December 24, 1910 and died on September 5, 1992.

Fritz Leiber won six Hugo Awards for his novels The Big Time and The Wanderer as well as the novelette “Gonna Roll the Bones,” the novellas “Ship of Shadows” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and the short story “Catch That Zeppelin.” “Gonna Roll the Bones,” “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and “Catch That Zeppelin” also received the Nebula Award. He won the World Fantasy Award for the short story “Belsen Express” and the novel Our Lady of Darkness. He won his first British Fantasy Award for The Second Book of Fritz Leiber and his second for “The Button Molder.” He won the Geffen Award in 1999 for the Hebrew translation of Swords and Deviltry. The 1962 Worldcon presented him with a Special Convention Award in 1962 for his collaboration with the Hoffman Electronic Corporation for their use of science fiction in advertising.

In 1967 LASFS presented him with a Forry Award. He won a Gandalf Award in 1975 as a Grand Master of Fantasy and the next years received a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. In 1981 SFWA named him a Grand Master and he received a Special Balrog Award. He received a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988, and in 2001 he was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Leiber is one of the few people who was a guest of honor at multiple Worldcons, having the honor in 1951 at NOLACon I, the 9th Worldcon, held in New Orleans in 1951 and again in 1979 when he was a guest of honor at Seacon ’79 in Brighton, UK. He was the Guest of Honor at the 4th World Fantasy Con in Fort Worth, Texas in 1978. Leiber has most famously collaborated with Harry Fischer on the concept for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the story “Lords of Quarmall.” He has also collaborated with Judith Merril and Fredric Brown.

Leiber first published “The Cloud of Hate” in the May 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, edited by Cele Goldsmith. He included it as the lead-off story in the Lankhmar collection Swords in the Mist and in 1975 it showed up in Sword & Sorcery Annual. When Donald M. Grant published a collection of three Lankhmar stories in Bazaar of the Bizarre, “The Cloud of Hate” was one of the those chosen. It showed up in the Lankhmar omnibus volumes The Three of Swords and Lean Times in Lankhmar as well as Thieves’ House: Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Volume 2 and The First Book of Lankhmar. The story has been translated into Dutch, German, and twice into French, usually for collections of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.

“The Cloud of Hate” is one of Leiber’s many stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The two are serving as watchmen on the evening of a gala celebration of the betrothal of the Lankhmar Overlord’s daughter to the Prince of Ilthmar. They are stationed far from the festivities on a cold, foggy street. The action, however, starts below the streets of Lankhmar, with a mob of five thousand summoning the physical manifestation of hate to flood the streets and, one assumes, attack the Overlord’s party.

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Galileo Magazine of Science & Fiction, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

galileo_november_79

Cover art by Larry Blamire – “Louis Wu Making Good His Escape”

I’m going to start my review of the November 1979 issue of Galileo magazine by talking about Omni. I’ve heard people, people of a certain age — people who were there, man — talk about Omni like it was the second coming of Christ. I bring that up because Galileo magazine was like Christ rolled the stone out of the way and was serving up fancy drinks in the tomb.

I’m also going to start my review of Galileo Magazine by kicking F&SF while it’s down. F&SF can’t scrape together a single piece of internal artwork? Galileo has artwork, multiple pieces at times, for each story, each article. Yes, yes, we know how it ends; slow and steady F&SF eventually wins this race, but you get my point.

In short, Galileo, while not perfect, certainly swings for the fences. It was a science fiction magazine that had one foot well in the world of sf/f writers, one foot well in the world of the serious sf/f fan, one hand guiding the casual sf/f fan, and one hand embracing the growing spheres of TV, movies, and games. It had artwork (although it was all black and white, which is one of the only things about it that seems a bit dated), and yes, it had fiction. Pretty good fiction, all around.

It is a crying shame that Galileo magazine folded in January, 1980 — literally the very next issue! It burned a bright trail in sf/f for a little less than four years.

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Birthday Reviews: Wynne Whiteford’s “Night of the Wandjina”

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Wynne Whiteford was born on December 23, 1915 in Melbourne, Australia. He died on September 30, 2002.

In 1987, Whiteford received a short story award from the Epicurean and Cultural Society. Whiteford’s novel The Specialist was nominated for the Ditmar Award in 1991. In 1995 he was presented with the Chandler Award, presented for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction.

“Night of the Wandjina” was Whiteford’s final published work and appeared in the 1998 anthology Dreaming Down Under, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. When the anthology was split into two volumes for a paperback printing, the story appeared in volume one. It has not, otherwise been reprinted.

When a company is preparing to drill for oil, one of their employees, Kel, warns them that he is uncomfortable that they plan to drill near an aboriginal site. Asked whether he believes they might disturb the spirits, Kel proceeds to tell a story about one of his earlier forays in oil exploration.

Kel tells his Director that he once went into the Outback with a team of four. When they found some aboriginal symbols looked like aliens, their aboriginal teammate, Djerri, commented that it represented a Wandjina, which he explained was a sort of wind spirit. When they decided to dig anyway, Djerri took one of their motorbikes and headed back to their camp, unwilling to be a part of the drilling team. They found a glass cylinder which they carefully unearthed, but when it broke it released a small whirlwind which seemed to take control of one of them and caused him to run until his body gave out.

The story treats the aboriginal culture and beliefs with respect, but at the same time carries a certain amount of “there are somethings man is not meant to know” and “don’t disturb the ancient spirits.” Kel and his mates approach the area knowing that they have a job to do and although Djerri can’t convince them not to, they are try to do the least amount of damage they can, although they also give into their natural curiosity, with dire consequences.

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A Ride into the Darkness: The Long Way Home by Richard Chizmar

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

The Long Way Home Richard Chizmar.small

Richard Chizmar (publisher, editor, author) is one of those writers that I define as “dependable,” meaning that you can count on him to deliver tales that are entertaining, thought provoking and extremely well written. And these features are particularly important for an author devoted to short stories, where time and space are short, and suspension of disbelief must be elicited from the very first sentence.

Chizmar’s latest collection The Long Way Home assembles twenty stories in which the reader meets the many faces of the darkness which surrounds our lives and lurks in the deep of our souls. Sometimes the topic is overtly horrific (a wild serial killer, for instance), sometimes more subtle and occasionally deceiving.

Good examples of the former are “Mischief,” a witty piece where a serial killer’s confession to a journalist leads to an unexpected development; “The Man Behind the Mask,” a tense story with a terrifying twist, about a mysterious Bogeyman abducting, raping and killing girls; and “Roses and Raindrops,” a tale of graphic horror, deeply unsettling and not for the squeamish.

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