New Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019, edited by Rich Horton

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2019-smallThe latest volume of Rich Horton’s Year’s Best snuck up on me. I know, I’m supposed to be on top of these things. For some reason I was expecting it later in the year, but it popped up in my Amazon cart last week, in stock and everything.

Rich produces my favorite Year’s Best every year, but hasn’t always seemed totally comfortable with all the trappings of being an editor. He hasn’t shown the same enthusiasm for lengthy introductions or Yearly Summations that Gardner Dozois famously did, for example. But in the last few years Rich seems to have really found his voice, and these days I find I really enjoy his intros. He avoids Gardner’s critical edge, for example, focusing instead on the collegial nature of the science fiction community.

This year he gives an affectionate shout out to his nominal competitors for your Best of the Year dollars, including editors Jonathan Strahan, Ellen Datlow, Neil Clarke, and even Gardner, who passed away last year, shortly before his Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection was released, ending an era. Have a look.

There are a lot of Best of the Year volumes in our field, and frankly I recommend them all. One of the features of SF in 2018 is how much of it there is. There’s enough short fiction that the Hugo shortlist can very nearly ignore men, and still be mostly full of strong stories. (There are a couple of duds, but so it always was.) There’s enough that both the Hugo and Nebula shortlists can completely ignore the traditional print SF magazines (F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, and Interzone, let’s say), and still be mostly full of strong stories. How then to resolve that issue? Read as many of the Best of the Year volumes as you can, I say! (And, hey, why not subscribe to one of the print magazines, if that’s possible? And try some original anthologies as well.)

The main distinction, of course, for each of these books is the editor’s individual tastes. (Or so Hannibal Lecter tells us)… if I think my book is the best — and I do! — it’s for the obvious reason that my personal taste aligns pretty closely with the editor’s! But that said, I am abashed year after year to realize that Jonathan or Ellen or Neil or one of the other editors, (or, sigh, Gardner!) has chosen a gem or two I really should have taken myself.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for the 2019 volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Cold Iron and Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold Iron Melisa Michaels-small Sister to the Rain-small

I was preparing a Vintage Treasures article on Melisa Michaels on Saturday, and particularly her two-volume urban fantasy series featuring private eye Rosie Levine, Cold Iron (1997) and Sister to the Rain (1998), when I stumbled on this disturbing Facebook post by Rich Horton:

I have just learned that Melisa Michaels has died. I knew she had cancer, and she had recently reported that there wasn’t much more to be done, but it’s still sad news, and it seems to have come more quickly than she thought.

But I wanted to celebrate her — she was one of the first people to, as it were, welcome me to the SF community, when I first went online, and when I joined SFF Net. We had many great conversations (online) about SF and other matters. She is one of the people I really owe a debt to for helping me make friends in this field.

I read her novels, the Skyrider SF series and the Rosie Levine Fantasy/Mystery series, with much enjoyment… Melisa always made tremendous contributions to SFWA — as I recall, she was the first webmaster of the SFWA web page, right at the dawning of the WWW. I didn’t keep close track of her later on, especially after the demise of SFF Net, but we had reconnected to a small degree on Facebook. I offer condolences to her family, and I celebrate a life well-lived.

I didn’t know Melisa the way Rich did, but I was still very saddened by the news. And I thought we could help celebrate her life here by showcasing her novels. Rich discussed Cold Iron when it first appeared over 20 years ago; here’s an excerpt from the review at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.

Read More »


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 efanzines.com 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.)

Read More »


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

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.

Read More »


Exploring a More Pleasant Future: A Dream of Wessex by Christopher Priest

Sunday, August 18th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fugue for a Darkening Island-small Indoctrinaire-small2 A-Dream-of-Wessex-medium

Covers by Mike Ploog, Bruce Pennington, and uncredited

I like Chris Priest’s writing a lot. “An Infinite Summer” is one of my favorite SF stories. The Inverted World was one of the first serials I ever read in an SF magazine (Galaxy, in 1975 or so), and it fairly blew me away. I read Darkening Island (Fugue for a Darkening Island) at just the right age to be impressed by its non-linear narrative structure.

But for some reason, maybe because his books don’t seem to get much push in the US, I haven’t been following him lately. Recently I read his first novel, Indoctrinaire, which had some good ideas but ultimately was pretty obviously a first novel, and no better than OK. I have just now read what I believe to be his fifth novel, A Dream of Wessex (US title The Perfect Lover), from 1977. This is a very interesting novel, and a pretty good read.

The basic idea is quite “Priestian,” a (very little) bit reminiscent of Indoctrinaire: in the near future of 1977 (1985), a research project is set up whereby a group of people sort of “pool” their unconsciousnesses and create a realistic world 150 years in the future. Ostensibly this is to explore what might be done to reach a more pleasant future. The dreamed future is set on “Wessex,” which is the western part of England after it has been separated from the mainland by earthquakes, with the new channel roughly along the path of the river Stour.

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Locus Award for Best Fan Artist: William Rotsler

Sunday, August 4th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

William Rotsler Locus 5-small

The Locus Awards have been presented since 1971. In that first year, there was an award for Best Fan Artist, and another for Best Fan Cartoonist. William Rotsler won the latter, and that was the only year of that award. The Best Fan Artist award continued through 1975 (since then there has only been a Locus Award for Best Artist.) Alicia Austin won the first Best Fan Artist Locus Award, and William Rotsler won in 1972 and 1973. Tim Kirk won the final two Locus Awards for Best Fan Artist.

William Rotsler was born in 1926 and died in 1997. He began doing illustrations for fan magazines by the mid ‘40s, and indeed he won a Retro Hugo in 1996 for Best Fan Artist for that work from 50 years before. (As with many Retro Hugos, I suspect he won that award more for his later notoriety than for any knowledge voters in 1996 had of that earlier work.) Rotsler was a highly regarded fan artist by the late 1960s at least, when he began consistently appearing on Hugo ballots. He won the Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1975, 1979, 1996, and 1997.

Like many fans who first made their mark in fanzines, Rotsler later became a well-regarded professional. What’s interesting about Rotsler is that in fandom he was best known as an artist – but he made his mark as a professional as a writer. His best known work is probably Patron of the Arts, which was a Nebula, Hugo, and Locus nominee in its first appearance as a novelette in 1972. He expanded it to a novel in 1974. He also collaborated with Gregory Benford on the novel Shiva Descending (1980). His other fiction is less well remembered – much of it was work for hire, in such universes as Star Trek, Marvel, Planet of the Apes, and Tom Swift.

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Fanzine: SF Commentary

Sunday, July 28th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

SF Commentary 26-small SF Commentary 31-small

The Ditmar Awards, for achievement in Australian Science Fiction (including Fandom), have been presented annually since 1969. In most years some variety of a Best Fanzine Award has been given.

SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie, won the 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Fanzine. Overall, Gillespie has won 16 Ditmars, for Best Australian Fanzine, Best Fanzine Editor, and Best Fan Writer. He has also won 3 Atheling Award for Best Criticism. (The Atheling Awards are part of the Ditmars, I believe, so in reality Gillespie has won 19 Ditmars.) SF Commentary first won the Ditmar Award in 1972, and most recently just last year, in 2018.

SF Commentary began publication in 1969. 99 issues have appeared to date, with the latest having just been posted at efanzines.com. It appeared very regularly through 1981, was revived from 1989 through 1993, again between 2000 and 2004, and one or two issues per year have appeared since 2011, these latest primarily in electronic form. In the early years John Foyster and Barry Gillam occasionally shared editorial duties with Gillespie, but since 1975 Bruce has been sole proprietor.

I have been reading issues of SF Commentary in this latest (post 2011) series regularly, and I have corresponded regularly with Bruce Gillespie in various fora since for the past 15 years. Bruce is intensely interested in SF and in its literary ambitions, and his magazine has long reflected that. SF Commentary issues are huge, and stuffed with long critical articles and reviews.

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist: Tim Kirk

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Tim Kirk Phantoms and Fancies-small Tim Kirk CSA nyctalops-small Tim Kirk Under the Green Star-small

The Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist has been given since 1967. The first award went to Jack Gaughan, which should be a hint that it has often gone to people very well known for their professional artwork. (A similar statement applies to the winners for Best Fan Writer.) That said, these artists have all definitely done significant work in fannish publications.

Tim Kirk, another artist who has had a major professional career, was nominated for Best Fan Writer 8 times in the between 1969 and 1977, winning the Hugo in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1976. It would be fair to say that for me, coming into contact with fandom in this period, my image of “fan art” was formed by Tim Kirk’s work, along with two more artists who won for their 1970s work, William Rotsler and Alexis A. Gilliland. (Not to slight the excellent Phil Foglio, but for whatever reason his art didn’t enter my consciousness until later. And Alicia Austin, four-time nominee and 1971 winner, was and is a favorite artist of mine, but for her professional work.)

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Skylark Award: Larry Niven

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

World of Ptavvs-small The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton-small Ringworld-small

The Skylark Award, also called the Edward E. Smith Award for Imaginative Fiction, has been presented by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA)

to  some person, who, in the opinion of the membership, has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late “Doc” Smith well-loved by those who knew him.

The Award is presented at Boskone – alas, I missed the presentation the two times I’ve attended Boskone (a favorite convention of mine based on those two visits) – in 2017 it went to Jo Walton, and in 2019 to Melinda Snodgrass.

The first winner, in 1966, was Frederik Pohl (Smith having died in 1965.) Over the years it has gone primary to writers, but also to artist, editors, and fans. In 1973 the award went to Larry Niven. One implication of the association of the award with Doc Smith might be that it would go to writers of Space Opera, but that really hasn’t been the case, by and large. That said, while Larry Niven didn’t exactly write Space Opera in the Doc Smith mode, I think what he wrote qualified.

As the title of this series – Golden Age – might suggest, I started reading SF seriously in 1972, when I was 12. I was certainly reading Niven not long after, and I read him with intense pleasure in those years. I remember in particular encountering his story collection Tales of Known Space at Paradise Bookshop in Naperville, IL (located at the site of the now well-known Anderson Books, though I believe the stores have no other connection) in 1975, with the glorious Rick Sternbach “Star Map” cover. I devoured Niven’s books back in the day – Protector might have been my favorite, but I liked them all – A Gift From Earth, World of Ptavvs, the Gil Hamilton stories. (Oddly, perhaps, his Hugo and Nebula winner Ringworld was never a favorite.) And of course the short stories were wonderful.

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novella: “A Meeting With Medusa” by Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, April 27th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

A Meeting with Medusa Tor Double-small

Tor Double #1, October 1988. Cover by Vincent Di Fate

Arthur C. Clarke, of course, was a towering figure in SF circles – when I began reading SF, there was an indisputable “Big Three”: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Clarke. And, indeed, that’s how I saw things at that age. Curiously, Heinlein was not really central to my earliest reading, and I didn’t read the bulk of his juveniles until a couple of decades later (though I had read his adult work in my teens.) But Clarke and Asimov were among the “adult” SF writers I first discovered, and I was reading novels like Against the Fall of Night when I was 12.

Clarke was born in 1917. He began publishing SF in 1946 with “Rescue Party” (a story that still gives me a thrill.) He made his mark in SF in the next decade or so with many further fine stories and with novels like The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End. He made his mark in the wider world when the movie 2001 appeared in 1968 – Clarke had written the original story (“The Sentinel”) upon which it was based, and he also worked with Kubrick on developing the story for the movie, and wrote the “novelization.” He had moved to Sri Lanka in 1956, partly because of his interest in scuba diving, but also possibly because he was gay, and homosexual activity was still illegal in England. He was knighted in 1998, at which time disturbing stories accusing him of pedophilia surfaced. He was cleared by the Sri Lankan police, and died a decade later.

“A Meeting with Medusa” first appeared in Playboy in December 1971. (I’m not sure why it was still eligible for the Nebula ballot in 1973 – this was before the “rolling eligibility” period of the Nebulas.) I’d have reproduced a cover image of its first place of publication, but Black Gate is a family website, as so well evidenced by the Margaret Brundage paintings we sometimes feature! I should also mention that this was a period when Playboy published a fair amount of excellent SF — for example, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Nine Lives”, just a couple of years earlier.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2019 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.