Rich Horton on The Breaker Queen by C.S.E. Cooney

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Breaker Queen-smallNot so very long ago, I finished all my tasks for the evening and kicked back in my big green chair with the latest issue of Locus, the news magazine of the SF & fantasy field. In Rich Horton’s short fiction column I found a pair of reviews of The Breaker Queen and The Two Paupers, the first two novellas in a new romantic fantasy series from our very own C.S.E. Cooney. Here’s what he said about the first one:

I’m a big fan of of C.S.E. Cooney’s work, so I’m very happy to point to two new, related, stories, available in electronic form from Fairchild Books. The Breaker Queen concerns Eliot Howell, a talented young painter, who has been invited to a party at Breaker House. He feels immediately out of place — the family is very rich and very privileged — and the friend who invited him is being unpleasant, but then he meets one of the maids and is instantly enchanted. For Breaker House exists in three worlds: the world of humans, the world of goblins, and Valwode, where Elliot’s maid Nyx is Queen. Elliot, even when made aware of the price one pays to visit Valwode, follows Nyx into her land, while she, simply desiring a dalliance with a mortal, finds that she may pay a price herself. It’s lovely and romantic, dark and sweet, erotic and thrilling.

The Breaker Queen is Book One of Dark Breakers. The second, The Two Paupers, was published on January 22, 2015. The pub date for the third has not yet been announced — but when it is, we’ll let you know all the details.

C.S.E. Cooney is a podcast reader for Uncanny Magazine; Mark Rigney interviewed her for us in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we presented here, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. She is a past website editor of Black Gate, and the author of How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills. Her newest collection, Bone Swans, is due out this summer.

The Breaker Queen was published by Fairchild Books on October 13, 2014. It is 80 pages, priced at $2.99 for the digital edition. No word on a print edition yet.

Galaxy, April 1961: A Retro-Review

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Galaxy April 1961-smallHere’s an issue from Galaxy late in H. L. Gold’s editorial tenure, which probably means that Frederik Pohl was doing most of the editorial work. (Pohl officially took over with the December 1961 issue, but I have read that he was editor in all but name from the late ’50s.)

It’s got a pretty impressive Table of Contents, though it’s a bit disappointing in that the best known writers (Sturgeon and Leiber) are not at their best, and a couple of the other well-known writers (Saberhagen and Lafferty) are early in their careers and not fully developed yet.

It’s also pretty thick, 196 pages including the covers. The feature set is smallish: an editorial by Gold (or at least signed by him) called “Puzzles for Plotters,” which poses a couple of puzzles that (he avers) humans can solve but computers can’t; the brief Forecast squib on what’s coming next issue; Floyd C. Gale’s Five Star Shelf of book reviews, very much capsule reviews – I do note that he liked Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place very much – and Willy Ley’s science column, For Your Information, which covers several subjects: the Gegenschein, the annexation of Patagonia, seven league boots, and letters from readers.

The cover is by Mel Hunter, and it reminded me of Rick Sternbach’s work. It doesn’t illustrate any story, it’s just called “A Derelict in the Void,” and shows a ship investigating a wrecked spaceship. Interiors are by Virgil Finlay, Dick Francis, Jack Gaughan, Harman, and Walker.

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The 2015 Hugo Nominations

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Loncon 3 Hugo statue-smallI am I suppose coming a little bit late to the party, but I wanted to join in and express my views on the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slates, and their effect on the Hugos. I will mention up front that of all the points of view I have seen expressed, I am most in sympathy with George R. R. Martin’s … you can read his views at his Not a Blog.

I should add as well that I do have a horse in this race. I am a Hugo nominee again as part of the editorial team for Lightspeed, which was nominated for Best Semiprozine. (We were fortunate enough to win last year, one of my biggest thrills in my time in the field.) I’ll be honest: one of the things that bothers me about this whole kerfuffle is that I’ll be at Sasquan as a nominee, my first time to be at the Hugos in person as a nominee. (I was unable to make it to London last year.) And I can’t help but think that the whole experience will be, certainly not ruined, but marred, by the aftermath of the whole mess. (For example – it would have been pretty darn cool to receive a Hugo from Connie Willis, if we were so lucky!) But you have every right not to care about that – that doesn’t matter at all in reality.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of my positions:

Bloc voting is wrong. Making recommendations is not wrong. Promoting your own work strikes me as distasteful, but I’m not going to condemn those who do so. Promoting other people’s work is good.

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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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See the Table of Contents for The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, edited by Rich Horton

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015-smallLast month Prime Books announced the Table of Contents of my favorite Year’s Best book, Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015.

This is the seventh volume, and it looks like another stellar line-up, with 34 stories from the leading print magazines (Asimov’s SF, Interzone, Analog, F&SF, and others), online publications (Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and more) and anthologies (Fearsome Magics, Reach for Infinity, Rogues, and Solaris Rising 3, among others).

Authors include Kelly Link, Robert Reed, James Patrick Kelly, Alexander Jablokov, K. J. Parker, Ken Liu, Genevieve Valentine, Eleanor Arnason, Cory Doctorow, Peter Watts, and many, many others.

I was also very pleased to see two Black Gate contributors made the list: Saturday blogger Derek Künsken, with his Asimov’s tale “Schools of Clay,” and website editor emeritus C. S. E. Cooney, for her story “Witch, Beast, Saint: An Erotic Fairy Tale,” from Strange Horizons.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 is a fat 576 pages, and goes on sale in trade paperback from Prime Books in June.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Amazing Stories, August 1967: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Amazing Stories August 1967-smallI have recently covered a lot of issues of Amazing (and Fantastic) from the Cele Goldsmith/Lalli era, which extended (officially) from December 1958 through June 1965. The two magazines were then sold to Ultimate Publishing, owned by Sol Cohen. Cohen (and managing editor Joseph Ross) immediately instituted a policy of publishing mostly reprints of stories previously published in Amazing/Fantastic, which lasted until Ted White took over in 1969. (White’s issues still featured reprints for a while, but by the time I was buying the magazine (in 1974) the cover would proclaim “All Stories New – No Reprints.”)

Joseph Ross (and Cohen) were briefly succeeded as editor by Harry Harrison and then by Barry Malzberg, both of whom (as I understand) resisted Cohen’s reprint policy. To make things worse, Cohen refused to pay the authors for reprinted stories (technically legal under the terms Amazing had originally bought the stories under). The then new organization SFWA took exception, and threatened a boycott, after which, I believe, Cohen agree to pay at least a nominal fee.

After Amazing and Fantastic stopped publishing reprints (and even before), Ultimate published a variety of dreadful magazines with different titles like Great Science Fiction Stories, and Thrilling Science Fiction, that were all reprint. (Again, all from inventory owned by Ultimate.)

I remember buying one early in my reading career – I thought I had found a brand new SF magazine, and was crushed to realize it was all mostly shoddy reprints. (There was a decent John Campbell story, probably “Uncertainty,” which appeared in the July 1974 Science Fiction Adventure Classics.)

Anyway, I happened to buy one of the Cohen/Ross era Amazings, mainly because it has a rather obscure Jack Vance story that I had not read. And I figured it would be interesting to compare it to Lalli’s Amazing. What is interesting is that, viewed objectively and ignoring the fact that most of the stories are reprints, this is quite a good issue, with at least one very fine story that has been largely forgotten.

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Fantastic Universe, September 1959: A Retro-Review

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fantastic Universe September 1959-smallHere is probably one of the less-remembered digest SF magazines of the 1950s. Fantastic Universe was founded in 1953 and lasted until 1960, publishing 71 issues overall… it was a bimonthly briefly then a monthly until its demise (with a missed issue or two along the way). Thus it survived the collapse of the pulps in about 1955, and the American News Company disaster in 1957 or so, and even Sputnik. That’s not a bad run, all things considered.

But what does historian of the field Mike Ashley say of it (in Tymn/Ashley, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Weird Fiction Magazines):

Fantastic Universe was born at the height of the SF magazine boom in 1953, and perhaps the most surprising fact about it was that it survived the boom and appeared regularly throughout the rest of the 1950s.  Because if FU had any distinguishing feature it was its remarkable lack of memorable or meritorious fiction.


Alas, a skim through the TOCs of its run supports that notion: the most memorable stories were perhaps “Short in the Chest,” by “Idris Seabright” (Margaret St. Clair); “The Large Ant,” by Howard Fast; “Be My Guest,” by Damon Knight; and Robert Silverberg’s “Road to Nightfall.”

Add a couple of stories more famous for either their novel expansion, or the movie version: Algis Budrys’ “Who?” and Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” and a couple decent but minor stories each by Poul Anderson and Jack Vance, oh, and say Walter Miller’s “The Hoofer” and Avram Davidson’s “The Bounty Hunter.” There was a short Borges story in translation as well (before Borges was all that well known in the US). Not all that much to show for 71 issues: even these stories I mention are solid works but not their authors at their very best.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1951: A Retro-Review

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Galaxy June 1951-smallHere’s a review of a magazine issue that Matthew Wuertz has already covered here in his excellent ongoing traversal of Galaxy from its beginning … but I happened to read it and John O’Neill assures me that another (not necessarily dissenting) view is always welcome.

This is from the first year of Galaxy‘s existence. To me it reflects an magazine increasingly confident of its place. The cover doesn’t illustrate any story: it’s by Ed Emshwiller, titled “Relics of an Extinct Race”, and it depicts lizard-like aliens investigating rock strata containing remnants of human civilization.

The back cover advertises a book called The Education of a French Model, which was the memoirs of “Kiki de Montparnasse” (real name Alice Prin), who was somewhat famous as a nude model, and mistress of, among others, Man Ray, in the early part of the 20th Century. Her memoirs featured an introduction by Ernest Hemingway, which the ad happily trumpets. Other ads were for Saran Plastic Seat Covers, and for weight reducing chewing gum (called Kelpidine!), and other than that for books.

Interior illustrations were by Elizabeth MacIntyre, David Stone, David Maus, and “Willer” — this last a somewhat transparent (and, I would have thought, unnecessary) pseudonym for Ed Emshwiller (who usually signed his word Emsh). I note that except for Emshwiller the names are all unfamiliar, suggesting that H. L. Gold may have been looking for “new blood.” (For that matter, Emshwiller was “new blood” himself, a Gold discovery who had only begun illustrating for the SF magazines that year. It’s just that he’s the one of these illustrators who became a legend.)

Elizabeth MacIntyre is interesting as one of very few women SF illustrators in that era (the only other one I can think of offhand is the great Weird Tales artist Margaret Brundage). Todd Mason suggests, I think sensibly, that both the different set of illustrators and the unexpected advertisements can be attributed to Galaxy‘s publisher, World Editions, which had wider ambitions than just publishing SF.

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Amazing Stories, May 1964: A Retro-Review

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Amazing Stories May 1964-smallHere we are fairly late in Cele Lalli’s tenure, an issue with an impressive set of names on the TOC, but mildly disappointing overall content. The cover is by Ed Emshwiller, illustrating Lester Del Rey’s “Boiling Point”. The interiors are by George Schelling and Virgil Finlay.

The editorial, from Norman Lobsenz as usual, discusses with some concern the possibility of manipulation of people’s genetic material… then adds two silly Benedict Breadfruitian puns on the subject of the proper pronunciation of Lobsenz (Lobe-sense, it seems).

Ben Bova contributes a science article called “Planetary Engineering”, about prospects for building a base on the Moon. (Future articles in the series will cover more extensive “planetary engineering”, including terraforming other planets in the Solar System.)

Robert Silverberg’s book review column, The Spectroscope, covers Philip K. Dick’s The Game Players of Titan (which he judges as decent, but a disappointment relative to the best of Dick’s work), Doc Smith’s Skylark 3 (regarded by Silverberg as rather bad, though Doc is praised on personal grounds), and John Campbell’s anthology Analog 2 (he considers it very uneven, with one excellent story, a couple decent ones, and some weaker stuff). I will add that I agree with Mr. Silverberg on all points.

The stories, then.

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Astounding Science Fiction, February and March 1953: A Retro-Review

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 | Posted by Rich Horton

astounding science fiction February 1953-smallI thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at John Campbell’s Astounding, from the early ’50s, after its dominance of the market had been shaken by Galaxy and F&SF. So here are two 1953 issues.

I bought these two issues because the March issue has John Brunner’s first story for a major market, “Thou Good and Faithful.” I noticed that that issue also has the second part of a Piper serial that I hadn’t read, so I bought the February issue to get part 1.

Details, then. The February cover, for H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire’s serial “Null-ABC,” is by H. R. Van Dongen, a pretty good one with a skull on a reddish background (flames and smoke, I think), and books and test tubes in the foreground.

The March cover, for “Thou Good and Faithful,” is less to my taste. It’s by G. Pawelka, an artist with whom I am unfamiliar, and it features a robot with a monkey-like creature on his shoulder, holding a globe of sorts — a very accurate depiction of a scene from the story, but not a picture I fancy much.

The features in each issue are the usual: Campbell’s editorial (“Redundance,” about information theory, in February; and “Unsane Behavior,” about war and the naivete of both those who think it works very well, and those who think stories of Atomic Doom will prevent it, in March); In Times to Come, The Analytical Laboratory, Brass Tacks, and P. Schuyler Miller’s review column.

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