New Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, edited by Rich Horton

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015-smallIn his introduction to this year’s volume, Rich provides a penetrating breakdown of the current state of our genre’s magazines:

Trevor Quacchri… [is] introducing some intriguing new writers, while not abandoning Analog’s core identity. Last year he published Timons Esais’ “Sadness,” clearly one of the very best stories of the year. Even more recently, F&SF has changed editors… the editing reins have been handed to C.C. Finlay, who “auditioned” with a strong guest issue in July-August 2014, from which I’ve chosen Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” for this book. Asimov’s stays the course with Sheila Williams, and 2014 was a very good year for the magazine….

I choose four stories each from two other top online sources, Clarkesworld (three-time Hugo Winner for Best Semiprozine) and LightspeedClarkesworld publishes almost soley science fiction, and Lightspeed publishes an even mixture of science fiction and fantasy, so it can be argued that another online ‘zine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, is the top fantasy magazine online, and the two outstanding stories I chose from it should support that argument. And it would be folly to forget Tor.com…

The New Yorker regularly features science fiction and fantasy (including a pretty decent story by Tom Hanks this year), and New Yorker stories have appeared in these anthologies. Tin House in particular is very hospitable to fantastika, and this year I saw some outstanding work at Granta.

Since I was on stage to present the Nebula Award for Best Novelette to Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” I can personally attest that Rich knows how to pick ‘em. The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 was published by Prime Books on June 11, 2015. It is 576 pages, priced at $19.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. See the complete Table of Contents here.


The Future of Fantasy: The Best New Releases in June

Friday, June 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

A Book of Spirits and Thieves-small The-Years-Best-Science-Fiction-Fantasy-2015-small The Birthgrave Tanith Lee-small

There are precisely 30 days in June, and we’ve compiled a list of the 30 most exciting and anticipated novels, collections and anthologies being released this month. You know what that means — if you want to keep up, you’ll need to read at least one book a day (and since we’re already a dozen days into June, you better get hopping… you’re behind already!)

Our June catalog of the best new fiction includes new releases from Stephen King, Garth Nix, Mark Lawrence, John R. Fultz, Terry Brooks, Jon Sprunk, and others, as well as some spiffy reprints from James Blaylock,  Tanith Lee, Lev Grossman, Michael Moorcock, and others. But time’s a-wasting; let’s get started!

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Venture, July 1957: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

Venture Science Fiction July 1957-smallI’ve written about Venture before, a short-lived companion to F&SF, first in the late ’50s, then again in the late ’60s to early ’70s. It tried to be a bit more adventure-oriented, and also (at least in its first incarnation) seemed to try to have a sexier image.

The feature list is pretty thin – most significant is the first book review column by Theodore Sturgeon, whom the editor proudly introduces as “the discoverer and distinguished proponent of that basic maxim known as “Sturgeon’s Law.” He reviews only one book, Martin Greenberg’s collection of non-fiction of SF interest, Coming Attractions. The inside back cover has a feature called “Venturing,” short bio-ish pieces about a few of the issue’s authors (Sturgeon, James Gunn, and “Paul Janvier”). The cover is by Ed Emshwiller (in my opinion, not one of his better efforts), and the interior art is by John Giunta and by Cindy Smith.

The stories are:

“Not So Great an Enemy,” by James E. Gunn (17,500 words)
“And Then She Found Him,” by Paul Janvier (6,900 words)
“Aces Loaded,” by Theodore R. Cogswell (6,500 words)
“The Keeper,” by H. Beam Piper (8,700 words)
“The Education of Tigress McCardle,” by C. M. Kornbluth (3,700 words)
“Seat of Judgment,” by Lester Del Rey (7,700 words)
“The Harvest,” by Tom Godwin (800 words)

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A Modest Proposal to Improve the Hugos

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 | Posted by Rich Horton

The Hugo AwardIn thinking about the recent unpleasantness (regarding the Hugo ballot, I mean), it occurred to me that one source of the issues with the Hugos right now has nothing much to do with slates or bloc voting or Sad Puppies or Social Justice Warriors or even taste (that much). It is simply this: there are a lot more SF stories published now than there were in the past. That makes it really hard for any reader to even come close to reading them all – something that was quite possible, I am told, back in the 1960s. I can testify: I used to try very hard to read every SF story that came my way, and there were years I read over 2000 stories. And every year I missed hundreds, at least, and some of those very good.

In a way this is one function of ballots and shortlists (and, indeed, recommendation lists): to try to condense the mass of stories published each year to a manageable set of the “the best.” My Best of the Year anthology every year serves that function (secondarily – the main function is to give readers a great book to read). So does, for instance, the Locus Recommended Reading list. But even there, note that our lists are by no means inclusive. Indeed, I signal that (as do other Best of the Year editors like Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow) by including a long list or recommended stories in addition to those in my book. And the Locus list is painstakingly cut from a much longer list of recommendations by all the contributors – a list that highlights the problem I cite, as all of us realize that our fellow recommenders have seen outstanding stories we have missed.

Though, I ask myself, why do I use the word “problem?” Surely it is a feature, not a bug, that there are so many stories published each year that are worthy of our attention? Indeed it is, but a result of that, I feel, is that if we want the Hugos to represent the very best stories of the year, we are failing, in the sense that it’s easier than before for a great story to slip under the radar.

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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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