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Category: Rich Horton

A Far Future Journey Across a Strange Earth: The Song of Phaid the Gambler (Phaid the Gambler/Citizen Phaid) by Mick Farren

A Far Future Journey Across a Strange Earth: The Song of Phaid the Gambler (Phaid the Gambler/Citizen Phaid) by Mick Farren


The Song of Phaid the Gambler
(New English Library, October 1981). Cover by Tim White

Mick Farren (1943-2013) was for a time a sure enough rock star, front man for the Deviants, a sort of proto-punk band in England in the late 1960s. He did a couple solo albums too, then turned to journalism, particularly for the important UK magazine New Musical Express, where he was one of the first to herald the arrival of the official punk movement. And he also began to write fiction, much of it SF — some two dozen novels in all.

The Song of Phaid the Gambler was published in the UK in 1981. It was split in two (sensibly enough, I think, for marketing reasons) for US publication, from Ace in 1986 and 1987 as Phaid the Gambler followed by Citizen Phaid. There are differences between the two versions — I suspect, though I’m not sure, primarily to smooth out the separation into two separate books. I read the US version.

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Talking Tolkien: On The Tolkien Reader – by Rich Horton

Talking Tolkien: On The Tolkien Reader – by Rich Horton

It’s another of my Black Gate cohorts this week for Talking Tolkien. Rich is one of the science fiction cornerstones at the Black Gate World Headquarters, but he’s been a Tolkien fan since the seventies. He’s gonna talk about a book I never added to my shelves. Before the explosion of books like The History of Middle Earth Series, and Children of  Hurin, and his Beowulf, there weren’t a lot of ‘other’ Tolkien books out there besides the main five.

But even before The Silmarillion finally saw print, there was The Tolkien Reader. 

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The Tolkien Reader was first published in 1966 by Ballantine Books in the US; in response to the greatly expanding popularity of The Lord of the Rings, driven by the paperback editions from Ballantine (and the pirated edition from Ace.) This was an attempt to bring a varied sampling of his work to readers hungry for more. I read it myself in the early ’70s, after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As an introduction it reprints a piece Peter Beagle did for Holiday (perhaps at the instigation of Alfred Bester?) called “Tolkien’s Magic Ring”, which primarily discusses the Middle-Earth books.

It’s a good and varied collection throughout, and really does the job of showing a different side to Tolkien (though not THAT different!) from that seen in The Lord of the Rings. I’ll be looking at each of the sections separately, and slightly out of order, in that I think the best part by far is Tree and Leaf, which comes second in the book.

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Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention 2023, Part II

Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention 2023, Part II

David C. Smith and Steven H Silver find priceless treasures in the Dealers Room at Windy City Pulp & Paper

A month ago I wrote a short convention report on the 2023 Windy City Pulp & Paper Show, which took place Friday April 21st to Sunday, April 23rd in Lombard, Illinois. In that article I mostly rubber-necked at the gorgeous Weird Tales pulps and other rare magazines sold during the evening auctions, and took covetous pictures of the pre-auction displays.

Here in Part II, I’ll share a few more photos of the vendors and personalities I met, and showcase a few of the many treasures I dragged home in seven heavy boxes — including vintage comics, science fiction digests, graphic novels, new releases, and of course lots of great old paperbacks. Assuming you enjoy cautionary tales of disastrous self control, it should be an entertaining read.

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Retro Review: Two F&SFs from Robert P. Mills’ Editorship

Retro Review: Two F&SFs from Robert P. Mills’ Editorship


The November 1958 and May 1961 issues of The Magazine of
Fantasy & Science Fiction
. Covers by John Pederson and Ed Emshwiller

I’ve recently looked at a few issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from the early to mid-50s, when Anthony Boucher (at first in collaboration with J. Francis McComas) was the editor. Boucher left that post with the August 1958 issue, and Robert P. Mills took over. (Mills had been the editor of F&SF’s sister magazine Venture for its ten-issue stint running bimonthly from January 1957 through July 1958.) He edited F&SF until the March 1962 issue.

These two issues, then, neatly mark a period early in his term, and one in the last year of his term. So it seems like a good idea to consider them together. (If truth be told, though, I bought these for another reason — they feature two of the very best stories from the first phase of Carol Emshwiller’s career.)

Let’s look quickly at the TOCs of the two issues.

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Joseph Wrzos, September 9, 1929 — April 7, 2023

Joseph Wrzos, September 9, 1929 — April 7, 2023


A few of the magazines edited by Joseph Wrzos: Amazing Stories
(complete year, 1967) and Fantastic Stories (complete years, 1966 & 1967)

I wanted to mention the passing on April 7, at the age of 93, of the former editor of Amazing and Fantastic, Joseph Wrzos, who used the name Joseph Ross professionally.

He was Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s immediate successor, and took over the magazines at a difficult time, when Ziff-Davis sold them to Ultimate Publishing. Lalli stayed with Ziff-Davis (and had a very successful career editing Modern Bride.) Ross worked under publisher Sol Cohen, who mandated severe budget cuts, including reprinting stories Amazing had first published decades before (and, until SFWA objected, not paying for them.)

Ross did his best in those circumstances, as far as I can tell, and was well liked by those who knew him. (I never met him myself.) In addition to his editing work (which included consulting for Arkham House, and for some later iterations of Amazing) he was a High School English teacher.

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Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention 2023, Part I

Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention 2023, Part I


Some of the eye-popping pulps from the Bob Weinberg collection auctioned at Windy City

This weekend was the Windy City Pulp & Paper show, an annual gathering of about 600-800 pulp and vintage paperback enthusiasts in Lombard, Illinois. Founded by Doug Ellis and run by a dedicated and talented team, Windy City has gradually become my favorite convention. Back when Black Gate was a print magazine I used to get a table and sell back issues, but these days I spend my time more productively. Namely buying stuff, but also hanging out with friends and attending the auction.

And gawking at amazing sights. If you’re interested in rare and unusual items — such as mint-condition pulps, rare first editions, signed volumes, original art, and letters and esoterica from pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and countless others — Windy City is the place to be. It’s a chance to hang out with like-minded individuals, gossip, and (especially!) find incredible treasures.

Reader, I found some treasures.

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Vintage Treasures: The Flashing Swords! Original Anthologies, edited by Lin Carter

Vintage Treasures: The Flashing Swords! Original Anthologies, edited by Lin Carter

Paperback editions of Flashing Swords! #1-5 (Dell Books, 1973-1981).
Covers by Frank Frazetta (1 & 2), Don Maitz (3 & 4), and Richard Corben

Lin Carter is best remembered these days as the editor in charge of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, which was by any measure a monumental achievement, bringing back into print a truly impressive array of important fantasy books, many in serious danger of being forgotten. But Carter’s career extended beyond that. He was a very prolific author, with his best-known series being the Thongor books, with the hero a barbarian quite openly modeled on Conan.

With L. Sprague de Camp, he produced a great many “posthumous collaborations” with Robert E. Howard, featuring Conan — in stories either expanded from fragments Howard left, or new stories featuring Conan. Carter’s Callisto series is fairly derivative of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He also wrote pastiches of Lovecraft, of Dunsany, of Clark Ashton Smith. Carter was also an historian and critic of fantasy fiction, producing book length studies of Lovecraft and Tolkien, as well as Imaginary Worlds, an ambitious introduction to and history of fantasy.

And he was a prolific anthologist, putting out a number of reprint anthologies, a Year’s Best series devoted strictly to fantasy, and finally the subject of this article, the five original anthologies collectively called Flashing Swords.

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Infinity, June 1956: A Retro Review

Infinity, June 1956: A Retro Review


Infinity Science Fiction, June 1956. Cover by Ed Emsh

In my previous Retro Review I covered If, which I called a “classic digest magazine of what might be called the “second tier” of SF magazines.” Infinity was another, though it lasted for a much shorter time — 19 issues from 1955 through 1958. (I note for the record that the magazines of the so-called “first tier” – that is, the Big Three of Astounding/Analog, Galaxy, and F&SF – all went through ups and downs in quality and sometimes other magazines surpassed them – notably Venture in the late ‘50s, If in the mid-60s, Thrilling Wonder and Startling in the early ‘50s, and others, including, as John O’Neill reminds me, Amazing and Fantastic in the early ’60s under Cele Goldsmith Lalli. I’ll also note that there was surely a third tier, magazines of lesser quality than the likes of If and Infinity.)

The editor of Infinity was the greatly respected Larry T. Shaw. The original anthology series Infinity, from the early 1970s, edited by Robert Hoskins, was published by Lancer Books, which was the successor company to Royal Publications, the firm responsible for the magazine. Indeed Robert Hoskins was the immediate successor to Larry Shaw as editor of the Lancer SF line. Hoskins did reprint the most famous story the magazine published, Arthur C. Clarke’s Hugo winner “The Star,” in the first volume of the original anthology, and therein he called the anthology the “lineal descendant” of the magazine.

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If, December 1957, A Retro-Review

If, December 1957, A Retro-Review


IF, December 1957. Cover by Mel Hunter

If was a classic digest magazine of what might be called the “second tier” of SF magazines. (The term second tier might be a bit dismissive — there were a number of quality magazines that for a time surpassed one or more of the so-called “Big Three” (Astounding/Analog, Galaxy, and F&SF.) That said, those three magazines, via comparative longevity, consistent quality, and simply tradition were considered “the big three” by the SF community for most of the ’50s through ’70s.) It was founded by James Quinn (Quinn Publishing Company) in 1952, with Paul Fairman the initial editor. Quinn took over from Fairman fairly soon (though Larry Shaw was listed as Associate Editor but was apparently the actual editor from May 1953 to March 1954), and he edited it until 1958, after which Damon Knight briefly took over. Quinn sold the magazines to the publishers of Galaxy, and it was a companion to Galaxy for the rest of its existence; under the editorship, sequentially, of H. L. Gold, Frederik Pohl, Ejler Jakobsson, and Jim Baen, before folding after the November-December 1974 issue.

There was a single-issue revival in 1986, edited by Clifford Hong, officially called Worlds of If. Though that revival quickly failed, it should be said that the list of contributors is fairly impressive (Niven, Van Vogt, Salmonson, Schenck, Card, Zelazny, etc.) As far as I know the official title of the magazine (except for the last issue) was always If, sometimes subtitled “Worlds of Science Fiction,” but the cover, especially late in the run, often appeared to give the title Worlds of If. During Pohl’s editorship, when it was positioned as the somewhat lighter, more adventure-oriented, magazine in the Galaxy stable, it won three consecutive Hugos as best magazine, supposedly to Pohl’s slight dismay, as he considered Galaxy the better product.

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Retro Review: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1955

Retro Review: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 1955

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1955. Cover by George Salter

By 1955 J. Francis McComas had resigned as co-editor of F&SF, and Anthony Boucher was sole editor. George Salter remained art director. Both Boucher and Salter left the magazine in 1958. This issue also has a cover by Salter — his last but one for the magazine — he did one more in 1966. I really enjoy Salter’s work, and I learned today that he did the covers for such significant works as the first editions of The City and the Stars, Atlas Shrugged, and A Fine and Private Place. He also shares a birthday with me.

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