Birthday Reviews: Lloyd Arthur Eshbach’s “The Valley of Titans”

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Leo Morey

Cover by Leo Morey

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach was born on June 20, 1910 and died on October 29, 2003.

Eshbach founded Fantasy Press in 1946 and ran it for 9 years, publishing nearly fifty books during that time, including titles by Doc Smith, Stanley Weinbaum, Jack Williamson, A.E. van Vogt, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and others.

Eshbach’s novel The Land Beyond the Gate was nominated for the Compton Crook Stephen Tall Memorial Award. In 1988, he received the Milford Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Gallun Award for contributions to science fiction, and the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. In 1949, he was the pro Guest of Honor at the Cinvention, the 1949 Worldcon in Cincinnati and in 1995, he was the Publisher Guest of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention.

Originally published as by “L.A. Eshbach,” “The Valley of Titans” originally appeared in the March 1931 issue of Amazing Stories, edited by T. O’Conor Sloane. It was Eshbach’s fourth published story. Interestingly, underneath his byline, the magazine touted him as “Author of ‘A Voice from the Ether’,” which wouldn’t appear until the May issue of the magazine. In 1968, Ralph Adris reprinted the story in the March issue of Science Fiction Classics.

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Birthday Reviews: Vivian Vande Velde’s “The Granddaughter”

Monday, June 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Bran Weinman

Cover by Brad Weinman

Vivian Vande Velde was born on June 18, 1951.

Her novel Never Trust a Dead Man received the Edgar Award for Best YA Novel in 2000 and Heir Apparent was nominated for the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s literature in 2003.

Vande Velde initially published “The Granddaughter” in her 1995 collection Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird. The story was selected by Terri Windling for inclusion in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Ninth Annual Collection, edited with Ellen Datlow. Asdide from those appearances, the story has not been reprinted.

Retellings of fairy tales have a long established role, in fact the earliest version of fairy tales are often just the first version of a retelling of an oral tradition. Vivian Vande Velde has targeted the story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” which dates back at least as far as the tenth century and has been retold by both Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. In “The Granddaughter,” Vande Velde’s focus is on the wolf, who can speak and is good friends with the title character’s grandmother.

Little Red Riding Hood, who is also known as Lucinda in this version, although she prefers the nickname, is an aspiring actress, almost completely self-centered, and horrified that her grandmother would be friends with a wolf, even one who can speak. The wolf, for his part, is equally horrified at Lucinda’s attitudes and inability to allow anyone else speak during a “conversation.” Not, at first understanding the grandmother’s reluctance to have Lucinda visit, the wolf quickly comes around to her point of view and works to rescue the woman from her granddaughter’s visit.

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Birthday Reviews: Andrew Weiner’s “Bootlegger”

Sunday, June 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Joyce Kline

Cover by Joyce Kline

Andrew Weiner was born on June 17, 1949.

Weiner’s story “The Third Test” was nominated for the British SF Association Award. He has also been nominated for the Aurora Award three times, for the original story “Station Gehenna” (which he expanded to a novel), “Eternity, Baby,” and “Seeing.”

“Bootlegger” was published in 1997 by Robert J. Sawyer and Carolyn Clink in the anthology Tesseracts6. The story has not been reprinted.

“Bootlegger” tells the story of Marshall Baron, a washed up musician who discovers that there are CDs being circulated that purport to be bootlegs of some of his early music. The problem is that he knows that he never recorded or wrote the songs that are on the albums, although voice analysis claims they are by him. He has Alderman, one of his agents, try to find the source of the bootlegs so they can figure out what is happening.

Alderman’s investigations lead him to Greenspan, a fan of Baron’s who has written several gossipy books about the singer. Although Baron wants nothing to do with the man, whom he considers a crank, Greenspan will only reveal his source of the bootlegs to Baron, nobody else. Greenspan’s revelation is that he has access to another world where Baron’s career had a different, more successful, trajectory. He feels that Baron could still make a difference in their own world, spark the revolution that his early music promised, although Baron disagrees, feeling that the revolution has passed.

Greenspan is not only a fan of Baron’s work, but also jealous of him and something of a radical. If Baron isn’t going to use his talents to make the world a better place, Greenspan is going to use his ability to access other worlds to create the world that he feels is necessary, even if it means taking Baron away from everything that he has achieved. Greenspan’s plans work within the context of the story, although when fully explored, there were other, less disruptive options he could have chosen.

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Birthday Reviews: Harry Turtledove’s “Half the Battle”

Thursday, June 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Tony Roberts

Cover by Tony Roberts

Harry Turtledove was born on June 14, 1949.

Turtledove began publishing using the pseudonym “Eric G. Iverson” and has also published under the names “Mark Gordion,” “H.N. Turteltaub,” and “Dan Chernenko.” Known for his alternate history novels and epics, he has also published numerous science fiction and fantasy works. In 1994 his novella “Down in the Bottomlands” received the Hugo Award. He won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History twice, for his novels How Few Remain and Ruled Britannia. Two of the novels in his Young Adult Crosstime series have won awards. Gunpowder Empire won the 2004 Golden Duck Hal Clement Award given by SuperConDuckTivity and The Gladiator received the 2008 Prometheus Award. His novel WorldWar: In the Balance received the Italia Award in 1996. Turtledove served as Toast Master at Chicon 2000, the Worldcon. In 1995 he received the Forry Award from LASFS.

“Half the Battle” was published by Jerry Pournelle in 1990, in volume 9 of his There Will Be War anthology series, After Armageddon. The story has not been reprinted.

The story opens sometime after an apocalyptic event has destroyed civilization in southern California. A new society has arisen around several small kingdoms, with Turtledove looking at the king of Canoga. When a book is found that describes a machine that the ancients had that can spit bullets, a machine gun, King Byron has his artificers try to replicate the lost device to replace the slow matchlocks his troops are using. The fact that King Byron and his people knew the gun could exist gave them the edge in re-creating it.

The story uses several time jumps to explore where this future will go. In each period, King Byron’s descendants have managed to extend and consolidate the kingdom’s power and in each period, they come across other devices of the ancients that they work to replicate, because knowing it can be done is “half the battle.”

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Black Gate Book Club, Downbelow Station, Second Discussion

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Downbelow Station UK-smallWelcome to the second round of discussion on C.J. Cherryh’s classic 1981 novel Downbelow Station. New to the program? The first discussion can be found here.

Chris Hocking gets the ball rolling this time around.

Chris Hocking

Hi people,

I had business travel to do and took Downbelow Station on the plane for some serious reading. I came away from it realizing that I had developed an unusual (for me at least) attitude toward the book.

This is an intense SF novel depicting otherworldly conflict in alien environments, but it’s tone is resolutely workaday and normalized. The exotic situations and scenes described are experienced by the characters, and presented to the reader, with matter-of-fact realism. We follow several characters whose histories and position are laid out and fitted into this fictional environment with great skill. This is a story of interplanetary war, of political maneuver and counter-maneuver, of individuals and policy makers struggling to deal with the critical issues and collateral adjustments that inevitably arise in wartime. It is executed by Cherryh with remarkable depth and solidity: the environment meshes completely with the story being told and the overall effect is very convincing. This is a powerful and deep imagination at work.

Yet having said all that, I find the book a half-step out of phase with my own reading tastes. The consistent desperation of most of the characters, the grueling effects of war and displacement are all well done and appropriate to the story being told, but for me the cumulative effect was kind of enervating. I’ve read enough bleak modern fiction and noir that this didn’t bother me much in itself, but it was coupled with the notable absence of an element I tend to seek in Science Fiction.

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Experience Poul Anderson’s Complete Psychotechnic League from Baen Books

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 1-small The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 2-small The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 3-small

Art by Kurt Miller

When I learned last September that Baen Books was reprinting Poul Anderson’s classic Psychotechnic League stories, I wrote a brief history of the series. Here’s what I said, in part.

The Psychotechnic League began as a Future History, a popular beast among short SF writers of the 40s and 50s. Anderson published the first story, “Entity,” in the June 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, and set the opening of his series a decade in the future. The series continued for the next two decades, (appearing in Astounding, Planet Stories, Worlds Beyond, Science Fiction Quarterly, Cosmos, Fantastic Universe, and other fine magazines), eventually extending into the 60s. In the process, his “Future History” gradually became an “Alternate History,” as actual history trampled all over his carefully constructed fictional timeline.

That didn’t seem to bother readers though, and the tales of the Psychotechnic League remained popular well into the 80s. The series included some 21 stories, including three short novels: The Snows of Ganymede (1955), Star Ways (1956), and Virgin Planet (1957). The short stories and one of the novels were collected in a trilogy of handsome Tor paperbacks in 1981/82, with covers by Vincent DiFate. Now Baen books is reprinting the entire sequence in a series of deluxe trade paperbacks, starting with The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1, on sale next month.

Volume 1 was released right on schedule last October, and Volume 2 followed in February. The third and final book will be released next month.

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An End to the End: The Silver Spike by Glen Cook

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_11558360wYZzXP1And so we come to end of the line for several of the main characters of the Black Company trilogy. The end of the third book, The White Rose, saw the storied mercenary company whittled down to a handful of survivors. The group — five veterans, the empire’s erstwhile ruler the Lady, and Croaker in the lead — decided to travel south and find Khatovar, the fabled home city of the Black Company.

Darling, otherwise known as the rebel leader the White Rose, chose to remain in the North rather than accompany Croaker and the rest of her friends. The wizard Silent, in love with with Darling, chose to remain with her despite her not having reciprocal feelings. Raven, also in love with Darling, stayed behind too, but rejected, went off with Case, the young imperial soldier he’d befriended.

Published four years after The White Rose, The Silver Spike (1989) is a sort of odd book that attempts to tie up several loose ends. It covers a lot of ground, constantly bouncing between several narratives and the better part of two continents. Concerned as much with giving ends to a host of characters as he is with the aftermath of the rebellion, Cook doesn’t tell a totally cohesive story.

Over here, several characters are chasing down a revived enemy only to be suddenly yanked away to face a different threat. Another storyline follows a new set of characters as they commit an act of great stupidity that leads to many deaths and horrendous destruction. There’re lots of very cool bits of business, but The Silver Spike feels like several books jammed together rather inelegantly. Perhaps if Cook had written a giant, sprawling work, like one of today’s thousand-page tomes, he could have made it come together better. But at only 313 pages, there’s little space for the rambling the book is given to.

The Silver Spike begins with Philodendron Case introducing and explaining himself. A minor character in The White Rose who found himself attached to Raven, now he’s a primary character.

This here journal is Raven’s idea but I got me a feeling he won’t be so proud of it if he ever gets to reading it because most of the time I’m going to tell the truth. Even if he is my best buddy.

Talk about your feet of clay. He’s got them run all the way up to his noogies, and then some. But he’s a right guy even if he is a homicidal, suicidal maniac half the time. Raven decides he’s your friend you got a friend for life, with a knife in all three hands.

My name is Case. Philodendron Case. Thanks to my Ma. I’ve never even told Raven about that. That’s why I joined the army. To get away from the kind of potato diggers that would stick a name like that on a kid. I had seven sisters and four brothers last time I got a head count. Every one is named after some damned flower.

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Vintage Treasures: The Ends of the Earth by Lucius Shepard

Sunday, June 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Lucius Shepard The Ends of the Earth-small

When he died in 2014, it was my unfortunate duty to write an obituary for Lucius Shepard. I considered him one of the finest short fiction writers in the genre in the 80s and 90, and tried to explain why in three short paragraphs. Here’s the core of what I wrote.

I first encountered him in the pages of Omni magazine in 1988, with his novelette “Life of Buddha.” I remember being astounded with the natural realism of his dialog, which captured the flow of modern speech in a way I’d never seen before. I read his brilliant Nebula Award-winning novella “R&R” — which opens with an artillery specialist in Central America getting a glimpse of a war map and wondering if he’s somehow caught up in a war between primary colors — and the novel it turned into, Life During Wartime (1987). His dark visions of the near future frequently involved inexplicable wars, and he wrote extensively about Central America, where he lived briefly.

Four years after his death, Shepard is in danger of being forgotten. Virtually all of his work is out of print, and his finest work — his award-winning short stories — is getting harder to find. Fortunately, it’s not getting more expensive. Those who know what to look for can snap up his best collections are bargain prices. In April I was the only bidder on eBay for a brand new copy of his World Fantasy Award-winning The Ends of the Earth (1991), and won it for the criminally low price of $7.99. It’s one of the finest fantasy collections of the last 30 years.

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Birthday Reviews: Joe Haldeman’s “Blood Brothers”

Saturday, June 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Thieves' World-Walter-Velez-small Thieves' World-Walter-Velez-back-small

Cover by Walter Velez

Joe Haldeman was born on June 9, 1943.

Haldeman received his first Hugo and Nebula Award for his debut novel, The Forever War. He won both awards again for his novella “The Hemingway Hoax” and his novel Forever Peace. Haldeman received the Nebula Award on two other occasions for his short story “Graves,” which also won a World Fantasy Award, and his novel Camouflage. He also has two additional Hugo Awards for the short stories “Tricentennial” and “None So Blind.” Forever Peace also was honored with the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Camouflage tied for a James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award and won the Southeastern SF Achievement Award. He was won three Rhysling Awards, the Ignotus Award, and the Ditmar Award as well.

DeepSouthCon presented Haldeman with a Phoenix Award in 1983. He was one of the pro Guests of Honor at ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon in The Hague. Along with his wife, Gay, he was awarded a Skylark Award by NESFA in 1996. In 2004, he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Southeastern SF Achievement Award. Haldeman received a Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society in 2009 and in 2010 he was recognized as a Damon Knight Grand Master by SFWA. In 2012, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

“Blood Brothers” was Joe Haldeman’s only contribution to Robert Lynn Asprin’s shared world anthology series Thieves’ World, appearing in the debut volume in 1979. Written for the project, its reprint life has been limited, appearing in Sanctuary, an omnibus of the first three volumes of the Thieves’ World anthologies in 1982, and again in the omnibus Thieves’ World: First Blood in 2003, which reprinted the first two volumes of the series. Haldeman also included the story in his own collection, Dealing in Futures, originally published in 1985.

One Thumb was a major character in the early Thieves’ World shared world anthologies, created by Joe Haldeman for his story “Blood Brothers.” Shown by other authors in the series as powerful and mysterious, Haldeman’s own depiction of the owner of the Vulgar Unicorn was of a nearly amoral man, given to theft, murder, and rape. In the course of Haldeman’s short story, One Thumb, also known as Lastel, commits an assassination, a murder, deals in drugs, and considers his need to rape women.

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Remembering Michael D. Weaver

Friday, June 8th, 2018 | Posted by Gordon Van Gelder

Mercedes Nights-small My Father Immortal Michael Weaver-small

I was on ISFDB and noticed that today marks the 20th anniversary of Mike Weaver’s death.

Michael D. Weaver broke into the SF field with Mercedes Nights in 1987 and looked like he was going to be The Next Big Thing (or one of them, anyway). He published seven novels in nine years before dying at the age of 37.

At St. Martin’s Press, I worked on his first two novels, particularly his second one, My Father Immortal. In those pre-email days, he would call almost every day about this or that. He came to New York for the SFWA Authors and Editors party with his girlfriend, whose name was Angel (if my memory serves) and whose dress and looks led some people to think she had been hired from an escort service. (She hadn’t.) I got drunk at the party and made the mistake of telling Mike how I thought his novel was ideal for teens — how the book worked as a great metaphor for adolescence. He didn’t call for several days after that.

If memory serves, he died in a freakish accident — something like falling in the yard and having his head land in a bucket or puddle, where he drowned.

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