The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

The Silver Eggheads, Ballantine F561, 1962, cover by Richard Powers

Fritz Leiber is one of the grand names of f&sf, winner of six Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, and two World Fantasy Awards. He is a member of the SF Hall of Fame, a SFWA Grandmaster, and a lifetime achievement recipient from the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and Forry Awards. You wouldn’t think any novel of his from the epicenter of his career could be obscure, neglected, or forgotten. And yet, there’s the case of The Silver Eggheads.

As a novelet, “The Silver Eggheads” graced the cover of the January 1959 F&SF, normally as prestigious a slot available at the time. Yet the story has never been anthologized nor ever included in one of his three dozen collections. Possibly that’s because Leiber expanded it to novel length, published as an original paperback by Ballantine in 1962. (Yes, that is a Richard Powers cover, one of the few representational ones he did.) Ballantine reprinted it twice, but no other American publisher has touched it. This novel has been out of print in English for almost 40 years. A few foreign editions slipped in, for multilinguists and obsessive collectors.

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Birthday Reviews: Richard A. Lupoff’s “Black Mist”

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Nicholas Jainschigg

Cover by Nicholas Jainschigg

Richard Lupoff was born on February 21, 1935. He edited the fanzine Xero, which included articles from Avram Davidson, L. Sprague de Camp, and Roger Ebert. In 1963, Lupoff and his wife, Pat, received a Hugo Award for Best Amateur Magazine for their work. In 2005, a hardcover The Best of Xero would be nominated for a Hugo for Best Related Work.

He published his first novel One Million Centuries, in 1967 and is perhaps best known for Circumpolar! and Circumsolar! Lupoff is not averse to using pseudonyms such as Ova Hamlet or Addison E. Steele. He collaborated on the graphic novel The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle and His Incredible Aether Flyer with Steve Stiles. Lupoff edited three volumes of short stories he felt should have won the Hugo Award (What If? Volumes 1-3).

“Black Mist” was originally published in the April 1995 issue of Omni Online. Orson Scott Card reprinted it in Black Mist and Other Japanese Futures and Lupoff included it in his collection Claremont Tales. The story was also reprinted in Robert Reginald’s To the Stars—And Beyond: The Second Borgo Press Book of Science Fiction Stories.

Many stories set in the far future of space exploration select a human culture and have them expand into space, as L. Sprague de Camp did with his Viagens Interplanetary series. Often these space-faring cultures have little to do with the original terrestrial country beyond nomenclature. In “Black Mist” Lupoff has postulated a future in which Japan has taken over planetary exploration after the United States and Russia’s programs have collapsed.

The Japanese are attempting to terraform Mars and part of that effort takes place from a small outpost on Phobos. Not only do Japanese ideas of honor and caste play a big role in the story, but other aspects of Japanese society are interwoven and provide an integral part of the plot. “Black Mist” opens with a lowly kitchen worker, Jiricho Toshikawa, discovering the murdered body of a scientists on Phobos. When the body disappears, the head of operations on Mars sends his friend Hajimi Ino to investigate the disappearance.

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Vintage Treasures: The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dragon Waiting John M Ford-back-small The Dragon Waiting John M Ford-spine-small The Dragon Waiting John M Ford-small

For the last few years the major streaming players — Netflix, HBO, Amazon, Hulu, and others — have spent untold millions searching for the next Game of Thrones. A tale of dark magics, black-hearted evil, kings and princes, palace intrigue, war, treachery, and sex. I could have saved them a lot of time if they’d just asked me. I would have recommended they film John M. Ford’s The Dragon Waiting.

The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History was published in 1983. It’s a sprawling alternate history that combines Richard III, Edward IV, the Princes in the Tower, the Medicis, and vampires. Edward IV sits on the throne of England, but his kingdom is threatened by an expansionist Byzantine Empire. The Vampire Duke Sforza is massing a dark army against Florence, and Byzantium is on the march. High in the Alps four people come together: the exiled heir to the Byzantine throne, a beautiful physician forced to flee Florence, a Welsh wizard, and a German vampire. Together they wage an secret campaign against the entire Byzantine Empire, to secure the English throne for Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

WZRDFRTHST1968As I wrote last time, this excursion through the bookshelves of my younger days was inspired by the recent death of Ursula K. Le Guin. I haven’t read much Le Guin outside the Earthsea books; most of her work hasn’t appealed to me. But the Earthsea books, especially the initial trilogy — A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), and The Farthest Shore (1972) — did and, I was glad to find out, still do.

In my article, “Why I’m Here: Part Two,” I described the Elric books as being like samizdat passed around between my friends and me. With so few books actually out there, we fellow fantasy fans read anything we could find, and in turn got it all into everyone else’s hands and read everything they passed along to us. After The Lord of the Rings, I’m sure there were no books as read, and read as often, as Le Guin’s three slender volumes.

There are several whys. The easiest is they are way cool, at least the first and the third. The second is more of a Gothic, and lacks the dragon-battling and dark magic of the others, like this:

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Birthday Reviews: Richard Matheson’s “Third from the Sun”

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by David Stone

Cover by David Stone

Richard Matheson was born on February 20, 1926 and died on 2016. His first published story was “Born of Man and Woman,” which was nominated for a Retro-Hugo.

He received the World Fantasy Award for his novel Bid Time Return, which was turned into the film Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. He also won the World Fantasy Award for his collection Richard Matheson: Collected Stories, which also received the Bram Stoker Award. Matheson has received lifetime achievement awards from both World Fantasy and Bram Stoker and was declared a living legend by the International Horror Guild.

The World Horror Society named him a Grand Master in 1993 and he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010. His novel I Am Legend has been filmed numerous times under different names as has The Incredible Shrinking Man. In addition to his career as a novelist and short story writer, Matheson has written screenplays for a variety of television episodes.

“Third from the Sun” was purchased by H.L. Gold and published in the October 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. Gold reprinted it in Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction and Matheson has included it in multiple collections of his work. It was reprinted in the children’s anthology Beyond Belief and in The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories. It was adapted by Rod Serling for the first season of The Twilight Zone, starring Fritz Weaver and Denise Alexander. The story has been translated into French (twice), German, and Italian.

Matheson followed his stunning debut story, “Born of Man and Woman” with a more pedestrian outing in “Third from the Sun,” a story with a twist that is ruined by its title. Matheson tells the story of a man and woman who are clearly planning on stealing a spaceship and fleeing the earth with their children and neighbors ahead of a cataclysm. Their ability to do so it made possible by the man’s position within the space program.

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Gods, Mortals, Sons, and Daughters: Storm Seed by Janet and Chris Morris

Monday, February 19th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Storm Seed Janet and Chris Morris-small Storm Seed Janet and Chris Morris-back-small

While Storm Seed is the final volume in the iconic Sacred Band series to appear in a brand-new, Author’s Cut edition, it isn’t the last book in the series. The story takes place after the Sacred Band has been disbanded, after the events in Beyond Wizardwall and The City at the Edge of Time. Storm Seed follows on the heels of Tempus Unbound, and precedes the epic story of The Sacred Band.

Once again Team Morris delivers another outstanding novel in their classic “Chronicles of the Sacred Band,” as I always refer to them. Crisp prose, engaging characters, and a well-crafted plot carry this one right to the very end. This is Heroic Fantasy on a grand and epic scale, inspired by ancient mythology merged with a “lost” history of the world. All the tropes of the genre are here: wizards, witches, magic, ghosts, gods, dragons, and so much more. But these ingredients are used with a weight of reality to them, and in a manner I can only describe as “uniquely Morris.” Storm Seed is a story about love and loyalty, family and comradeship. And for all the elements of the fantastic, this novel is grounded in the veracity of its characters, and in the human drama and dynamics of their relationships. Almost everyone has a quest of their own to undertake, and the story unfolds at a brisk pace as the various events take one twist and turn after another until all the characters and plot-lines come together.

It seems like a reunion as so many characters from previous novels return to share the stage. Team Morris does a splendid job of giving the members of their cast equal time; almost everyone has a storyline of their own. Tempus the Black and Niko, his right-side companion, are here. Also present and accounted for: the goddess Jihan, the powerful Froth Daughter; Randal the allergy-prone wizard; Roxane the witch you really don’t want to get involved with; Cime the wizard slayer who is a real force to be reckoned with; Kama, Tempus’ daughter and warrior. The Sacred Banders Strat, Crit, and Gayle are also here, as well as Enlil the Storm God, Abarsis the Slaughter Priest, and even Strat’s Ghost Horse.

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Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Lethem’s “Lostronaut”

Monday, February 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Bob Staake

Cover by Bob Staake

Jonathan Lethem was born on February 19, 1964. His debut novel was Gun, with Occasional Music, which followed several published short stories. Often skirting the line between genre and mainstream, most of his novels, including Amensia Moon, As She Climbed Across the Table, and The Fortress of Solitude contain science fictional elements or play of the popular culture that surrounds science fiction.

Lethem won the World Fantasy Award for his collection The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award four times, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, and the Shirley Jackson Award, Sidewise Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award one time, each. His novel Gun, with Occasional Music received the William L. Crawford Award and won the Locus Poll for best first novel.

“Lostronaut” was originally published in The New Yorker on November 17, 2008. Although it has not been reprinted in English, it was translated into Hungarian for publication in the anthology Kétszázadik, edited by Németh Attila in 2009.

“Lostronaut” is an epistolary story written from Janice, an astronaut orbiting on a space station known as “Northern Lights” to her lover, Chase, in Manhattan. The letters are filled with a mix of longing to be together again, gossip about the rest of the Russian-American crew of the station, and concerns that because the Chinese have mined the orbital region below the space station, they would have difficulty returning to Earth.

As the letters progress, their tone becomes more urgent and more depressed. The situation with the Chinese mines grows more dire, members of the crew become more despondent, and Janice’s own circumstances become urgent as she is diagnosed with cancer, which will need to be treated aboard the station unless a way through the minefield can be found.

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Vintage Treasures: The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-small The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-back-small

Cover by Michael Whelan

When Jim Baen left Ace to found Baen Books in 1983, he implemented a publishing strategy that served him well for decades: buying up the back catalog of popular authors and re-issuing them in visually similar covers that could be identified at a glance on crowded bookstore shelves. It was a strategy he learned while working under Tom Doherty at Ace Books from 1977-1980 (and refined under Doherty at Tor Book from 1980 – 1983).

While at Ace, Baen’s genius was to marry popular authors that had substantial back catalogs — like Andre Norton, Gordon R. Dickson, and Keith Laumer — with brilliant new cover artists. For me the exemplar of this strategy was Poul Anderson’s late 70s Ace editions, given new life by the striking world of a rising new artist named Michael Whelan.

When Richard Powers single-handedly remade science fiction art in the late 60s, it wasn’t long before bookshelves were overrun with abstract art. SF paperbacks, once criticized for pulp-era sameness and tired spaceship motifs, now suffered from a very different but no less stifling form of sameness. Plenty of writers were victims of the “Powers revolution” in SF art in the 1960s, but I think Poul Anderson was more victimized than most. His colorful tales of science fiction adventure on far planets were sold to the public under abstract covers that told them nothing about what they were getting.

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Birthday Reviews: Gahan Wilson’s “The Sea Was Wet as Wet Can Be”

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

02-18-unknownGahan Wilson was born on February 18, 1930 and is best known as a cartoonist with a very identifiable style. For many years, his bust of H.P. Lovecraft was used as the trophy for the World Fantasy Award. His cartoons have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as more mainstream publications like Collier’s, The New Yorker, and Playboy.

Although most notable as an artist, Wilson has published several short stories and wrote a movie review column for The Twilight Zone Magazine and a book review column for Realms of Fantasy.

“The Sea Was Wet as Wet Can Be” is one of Wilson’s few short stories and was originally published in the May 1967 issue of Playboy Magazine and reprinted in The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural. It has since been reprinted several times, including in Fantasy: The Literature of the Marvelous, edited by Leo P. Kelley, Gahan Wilson’s Favorite Tales of Horror, Blood Is Not Enough, edited by Ellen Datlow, who also reprinted it in Sci Fiction, Wilson’s collection The Cleft and Other Odd Tales and his Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons, Otto Penzler’s The Vampire Archives, and the Vandermeers’ The Weird. It was also reprinted in the December 2015 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. In 1986, the story was translated into French.

Just as Wilson’s cartoons demonstrate a dark sense of humor, “The Sea Was Wet as Wet Can Be” offers a similar outlook on life. Based on the poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and containing a significant portion of Carroll’s text, Wilson recasts the oysters of the poem as a group of people picnicking on the strand.

One of their number, Phil, doesn’t quite feel at home with the rest, himself cast as the oldest oyster of the poem, and decides that he is going to change his life’s circumstances. Into this rather glum party, two interlopers come, and the characters in Wilson’s story compare them to the Walrus and the Carpenter of Carroll’s poem. Wilson never defines who, or what his Walrus and Carpenter are, although he provides them with names.

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Birthday Reviews: Andre Norton’s “The Gifts of Asti”

Saturday, February 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Laura Ruth Crozetti

Cover by Laura Ruth Crozetti

Andre Norton was born on February 17, 1912 and died on March 17, 2005. She began publishing with “People of the Crater,” using the pseudonym Andrew North (reprinted in 2003 in my anthology Magical Beginnings).

Over the years, she published numerous short stories and novels, including the various stories of the Witch World cycle. She also published the first Dungeons and Dragons tie-in novel, Quag Keep, set in Gary Gygax’s World of Greyhawk. In addition to her own novels, she collaborated with a variety of authors including Rosemary Edghill, Jean Rabe, Mercedes Lackey, Lyn McConchie, Susan Shwartz, Julian May, Marion Zimmer Bradley, P.M. Griffin, Sherwood Smith, Dorothy Madlee, Sasha Miller, and more.

From 1999 through early 2004, Norton organized the High Hallack Library, a research library and authors retreat in Tennessee. The library, along with her collaborations, were only a few of the ways Norton helped shape new generations of authors. Many authors claimed Norton as an influence on their own styles, even if they didn’t work directly with her. She edited the Catfantastic anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg and the Magic in Ithkar series with Robert Adams. Other anthology series allowed authors to write in her Witch World series.

Norton was named the first female SFWA Grand Master in 1984. She received the Phoenix Award in 1975, the Skylark Award in 1983, the Big Heart Award in 1988, and the Forry Award in 1989. In 1994, she was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame and was the first woman inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1997. In 1998, the World Fantasy Convention gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award (11 years earlier, they gave her a Special Convention Award). When SFWA created a Young Adult Award in 2005, it was named in honor of Norton. She received the only Coveted Balrog Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1979 and was named a Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy in 1977.

“The Gifts of Asti” was originally published under Norton’s Andrew North pseudonym in the July 1948 issue of Fantasy Book, edited by Garret Ford. The next year, it was reprinted in Griffin Booklet One and was included by Sam Moskowitz in The Time Curve in 1968. Norton used it in The Many Worlds of Andre Norton (a.k.a.The Book of Andre Norton). It was the title story in Roger Elwood’s The Gifts of Asti and Other Stories of Science Fiction and editor Jane Mobley used it in the anthology Phantasmagoria: Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural. Spastic Press opened Anthology of Sci-Fi: The Pulp Writers: Volume I with the story and it was also reprinted in Tales from High Halleck: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton, Volume I in 2014.

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