Vintage Treasures: Beyond the Curtain of Dark edited by Peter Haining

Monday, November 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beyond the Curtain of Dark Four Square Beyond the Curtain of Dark UK-small Beyond the Curtain of Dark-small

Peter Haining was a prolific editor, producing over 100 anthologies between 1965 and his death in 2007. Black Gate readers are probably most familiar with his Sherlock Holmes books (which Bob Byrne has mentioned more than once), his 1976 Weird Tales facsimile anthology, and his various volumes on the pulps, including The Fantastic Pulps (1976), Terror!: A History of Horror Illustrations from the Pulp Magazines (1977), Supernatural Sleuths (1986), and The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines (2001).

I stumbled across a very rewarding anthology of horror stories in a $1 bin at Windy City Pulp and paper earlier this year. Beyond the Curtain of Dark was originally published in October 1966 in the UK by Four Square Books, with a delightful cover by Josh Kirby (above left). It was reissued in November 1972 by New English Library in the UK with a cover by the fabulous Bruce Pennington (middle), and in the US by Pinnacle Books (right, cover artist unknown). It contains 23 stories, a nice mix of pre-1910 fiction (nine stories by Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, F. Marion Crawford and others) and pulp horror stories published between 1938-1965 (14 stories by Robert Bloch, Harry Harrison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Fredric Brown, H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Isaac Asimov, and others).

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Collecting Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Arthur C. Clarke paperback lot-small

A couple weeks ago I reported here on a pristine collection of 35 Isaac Asimov books I purchased on eBay. Coincidentally, I also happened to stumble across blogger Mark R. Kelly’s Asimov Re-read. I found many of his comments right on the money, and Mark’s insights became the core of my article.

Eclipsed by all that discussion was the fact that the same day I also purchased a lot of virtually new paperbacks by Arthur C. Clarke (above). Although it was roughly the same size (32 titles) and same vintage (30+ years), and the books were in similar gorgeous shape, I expected to pay much less for them. And that’s exactly what happened: I took the lot home with a single bid for $27, less than a third of what I paid for the Asimov collection.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1953: A Retro-Review

Saturday, November 21st, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction January 1953-smallGalaxy rolled along into a new calendar year. Elsewhere in the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower was about to begin his first term in office, succeeding Harry S. Truman. It’s amazing to sit back for a moment and realize how long ago all of this great fiction was published.

“The Defenders” by Philip K. Dick – Humanity has been underground for years while the United States and Russia fight a nuclear war. On the surface, robots called leadys fight for humans, detonating bombs that destroy and irradiate the earth. It’s a harsh life for humans, drudging out their years without sunlight, struggling to survive while producing weapons to win the war. Taylor gets called from his rest period to go with a team to the surface to investigate some inconsistent reports from the leadys. It’s a dangerous assignment, given the amount of destruction and radiation awaiting them, but it’s not one he can refuse.

I didn’t want to give more of a description in fear that I might spoil the story. It has a couple of surprising points – the first of which is somewhat easy to guess. It has a classic, Cold War feel to it, which adds to its charm. Philip K. Dick used the story as a basis for the novel The Penultimate Truth, published in 1964.

“Teething Ring” by James Causey – An alien visits Melinda at her home, though she doesn’t realize he isn’t human. The strange man asks to survey her in exchange for one of his devices. Although she selects something for herself, her toddler son takes interest in a neural distorter and won’t be dissuaded. Melinda offers the man a dollar for it and gives it to her son; after all, it keeps him quiet.

It’s a lighthearted tale, but I didn’t find it that interesting. It does, however, make for a good relief between “The Defenders” and “Life Sentence.”

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Society of Illustrators Inducts Richard Powers into Hall of Fame

Saturday, November 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Richard Powers Of all Possible Worlds-small Richard Powers The Goblin Reservation-small The-Man-in-the-High-Castle-Richard-Powers-small is reporting that legendary paperback artist Richard Powers, who illustrated hundreds of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, has been inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Society of Illustrators.

Richard Powers began illustrating covers for American paperback publishers in 1950. He was extremely active in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, painting hundreds of covers for Berkley, Ballantine, Putnam, Doubleday, and many others. He died in 1998, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Society of Illustrators has been electing artists recognized for their ““distinguished achievement in the art of illustration” into the Hall of Fame since 1958. The newest Hall of Fame inductees include Beatrix Potter, Peter de Seve, Marshall Arisman, Guy Billout, Rolf Armstrong, and William Glackens.

Click on any of the images above to see Powers’ artwork in all its high-resolution glory.

Dr. Strange, Part II: Becoming Sorcerer Supreme and Dying in the Englehart Era

Saturday, November 21st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Marvel_Premiere_Vol_1_9In a blog post of some weeks ago, looked at the one of my favorite Dr. Strange periods, when they’d established his overall mythos. The early 1970s was another kick-ass period for Dr. Strange, when the Master of the Mystic Arts became the Sorcerer Supreme.

In 1971, after the end of the series Strange Tales, Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts found a home in Marvel Premiere with issue #3. Marvel was just beginning an eerie period that mirrored the monster movie craze of the 1970s.

This period brought into prominence Marvel’s werewolves, zombies, Morbius the Living Vampire, Ghost Rider, Son-of-Satan, Dracula, Satana, Blade, and even ended up turning one of the X-Men into a furry monster. This tone seeped into Dr. Strange too.

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Vintage Treasures: The Weirwoods by Thomas Burnett Swann

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Weirwoods-small The Weirwoods-back-small The Weirwoods 1977-small

We haven’t discussed Thomas Burnett Swann much here at Black Gate (a quick search pops up only one previous title, his 1972 paperback Wolfwinter). He is largely forgotten today.

His second novel, The Weirwoods, was serialized in two parts in Science Fantasy in 1965. It appeared in paperback from Ace Books in 1967 with a cover by Gray Morrow (above left, click for bigger version). The back cover of that edition is in the middle. It is a very slender novel, just 125 pages, with an original cover price of 50 cents. At right is the October 1977 Ace reprint, with a cover by Stephen Hickman.

Swann published some 16 novels, which together constitute a secret history of the magical races of classical mythology, starting in ancient Egypt in roughly 2500 BC, and the inexorable decline of magic in the face of the growth of Christianity and other world religions. The Weirwoods is set in the world of the Etruscans, the pre-Roman civilization that dominated Italy from 800 to 500 B.C., and tells the tale of nobleman Lars Velcha, whose city Sutrium sits beside the mysterious Weirwoods, home to witches, centaurs, fauns, water sprites, and far stranger things. When Velcha captures the weir-man Vel and makes him a slave, he triggers a war that brings disaster to his city.

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Robert E. Howard, Exile of Cross Plains

Monday, November 16th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on March 21, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

subterranean-kull-slipcasesubterranean-kull-limitedThe transformation of literary genres in the early twentieth century was marked by a series of intriguing parallels and recurrences. When Raymond Chandler, displaced as much in England as California, started down the mean streets of writing pulp fiction, he used an Erle Stanley Gardner story as his template. Chandler prepared a detailed synopsis of Gardner’s story and then re-wrote the story himself, comparing the results to the original.

Chandler’s first published pulp story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” (1933) introduced the prototype for the hardboiled private eye who emerged six years later in Chandler’s landmark first novel, The Big Sleep in the form of Philip Marlowe. Likewise Chandler’s literary heir, Ross Macdonald, displaced as much in Canada as California, would use The Big Sleep as the template for his own first novel, The Moving Target (1949) and, in the process, introduced Marlowe’s successor, Lew Archer who would arguably represent the hardboiled detective realized to its full potential.

When Robert E. Howard, an outcast in his native Cross Plains, started down the path that would eventually give the world the genre now known as Sword & Sorcery, he used Paul L. Anderson’s story, “En-ro of the Ta-an” as the template for his various “Am-ra of the Ta-an” story drafts. Anderson would likely be a completely forgotten literary figure but for the efforts of Howard scholar, Rusty Burke. Even without Anderson as a reference point, Howard’s first attempts at creating a noble savage are instantly familiar to the modern reader as being works that are highly derivative of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Pellucidar, and Caspak novels. Just as the seminal Black Mask writers took the western and successfully brought it to an urban setting creating modern detective fiction in the process, so Burroughs and those he influenced took Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli tales and laid the foundation for modern myth-making by cross-breeding jungle adventures with the lost worlds tales of Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H. Rider Haggard.

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Vintage Treasures: Great Short Novels of Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Monday, November 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Great Short Novels of Science Fiction-back-small Great Short Novels of Science Fiction-small

I have a real fondness for novellas. Like many other readers, I think they’re the perfect length for SF and fantasy — long enough to develop and explore a fascinating new setting, but short enough to keep the narrative fast-paced and lean.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many outlets for novellas these days. Economic realities have squeezed the page counts of print magazines, and most online magazines don’t publish them at all (Rashida J. Smith’s GigaNotoSaurus being the notable exception). Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so excited by‘s new novella line, which has already produced some terrific titles.

So I do find myself drawn to anthologies that include novellas… like my favorite book of the year (so far), The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015, Peter Crowther’s excellent Cities, and many others. But I do miss the days when folks like Robert Silverberg would produce mass market paperbacks collecting some of the best novellas from the top science fiction magazines, as he did in Great Short Novels of Science Fiction, a 95-cent Ballantine paperback from 1970.

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The Great Savage Sword Re-Read: Vol. 1

Saturday, November 14th, 2015 | Posted by John R. Fultz


The Savage Sword of Conan Vol. 1. Cover art by Boris Vallejo.

The Savage Sword of Conan is arguably the single greatest publication the Sword and Sorcery genre has ever seen. Spawned by the massive popularity of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian color comic which launched in 1970, Savage Sword was a black-and-white Marvel Magazine whose first issue appeared in 1974.

The new format freed creators from the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority, which constrained Conan’s full-color adventures to all-ages entertainment. The violence, gore, and lurid themes of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan tales would no longer be censored by enforced comic-book morality. Now readers of the Cimmerian’s adventures would get to know the real Conan and the real Hyborian Age — in all their blood-spattered, head-lopping, breast-heaving glory.

I was 8 years old when I bought my first issue.

It was early 1978 and my family had just moved from Fort Knox to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Moving to that neighborhood changed my life for many reasons, but one of the most significant was the presence of the Blue Bird Foodmart at the bottom of the hill. For the first 7 years of my life I was a small-town kid who only got exposed to comics when my parents/grandparents took me to a store somewhere. Now I could walk down the hill to a store that sold comics, magazines, and novels. The problem was that as an 8-year-old comics fan I had barely any money to spend on all those great books.

On that day in ’78, I could have chosen the latest issue of Creepy, Eerie, Heavy Metal, or any number of Marvel or DC comics. But it was Savage Sword of Conan #28 that caught my eye. Comics went for 35 cents apiece in those days, but here was an extra-thick “comic” with an amazing Earl Norem painted cover. For one whole dollar, it offered four times as many pages and featured the most realistic sword-fights and battles I had ever seen, complete with beheadings, guttings, and stabs in the back. The interior art was by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala, a legendary penciller-inker team, and I had never seen anything like it.

Needless to say, it blew my little mind and left me hungry for more tales of Conan…

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Vintage Treasures: The Ring of Truth by David J. Lake

Friday, November 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ring of Truth-smallI don’t know a darn thing about The Ring of Truth. I found it in a 14-book collection I bought on eBay around three bucks (the same set I found Croyd and Light a Last Candle in). It was published by DAW in 1984, has never been reprinted, and I’ve sure never seen it before. To tell the truth, I don’t know anything about the author, David J. Lake, either. According to the ISFDB, he produced nine novels between 1976 and 1988, most of them published only in Australia.

But that’s okay. Heck, I love a good literary mystery. Exploring the vintage paperbacks of this genre is an endless voyage of discovery. Who knows what undiscovered wonders, what secrets to the universe, lie hidden in these books? Nobody bug me for the next few hours while I find out.

Our cosmos, throughout its enormous length of galaxies, and down to its smallest molecules, obeys the same laws of physics and chemistry from one end to the other. But it is now suspected that somewhere in the vast reaches of space, there may well be other universes with completely different natural laws.

But even on these worlds, foreign beyond imagining, there may yet be great adventurers — alien Magellans and Columbuses whose thirst for exploration cannot be assuaged. Intelligent beings who would risk anything to know what lies over the horizon, beyond the parameters of the known world.

Travel now with Prince Kernin of Palur, just such an explorer in just such an alien universe, and discover wonders beyond imagining, in a world very different from our own, as he ventures to the ends of his earth and beyond to find the elusive Ring of Truth!

The Ring of Truth was published by DAW Books in June 1984. It is 192 pages, priced at $2.95. There is no digital edition. The cover is by Ken W. Kelly.

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