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Category: Vintage Treasures

Killer Dolls and Murderous Dimensions: DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories I (1972), edited by Richard Davis

Killer Dolls and Murderous Dimensions: DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories I (1972), edited by Richard Davis

The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW, 1972). Cover by Karel Thole

The first Year’s Best Horror Stories, DAW No. 13, published in 1972, was edited by British author and editor Richard Davis, who would go on to produce many more horror and sci-fi anthologies throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He also edited the next two Year’s Best Horror Stories for DAW, but he primarily published through British outlets.

The Year’s Best Horror Stories, No. 1, was first published by Sphere in the UK in May 1971, and reprinted by DAW in the US fourteen months later, dropping the No. 1 from the title in the process. The cover of the DAW edition was by Dutch painter Karel Thole (1914–2000), a regular on sci-fi covers during the time. I think the cover is more psychedelic than horrific. In 1975 DAW reprinted the book with a new cover by Hans Arnold, one much more fitting to the horror genre.

This first volume has a strong lineup, and I can see why Donald A. Wollheim sought to get Davis’ Sphere release as the debut for his new Year’s Best Horror Stories series. It was also, somewhat surprisingly for the time, quite diverse.

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Knight at the Movies: SIEGE (1983), or SELF DEFENSE or possibly NIGHT WARRIORS

Knight at the Movies: SIEGE (1983), or SELF DEFENSE or possibly NIGHT WARRIORS

You ever watch one of the long video game cutscenes that passes for movies these days and think “I kinda miss old, raw-looking films, like early Romero and Carpenter. Something that had teeth. Heart. Balls. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

Whether they do or don’t make them like that anymore is another blog post, but a good way to go back and get that early Romero vibe is to seek out overlooked titles from the era. One of those is the Canuxploitation shocker Siege (1983) (released in the USA as Self Defense and sometimes Night Warriors). Thanks to Severin Films, this lost thriller is now available to today’s Blu-ray audience and streaming through sites like Amazon.

Now I’ve seen this movie labeled online as pastiche/homage/ripoff of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. YMMV, but to me this is the work of a couple of filmmakers (Paul Donovan and Maura O’Connell of DEFCON-4 fame, most memorable for its excellent poster) who love Assault and want to make something like it, but improve on its weaknesses. They gave the attackers faces, names, and characters, cutting down the numbers to a handful, and made the defenders more vulnerable by putting them in two-story apartment quad, rather than a fortress-like police station. But I get ahead of myself.

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Galloway Gallegher — Kuttner’s Sauced Scientist

Galloway Gallegher — Kuttner’s Sauced Scientist

Robots Have No Tails (Lancer, 1973). Cover by Ron Walotsky

Try this one on for size…you go to sleep one night and have a lively dream. You see yourself doing wonderful things, creating new devices based on principles so advanced you can’t even image how they could be. You don’t question the fact that it is a dream because you know that, normally, you could never build such fabulous, world-changing technologies. It’s all kind of fuzzy though — what you’re building, the people you’re interacting with, everything.

When you wake in the morning you discover any number of strange devices in your house. You have no idea what they are, how they work, or where they came from. The phone rings. Apparently, there are several people to whom you now owe a lot money. You’ve never met any of them before but they seem to know you. Is it a scam? You hope so because one of them is suing you for breach of contract. Another is taking you to court for assault and battery. What happened? Could your dreams have been real somehow? Regardless, it seems that you’re now morally responsible for a whole lot of trouble.

This is essentially the premise of Henry Kuttner’s five Galloway/Gallegher stories: “Time Locker” (1943), “The World Is Mine” (1943), “The Proud Robot” (1943), “Gallegher Plus” (1943), and “Ex Machina” (1948).

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Arthur C. Clarke: Omnibuses, Collections, and Remixes

Arthur C. Clarke: Omnibuses, Collections, and Remixes

Omnibuses:
Across the Sea of Stars (Harcourt Brace World, 1959)
From the Ocean, From the Stars (Harcourt Brace World, 1961)
Prelude to Mars (Harcourt Brace World, 1965; book club edition shown)
The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night (Harcourt Brace World, 1968; book club edition shown)

Arthur C. Clarke was one of the major science fiction writers of the 1950s through the 1970s; his biggest claim to fame was as coauthor, along with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, of the film and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was a British scientist who lived most of his life in Ceylon, later known as Sri Lanka, and wrote numerous books about his skin diving adventures in that area. He began publishing short stories as early as 1937, and his novels beginning in the 1950s included Childhood’s End, The City and the Stars, and Rendezvous with Rama.

This is the first of two posts about Arthur C. Clarke’s short fiction, which comprise nearly 100 titles and include such famous works as “The Star” and “The Nine Billion Names of God,” not to mention “The Sentinel,” one of the  (several) inspirations for 2001. This post will trace the overlaps between Clarke’s early collections and the later “omnibuses” and “remixes.” The next post will review the stories, both in general terms and to highlight the 8 or 10 or 12 best, or most significant, Clarke stories, in my judgment.

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Introduction to DAW Books’ The Year’s Best Horror Stories (1972–1994), edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page, and Karl Edward Wagner

Introduction to DAW Books’ The Year’s Best Horror Stories (1972–1994), edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page, and Karl Edward Wagner

20 of the 22 volumes of The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books)

Today I’m beginning a new series of posts investigating DAW Books’ Year’s Best Horror Stories series, which ran from 1971 to 1994. As a fan of literary horror, I’m excited to sequentially read through these volumes and share my thoughts with you. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to discover some great stories and authors, perhaps some we’ve never read before, and I’m also hoping that we will be able to see how trends in horror have changed over the years. Each post will investigate one volume at a time.

Except this first one, in which I want to explore the impetus and beginnings of the series as a whole.

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Vintage Treasures: Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh

Vintage Treasures: Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh

Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts (Signet/New American Library, 1988). Cover by J. K. Potter

Isaac Asimov had a lot of gifts. He was a world famous polymath, a marvelous science explainer and popularizer, and a pretty darned skilled writer of science fiction. But he doesn’t get a lot of credit for one of his greatest talents, a skill in short supply even today: The man knew how to sell anthologies.

After some of his early SF anthologies became enduring top-sellers, often remaining in print for decades (including The Hugo Winners, Volume I and II, Before the Golden Age, and Where Do We Go From Here), publishers discovered that the name Isaac Asimov on the cover of an anthology almost guaranteed it would sell.

Asimov exploited this heavily for the remainder of his career, lending his fame to many important anthology series, often co-created with frequent collaborators Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. These include The Great Science Fiction Stories (25 volumes in 23 years), Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction (10 volumes in 8 years), and Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Fantasy (12 volumes in 9 years). It’s that last one we’re going to look at today, with one of the final volumes: Ghosts, published by Signet in 1988.

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The Dream of the Numinous: Carl Sagan’s Contact

The Dream of the Numinous: Carl Sagan’s Contact

Contact by Carl Sagan
First Edition: Simon and Schuster, October 1985, Jacket painting by Jon Lomberg

Contact
by Carl Sagan
Simon and Schuster (432 pages, $18.95, Hardcover, October 1985)
Jacket painting by Jon Lomberg

Carl Sagan is known as the greatest science popularizer who was also a legitimate scientist of the late 20th century. His landmark achievement was a 13-part TV series, Cosmos, broadcast in 1980, and its companion book of that same year. Sagan was an astronomer and planetary scientist, whose achievements included planning the first Mariner mission to Venus in the 1960s and the Viking landers on Mars in 1976. His first popular book, The Cosmic Connection (1973), won a special nonfiction John W. Campbell Memorial Award – the only time that award went to a nonfiction book – in 1974. Indeed, that’s how I first heard of Carl Sagan, having been following the science fiction awards for just a year or two, at my age then.

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Vintage Treasures: Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home by James Tiptree, Jr.

Vintage Treasures: Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home by James Tiptree, Jr.

Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (Ace Books, 1973). Cover by Chris Foss

Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home was the debut collection from one of the most important science fiction writers of the 20th Century, James Tiptree, Jr (the well known pseudonym of Alice B. Sheldon). Tiptree published half a dozen additional collections during her lifetime, and several very important volumes gathering her best short fiction have been assembled since her death, most notably Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (Arkham House, 1990), one of the seminal SF books of the century.

But it probably won’t surprise any of you to learn that I still prefer the original paperbacks, flawed and poorly edited as they were. Thomas Parker called Ten Thousand Light Years from Home “the worst-proofread book I’ve ever read,” and let’s just say he’s not the only one to notice.

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Vintage Treasures: Supermind by A.E. van Vogt

Vintage Treasures: Supermind by A.E. van Vogt

Supermind (DAW Books, 1979). Cover by Attila Hejja

In the mid-70s A.E. van Vogt was one of the most prolific and respected SF authors on the shelves. His books Slan, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, and The World of Null-A were required reading for any serious science fiction fan, and half a dozen publishers — including DAW, Ace, Berkley and Pocket Books — were competing to keep his large and lucrative back catalog in print.

Today he’s essentially forgotten. And unlike a lot of popular authors of the era — Heinlein, Asimov, Philip K. Dick, just as a few examples — there isn’t a highly visible group of fans fighting to keep his memory alive, or bring his most popular work to the attention of Hollywood. Van Vogt first emerged in the pulps, and he mastered the art of writing for a pulp audience. Of the writers I still read read today, his voice most vividly reminds me of the pulp era of science fiction, with all its strengths and weaknesses — including, unfortunately, a simple and unadorned writing style that’s largely unappealing to modern readers.

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A Top-Notch Wordsmith, and a Master of Speculative Fiction: The Best of John Brunner

A Top-Notch Wordsmith, and a Master of Speculative Fiction: The Best of John Brunner

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The Best of John Brunner (Del Rey, 1988). Cover by Barclay Shaw

After several years, I’m finally gotten to the last of the Del Rey Classic Science Fiction Series! The Best of John Brunner was published in 1988. But is this book even part of that series? The previous installment, The Best of James Blish was published 9 years earlier. And though The Best of John Brunner is indeed a Del Rey publication, and it says “Classic Science Fiction” on the cover, the cover design is much different, including the font, from earlier editions.

However, in this post, I’ll treat it as the twenty-second and last installment of the Del Rey Classic Science Fiction Series. (Heck, even John O’Neill didn’t know this volume existed until a few years ago.)

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