Browsed by
Category: Vintage Treasures

A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z Reviews

Paul LaFarge wrote five novels before his death in January 2023 from cancer. His essays and fiction appeared in a variety of magazines. Only a small portion of his work was within the genre, but the story “The Adventure of You,” which appeared in Gordon van Gelder’s original anthology Welcome to Dystopia in 2019 is one of those genre stories.

In an unspecified time and place in the future, John Arnold Arnold is working as a debris removal specialist for a company. The story is told through a memo from the company’s HR department, ostensibly to help Arnold’s mental health, but it quickly becomes clear that the program being offered is more for the company’s benefit than Arnold’s. The memos offer an explanation of the situation in the company town for the reader while providing indoctrination for the workers.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Tangled Webs by Steve Mudd

Vintage Treasures: Tangled Webs by Steve Mudd


Tangled Webs (Questar/Popular Library, August 1989). Cover by Blas Gallego

There was a time, not so many years ago, when my reading was spontaneous. My wife would mention an intriguing mystery she’d just finished, I’d pick it up for a minute, and the next thing you know I’ve spent two hours with my feet up on the washing machine. I could get lost in a book in a bookstore. I would miss stops on the bus. Once I was listening to the audiobook  of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief during a nighttime road trip to Canada, and by the time that damn tape ended I’d missed the turnoff for Detroit by about two hours and was deep in northern Michigan. I still smell pines trees whenever anyone mentions pelicans. True story.

Anyway, the sad truth is these days my reading is by necessity much more planned. I have commitments that will take many months — to publishers, authors seeking cover blurbs, and writers looking for manuscript feedback. On top of that, there are new releases I dearly want to read, and only so many hours in the day.

I can’t let myself get distracted by the many tantalizing old books that pass through my hands. Even when they have cyborg assassins right there on the first page, like Steve Mudd’s forgotten 80s paperback Tangled Webs.

Read More Read More

A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews

K.P. Kyle’s debut novel Sync is the first of three novel-length works that I’ll be looking at in this series. Published by Allium Press, in 2019, Kyle offers the story of Brigid, who picks up a hitchhiker on a cold, rainy night in New England and she drives home to Boston. Although Jason doesn’t smell very good and seems to be suffering from paranoia, Brigid invites him to spend the night at her apartment so he can get cleaned up and get a good night’s sleep before getting on a train for somewhere.

When a burglar breaks into Brigid’s home that evening, she and Jason go on the lam, trying to avoid the men who apparently actually are after Jason. Jason also reveals his secret to Brigid. He was part of an experiment that allows him to temporarily jump from one reality to another, although the process leaves him naked.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Cave of Stars by George Zebrowski

Vintage Treasures: Cave of Stars by George Zebrowski


Cave of Stars (Eos/HarperCollins, December 2000). Cover art by Bob Eggleton

I don’t know much about George Zebrowski.

I probably should. According to ISFDB he’s written more than a dozen science fiction novels, including the John W. Campbell Award-winner Brute Orbits (1999). He’s edited over a dozen anthologies, including four Synergy volumes and three Nebula Awards collections, and was the editor of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1970-74, and again from 1983-90. With his domestic partner Pamela Sargent he’s produced four Star Trek novels, and all on his own he published four collections of short fiction. That’s a pretty impressive career no matter how you slice it.

But I’ve never read any of his fiction, so when his 1999 novel Cave of Stars showed up in a small paperback collection I bought on eBay last year, I was very intrigued.

Read More Read More

A to Z Reviews: “Tag,” by David Kablack

A to Z Reviews: “Tag,” by David Kablack

A to Z Reviews

David Kablack’s “Tag” appeared in the 18th issue of the magazine Pirate Writings, which would change its name to Fantastic Stories of the Imagination with the next issue. One of the features of Pirate Writings was the inclusion of a short-short story section.  The first story in the section in this particular issue is set in a small town. Charlie, the O’Reilley twins, Wally, and Black Tom O’Faolin, all teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, are spending time playing a game of tag on one of the rare days off the working members of the group have.

Their game is interrupted by one of the village’s outcasts, a hunchback whose father is unknown and whose mother has died, hobbles past them on his way home from the market. Being young boys faced with someone who is an outsider, they stop their game to watch him go by.  As Charlie starts the game up again by tagging Tom, Tom gets an idea and tags the hunchback with enough force that he sends his purchases scattering across the ground.

Read More Read More

A 1970s Future: The Man Responsible by Stephen Robinett

A 1970s Future: The Man Responsible by Stephen Robinett


The Man Responsible (Ace Books, April 1978). Cover art by Vincent DiFate

This latest in my loose series of essays about fairly obscure 1970s/1980s SF books is about a writer who looked to be establishing a potentially significant career as what might be called a “Ben Bova” writer. Alas, Stephen Robinett contracted Hodgkin’s Disease as a young man, and died at only age 62 in 2004. His final two novels, Final Option and the sadly ironically titled Unfinished Business, were published in 1990, and are only borderline SF if at all, crime stories about a financial journalist investigating fraud. Robinett himself was a lawyer and a business journalist, and this background certainly informs his work, including the novel I’m discussing here.

I have called Robinett a Ben Bova writer, in the sense that the bulk of his stories were published in Ben Bova’s Analog, and his one collection, Projections, was part of a short-lived series of books from Ace labeled “Analog Books,” and edited by Bova. Robinett followed Bova to Omni, and his final short story appeared there in 1983. But Robinett also sold to Vertex, to Jim Baen’s Galaxy, and to Damon Knight’s Orbit, while his first sales were to John W. Campbell at Analog, beginning with “Minitalent” in March 1969. This makes him, along with Rob Chilson, Stepan Chapman and James Tiptree, Jr., one of Campbell’s latest discoveries.

The other interesting thing about Robinett’s first stories — all the way through a couple Galaxy pieces in 1975 — is that they were published as by “Tak Hallus.” And takhallus is a Persian word (derived from Arabic) meaning… pseudonym.

Read More Read More

Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic, Part III

Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic, Part III

The first two installments in this series are here:

Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic, Part I
Andre Norton: Gateway to Magic, Part II

As I mentioned in the first two articles in this series, I’ve read a LOT of Andre Norton. Here are just a few pics from my collection that I haven’t yet discussed. Most of these have little to do directly with Sword & Planet fiction but they still contain Norton’s patented characters and action.

1. The Last Planet, which is a variant title for Star Rangers. (Two copies here: Ace 1974 — no cover artist credited although could this be a Whelan?, and Ace 1955 — Harry Barton cover).

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Vintage Treasures: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold


Falling Free (Baen Books, April 1988). Cover by Alan Gutierrez

Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most acclaimed writers in science fiction, with four Hugo wins for Best Novel under her belt (matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record), and three enormously popular series to her credit — the Miles Vorkosigan saga, the fantasy trilogy World of the Five Gods, and the Sharing Knife series.

But in April 1988, when Falling Free appeared, she was a relative unknown. Her first novel Shards of Honor had appeared the previous year, followed quickly by two others set in the same universe: The Warrior’s Apprentice, the tale of the young Miles Vorkosigan, and Ethan of Athos, the story of an exclusively male planetary colony.

But Falling Free was the book that would catapult her to stardom. The first novel (in chronological order) in the sprawling and ambitious Vorkosigan Saga, it was nominated for a Hugo and won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the first of numerous nominations and awards she’d receive during her career. In 2017, when the first Hugo Award for Best Series was awarded at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Bujold easily brought it home for the Vorkosigan Saga.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Sandkings by George R.R. Martin

Vintage Treasures: Sandkings by George R.R. Martin


Sandkings (Timescape/Pocket Books, December 1981). Cover by Rowena Morrill

Writing is a notoriously poor-paying profession. In 2017, after eleven months of work, I sold my first novel to Houghton Mifflin for $20,000 — about $10,000 below the poverty line for a family of five in Illinois. And I felt lucky to get it, believe me.

So when someone like George R.R. Martin earns $9 million a year as a fantasy novelist, it generates a lot of wonder and amazement. And in some corners, envy and resentment. For George — who’s dedicated his career to SF and fantasy, and was famous for hosting hundreds of fans every year at the genre’s social highlight, the Hugo Loser’s Party at Worldcon — I think the resentment culminated in 2021, when Natalie Luhrs’s essay “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun” was nominated for a Hugo Award. George, who was the Toastmaster for the Hugos in 2020, has not attended a Worldcon since.

In light of the fact that The Winds of Winter, sixth novel in the series, in now roughly a decade late, there’s also been a grumbling reevaluation of Martin’s magnum opus, Game of Thrones, with fans bitterly divided over everything from the final season of the HBO series to whether the series is worth starting at all.

To me, this whole exercise is misguided. Regardless of how you feel about the vast media franchise Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin’s reputation as one of the most vibrant and groundbreaking authors of genre fiction was irrevocably established four decades ago with a string of brilliant short stories, including the Hugo-Award winners “A Song for Lya,” “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” and, especially “Sandkings,” one of the finest SF stories ever written.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Strange Monsters of the Recent Past by Howard Waldrop

Vintage Treasures: Strange Monsters of the Recent Past by Howard Waldrop


Strange Monsters of the Recent Past (Ace Books, July 1991). Cover by Alan M. Clark

Howard Waldrop passed away in January of this year, and his death was a major loss. It’s common, especially for writers, to be praised as a unique talent, but in Waldrop’s case there may be no more apt description. He had an entirely unique voice. There was no one else like him.

Waldrop left behind a single solo novel and over a dozen collections, but I think the one I treasure the most was his fourth, Strange Monsters of the Recent Past, published by Ace Books in 1991. It was one of the very few to appear in mass market paperback (the other was the Locus Award-winning Night of the Cooters, reprinted by Ace in 1993).

Strange Monsters of the Recent Past contains some of his most acclaimed short fiction, including the long novelette “He-We-Await,” from Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and his famous retelling of the labors of Hercules set in the Jim Crow south, the Nebula, World Fantasy and Locus Award-nominated novella A Dozen Tough Jobs.

Read More Read More