Vintage Treasures: The House of Many Worlds by Sam Merwin, Jr.

Sunday, May 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The House of Many Worlds-small The House of Many Worlds-back-small

Sam Merwin Jr. was one of the most influential SF editors of the pulp era. He took over the reins at Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories in Winter 1945 from Oscar J. Friend, and immediately adopted a more mature attitude, attracting more adult readers and better writers. At first he assumed Friend’s editorial pseudonym, Sergeant Saturn, but eventually he simply went by the title Editor. By 1950 he was also editing Fantastic Story Quarterly and Wonder Stories Annual, making him one of the most important names in the field. His letter columns were avidly followed by fans of all ages, and he’s widely credited with steering his SF magazines out of the kid’s section and towards an adult readership.

Merwin quit editing in 1951 to become a freelance writer, and found some success with mysteries, and writing stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space in 1952-1953. He briefly edited Fantastic Universe in 1953, and was an associate editor at Galaxy around the same time.

But Merwin is remembered today chiefly for two linked time travel novels, The House of Many Worlds and Three Faces of Time. They were published in a paperback omnibus edition by Ace in 1983, with a cover by comic artist Frank Brunner (above).

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Birthday Reviews: Elizabeth Engstrom’s “Seasoned Enthusiast”

Friday, May 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Allen Koszowski

Cover by Allen Koszowski

Elizabeth Engstrom was born on May 11, 1951. She occasionally writes using the name Liz Cratty as well.

Engstrom’s collection Nightmare Flower was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and she co-edited the anthology Imagination Fully Dilated with Alan M. Clark, which earned them an International Horror Guild Award nomination.

“Seasoned Enthusiast” first appeared 1990 in Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine: Horror, the seventh issue, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Engstrom later reprinted the story in her 1992 collection Nightmare Flower.

The short work “Seasoned Enthusiast” tells two parallel tales, one about a dancer performing in front of an audience, the other the story of a divorced woman who is considering her own self-worth in light of her husband’s new life.

The more interesting story looks at Lillian, whose life has fallen apart after her divorce and she’s living in squalor while her husband and his new wife start their life together in an upscale house, a symbol of the success which eluded the couple while they were married. Unable to separate her life from his, and seeing herself as a failure because she lost him, Lillian drives over to her ex-husband’s house without a firm plan in mind, feeding her obsession with him without any plan of action.

In the other story, a crowd gathers around to watch a woman dance in an apparently primitive setting. As the dance sequences are interwoven with Lillian’s story, it becomes clear that things aren’t quite as they seem. There is an element of danger in the woman’s dance and she has suffered for her craft as she has perfected it.

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The Ties That Bind: Mike McQuay’s The Nexus

Thursday, May 10th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Nexus Mike McQuay-smallThe Nexus, by Mike McQuay
Spectra Special Edition (Bantam Books, 474 pages, $4.50 in paperback, May 1989)
Cover by Bob Hickson

Amy Kyle, an Autistic girl on the threshold of puberty, has divine powers. She can cure the sick, heal the lame, mend broken bones and make horrible scars disappear. She also has incredible powers of teleportation and telekinesis, and can manipulate reality in such ways as making a horde of food appear out of thin air, the way Christ is said to have done with the loaves and fishes. Thus, the comparisons to Christ and discussions about the nature of God and divinity are at the core of this story. Amy’s mother, Tawny, is a booze-addled, chain-smoking, sometime prostitute and train wreck of a human being who can channel her daughter’s powers. This she does in old-fashioned “revival” type meetings, charging people a modest sum to be healed and cured of their physical limitations and ailments.

Denny Stiller is a nearly washed-up newsman for WCN, a Dallas, Texas cable news network, who lives and breathes for “the story.” He is a self-professed seeker of the Truth who lives a life avoiding most relationships and commitments. Part hero, part rogue, his whole adult life has been devoted to being the ultimate newshound, the ultimate reporter. Frank Hargrave is a Vietnam veteran with a badly scarred and damaged leg. A one-time storm chaser who can barely hang onto his sanity; he’s one of the walking wounded who drinks too much in an effort to numb himself from the nightmares, the cruelty, and the violence of the world. An overly sensitive soul, he leads a troubled life filled with pain and terrible nightmares, but none of this intrudes on his talent for “capturing the moment” on film. The head honchos at WCN would have dumped him long ago, if not for Denny’s support and belief in his friend.

But Denny himself, once the top reporter at WCN, was demoted to covering less-urgent news because of a scathing interview he once conducted with the President of the United States of America. Now he’s trying to redeem himself and work his way back to being king of the news hill.

Molly Hartwell is a producer at WCN, and is also in love with Denny. She stands by him, backs him all the way, and risks her own career in order to help him rise to the top of the heap again. But Denny often mistreats her, uses her, and her love for him is not always reciprocated, not in the way she wants. Their relationship is further complicated when she finds out that she’s pregnant with Denny’s child, something he neither wants nor cares about; although she asks and expects nothing from him in return, he tells her that he is willing to help her out in any way he can.

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Birthday Reviews: John Scalzi’s “Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis”

Thursday, May 10th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Edward Miller

Cover by Edward Miller

John Scalzi was born on May 10, 1969.

John Scalzi won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2006. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008, breaking David Langford’s nineteen year winning streak. He won a second Hugo in 2009 for Best Related Work for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008. In 2013, he won a fiction Hugo Award for his novel Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas. His novel The Collapsing Empire is currently a Hugo Finalist. Redshirts earned Scalzi his second Geffen Award, which he previously won for the novel Old Man’s War. His novel The Android’s Dream received the Kurd Lasswitz Preis and the Seiun Award. Scalzi served two terms as the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Scalzi wrote “Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis” for an audio anthology he edited, METAtropolis, produced for Audible Frontiers in 2008. The following year, the anthology was published in print form for the first time by Subterranean Press. Brilliance Audio issued the original audio anthology on CD and as an mp3 in 2009. In 2010, Tor reprinted the anthology and in the same year, it was translated into German. The story has not appeared outside its original anthology, whether in audio or printed form.

Benjamin Washington is living in the fully self-sustaining city of New St. Louis. Despite, or perhaps because of, a high-powered mother, Benjy is something of a slacker, putting off tackling his required aptitude test until the last possible moment. His poor scores, and lack of time to retake before the deadline of this twentieth birthday, coupled with his mother’s refusal to expend her political capital on nepotism, mean that he must take a job as a pig farmer working with genetically modified swine.

Suffering through life as a pig farmer, Benjy’s realizes how much he has screwed up, especially when he sees the girl he cares about together with a boy who is constantly needling him. Even as Benjy deals with the repercussions of his laziness, his learning experiences are presented in a manner that is designed to get a laugh, although Scalzi uses those same lessons to great effect later in the story.

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Vintage Treasures: Fire Watch by Connie Willis

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Fire Watch Connie Willis-small Fire Watch Connie Willis-back-small

Fire Watch was the first collection from Connie Willis, and it had a huge impact on the field. It came in second for the Locus Award for Best Collection in 1986 (beating out George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, Larry Niven’s Limits, and Viriconium Nights by M. John Harrison, and losing out only to Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew). Its publication announced the arrival of a major new talent.

Willis  published over half a dozen additional collections in the next 30+ years, including the Locus Award-winning Impossible Things (1994), the monumental 740-page The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories (2007), and the Locus Award-winning The Best of Connie Willis (2013), but I think it’s fair to say that this is probably still her most famous.

The copy above is the the one I found at Half Price Books last month, and not the first paperback edition. Fire Watch was published in hardcover by James Frenkel’s Bluejay Books in 1985; the first paperback edition appeared from Bantam a year later (see that one below).

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Here They Are — The Brand New 1957 Titles from Gnome Press

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

Gnome Press 1957 brand new titles announcement-small

For tonight, I thought I’d post a rare bit of Robert E. Howard Conan ephemera I’ve been meaning to post for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to yet. This is the front page of the 1957 Gnome Press catalog — the catalog is four pages long, printed on an 11″ x 17″ sheet of paper folded in half (click the image above for a legible version).

Among other books, it advertises “The Fabulous Conan Series,” stating

CONAN, the very-human splendid barbarian, who found high adventure and fought both men or demon in his climb to kingship in the magical pre-dawn lands of Hyboria.

And then followed by a quote on the Conan stories from a professor in the History Department at SMU.

Inside was a one-sided sheet offering their Christmas Discount Offer, 10 books for $12, which I’ll post below. I’d gladly pay that!

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To Roam the Unreadable Tome: The Night Land Straight Up

Monday, May 7th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

The Night Land Sphere

Anytime that you read a Black Gate article, you do so at your peril. We all know this. How much time and money have you spent tracking down obscure books that you’ve read about here, and how many irreplaceable hours have you spent reading them? Yeah. Me too.

My most recent bout of this fever I blame squarely on Nick Ozment, who recently blew a loud horn on behalf of William Hope Hodgson’s 1912 weird classic The Night Land. Now I’ve had a copy of this book on my shelf for thirty five years and never once come close to reading it. (Wife and kids, working for a living, eating and sleeping, reading a zillion other books, watching Lost and Breaking Bad — you know how it goes, Hodgson, old boy; it was nothing personal.) I never felt any guilt over neglecting this masterpiece; after all, in his article, Nick alluded to the book’s virtual unreadability in its original form (Mr. O was using his piece to boost James Stoddard’s 2010 “translation” of the book into a more modern, accessible idiom.)

Well, to tell me that a book is “difficult” or “impenetrable” or “practically unreadable” (all words that featured prominently in Nick’s article) is like waving a red flag at a bull. My reading fate for the next three weeks was decided at that moment.

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A Tale of Three Covers: Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Monday, May 7th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightflyers 1987-small Nightflyers 1989-small Nightflyers and Other Stories-small

George R.R. Martin may be the most popular genre writer on the planet. In terms of global book sales his only living rivals are J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

So it’s not surprising that much of his back catalog is returning to print, including his 1985 short story collection NightflyersNightflyers contains six stories, including the Hugo-award winning novella “A Song for Lya,” but by far the most famous tale within is the title story, a science fiction/horror classic which won the Analog and Locus Awards in 1981, and was nominated for a Hugo for Best Novella.

Nightflyers was originally published by Bluejay in 1985, and reprinted in mass market paperback in February 1987 by Tor with a cover by James Warhola (above left). It was reprinted two years later with a new cover to tie-in with the 1987 movie version (above middle; cover artist unknown). The new edition, with a vibrantly colorful cover from an uncredited artist (above right), is the first over over three decades. It will be published by Tor at the end of the month, in advance of the new series debuting on Syfy later this year.

“Nightflyers” was one of the first major adventures set in Martin’s “Thousand Worlds” universe, home to much of his early short fiction. Here’s my synopsis from my 2012 Vintage Treasures article.

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Vintage Treasures: The Shining Falcon by Josepha Sherman

Sunday, May 6th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shining Falcon-small The Shining Falcon-back-small

Josepha Sherman’s first short story, “The Shrouded Sorceress,” was published in Space & Time in 1981; her first novel was the YA title The Secret of the Unicorn Queen in 1988. She passed away in 2012, leaving behind a rich legacy of written work: 10 anthologies, including In Celebration of Lammas Night (Baen, 1996) and Urban Nightmares (Baen, 1997; with Keith R. A. DeCandido), and over two dozen novels, including media tie-in books for Bard’s Tale, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Mage Knight, Highlander, and Xena: Warrior Princess.

But her most acclaimed novel was also her first book for adults, The Shining Falcon. It won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel of the Year, and was widely praised when it was first released. Esther Friesner called it “A gloriously rich tapestry of pageant, adventure and magic,” and Morgan Llywelyn said, “A world based on Slavic history and mythology, a world both exotc and darkly familiar… darkly brilliant and shimmering with magic.” Library Journal said:

A shape-changing prince, a magic-fearing noblewoman, a jealous princess, and an unscrupulous courtier find their destinies inextricably linked by the forces of love, hate, and magic. Drawing heavily on Slavic mythology for her first adult fantasy, Sherman creates a richly detailed novel with all the charm and readability of a fairy tale. Highly recommended.

Sherman’s other standalone novels include A Strange and Ancient Name (1993), King’s Son, Magic’s Son (1994), and Son of Darkness (1998). The Shining Falcon was published by Avon Books in November 1989. It is 343 pages, priced at $3.95. The cover was by Kinuko Craft. It has never been reprinted in the US. Copies generally aren’t hard to find; I paid $2 for mine at Half Price Books last month.


DMR Books Brings Pulp Sword & Sorcery Back Into Print

Saturday, May 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sapphire Goddess The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis-small The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball-small

Last month I rented a booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago — my favorite local convention — and piled it high with brand new hardcovers and trade paperbacks I was giving away. I had 31 boxes of leftover review copies, duplicates from my collection, and hundreds of rare advance proofs to get out of my basement, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Bob Byrne and Steven Silver made long drives to the con to help staff the booth, and we were looking forward to handing out books to grateful attendees.

Reality was a little bit different. Most folks passed by our booth with barely a glance. If Bob and Steve and I hadn’t been tirelessly peddling books, handing out free copies as people passed by, and carting books by the dozens to the freebie pile at registration every few hours, we’d probably still be there. This was an audience more interested in pulps and vintage paperbacks than brand new science fiction and fantasy, apparently.

It’s not true that there was no interest in our booth. After eight long hours unsuccessfully giving away books on Friday, Dave Ritzlin from DMR Books joined us on Saturday, and we gladly made space for him in the booth. Once we did interest picked up immediately, as folks zeroed in on his attractive selection — and especially his new releases, The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis and The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball.

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