Browsed by
Category: Vintage Treasures

Superior Sword-and-Planet: The Bane of Kanthos by Alex Dain

Superior Sword-and-Planet: The Bane of Kanthos by Alex Dain


The Bane of Kanthos (Ace Books, October 1969). Cover by Gray Morrow

I read The Bane of Kanthos by Alex Dain in the original 1969 edition, which was part of an Ace Double with Kalin by E. C. Tubb. The cover uses the phrase sword-and-sorcery, but The Bane of Kanthos is a sword & planet novel. An earthman is transported to an alternate world via passage through a black gate. He discovers that the world is at risk from a great, reawakened evil, and that he is the only one who can save it.

There are staunch allies, nasty villains, and a beautiful warrior-princess. All these tropes are familiar, but I enjoy them. What raised this book above the standard level for me was the fine writing. I thought the author’s word usage and prose choices were excellent.

Read More Read More

Dread Monsters and Sinister Menaces: The Worlds of James H. Schmitz

Dread Monsters and Sinister Menaces: The Worlds of James H. Schmitz

Telzey Amberdon-small Agent of Vega & Other Stories-small Eternal Frontier-small


Three Bean omnibus reprint volumes featuring James H. Schmitz:

Telzey Amberdon, Agent of Vega and Other Stories, and Eternal Frontier
(March 2000, November 2001, September 2002). Covers by Bob Eggleton

Two years ago I created a Facebook post about a Black Gate Vintage Treasures article on James H. Schmitz’s 1979 novel Legacy. One of the interesting things about Facebook is that you’ll occasionally get comments years later, and that’s what happened this time. On November 3rd of this year Allan T. Grohe Jr. responded to that ancient post with two intriguing questions for me.

John: do you know of any 1/ interviews with Schmitz? — other than the one in Moebius Trip #15 from 1972, which I’m aware of but seems pretty difficult to find, or 2/ literary studies of Schmitz’s works?

I first read Schmitz about 15 years ago, via Eric Flint’s Baen collections, and he ranks up there with Herbert as a worlds-builder, in my estimation! 🙂

Unfortunately I don’t know of any interviews with, or studies of, James Schmitz. But that comment did lead to a broader and very rewarding conversation with Allan, in which I learned about his own writing on Schmitz.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Out on Blue Six by Ian McDonald

Vintage Treasures: Out on Blue Six by Ian McDonald


Out on Blue Six (Bantam Spectra, May 1989). Cover by Will Cormier

Ian McDonald has written some of the most acclaimed science fiction of the last four decades. His first novel Desolation Road (1988), about an oasis town on a far-future Mars, won the Locus Award, and his King of Morning, Queen of Day (1991) won the Philip K. Dick Award. His novels River of Gods, Brasyl, and The Dervish House were all nominated for the Hugo Award, and he’s been nominated for the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award numerous times, including for his novels Terminal Cafe, Chaga, and Luna: New Moon.

Out on Blue Six is something of an oddity in his catalog. His second novel, it tells the tale of a group of “pain criminals” in a far-future state where all forms of pain and unhappiness are illegal. Ian McDonald has gone on record saying “I hate [it]… I wish I hadn’t written the damn thing.” Kat Hooper at Fantasy Literature, in her review Out on Blue Six: Really bizarre, calls it “strange all the way through… and over-stimulating, like an acid trip.”

None of that has dissuaded the book’s many fans, of course, who adore this book.

Read More Read More

Donald A. Wollheim and the Death of the Future

Donald A. Wollheim and the Death of the Future


The 1987 World’s Best SF (DAW Books, June 1987). Cover by Tony Roberts

I’ve been reading a lot of older science fiction recently, though not in a very organized fashion. I pulled Wollheim’s 1987 World’s Best SF off the shelf this morning to read Pat Cadigan’s cyberpunk Classic “Pretty Boy Crossover,” which I saw on the table of contents of Jared Shurin’s The Big Book of Cyberpunk. I prefer to the read the original, when I can.

Of course I got distracted by the rest of the book, which contains plenty of classic tales, including Lucius Shepard’s Nebula award-winning 87-page novella “R & R,” Roger Zelazny’s Hugo-winning “Permafrost,” Howard Waldrop’s Nebula nominee “The Lions Are Asleep This Night,” and a few delightful surprises. I wrote it up as a Vintage Treasure back in April.

But the thing that really commanded my attention this time was Wollheim’s curmudgeonly introduction, which contains the most uncharitable description of the Challenger disaster and crew I’ve ever read, and his wildly off-base assessment of this new-fanged cyberpunk stuff, which he asserts “has something to do with computers and their programming and possibly — considering the derogatory term “punk” — with snubbing accepted traditions.”

Today it reads more like a eulogy for the bright and shiny future science fiction once promised than an introduction by one of the founding fathers of the genre.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Tales By Moonlight edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Vintage Treasures: Tales By Moonlight edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson


Tales by Moonlight, volumes One and Two (Tor, January 1985
and July 1989). Covers by Mark E. Rogers and Jill Bauman

Jessica Amanda Salmonson has produced only a handful of anthologies, but they are all highly regarded. Her first, Amazons!, won the World Fantasy Award in 1980, and the two Heroic Visions volumes she edited in the mid-80s are still enjoyed and discussed today, with an original Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novella by Fritz Leiber, plus terrific sword and sorcery tales by Jane Yolen, Phyllis Ann Karr, F. M. Busby, Alan Dean Foster, Robert Silverberg, Joanna Russ, Michael Bishop, Keith Roberts, Ellen Kushner, Avram Davidson, Manly Wade Wellman, Grania Davis, and Thomas Ligotti.

Salmonson’s held in such high regard that I recently decided to investigate her two Tales by Moonlight anthologies, published by Tor in the late 80s, and I’m very glad I did. They contain a rich assembly of talent, including Thomas Ligotti, Ruth Berman, H. P. Lovecraft, Janet Fox, Steve Rasnic Tem, W. Paul Ganley, Spider Robinson, John Varley, Charles L. Grant, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jayge Carr, W. H. Pugmire, Ramsey Campbell, Joseph Payne Brennan, Phyllis Ann Karr, Eileen Gunn, and many more.

Read More Read More

I Was A Teenage Abomination from Another Dimension: The Inhabitant of the Lake & Other Unwelcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell

I Was A Teenage Abomination from Another Dimension: The Inhabitant of the Lake & Other Unwelcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell

Original Arkham House cover

Dear Mr. Campbell,

I have received your stories, but I have had time to read only one or two of them. I don’t want to comment on them in extended fashion until I’ve read all, but I do think them competent. However, there is one alteration I think you should definitely make; Mr. Wandrei would insist on it, and that is to remove your stories from the Lovecraft milieu. I mean, keep the Gods, the Books, etc., but establish your own place. This would give the stories vastly more authenticity as an addition to the Mythos rather than pastiche pieces, and it might then be possible for us to consider their book publication in a limited edition over here.

What I suggest you do is establish a setting in a coastal area of England and create your own British milieu. This would not appreciably change your stories, but it would give them a much needed new setting and would not, in the reader’s mind, invite a direct comparison with Lovecraft, for in such a comparison they would not show up as well as if you had your own setting and place-names for the tales.

August Derleth to Ramsey Campbell, 6 October, 1961

Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s stories to write his own tales of cosmic horror, at the age of fifteen, Ramsey Campbell was encouraged by friends to submit them to August Derleth and Arkham House. He did, and the rest was horror fiction history. Taking Derleth’s advice to heart, he created his own version of Lovecraft Country; a drear and haunted region of the Severn Valley wedged between the cities of Bristol and Gloucester and the western edge of the Cotswolds.

The Arkham House collection, originally titled The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants was released in 1964 when Campbell was eighteen. They may not be the best Lovecraft-inspired stories, and they’re definitely not Campbell’s best stories, but they are good fun and well worth a read.

Read More Read More

Terror at Sea, Nightmares on the Beach: The Year’s Best Horror Stories XIV, edited by Karl Edward Wagner

Terror at Sea, Nightmares on the Beach: The Year’s Best Horror Stories XIV, edited by Karl Edward Wagner


The Year’s Best Horror Stories XIV (DAW Books, October 1986). Cover by Michael Whelan

The Year’s Best Horror Stories XIV was the fourteenth in the DAW Year’s Best Horror series and the seventh volume edited by the great Karl Edward Wagner (d. 1994). The book was copyrighted and printed in 1986. This volume marked Michael Whelan’s eleventh cover for the series, which presents a pretty horrifying monster-in-the-closet, something out of any 11-year old’s worst nightmares! The cover layout is the most marked design change yet in the series. The format and font are very different from previous volumes, and the colon and word “Series” have been dropped completely. Why? Briefer I suppose.

Volume XIV contains nineteen different authors. All male but one. Eleven were American, six were British, and there is again the returning Canadian author, Vincent McHardy and returning German-born but American author, David J. Schow. Thirteen of these stories came from professional magazines. Three came from anthologies, one from a fanzine, one from a convention program, and one from a chapbook.

Read More Read More

What if a UFO Landed in a Bar?Alien Island by T. L. Sherred

What if a UFO Landed in a Bar?Alien Island by T. L. Sherred


Alien Island (Ballantine Books, January 1970). Cover by Carol Inouye.

Here’s my latest look at a little-remembered 1970s novel, T. L. Sherred’s Alien Island, which appeared in the very first month of the 1970s. These days T. L. Sherred is remembered for a single story, his SF Hall of Fame novella “E For Effort.” It’s a great story, and a deeply cynical one, so much so that there are those who claim that it was not chosen by John W. Campbell for Astounding, but by someone else in Campbell’s absence. (I’m skeptical myself — Campbell was a VERY hands-on editor, and he also chose to reprint “E for Effort” in The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology. And he was definitely known to publish good stories that seemed to run counter to his own ideology.)

Sherred published three other stories in the early 1950s: “Cure, Guaranteed,” “Eye for Iniquity,” and “Cue for Quiet,” and then fell silent (save for a story, “See for Yourself,” in Escapade in 1961, that I have not seen) until the 1970s. The novel at hand was published in 1970, and in 1972 Harlan Ellison included “Bounty” in Again, Dangerous Visions; and “Not Bach” appeared in the very well-regarded fanzine Outworlds.

Read More Read More

The Mystery of Alan Burt Akers, Author of The Dray Prescot Series

The Mystery of Alan Burt Akers, Author of The Dray Prescot Series

The first eight Dray Prescot books (DAW Books, 1972-1975).
Covers by Josh Kirby, Tim Kirk, Jack Gaughan, and Richard Hescox

As I started collecting and reading the Dray Prescot series of Sword & Planet novels, I tried to find out more about the author: Alan Burt Akers. The early books, published by DAW books starting in 1973, had no description or details of Akers, although they had ample details on Dray Prescot, who supposedly had recorded his adventures on tapes, which Akers then transcribed.

At the time I was sure Alan Burt Akers was a real person. It was many years before I learned the truth. Akers was a pseudonym for Henry Kenneth Bulmer (1921-2005). I don’t know why he chose that particular pseudonym, although I noted that it included all three parts of the name, and I was sure this was an homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline.

Read More Read More

A Smalltown Horror Masterclass: Paul Finch on Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest

A Smalltown Horror Masterclass: Paul Finch on Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest


Dark Harvest (Tor Books, September 4, 2007, cover by Jon Foster)
and the film adaptation (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, October 11, 2023)

Paul Finch’s “The Carrion Call” appeared in the eighth issue of the print version of Black Gate, and over the last decade he’s produced over a dozen Terror Tales anthologies (most recently Terror Tales of the West Country, which Mario Guslandi reviewed for us back in January). But he also maintains Walking in the Dark, one of the more entertaining and informative genre blogs, where he discusses horror new and old.

Last month he reviewed Norman Partridge’s modern Halloween classic Dark Harvest, originally published in 2006 — when it received many of the year’s major awards, including the Stoker, International Horror Guild Award, and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. It was adapted into a feature film of the same name, and released for a brief theatrical run this month.

Read More Read More