Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1954: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy August 1954-small Galaxy August 1954-back-small

Cover by René Vidmer

The cover of the August, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is “Hunting on Aldebaran IV” by René Vidmer. This was Vidmer’s only cover art for Galaxy. Although Vidmer had cover art on a few other magazines, the majority of his contributions were interior artwork. His art was published between 1953 and 1957 — a very brief career, which remains a mystery to me. I couldn’t find any personal information on him, unfortunately.

“Party of the Two Parts” by William Tenn — An intelligent villain from a distant planet steals a spaceship to evade capture. He lands on Earth, knowing he can’t be extradited by the Galactic Patrol unless he commits a crime against Earth. And when he does attempt a crime, it’s uncertain if it’s only a crime to his species or to humanity, leaving the Galactic Patrol in a conundrum.

Most of the characters within the story aren’t human, but they’re easy to relate to. I liked that Tenn provided part of the ending up front to set the story in place without giving away the entire plot.

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Future Treasures: Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Empress of Forever-smallThe six novels in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence have earned him a reputation as a modern master of urban fantasy (not to mention a Hugo nomination.) His latest novel, Empress of Forever, is something very different. Delilah S. Dawson calls it “A classic space opera that impossibly becomes a thrilling dungeon crawl fantasy,” and if that’s not a perfect book blurb, I don’t know what is. In her feature review at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog yesterday, Nicole Hill wrote:

The comparisons this novel has drawn to Guardians of the Galaxy are understandable and well-earned — you won’t soon read a book more overloaded with outlandishly imaginative and downright fun set-pieces, including a battle involving space vessels made of stained glass… It’s a chess game played out across the stars, with a fearsome matched set of queens and a collection of pawns who are unforgettable.

Empress of Forever arrives in trade paperback from Tor next week. Here’s the description.

From Hugo Award finalist Max Gladstone comes a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative adventure; the saga of a rag-tag team of brilliant misfits, dangerous renegades, and enhanced outlaws in a war-torn future.

A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she tries to outrun people who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider — until Vivian Liao arrives. Trapped between the Pride ― a ravening horde of sentient machines ― and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.

Empress of Forever will be published by Tor Books on June 18, 2019. It is 480 pages, priced at $18.99 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Read an excerpt at

The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Heavy Metal

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

January 1979 issue

January 1979 issue

May 1979 issue

May 1979 issue

July 1979 issue

July 1979 issue

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1973, they began presenting additional British Fantasy Awards in 4 categories, including Best Comic. The first four years, that award was won by Roy Thomas and John Buscema for Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan. The award was only presented until 1980, but in 2010 a new Best Graphic Novel award was introduced. A re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Heavy Metal was founded in 1977 based on and licensing materials from the French magazine Métal Hurlant.  Early issues used translations of the French magazine’s stories, which helped keep the cost down and allowed the publisher, Leonard Mogel, to print the graphic stories on glossy pages, often with full color.  From 1977 through 1986, the magazine was published on a monthly schedule.

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Become a Time Traveling Detective in Tragedy Looper from Z-Man Games

Monday, June 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Tragedy Looper-small Tragedy Looper-back-small

I don’t know about you, but a lot of the video games I play are Japanese in origin, from Final Fantasy to Ys to Resident Evil. That’s not the case with board games, of course. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to name a single board I own that was originally published in Japan. At least, that was the case until I bought Tragedy Looper and its expansions.

Tragedy Looper was originally published in Japan as 惨劇RoopeR in 2011; the first English version was released by Z-Man Games in 2014. If you’re familiar with the “time loop” mystery genre made popular by films like Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Before I Fall, and Source Code, the intriguing premise of Time Looper will make immediate sense. While it’s not a role playing game, it’s complex enough to require a Mastermind who sets the game up and unfolds events for the players.

At its core Tragedy Looper is a deduction game played on four location boards by one mastermind and up to three protagonists. After the programmed tragedies occur, players can travel back in time, restarting the scenario from the beginning in an attempt to find out precisely what happened, who the culprit was, and what their secret motive was. Each scenario features a set number of characters and character roles (eg: murderer, conspiracy theorist, victim). The players win if they ultimately manage to shield key individuals from tragedy; if they fail, the mastermind triumphs.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand Returns!

Monday, June 10th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_HardboiledPronziniEDITEDWith only three stories remaining, Hither Came Conan is taking a Monday off. We began trodding jeweled thrones beneath our feet back on January 7th. The series started the week after A (Black) Gat in the Hand, a hardboiled/pulp column, wrapped up its 34-week run on December 3st, 2018.

Well, after we talk about our last Conan story next month, A (Black) Gat in the Hand is making another summer appearance! With an attempt to cover a broader pulp range this time around, I’ve lined up another excellent bunch of guest posters. Of course, we’ll still be talking hardboiled, but there was a lot of good reading in other genres back in the pulp heyday.

“Sure, Bob. Who are these ‘guest posters’ you allegedly have lined up?” I’m glad you asked. Actually, I’m not, but I’ll answer anyways.

William Patrick Murray is going to tell us about my favorite pulp hero, Doc Savage. James Reasoner, who has forgotten more western pulp stuff than I’ve ever learned about, has a couple of contributions. Author Duane Spurlock will also be talking about westerns. It was a more popular genre than even hardboiled, you know!

Steve Scott, who knows more about John D. MacDonald than I do (and I can hold my own regarding John MacD!) has an essay on one of JDM’s few attempts at a series character, pre-Travis McGee.

I’ve long soaked up pulp knowledge from the writings of Evan Lewis and Stephen Mertz. Evan is going to be a guest poster, and Stephen agreed to let me use his excellent essay on the hardboiled pioneer, Carroll John Daly. And I got permission to reprint an essay from one of my favorite people, the late Bill Crider!!!

Paul Bishop, my go-to guy for Robert E. Howard boxing info, will be writing about a cool South African post-pulp series. And my new Windy City Pulp And Paper buddy, Joshua Dinges, will be writing on a very unique pulp topic.

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A One-Way Trip on the Road to Hell: Detour Gets the Criterion Treatment

Sunday, June 9th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(3) Criterion Detour-small

I love extra features on Blu-rays and DVDs. I don’t just listen to commentaries, I listen to dull commentaries. I watch restoration comparisons and making-of documentaries. I listen to audio-only interviews with scriptwriters, production designers, and character actors. I ponder the effects of deleted scenes and alternate endings. I scrutinize stills galleries. I watch compilations of grainy on-location footage shot by local news stations. I read inserts and booklets, alternately nodding sagely and muttering sharp disagreements under my breath.

In short, I’m a Criterion junkie. For those throwbacks who still buy physical copies of movies, Criterions are the gold standard, both for image quality and extras, to say nothing of the wide range of films in the collection, which includes movies as radically different as The Blob and The Seventh Seal. The company itself boasts that it is “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality, with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film.” You’ll get no argument from me.

Every month I get an email from Criterion (they know when they have a fish well hooked) announcing six films that will be coming out in three month’s time. I always know that out of the eclectic mix of foreign films, American studio classics, indie sleepers, cult movies, and offbeat oddities, there will be one or two… or three… or four that I must have. (Just try finding Island of Lost Souls or Repo Man or City Lights on Netflix. Go ahead and try.)

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Help Hank Davis fill a Space Pirate Anthology

Sunday, June 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Pirates-of-Zan-Ace-Double Leinster-smallIt always pays to check in early and often with Hank Davis, the mad genius editor at Baen Books behind The Baen Big Book of Monsters and The Best of Gordon R. Dickson, Volume 1. Here’s what he told me last month.

I was dorking around online, looking for stories and story ideas, and came across one of your Black Gate pages from way back in 2013, singing the praises of Leinster’s The Pirates of Ersatz/The Pirates of Zan, and bemoaning the dearth of space pirate novels. While I can’t do anything about the lack of space pirates in novel length, maybe the book will offset the lack.

Well, that certainly made me curious. When I asked him to elaborate, here’s what he said.

I’m going to be putting together an anthology of stories about space pirates, tentatively titled Cosmic Buccaneers, though that may change, and would appreciate suggestions from Black Gate readers of space pirate stories that have warmed the cockles of their heart. (Remind me to look up “cockle,” whatever that means.) Short stories preferred, though I could take a look at novelets — but probably can’t fit more than one or two in. And no novels, of course, even a great one like Murray Leinster’s great The Pirates of Ersatz/The Pirates of Zan.

And please no submissions of new stories. This is not a new story market and I’ll have to return any such submissions unread; sorry! And thanks for your help, and while the Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base is very helpful, please indicate where the story was pubbed or reprinted.

This is definitely good news for those of us who enjoy space pirate fiction (and really that’s everybody, right?).

He’s definitely come to the right place for ideas, anyway. If you’ve got a suggestion for a previously published space pirate story that belongs in the upcoming Cosmic Buccaneers, shout out in the comments and we’ll pass it along to Hank.

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New Treasures: Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt

Saturday, June 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Octavia Gone-smallI’ve been a fan of Jack McDevitt since his second novel, the SF mystery A Talent for War (1989), the first of his long-running Alex Benedict series.

His latest is #8 in the series. Ricky L. Brown at Amazing Stories calls it “a blueprint for mystery writers”:

Alex’s uncle Gabe returns after being lost in space for over a decade, but time aboard the ship elapsed only a few weeks. In addition to dealing with his life awkwardly warping ahead eleven years, Gabe believes he is in position of an artifact that may lead to answers to the missing Octavia station. With the help of Alex and Chase, the search for answers launches into a fast-paced mystery with galactic proportions… Though this story ties into some of the elements following Coming Home, it is a stand-alone story with just enough backstory to keep the new reader involved. If this is your first introduction to McDevitt’s world of galactic archaeology, it is a great jumping in point…

Octavia Gone is a blueprint for mystery writers. Smart characters not only looking for answers, but growing from what they discover is satisfying, even if we might not like what they find.

Here’s the complete description.

After being lost in space for eleven years, Gabe finally makes his triumphant return to reunite with Alex and Chase and retrieve a possibly alien artifact — which may lead them to solve the greatest archaeological mystery of their careers, in the eighth installment of the Alex Benedict series.

After his return from space, Gabe is trying to find a new life for himself after being presumed dead—just as Alex and Chase are trying to relearn how to live and work without him. But when a seemingly alien artifact goes missing from Gabe’s old collection, it grants the group a chance to dive into solving the mystery of its origins as a team, once again.

When a lead on the artifact is tied to a dead pilot’s sole unrecorded trip, another clue seems to lead to one of the greatest lingering mysteries of the age: the infamous disappearance of a team of scientists aboard a space station orbiting a black hole—the Amelia Earhart of their time. With any luck, Alex, Chase, and Gabe may be on the trail of the greatest archaeological discovery of their careers…

In Octavia Gone, Nebula Award winner McDevitt, who Stephen King has called “the logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke,” has created another terrific science fiction mystery in his beloved Alex Benedict series.

Octavia Gone was published by Saga Press on May 7, 2019. It is 384 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Stephen Youll.

See all our latest New Treasures here.

A Series that Embodies Delicious Steampunk Mystery: Newbury & Hobbes Investigation by George Mann

Friday, June 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Affinity Bridge-small The Osiris Ritual-small The Immorality Engine A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small The Executioner's Heart A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small The Revenant Express A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation-small

The Newbury & Hobbes novels. Cover art by Viktor Koen

George Mann’s Newbury & Hobbes Investigations are a highly acclaimed steampunk mystery series. amNewYork called the opening volume “A riveting page-turned that mixes the society of manners in turn-of-the-century London with a gritty and brutal murder mystery,” and Entertainment Weekly says the books bring “industrial London to life like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie in book form.” Damn — I’m still not sure what these books are about, but I definitely want to read them.

There have been five so far.

#1: The Affinity Bridge (April 2010)
#2: The Osirus Ritual (June 2011)
#3: The Immortality Engine (July 2012)
#4: The Executioner’s Heart (July 2014)
#5: The Revenant Express (February 2019)

The most recent, The Revenant Express, arrived in February this year from Tor. Like the others, it’s a quick read, 237 pages, and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Here’s the description.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: On Wings of Song, by Thomas M. Disch

Friday, June 7th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Malcolm Ashman

Cover by Malcolm Ashman

Cover by Michael Mariano

Cover by Michael Mariano

Cover by Lou Feck

Cover by Lou Feck

The Campbell Memorial Award, not to be confused with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, was founded in 1973.  The award is a juried award and presented to the best SF novel published in the US. The award was founded by Harry Harrison in memory of the long-time editor of Astounding and Analog magazine. The first Campbell Memorial Award was presented to Barry N. Malzberg’s novel Beyond Apollo. The award is presented at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and over the years a weekend conference has grown up around the presentation of this award and the Sturgeon Award, which was founded in 1987 to honor short stories. In 1980, the award was presented on July 31.

Originally published from February through April in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Disch’s 1979 novel On Wings of Song takes place in a Balkanized United States, where Daniel Weinreb lives in an Iowa ruled by a conservative Christian movement which bans a variety of activities, including singing. After an ill-advised jaunt to Minneapolis to see a movie with a friend who disappears, Daniel finds himself harassed by his friend’s powerful father and eventually sent to a penal camp for a minor infraction.  While there, Daniel learns the secret of flying and its connection to singing. Freed from the prison camp, Daniel flees to New York to pursue a career as a singer and learn the art of flying, although his success leaves his idealism and hope in tatters.

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