Vintage Treasures: Creatures From Beyond, edited by Terry Carr

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Creatures from Beyond-smallIt shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t discover science fiction and fantasy through novels — not really. I discovered it by reading short stories in Junior High, and especially the enticing anthologies on display every week in the library at St. Francis School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I didn’t really know what science fiction was; but if it had monsters on the cover, I was all over it.

The first anthology I can recall reading was Creatures From Beyond, a marvelous monster-fest if ever there was one. When I tracked it down again decades later, I was delighted to discover the editor was none other than Terry Carr, the legendary editor whose Best Science Fiction of the Year and Fantasy Annual paperbacks I read avidly all through high school — and who pulled William Gibson’s Neuromancer out of the slush pile at Ace Books.

I think the reason I still remember it so well after all these years is that, unlike most of the collections I checked out of the library, it wasn’t a kid’s book. It’s a genuine SF anthology, with short stories from Henry Kuttner, Clifford D. Simak & Carl Jacobi, Theodore Sturgeon, Donald A. Wollheim, Brian W. Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, and other top-flight authors.

Carr reasoned — correctly — that there was no better source for action-filled monster tales than pulp science fiction magazines and he mined them heavily to generate Creatures From Beyond. The fiction is drawn from Amazing Stories, Astonishing, Unknown, Other Worlds, Comet, Thrilling Wonder, Future, and a smattering of anthologies.

Of course, the other reason I remember it is Eric Frank Russell’s brilliant novelette “Dear Devil,” the tale of a handful of children who survive a nuclear apocalypse on Earth… and the curious (and hideous) explorer from Mars who helps put them back on track towards a new and better civilization. Rejected by all the major SF magazines of the time, it landed at Ray Palmer’s fledgling Other Worlds, where it almost single-handedly put the magazine on the map — and instantly made a name for the young editor who pulled it from the slush, 26-year-old Bea Mahaffey, who’d been thrust the reins of the magazine when Palmer was incapacitated in an accident.

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Birthday Reviews: Terry Dowling’s “The Last Elephant”

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Terry Dowling was born on March 21, 1947. Most of Dowlings fictional output is at short story length, although the stories about Tom Rynosseros are connected and have been collected in four volumes. Dowling has also published the novel Clowns at Midnight. He edited the anthology Mortal Fire: Best Australian SF with Van Ikin and worked with Richard Delap and Gil Lamont to edit The Essential Ellison.

Dowling has received four Aurealis Awards and twelve Ditmar Awards. In 1988, he won the Ditmar for Best Long Fiction for his story “For as Long as You Burn” and the Ditmar for Best Short Fiction for “The Last Elephant.” His collection Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear won an International Horror Guild Award and the collection Wormwood received a Readercon Award. Basic Black was also nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, and Dowling has three World Fantasy Award nominations.

“The Last Elephant” first appeared in Australian Short Stories issue #20, published in 1987 and edited by Bruce Pascoe. In 1994, Paul Collins included it in his Metaworlds: Best Australian Science Fiction and Dowling has reprinted the story in three collections, An Intimate Knowledge of the Night, Antique Futures: The Best of Terry Dowling, and Make Believe: A Terry Dowling Reader.

Dowling tackles endangered species in “The Last Elephant,” describing the festivities and hoopla around Terrence Harm, whose job it is to inspect Caza, believed to be the last living elephant. While Harm cares about the creature and understands the importance of preserving it for as long as possible, he also understands the quality of life issues that come into play and realizes that the more humane course of action may be to announce that Caza is ready to die.

However, when Harm finally visits the last elephant, it is not quite the situation Dowling has prepared the reader for. The questions of ecology Dowling appeared to be setting up are not the issues that Harm actually faces, and Caza is important to the culture in a very different way. Dowling’s story shows that while preservation is important, it can be achieved in different ways, and although they may not be entirely satisfying, they carry their own significance.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Carroll John Daly and the Birth of Hard-Boiled

Monday, June 29th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Daly_ManShadowsQuiz time: Who invented the hard-boiled school of fiction? And who was the first hard-boiled private eye? If you answered Carroll John Daly and Race Williams, you’d be like most folks. And you’d only be half right.

In December of 1922, Daly’s “The False Burton Combs” appeared in Black Mask Magazine and the hard-boiled school was born. In April of 1923, “It’s All in the Game” (which I’ve yet to read), with an unnamed protagonist, was printed. And on May 15, 1923, “Three Gun Terry” gave us Three Gun Terry Mack, first of the unnumbered hardboiled private eyes to follow for almost a century now.

In June, 1923, the first Race Williams story, “Knights of the Open Palm,” appeared in Black Mask and it is this story which most folks erroneously point to as the first one to feature a hard boiled private eye. In case you’re wondering, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op made his debut in “Arson Plus” in October of that year.

Three Gun Terry Mack only appeared in one more short story, (“Action! Action!” – Black Mask, January, 1924) and in one novel (The Man in the Shadows, 1928). But no matter, as he was really just a prototype for Race Williams, who would appear in some forty-ish stories and six serials/novels for Black Mask, a well as in other publications.

The tone is set from the first sentence on: “My life is my own, and the opinions of others don’t interest me, so don’t form any, or if you do, keep them to yourself. If you want to sneer at my tactics, why go ahead; but do it behind the pages – you’ll find that healthier.”

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Terry Pratchett’s ‘City Watch’

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

CityWatch_GuardsCoverAs readers of this column are certainly aware, I’m quite the fan of detective and private eye novels. Beyond just the guy that the whole thing is name after. As I mentioned in last week’s post on Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, I’ve made several posts about the genre.

Related yet distinct is the police procedural (though some stories, like the aforementioned Caves, fit in both genres). As you can guess from the name, these focus on police officers, rather than private operatives. They are all over television, such as Castle, CSI (insert name here), Hill Street Blues, and brand new shows like Battle Creek. From Dragnet and The Streets of San Francisco to Hawaii Five O (which lasted 12 seasons before coming back in its current incarnation).

The literary police procedural, while popular, has a lower profile than its television version and is definitely overshadowed by the private eye story.

Evan Hunter (better known as Ed McBain), who I consider THE master of the mystery short story, wrote more tales of New York’s 87th Precinct than I can count: and I can count to one, two, three, many (that’s a Terry Pratchett joke). Probably my favorite straight police procedurals are Tony Hillerman’s novels about The Navajo Tribal Police. The subject of a future post, they are superb police mysteries, set in the Indian reservation lands of the Four Corners.

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Vintage Treasures: The Year’s Best SF 9, edited by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best SF9 Aldiss Harrison-small The Year's Best SF9 Aldiss Harrison-back-small

I’ve been collecting Year’s Best Science Fiction volumes for years. Many fine editors have tried their hand at them, starting with The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949 from Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, and carried on for the next seven decades, almost without interruption, by Judith Merril, Donald Wollheim, Lester del Rey, Terry Carr, Arthur W. Saha, Gardner Dozois, David Hartwell, and all the way up to the current crop of annual Best of volumes from Neil Clarke, Rich Horton, Jonathan Strahan, John Joseph Adams, and Paula Guran.

I haven’t paid as much attention to the British editors however, and that’s an oversight. In particular, I only recently (like, six days ago) discovered that there were nine volumes in The Year’s Best SF series edited by Brian Aldiss and Harrison, which began in 1967. That’s because I rather foolishly based my count on the US reprint editions, published in paperback by Berkley Medallion with gorgeous covers by Paul Lehr.

But you know what? Turns out Berkley only reprinted the first seven volumes in the series. Who knew?? That meant there was a two-book hole in my proudly spotless Year’s Best collection that needed to be fixed, stat.

Fortunately. there’s really no such thing as an expensive science fiction paperback — not if you hunt long enough. Rare, sure. Overpriced, certainly. But I have tens of thousands of vintage SF paperbacks in my house, and I don’t think I’ve paid than ten bucks for more than a handful of them. And I sure didn’t in this case.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Night Shift, by Stephen King

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Outer cover by Don Brautigam

Outer cover by Don Brautigam

Inner cover by Don Brautigam

Inner cover by Don Brautigam

The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won the award. The final awards were presented in 1985. The Balrog Award for Collection/Anthology was presented each year that the awards were active.

The stories in Night Shift cover a period from the late 1960s through 1976, a time when King was maturing as an author and finding his own voice as well as becoming a best selling author. Many of the stones in Night Shift would form the basis of novels and films, notably “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Lawnmower Man,” “children of the corn,” and “Graveyard Shift.”

King opens The collection with “Jerusalem’s Lot,” which was a previously unpublished version of his novel Salem’s Lot. Although King comments that the story has a basis in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s even more obvious antecedents are the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Even as King tries to emulate Lovecraft’s style, he never quite captures it, making the story of The Boone family in  Maine feel overwritten rather than chilling. By the time King gets to “The Man Who Loves Flowers,” he has discovered that a more naturalistic world provides the opportunity for much more chilling horror. The fantastic creatures of “Jerusalem’s Lot” could only happen in fiction or dreams, but the sociopathic horror of kings’ protagonist in he later story could be anyone the reader meets on the street.

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Vintage Treasures: Davy by Edgar Pangborn

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Davy Edgar Pangborn-small Davy Edgar Pangborn-back-small

1982 Ballantine paperback reprint; cover by Boris Vallejo

Edgar Pangborn died in 1976. His last book, the collection Still I Persist in Wondering, was published in 1978. The first Pangborn story I can recall reading was his splendid tale of the first landing on an alien world, and the majestic and deadly creatures found there, “The Red Hills of Summer,” in Gardner Dozois’ anthology Explorers (2000). It was enough to turn me into an instant fan.

I never read any Pangborn during my formative teen years, but he still managed to feature prominently in my early science fiction education. That’s chiefly because the reviewer I read most avidly at the time, Spider Robinson, was a late convert and a huge fan. In his column in the March 1976 Galaxy magazine, Spider raved:

I’ve only just discovered Edgar Pangborn. I haven’t been so delighted since (years ago, thank God) I discovered Theodore Sturgeon. In fact, the comparison is apt. I like Pangborn and Sturgeon for very similar reasons. Both are thoughtful, mature writers, and both remind me at times of [John] Brunner’s Chad Mulligan [the hero of Stand on Zanzibar], bitter drunk, crying at the world, “Goddammit, I love you all.” Both are bitterly disappointed in man’s evil, and both are hopelessly in love with man’s good. Both are addicted to creating and falling in love with warmly human, vibrantly alive characters, and making you love them too.

In the November 1976 issue of Galaxy, shortly after he learned of Pangborn’s death, Spider wrote a bitter rant of his own, lamenting the loss of a great writer and the fact that the world had stubbornly refused to acknowledge his achievements. He held up Pangborn’s 1964 novel Davy as a testament to what the field had lost. I’m not sure there’s a short story from 1976 that’s lived in my mind as vividly for the past four decades as Spider’s review of Davy. Here it is.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novella: “A Meeting With Medusa” by Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, April 27th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

A Meeting with Medusa Tor Double-small

Tor Double #1, October 1988. Cover by Vincent Di Fate

Arthur C. Clarke, of course, was a towering figure in SF circles – when I began reading SF, there was an indisputable “Big Three”: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Clarke. And, indeed, that’s how I saw things at that age. Curiously, Heinlein was not really central to my earliest reading, and I didn’t read the bulk of his juveniles until a couple of decades later (though I had read his adult work in my teens.) But Clarke and Asimov were among the “adult” SF writers I first discovered, and I was reading novels like Against the Fall of Night when I was 12.

Clarke was born in 1917. He began publishing SF in 1946 with “Rescue Party” (a story that still gives me a thrill.) He made his mark in SF in the next decade or so with many further fine stories and with novels like The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End. He made his mark in the wider world when the movie 2001 appeared in 1968 – Clarke had written the original story (“The Sentinel”) upon which it was based, and he also worked with Kubrick on developing the story for the movie, and wrote the “novelization.” He had moved to Sri Lanka in 1956, partly because of his interest in scuba diving, but also possibly because he was gay, and homosexual activity was still illegal in England. He was knighted in 1998, at which time disturbing stories accusing him of pedophilia surfaced. He was cleared by the Sri Lankan police, and died a decade later.

“A Meeting with Medusa” first appeared in Playboy in December 1971. (I’m not sure why it was still eligible for the Nebula ballot in 1973 – this was before the “rolling eligibility” period of the Nebulas.) I’d have reproduced a cover image of its first place of publication, but Black Gate is a family website, as so well evidenced by the Margaret Brundage paintings we sometimes feature! I should also mention that this was a period when Playboy published a fair amount of excellent SF — for example, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Nine Lives”, just a couple of years earlier.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Editor: Ben Bova

Sunday, April 21st, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Analog Science Fiction March 1972-small Analog Science Fiction June 1972-small Analog Science Fiction December 1972-small

The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Editor went to Ben Bova. This was the first year of the Best Editor Hugo. It has been awarded every year since then, though in 2007 it was split in two, with a Best Editor Award given for Short Form and Long Form editors. This last reflected the fact that the Best Editor was a de facto award for Best Editor Short Form all along. (While I completely agree that “Long Form” editors are tremendously important to the field, and deserve recognition, I still think that the Hugo voters – even people, like me, who are pretty well connected – are not really competent to evaluate Long Form editing.) The original impetus, I believe, for the Best Editor Award was as a replacement for the Best Professional Magazine award, and the idea was that the increased importance of original anthologies to the short fiction market meant that just awarding a “Best Prozine” award would miss some really important editors. In the event, however, the only two Best Editor awards not linked to magazines were Terry Carr in 1985 and 1987, and Judy-Lynn Del Rey in 1986 (award refused by her widower, Lester Del Rey.) Indeed, the only winner of the Best Professional Editor Short Form Hugo who is not primarily associated with a magazine has been Ellen Datlow (whose win in 2005 of the Best Professional Editor Award can be partly attributed to her role editing Sci Fiction, but whose later Hugos presumably result from her original anthologies and her editing of the Best Fantasy and Horror (now just Best Horror) collections).

Bova’s fellow nominees in 1973 were two additional magazine editors, Edward Ferman at F&SF and Ted White at Amazing/Fantastic. (Bova, of course, was the editor of Analog.) Terry Carr was nominated, presumably for the original anthology series Universe and for his Best Science Fiction of the Year series. And Donald Wollheim was nominated, probably for his role as chief acquiring editor at DAW, and for editing The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF. Conspicuous by his absence is Ejler Jakobsson, editor of Galaxy and If.

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Total Pulp Victory: A Report from Windy City Pulp & Paper 2019

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Windy CIty Pulp and Paper 2018 paperback treasures-small

A few of the $1 paperbacks I brought home from Windy City

I returned from the 2019 Windy City Pulp and Paperback Show a few hours ago, weary and happy. It was another fabulous convention, and once again it proved to be the undisputed best show in Chicagoland for those who love vintage books and magazines.

This was the 19th annual convention. It was founded in 2001 by Doug Ellis, and I’ve been attending ever since Howard Andrew Jones and John C. Hocking made the long trip to the 7th Windy City way back in 2007. This year I spent most of the show with friends, including BG bloggers Bob Byrne, Rich Horton, and Steven Silver, as well as local booksellers Arin Komins and Rich Warren, who had a booth and a few spare chairs and were kind enough to let us hang out. There was lots of great food and terrific conversation, and we toasted absent friends, including Howard Andrew Jones, Jason M. Waltz, Barbara Barrett, and especially bookseller and all-around great soul Dave Willoughby, who passed away last year. Dave personified the friendly and welcoming nature of Windy City better than anyone else, I think, and he was profoundly missed.

I made numerous great purchases at the show, including an assortment of Arkham House hardcovers from Doug, some marvelous books from the Glenn Lord estate (purchased from his widow, Lou Ann), a couple of recent Dark Adventure Radio Theater releases from Greg Ketter, a box of vintage SF digests in great condition — and some really wonderful treasures at the auction, including a copy of the 1990 Donald Grant illustrated edition of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness, several stacks of pulps, and an absolutely magnificent set of 1927 Weird Tales, bound in two volumes.

But as usual, most of what I took home with me was paperbacks. Lots of paperbacks. I found a few that I was willing to pay a premium for, including some Clark Ashton Smith collections and horror anthologies, but the vast majority of them — well over 200 in total — were less than $1 each, including all those I spread out on my kitchen floor to photograph when I got home (see above).

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