Vintage Treasures: Science Fiction of the 30’s edited by Damon Knight

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Science Fiction of the 30s-smallWindy City Pulp and Paper is a fabulous convention and, as its name implies, it’s focused mostly on vintage magazines and paperbacks. Wandering the vast Dealer’s Room is like stepping into a Cave of Wonders for fans of pulp science fiction and fantasy.

But it’s also a den of surprises and a pleasant one awaited me while browsing a table piled high with pulps and digest magazines. A hand-written sign proclaimed all items were “3 For $10,” so I decided to spend a few minutes exploring the heaped stacks. Buried under a loose pile of Science Fiction Quarterly magazines and Amazing Stories, I found a lone hardcover volume: Damon Knight’s pulp anthology Science Fiction of the 30’s, in much better shape than my tattered copy.

Well, that was certainly worth $3.33. It didn’t take much effort to find two other worthy treasures (a July 1948 Fantastic Novels pulp with a classic Lawrence cover and the January 1956 issue of The Original Science Fiction Stories with a James Blish cover story, which looked like it had just come off the magazine rack.) I plunked down my ten bucks and fled before the vendor changed his mind.

Science Fiction of the 30’s was one of two great pulp anthologies I read over thirty years ago — the other being of course Isaac Asimov’s marvelous Before the Golden Age. Those books, together with Jacques Sadoul’s art book 2000 A.D. Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps, ignited a love of pulp fiction in me as a young teen that never died.

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I’ll Look Down and Whisper “No”: “Before Watchmen”

Monday, February 6th, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Watchmen 1Last Wednesday, DC Comics announced a new publishing venture: “Before Watchmen,” a set of related miniseries that would act as a prologue to the best-selling and critically acclaimed Watchmen graphic novel. The news was met with a considerably mixed reaction. Alan Moore, writer and primary creator of Watchmen, has spoken out against the project. Personally, I’m not going to buy any of DC’s new series, and I want to explain why.

First, some more details. From The Beat website, a list of titles and creators:

Rorschach (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
Minutemen (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Comedian (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
Dr. Manhattan (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
Nite Owl (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
Ozymandias (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
Silk Spectre (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

“Before Watchmen” starts sometime this summer, with one comic to be released per week. Each book will have a two-page back-up feature, “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair,” written by Wein, who edited the original Watchmen, with art by John Higgins, who coloured the series. An epilogue featuring a number of writers and artists will wrap up the event.

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Review: Kobo eReader Touch

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

koboThis may be going a bit far afield, but since most Black Gate readers are, well, readers, I suspect it will be of interest to many here.

While I am a big advocate of eReaders and digital books, I have avoided eReading devices in the past because they haven’t offered any significant upgrade over reading on my smartphone, at least not without imposing significant costs.

I started with reading .pdb books on various Palm Treos, then enjoyed a significant graphical upgrade to reading .epub books on an Android phone. This works quite well and I still do the vast majority of my reading that way since whether I am out and about or at home, my phone is always handy.

And, since it emits light, it permits reading in the dark, which is an advantage for anyone who customarily goes to sleep later than the bed’s other occupant.

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Hi-Tech Lo-Tech: Alphasmart NEO

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

My MVP Award for Writing in 2008 goes to a miniature machine that has made this year one of the most productive of my life:

The Alphasmart NEO

Behold a piece of technology that uses all the miniaturization and power-saving abilities available today to make what is essentially the typewriter of the new era. The Alphasmart NEO writes. And that’s about it. It weighs as much as a 8” x 10” spiral notebook. It runs for seven hundred hours in three AA batteries. It’s a work of genius—I feel like an old west gunslinger when armed with the NEO. Anyplace I go, I can quick-draw and write. Have NEO—Will Travel reads my card. I am absolutely in love with it.

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Birthday Reviews: Stephen Robinett’s “A Penny’s Worth”

Friday, July 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Stephen Robinett was born on July 13, 1941 and died on February 16, 2004.

Until 1975, Robinette published using the name Tak Hallus. Although he has mostly used his own name since then, in 1976, he published the novel Mindwipe! using the pseudonym Steve Hahn.

“A Penny’s Worth” appeared in the March 1976 issue of Analog, edited by Ben Bova. It was the story’s only appearance.

Robinett created the lawyer Harry Penny for the story “A Penny’s Worth,” and Penny finds himself hired by a graduate student, Marshal Pierce, to defend Pierce against assault and battery charges. Although Pierce claims no recollection of assaulting Dr. Charles Morrow, there are two witnesses, Morrow’s wife and a neighbor, who saw the attack. The story follows Penny as he interviews witnesses and others with ties to Pierce and Morrow, to figure out what happened. The story is engaging, although the solution is telegraphed rather early on.

While Morrow and Pierce don’t know each other, there are several links between the two. Pierce worked as a graduate student for Ray Winslow, Morrow’s former, and now dead, partner. At one time Harry dated Nora, who went on to marry Winslow before leaving him for Morrow. Vernon Vernon, Pierce’s boss who fired him for stealing something after Winslow died, although Pierce claims he had Winslow’s permission to take it, also has ties to Morrow. What is clear to the reader from early on is that the medication Winslow had Pierce take somehow makes Pierce seek out Morrow to get vengeance for what Morrow did to Winslow.

Sometimes, however, plot isn’t the most important thing and so knowing the solution, rather than spoiling the story, provides a sense of foreshadowing. What caused the attack in this case is less important than Penny’s way of finding out what the reader has already figured out. His interviews with Nora, Morrow, and Vernon and his instructions to Pierce to help the boy avoid prison time for assault or worse, are the keys to the story and make it a very entertaining piece of fiction. Penny and his world seem as if they were developed to be an ongoing series, and Robinett would return to the character the following year in the novella “The Man Responsible.”

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Goth Chick News: Two Shots of Fireball, Some Blankets and a Candle; or Our Road Trip to the 2018 Halloween and Attractions Show

Thursday, March 29th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

2018 Halloween and Attractions Show Goth Chick 1

Normally, our annual road trip to cover the first trade show of the year is not only something we look forward to (for the obvious reasons), but also a chance to get our first whiff of spring.

The TransWorld Halloween and Attractions Show has been the premier, international event for the haunt industry for the last 30 years, boasting over 300 vendors catering to the industry’s professionals. We discovered it 16 years ago when it used to make its home here in Chicago until it relocated to St. Louis. And though the location makes for a long day, we can usually count on St. Louis to be in the 50’s as opposed to Chicago which is usually getting its final blast of winter right around the March showtime.

Except for this year.

Last weekend the weather forecast was calling for an all-day winter storm to cut a 100-mile swath straight across central Illinois and pushing freezing temperatures (and freezing rain) all the way south to our destination – meaning we were facing a thoroughly crappy commute both ways. With Black Gate photog Chris Z at the wheel of his ridiculously huge, military-grade Jeep, my primary worries included a 5-hour one-way trip turning into 7-plus hours or sliding into a ditch in the middle of nowhere and having to wait hours to be rescued (most of central Illinois IS technically the middle of nowhere).

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Axle and Cam on the Planet Meco

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Axle and Cam on the Planet Meco introductory panel


Robot families are rare, especially metal ones. They’re rare even on the planet Meco, where little Cam is the only boy around. Cam has a father, and an uncle, and a grandfather. Good thing a female nurse is introduced in one episode or I’d have my doubts about the robot reproductive process.

“Axel and Cam on the Planet Meco” (Axle is Cam’s father) ran in about the last place you’d ever think to find a robot strip: Popeye Comics. The strip ran as a backup in #26-32, October-December 1953 to January-March 1955. Those were the heady years of stuff once reserved for pulp magazines slopping over into every crevice of popular culture.  Popeye was hired to pilot a rocket ship to the moon in a 1949 issue and Sherman, from the backup strip Axle & Cam replaced, took a ride in his father’s flying car in 1952.

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The Poison Apple: A Cosplayer’s Best Friend, Interview with Photographer Bruce Heinsius

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Josephine Chang as Silk

Josephine Chang as Silk

I wanted to preface that when I first met Bruce, we were both working as Still Photographers in Hollywood, and he was on Power Rangers, which has made a comeback with a new feature film after twenty-five years or so.

BH: I worked on the television show the first season shooting everything from action on the set to special shoots for calendars, trading cards, video box covers and magazines.

You and I have been out of touch for a while, but we reconnected on Facebook, because you took photos of someone else I was already friends with, and that’s when I noticed you started taking photos of cosplayers at conventions. Why don’t you share with the readers how you got involved with that?

Back in 2006, I was supposed to be doing a movie shoot. When I showed up, the person who hired me apologized and said he forgot to tell me it was cancelled because everyone was going to a cosplay event instead. So, I tagged along and was surprised how many comic book and animé characters were there. I wasn’t really doing action photos on that first event, but I still tried to create good portraiture while photographing people in costume.

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Cthulhu in Metallica

Monday, May 1st, 2017 | Posted by Mick Gall

Hardwired to Self Destruct-small

That Cthulhu is a cultural force is a truth self evident to the readers of this blog, as evidenced by his numerous movies, RPGs and plush dolls. But his ubiquitousness can still surprise when he appears in unexpected media. The most recent creative force to sing (literally) Cthulhu’s praises: Metallica.

Metallica’s recent album Hardwired… to Self Destruct dropped November 18, and I was surprised to find one of their songs directly singing about great Cthulhu, and what exactly his rising means for humanity. The song “Dream No More” opens with singer James Hetfield declaring “He sleeps under black seas waiting / Lies dreaming in death”, followed by the litany of horrors that follows as “He wakes as the world dies screaming / all horrors arrive.”

That a metal band would sing about the end of humanity at the hands of an alien entity is not surprising; the genre has a long history of dabbling in the imagery of the occult, pseudo-satanic and even Lovecraftian. That Metallica would do it, however, is unusual. The band’s songs have catalog struggles and personal pains, exploring human themes like contemplating suicide (“Fade to Black” from 1984’s Ride the Lightning), drug abuse (“Master of Puppets,” 1986’s Master of Puppets), the horrors of war (“One” from 1988’s …And Justice for All) and the fear engendered by nightmares (“Enter Sandman” from 1991’s Metallica).

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You Live in Pellucidar: The Weird Inner World of Cyrus Teed and the Koreshan Unity

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

model-of-cellular-cosmogonyWhen Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote At the Earth’s Core (1914) and Pellucidar (1915), he brought to a summit the previous century’s passion to explore the fantastic possibilities of what lies below the crust of the Earth. Numerous Victorian scientific romances arose from these theories about the interior of the planet. It’s only natural that once you state, “The world is round,” you follow up with, “Yeah, but what’s inside it?”

A man named Cyrus R. Teed provided perhaps the strangest answer of all: “You.”

Cyrus Teed, his theory of Cellular Cosmogony, and the utopian religious commune movement that arose from it are among the most beguiling offshoots of hollow earth theories. They’re also a peculiar parallel with Burroughs’s fantastic adventure tales. Cyrus Teed believed in a concave inner world with the sun at its center, similar to the popular theory of John Cleves Symmes. But for Teed there was no reason to search for an entrance to the Earth’s interior, because the human race was already living in it. In other words, Pellucidar is real, and it’s your home.

The tale of Cyrus Teed and the Koreshan Unity is a curious historical footnote. But it has intriguing things to say to readers of fantasy and science fiction, as well as to historians interested in the utopian communes that ballooned and popped across the U.S. in the nineteenth century. Edgar Rice Burroughs certainly knew about it, since after writing At the Earth’s Core he kept notes on different hollow earth theories. (The fictional ERB even mentions this in Tanar of Pellucidar.) His curiosity is easy to understand, especially when it leads to discovering something like this…

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