Monthly Archives: December 2016

Obligatory End of Year Post

new year quoteAs I sit down to write this, there are slightly more than 24 hours left before 2016 departs to no one’s regret.  I’m not going to talk about politics (in the sf field or the wider world), nor will I recite a litany of celebrity deaths.

In the past I’ve given an overview about the things I’ve read over the past 12 months.  This has not been a good year for reading.  There was too much going on to keep up the pace I had been maintaining.  The best book I read all year wasn’t fantasy or science fiction.  It was a mystery, A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum.  The characters stayed with me for days after I read the last paragraph and closed the book.  That doesn’t happen very often.

Overall, based on what I’ve seen, this hasn’t been a great year for publishing.  The major publishers haven’t exactly set sales records this year.  I’ve seen reports from indie authors that they’re not seeing the sales they’ve seen in the past.  What this means, I don’t know.  Maybe the market for reading material, especially genre material, is saturating.  Maybe everyone has been too distracted by current events.

Things have ramped up both at work and at home.  My son started high school, which has caused some time constraints ranging from attending more band events to increased homework help.  Enrollment is up, which means my load, both in the classroom and outside, has intensified.  The end result is less time to read, blog, or write my own fiction.  I’ve got several projects that I’ve back-burnered.  Hopefully I can get back to them once things settle down and all the holiday travel is over.  More on that in tomorrow’s post.

In conclusion, 2016 was not a great year.  It’s almost over.  This is probably good thing.

Another Year’s Best Anthology

Horton years best 2016The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016
Rich Horton, ed.
Trade Paper $19.95
ebook $6.99

This is the, what, fourth? year’s best science fiction and/or fantasy anthology I’ve looked at this year.  Fifth if you include the Datlow best horror anthology.  I’ve still got a couple more to go if I finish this project.  (The others were the Clarke, Strahan, and Afshararian volumes.)

I’m starting to see the drawbacks of trying to read all the year’s best anthologies.  The further I go in this project, the more duplicates show up.  The result is that, for this year’s selections at least, there are fewer new stories I like with each of these anthologies I read. Continue reading

Promises of Copper

TheCopperPromise-144dpiThe Copper Promise
Jen Williams
Angry Robot
paperback $14.99
ebook $4.99

Wydrin and her companion, the disgraced knight Sebastian, are adventurers for hire.  When they take a contract from a nobleman who has been overthrown, they get a little more than they bargained for.  The Citadel is rumored to contain vast treasures, but no one has ever lived to find out.  They intend on being the first.  What that don’t know is that there is something imprisoned in the Citadel and imprisoned for a very good reason.  Before they’re done a whole lot of people will wish they hadn’t survived. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Fritz Leiber

Fritz LeiberFritz Leiber was born 106 years ago, on December 24, 1910, in Chicago.  He was one of the greatest writers of the fantastic the world has ever seen, being a major writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

It’s hard to know where to start when discussing Leiber.  Probably of greatest interest to readers of this blog would be his sword and sorcery series about the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  I’ve always enjoyed his horror stories, especially the ones he wrote in the 1940s.  These days an urban setting for horror is nothing unusual.  Back then it was still fairly new.  Leiber set the bar for that type of horror story, and he set it high.  He also wrote a great deal of science fiction, much of it involving time travel or cats.

20160620_185544 croppedI’ve not read many of Leiber’s novels, something I intend to correct over the next year.  There’s been renewed interest in Leiber’s short fiction lately.  Centipede Press earlier this year released Masters of Science Fiction:  Fritz Leiber (one of two inaugural volumes in that series) as well as the two volume slip-cased Masters of the Weird Tale:  Fritz Leiber.

Both of the above titles are sold out by the publishers, but fear not if you missed or weren’t able to afford them.  (They weren’t cheap.)  About a dozen or so years ago, give or take, Darkside Press/Midnight House published four collections of Leiber’s short work.  And while those books are also sold out from the publisher (who is no longer in business, and weren’t cheap either), they’ve been reprinted in inexpensive electronic editions:  Smoke Ghost; Day Dark, Night Bright; Horrible Imaginings; and The Black Gondolier.  They are also available in trade paperback.  They make great Christmas gifts for yourself.

Joseph Payne Brennan’s Birthday

Joseph Payne BrennanJoseph Payne Brennan was born 98 years ago on this date, December 20, 1918.  Brennan was a consistent writer of horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction.  He passed away in 1990.  Primarily a short story writer and poet, Brennan’s work has fallen out of print.  While it’s not impossible to find copies of his work, much of it is moderately expensive.  It might be easier and/or cheaper to get copies of anthologies in which his work appeared.

I reviewed one of Brennan’s collections, the paperback Shapes of Midnight a few years ago.  I was amazed when I looked up how much it cost on the secondary market at the time.  It doesn’t appear to have gotten any more affordable.

Brennan’s work is worth seeking out.  It tends to be of the more quiet style of horror rather than the grisly and gore drenched variety.

Blogging Brackett: “Enchantress of Venus”

Planet Stories Fall 1949“The Enchantress of Venus”
Originally published in Planet Stories, Fall 1949

I first read this story in high school in the SFBC edition of The Best of Leigh Brackett.  It was my first introduction to Eric John Stark, arguably Brackett’s greatest creation.  In my opinion it is arguably her best work at shorter lengths.

Stark is an Earthman, raised by a tribe of aboriginals in Mercury’s twilight belt.  (The astronomy geek in me is compelled to point out this story was written before Mercury’s 3:2 rotational/orbital resonance was discovered.  Mercury doesn’t have a twilight belt because it doesn’t keep the same face towards the Sun.)

Stark is black, although whether he’s of African descent or permanently burned by the Sun, Brackett never explicitly says anywhere (that I can recall).  His tribal name is N’Chaka, which implies the former rather than the latter. Continue reading

It’s Randall Garrett’s Birthday

randall garrettOne of the most neglected and underrated writers of the mid-20th Century was Randall Garrett.  If he is remembered at all today, it is for his Lord Darcy series, about which more in a bit.

Randall Garrett was born on this day, December 16, in 1927.  He passed away in 1987.  I’d like to think my knowledge of the early science fiction and fantasy pulp writers is fairly extensive, but on Twitter 1whoknewcthulhu (@srm991) is always posting birthday notices about writers I’ve never heard of.  You should follow him if you aren’t already.

Or in this case, a favorite writer whose birthday I didn’t know.  (Why wasn’t I aware of this?  We share a birthday.  At least we did while I was still having birthdays.  Ever since I got married, I don’t have birthdays.  I have anniversaries.  That means I’ll always be [redacted] years old, while my wife will continue to age.  For some reason she gets upset when I say this.  But I digress.) Continue reading

What I’ll Be Reading Over the Christmas Break

Quite, I hope.  At least if all goes according to plan.  We’ll find out.  Watch this space.

20161213_122339Two packages arrived in the mail today.  You can see the contents on the left.  At the upper right is Richard Chizmar’s massive collection, A Long December.  With a title like that, I’ve got to read it this month.  Richard Chizmar is the publisher of Cemetery Dance, but this collection was published by Subterranean Press.

The other items are part of the Warriors of the Wildlands Kickstarter.  This was a little project Jim Cornelius put together (see this post).  It’s a book containing short biographies of a dozen frontier partisans.  I pledged the level that got me three signed books (one personalized; thanks, Jim!), a patch, the poster (which has books on the corners to keep it from rolling up), along with downloads of three songs performed by Jim’s musical group, The Anvil Blasters.  If you’re not reading Jim’s blog, Frontier Partisans, you’re missing out.

Anyway, Santa came early today, and I’m looking forward to getting grades in so I can dive into these books.

It’s Margaret Brundage’s Birthday

I wrote a post last year on Margaret Brundage.  I don’t really have anything to add.  But given all the brouhaha about art lately (see Daughter of Naked Slave Girls, Illustrated Edition as an example of what I’m talking about), I thought I would put up a few scans of some of her work to mark the occasion.

Note to those who are uptight or only want other people to enjoy/like/appreciate the same things they like:  Brundage’s work is about as politically incorrect as you can get and often features nubile young women wearing little to no clothing and being threatened or bound (or both) in some manner.  If this might offend you, then rather than clicking the READ MORE link, do us both a favor and go somewhere else.

Continue reading