First published in Unknown, August 1940
After posting the birthday tribute on Theodore Sturgeon yesterday, I downloaded a copy of his Selected Stories (after paying for it, of course). I thought I’ve got all of them in paper and wasn’t sure which one I wanted to get an electronic copy of. So I went with the selected stories. Some of my favorites are missing, such as “Shottle Bop”, but this volume contains some good stuff.
Like the horror classic “It”, which even though it seems to end on an upbeat note, has one of the most chilling last lines you’ll find anywhere. Continue reading →
I’m a day late on this one, but Edward Hamilton Waldo, AKA Theodore Sturgeon, was born on February 26, 1918 on Staten Island, New York.
Sturgeon was best known as a short story writer, although he wrote some well received novels, such as More Than Human, The Dreaming Jewels, and the under-appreciated Some of Your Blood.
He got his start writing for Unknown and Astounding in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Much of his best work was done in that time period.
Outside of science fiction and fantasy he’s probably best known for what has come to be called Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.
I really like Sturgeon’s short fiction, especially his early work. There’s a level of craftsmanship and fun that some of his later works, such as “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?” lack. Skip that story and go to “It” or “Mewhu’s Jet” or “Yesterday Was Monday.
His first collection was entitled Without Sorcery, which was something of a misnomer since much of it was fantasy. It was reprinted by Ballantine under the title Not Without Sorcery and is an excellent introduction to his work.
There was an attempt in the late 90s and 00s to collect all of Sturgeon’s short fiction between hardcovers. I think I’m missing the last of that set. But if you get a chance, read some of his work. It’s worth seeking out.
The original Star Wars came out when I was in elementary school, and it was a mind-warping experience. I had come to science fiction and fantasy through comics, but it was the sense of wonder and excitement this movie generated that turned me from reading mystery books to reading science fiction books checked out from the school library. As I read above grade level, I was soon searching out science fiction in the adult section of the public library and in book stores. Like a second hand book store at the flea market.
This place sold second hand paperbacks for a quarter, IIRC. The covers were stripped, which meant the books had been reported to the publishers as having been been pulped and the covers returned for credit. In other words, they were technically stolen. I didn’t know that then. There were a number of titles I recognized, such as some H. P, Lovecraft. I picked up The Best of Jack Williamson there, and later The Best of L. Sprague de Camp.
The Williamson volume started with stories from the 30s and went up to the 70s. There was an introduction by Frederik Pohl and an afterward by Williamson. This was the pattern of the series. An introduction by an author or editor associated with the writer of the book, and if the author was still living (most were but not all) he or she contributed an afterward. My mind was blown. David Hartwell once said the golden age of science fiction is thirteen. I was, and it was. Continue reading →
So earlier this month, Jasyn Jones made the statement in a blog post that John Campbell did not usher in a Golden Age of Science Fiction. His thesis is that Campbell, when he became editor of Astounding, ushered in a golden age in which science fiction rose from being a genre of poorly written fiction with wooden characters and bad science to great heights. Indeed, this is the general narrative. Jones reasserts his thesis that this ain’t so in a followup post.
For those who are new to the field and think it began when you started reading it or shortly beforehand or have been around for a while and simply haven’t been paying attention, John W. Campbell, Jr., took over the editorial reigns of Astounding from F. Orlin Tremaine in 1938 and dominated the field for a dozen years until F&SF and Galaxy came along in 1950. Indeed, Isaac Asimov says as much in the opening paragraphs of his introduction to his anthology of Pre-Campbell science fiction, Before the Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974). Note to self: reread this book and blog about it.
Now, before I get started on this post, I want to say that I mean no disrespect to Mr. Jones and none of what follows in in any way meant to be a personal attack. Furthermore, I think he brings up a number of valid points, and for the most part I agree with him. My differences are more with some of the attitudes that have been expressed in reaction to the posts in question, as well as other posts in other places. I’ve not had a chance to read all of them, so rather than post links, I’ll let you hunt them down if you’re so inclined.
But since I grew up reading a great deal of Campbellian SF, much of it in the Ballantine Best of series and DAW’s Isaac Asimov Present the Great SF, I’m rather fond of the science fiction written by “guys with screwdrivers”, as Campbellian SF is being called. So I’d like to express my admiration of it. Continue reading →
Richard Matheson was born 1926 on this date, February 20, in Allendale, New Jersey. He was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th Century. Best known to the general public as the author of The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, and numerous Twilight Zone episodes, he also adapted a number of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories to the big screen for Roger Corman.
Matheson is a writer whose work I return to time and again, and a reread is long overdue. I’ll try to work in some of his stories over the next few months. I’ll honor his memory this evening by working on a short story.
“Men of the Shadows”
First published in Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969
written circa 1925-1926
The first of Howard’s tales of the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, “Men of the Shadows” was rejected by Weird Tales in 1926. Upon reading it, it’s easy to see why.
The story starts out strong. Narrated by a Norseman in the Roman army, he and his companions are nearly cut down in a battle with the Picts. Five of the Roman soldiers survive, but as they make their way back to Roman territory, they are one by one cut down until only the Norseman is left.
He’s taken captive by a group of Picts and taken before their chieftan, Bran Mak Morn. (Bran is merely a chieftan in this story, not a king.) None of the soldiers knew what their mission was except the commander, and he took that secret with him to his grave. Bran introduces the soldier to his sister and tells him that a reward had been posted for whoever captured the girl and brought to a Roman merchant. Continue reading →
Note: This post became a lot more personal than I intended. Rather than rewrite it, I’ll expand on the opening paragraphs about theBallantine Best of series in a future post.
Way back in ancient times, in other words the summer before I started high school, my parents agreed to let me join the Science Fiction Book Club, something I had been asking to do for a while. I still remember the first shipment of books contained one of the Ballantine Best of series (Frederik Pohl).
In fact, for the first six months or so I was a member, each month the catalog I received contained a different volume of that series. I bought them all. Or rather all the ones the Club offered from the time I joined onwards. (For some reason I never saw the C. L. Moore volume listed in any of the mail-outs. I bought it in paperback, although there was an SFBC edition.)
I had become aware of Ballantine’s Best of series in the seventh grade, when I found a copy of The Best of Jack Williamson at the flea market in a little book shop that sold paperbacks with missing covers for a quarter. I wouldn’t learn that such sales were illegal until a few years later. Continue reading →
Locus Online is reporting that Edward Bryant died in his sleep after a long illness. A long-time resident of Colorado, Bryant was a short story writer, reviewer, and critic of science fiction and horror. He regularly reviewed and provided conventions for Locus.
While Bryant was a frequent convention goer, I only recall being at one convention with him, the 2000 World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi. I don’t think I interacted much with him, that being my first large convention. So much major talent in one place was pretty overwhelming, and that convention is the high water bar I have for large conventions. What I do remember is that Bryant was a warm and friendly man who was well-liked. I don’t remember him being at the 2006 WFC or the San Antonio Worldcon a few years ago.
Bryant is an author whose work I’m familiar with more by reputation than actually reading. Fortunately, much of it is available in electronic format. I picked up a collection of his science fiction and one of his horror. I’ll try to read some and, if time permits, post about it.
Frank Frazetta, one of the greatest fantasy artists to ever stride this land, was born on this date (February 9) in 1928. I’m not even going to try to put the impact his art has had on my life into words, much less that of the fantasy field. Here are a couple of my favorite works of Frazetta’s.
The image on the left is the promotional poster for a Frazetta exhibit I saw in Austin last spring. That trip has really been on my mind today, maybe because the weather has been so unseasonably warm. The image was used on the cover of one of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane books. You can read about my trip in this post.
Probably my favorite of the Frazetta Conan covers is the one shown on the right. It’s for Conan the Usurper. I saw this one at the Frazetta exhibit, and let me tell you, none of the reproductions do the images justice. It was awesome to stand in front of some of those paintings and see close up the detail and the brushwork. The painting were larger than what you see on a book cover, of course, and the detail really stood out.
I think the thing that has always captured my imagination about this picture is the snake. I hate snakes. There’s just something evil about them. I’m not sure why, but they’ve always given me the willies.
Frazetta is gone now, but his work lives on. While it might be easy to think that with his popularity, there will always be copies available to enjoy, that’s a dangerous way to think. Today hot property is too often tomorrow’s has-been, or worse completely forgotten. So take a moment over the next few days to admire a Frazetta painting, especially if it’s one you’ve not seen before or not seen in a while.