Monthly Archives: November 2017

Three by de Camp

So earlier this evening I was reading the comments in a thread about whether or not someone new to the fantasy and science fiction fields should read Asimov, Heinlein, and Tolkien.  More than a few of the comments said that not only should a new reader not read bigoted dead white guys, those authors should go out of print.

Personally, I found many of the comments to be bigoted, at least as much if not more than the authors the comments were directed toward.  Rather than get into a fight with idiots people I don’t know on the internet, I decided I was in the mood to read some dead white guys. And since there has been a bit of discussion about the works of L. Sprague de Camp in the comments here since yesterday’s post, I  was wanting to revisit his work.  I thought I would read some of his short stories.

Here are my thoughts on what I read: Continue reading

L. Sprague de Camp at 110

Lyman Sprague de Camp was born on November 27, 1907.  He passed away in 2000.  I hadn’t intended to do another birthday post so soon after the ones earlier this week, but when I saw today was de Camp’s birthday, I couldn’t pass it up.  L. Sprague de Camp had one of the longest careers in the field (over 60 years) and worked as both author and editor.  He was a major player in the history of Robert E. Howard.

We’ll talk about de Camp and Howard in a bit.  First, I want to look at de Camp as a writer independent of Howard.  Among Howard fans, that work tends to be overlooked. Continue reading

A Quartet of Birthdays

Today, November 24, marks the birth of four individuals who had an impact on the field.  They are, in the order of their births, T. O’Connor Sloane, E. R. Eddison, Evangeline Walton, and Forrest J. Ackerman.

Of the four listed in the above paragraph, Sloane (1851-1940) is almost certainly the most unfamiliar to modern readers.  The reason for that is because he was an editor, not a writer.  Sloane’s involvement in the science fiction field began as an assistant editor at Amazing Stories under Hugo Gernsback.

Sloane had a Ph. D. in electrical engineering and for a time was the editor of Scientific American.  His son married Thomas Edison’s daughter.  Sloane became the editor of Amazing Stories in 1929.  He held the position until 1938, when Ziff-Davis moved the magazine to Chicago from New York and replaced Sloane with Ray Palmer.  This would prove to not be a good move, although sales went up when Palmer began publishing Richard Shaver’s tripe.

Sloane published the first stories of Jack Williamson, John W. Campbell, Jr., Clifford Simak, and E. E. “Doc” Smith.  Not too shabby a track record.

Next up is Eric Rucker Eddison (1882-1945).  Eddison is still remembered today, although he is not widely known outside of fans of classic fantasy.  Eddison is best known for his novel The Worm Ouroboros.  I read this one decades years ago when I was  in college.  It’s definitely due a reread.  Eddison also wrote what has come to be called The Zimiamvian Trilogy, although it was not intended to be a trilogy.  It was a work left uncompleted at Eddison’s death.  The volumes include Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate (unfinished).  Eddison’s work was respected by both J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis.

Evangeline Walton (1907-1996) is best known today as the author of the Mabinogian Tetralogy.  The first book, The Island of the Mighty, was published in 1936 under the title The Virgin and the Swine.  It sold poorly, and the other titles weren’t published until the 1970s.  Lin Carter brought out the first volume for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and the other volumes soon followed.  They are The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and Prince of Annwn.

Walton’s other works include Witch House and The Sword is Forged.  The latter is the first volume of a trilogy featuring Theseus.  The other two volumes are complete but remain unpublished.  There are several unpublished novels in her papers, and it would be nice if the executors of her estate would bring them out.

Forrest J. Ackerman (1916-2008) rounds out the four birthdays we’re recognizing today.  Ackerman has been many things in the field: fan, literary agent, anthologist, and publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  He even collaborated on a Northwest Smith story with C. L. Moore.  (“Nymph of Darkness”; I intend to review it at some point as part of my posts on Northwest Smith.)

It’s primarily as an anthologist that I’m familiar with Ackerman’s work.  While I’ve picked up a copy of FMF, I’ve never been a regular reader.  Ackerman had an encyclopedic knowledge of the field, especially the early days before WWII.  When I read one of his anthologies, I knew I would find some lost treasure he had rediscovered.  And while the writing in those stories might not have met the highest literary standards, they would be entertaining.

You can find works by these authors online in electronic editions, so if you need a break from Black Friday, there is plenty of relaxing reading to choose from.

William Hope Hodgson Turns 140

William Hope Hodgson was born 140 years ago today, on November 15, 1877.  He was killed by an artillery shell in 1918 while fighting for the British in WWI.

Hodgson wrote in a number of related genres, including science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as well as straight nautical adventure.

The novels The House on the Borderland and The Night Land are among his best known works, although they are not considered easy reading as they were deliberately written in an archaic style.

Perhaps currently the most popular of Hodgson’s works are the stories of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.  These are slightly different than the typical occult detective story in that not all the of cases Carnacki investigates turn out to be due to supernatural causes.  Sometimes the solutions are more mundane.  To my mind, this makes them more interesting.

Carnacki is popular enough that new stories about the character are still being written.

A Belated Report on the 2017 World Fantasy Convention

The 2017 World Fantasy Convention ended a week ago as I write this.  It was in San Antonio, which is a 6 hour drive from where I live.  I got back Sunday night and returned to San Antonio Tuesday morning for another event, which is why I’m a little late in writing this report.  WFC started on Thursday and ran through Sunday, making it an excellent weekend.

I’ll give a brief overview of some of the panels I attended, then make some general statements. Continue reading