Category Archives: Haffner Press

Announcing The Vampire Stories of Robert Bloch

If you get the Haffner Press newsletter in your inbox, then you already know about this. But if don’t (and why not, I might add), then you’ll want to know.

One of the greatest writers of the macabre in the 20th Century was Robert Bloch.  I’ve written about him before. Like here. And here. And here. While he will probably always be best known as the author of Psycho, Bloch was many other things as well, including but not limited to a master of the short form. a member of the Lovecraft circle, and an accomplished screenwriter.

Haffner Press has announced The Vampire Stories of Robert Bloch.  Tentative publication date is sometime next year. Here’s the table of contents: Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”

ASF Feb 42“The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”
Astounding February 1942

“The Sorcerer of Rhiannon” predates The Sea-Kings of Mars AKA The Sword of Rhiannon by seven years.  Other than the word “Rhiannon” in the title, there doesn’t appear to be much connection between the two, at least on the surface.  But the seeds of the later work can be seen in “Sorcerer” if one takes the time to look.  Spoiler Alert for both stories.

In this story archeologist Max Brandon is searching for the mythical Lost Islands in one of the dry sea bottoms of Mars.  He’s trying to outrace a lawman intent on arresting him, a rival from Venus intent on beating him to the find, and a woman intent on marrying him.  Lost in a sandstorm, he stumbles upon the remains of an ancient ship.  There he finds a room that has been sealed for ages and takes shelter in it.

The room isn’t empty, nor does it and the contents look as old as they must be.  A man and a woman sit across a table from each other.  About the man’s head is a metal band.  The woman isn’t human, but Brandon recognizes her as a member of an extinct race called the Prira Cen.  She’s wearing a golden girdle over a white tunic and a ring.  The Prira Cen died out forty thousand years earlier when the Lost Islands were the dominant power on Mars.  Both the man and the woman appear to be alive but in some sort of stasis. Continue reading

Happy 100th Birthday, Leigh Brackett

Leigh BrackettSo today is the centennial of Leigh Brackett’s birth.  If you’ve paid any attention to this blog in the last few weeks, you know that I’ve been making a big deal of that and will continue to do so.

Some of you good people might be wondering:  So just who was this Leigh Brackett person and why was she so important?

I’m glad you asked. Continue reading

New Leigh Brackett Story Announced!

LB100-cover2-300x434I just preordered this!  This year is the centennial of Leigh Brackett’s birth.  I’m ashamed to say I missed that.

Fortunatley, Stephen Haffner is on the ball and has prepared a book to mark the occasion.  It contains an unpublished story as well her nonfiction and interviews with a number of friends.  You can order your copy here.

If the style of the lettering on the book is familiar, there’s a reason for that.  Before her untimely death from cancer in 1978, Leigh wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back.   She also wrote the screenplays for the films The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Rio Bravo starring John Wayne.

Brackett brought a hard boiled sensibility to her tales of outer space adventure.  Haffner Press is to be thanked for bringing her work back in high quality archival format.  Many of Haffner’s Brackett titles are out of print, but check out the ones that aren’t.  And order Leigh Brackett Centennial before all the hardcore Star Wars fans find out about it and buy up all the copies.

Henry Kuttner at 100

kuttnerOne of my all-time favorite writers was born 100 years ago on this date.  Henry Kuttner was a prolific author who wrote in multiple genres.  Kuttner started out writing Lovecraft pastiche for Weird Tales.

Kuttner mentored Ray Bradbury and wrote the ending to Bradbury’s “The Candle” when Bradbury got stuck.  In the introduction to the Ballatine/Del Rey edition of The Best of Henry Kuttner (there was a 2 volume British edition by the same name with more and different stories), Bradbury says in reference to “The Graveyard Rats” that Kuttner didn’t want to be remembered as a minor league Lovecraft.  That’s a paraphrase, as I don’t have the book here with me.  I looked at “The Graveyard Rats” on Kuttner’s birthday last year. Continue reading

Moore Than Just a Kuttner Kornucopia

Detour to OthernessDetour to Otherness
Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
Cover art by Richard Powers
Introduction by Robert Silverberg
Afterward by Frederik Pohl
Haffner Press
Hardcover $40, limited edition hardcover $150

In the history of the science fiction and fantasy fields, there have been few authors as versatile as the husband and wife team of Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore. This is especially true at short lengths. (Since Kuttner was an early mentor of Ray Bradbury, this is hardly surprising.)

In the early 1960s, Ballantine Books published two collections of their work, Bypass to Otherness and Return to Otherness. Stephen Haffner states on the page for Detour to Otherness that a third volume was planned but never published. I’ve never heard this before, but I’m more than willing to take his word for it.

The first two Otherness titles contain selections from several of Kuttner’s most popular and well-remembered series. The Hogbens are represented, as is Galloway Gallegher, a scientific genius but only when he’s drunk. Also included is the first of the Baldy stories that comprised the mosaic novel Mutant. They don’t have some of his best known stories, which may not have been available at the time because they were in another book from a different publisher (Line to Tomorrow, Bantam), but this is one of the best samplings of Kuttner and Moore’s work.

Haffner has assembled enough stories for a third collection and combined them in the present volume. That section of the book is called Detour to Otherness, which is also the title of the omnibus.

Haffner had nothing to do with the selections in Bypass and Return, he was responsible to the stories in Detour. Thus, while critiquing the choices in the original volumes is a waste of time, it is very much on the strength of the stories in Detour that the volume will rise or fall. None of these stories has appeared in a Kuttner collection before, although most of them have been reprinted somewhere. I’d read almost all of them before. Let’s look at them more closely. Continue reading

Graveyard Rats for Kuttner’s Birthday

kuttnerHenry Kuttner was born on this date in 1915.  His first published story was “The Graveyard Rats”, which appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales.  It has been reprinted at least 35 times, the latest being in Zombies from the Pulps, edited by Jeffrey Shanks, which where I recently reread it.Zombies from the Pulps Front cover

Kuttner started out as part of the Lovecraft circle, and “The Graveyard Rats” is very much in the vein of Lovecraft.  The story concerns Masson, a gravedigger in an old cemetery in Salem.  The man has a profitable little sideline going, digging up the bodies and removing any valuables buried with them.  The problem is the rats which infest the graveyard.  They’ve dug a series of tunnels and steal the bodies themselves.

When the rats literally pull a fresh corpse out of the coffin and into the tunnels as Masson is opening the coffin lid, he decides to follow them in and retrieve his prize.  This isn’t the smartest move he could have made…

Terror in the HouseKuttner became a prolific author, writing some of his best work for Weird Tales, Astounding, and Thrilling Wonder.  He wasn’t afraid to take chances and stretch himself as a writer and wrote horror, fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, and mystery.  After his marriage to C. L. Moore, the two collaborated on almost everything they wrote.

Haffner Press has been bringing Kuttner back into print, but even so, there are a number of his stories that are still in crumbling pulp magazines that deserve to be reprinted.  I’ll be looking at some of those tales later this year.

2012 in Retrospect: Publishing

Rather than doing a single post about what I thought of the past year, I’m going to break things up into some smaller posts.  There will be on short fiction and one on titles I especially enjoyed.  But I thought I would start with publishers.

Last year, I wrote about the publishers I thought you should be reading this year.  That list hasn’t changed much.  The day before I posted that list, I gave reasons why I wasn’t going to be reading much from the main imprints.  Those reasons haven’t changed much, either.  If anything, they’re more valid than ever.

What I’m going to attempt to do here, in this present post, is to assess some of the things I said in those two posts.

First, I said I wouldn’t be buying many titles from the major publishers.  What constitutes a major publisher is probably going to vary among individuals.  That’s fine; it will give us something to talk about.  So many publishers are trying to grab as many rights as they can from authors and paying them so little once you take a close look at the numbers, that I have trouble with supporting such a system, just as a matter of conscience.  Add to that the fact that most of the major publishers are pricing their ebooks way too high, and in some cases as much or more than the paper editions, and I really don’t see the point.

Second, I said I would be reading more indie published authors.  I have.  The mistake I made was listing the authors whose work I intended to read.  The reason that was a mistake is that I haven’t gotten to everyone on the list yet.  Since I’m going to be focusing on small and indie presses in my column over at Amazing Stories (TM), those authors will be moving to near the top of the list.

Here’s the thing that might suprise some people.  I haven’t really missed reading books published by the majors.  I’ve still read a few here and there, and have a couple in my TBR stack.  But for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the small press and indie published works I’ve read.  I’m very selective about what I pick up these days simply due to time considerations.  Most of these works have been as good as what the Big 6 5 However-many-are-left-after-the-mergers are publishing.

So I think my decision to read indie published works has been a good one, and I’ll keep doing it.

Now, as for publishers.  I’m not going to numerically rank them.  I’m going to stick to the same list, but I’ll add a couple of publishers to it.  These are what I would call midsized publishers, in that they get national or international distribution and have major authors in their stables, but they haven’t been around for decades like some publishers have.

First, I included Prime Books as a runner-up because at the time I hadn’t finished any of their titles.  While I still dip into their anthologies without reading them all the way through, I maintain that Prime is one of the best publishers around.  I’ve got collections by Elizabeth Bear and Richard Parks to read, as well as many anthologies.

Orbit Books didn’t make the list last year because I hadn’t read any of their titles.  That hasn’t changed much, but there are some titles I very much want to read, starting with the latest Joe Abercrombie.  That alone puts Orbit on the list.  The fact that they also publish John R. Fultz and Michael J. Sullivan, two other writers I’m looking forward to reading doesn’t hurt, either.

Next is Solaris and its companion imprint, Abaddon.  This is Eric Brown’s publisher, and Brown is one of the best science fiction authors working today.  He writes good space opera, and I love space opera.

Nightshade published some interesting books this year, most of which I still haven’t gotten around to reading yet, including titles Misere, Southern Gods, The Scourge of the Betrayer, and The Pillars of Hercules, plust the more recent Siren Depths and The Tainted City.  Part of the reason I haven’t read these yet is time, but also because Nightshade no longer seems to be responding to requests for review copies.  I try (and occasionally succeed) to post a review around the time the book comes out, and since I ended up buying these titles, the books had in some cases been out a while.  The most significant thing Nightshade did this year, though, was to start the online publication, Eclipse Online, a continuation of their successful anthology series.  I’ll talk about that more in the forthcoming short fiction post. 

I probably read more books by Angry Robot this year than any other publisher, in part because of how their Robot Army program worked and in part because I really like their line.  This is one publisher I’ll keep reading and reviewing, although I probably won’t read quite as many title from them this year simply due to time considerations.  I had three titles I was planning to review when we ended up moving.  In all the commotion, I never read them.  I’m going to try to work them into the queue soon.

Pyr was top of my list last year, and this was another good year for them.  Pyr seems to be shifting its focus a bit, publishing more science fiction and YA titles than fantasy in recent months, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily.  I certainly don’t hold it against them.  They are in business to make money, after all, and markets do change.  I’ve got more titles from Pyr than any other publisher in the queue at the moment, mostly science fiction from Brenda J. Cooper, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, and Mark Hodder.

These are all publishers who publish mass market and trade, and thus within the budgets of most readers.  Among the more expensive collectible and limited edition publishers, Haffner Press stands out as my favorite, primarily because Haffner publishes some of my favorite authors.  Cemetery Dance and Subterranean are the other two publishers I’ve bought a lot from this year.

These are the publishers I’ve read this year because these guys, from what I can tell, are not only publishing some of the best fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but they also have some of the best business practices around.  With limited time and monetary resources, I want to get the best value I can and support the players (publishers and authors) I respect.  These publishers and many of the indie authors I’ve read have more than provided that. 

So as far as publishers go, these are the one I will stick with in 2013.

Leigh Brackett

I’m still working on a post about Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp that probably won’t be done before tomorrow.  In the meantime, John M. Whalen has posted an article about Leigh Brackett and her character Eric John Stark over at Home of Heroics.  If you’ve not read Brackett, you’ve missed out, although you’re probably familiar with her work.  She wrote or co-wrote the screenplays to such movies as The Big Sleep (starring Humphrey Bogart), Rio Bravo (with some guy named John Wayne), and the first draft of an obscure film entitled The Empire Strikes Back.  In other words, she worked with the best.  Her collected short fiction is available from Haffner Presss and the Eric John Stark books are available from Paizo/Planet Stories as well as some other work.  Go read what John has to say and if you’ve not read her before, see if she’s not the type of writer whose works you want on your shelf.