Category Archives: Mike Resnick

Does This Cover Offend You?

Because it sure has offended some folks.  There’s a major row going on within SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) right now over two things.  One is this cover, to which many objected on the grounds that it’s sexist, has no place on the cover of a writer’s group’s publication, that it’s offensive to some members of the group, and so forth.  (For the record, I am not and never have been a member of SFWA.)

It seems that Red Sonja-esque women in chain mail bikinis have no place in modern fantasy, at least as far as a certain segment of SFWA is concerned.  SFWA purports to speak for a diversity of writers, which means sooner or later one subset will be offended by something.  The question is to what extent does one person’s perceived right to be free from offending material infringe on someone else’s right of free speech or expression.

The other, and bigger, stink is over the Resnick-Malzberg Dialogues.  This is a feature that has been running in the bulletin for years.  Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg discuss various aspects of science fiction culture and history.  Having lived through so much of the field’s history and having made some of it themselves, it’s always been a favorite feature of mine.  (In case you’re wondering, the Bulletin isn’t restricted to members; anyone can buy a subscription.  I’ve never subscribed, but I used to pick it up when it was available on the newsstand.)

The controversy started out with a two part discussion about female writers and editors in the past.  Only they used a horribly offensive term….”lady”.  And commented on how beautiful at least one woman editor was.  I’ve not read this part of the Dialogues, so I can only go by what I’ve seen online in response to it.  I don’t know how patronizing the use of the word “lady” was, so I’m not going to comment on it, at least not yet.  If anyone would would be willing to send me either a hard copy or a scan of these two Dialogues, I would be quite appreciative.  Resnick and Malzberg published a rebuttal (in this very issue, IIRC).  They didn’t apologize; they defended themselves against what they viewed as censorship.  I have read their response.  It’s available here if you scroll down, along with links to many posts in which the author is offended at their rebuttal.

The response set off an even greater uproar, with many people using the word “assholes”.  A lot.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A number of people are calling Resnick and Malzberg, two of the most acclaimed writers and editors in the field, assholes.  Among other things.  Much of what I’ve read (which isn’t everything) seems to consist of people offended that Resnick and Malzberg aren’t apologizing but standing their ground.  One member has resigned over it.  Outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi has issued an apology.  I’m still trying to figure out just how much of a tempest in a tea pot this is, not having read the original articles.  If I can, I’ll comment on it.  I might anyway if I can’t get copies of the original Dialogues, but I’m going to try to go to the original sources.

Until then, I’m curious about the cover, which I view as a separate (although related) controversy to Resnick and Malzberg’s comments.  This blog has a different demographic than SFWA.  I think that’s a fair statement.  What do you think?  Is there anything wrong with the cover?  Should it not have been printed on the Bulletin?

The Gunfight at the OK Corral Like You’ve Never Seen it Before

The Buntline Special
Mike Resnick
Trade paper, $17.00
Kindle  Nook $11.99 (note: ebook prices may vary)

One of the legendary gunfights of the Old West took place in Tombstone, Arizona, between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday on one side and the McLaurys and Clantons on the other.  Of course there were a number of things leading up to the gunfight and many consequences following.

Mike Resnick has taken a look at the gunfight through a steampunk fantasy lens.  It’s a fascinating blend of fact, almost fact, and should have been fact shown from the point of view of Doc Holliday.

Before I go on, I have to say that for a while as I was reading I kept seeing and hearing Val Kilmer as Holliday.  You may recall he played Holliday in the 1993 film Tombstone.  Kilmer brought such a – [ We interrupt this review to bring you the following public service announcement:

Pyr publicist Lisa Michalski contacted me late last year asking if I would like a review copy of Mike Resnick’s latest Weird Western novel, The Doctor and the Rough Rider.   I replied that while, yes, I would very much like a review copy, I hadn’t read the first two books in the series.  Ms. Michalski very graciously sent me all three, for which I would like to thank her.

Since then a number of Pyr books have shown up without my asking, many of them second or third volumes in series I haven’t started yet.  I’ve been acquiring the volumes I’ve needed, and I intend to read and review them all.

I  would like to apologize to Ms. Michalski as well as editor Lou Anders for taking so long to read and review the titles they’ve sent me.  I’ve had an extremely heavy load this semester, and my reading time has been curtailed like it hasn’t been in years.  Guys, thank you for the books.  I intend to read and review all the ones you’ve sent (plus the preceding volumes I haven’t read, since I hate starting series in the middle).  I greatly appreciate your sending the review copies and only hope I haven’t appeared ungrateful or opportunistic by not having reviewed them yet.

Anyway, once finals are over in a couple of weeks, I intend to take some time off and get caught up on reading, blogging, and personal writing.  About every second or third review here will be a Pyr title until I’ve caught up, so don’t be surprised at the sudden proliferation of Pyr titles.  The straight science fiction titles will be reviewed over at Futures Past and Present.

We now return your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.]  – Holliday to say “I’m your huckleberry” like he did in the film.

Val Kilmer, as Your Huckleberry, Doc Holliday

But you don’t want to hear about a 20 year old movie, you want to know about The Buntline Special.  The premise of this series is that in an alternate timeline, the westward expansion of the United States has been stopped at the Mississippi River by the magic of Native American medicine men, Geronimo being chief among them.  This hasn’t stopped individuals from moving westward, settling in many place that they settled in our timeline such as Texas, Colorado, and Tombstone.  (I’m curious if Texas is still an independent nation in this universe.  Resnick mentions Texas but doesn’t give much detail.)

In Tombstone, a pair of inventors, Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline, have been working and producing such things as electric lights, a horseless carriage, and mechanical whores that never tire.  It’s the horseless carriage that is causing the most problems.  The decreased demand for horses has made some of the local horse thieves antsy, particularly the Clantons.  But what has really made Edison a target of assassination is that he has been contacted by the US government to find a way to defeat the spell preventing the US from expanding westward.  That’s got the medicine man Hook Nose all in a tizzy.  He cuts a deal with the Clantons to eliminate Edison to their mutual benefit.

The first attempt on Edison’s life cost Edison his arm, which he and Buntline replace with a mechanical arm.  Upping the stakes, Hook Nose resurrects the recently killed gunslinger, Johnny Ringo (who is very much alive in the Tombstone of our timeline).  In an effort keep Edison breathing, Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp send for Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson.

And thus the stage is set for one of the wildest showdowns in the Old West in any timeline.

There are two things Resnick excels at, and those are dialogue and attention to detail through painstaking research.  (Well, actually, he excels at more than two, but those are the two things I want to focus on.)  First, the dialogue.  If you’ve read Resnick, you know how he makes conversation seem natural.  The result is a story that flows, sounding as though real people are having real conversations.

The second is the detail.  Resnick either knows his history, does his research, or as I suspect, both.  He includes an extensive bibliography along with an appendix telling what really happened to the major players in our timeline.  One of the most fun things about The Buntline Special was seeing what things Resnick kept the same and what things he changed in the telling of his tale.  The result was staying up long after I should have been in bed one night researching some of the major players online.  (That’s not a complaint, BTW.)  I’d read quite a bit about Tombstone and the Earps, but that was over a decade ago, and memory, like radioactive substances, has a half-life.  And in my case, not a very long half-life.

This was a highly enjoyable book.  We’re seeing a resurgence in the weird western.  Here’s one by a master. 

There are two more books in this series so far, and the next one has Billy the Kid in it.  I’m looking forward to what Resnick does with him.

Titles in Mike Resnick’s Weird Western series are currently featured books at the Adventures Fantastic Bookstore.  The Buntline Special is on sale for $12.36 plus shipping.

Happy Birthday, Henry Kuttner

Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore

Henry Kuttner was born this day, April 7, in 1915.  He passed away far too young in 1958.

Kuttner got his start in Weird Tales, his first story being “The Graveyard Rats”, a grisly little piece.  Other stories for WT followed, and soon he was branching out into science fiction and the shudder pulps.  Legend has it that he started using pseudonyms after writing stories that appeared in the first two issues of Marvel Science Stories, stories that almost got the magazine shut down for pornography.  Supposedly no editor would buy stories with Kuttner’s byline for a while.  Mike Resnick reports in his introduction to Girls for the Slime God (in which the above mentioned stories are reprinted) that in a late 1940s poll of sf readers, two of Kuttner’s pen names came in higher than his real name.  Those pen names were Lawrence O’Donnell and Lewis Padgett.  Not surprising since his best regarded stories are under those names.

Kuttner’s best work was done in collaboration with his wife C. L. Moore.  The story is that Kuttner wrote her a fan letter, not realizing that “C. L.” stood for “Catherine Lucille.”

Kuttner wrote in a wide variety of genres, including sword and sorcery.  His tales of Elak of Atlantis (reviewed here, here, here, and here) as well as his two stories of Prince Raynor (reviewed here and here) helped fill the gap left by Robert E. Howard’s death.

It was in science fiction that he made his reputation.  Stories such “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”, “The Proud Robot”,  “The Twonky”, “When the Bough Breaks”, the Baldly stories (collected in Mutant), the Hogben stories, and countless others have remained popular and readable to this day, showing only a few signs of not aging well.  His story “What You Need” was filmed as an original series Twilight Zone episode.  Kuttner wrote a lot of what at the time was considered novel length work in the pulps, much of it still unreprinted.  A few years ago I managed to get most of the pulps containing these stories, and over the next year or two I hope to make time to read and report on them.  It’s also been long enough since I read some of them, that I need to refresh my memory.

There’s a lot of great Kuttner material that either hasn’t been reprinted or has been reprinted in such obscure places that it doesn’t matter.  For example, “We Kill People” from Astounding‘s March 1946 issue is every bit as good as the stories that are the most well-known.

Kuttner’s work was marked by a dry, cynical sense of humor and a pessimistic outlook on life, and the stories often ended on a note of horror.  As the 1940s turned to the 1950s, the Kuttner quit writing so much for the pulps.  Part of this was burn-out, part of this was Kuttner was finally getting his college degree and then a master’s.  He authored several mystery novels during this period.  He passed away from a heart attack.

I first encountered Kuttner on a hot, humid afternoon the summer before I entered high school.  I was taking a break and pulled out the SFBC edition of The Best of Henry Kuttner, which had arrived in the mail a few days earlier.  Although I don’t recall why I purchased it, I suspect it was because Ray Bradbury, who was something of a protege of Kuttner’s for a while, wrote the introduction.  The first story was “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”.  My mind was blown.  My life would never be the same.

Of all the science fiction and fantasy authors I’ve ever read, Kuttner is still my favorite.  I thank God frequently that Stephen Haffner has reprinted so much of his early work.  (I just wish he’d done it before I spent all that money tracking down those pulps.)

Kuttner (along with his wife C. L. Moore) is one of the few authors who has his/her own shelf in my library.  (The others are Ray Bradbury, Leigh Brackett and her husband Edmond Hamilton, and Robert E. Howard, who books take up two shelves.  Charles Beaumont would have his own shelf if he had written more books before he died.)

Much of Kuttner’s early work is clunky, but if you read his stories in chronological order, you can see him maturing.  He was a writer who wasn’t afraid to stretch himself, to take chances and do something different.  Just read “Happy Ending” as an example.  The story is told in reverse, Ending, Middle, Beginning, and it works.

If you’ve not read Kuttner, you should.  A large of number Big Names (Mariam Zimmer Bradley, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick) list him among their influences. Find out why.

Happy Birthday, Hank.

Mike Resnick Launches New Short Fiction Magazine

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, there were a number of theme anthologies edited by Mike Resnick.  Really Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, but you know what I mean.  Resnick wins awards, especially Hugos, at a rate that turns most writers green.  He’s a fantastic writer if you haven’t read him.  I’ve got some of his titles in the queue.  Well, now he’s launching a new short fiction magazine, Galaxy’s Edge.  It goes live on March 1.  You know I’m going to be there.  Look for a review either here or at Futures Past and Present.