Friday, January 27, 2017

FFB: THE DEVIL HIS DUE edited by Douglas Hill (Hart-Davis 1967; Avon 1969); UNTHREATENED BY THE MORNING LIGHT by Karl Edward Wagner (Pulphouse 1989)

Two sort of hybridized compilations this week, sparked in part by my continuing to unbox my collection of magazines, books, correspondence and other items from storage, and also by the heavy toll this past week has taken on at least the writerly social circles in the UK, with the deaths of writers Hilary Bailey, also an editor of several volumes of the periodical book version of New Worlds, and Emma Tennant, the latter not infrequently a collaborator with Bailey and also the founding editor of the impressive and innovative (and, as the title suggests, hardly stuffy) litmag Bananas. The Karl Edward Wagner is both a magazine issue and a periodical book, which foremost depends on how one chooses to see it (publisher Pulphouse loved to blur those lines with many of its projects), while the older Douglas Hill anthology is one of those which mixes reprinted fiction with new, including first-publication stories by Bailey and some other writers who were, as was Wagner, taken from us prematurely. 

The Wagner collection/issue gathers three dream stories by the often brilliant writer, editor and publisher; the first feels almost like a direct transcription of a dream and as such, a bit slight, if evocative; the second, also a near roman a clef involving correspondents to a writer friend or two of Wagner's and Wagner himself, is a bit meatier and more engaging, as well as giving us a bit of insight on the relation of fantasy writers to organized fandom and reader interaction as well as to the professional grind of publishing and agenting the written work.  Sadly, as Wagner reports in his introduction that his regular habits had him sleeping little more than an hour at a time, and that his death was in part a result of his candle-burning at all points lifestyle, which is reflected in "Neither Brute nor Human" (a Poe reference, as Wagner reminds us in the intro). 

While "The River of Night's Dreaming" is a bit richer yet, building out from a dream of escape via swimming against currents to encompass an extended tribute to Robert Chambers's The King in Yellow...and to rather anticipate some of the nature of the film Sucker Punch...though Wagner's story is far more deft than that clumsy film (one could see Carla Gugino in the cast of a dramatization of this story, however). Wagner's studies as an MD in psychiatry and neurology are not lost in the story as it's told, either...nor is, as Wagner notes (again in his introduction), the "barrier to final comprehension" that Chambers imbued his work with, "the stuff of nightmares" influence that extends to much of Wagner's most memorable horror fiction, such as his early award-winner "Sticks"; likewise, the decadence that Chambers enjoyed exploring is replicated here, to such an extent that Charles Grant rejected the story for his Shadows series of anthologies on the grounds it was too sexually explicit. Stuart David Schiff and Whispers were more open to this sort of thing, which is hardly extreme in the context of Chambers pastiche.  (I've yet to read the Chambers, so was mildly amused to learn that one of the key characters in both the novel and the novella is named Camilla, and in the Wagner is described in such a way as to resemble my mother, who shared that name but was a redhead rather than a blonde, first, I suspected a harkening to Le Fanu's lesbian vampire novella "Carmilla" was desired, and perhaps it was, on Chambers's part.) In his last published work, Wagner would increasingly explore "fringe" sexuality in his horror work...and this volume, though not the story in question, was published five years before his death.

I've usually preferred Wagner's sword & sorcery fantasy, dark as it was, to his contemporary horror fiction, but really should read further in his work in this mode, as well (he was one of the most brilliant of s&s writers, certainly of his generation, along with Janet Fox and a few others--I still need to read my copy of his Conan novel, though I suspect it won't be quite up to his Kane stories); he was, of course, also the longest-serving and almost certainly the most influential editor (even given the excellence of his predecessors Richard and Gerald W. Page) of the DAW Books annual The Year's Best Horror Stories, which series died with him.

Author’s Choice Monthly Issue 2: Unthreatened by the Morning Light Karl Edward Wagner (Pulphouse, Oct ’89, $4.95, 101pp, tp) Collection of three stories, with an introduction by the author. Also available in a signed hardcover edition ($25.00). A Signed deluxe leatherbound edition ($50.00) was announced but not seen.
    • 1 · Introduction: Unthreatened by the Morning Light · in
    • 5 · Endless Night · ss The Architecture of Fear, ed. Kathryn Cramer & Peter D. Pautz, Arbor House, 1987
    • 17 · Neither Brute Nor Human · nv World Fantasy Convention Program Book, ed. Robert Weinberg, 1983
    • 53 · The River of Night’s Dreaming · na Whispers III, ed. Stuart David Schiff, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981

Douglas Hill apparently began the 1960s writing nonfiction, including about the history and practice of magic, and by the mid 1960s had begun editing anthologies of fantasy and science fiction, arguing, as he does perhaps most opportunistically in the introduction to this anthology, that SF should stand for "science fantasy" and not be worried about again (a slightly more pat version of how Judith Merril had approached the nomenclature until she decided she preferred her refinement of Robert Heinlein's suggestion of "speculative fiction" to cover all sorts of fantastic fiction)...opportunistically because the conceit of the anthology is supposed to be these are stories about dealing with devils/The Devil in various scientific or at least science-fictional contexts...not really quite true, though, even if the protagonist of Hilary Bailey's fine story is a medical doctor, who finds himself effectively cursed by a local bully with some connection to Satan...and helped by a registered nurse (or the UK equivalent) who has some magical abilities of her own, along with the goodwill of the emigrant community, not at all fond of the bully. The Bailey story might be only the third or fourth I've read by her...she apparently published no collection, and several of her stories, like this one, have only appeared in the site of their original publication...which is a shame, as this is a deft, dryly witty and altogether enjoyable story that might remind you of what Shirley Jackson or Kit Reed (or Avram Davidson, in a restrained mood) might do with a similar notion, had it occurred to them. Hill's choices seem to be rather unsurprising as when he was putting this book together, he was about to become the Assistant Editor of New Worlds, hence was working directly with contributor (and NW editor) Michael Moorcock (at the time, also married to Bailey) and SF Impulse staffer Keith Roberts, contributors to the magazines Thomas Disch and John Sladek, Judith Merril (her story had been reprinted in SF Impulse after appearing in Fantastic), E. C. Tubb (even if he was more likely to have contributed to the pre-Moorcock NW, and had even been the editor of the competing UK magazine Authentic Science Fiction) and John Wyndham; young  American Ramsey Wood had his one fantasy publication here (also never reprinted, as the Disch and Sladek only recently has been); and while Moorcock's Elric story had appeared first in one of  L. Sprague de Camp's genre-shaping sword & sorcery anthologies, there's a good chance it was sold simultaneously to de Camp and Hill for their opposite sides of the Atlantic publications, as Pyramid paperbacks weren't too common in the UK, nor Hart-Davis hardcovers in the New World, I suspect. 

The Disch and Sladek is also wryly witty, and has even less claim to being a Devil in Scientific Context story than the Bailey, even if the protagonist is a grieving atheist (who gets shown what for in a way he hardly suspects, and which former Minnesotans Disch and Sladek almost certainly devised with wide grins and not at all nostalgic shudders).  I'm going through the rest of the stories now, re-reading the Merril after some thirty years. I'll definitely need to read some more Bailey, as well, when I've enjoyed, at least, everything I've seen from her. (Disch and Sladek have been...frequently, at least...more easy to find in bulk, even with their work in shorter lengths.) And the kind of bad luck that has recently caught up with Bailey, or for that matter dogged Disch and Sladek at the ends of their lives, also caught up with Hill...he was hit by a bus at age 72, in 2007. Bolts from the blue can get you just as easily as anything else. (And, for goodness's sakes, Hearsts, you could've sprung for some heavier application of ink in this 1969 Avon paperback...the post-cataract eyes aren't so crazy about gray letters on even reasonably undarkened paper...)

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog...

Friday, January 20, 2017

FFB: THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, FOURTH SERIES edited by Anthony Boucher (Doubleday 1955); MURDER IN THE DARK by Margaret Atwood (Coach House 1983)

I'm unboxing my books from storage, in a haphazard way, which is already inspiring further queries from Alice as to why we need all these books. My query in riposte, as to why we need all the gaming consoles we have, admittedly a smaller but still importunate and wire-tailed clutter, is not appreciated. I haven't begun to populate all the shelves we have (some of Alice's books that were doused slightly by the tomcat before his Prozac prescription--the gift that keeps on giving when new boxed pockets are discovered, some total losses since discarded--still need some cleaning before they can be shelved), so some of the old friends I have seen in decades are coming back to light, such as my old John D. MacDonald paperbacks, or Marvin Kaye anthologies, early (in their careers) paperbacks by Neal Barrett, Jr. and Kathe Koja and Mark S. Geston, Muriel Spark novels and Ron Goulart pop-culture histories, the Lancer/Magnum and Signet Classic editions I read in the summer of 1976 of the Tom/Huck/Jim stories by Twain, and Trollope novels and Adrienne Rich and volumes of The Year's Best Horror Stories and philosophical and historical studies and The Jack Stories, which come from the same well Manly Wade Wellman drew from. Why do I need all these, anyway? The Lansdale novels and comics and Twisted Sisters (not the band with the singular version of that name, but the feminist comics anthology magazine) and the oversized 1970s DC reprints of 1940s comics...among my treasured, not actually barnacles. All of these out of the last box I opened last night. (A while back, one of the first I opened had my copy of Westeryear, an Ed Gorman anthology I'm reading for FFB, having discussed it with James Reasoner briefly not long ago.)

Two more of those recent rediscoveries are this week's items. The anthology was the first best-of their magazine that Anthony Boucher edited on his own, his co-founder at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, J. Francis "Mick" McComas, having stepped down in 1954 after five years of co-editing the magazines as it was published, and as conspirator for several years of its birthing process at Mercury Press (and as Boucher's co-editor of the short-lived true-crime magazine Mercury also published). Stories from the last issues, published in 1953 and '54, they worked together, and a mix of items which have lived on notably and some which have become obscure in the interim (or are simply thought of as minor work by major writers in a few cases):
What we have here: perhaps the single most famous short fiction by Alfred Bester, a technical tour-de-force, leads off, and Avram Davidson's brilliant, offhandedly fantastical debut in the secular press (all his previous stories y had appeared in [at least culturally] Jewish magazines), certainly one of the more recognizable Bradburys (it's the one that was reprinted as the first story in my 7th grade Scott, Foresman reading textbook), the first of only two stories that McComas would place originally with his former magazine. And stories from Shirley Jackson (her first for the magazine), Lord Dunsany (a reprint from the British magazine Lilliput), and one of Manly Wade Wellman's stories about John, the Balladeer, one of the if not the best of the story-series begun in the magazine. And stories by Kornbluth, Anderson, Sheckley, Arthur Porges (one of his more clever and widely-reprinted vignettes), Daniel Galouye, and F&SF discovery Richard Matheson. More poetry than usual in these volumes, as well, even given it's all light verse, including by Boucher himself under his third pseudonym, like his second, H. H. Holmes, lifted from the Devil in the White City himself, the man who probably wasn't born Herman W. Mudgett.  Two academics with relatively sparse but not inconsequential careers in speculative fiction, Irving "Bud" Foote (his only published short story in SF, though he would contribute nonfictionally) and Robert Abernathy, whose career as a fiction writer was mostly confined to his relative youth, and who was one of several notable contributors to both Planet Stories and Astounding Science Fiction (often cited as the two extremes in sf field at the time) in his first decade, in the 1940s; F&SF published most of his later, 1950s stories. The Anderson is bent a little too far out of shape in attempting to be a story that accounts for all the aspects of the chess match it's based on;  Matheson's might be the closest to a tired story among these, and it's readable enough.

Murder in the Dark begins, rather as does Stuart Dybek's Brass Knuckles, as a set of reminiscences of youth, in Margaret Atwood's case of reading an uncle's old Boy's Own Annuals (and speculating on a missing volume's installment of a  serialized story) or reading horror comics and chatting with a school friend on the way home each afternoon, and how a too-accurate snowball to the back of a random adult brought home the realization that horror really isn't simply the Vault of Horror one tucks or gives away after reading. Other vignettes in the slim volume are short stories, others yet musings on various subjects, not least men in both literature or other art (and how they compare with women thus, and how both are dealt with) and in life (and thus there, too). Some amount to musings with are also stories, sometimes in the second person...Dybek never gets to be quite as metafictional as Atwood often is, though Atwood is about as funny, and reaches not unsuccessfully in the Borges direction in most of these short works. As such, it's a pretty good introduction to her writing, for those who might find her long novels a bit intimidating (though more people seem to prefer longer novels these years); her excursions into pulpy adventure-flavored  meta-narratives is also revealed to have roots in her young reading...which also prepared her for the science fiction and related work she has frequently published throughout her career, while also having some mixed emotions about that field and her relation to it...alternately celebrating and dismissing it, perhaps too sweepingly in both modes, and for reasons that can no longer be considered sensible seemingly still reflexively afraid of losing some of her audience, much as Kurt Vonnegut used to be...while perhaps also annoyed by her encounters with sf people en masse, as opposed to various individuals.  So, as we've been told, it goes. This is, again, mostly a charming book, not too slight, if not exactly Lady Oracle. The game Murder in the Dark is something I'd not encountered before this book...a relatively low-effort detection party game...but avoid, as she notes indirectly, playing it with mad poets.

For more of today's books, please see the Edgar-nominated, inauguration-shunning Patti Abbott's blog...while shunning the inauguration yourself, perhaps.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday (the 13th) Forgotten Books: the links to the reviews, 13 January 2017

It's a troubled time at FFB, with various afflictions and even an occasional bit of good news mixed in for a number of contributors to the weekly go-round, including Patti Abbott's connectivity being cut at home, so I host today...Patti will probably be hosting again next week...

Mark Baker: Indigo Slam by Robert Crais

Joe Barone: An Owl Too Many by Charlotte MacLeod

Bernadette: Gin and Murder by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

John Boston: Amazing Stories: Fact and Science Fiction, January 1962, edited by Cele Goldsmith

Brian Busby: early Harlequin paperbacks (crime fiction, romance, etc.)

Bill Crider: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Martin Edwards: The Viper by Roy Homiman

Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook:  DC war comics, August/September 1967

Will Errickson: Razored Saddles edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto; Yellow Fog by Les Daniels

Fred Fitch: A Good Story and Other Stories by Donald Westlake

Paul Fraser: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1951, edited by Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas

Barry Gardner: Primal Fear by William Diehl

John Grant: Net of Cobwebs by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding 

Rich Horton: By the Good Sainte Anne by Anna Chapin Ray; 200 Years to Christmas by J. T. McIntosh; Rebels of the Red Planet by Charles L. Fontenay

Jerry House: Isaac Asimov's Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction #6: Neanderthals edited by Robert Silverberg, Martin H. Greenberg, & Charles G. Waugh

Tracy K.: The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

George Kelley: The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner

Joe Kenney: The James Bond Dossier by Kingsley Amis

Margot Kinberg: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Kate Laity: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

B. V. Lawson: Cast for Death by Margaret Yorke

Jonathan Lewis: "Pressure" by Morris Hershman

Steve Lewis: A Country Kind of Death by Mary McMullen; Dogs of the Captain by Max Brand; Black Death by Thomas H. Stone

Todd Mason: Crime fiction magazines in English: August/September 1964; Robert Silverberg in my early reading

John F. Norris: Within the Maze by Ellen Wood

Juri Nummelin: Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Matt Paust: On Top of Spoon Mountain by John Nichols

James Reasoner: Dead Men Singing: The Men Who Fought for Texas by H. Bedford Jones

Richard Robinson: Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

Gerard Saylor: The Black Beetle in "No Way Out" by Francesco Francavilla

Steve Scott: "Honeymoon in the Off Season" by John D. MacDonald

Victoria Silverwolf: Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, November 1961, edited by Cele Goldsmith

Kerrie Smith: Summertime Death by Mons Kallentoft (translated by Neil Smith)

"TomCat": The Sleuth Patrol by Manly Wade Wellman

Mike Tooney: Motives for Murder edited by Martin Edwards

Prashant Trikannad: With Great Truth & Regard: The Story of the Typewriter in India edited by Sidharth Bhatia 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Saturday Music Club on Monday: Waters Rising in Northern Cali edition (part 2)

[continued from previous post for ease of loading...] brother, James Eric Mason, had answered earlier, and had been reminded of another Nina Simone recording, even if he might've thought of David Bowie's cover first:

and he recalled this:

while my sister-in-law, Paula Mason, was reminded of:

and Kelly Robinson and Joe Megalos were moved to note some suggestions on my FB "wall"...
Kelly's were: 


while Joe was moved to cite a handful, including:

(and two other Waits songs, "Rain Dogs" and "More Than Rain")

and (interesting how many fugues are inspired by rain)

and Massive Attack's "Pray for Rain" and, as did one of Sarah's direct correspondents, the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Happy When It Rains"

and one I'd linked to in a previous Saturday Music Club

Monday, January 9, 2017

Saturday Music Club on Monday: Waters Rising in Northern Cali edition (part 1)

Northern Californian Sarah Kishler asks on FaceBook: 
What are your favorite rain songs? Wind songs? 

So, I dropped a few responses on her post, coming late to it and so not repeating suggestions such as CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?", the Association's "Windy", Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" or the Beatles' "Rain"...

Miriam Makeba: "West Wind"

Nina Simone: "Feeling Good"

Rainy Day: "Rainy Day, Dream Away" (cued up at artist/title link; whole album below)

The Bangles: "The Rain Song"

Hüsker Dü: "Up in the Air"

Bandits: "All Along the Watchtower" (OST, Jasmin Tabatabai)

The Hollies: "Bus Stop"

Muddy Waters: "40 Days and 40 Nights"

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: "Didn't It Rain, Children?"

Doc Watson: "Windy and Warm"

Joni Mitchell: "Eastern Rain"

Fairport Convention: "Eastern Rain"

The Cowsills: "The Rain, the Park and Other Things"

The Free Design: "Umbrellas"

[for ease of loading, continued in next post]

some crime fiction magazines on the newsstands for August 1964

All indices and images courtesy The FictionMags Index at Galactic Central.

If one was to go to a theoretical newsstand that somehow had all the US, UK and Australian crime-fiction magazines in late July/early August 1964, these are the issues you'd probably find.  Considering how many (mostly down-market) Manhunt imitators you'd've found a few years before, this is both a pretty good selection and surprisingly thin on the racks. Manhunt itself was already well into its long decline...and Chase was almost stillborn. But most of the established titles had at least a fair amount of life in them, even if sometimes only a few more years. The magazines are arrayed below by the first issue date of the primary edition of each title, with obvious groups of magazines gathered together.  Thus, EQMM is the oldest magazine of this group (and barely old enough to vote in 1964), while the brand new Edgar Wallace is the youngest, though barely younger than Chase, originally meant to be published by the same folks who published sf/fantasy/horror/suspense magazine Gamma; they couldn't come up with the money, so their distributor (Acme) and publisher of such titles as the Magazine of Horror (Health Knowledge) took it on as a three-issue project...perhaps certain commitments were already in place, or simply the material was already purchased. Life on the fringes of publishing...which EQMM and AHMM at least were far less than they might be seen as being today. (And among the appended titles, British Argosy and Ranch Romances were both much older than EQMM, and even the attempt at "shudder pulp" revival in digest form, Web Terror Tales, had roots in a decent fantasy/sf magazine called Saturn, edited by Donald A. Wollheim, from several years before several of these other magazines.)

The mothership EQMM is pretty impressive...Avram Davidson, Dorothy B. Hughes, Gerald Kersh, Françoise Sagan, Allen Lang (the last all but forgotten but doing often very impressive work particularly in the early '60s)...and Anthony Boucher reviewing...

...while the February issue of the US magazine as redeployed in Australia might've been even more impressive, even without a Davidson, Hughes or Kersh story...

....and the April issue was pretty spookily impressive, too, as repackaged in the UK, with a Davidson, a Cornell Woolrich as William Irish, and another slew of major writers...

...and the reprint magazine not that much more overqualified...

L. P. Davies would be the big draw for me, though Phil Stephensen-Payne notes that a fair amount of each issue is actually fantasy and horror. 
While Edward Wellen would be the big draw in this issue from Manhunt's waning years...EQMM was almost certainly outselling it by '64, and not EQ alone...
    Interesting how the material is juggled between the US and UK editions at this point...with the UK issue reprinting from "outside" US sources, and the US from UK magazines...and variant "Saint" stories, as well...Robert Bloch and to a lesser extent Hal Ellson the big draws, Dan Sugrue the forgotten writer...
    No image available....Zoë Fairbairns being the draw along with Creasey for me in this issue...

    A pretty brilliant choice of reprints this issue...certainly the Sturgeon, and probably the Burnett, might well outshine even the Perowne and Hoff originals.

    Hitchcock's then as now seemed to be the second-best-selling crime fiction magazine, and the lineup, particularly the early pages in this issue, indicates why, in part, quite aside from the gimmick of having Hitchcock all over the package (while not even actually writing the brief editorial).

    And even more AHMM favorites in this rebound set: Clark Howard, C. B. Gilford, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Treat, Nedra Tyre, August Derleth for the hell of it...and Jack Ritchie, Richard Deming, and Arthur Porges popping up again...

    Robert Lowndes rather than Gamma's Jack Matcha or Charles Fritch editing this third and last issue of Chase is demonstrated most clearly by Lowndes "discovery" Ed Hoch having a reprint story...but Jack Vance, Ed Lacy and Fletcher Flora are all notable writers to cluster around the low-budget project. 

    Wallace himself the only writer whose work I know I know here...though Arthur Kent, house name or no, sounds familiar...

    And...two extremes of periphery to the CF titles:
    One of the magazines I rather envy the British, to have continued in this manner into the 1970s, though the US Short Story International was pretty comparable; reprints one of the stories I loved from Joan Aiken from my youth; Dahl, Thomas, Kersh and Hemingway do add some obvious marquee value...

    While the most lurid things in the Manhunt or the Wallace magazines are almost certainly tame in comparison to this s&m-driven FB correspondent notes that this was the saddest magazine he'd ever read, and in the most literal even more than the most obvious way. No contributors I've heard of, and even by the standards of this magazine in this last stage of its run, this is a particularly inept cover. 

    And this one a bit more like Argosy in quality....

    So much western fiction is also crime fiction that the heavy writer crossover between the two fields isn't too surprising...given the romance angle in this magazine, fading toward the end of its run, it might have a little less (but not much less) criminous content. Only the reprint contributors are the writers I'm most familiar the end, RR was all reprints.

    And I suppose I could attempt to include all the "true adventure" and "true confessions" magazines from this month...but, well, no.