I bought my first copy of The Hobbit at a library sale in Quechee, VT when I was a kid. At the time, I remember noticing that the cover was graced with an ‘The Authorized Edition’, and it’s been something that I’ve noticed over the years. A couple of months ago, I wrote a column on Ace Books and their double novels, and came across the reason for the words: Ace had published an unauthorized version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, citing a publishing loophole and sparking a publishing row that had some pretty profound implications on the fantasy publishing field.
There’s the common narrative that the book was stolen outright, but digging a little deeper finds that there’s quite a bit more to the story than Ace’s edition.
Go read The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
I never read the Tom Swift novels as a kid; I was always more obsessed with the Hardy Boys series. Over the years, I’ve read bits and pieces about Edward Stratemeyer, the man who was behind the long-running book series, as well as those of Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins (a favorite of my mother’s), The Rover Boys and Tom Swift. He conceived of a character, put together a formula, and had a freelancer ghost write the novel before editing it. The process has always fascinated me, but when it came to looking into his background, an entire segment of early science fiction comes to light: the Dime Store novels, which created entire subgenres in their own right. More than that, they carried with them some real kernels of thematic material which have since propagated far into the future, which surprised and delighted me.
Another fun fact? TASER isn’t a word: it’s an acronym that stands for Tom A Swift’s Electric Rifle.
Go read Tom Swift and the Stratemeyer Syndicate over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
The War Stories anthology officially tipped over the 100% mark on its Kickstarter! As of this morning, it’s reached 104% of our goal, and with just over a day left to go, we’re hoping to hit a couple of additional goals above and beyond that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to each and every one of our 323 backers who’ve pledged thus far. This is going to be an excellent book, and it’s because of all of our backers that we’re able to produce it.
Here’s where we want to go next:
- Stretch Goal target: $12,000: Additional Art unlocked. We’d like to break the stories into thematic sections, and provide art for each section.
- Stretch Goal target: $13,000: 20,000 words unlocked. This will allow us to include several additional stories we have under consideration at the moment, which will make this book all the better.
So, if you’ve been holding off, rest assured that this is now a pre-order for the book. Backers at the $15 level and above will receive a copy of WAR STORIES! You’ve got until November 14th at 6:00 pm to back it!
Larger book cover after the break!
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A couple of years ago, I came across an article about Washington Irving that noted his campaign against the piracy of his works during the 1700s. Somewhere else, I came across a mention of how he used startlingly modern methods to help promote his book – posting notices in newspapers, in a clever campaign that helped make his first book a resounding success and helped to cement his status as America’s first professional writer.
Go read America’s First Fantasist: Washington Irving over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
When the fall arrives, I get into the mood for darker fiction, particularly H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve written about Lovecraft before, but I didn’t quite realize how important the magazine was, despite its general flaws in quality, to the genre. Authors such as C.L. Moore, and quite a few others passed through its pages, and it’s clear that it’s a publication that’s just as important as Astounding or Amazing Stories.
Go read The Troubled History of Weird Tales Magazine over on Kirkus Reviews.
It’s fall, and I’ve been once again shifting from the usual topic of science fiction to horror and fantasy. Last year, I wrote about H.P. Lovecraft, and in my last column, I wrote about Robert E. Howard. As I’ve researched these guys, I continually came up with a common name: Lord Dunsany, and I’ve been looking to write about him and his works.
Dunsany’s not an author that I’d come across before, and until I picked up a copy of The King of Elfland’s Daughter I hadn’t read or owned any of his works. Digging into his past helps to shine a real light on some of my own gaps in the fantasy side of my knowledge. He was an interesting, dramatic figure, intersecting with a number of other authors, and influencing a ton of others.
Go Read The Fantastic Worlds of Lord Dunsany on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
Back in April, I had been doing some reading on the Lovecraft Circle, and came across an interesting fact about one of the authors, Robert Howard. At the age of 30, he killed himself upon learning that his mother was in a coma and would never wake up again. It was interesting, because before that time, he had created a couple of well known characters, namely, Conan the Conqueror one of the pulp era’s defining heroes. A couple of weeks ago, I came across one of his more Lovecraftian stories, The Black Stone, and was reminded of his short life and influence. Beyond just Conan, he helped to influence an entire subgenre of fantasy, Sword and Sorcery.
Go read The Untimely Death of Robert E. Howard over on Kirkus Reviews.
Military SF is a complicated sub genre and despite the problems with Starship Troopers, it remains a favorite story of mine. I’ve been working recently to get an anthology of modern war stories, and I was interested in seeing where the modern movement came from. Unsurprisingly, it’s the product of both the 2nd World War, the Cold War and the style of American politics that emerged from that era.
Go read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers & The Cold War over on Kirkus Reviews.
REVIEW SUMMARY: An indispensable collection of short fiction set in every corner of our solar system, and a bit beyond.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology produced in conjunction with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, with stories set across the solar system by some of the best authors currently writing in the short SF/F market.
PROS: An incredible array of stories representing an impressive range of subgenres, settings and characters.
CONS: As with any anthology, some stories miss their mark.
BOTTOM LINE: Fans of short SF/F shouldn’t pass this one up.
If there’s one reason to pick up the latest anthology from publishers Jurassic London, it’s the incredible Joey Hi-Fi cover that graces the front of the book. It’s elegant, and shows just what you’re to expect: a collection of short stories that take place in almost every major spot in our solar system. Like the cover, the fiction that follows it rarely disappoints.
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Earlier this week, Grandmaster Frederik Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He’s the last of a major generation in the genre, and was a legendary contributor to science fiction from every possible direction. It’s a great loss for Science Fiction.
I’d been wanting to write about Pohl and Kornbluth’s novel The Space Merchants ever since I picked up the book a couple of years ago. I blew through it, and loved every word – it, for the most part, holds up just as well in 2013 as it seems to have back in 1953.
Go read Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, Space Merchants over on Kirkus Reviews.
In my last Kirkus column, I took a look at A.E. van Vogt, and talked a little about how authors in the 1950s began to adapt to changes in the publishing industry. By 1952, the publishing industry had shifted to paperback novels. One of the more memorable types of publication was Ace Books with their double novel series, which paired up two short novels in a single book. Futurian founder Donald Wollheim was behind this move, and helped to cement science fiction literature in the new paperback field.
Go read Donald Wollheim and the Ace Double Novel over on Kirkus Reviews!
In the mid-50s, there was some major changes going on in the publishing industry: readership for pulps and magazines were declining, and it was rising for novels. Authors had an interesting way to respond to this: take a couple of existing stories, rewrite bits and package them as a novel. A.E. van Vogt actually coined a term for this: We call it a ‘fix-up’ novel.
Go read A.E. van Vogt and the Fix-Up novel over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.
Science Fiction has a reputation as being the boy’s club, where all the major names, such as Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke get a majority of the credit for the development and direction of the genre as a literary movement. It’s unfortunate, because that’s not the full story, and it means that there’s a lot of other authors out there that really don’t get the credit that they deserve.
Margaret St. Clair is one of those authors, and she’s someone who’s name I’ve seen come up a lot as I’ve researched this column. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot known about her life: just her numerous stories that were published throughout the 1950s and 1960s. I’m not sure why she’s not as well known as others, despite the higher quality of her stories.
Go read The Elusive Margaret St. Clair on the Kirkus Reviews blog.
Fahrenheit 451 is one of my absolute favorite novels of all time, and I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while now. The genesis behind the book is an interesting one, because it doesn’t conform to the usual process: author sits down, writes the story. It started as one story, merged with another, got published, got expanded, had other things added onto it, and then onto bookshelves. It’s an important work, and I’ve found that its backstory makes it even more so.
Go read The Ignition Point of Ray Bradbury over on Kirkus Reviews.
Science Fiction has always had an interesting relationship with politics, and with the Snowden Affair brewing in the news, it seemed like a good time to look at one strain of political SF: the Dystopian Novel. It’s certainly relevant: sales of George Orwell’s landmark novel 1984 has been selling in enormous quantities in the last couple of weeks!
Go read A Brief History of the Dystopian Novey over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.
Fellow SF Signal irregular Jaym Gates and I have a project that we’ve collaborated on that we’d like to share with everyone: War Stories, an anthology of military speculative fiction.
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One of the things that I’ve really loved about this column is getting a sense of how connected everyone was. Truly, everyone seemed to know one another, even as small groups formed around certain editors. A case in point, over the last couple of columns, I’ve been looking at the Golden Age of SF, which is generally regarded as beginning with John W. Campbell Jr.’s rein at Astounding. Campbell’s star was bright and enduring, but it lost its innovative edge. H.L. Gold, I think, deserves more attention for his role during the Golden Age, as his magazine Galaxy Science Fiction provided some of the genre’s most enduring classics.
Go read Changing the Playing Field: H.L. Gold & Galaxy Science Fiction over on the Kirkus Reviews blog!
Earlier this week, SF Grandmaster Jack Vance passed away at the age of 96. His writing career lasted over six decades, and he’s known for his fantastic world building in addition to his enormous volume of works. I wrote about this at the Kirkus Reviews Blog. Go read Jack Vance, Inventor of Worlds.
Last year, I picked up and read The Stars My Destination for the first time. It’s an astonishing book, one that I alternatively wish that I’d read it earlier, and that I’m glad that I read it now, with the capabilities to really get how important of a book it is. I’ve been waiting to get to Bester for a while now.
Over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog today: The Nomadic Alfred Bester, Renaissance Man.
One of the interesting things that I came across recently was the story of the Futurians at the 1st WorldCon in 1939. The Futurians were a legendary group of fans – quite a few notable authors came out of their ranks over the years, and it looked like an interesting story, one that was far more complicated than I thought.
Go read about it at the Kirkus Reviews blog: The Futurians and the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention.