Saturday, December 01, 2007

Roll Up, Roll Up!

Ellen Datlow has just send me this retrotastic Barnum and Bailey style cover for her upcoming anthology (I know the title implies that it’s Del Rey’s, God bless ‘em all, but it wouldn’t have happened without Ellen). It includes a novelette (20,000 words: that’s a novelette, right? I’m a bit vague about the taxonomy) that Kim Newman and I wrote together. And 15 other original stories selected by one of the finest editors in the field. Here’s the list of contents. Pretty damn good, huh?

Introduction Ellen Datlow
The Elephant Ironclads Jason Stoddard
Ardent Clouds Lucy Sussex
Gather Christopher Rowe
Sonny Liston Takes the Fall Elizabeth Bear
North American Lake Monsters Nathan Ballingrud
All Washed Up While Looking for a Better World Carol Emshwiller
Special Economics Maureen McHugh
Aka Saint Marks Place Richard Bowes
The Goosle Margo Lanagan
Shira Lavie Tidhar
The Passion of Azazel Barry N. Malzberg
The Lagerstätte Laird Barron
Gladiolus Exposed Anna Tambour
Daltharee Jeffrey Ford
Jimmy Pat Cadigan
Prisoners of the Action Paul McAuley and Kim Newman

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pure Pulp

Another of my Woolworths finds, and one of my first encounters with raw, primeval space opera. Published in 1968, the stories date from a decade earlier; my favourite is still Edmond Hamilton’s ‘The Starcombers’, which has all the tropes (vagabond starsailors attempting to make a living in a state of pure and untrammelled capitalism, ancient alien artifacts, a ferociously strange niche in a dying world) of the pure quill. The Easy Eye gimmick is long-forgotten; it does actually work, but large type means more pages than usual, which probably wasn’t a great economic model in the cutthroat world of pulp publishing.

I can’t now remember if I bought more short story collections than novels because I preferred collections, or if there were fewer novels on offer. Long exposure to the publishing industry suggests the latter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The House On Amherst Avenue

Rick McGrath's search for J.G. Ballard’s childhood home in Shanghai.

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here...

When I was a teenager, living in a small town and too impoverished to buy new books, my only source of SF apart from the local library was the dump bin of the local Woolworths, which contained a headily promiscuous mix of all kinds of imported and startlingly cheap US paperbacks. That’s where I picked up The Asylum World, mesmerized by the disturbingly psychotic cover. John Jakes is best known as the author of bestselling Bicentennial series, about American history seen through the lens of a single family, but before that success he wrote scads of fantasy and SF, including this swift, bleak satire. Published in 1969, it describes the travails of a delegation of Martian colonists on a diplomatic visit to Earth. Jakes is very good at the violent seediness of a New York turned into an insane asylum, which wasn’t much different from the contemporary actuality. He’s pretty good on the laviscious corruption of Earth’s politicians, too; the president is an idiot puppet of his Secretary. Sound familiar?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mastermind Of Horror

Published in 1965, this collection is Fontana paperback’s second attempt to reinvent H.G. Wells as a horror writer; the first was The Valley of Spiders. Mind you, with ‘The Cone’ they definitely had a point:

He clung, crying, to the chain, pulling himself up from the burning of the cone . . . A rush of suffocating gas whooped up at him and when the momentary red had passed . . . there was a charred, blackened figure, its head streaked with blood, clutching and fumbling at the chain - and writhing in agony . . .

This vividly nasty little squib about revenge and a blast furnace really spooked me when I first encountered it, age 11, in one of the green-backed volumes of the Everyman edition of Wells’s work. Not only because Wells describes the torment of the furnace owner’s rival with an almost indecent relish, but also because I happened to live next door to a small iron foundry, and never again could look at its smelter with the same innocence.
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