No, the title doesn’t refer to the release of Todd Fahnestock’s Lorelle of the Dark. That one’s only 4 days, 4 hours, and 38 minutes away.
If you haven’t heard it’s the direct sequel to Khyven the Unkillable. By the way, you may notice that Khyvenhas a new cover, and it might get yet another at the end of the month. It is currently a finalist for the Colorado Book of the Year, which will get announced at the end of the month.
Speaking of which, if you have put in your nominations, you should go do so. Here’s the link: dragoncon.org/awards/.
Anyway, this week’s title refers to the running joke of late between me and my sweetie. That’s how much time we have left to “escape.” She even downloaded an app that will give the time down to the seconds.
We have similar, dark senses of humor, which is why we’re suited to each other.
Anyway, this past week has been wedding prep and editing primarily. I did get one day of writing in, but no more. Things will switch down the road, though.
At Lilies, I’ll be doing a bunch of work but not on my computer. Just to let you all know, I will probably do a placeholder update in two weeks, as I’ll still be there.
Tonight, though, there’s more editing.
What I’m Listening To
Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, the full 22:40 minute long song. I love the short version that you hear on the radio, but the full version is so much more
Quote of the Week
Today is Keith Laumer’s birthday. He was one of the greats and sometimes doesn’t get enough recognition. The Retief series is brilliant space opera satire. The list of authors who’ve written in his Bolo Universe is like looking at the 1927 Yankee lineup, a huge list of all-timers.
Anyway, here’s a quote that has always been true.
“Baby, after considerable thought I’ve reached the conclusion that the only conceivable legitimate answer to the Universe as constituted is a peal of hysterical laughter.”
The theme is Bonds of Valor, and you story must include deeds of valor centered around bonds between characters. This could be a romantic relationship, a buddy adventure, oaths to kings, or whatever you can come up with.
Deadline: November 30th, 2022
Word Count: 7-10,000 words
Specifics: Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1.5 line spaced.
It must also be a fantasy story. Any type is welcome, urban, epic, high, western, gothic, whatever, it just have to have magic. Finally, it cannot have been published anywhere else before.
I’m currently working on The Forgotten King, the next Eldros Legacy novel.
For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.
This week’s interview comes from Quincy J. Allen, a fantastic author who’s already made a name for himself though I think he’s still a rising star. His story is a Fistful of Silver, set in his Guardians of Pelinon universe, and it’s something as if Raymond Chandler wrote Sparhawk instead of David Eddings. Needless to say, I loved it.
Interview: QJ Allen
Why are you here?
What are your influences?
Jullian May, Robert Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Keith Laumer, Jack Chalker, Kenneth C. Flint, Poul Anderson, Steven Brust
Who are some favorite other creators?
Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), Frank Herbert (Dune), Olaf Stapledon (Last and First Men), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Jon Favreau (EVERYTHING)
What made you a creator in the first place?
Seriously, though, I wrote my first fiction story in the 3rd or 4th grade. I’ve always written. Writing got me through primary, secondary, Bachelors, and Masters education. It was always there in every professional job I ever had. And when I got RIFed in 2009, it made more sense to just try and be a professional writer.
Why did you choose to create what you create?
As a boy, I read the Jupiter Jones mysteries and loved them. A few years later, my older brother handed me his copy of “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame,” and I was hooked. There was no going back, and I devoured science fiction and sci-fi crossed with others from there on out. I read fantasy, but my staple was science fiction. When I discovered Julian May’s “The Many Colored Land” series, which is pure cross genre between sci-fi and fantasy, I truly fell in love. So, I’ve written what I love as much as possible.
What would someday like to create.
The entire Blood War Chronicles series of six books is a setup so that I can write Skeeter’s story as a 30-year-old airship privateer captain gunslinger sorceress engineer. So, that will be a thing. I also plan on writing a three-book series set in that same universe that connects the three great fires of the 19th century via a Jesuit witch/demon hunter. I’ll be writing a powered armor series as well as a new fantasy series involving druids. But I have to get my current commitments behind me, and that’s no mean feat.
Describe your great Lab of Creation?
Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop?
I take my laptop everywhere when I travel with my wife. She travels for her job, so I sometimes get to tag along for free trips. She has mad hotel and airline points. My actual workspace, however, is in our two story shop in the back yard. It triples as her sewing room, my actual work shop for carpentry, repairs, leather working, and whatnot, as well as a three-monitor workstation where I used to also run a small book design and author collateral marketing business. I spend most of my waking time out in a shop so I can open the doors in the summer and use the kerosene heater in the winter.
Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples.
I’ve never been able to work without music. It drove my old man crazy when I was a kid, but that part wasn’t negotiable. The first thing I do when I get into the shop is fire up Pandora. As to my music tastes, they’re more expansive than anyone I’ve ever met, and they can be quite eclectic. On any give day, you can hear Pentatonix, Joe Bonamassa, The Hu (Mongolian death metal), Steely Dan, Steam Powered Giraffe, Bach, Mozart, Five Finger Death Punch, electronica, daft punk, techno, Celtic—pretty much everything except modern country twang and most rap. Those two are a hard no, Bob.
What other things exist in your productive environment?
Cigars and my tobacco pipe. I work better with them. Oh, and COFFEE. Always coffee in the morning. And whenever I can manage it, fresh air and the sound of birds. Our house is surrounded by trees here in North Carolina. I come from Colorado, where there aren’t many trees until you get to the mountains. Here, it’s pretty much a friggin bird sanctuary, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the Carolinas.
What things have you tried that haven’t worked?
Romance writing, for one. I don’t have a knack for literary fiction either. That stuff bores the shit out of me. I’ve written variations on just about all of the genres, however. Science fiction, mystery, noir, fantasy, steampunk, horror, speculative… most of my stories mix at least two of those.
What are your superpowers?
What kinds of things do you like in your creations?
I’ve been told (and I agree) that I do three things fairly well. Fight scenes, dialogue, and descriptions. I’ve also been honing my skills with world building, and I think I’ve finally gotten pretty good at that. If I had to pick one, though, it would probably be hand-to-hand fight scenes. I used to train in martial arts pretty heavily, even with a marine and a Green Beret. I can see a fight in my head, and that seems to translate pretty well to the written word. That’s the rumor, at least.
What are specific techniques you do well?
I’ve done it on three separate instances, and in all of them, the process was smooth and the output worth the effort. I’ve gotten pretty good at outlining as a result of those projects, although my outlines become a mix of bullet points and dialogue. I’ve also gotten pretty good at popping up prose with a more active voice. There are hiccups from time to time, but I’ve mostly broken myself of the passive voice devil.
What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome?
One certainly was passive voice. Also, as a result of working with Marc Edelheit, I’ve gotten much better at flowing from one scene into the next. Looking back, I think there were pieces of a story that I skipped over. The result wasn’t jarring, per se, but what I’m doing now is much smoother as one reads through my prose. Also, I think I’ve gotten at least competent as capturing a single, targeted emotion that I want the reader to experience by the end of a story. Most of the time, especially in my short fiction, I strive to make the reader “feel” something very specific. Be it honor or sacrifice or duty or whatever, I’ve learned to write entire stories so that most of the prose leads to that experience.
What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?
What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you?
The first is sticking with a writing career when sales are lackluster or even worse. A perfect example is the Blood War Chronicles. They’re good books, with good reviews, but they haven’t created the revenue stream I’d hoped for. In fact, I’ve been at this game for ten—make that eleven—years now, and I can’t say that I earn a living with my writing. I think that’s the hardest part for most writers: sticking with this game even when you’re not selling. I often joke with a writer friend of mine, Aaron Ritchey, about how we’re “living the dream.” But that dream is the joke. We keep writing, we keep not selling the way we would like, and yet we keep writing. I think the other is that I’m really proud of at least a few short stories (Family Heirloom, Salting Dogwood, Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebels of Hayberry, and a few others, that I think are exceptional short stories, but they’ve never really been acknowledged for what I “think” they are. Granted, I have a bias, but I believe those stories are truly noteworthy.
Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons?
From a monetary perspective, I think you could call everything I ever wrote in the first nine years of my career (except one story I wrote for Larry Correia’s MHI franchise) as failures. None of them came close to providing an ROI on the time I’ve invested in them. However, that’s hasn’t slowed me down. And that’s the lesson, one I think most writers could learn from. If you keep going and keep getting better, eventually you’re bound to gain momentum. My work in recent years with Marc Edelheit, Kevin Ikenberry, and CKP are a testament to that. Last year and this year are seeing actual returns on my investment of time. The trick is to keep going and always hone your craft.
How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?
I take Eric Flint’s advice. There is no writer’s block. You keep writing, because it’s your job. Either you are a writer and you write, or you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t want to earn a living at this mad career choice.
Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making?
I’ve said this at cons and in panels dozens of times: “Don’t let the nay-sayers win.” I grew up hearing the phrase, “What? You want to be a starving artist the rest of your life.” As a young man, I listened to this “advice.” If I had started in earnest at 20 what I ended up starting at 43, I’d already be earning a living at this game. It just takes time and determination, so long as you keep getting better. So, to any writer who hears/reads this, when someone questions your desire to become a writer, just tell them to fuck off. Keep going, make sure your bills are paid, keep your bills low, and DON’T QUIT.
If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be?
See above. That’s the best advice anyone in this crazy game could receive. Writers have enough doubt and imposter syndrome without getting it from outside sources. Find ways to kick the nay-sayers to the curb.
Favorite Muppet? Animal, of course. Oh, and Sam the Eagle.
Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Ian Moore and Joe Bonamassa.
Favorite Superhero? Both the Punisher and Deadpool in a perfect tie.
Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python
Favorite Weird Color? Teal
Favorite Sports Team? Sidney Swans
Best Game Ever? Halo, OF COURSE. That and Mass Effect.
Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? I fucking HATE snow and delight when it dies.
Best Present You’ve Ever Received? My 2016 Moto Guzzi Audace. Vicki got that for me for my birthday last year. Nothing else compares.
What Cartoon Character Are You? Did they make Roy Batty into a cartoon? If so, him. If not, I guess I’d have to say the dog Marc Antony in the old Warner Brother’s cartoon “Feed the Kitty.” Ask Vicki, she’ll tell you.
Your Wrestler Name? Wrath
Your Signature Wrestling Move? The Smash. A single fist to the crown of someone’s skull. REALLY hard.
What Do You Secretly Plot? Convincing Vicki that we need an AR-10 and a Marlin .357 lever action rifle in the house.
How Will You Conquer the World? By eliminating deceit everywhere.
Best Thing From the 80s? 11:59:50 pm on 12/31/1989 — the nightmare was over.
Favorite Historical Period? The Renaissance and dawn of looking to the stars as stars, not “the Heavens.”
Most Interesting Person In History? The alien that gave humans blue eyes.
Steak Temperature? Medium rare… or I’ll cut you.
Favorite Chip Dip? Really good 7-layer dip.
Favorite Cereal? As a kid, Honeycomb. Now, Honey Bunches of Oats topped with sliced peaches rather than milk.
What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Pad Thai made by Vicki’s son, and it was REALLY good. We’re all cooks around here.
Beverage(s) of Choice? Arnold Palmer, Costco flavored seltzer, Tennesee Mules, Margaritas, and COFFEE, lots of COFFEE.
Do You Have Pets? He was Vicki’s dog before I moved in, but he’s my dog too, and he’s the best hound I’ve ever known.
What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Rutger Hauer when he was younger and not dead?
What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Favorite food(s), nemesis, favorite vice, Commandments broken or Deadly Sins enjoyed.
Upcoming Projects: “Forging Destiny” – Book 2 of The Way of Legend with Marc Edelheit, “Scourge” – Book 2 of Hr’ent’s tale with Kevin Ikenberry, “Blood World” – Book 4 of The Blood War Chronicles, a Vorwhol novel for Kevin Steverson in his Salvage universe, and a novelization of the short story “Cradle and All” in Jamie Ibson’s universe.
And where can we find you?
Do you have a creator biography?
National Bestselling Author Quincy J. Allen is a cross-genre author with a growing number of published novels under his belt. His media tie-in novel Colt the Outlander: Shadow of Ruin was a Scribe Award finalist in 2019, and his noir novel Chemical Burn was a Colorado Gold Award finalist in 2010.
Blood Oath, book 3 of his Blood War Chronicles series, debuted in February of 2019, and he is working on the fourth book in that six-book fantasy steampunk series, entitled Blood World, due out in 2020.
He co-authored the fantasy novel Reclaiming Honor with Marc Alan Edelheit in their Way of Legend series, released in October of 2019, and he is currently working on book 2 of that series. In November of 2019, he and Kevin Ikenberry published the novel Enforcer, which is set in the Four Horsemen Universe and is part of Ikenberry’s Peacemaker series. He is currently working on a novel for Kevin Steverson’s Salvage Title universe based upon the short story “Vorwhol Dishonor.”
His short story publications are numerous, including a pro sale appearing in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter: Files from Baen, published in October of 2017 entitled “Sons of the Father,” as well as several pro-sale novelettes appearing in Chris Kennedy Publishing’s mil-sci-fi anthologies in and out of the Four Horsemen Universe. He also has two short story collections in his Out Through the Attic series, and he continues to add to his short-story credits with each passing year.
He works out of his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and hopes to one day be a New York Times bestselling author.
Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?
You should have asked if I only work alone or do I have a support mechanism? What keeps me going?
Then I’d answer that Vicki is my anchor and more supportive of my writing career than anyone else in my entire life.
Thanks to Quincy for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.
Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.
Frankly, this was probably my least favorite issue I’ve read so far. I didn’t care for any of the stories except one, none of the ads were fun, and nothing else appealed to me. Hence, I’m just going to give you a cursory review. I’ve got things to write in None Call Me Mother instead of drearily going over these stories.
The cover story is The Visitor at the Zoo by Damon Knight. You know Knight at least because of To Serve Man, a fantastic short story from 1950. Visitor was not his best effort. The cause of the conflict is never adequately explained, it ran too long, and the twist at the end was predictable.
Worse, I can’t root for the main character. He’s a moderately intelligent alien in a zoo who has his brain somehow transplanted into the mind of a passing journalist. We are meant to root for him because he’s got a chance to get out of the zoo where he had been trapped. I empathized with that aspect, but the journalist was simply an innocent tourist, who lost everything. There’s little in the story of sympathy for him, and in the end, the creature chooses not to exchange positions and return to the way it was.
I can both reject the legitimacy of the zoo and at the same time despise the selfishness of the main character. And I do. I said this wasn’t Knight’s best effort. I sure hope it was his worst, because I really disliked it.
On the Fourth Planet by J.F. Bone was the only story to be reprinted often. It was about an alien struggling for life in a desolate world with the remnants of his people. It’s a hard life, and the law doesn’t allow for much leniency. Unfortunately for this alien, he runs into an object that hasn’t been there before. It fills him with food and hope. It also returns to him the cellular memory of his people, suggesting a way they can grow out of their barbarism. As you can probably guess by the title, it’s a NASA rocket that has landed on Mars.
The best story of the lot, by far. However, it’s not a great one, just a good solid story that in a better issue would have seemed like a nice supporting piece. Here, it was drug down by the awful cover story.
I suspect I’ll really like the June 1963 issue, if I every run into it. It has stories by Clifford D. Simak, Gordon R. Dickson, Keith Laumer, and John Jakes. This issue, however, was not my cup of tea.
Next week I’ll review the Imaginative Tales from September, 1955. It has a story by Mack Reynolds and an interesting thing I wish more magazines had done.
Greetings all. This week I’m reviewing the Analog of July 1962. The cover story in this is John Brunner’sListen! The Stars! and I love the cover art designed for it. It includes a good essay by John W. Campbell and a work by James H. Schmitz. Side note, I’ve already reviewed the issue immediately after this one. You can find that review here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. This will be especially relevant since Mack Reynolds had a two-part story, with part one in this one and the second over there.
The first article in this episode is What’s Wrong With Science by John W. Campbell. This is a distressing article, as it details things that are currently wrong in the scientific process, which means those problems are at least nearly sixty years in the making. Basically, he says that scientists are hamstrung by the process, which forces them to come up with answers that often fit the existing models that most scientists accept. Given that new research often radically changes or even replaces existing models, this means that such new research isn’t even allowed to be tried, because if it succeeds, it means that all the previous investment was wrong. Now, it’s as if instead of religious reactionaries wanting to execute Galileo, established scientists would execute him.
Sadly, I fear that this problem is even worse now, given examples I have seen.
The cover story Listen! The Stars! by John Brunner was fantastic. We discover a gadget that lets us listen to electromagnetic energy from other stars. In general these noises are not intelligible but there’s enough of a hint of something more, like hearing alien languages, that people keep listening. They’re hoping that they can understand that half-heard word they’re so tantalizingly close to comprehending.
This causes a number of societal issues, because that hope acts much like a drug. Addicts and acolytes, thieves and thespians. Worse, however, are the unexplained disappearances that seemed to be caused by “stardropping,” or eavesdropping on stars.
Dan Cross is a member of the UN Special Agency tasked to discover threats to peace. Basically, they’re trying to prevent the US and Russia from tossing their nukes at each other. The stardropping craze has finally come to their attention and he’s delving through the possibilities.
However, he and his agency are too late. Others have actually comprehended the science within what they find stardropping, science based essentially Einstein’s spooky action at a distance idea. This leads to both teleportation and telekinesis.
In the end, those who have discovered the potential from stardropping have generally unified together across the world. When the crisis happens, they reveal themselves with the intent to start the very war that Cross is tasked to protect. However, with their use of teleportation and telekinesis, they are easily able to distribute the atoms and particles of all the nuclear warheads and biological/chemical agents into the vastnesses of interstellar space.
The hint is that this will free humanity from its parochial differences and chase the stars, which are now within reach from their teleportative abilities.
It’s idealistic message fiction, promising a utopia that seems impossible for humanity. However, it’s also a fantastic story, filled with action and suspense. It’s also got enough hard science that it seems plausible.
Next is their announcement of things to come in the next issue. I won’t relate it here, but instead give you that link to my review again: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579.
Then comes a single page on a scientific discussion of laser development by GE. As is often the case reading these magazines, it’s fascinating to read these sort of discussions. They provide a snapshot, in this case, of the development of lasers 57 years ago. I suspect anyone actually in the field, would find it very interesting.
Next is Junior Achievement by William Lee. I can’t find much about him. It is entirely possible that’s a pseudonym. One of his stories, A Message for Charity, was well-received. It has been republished a number of time and was turned into a Twilight Zone episode. However, very little else was published under this name.
Which is too bad. I rather enjoyed Junior Achievement, especially since at one time I was heavily involved in the organization. However, I didn’t have five geniuses to work with. In this case, they all come up with some new invention and the local science teacher, who is smart but not a genius, cannot quite keep up with them.
The only problem with this story is that it was more a narrative than a story. There wasn’t much of a buildup. No real crisis/climax. Instead, it went off at a rollicking pace of the kids involved making things happen and always succeeding. It was set in a town that had needed to be moved after some unexplained nuclear accident, so there’s some hint of genetic mutation, but not much, and that aspect only seems to be in the story to explain why the teacher is so poor. He has to pay two mortgages, one for the old house that’s in the fallout zone, and one for the new house. It’s an enjoyable story, but leaves you wanting more, like an ephemeral treat.
I was not disappointed. It starts with a scientist getting an alert. Then we discover he’s not just a scientist, but a member of a secret plot against humanity’s Federation involving 1200 people. These people are, in fact, aliens who were experts in genetics. They genetically raised these 1200 to be indistinguishable from humans. That would allow them to come into the Federation and create a bio-weapon that would devastate it, allowing their alien species to take over.
The scientist escapes with his three closest allies. At least, they think they escape. However, the Federation has set an elaborate trap for these 1200. They know them all because those 1200 have only 3 brain wave patterns, and are thus identified. Once captured, the 1200 are subjected to detailed scrutiny, most while they’re unconscious.
At this point, I was disappointed in the story. The initial start, with its evasion and capture, was really good, but immediately after that comes a disembodied voice explaining the plot. A series of exposition that would do Hercule Poirot proud, but in the context of a short story, takes too long.
But every once in a while, exposition can be the story, and this is the case here. Schmitz set us up to create espionage feel fighting the evil government bad guy, but the exposition reveals the truth at the very end.
The alien species was too successful. The beings it genetically created to be humans, were, in fact, human. None of the 1200 are actually going through with the bioweapon plan, instead doing something else that actually benefits humanity. The final line, which is spoken by the supposed government bad guy is fantastic: “You’ve regarded yourselves as human beings, and believed that your place among us. And we can only agree.”
It’s interesting how a really good writer can make something that shouldn’t work actually do so.
This is one of his essays about understanding the brain. There’s a lot in here that I don’t know enough to appreciate. It does talk about some of the imagined possibilities, which are not dissimilar to ideas talked about today. It’s fascinating in it’s own right that 57 years ago people were talking about implanted electrodes to increase communication between brains, tracking health status, and so on. Basically, he’s talking about implants here which even then promised “unexpected marvels and possible horrors.”
I actually skipped the next story Border, Breed Nor Birth by Mack Reynolds. I tried to read it, but I have already read Part II of this story. Worse, I really didn’t like the way the story ends. Again, you can find that in the review here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1579. It’s hard to connect with characters when you already know your not going to like the story, especially the ending. It was like watching a horror movie, knowing the kids are all going to do stupid stuff that makes it more likely the slasher’s going to get them. I don’t like watching them, either.
Anyway, I’m going to move on to the Analytical Library. I find this fascinating as it’s an attempt to objectively quantify what the readers want. It’s essentially much like a modern Amazon/Goodreads rating system. There’s also a bonus attached of an extra cent per word to the winning author, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
What I learned in this version of the AnalyticalLibrary is that I really need to read the March, 1962 issue. Poul Anderson’sEpilogue beat Randall Garrett’sHis Master’s Voice. I really like His Master’s Voice, so it’ll be fun to see the first version, but it’ll also be fun to read a story the readers thought was better.
And when I review that issue, I’ll talk about a number of interesting side notes involving Garrett and Anderson.
Anyway, next is The Rescuer by Arthur Porges. Porges was a prolific writer and a mathematician. i suspect my dad, who was a prolific reader and a mathematician, loved his stuff. I know I really liked this one. It’s very short, but also very powerful.
The story starts with a description of the greatest machine ever made, requiring multiple city blocks of space, fusion power, and computer power which might seem laughable now, but which was incredible then.
Then two scientists destroy it.
The story then turns to the preliminary hearing discussing the events that led to the destruction. In this, one of the scientists who destroyed the machine explained himself.
The machine was a time machine and one of the technicians involved in it commandeered the machine for his own purposes. However, he left a note, and the scientists, upon reading that note, decided that it was best to destroy the machine safely than allow the technician to succeed.
And this is where it gets thought-provoking. We’ve all wondered about changing the currents of time, but what if it changed so much more?
The technician is going back in time with a modern weapon and ammunition to prevent Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and execution. If Jesus had to die to save humans from their sins and that doesn’t happen, what next? Basically, it asks the question of all of us: Would you save Jesus of Nazareth? What would that do to all of history and to our souls? What a fascinating philosophical question and, as mentioned in the story, the kind of question we all have to answer for ourselves.
The last section, as usual in Analogs, is P. Schuyler Miller’s review section entitled The Reference Library. In this issue, he begins with a scathing discussion of the double-standard applied by publishing companies with respect to writers of SF and “literary” writers who happen to write an SF novel.
He nails something I talk about quite often at conventions. If you’re going to write in another genre you have to have read enough of the genre to understand the existing tropes and methods. In this case, the books in question didn’t get the hard science right, not even close to right. You also have to respect the genre, even if you’re writing a parody of it. Perhaps especially a parody, because if you despise it, your story comes out mean-spirited instead of humorous.
I have to say, this was a darn good issue. It rises in my mind because I didn’t actually read through the Reynolds story, of course, but there’s quite a bit here I’m pleased to have read.
Next week, I’ll read the Fantastic Universe from July, 1957. It has works by August Derleth, Manly Wade Wellman, and Robert Sheckley. Wellman is a familiar name to me not simply because of his speculative fiction, by the way, which I’ll explain next week.
Next Week’s Issue: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?89841
Thanks for reading. I’m off to finish a short story for James L. Young.
If you have any comments or would like to request I keep my eyes open for a specific issue or month, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: email@example.com.
It’s been a while since I did a magazine review, so I’ll explain what I’m doing. I have a goodly amount of Analogs, Amazings, Astoundings, and a bunch of other SF/F magazines from the 30s to the 70s. I’m going to read one a week and give you my review. I’ll be looking at everything, including the ads, because there’s lots of fun things to see in these. Also, I’ll be linking everything I can, usually from the fantastic Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
This week I’ll be reviewing the “Worlds of If” from October, 1971. This was an exciting issue to read for me because it included both a Stainless Steel Rat story and a Retief story. Not surprisingly, the theme for this issue is “insouciant.”
Table of Contents: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?58836
This isn’t my favorite cover art of all time, but it is such a great example of the powerful, evocative art that is on so many covers. It’s kinetic, which now that I think about it is probably the best way to describe the goal of these magazines.
The ads on the interior covers of these magazines are often delightful. This issue’s is no exception. It leads with the questions: “Can Freddie Fong Fine save the world? If so, should he?” OK, you got me to look. It’s an ad for Richard Lupoff’sSacred Locomotive Files, which includes not only the titular locomotive, but also, among many things, a hyponuclear submarine (which sounds cool), Mavis Montreal the groupie, and “other denizens and features of the world of 1985.” I certainly wish Lupoff had accurately predicted 1985, because my junior year in high school was nowhere near that interesting.
The first section is Hue and Cry, the letters to the editor. The best letter was by a geology student taking issue with A. Bertram Chandler’s use of the word “extrusion” with relation to granite. Indeed, she “leaped up in horror!” upon seeing that usage. She concludes with a truly dire curse: “May the next koala bear Mr. Chandler meets eye him with reproachment.”
The first story is The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison. The Stainless Steel Rat is a fantastic character so I was really looking forward to this story, especially since I hadn’t actually read this one before. In the story someone is going back in time to change the upstream to kill off the entire Special Corps. Slippery Jim is just the man to get sent back in time to return time to its proper course.
The Rat gets sent back to 1984 with the help of Professor Coypu’s Helix. Things happen in a rush, of course, and he is sent back in time with all the equipment that they can throw at him. Gotta love the toys the Rat’s toys.
He arrives in 1984 and quickly gets himself a criminal associate. They rob a bank, but the associate leaves the Rat in the lurch. The Rat steals a police car in order to escape. Eventually he ends up in the hands of the mastermind, and only by the aid of the special potion hidden in one of his teeth that turns him into a superman is he able to escape. He turns the tables and defeats the evil mastermind and thereby saves the world.
I expect the Rat to have a useful gadget for every occasion, even though more often than not it is first mentioned right when he needs that precise thing. For some reason though, this particular tool bothered me. Supermen, even temporary ones, don’t work as well for me as the gadgets.
That kicked me out of the story for a moment, and the joy of Stainless Steel Rat stories is that you put your seat belt on and get taken for a roller-coaster ride. This is probably my least favorite Rat story, which means I liked it but didn’t love it.
Side note. When I roam through the ISFDB or other pages as I do these reviews, I come across various interesting things here and there. I now know that “acciaio” is stainless steel in Italian. In Dutch? Well that’s “roestvrij staal.” I’m sure one of those will provide the answer for Final Jeopardy one of these days.
I’m a fan of the Stainless Steel Rat, but I’m a fanatic about Jame Retief, who stars in the next story. The All-Together Planet by Keith Laumer is a Retief story I’ve never read, which is a surprise, since I thought I had all the Retief books and collections.
Another uncovered tidbit: Laumer always pictured Retief as having black hair and looking something like Cary Grant. Hence, he didn’t like the covers from the 1980s Baen reprints where Retief is blond. In fact, those covers of him were based on Corbin Bernsen. Now I have this vision of Jame Retief playing third base for the Cleveland Indians in Major League.
Anyway, this is all that one wants from a Retief story. The Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne has sent him and Magnan to a planet with an odd species, the Lumbagans, that evolves as separate body parts which gather together beginning with a group of ten. These parts can be anything, legs, arms, eyes, spleens, whatever, but the initial critical mass is ten parts. That’s a Singleton. Two of them get together and you have a Dubb. Two Dubbs can join together to become a Trip, and then two Trips can amalgamate and become the pinnacle of evolution, a Quad.
As usual, the Groaci are trying to gain control of the planet. Retief navigates with his usual wit and skill through the normal Groaci diplomatic corps, but finds one of their leaders, Ussh, to be unusually elusive.
Eventually Retief tracks Ussh down to discover he’s one of the largest Groaci he’s ever met before. Ussh is also more ambitious than most Groaci, which is saying something. He actually wants to rule the galaxy and his plan includes breeding Lumbagans to make a modular army of sorts.
As usual, Retief gathers allies among the locals, Gloot and Ignarp. At the end, in prison, he comes up with a desperate plan, one that leaves his allies in horror. Retief has figured out that Ussh is not a Groaci at all, but a super Lumbagan who is an amalgamation of two Quads who merely arranged his appearance to look like a Groaci. He tells Gloot and Ignarp that the only way to defeat Ussh is for them to combine as well, giving them equal powers to the mighty Ussh. They name themselves Lucael, which Retief agrees is “better than Michifer.”
Lucael and Retief head off to face Ussh and the Lumbagan emperor. In the end, it turns out that the emperor is essentially mindless and is completely controlled by Ussh. However, this taxes even the power of a super-Lumbagan, especially when faced with one who is just as powerful. In true Retief fashion, he manipulates the scene to expose the fraud, allowing Lucael to split Ussh back to his constituent Lumbagans.
At that poing Lucael assumes the throne and makes several proclamations, including telling all foreigners to stop meddling in Lumbagan affairs or “be shipped home in a box,” much to the horror of both the Groaci and CDT (except, of course, Retief). Then he declares all laws illegal, “including this one.” At the end, Lucael promises their emperor will return, should the need arise.
Then Lucael disappears to Ignarp and Gloot can separate back into themselves. But fear not for them, they take positions in the newly-created government-in-exile, “the only place for a government to be.”
No mere review can properly convey the sly subtleties that Laumer slides in. You may not be able to read this particular story, but I suggest you find a Retief story somewhere and remember the absurdity of bureaucracies.
The next story is To Kill a Venusian by Irwin Ross. This is the third and last story Ross ever published in a SF magazine. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not a pleasant one. Ross plagiarized To Kill a Venusian from Anthony Boucher’s story Nine-Finger Jack published in 1952 and no magazine ever published anything else by Ross.
The story basically involves a serial killer, who discovers his latest wife is actually a Venusian, who can’t be killed with any method known to humans. Ultimately, he discovers that human flesh is a deadly poison to them, and he escapes by killing the Venusian wife by cutting off his finger and putting it into their food. Gruesome and fun. Nice job by Boucher in 1952.
Anyway, next we move to One Moment in the Sand by Barry Weissman. In this we have a variety of people scrabbling about in a post-Apocalyptic world. These people are fantastically changed, though, including one who is a red dragon.
They find a cave and start exploring. The find a cave with a lot of oldtime equipment, including a large pillar. They start playing with it all. One presses a button causing lights to flash and sirens to wail. They keep pressing things and ultimately the large pillar ignites, burning them all and launching, for it’s an ICBM. It comes down on a farm halfway across the world.
All in all, not my favorite. It was less a story than a vehicle to say that nuclear weapons are bad. For message fiction to work, it has to be a good story, and this wasn’t.
Next we turn to After the End and Before the Beginning by William Rotsler. I will say that this magazine had some interesting authors, as Rotsler was also a writer, director, and actor in about two dozen porno movies as well as an illustrator in SF fanzines along with his SF writing.
This story is also message fiction in its own way, but far better written. It’s also set in a post-Apocalyptic world, one where the Earth has essentially been covered in buildings but the civilization has foundered. Dagger, the main character, is the leader of one of the many roving gangs.
Along the way, he finds a girl he wants to take so he chases her. Initially, he kidnaps her but eventually convinces her to come with him because one of his gang has books and knows how to read. He tells her of pirates and Robin Hood. In the end, he promises her he will read books to her. He’s not sure how he’ll do that, but he knows he will. The message is that reading will change your life in ways you never anticipate.
A solid story, with action and character growth. It’s not one that would win awards, but it’s worth reading.
Lester del Rey provides his list of reviews next in his Reading Room. He starts this with a discussion on the importance to SF readers and writers to read a wide variety of things, not just SF but fantasy, mystery, history, and everything else one can. The most interesting review in here was a collection called simply The Pulps edited by Tony Goodstone. This includes a bunch of pulp covers as well as fifty pulp stories, including a couple SF titles, some Lovecraft, The Shadow, Doc Savage, and a supernatural story from Tennessee Williams. This looks fun and I’ll probably get a copy one of these days.
The science article in this magazine is an essay by L. Sprague de Camp called Death Comes to the Megafauna. It’s a study of the possible reasons why megafauna disappeared. I would guess that in the half-century since he wrote this there have been many discoveries to answer and inform his questions, but I’m not knowledgeable enough in this field to be able to pick through this properly. These science essays provide a lens to see the process and growth of a discipline, and I suspect people in this field would really find fun connections. Not so for me, I’m afraid, though I did learn some places to look when I write a story about megafauna.
The story centers around Starfinder, a man with blood on his hands, including the spacewhales, who he hunted to make ships for men. He had achieved some absolution by saving one whale from death, but now has new blood on his hands.
The spacewhales dive into the Sea of Time, which the Starfinder discovers is a passage as well to Tartarus. The Erinyes board the vessel to damn him for his guilt. The fight not only goes between him and the Furies, but also with the spacewhale, who resents the human’s attempts to master him. In the end, they become friends and allies.
This is one of those frustrating stories that I could really love, but the arc felt rushed. The conflict resolved itself too quickly, especially after the excellent setup including the Erinyes. If he’d have had time, I bet Young could have had Starfinder face each of the Furies in turn, dealing with each of their specialties, and at the same expanding on the transition from uneasy allies to friends, which felt forced and hurried.
This is not an uncommon problem in SF magazines, and of course many of these are expanded from shorts to novels and novelettes. I’m going to look for more from Young to see if he expanded on the story, because the idea of the spacewhales is really cool.
Lastly, we come to the SF Calendar, which is a list of upcoming SF conventions. If I ever create a time machine, I’m definitely going back to some early conventions.
Overall, this was a very good issue, but not a great one. The Retief story brought it close, but the other stories didn’t quite carry enough of the load to put it in the absolute top tier. Say, an 8 or even an 8.5.
I have a decent sized collection of science fiction and fantasy magazines from the late 30s to the 70s. It may not look like much from here, but there’s a second layer behind each of these stacks. There’s about 700 of them, all told. And since I tend to keep my eyes open for new caches, I’m sure there’ll be more sooner or later.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to read one each week, picked basically at random, and then review it. Not only will I comment on the stories in each issue, but I’ll comment on ads and anything that catches my interest.
Oh, one other thing. There will be spoilers. I am writing these with the expectation that few of you will ever get a chance to read most of the stories and I don’t want to leave you hanging. If I get enough comments that suggest you want me to leave the spoilers out, I will, but for now, consider yourself warned.
Spaceway‘s entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Ficton is here: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/spaceway. As you’ll see from this page, Spaceway was a minor magazine which held few works by big name authors. Still, there might be a treasure or two. Let’s find out.
It begins with a novelette, X of Mizar by Arthur J. Burks. Burks was an interesting guy who left the Marine Corps in 1928 to write full time. He returned to the USMC during World War II, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. In terms of his writing, he was prolific enough to earn the title of the Speed-King of Fiction by one reviewer.
X of Mizar is a creepy tale about a world that’s a living creature in itself. Not only that, it’s much more powerful than humanity. The closest analogy to me is Q from ST:TNG. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for this story. It started with all of the arrogance of Q, but there was little comeuppance. In fact, there was little in the way of conflict. It’s disappointing, because this story had a ton of potential, but was little more than a character’s internal monologue.
Next was The Green Earth Forever by Christopher Monig. Monig was actually a pen name used by Kendell Foster Crossen, who is best known for the Green Lama series. This particular story is a gloomy look at nuclear holocaust. Humanity is pushed to into a holocaust so great it destroys Earth by the species who has been watching us from flying saucers. It’s another disappointment, sadly, as it’s really just a series of events and then the Earth blows up.
That is followed by an essay on hypnotism by A.E. van Vogt. This is clearly part of the research he did while writing The Hypnotism Handbook. Much of this essay praises the research and work of Charles Edward Cooke, who was his co-author on the larger book. There’s an ad for the book later on in the magazine.
The essay wasn’t terribly interesting to me, but the ad for SFCon in 1954 at the end was fun.
And it’s too bad he didn’t write more because this was a fun story. The world has been invaded by a species of, essentially, dopplegangers called Galol. They take over people and no physical study can determine if someone is human or Galol. Once inside people, they serve as a Fifth Column. The solution, therefore, is to find what makes humans have a human personality. To McWhorter, the answer is our sense of humor.
I also love the conclusion.
“‘What beat Henley – what can beat all the Galol if we use it right – is a sense of humor. Laugh; it’s the human thing to do.’
George Morton smiled wearily.
Everyone was very careful to smile back.”
– Spaceway, Vol. 2, No. 1 (June, 1954), p. 65
Let’s see. Have a sense of humor or you get shot. Yeah, I’d be smiling too.
Melvin Sturgis wrote the next story, The Long Night. Again, I can find little about Sturgis, though I did find that he wrote a novel called The Unprotected Species. One of its reviewers said it was, “OK but not outstanding. Somewhat predictable.” To be honest, I felt the same about The Long Night, at least in terms of predictability. It’s a very short story (less than 3 pages) where radioactive smog covers Los Angeles after a nuclear war. Humans have to flee the smog, but rats survive, evolve, and then view the remains of LA in wonder at humanity’s stupidity. More of an info dump than a story.
Atlantis Hallam is the next listed author. What a name! Gotta be a pseudonym, right? That’s just too perfect for a science fiction writer. Well, it’s not entirely, as the author’s full name is Samuel Benoni Atlantis Hallam and he wrote Star Ship on Saddle Mountain.
His entry in Spaceway was a treasure called Martian Pete. It’s a very cute story where the spokesdog of Wooftie Biscuits flees after having an ‘accident’ on live TV. A crewman on a ship heading to Mars gathers him in and takes him to the Red Planet. Pete meets and, after woofing and snapping, befriends one of the local rooks. When Pete is discovered, he is sent back to Earth. The rook decides to stick with his buddy, meaning the crewman is going to be in trouble again, this time for carrying an unregistered animal from Mars to Earth. Fortunately, Colonel Willoughby, the sponsor of Wooftie Biscuits, has missed Pete and it’s a happy ending as he takes them all back. Pure fluff, but impossible not to enjoy.
Spaceway was Forrest J. Ackerman’s baby so it’s not a surprise to see an entry here. He reviews the movie Gog, third in the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) trilogy of movies by Ivan Tors, following The Magnetic Monster (1953) and Riders to the Stars (1954). Ackerman really loves the movie, and now I want to see it. Unfortunately, while Magnetic Monster and Gog are available on DVD, I haven’t found Riders to the Stars. Still, they look good.
Next is The Plague by Albert Hernhunter, whose name is actually Albert Hernhuter. As a guy who grew up loving the 1980s Robin of Sherwood series, I heartily approve of this subtle change.
However, the Plague is a story that has only one saving grace: it’s short with only 3 pages. Basically, it says that humanity tries to destroy another race with a bioweapon, only to find out the bioweapon saves that race from an already existing plague and to then have the plan backfire and destroy humanity. Not my cup of tea, and entirely predictable.
The second novelette is The Uncompromising People by Jim Harmon. Harmon, too, is an interesting guy, known at one time as Mr. Nostalgia. He was also a good writer. I rather enjoyed The Uncompromising People and it had seeds that might very well have influenced other writers.
The story is that Calvin Thomas Moss is a throwback to a sneakier time. He is a conman, a thief, and all-around scoundrel in a time when people have become more honest. That means that he is useful to those in power who need those skills, and once he got caught for a scheme, he was under their thumb.
Facing awful sorts of imprisonment, he ‘agrees’ to go to Vega to help discover why their number of registered voters is decreasing. This is odd because the Vegans, while similar to humans in size and shape, evolved from a rabbit analogue with all the same reproduction rates. Also, they are albinos who aren’t exposed to as much ultraviolet light. Anyway, they believe that not registering to vote is a capital crime. It’s important because manipulating these votes allow the Galactic Federation of Earth to remain in power.
So he gets sent in a rocket that has a computer to help him along the way. And a nuclear warhead to make sure he actually goes to Vega and does his job.
What’s fascinating is that the computer is neurotic just like Marvin the Paranoid Android. Here’s one quote: “‘Go on,’ said the brain. ‘Shut me off. Leave me lifeless, now that I’ve served my purpose, now that you’re through with me…'” (p. 95). I can even hear that in Alan Rickman’s voice from the last Hitchhiker’s movie. It’s so close it makes me wonder if Douglas Adams read this novelette.
But it’s not just that. The story has the same feel as Keith Laumer’sRetief stories. The only real difference is that Retief is never out of control of the situation and Moss is rarely in control until the climactic scene. Admittedly, that’s a big difference in storytelling, but it’s still got that same sly sense of humor and twist.
The answer, by the way, to the population dilemma is that the female Vegans have been impregnating themselves purposefully, meaning they only have daughters. Since only male Vegans are allowed to vote that means the number of voters is decreasing, while the population is expanding.
He tries to report back, but is halted by the paranoid rocket ship, which doesn’t believe that he knows the answer. While they argue, the Vegans catch up to him and are about to kill him, but he uses a Retief-esque trick. He convinces them that he has a secret hidden under his toupee, which requires a great deal of work including a special type of light to remove. He doesn’t have a toupee of course, but this gives him a chance to hit the albino Vegans with ultraviolet light, driving them away.
Then, just as expected, he gets his comeuppance. Just because he succeeded at this mission doesn’t mean he’s out of hot water with the powers that be. Nope, it means he’s more valuable. I don’t know if Harmon wrote other stories with Moss, but I do hope so. And, like Adams, I wonder if Laumer read this story.
The next story is Pearls of Parida by Alma Hill. Hill was not terribly prolific, but she edited a number of fanzines. This is another story that’s short, only 7 pages or so, and in this case needed to be longer. It could have been interesting, but ends up as just a shoot-em-up battle scene.
The last story, One Out of Many, is by Mark Pines. This is the only bibliographic entry for him in the Speculative Fiction Database. The story is of an archaeological expedition to a desert planet. At the end we discover that these are some other species and they are examining earth, as shown by the discovery of a small metal disc that says “E Pluribus Unum.” This is another story that could be really good, but seems curtailed. Not enough tension. It has a Randall Garrett sort of idea, but not Garrett’s skill at tricking the reader.
That’s the last story, but not the last bit of fun. I always enjoy looking at the strange ads at the back of old magazines, and you can expect me to show them in most of these entries.
One interesting thing I learned came from looking at these addresses. Notice anything missing? For some reason I thought Zip Codes were in use prior to 1963, but that’s when they officially came into being. This is also when the two-letter state codes came into existence. You all probably knew all this long ago, but it was new to me.
Overall, this was not a great collection of stories. I would give it a 3 on a scale of 10. None of the stories had enough conflict or tension, though I enjoyed a few of them. I might raise it to 3.5 if I really love Gog and the Magnetic Monster.
Despite the fact that this will not be my favorite in my collection, I really enjoyed the exercise. I’ve been wanting to go through these for some time because I know there are all sorts of cool things in them. I also can already tell it will spur some fun ideas.
If you have any comments, feel free to comment here or send an email to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.