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 Kirkus Reviews.
- Trillion Year Spree, Brian W. Aldiss – Aldiss recounts this incident briefly, and notes that the impact that it had on fantasy: that it generally heightened the profile of the fantasy trilogy.
- J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter – Carpenter’s biography comes out of Tolkien’s camp, and it’s understandably tilted more towards Tolkien’s views of how this happened, but it does provide some good details as to what his reactions and motivations where here.
- J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, Wayne Hammond and Douglas A. Anderson – This book is a detailed look at the publication history of Tolkien’s works, and they provide a good look at the Ace and Ballantine editions.
- The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien – My recent copy of Fellowship of the Ring (the hardcover boxed set with art from Alan Lee) contains a note that talks a bit about the text of the books, including (but not naming Ace) and their editions.
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien – My 1966 edition of the Hobbit features the ‘Authorized Edition’ and a note from Tolkien in the back of the book.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Tale of a Text, Pat Reynolds – This site has some good additional information on the incident.
- Betsy Wollheim: The Family Trade, Locus – Wollheim’s daughter, Betsy, now the president of DAW books has a couple of good quotes on just how her father came to the decision to publish his own version of Lord of the Rings.
- Donald Wollheim, Betsy Wollheim – Betsy was an invaluable help here, pointing me to her father’s side of the argument, which was largely overlooked. She provided me with a copy of her essay about her father that provided some very helpful insights into his character and personality.
- Eisen, Durwood & Co., Inc. v. Tolkien: This is the 1993 court ruling that ruled on the legality of Wollheim’s actions many years after this happened.
- ISFDB Bibliography – The Internet Speculative Fiction Database provides a comprehensive listing of the releases for Tolkien’s books, along with dates, which was very helpful.
I’m very happy to announce that I’ve sold the rights to a book on SF History to British publisher Jurassic London! Since April 2012, I’ve been writing a column on the subject for Kirkus Reviews, which has been a fantastic experience thus far. Since starting with them, my end goal has always been to collect the columns together into a larger work, and Jared has been a vocal and enthusiastic proponent for it. (Seriously, he calls it required reading!)
I’m pretty thrilled to have this land here. I’m a big fan of the books that Jurassic London has put out, especially their short fiction anthologies: The Lowest Heaven was a fantastic read, and I’m eagerly getting ready to read their latest, Book of the Dead.
This book isn’t going to be a collection of the columns, but they are going to form a bit of the backbone. My aim here is to look at the history of the genre and its relationship with the readers and authors, but also the relationship between society and technology. In my work with Kirkus, I’ve been trying to emphasize some of the important, but lesser known authors and editors working within the genre, and I’m hoping that it’ll be a nice addition to some of the other popular works on SF history.
This is going to be Jurassic London’s first foray into original non-fiction, and while we don’t have a title for this book yet, we are aiming for an early 2015 release. Read their release here.
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.
I’ve long enjoyed Irving’s New York stories,and I love his Dutch Catskills (and the feeling of driving through them in the fall), someone who really helped bring fantastic literature to America, and bridged the gap between some of the earlier works of Gothic fiction into a new era and a new world.
Irving is someone I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, and with the release of Fox’s latest television show, Sleepy Hollow, the time seems right. The show itself is pretty ridiculous, but over the top fun. But beyond the timing of a popular television show, he’s an author that should be remembered, studied and read widely.
Go read America’s First Fantasist: Washington Irving over on Kirkus Reviews.
The Original Knickerbocker: The life of Washington Irving, by Andrew Bernstein: I’ve had this book for a couple of years now, and I’ve read parts of it off and on. It’s a dense, but very interesting biography on Irving, going into great detail on his life and work.
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, volume 4, Frank N. Magill: This volume has a fantastic essay on Irving’s short fiction and a good critical analysis of his work and how it fits into the fantastic canon.
American Gothic Tales, edited by Joyce Carol Oates: This is a fantastic anthology of Gothic fiction that I’ve been picking away at over the years. This book contains Irving’s famous ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, a good read for this time of the year.
American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub: I’ve long been a fan of the Library of America’s collections, and this volume (the first of two) contains a short blurb on Irving’s life, as well as a story of his, ‘The Adventures of a German Student’, which is quite an interesting read.
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.
The Time Machines: The Story of science-fiction pulp magazines from the beginning to 1950, Mike Ashley: Ashley’s fairly comprehensive history touches on Weird Tales, and provided some excellent details on the operations of the magazine, in context with the rest of the pulp magazine market.
Lovecraft: A Look Behind the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’, Lin Carter: Carter’s book talks about Lovecraft’s interactions with the magazine, which provided some crucial details.
The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction, Paul A. Carter: This book is another history of speculative fiction magazines, and it provided some good details and context on Weird Tales’ place in the market.
The Pulps, edited by Tony Goodstone: This is actually a neat anthology of stories from the pulp era, prefaced with a blurb about the magazines. Weird Tales has a whole section, along with stories from Tennessee Williams, Page Cooper, Frank Belknap Long Jr., Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Malcom Jameson, Virgil Finley, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft.
A Dreamer and a Visionary: H.P. Lovecraft in His Time, S. T. Josti: Another book on Lovecraft that shed some interesting details on Lovecraft’s interactions with the magazine.
The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, Fred Nadis: This is a recent biography that talked a bit about Fransworth Wright, one of the major editors at the magazine.
Conversations with the Weird Tales Circle, John Pelan: This astonishing book is a tome, with an impressive, excited survey of Weird Tales authors and editors (although interestingly, Dorothy McIlwraith is missing.) with a lot of primary source information. This was particularly helpful with Wright, but also with primary source impressions from the authors who wrote for the magazine.
The Weird Tales Story, Robert E. Weinberg: This book is an exhuberant, editorialized history of the magazine, which helped put some of the major events into place.
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 Kirkus Reviews.
Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss: Aldiss points to Dunsany’s influence briefly here.
Lord Dunsany: A Biography, Mark Amory: This is a detailed, somewhat dense biography of the author, going into great depth on his life.
Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers, L. Sprauge de Camp: I’ve had some issues with de Camp’s work at history, but this book has a decent section on Dunsany, which served as a good guide.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany: My copy of Dunsany’s well known book is an interesting read, but for these purposes, it has a very good quote from Lovecraft about the author.
Lord Dunsany, S.L. Joshi and Darrell Scheitzer: Comprehensive bibliography that was helpful for figuring out the timing of some of Dunsany’s books and stories.
Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, Volumes 2 and 3, Frank Magill: These two volumes contain several detailed reviews of Dunsany’s collections, novels and short fiction.
Pathways to Elfland: The Writings of Lord Dunsany, Darrell Schweitzer: This book is a good literary analysis on Dunsany’s works.
The Hills of Far Away: A Guide to Fantasy, Diana Waggoner: Waggoner’s book is a good overview of notable fantastic works, and this one served as a good guidepost.
Lord Dunsany also wrote a 3-volume autobiography, but sadly, I wasn’t able to get a copy.
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.
- The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction Paperback, Paul Allen Carter. This source had mentioned Howard at points, but what was really helpful was some information about Weird Tale’s cover artist, and the general (split) attitudes towards Howard’s stories and the artwork that accompanied them.
- Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard, by L. Sprague de Camp. This is the first definitive biography of Howard, although I’ve been told that there’s points where it’s to be taken with a grain of salt. There’s some factual information that’s apparently wrong, and de Camp spents a lot of time speculating on Howard’s psyche, chiefly towards his sexuality and the role in which his mother played in his life. I’m sure there’s some Freudian things going on here, but I don’t know how much to buy it completely.
- American Fantastic Tales, Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub. As with other Library of America books, there’s a short bio about Howard, as well as his story, The Black Stone.
- Echoes of Valor II, edited by Karl Edward Wagner. This anthology contains both fiction and some lengthly introductions. This particular one has some good information on Howard’s stories.
I make it no secret that I really enjoy Military Science Fiction. It’s been on my mind lately, as I’m in the middle of preparing an anthology of Military SF stories for launch. When I was in college, I studied History and eventually earned my master’s in Military History, and I’ve found that the sub genre has been an interesting place to read and rant about.
Starship Troopers, for all of its issues, remains a favorite story of mine, and as I’ve been reading a number of stories from new authors about warfare, I was interested in seeing where the modern sub genre 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.
I think that it would be safe to say that Starship Troopers and Heinlein have rather poor reputations at the moment within certain circles of SF Fandom. The very nature of war is very decisive, and Heinlein’s novel has been the center of criticism since its publication. I don’t want to defend the novel against those criticisms: it certainly deserves them. However, I think that it’s an important novel to read at least once: if anything, it’s an interesting take on what motivates a large number of people. Examination of one’s motivations, even if they don’t line up with one’s own politics, I think is a good thought exercise.
Regardless of the politics, I’ve found Starship Troopers a novel that holds up rather well when it comes to military hardware and action. It’s an exciting, over the top and straight-up read.
Go read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers & The Cold War over on Kirkus Reviews.
- Trillion Year Spree, by Brian Aldiss: Aldiss doesn’t have much good to say about Starship Troopers, but his opinion is a good representation of the book’s reception.
- Grumbles from Beyond the Grave, edited by Virginia Heinlein: A collection of letters from Heinlein to his agent were particularly helpful here, especially with his motivations for publishing the book.
- Survey of Science Fiction Literature, vol 5, edited by Frank Magill: This volume contains an excellent review and summary of Starship Troopers.
- Seekers of Tomorrow, by Sam Moskowitz: Moskowitz talks at length about Heinlein’s life. As always with Moskowitz, handle with care.
- Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, by William H. Patterson Jr.: This book is a fantastic biography on the man, and sadly, wasn’t entirely helpful when it came to Starship Troopers: volume 2, which should be out at the end of this year or sometime next year, will likely cover this period of Heinlein’s life in more detail. However, this one was helpful in the pre-1948 years.
- The History of Science Fiction, by Adam Roberts: Like Aldiss, Roberts doesn’t have much to say, but it’s interesting to see the updated critical reaction to the novel and some of the philosophical underpinning.
- American Science Fiction and the Cold War: Literature and Film, by David Seed: This book has some good references to the novel and its historical context.
- Fights of Fancy: Armed Conflict in Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by George Slusser and Eric Rabkin: For a book examining Warfare in Science Fiction, this collection only has Starship Troopers mentioned three times. Still, it’s an interesting read, although it was marginally helpful here.
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.
- Trillion Year Spree: Brian Aldiss: Aldiss’s work has some good contextual information in brief about The Space Merchants, its publication and its reception.
- New Maps of Hell, Kingsley Amis: Amis writes that TSM is one of the best SF novels written to date, and talks a bit about the story in his genre survey.
- Science Fiction Writers: Second Edition, Richard Bleiler: This book has a good overview of C.M. Kornbluth’s life, and it helped me fill in some details about his participation.
- The Futurians: The Story of the Great Science Fiction Family of the 30′s That Produced Today’s Top SF Writers and Editors, Damon Knight: This book focuses on the Futurians as a whole, and there’s some good details about these two authors here.
- The Way the Future Was, Frederik Pohl: When in doubt, primary sources are good, and Pohl talks extensively about the subject here.
- The Way the Future Blogs, Frederik Pohl: Pohl’s blog provided some good information on his military service, and a bit on Kornbluth.
- Survey of Science Fiction Literature, Frank Magill: This volume provides a good summary and critical review of TSM.
- The Faces of Science Fiction, Patti Perret: I’ve been waiting to use this book: it’s a photography book about SF authors, and I found Pohl’s quite particularly enlightening.
- American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1953-1956, edited by Gary K. Wolfe: And, of course, the source book. The LOA books also provide an excellent biographical thumbnail.
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!
- Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss. This book has some good information on the state of the publishing industry during the 1950s and 1960s, which helped with the background of this piece.
- Double Your Pleasure: The Ace SF Double, James A. Corrick. This short pamphlet is a source that provided quite a few good details on the history of the Double novel series, from beginning to end. It’s not terribly well organized or written, but it’s an interesting source that provides some good data.
- The Futurians: The Story of the Great Science Fiction “Family” of the 30′s That Produced Today’s Top SF Writers and Editors, Damon Knight. This title certainly fits the description here: Wollheim, a founding member of the Futurians, was behind the Double novels, and this book recounts some of the minutia and problems that Ace faced.
- John Brunner (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), Jad Smith. This book is a new volume on John Brunner, and details some of his experiences behind the double novel series.
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, and a number of authors throughout the 50s (and to a lesser extent, to the present day) engaged in this practice as dedicated novel chains were founded. (More on that soon).
van Vogt is an interesting case here. I remember reading a bunch of his stories when I was in high school, and revisited Voyage of the Space Beagle a couple of years ago. It wasn’t really my thing, but it was entertaining and fairly TV-like in structure.
Go read A.E. van Vogt and the Fix-Up novel over on Kirkus Reviews.
- Science Fiction Writers, Second Edition, edited by Richard Bleiler. This volume provides a decent biographical sketch of the van Vogt.
- Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, by Gerald Jones: This book provided a couple of key details on the nature of the early magazine culture.
- It’s a Fix-Up, David Langford: This essay by Langford provided a really neat nugget: van Vogt was the one who coined the term ‘Fix-Up’, and pointed me to the connection between the novel and the film Alien.
- Survey of Science Fiction Literature, vol 5, edited by Frank Magill. There’s a good critical review of Voyage of the Space Beagle in this volume.
- Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, Sam Moskowitz. Moskowitz’s book is to be handled carefully, but the entry on Van Vogt provides some good information on his earlier works and introduction to the science fiction world.
- Brave New Worlds: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff Prucher. This provided the definition for the ‘fix-up’ novel.
- The History of Science Fiction, by Adam Roberts: van Vogt gets a brief mention in Robert’s book, but it provides a good look into his critical reception.
- A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers: This book is a good look at van Vogt’s story placement in Astounding – 3/4s of the stories in VOTSB were first published there.