While I’m working on plotting out the rest of the year for this column, I figured it would be interesting to look at a small portion of the books that I use to support this column. There’s a lot out there, and if you look at back entries, you’ll see that I do a more comprehensive bibliography for each post here.
My habits for supporting this column involve a small research library at my home, one that’s continually growing. It started with a couple of books before I started – biographies and a couple of others – and I’ve since quickly run out of space on one shelf (I need a new one soon) to house it. I also utilize my local university library’s own collection (which is pretty extensive), and their connections to the Interlibrary Loan network.
But, I do like to have my own copies of the ones that I use the most. Inevitably, the ILL system takes a couple of days or weeks to get books in, and I’m somewhat impatient when I’m researching, especially when I’m stuck waiting for a volume.
This coming year, I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more interviews – I’ve got one out right now – as I move into eras where there’s more people who are still alive. Predominantly, I’ve been researching the pulps and early golden age. It’ll be an exciting new thing to do.
Go read Reading up on SF History on Kirkus Reviews.
Over the course of writing this column for Kirkus Reviews, I’ve found that the early women authors writing in the genre were some of the most influential, producing some incredible stories over their careers. I’ve looked at quite a few who were incredibly influential: Margaret St. Clair, Judith Merrill, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, and Mary Shelley. This week, we finally get to the woman who was considered one of the very first professionals in the pulp field: Gertrude Barrows Bennett, who wrote under the name Francis Stevens. She only wrote for a couple of years, but proved to be an incredible influence on the authors who followed her.
Go read The Influential Pulp Career of Francis Stevens over on Kirkus Reviews.
Partners in Wonder: Women and the Birth of Science Fiction, 1926-1965, Eric Leif Davin – Stevens’ active publishing period falls before this time, but she does get some good mentions throughout this book, which poists that discrimination in the SF world wasn’t entirely accurate on an industry level, which runs counter to current perceptions of SF’s roots. It’s an interesting theory, one which he breaks down quite a bit.
Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of the “Science Romance in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920, Sam Moskowitz – This is a fantastic hybrid of anthology and history. Moskowitz is to be handled with care, but in this instance, he seems to be mostly accurate (he does continue the idea that Augusust Swift was H.P. Lovecraft – he wasn’t), but presents a nice history of the Munsey Magazines along with some solid biographical information on Stevens.
American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub – Like all other Library of America volumes, this contains a short, updated biography, alongside her story Unseen-Unfeared.
The Nightmare, and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, edited by Francis Stevens, Gary Hoppenstand – You can read the introduction here, and it’s an interesting read with some good biographical points about Bennett/Stevens and her life that don’t show up in many other places.
Stevens, Francis, SF Encyclopedia – There’s a short entry on Stevens here, with some notes about her impact.
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.
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 Kirkus Reviews.
Here’s the sources that I used:
- Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, Brian Aldiss – Aldiss talks about the edisonade stories briefly, noting the larger movement and announcing it as the first real American SF.
- Science Fiction: The Early Years, Richard Bleiler – This book contains some biographical information on Victor Appleton (Howard R. Garis), as well as plot summaries of a number of the Tom Swift books.
- Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, James Gunn – Gunn provides some small bits about Tom Swift here and there, which helped me connect the dots, but what’s more interesting is how the character and juvenile fiction is largely overlooked.
- Science Fiction after 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars, Brooks Landon – This was a very interesting book that talked quite a bit about the early SF, especially when it comes to Dime novels and where Tom Swift fits into all this.
- Cultural History of Literature: Science Fiction, Robert Luckhurst – Luckhurst has some good contextual information on Tom Swift, mainly backing up Aldiss and Landon’s texts.
- Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak – This was a particularly good read when it came to Stratemeyer himself, recounting his early life and how he came to become a major publisher.
- Edisonade, John Clute – this article on the SF Encyclopedia is a good summary of Edisonade and an overview of some of its history.
Last night, War Stories officially tipped over the 100% mark and officially funded. As of this morning, we’ve reached 104% of our goal, and with 33 hours 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!
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.
The War Stories Anthology Kickstarter launches in an hour from now. Thank you to everyone who’s gotten excited about this project, spread the word, submitted stories and generally put up with us blabbing about it for so long. After a year of planning, it’s finally coming together!
I’ll be posting up a link to the Kickstarter once it’s live. The project is now live! If you like Military Science Fiction, or just science fiction in general, please consider taking a look, and sharing word of this with people you know. We have a ton of excellent authors lined up with stories for this book, and it doesn’t happen without support of friends, family, fans and the crowd as a whole.
Both my co-editor (Jaym Gates) and I feel that Military SF is an important conduit for readers: there’s a real lack of understanding between the military and civilian worlds, and we hope that science fiction will be a good way to bridge the gap, and provide some understanding for the real complicated nature of warfare and its impact on the rest of the world.
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.