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Archive for the ‘pulp magazines’ Category

Housekeeping: Again, thanks to those folks who are linking to the new version of the blog and/or who have bothered to change their links. It is making a big difference: Over the past (approximately) two days, the traffic relationship between the two has shifted, with the new version now receiving the majority of unique visits. Yay!

Please do not forget to send in your self-descriptions: John Ottinger over at Grasping for the Wind (the originator of the review blog meme) said “use my existing description from the site” – so you all may already have written yours.

Note: A few of the links in John Ottinger’s list do not take you to the front page of the blog. So, when visiting, make sure you’re linking to the root and adjust things in the address bar if necessary.

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The Specusphere: Group blog from – Australia! Seems to be more of a front-end and archive for their webzine, now in issue 5. Reviews cover everything including southern hemisphere writings – which, if you haven’t been paying attention for the past couple of years is a hotbed of new talent and innovative ideas. Add

SpineBreakers: Very interesting concept/social networking site from Penguin Books. Targeted to ‘spinebreakers’ – “any story-surfing, web-exploring, word-loving, day-dreaming reader/writer/artist/thinker aged 13 to 18”. If you want to see what the targets of YA marketing are exicted about, reviewing and reading, check out this site. Add (for research value).

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: Two self-proclaimed (smart) bitches review romance novels and give it to you straight. Pretty funny, even if you aren’t into romance novels. Might add it for the humor.

Speculative Fiction: Not sure how current this blog is, as the 6th item down (as of reporting) chronicles my debate with Ian Sales that drew in IO9, Technorati and a bunch of others over whether there’s any ‘classic’ science fiction worth recommending. (They refer to it as ‘golden age’ SF and others use the term “vintage”, but it all translates into the same thing: good, solid science fiction, unencumbered by angst, psychologically conflicted characters or literary affectations. You know – stories, rather than philosophical treatises.) If you’re keeping track, I think I won that debate and if you aren’t – don’t worry about it. The whole thing was just one of those internet spasms anyways. Or proof that I know how to stir up controversy. Anyway. The site right now features link-o-rama – and I already have them in my blogroll.

Speculative Fiction Junkie: Good reviews focused in equal parts on fantasy and SF. Also focused on identifying the ‘true first edition’ of each work – so if you are a collector… Add.

Speculative Horizons: Interviews, reviews, giveaways. Covers everything – books, games, multi-media. More fantasy than SF, and primarily focused on new works. Probable add.

Spiral Galaxy Reviews: Lots of other review blogs link to and/or reference this one – and I can see why. The author is now a slush reader for Strange Horizons and is guest blogging for several other blogs, and has a very nice mix of a wide range of product – including a fair amount of esoterica (William Atheling/James Blish’s critiques, for example). Add.

Spontaneous Derivation: Ocassional contributor to the TOR site. A celebration of the Kindle, SFF on the Kindle, epubbing and ‘everything else’. I need to keep track of epubbing, so – add.

Sporadic Book Reviews: As advertised in the title, infrequent postings and short, short reviews. Unlikely add.

Stella Matutina: Very nicely designed site, but for me the gold and red and black colors make it difficult to read. It is nice to look at though. Mostly fantasy, YA and ‘creative non-fiction’, but the blogger is beginning to ‘get into’ SF, so I will check back as that progresses through the year.

The Sudden Curve: Looks like a guy having way too much fun; more clip gathering than anything else right now. Nice GGA graphics at the top and – anyone who proclaims Johnny Quest opening credits as ‘The Best Ever’ get’s the nod. Add. (Is the title from the Meatload song?)

The Sword Review: Way slow to load – but who knows whether that’s my fault or the page’s? E-zine that has ceased publication, now serving as an archive of that magazine’s contents and as a link to MindFlights, another e-zine. I’ll link to Mindflights.

Tangent Online: Site is being updated and therefore, currently no new material. Primarily reviews of short fiction from small press and e-zines. Gotta keep up with those markets. Add.

Tehanni Wessely: More personal musings/life experiences than reviews. The author is tied in to Australian small press and things spec fic. Probable add.

Temple LIbrary Reviews: Sci-Fi, horror and literary fiction. Mmmm. Interesting, but my impression is that it’s kind of all over the place. I’ll have to think about this one.

TOR.Com. Add. Add. Add. Patrick and Theresa are amongst the best (and most repected) editors in the biz. Often features free fiction from headliners and almost always has interesting bits, as well as good reviews. (Already added btw.)

The Road Not Taken: A few reviews but, perhaps more important to bibliophiles – coverage of book sale deals, coupon availability & etc. I got me some gift cards and this site’s coupon codes are going to help me stretch them to cover additional purchases. Add.

Un:Bound: Mostly horror/urban fantasy, but starting to branch out via membership in two book clubs. A first work is A Clockwork Orange, Burgess’ tour-de-force (and a great movie as well). Might add once they get around to reviewing ACO…

Urban Fantasy Land: Hmmm. Title says it all. Books are conveniently grouped into Grades A through F, though nothing is to be found in the D’s or F’s. (What, no one flunks out of urban fantasy?) In-depth reviews, just not my cuppa.\

Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic. One of my favorite book openings – Wells’ from War of the Worlds. (Particularly excellent as read by Richard Burton on the album of the same name.) And a perfect title for a review column. Not a daily blog, but a good read when posting and primarily SF oriented. Reminded me of the SFSignal/Buzz Aldrin discussion over whether SF has destroyed the space program or not. I’ll have something on that later today on the blog. Gonna add this one.

Variety SF: Short reviews – mostly of free online fiction, as well as links to free fiction finds. Add.

Walker of Worlds:Totally SF oriented. Wide selection of reads and some interesting finds. Add

Wands and Worlds: Publisher’s blog (well, personal review blog of a small press publisher of YA F & SF). Covers just about everything YA in those two categories. Add.

The Wertzone: Games, television and books, cross genre coverage. UK based, so some of the items may be unfamiliar to US based readers/watchers. Some news coverage as well. Mmmm. Thinking about this one.

With Intent to Commit Horror: Totally horror. Mentions rats (again) in the actual url. I think this might actually be a companion blog to another reviewed earlier. In-depth reviews, but – its still that same cuppa that ain’t mind.

WJ Fantasy Reviews: Comics, books, movies. Mostly fantasy as the name suggests. The blogger is having some internet connection issues and promises to get them sorted out. In the meantime, posting is sparse. Unprobable add.

The World in a Satin Bag: SF, right now devoted to Star Wars geekery and twitter. Working writer, also features submissions and novel-in-progress. Most likely not.

WriteBlack: Two minorities in one over here (so if you’re looking to save on your minority interests…). The author is not “too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time”; reviews and musings on genre writing by black authors, by a female black editor. As the old joke goes, if she had a Spanish surname, she’d have all the bases covered… Nice writing and a very interesting perspective. I’m tempted to make all kinds of off-color jokes (pun-intended) but I’m not sure if black or white america is quite ready as we haven’t really seen what the post-Obama world is going to be like. Will it mean more space for black authors on the shelves? Go to this site and I’m sure you’ll find out. Add.

Young Adult Science Fiction: Infrequently updated due to pregnancy. Right now, more links to interesting science/space tidbits than anything else. Linked to three other blogs. I see few actual reviews here. Hails from Alaska: I wonder if she can see roosians out her kitchen window? Hot on internet safety for kidz (can you really advocate internet safety and YA SF together? My take is: sit them down with all the RAH juvenovels and when they’re done, you’ll have little to worry about.)Probably won’t add.

And, we’re done – except for a couple of follow on reviews and investigation of the foreign language blogs.

I sincerely hope that A: I did not offend anyone (it wasn’t my intention to do so if I did) B: that you find this useful C: that you send in your own take on your blog so I can add it D: that you visit all of these blogs for yourself and make your own decisions about adding to your rolls (a little spicy mustard never hurt) E: that some of you will take the time to return the favor and review my blog F: and that once I announce the creation of the pages that archive these reviews, you link to it so that fellow travelers can utilize it as well.

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It is currently 7 degrees (feels like -19) outside and I have to go shovel the walk and the back porch. I’d MUCH rather be doing more reviews…

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Ha! In honor of the crappy re-makes that Hollywood keeps on turning out (and budgeting over and over and over again) – don’t you think the word we use to describe these things ought to be “re-tread”? (captures the cheap, shoddy, will fall apart within the first ten minutes feel), I just finished a re-make of the Classic Science Fiction Channel’s ‘moving images’ page.

The page was originally all text links. Now I’ve replaced the text links with film posters and title screen images. Too bad there isn’t an industry standard size for these advertisements. If they were all the same size, the page would look really cool. As it is, I think it still looks pretty cool.

Besides, there’s just something right about sticking a poster for Skiffy Tube’s short-lived Flash Gordon series next to one for Plan 9 From Outer Space…

You can check out the goodness here.

I’ll probably re-make the radio show page next. What I’d really like to do is find a book cover for each of the episodes that are based on a short story – but in most cases such covers aren’t available: most of these shorts appeared in pulp magazines and more often than not they weren’t the cover stories. But have no fear, I’ll figure something out.

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Warning – this is going to be a multi-post day (including pictures of the snow that is keeping me inside) – so check back often!

Upcoming: the C’s from the continuing series of reviewing the reviewers (getting a lot of comments and emails on that one) – which includes my massively brilliant solution for those bloggers who are ‘nervous’ about their upcoming review – and – snow pictures!

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Due to effective and efficient whining, I am omitting the THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY image link at the beginning of the blog. This does not mean that you should not participate in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY, because in fact, you should stand still and watch the original movie on December 10th, (because not standing still while watching a movie is annoying) which is only 14 days away. This of course means that THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY is only two weeks away. There’s not much time left, so click THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY and watch the original movie. And just in case you weren’t paying attention, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY is December 10th.

I will, however, still retain housekeeping information at the beginning of the blog – to whit: MORE stories and authors have been added to the literature section of the Classic Science Fiction Channel, as has an alphabetical listing of all the authors you can find represented there. And yes, Sturgeon and Chandler, as well as those darned astericks, are now present.

I’ve also put the magazine graph up on the site. For those of you who complained of failing eyesight, this ought to work.

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I live in Hillsboro New Hampshire. It’s a picturesque down located along the banks of the Coontookok river. (I’m not a native, so am not sure of the spelling of any of the oookoooks around here.)

The house I’m renting hails from 1792. The woods are filled with cellar holes, indian burial mounds, moose, fishercats, bobcats too (like the one that ran across the road in front of me a couple of weeks ago) and endless stonewalls.

Right next door is Henniker New Hampshire – “The Only Henniker On Earth” as they like to say. In fact, there are no other towns, anywhere on the planet, named Henniker.

Rt 202/89 is the main artery that runs between Hillsboro and Henniker (unless you count the original river road). It’s also the route to Concord, which is the main shopping outlet for the region and therefore a road that the wife and I frequently travel.

Since we arrived in town in February, we’ve been driving past some kind of historical marker up on a hillside along Rt 202/89. Despite her nativeness, Karen was unable to tell me what it was for. Depsite my best intentions, we never managed to stop to check it out. Until the other day, that is.

I grabbed Karen’s new Iphone (she’s in love, but I’ve learned to tolerate the infatuation with consumer electronics, and she always comes home anyways) and snapped a couple of pictures:

photo

In case you’re one of those readers who needed a larger version of the graph, the marker says “Site Where First Settler Resided in Henniker 1761”

“Back, and to the left, back, and to the left” of the marker (yes, I did just watch Stone’s movie the other day) is a cellar hole. I presume the cellar of the original house where the original settler settled. How much settling could an original settler settle, if an original settler could settle settling?

Cellar holes are a big thing around here if you’re a metal-detector kind of person. According to local lore, many of the original inhabitants were fond of hiding valuables in walls, in and around cellars. Back then, ‘silverware’ really was made out of silver.

If, for some obscure and bizarre reason you wish to learn more about Henniker, and why the original settlers no longer live in their original settle place (which is ‘back, and to the left’, above) you can visit the Henniker Historial Society here. Unfortunately, they have NO information about Henniker’s other claim to fame: it was the host town for the first formal game of paintball ever played.

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TDESS FINAL 15 copy

Click the pic to watch the original movie.

skiffytube copy

Skiffy Tube ups its purity rating this week with a WHOLE DAY! devoted to MOrk & Mindy reruns!

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Housekeeping First. There are now some 220+ authors and well over 500 novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories up in the literature section of the Classic Science Fiction Channel. This section of the site contains both the printed and audio word, and there are some VERY fine authors and stories cataloged there. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting (actually, a colored asterick) favorite authors and stories of particular note. They may be historically significant (Edison’s Conquest of Mars, for example) or personally significant (such as Ted Sturgeon’s The Girl Had Guts: if you want to see a master craftsman at work, let Ted pull you by the nose through this humorous, snappily concluded story…) As usual, all stories are (so far as is ascertainable) legal.

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The various selections of pulp magazine covers that I’ve published here over the past several months have been amongst my most popular entries. Particularly the ones that mention sex. As if that were any surprise.

I’d really like to witness the reaction of some pubescent who’s snuck onto the internet and is feverishly looking for the modern day equivalent of Dad’s Playboy hidden-under-the-mattress. What happens when they hit the blog entry for The Top Science Fiction Sex Slaves? Are they disappointed or thrilled? Do those covers now inform their fantasies, or do they curse me to this day for having wasted their ‘personal’ time with drawings of women (and men) who are best described as ‘mostly clothed’? Will some poor soul now grow up with a fetish for robots and rayguns? (“Honey, will you for once put the damn Buck Rogers water pistol down and look at ME!”)

One wonders, one does.

This morning I came up with another subject (not nearly as sexy as SF Chicks with Whips), but something that is important to those who do fetishize the pulp magazines – the collectors. I’ve put together a list of the top ten collectible SF pulps – magazines that because of rarity or historical signifigance are the objects of desire for those of us who love the smell of pulp and dust.

If you want to see them though, you’re going to have to click on through to the self-hosted version of the blog. Which brings me to another housekeeping point: will you people PLEASE update your feeds to at least include the new version? I’m still getting twice as many visits on the old blog as on the new. If I’m missing some easy way to get you all to do this, please slap me upside the head with the information.

Thank you.

And now – The Top Ten Collectible Science Fiction Magazines:

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The Classic Science Fiction Channel’s literature page, featuring E book and Audio classic science fiction is now up on the website. Join famous science fiction authors like Stanley G. Weinbaum, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Andre Norton, more

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The debate over the fate of the science fiction genre keeps on popping up; it often gets intertwined with another discussion – that of the fate of the short story publications – the ‘pulp magazines’ (which in turn often gets mashed up with the ‘is short fiction dying’ discussion). And lets not forget the companion debate – is fandom dying/graying?

I think that one of the reasons that these four inter-related discussions get grouped together is the result of an historical legacy: science fiction, as a recognizable genre, began when a market was created for it with the introduction of several pulp magazine – Weird Tales, Thrill Book, Electrical Experimenter and Amazing Stories primary among them.

In the minds of many, a robust field of monthly publications is synonymous with the health of the genre as a whole.

Due to the nature of the publications serving the field, shorter works of fiction (and markets for them) were also closely tied to the perception of what the SF&F field actually was. (Consider that most ‘novels’ published during the golden age were serializations first and rarely ran more than 200 some odd pages when published in book form and you’ll begin to see how deeply the magazines influenced everything.)

Anthologies of the day were reprint publications rather than original publications – not separate markets that could be sold to. The original anthology, soliciting new work directly, is a relatively recent innovation.

So it seems natural for anyone even remotely familiar with the history of science fiction publishing to use the monthly, short story buying magazine as a place to take its pulse.

Plenty of others have pointed out numerous reasons why this is an incorrect measure: electronic markets, more room for novel length material (and better pay for potentially less work), the number of original anthologies with decent backing and so on.

But folks still persist in pointing to the ‘Big Three’, noting their declining subscription base and getting all hepped up over the future of the genre.

So, rather than trying to approach this debate head – on, I decided to get to the root of it all and ask if the magazines really are dying. And I think the answer is “No”.

The first thing I did was to graph the history of science fiction and fantasy magazine publications from the ‘beginning’ (which I define as the first year that a regular publication that featured SFnal content appeared on the newsstands). I wanted to see how ‘now’ compares to the historical record.

I restricted this first look to US – based publications only, professional publications (along with just a few highly-regarded and well-distributed semi-prozines) and didn’t include e-zines because they’re almost completely impossible to track, not to mention being a part of the debate itself (are they the future…?).

So here’s the graph:

magazine graph

It runs from 1913 (introduction of the Electrical Experimenter) through 2008. Each block represents one year vertically and one title on the newstands horizontally. Just to make sure you are all reading it correctly, the bottom row of blocks (green) is for 2008 and it’s showing 7 publications being distributed for that year. Similarly, 1926 (also green) shows three publications (Weird Tales, Amazing Stories and Science & Invention).

Which brings me to the next caveat: Amazing Stories hit the stands in April of 1926, yet it is still given credit for the ‘year’. All of the publications were treated in this manner. Many were published irregularly, so a title’s entry for a particular year may only represent a single issue – or a full year’s worth. Some titles represented above were quarterlies (4 times per year), some ‘annuals’ (one big issue), some bi-monthly and some simply tried their best.

Finally, in cases where a magazine ceased and then resumed publication at a later date, two (or more) entries for that title are represented. Amazing Stories ceased publication in ’96 and resumed in 2004, so it is added in for all of the years from 1926 to 1996, not represented from ’97 to ’03, and is seen once again for the years 2004 and 2005.

The axis across the top of the graph shows the ‘total number of individual titles’. The highest this ever climbed to was 37 in 1953.

Some folks may be confused by seeing seven titles for the present year. That’s because regular magazine publishing of SFnal content goes on in places other than the Big Three. The titles for 2008 are: Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, Starlog, Weird Tales and Heavy Metal. Certainly my definition of what constitutes an SF magazine may be questioned and quibbled, but the intent is clear. Adding a few titles in (SciFi.com, for example) or taking a couple out doesn’t really change the results all that much because,

what we’re looking at is certainly a low point on the graph, but nothing all that unusual.

If you were to adjust the 60s by removing the reprint titles (most from Ultimate Publishing corp) and adjust the 50s by removing the really low-end publications that were almost universally despised by authors and readers alike and adjust the 40s by removing the quarterly reprint rags, the graph would be much more even across the decades.

Without getting into deep statistical analysis, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the current state of affairs, while being at the low end of activity, is still well within the normal range of what we’ve been seeing from the beginning of the field.

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SKIFFYTUBE ORIGINAL 11 17 copy

AND

TDESS FINAL copy

WATCH IT NOW! JUST CLICK ABOVE AND YOU’LL BE THERE!

Meanwhile, sadly, I will not be attending Philcon. Scheduling screwed with things and no magic carpet ride from the Boston area materialized, despite my begging. I think I need to work on the begging technique.

Regardless, my HS buddy Joey Pickles is going to take a shot at it – he only lives a few relative blocks from the convention hotel in beautiful downtown Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Yes, there are trees there. No, you can’t see or smell the refineries. And BTW – the convention hotel is RIGHT OFF OF EXIT 4, in case you were going for that hoary old Jersey Joke.

Joe has volunteered to try his hand at guest-blogging for me next week – hopefully he’ll have some nifty pictures. I was planning on blogging from the hotel lobby/panel rooms and party rooms myself, but – see the opening paragraph.

Simon Owens over at Mediashift, has a rather nice piece about the collision of pulp magazines and the internet – specifically SF&F pulps.

He talks with Godon van Gelder of F&SF and John Scalzi (as the go-to successful ‘I give stuff away for free and still have plenty of sales’ guy): we’ve seen this discussion before and the people who’s opinions I agree with all agree that ‘it’s the marketing, stupid’ – not some inherent flaw of the subject matter or the publishing medium.

Actually (lest he chastize me yet again) Scalzi is not the ‘give stuff away for free guy’, he’s the ‘sterling example of how to manage successful internet marketing techniques to drive sales’ guy. One of three cited (Stross and Doctorow being the other two).

I’ll say it again: it’s marketing, not the medium or the message. The BIG THREE (really ought to be the small-minded three, considering that between them they command an unimpressive paid subscription circulation of only 61,469 or an equally unimpressive take of $2,059,610.93 in gross subscription sales (estimated from their stated prices and the numbers in the article).

The future of the industry is riding on 2 million bucks?

Scalzi comments in his whatever blog as well.

I’ll have more to say on this – probably later on today. What I do know is that – this is not the first time that the magazine field has shrunk. There have been die-offs and resurgences aplenty.

What I do find MOST interesting is the fact that the Big Three represent one magazine each from the three BIG eras of “pulp” magazine publishing: Analog as the successor of Astounding that hails from the primordial era (late 20s, early 30s) Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1949 (49, Simon, not ’48) – the big ‘cold war boom’ era and Asimov’s from the ‘late space race’ era of the mid 70s to early 80s.

What is also clear is that, in terms of ‘marketing’, trying to expand the reader base with media tie-ins is NOT the way to go. Amazing Stories suffered this fate, as did Omni, Science Fiction Age and several other relatively new publications.

Finally – PULP is long gone. For purists, ‘pulp’ refers to bedsheet sized rags printed on pulp paper. The current crop of ‘zines are ‘digests’ and, whole Analog can claim a pulp heritage, neither F&SF nor Asimov’s were ever printed on pulp in large-size format – they’ve always been digests.

(Asimov’s companion ‘zine Asimov’s SF Adventure was printed as a ‘slick’.)

Laters!

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