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08-13-04: Labyrinth Redux; Terror on the Tor

Catherynne M. Valente Interview

Cat Valente from the Prime Books Website.
I just posted my interview with Catherynne M. Valente (MP3, RealAudio), author of 'The Labyrinth'. I must say that when I aired it last week, I was taken by surprise as to how powerful and assured this writer seems after only one novel. That's possibly because there are seemingly about a dozen more just about ready to be published. And Valente is not just a one-style author. While 'The Labyrinth' offers a dose of surreal poetic visionary poetic writing that is the prose equivalent of absinthe, her other work is set to be every bit as imaginative, but written in a more familiar manner. Her interview is highly entertaining, and I'd suggest my readers give it a listen to hear her insights on literature and the writing process. For more insights and her journal, take a look at her website. You can find her books for sale from Prime Books.

However, that's not all I have to offer. While we were in the studio, I had Catherynne record some of her poetry, which I'm also posting to end the week. Readers can have the privilege of heard the author read poems from her collection 'Music of a Proto-Suicide'. The poems include Electra Redux, Freaks, De Naturis Bestiarum, and Gingerbread. Catherynne M. Valente is a writer you’re going to be hearing a lot about from other people -- but you'll hear Catherynne M. Valente herself first here. Don't pass by this chance to hear a fantastic writer with a unique voice -- speaking for you, the reader. You need not be a Proto-Suicide to enjoy her work, and you're not likely to be one after hearing it. You'll want to stick around to hear what else she has to say.

Fortean Times #187

Not on the Tor Books, however.
In case you think I've gone entirely off the rails and forgotten my base (all your bases are belong to us), this article should let you know that we're running quite smoothly. Yes, it's true, I'm straying from the familiar, but don’t think I've forgotten the familiar. It's just that the Fortean Time for October(!) 2004 just arrived yesterday, and I had to hunt it down this morning and snatch it from the teenager who was probably going to cut it into tiny pieces for some sort of art project. This issue has the usual bevy of interesting articles.

Starting off the issue is "one of the clearest photos ever taken" of an alien. Just to give you a flavor of why scientists might have a teeny-weeny bit of doubt when it comes to the existence of aliens, I've nabbed the image from its home site,, where readers can happily while away hours looking all sorts of weird stuff.

When your eyes start to weary of pixels, you can always go back to FT187, where they've got a rockin' little bit on Spontaneous Human Combustion, Ronald Reagan's UFO obsession and your Saint of the Month.

More blurry aliens.
Elsewhere, Loren Coleman exercises his interest (well, maybe it's an obsession) with the Mothman Death List, which is, simply put, a list of those who participated or were on the periphery of 'The Mothman Prophecies' movie who have since passed on. We're not sure if it's the curse of Mothman or the Curse of Lackluster Box Office, but something is clearly at work here. I just don't get it, but in case you do, Coleman is there to tell you about it.

What I'm most interested in is the cover story on 'Terror at the Tor'. They’re not talking about Tor books, but Glastonbury Tor, a well-known mystical site and the location for many a fine novel of the supernatural, most pertinently Phil Rickman's 'The Chalice'.

Nick Redfern, Jon Downes and Richard Freeman had been called into this noted site to help a man who had been researching Arthurian legends in Glastonbury and unwittingly awakened a gargoyle like monster. The article is an excerpt from Redfern's book 'Three Men Hunting Monsters', which sounds very much like a book I should be reading. I guess that's a familiar refrain, eh?

08-12-04: No More Strangeness; Don't Freak Out; Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Limited Edition Sells Out in Two Days

LTD: Going, going, gone.
Why should you read the Agony Column Every single day? Because you might miss something important. For example, on Monday I ran an article about the limited edition of 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell', available from the website. On Tuesday, they were gone. Alas, they're still gone. I have no word as to precisely what the limited state might be; I only know that there were just 250 of 'em, and I seem to recall that they were signed.

Readers (like myself) who might prefer a UK edition and prefer to have it signed will be able to get one at Cold Tonnage. If you just want a signed US edition you should try to get to one of the signing events next month. In the meantime, I'm keeping my ear to the ground for more news on this release. If I get anything I'll put up an article as soon as I hear. I'm going to contact the US people today, so expect to hear more on this anticipated release before the week is out.

Lumley's Little Book of 'Freaks'

Perhaps a visit to the orthodontist is called for.
Yesterday, I got one of those great surprises in the mail that make one's day as a reader. Last week, I was talking with Mark Ziesing about an old favorite of mine, Brian Lumley. Damn, I remember getting 'Necroscope' with a cover so garish it threatened to peel the paint from my walls back when the world was young. In fact, I loved the book, with its great combination of B-movie madness and A-movie production. That is, Lumley literally resurrected the old "he can talk to the dead" plot and the old "he fights vampires, don't he?" plot and told the tale with gusto and style -- not high style, really, but a sort of fun style that I really enjoyed. I liked the second novel in the series, 'Vamphyri' even better.

I reviewed these novels for 'OtherRealms', an early E-zine edited by Chuq Von Rospach. And I said of them, in the nicest possible way that they were like B movies. Somewhere, stuffed in a drawer, I still have the letter that Lumley sent me in response to my review, taking issue with the B-movie designation. It was my first brush with a famous writer. I was glad that he'd actually read the review and cared enough to write.

And now, fifteen years later, Lumley's still at it and so am I. While I haven’t hit on the Necroscope series in quite some time, I'm stoked to see Subterranean Press is publishing 'Freaks'. It's a very small collection of three short stories from the 1970's, one from the late eighties and one original to the collection. Hmmmm...Lumley...Freaks. Very good.

In the glow zone, looking for a meal. Alan Kozlowski rules OK!
'Freaks' is a themed collection and the theme is as charmingly old-fashioned as one might expect given the vintage of the stories. We're talking a whole book about radioactive, post-nuclear mutants. Hmmmm... Lumley...Freaks. Very good. It's rather refreshing to be past our worries of a nuclear apocalypse, isn’t it? Back in the 1970's, I used to stress about this possibility. Had I known then what I know now -- about the utter and complete unreliability of all that high-technology -- I would have been even more, well, freaked out. We start a war, my take is that more of our own missiles will blow up in the silos or fall back to earth a few miles from the launch point than make it to take out some presumed enemy.

One of the highlights from this collection has got to be the fine illustrations of Allen Kozlowski. Kozlowski is one of those masters who really deserves more attention and accolades. He has a style that nobody can duplicate digitally, one that seems to slip between the cracks in our ability to reason and send slivers of fear and distress into our nervous systems. Subterranean Press is offering up a mere 750 copies of this for a mere $35.00. Given that Lumley has been something of a bestseller since anything vampiric turned into gold, chances are this might sell out pretty fast. And it deserves to. I mean... Hmmmm...Lumley...Freaks. Very good.

From F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan and Tor?!?! Yes Tor!

Yes, it's from Tor.
I have to admit that I've come to expect a certain vibe from Tor books. My imagination of Tor books is that you're going to get a good, solid slice of science fiction served up with a cover from artists like Jim Burns or Stephen Youll. I like it, and readers like it because you can spot one a mile away. You can stroll to the display and zero in on the book you're likely to buy and read.

That's why you'll be happy to have me point out the mind-bogglingly good lookin' new anthology from Tor, because unless you looked on the spine you’d never in a million years guess that it was a Tor book. 'Crossroads', edited by F. Brett Cox and Andy Duncan is a breathtaking, thorough collection of mostly original fiction described as "Tales of the Southern Literary Gothic". I cannot imagine anything to make me salivate more than this collection. What we have here is a collection of stories of science fiction and horror that names Flannery O'Connor on the dust jacket.

And that dust jacket, by the way, is just classy as all hell, and very un-Tor-like. Not that Tor's covers aren't classy (though some aren't), but this one looks like something the Atlantic Press would put out. And that's perfectly fitting for this collection, because the anthology itself is like something one would hope the Atlantic Press would publish. That includes the two editors. F. Brett Cox has all the prerequisites for an Atlantic Press publication. He's published fiction in Century, Indigenous Fiction, and The North Carolina Review. He's now an assistant professor of English at Norwich University in Northfield Vermont. So you've got your high-falutin' litrary credentials right there. Very good.

Hear that train a comin' , comin' round the bend.
Andy Duncan, on the other hand, has much more of a Tor resume. That includes winning a World Fantasy Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. He's been in most of the usual suspects as far as SF&F magazines go; Asimov's, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy and The New York Review of Science Fiction. His collection of stories, 'Beluthahatchie' was published by no less than Golden Gryphon and garnered a spot on most of the Year's Best lists when it was published in 2000.

Together they've gathered an incredibly wide range of talent. Contributor's include the talented Kelly Link, who's won a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award and a James Tiptree Junior Award; Jack McDevitt, whose annual novel usually gets shortlisted for one a Hugo or Nebula, Michael Swanwick, who was in practically every award category for the Hugos ceremony I saw; Scott Edelman, who edits SciFi Weekly, the largest site of its kind on the web; James Sallis, an Agony Column favorite and author of the Lew Griffin novels, including 'The Long Legged Fly'; Michael Bishop, who has a recent collection also out from Golden Gryphon, 'Brighten to Incandescence'; and noted experimental horror author Don Webb. This doesn’t even cover half the authors in this compilation. But it should give you an idea of the variety offered within. To my mind, 'Crossroads' is clearly on the road to being one of the best anthologies of the year -- in any genre. Or out of all genres. It's just a bunch of great writing with a southern theme. And did I say that they mention Flanney O'Connor in the dust jacket?


08-11-04: Counting the Body Count Twice, Comic Con Report From Geek Speak; No More Jonthan Strange Limited Editions

Tess Gerritsen Gets a Body Double

I have a vivid memory of the first Tess Gerritsen book I ever encountered. I had driven "over the hill", which in local parlance means driving your car through the twisty-turns of Highway 17 (which has been the location for many an installment of 'Red Asphalt') for some 20 miles until you literally bottom out in the Santa Clara Valley, hitting first Los Gatos (still nice) and thence descending into the heart of Silicon Valley.

These days -- and back in 1999 when I saw the novel -- Silicon Valley is not much different from Los Angeles. It's essentially one long series of strip malls, commercial centers and industrial parks interrupted by the occasional neighborhood. But that's where we went to get our PC, and I enjoyed the opportunities to get out of the office and drive over the hill to pick 'em up. On the way there or back, I could stop at a Crown Bookstore --remember them? -- and poke about to see what was out in the big, normal stores as opposed to the boutiques that we have in Santa Cruz. Make no mistake about it, I love my local bookstores, but, as they aren't chains, one doesn't know what's selling in the chains.

An eye-catching cover.
That Crown has since been converted or closed, but I clearly remember the afternoon sunlight streaming in, and the big piles of mostly dusty books. I'd pick up a remainder now and again, and glance at what was for sale on the fiction shelves. In the Mystery/Suspense hardcover section, a curious greenish-blue book caught my eye. It was 'Gravity' by Tess Gerritsen. For some reason, I remember thinking it was her first book, which is clearly not the case. Probably I thought that because here was a science-fictionish medical horror novel that had a great cover design and looked pretty interesting from the jacket blurb. It's about an alien organism from the bottom of the sea that gets to a NASA space station and causes some nasty deaths. If I had known that there were monsters, I might have bought it and my reading history would be pretty different today. But after hemming and hawing, I got the idea that though there were diseased humans floating about in her NASA space station, there were no real monsters. So I put the book down, though I looked at it again on several subsequent occasions.

That started my history with Tess Gerritsen, picking 'em up, checking 'em out and eventually putting them down. I'd probably have enjoyed every single one, but at the time my reading priorities were elsewhere. I was just twigging to the great UK SF scene that was about to give birth to writers like Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds. So though I can say I've glanced at just about every Gerritsen book since 'Gravity', I've never actually read one.

Which brings us to 2004 and her latest novel, 'Body Double'. Gerritsen is clearly operating in a pure thriller mode here. Maura Isles is an M. E. When Detective Jane Rizzoli finds a body outside of Maura's home, nobody is prepared for what will unfold. The body is that of Maura Isles -- though she is standing over the body in the morgue. The body is hers, however, down to the smallest most intimate detail. DNA confirms that the dead woman is in fact a twin sister to Maura, and then the fun begins. Because there's a serial killer out there called the Beast, and one body count is definitely not enough.

I sat in on a panel about science in mysteries recently, featuring such fascinating speakers as Peter Clement, James Jay Calder, John F. Schilke and W. H. Watford. They were all great speakers and the panel was quite entertaining and enlightening. It really made me want to get out there and read a bunch of medical thrillers. Looking back however, one might be tempted to notice a lack of women. So what Gerritsen can bring to the field is a woman's perspective and it's clear that she does this across the board. With women in the roles of both detective and ME, you're certainly going to get a very different feel from this medical thriller. I'm still tempted by Gerritsen's work. I'm not, alas, detecting even the vaguest possibility of any monsters here, however. Even the Beast, I believe will prove to be all too sadly human.

Tad Williams' ShadowMarch and Much, More

Last year, Tad Williams brought us 'The War of the Flowers', a distinctly urbanized fantasy. This year, with 'Shadowmarch 'Volume One, it looks as if he'll be bringing us something much more traditional. A quick glance at the Sneak Preview I was handed from Comic Con shows evidence of castles, maidens, swords, and lore -- all the traditions that Williams mines so well. This novel is due in November, so we'll doubtlessly be hearing more about it as time goes by. But I did want to point out some excellent coverage of the amazing Comic Con that ran last month. Because I was interviewing China Miéville shortly afterwards, I was unable to go. But there was certainly a wealth of fascinating material to be found there. My NPR Affiliate co-worker Sean Cleveland, who acts as a host on Geek Speak, attended the conference, and his reports are thorough, fascinating and filled with pictures. I couldn't be there, but he was there for me -- and you. He's filed four reports -- Part 1, The Show, Part 2, Statues and Toys, Part 3, Panels and Programs, and Part 4, Writers, Artists and the Eisner Awards. I'd recommend my readers take a look at his coverage to get an idea of what goes on at this conference. This was the highest profile Comic Con yet; there were more people attending this conference than at the Democratic National Convention. Which is scary, very scary. Find out what to fear, and why from Sean's report.

08-10-04: A Bonanza of Small Press Hardcover Novels

PS Publishing and Golden Gryphon Bring On the Originals

Back when I was a...oh forget it. I'm still a -- well, whatever I was back in the 1980's, with more weight and more gray hairs. But the small press has undergone several metamorphoses in the interim. In its most recent re-incarnation, there haven't been a lot of all-original novels appearing. PS has stuck mostly with novellas, while Golden Gryphon has specialized in collections. Cemetery Dance and Subterranean have offered a smattering of collections, anthologies and limited editions of novels otherwise available from the large publishing houses. NightShade has been busily re-printing the classics and offering up the most oddball anthologies the mind could ever conceive of. Tachyon has been reprinting the classics as well, though they've got lots of oddball stuff of their own to throw in the mix.

While all of these have offered up the occasional original novel, recent signs suggest that the original novel may become a staple of the small press. In part this is because the large publishing houses are in the process of giving up the mid-list authors. You're either a best seller, or going to be a best seller. Of course, that's overly simplistic, but it's not entirely inaccurate.

But if current trends continue, we could be at the beginning of a bonanza of high-quality original novels, novels that blaze new paths, bring us new authors and offer established authors a chance to present their latest works without compromise.

Our future in a junkyard of the imagination. Click image for full cover.
While Golden Gryphon started out specializing in single-author short-story collections, they've moved more and more aggressively into the novel market. Their latest entry is from the ever-eclectic Neal Barrett, Jr. 'Prince of Christler-Coke' looks to be a satire of seriously Swiftian proportions. Asel - the titular prince -- has barely begun the marriage that joins the houses of Christler-Coke and Pepsicoma-Dodge when the black helicopters sent by Ducky Du Pontiac Heinz and the scion of Disney-Dow descend on Iacola Keep in a hostile takeover that brings everything to ruin. Asel then begins a picaresque journey across an America transformed by Barrett's linguistically fueled lampoon.

"Every hue and tone was there, every variegate and plaid, each Great House here to witness somber rite and occasion most high, here for merriment and drink, for sly misdeeds and shady deals, mischief and scams of every sort."

Barrett brings the skills of a standup comedian to his prose, transforming the world as we know it into the world as he sees it. Reading a Neal Barrett novel is like putting on a pair of Neal Barrett glasses, or drinking a glass of Neal Barrett Beer. Please don't operate heavy machinery or drive an automobile while you are doing so. Barrett combines some heavy-handed swipes with lighthearted shenanigans in a future we'd all be better off not seeing. But even though he goes over the top in his revision of the world, as we know it, he still manages to make his future real -- full of real characters confronting real (to them) problems and reacting realistically. I mean what are you going to do when the black helicopters swoop down to ruin your wedding? Hopefully this isn't a problem that many of us are going to face. But if we do have to face it, we'll have Neal Barrett to guide us through the difficult times.

Chain bookstore of doom - isn't that all of them? Click image for full cover.
PS Publishing started out their line of novels with Ramsey Campbell's 'The Dark of the Woods'. While it eventually found publication as a mainstream hardcover, who would want to forgo the Les Edwards cover painting, or the craftsmanship that PS brings to their work? They've followed up their first Campbell novel with another that's even more compelling to buy than the first. Campbell told me about 'The Overnight' in his interview with me at Spookycon, almost two years ago. Such is the state of this world that Campbell found himself working for Odors Bookstore, leading a reading club. With luck, 'The Overnight' is only partially based on his experiences there. He does tell us that while none of the characters are based on the people he worked with, "The lift is another matter". Sporting a gorgeous JK Potter front and back cover, you can count on Campbell to deliver surreal chills in 'The Overnight'. They're no doubt mirrored in the cover art.

Nobody is able to evoke unease with prose with the skill that Campbell has developed. Every word, every phrase and every comma contributes to a deep-seated sense of "something is very wrong here". Campbell's prose vision of of a hungry world, a world that will chew away first at the body, then at the soul. Just to test my own theory, I opened up the novel to a random page and found this paragraph:

"Some of the writers, not to mention the denimed woman and the oilskinned man, are staring at Wilf by now, the rainbow woman hardest of all. It feels exactly like being forced to stand up in class, though he's crouching over the book as if it's a pain in his knotted guts. Are they the source of the unpleasant stagnant taste? As he lowers his eyes to the novel he finds himself praying that it will somehow offer him a refuge."

This is why Ramsey Campbell will always, always be remembered as one of the foremost novelists of this generation. He seems to be able to pull our minds through our fears as if our brains were made of taffy. Nobody will ever call it "feel good fiction". But it's so good at making you feel bad, really bad, "you must wash your hands now" bad. I'll give you a moment to yourselves.

Front cover or back cover?
James Lovegrove's novella 'How the Other Half Lives' was arguably the first PS publication. So it's no surprise that he's still with them, and that he's sort-of joining the rush of novels coming from Peter Crowther's ever-escalating schedule. But it's a sneaky novel, which is what one might expect from Mr. Lovegrove. It's a stealth novel. 'Gig' is really two novellas -- 'Mik' and 'Kim' published in the "Ace Double" style. We're assured that they can be read in any order. To reinforce that impression each not only gets an introduction by Eric Brown, but they each get a signature sheet as well.

But as usual, wait, there's more. Readers might have noticed that there's a bit of palindromic language going on in the titles of the novellas. Take a look at the Table of Contents, listing the Chapter titles and you'll see even more. Everything is palindromic. The novels however aren't palindromic, and in fact they’re not even exactly the same number of pages. 'Kim' is a boyish androgyne who eats, sleeps and breathes God Dog, a band led by the charismatic Mik Dyer. She's in some sort of fan heaven when she's asked by Mik to perform an important mission during God Dog's homecoming concert. To accomplish her mission, she's going to cross a city on the verge of a meltdown. In 'Mik', the leader of God Dog has promised a memorable show for that final concert. His long-time friend is worried that there's more than hype behind that promise. Mik has become withdrawn and morose. And he's the kind of guy whose morose but brilliant moment might be a bit scary.

Lovegrove is capable of greatness, and he's capable of what must plainly be called, uh, mindfucking the reader into a gibbering wreck. One is advised to read his work with caution, because, one typically encounters the former shortly before feeling the latter. Are they palindromes for Lovegrove? He may think so. One hopes not.

The final PS original is the most original, in that I've not seen any other work by the writer, Adam L. G. Nevill. The dust jacket indicates he had a story in the Campbell-edited anthology 'Gathering the Bones'. So one is absolutely unprepared for a honking 494 page novel about ritual murder in a Scottish town. He's being treated as well as one could hope for. Launched by PS with a gorgeous Les Edwards cover, this book clearly has the potential to be an atmospheric feast in the tradition of Campbell and Rickman.

Check out Les Edwards website to see how much the original will set you back. It's more reasonable than you think! Click image for full cover.
But a quick examination -- the random page test is getting a workout today -- suggests there's more than a bit of the police procedural in this novel of the supernatural. In fact, a multi-sample unearthed multiple investigations and excellent prose.

"After another two hours, he ascertains that many people have been tried as witches in the Northeast of Scotland, tortured and then horribly disposed of, but little else. He suspects their deaths were the result of accusations made through fear or envy, sanctioned by religious intolerance, and that the hapless individuals were all innocent of the charges brought against them. That is the tone of every book; the authors disbelieve in the existence of any supernatural basis to the stories. The last story he reads is concerned with an old and solitary woman accused of witchery, who is stuffed into a barrel by an enraged mob, which is then covered in tar, ignited and finally rolled into a river so that she will both suffocate and burn. Her imagined hopelessness, confusion, and terror, in the moments leading to such in inhuman punishment, depress him. He wants to flee this, and all of the books, and all of his questions, with another drink."

Needless to say, 'Banquet of the Damned' is a pretty damned impressive first novel. From a pretty damned impressive publisher. It seems almost like a return to the halcyon years, before the horror genre itself was damned by its own ubiquity.

08-09-04: Cruising the Magazine Stand; READER UPDATE

Limited Strange, Unlimited Argosy & Anders

UK Standard Ed.
I've just received word from my reader Troy that Bloomsbury is selling exactly 246* copies of a signed, limited edition of Susanna Clarke's 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell' for £30.00. It seems like a fabulous deal to me and not an unwise investment. My guess is that supplies will go fast. At any rate, I find it interesting that in the US the more limited edition is going to have the mostly white cover while in the UK the limited edition has the mostly black cover. You can buy it direct from Bloomsbury for a mere £30.00 plus £6.95 S&H, plus the relatively minor pain of registering for their website. Bloomsbury offered a similar deal with the first Harry Potter book, copies of which are now selling for $900 to $47,l00(!). Or at least are for sale at that price. Makes you think, it does.

[Note: Read the full article on the wonders of the New Argosy magazine below, then read this addedum.]

Reader Mathew writes to tell me that "I'd subscribe to the A5 slipcased version of Argosy if I were you...the novellas come separately to the mag and the slipcase is lovely - the first novella was by Michael Moorcock!" I agree -- that is, I agree that I should subscribe! Here are the details (scroll down or search for March 25, 2004 to find the article about the "Connisseur Edition") at the website, which also offers the standard money-saving (and therefore worthy) Proletarian subscription of $49.95 for one year (six issues). You can email Argosy for details or ask your local speciality bookseller. Mathew gets his from Clarke's World Books; ask your favorite specialty guy or gal and I bet they'll have them as well.

Also, per the website, Lou Anders is stepping down as editor to take over Pyr, an SF&F imprint for the Prometheus Books. Prometheus is known in Fortean circles as a publisher of skeptical and debunking literature. But their selection includes a variety of fascinating non-fiction, including material like Fred Schulte's crime-based tales of how we get 'Fleeced!'. They're now expanding into SF&F. We wish Mr. Anders well. Given the incredible work on Argosy 1 & 2 and 'Live Without A Net', we expect great things.

*246=250 - 1 for Troy and 3 for me!

Bringing the Past to Life with Argosy and The Strand, A Slick SF News Magazine, The Chronicle

This is a really interesting interview.
This weekend I went to Bookshop Santa Cruz to hunt down a copy of Interzone. While I wasn’t able to locate a copy of that magazine, I was alas able to find three more magazines of great interest. It was the kind of deal where I picked each up, put them down, walked away, came back, picked them up, put them down, walked away, came back and picked them all up and bought them.

The first thing to catch my eye -- oddly enough because it was nearly completely hidden -- was 'Chronicle' Magazine ($5.95, Monthly, DNA Publications, It's an all-slick 50-page compendium of the latest news, reviews and interviews from the world of printed science fiction, fantasy and horror. The August 2004 issue includes an interview with Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and essentially the rest of the issue is a series of departments that cover news and reviews.

I really liked the clean layout of this magazine; it's very easy to read, with little clutter. Readers will have to lose their fear of pages of solid text, but since we do that for books we should be able to do that for magazines about books. Advertising is plentiful and in color and nearly as informative as the editorial content. There are eleven solid pages full of news, including book and media sales, websites, publishers, magazines, bookselling, headlines, market reports, foreign rights, and book club sales. If you're looking for a solid mainline fix of deadly news certain to increase your book-buying activities and anticipation, this is it. It's nicely organized and easily read.

There are lots of book reviews that are also quite well organized. In "Critical Mass" Don D'Ammassa reviews 28 hardcover books, 10 trade paperbacks, 14 mass market paperbacks and 10 "Associational" books. Can he do that in a month? Boggles the mind. The reviews are in the 100-200 word range. Michael M. Jones offers 14 reviews of young adult and children's novels in 'Schroedinger's Bookshelf'. Jones' reviews are quite a bit longer than D'Ammassa's.

Movies are covered by Alan Dean Foster and Jeff Rovin. Foster reviews 'Shrek 2' and 'Van Helsing'. 'Shrek 2 gets 7/8 of a page, while 'Van Helsing' gets the remainder. Guess which one he liked? Jeff Rovin's 'SF Cinema' is a column that covers current productions and DVD releases, as opposed to a review format. There are two pages of "Buyer's Guide", which amounts to a list of everything the publishers are willing to send in. I noticed that they didn't have a listing for Pan Macmillan/Tor UK, however. Tanya Brown's UK report covers the Arthur C. Clarke awards and assorted UK media news from newspapers to the upcoming Doctor Who revival.

In 'Buck Rogers Stuff: Science Fiction, Toys and Society', Mark Rich covers toy cars for future from the past. And finally, there are listings of conventions, lots of conventions. 'Chronicle' is published by DNA publications who also offer Absolute Magnitude (science fiction), (yet another) Weird Tales (revival), Fantastic Stories (SF, horror, fantasy) and Dreams of Decadence (vampire fiction). It's a pretty impressive lineup that could probably keep you reading full-time, were you to be so inclined.

A long way from 221 Baker Steet.
The Strand Magazine ($5.95, Quarterly,, once charged with printing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is now based out of Michigan. OK. Given that, I was happy to see fiction included John Mortimer, though not, alas, a Rumpole story, as well as Ray Bradbury. Like Chronicle, The Strand is a full-size (8.5" by 11") magazine, printed on very heavy slick paper. It's high-quality stuff. Other fiction includes stories by barrie Roberts, Peter Lovesey and Edward Marston.

Editor Andrew F. Gulli interviews Anne Perry, while Nicholas Fuller contributes an article on Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley, currently being portrayed on PBS by none other than Dame Diana Rigg. Stephen Rachman offers and entertaining article on 'Poe Magazines & the Origins of Detective Fiction. Can you ask for more than Poe's own design for his never published magazine 'The Stylus'? I don't think so. The 64 pages of this magazine are very cleanly laid out and very easy to read. It's a class act.

The one that really wowed me, however, was the one I only barely saw at first. Hiding in the bottom rack was the new Argosy Magazine ($12.95, bi-monthly, Coppervale International,, edited by Lou Anders, who was last seen editing an anthology covered earlier titled 'Live Without A Net'.
Your issue of Argosy.
My issue of Argosy.
Based on the single issue I saw, Argosy should go right to the top of your buy list, to the point where you, like me should seek out issue number one in case you missed something. Argosy is really something quite special.

The presentation here is digest-sized but printed on heavy, slick paper. This is the way all paperback books should be printed but aren't. It's heavy, beautiful and built-to-last. This issue features all-new illustrations by none other than Doctor Seuss. Getting Seuss into Argosy is so right that it's almost beyond words. The cover is by Gregory Manchess, and no less a talent than John Picacio puts in a wonderful appearance.

O'Neil De Noux, Jeff VanderMeer, Carol Emshwiller, Mike Resnick, Mike Baron and Martin Meyers provide the short stories, while the issue concludes in a separately-numbered novella by Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow. But it's not just a novella; there is a Foreward, an Introduction, and even a glossary of terms. Stross likes his glossaries.

Argosy has little resemblance to the late-great Bigfoot and Flying saucer festooned periodical of my youth. Normally, I would lament the passing of that peculiar and particular cultural icon and it's replacement with a classy literary magazine. I had a special place in my adolescent heart for the original Argosy. It re-created the world for me, populated it with monsters, aliens, and all-purpose weirdness. And I have to say that the new Argosy does not replace the old one.

Frankly, The Fortean Times has done that quite handily, and I'm ever so happy to have a high-falutin' journal of weird fiction out there. It's always fun to go hunting for one thing and find another.

I'm subscribed to Interzone, so I'll not miss the issue I couldn't find all that much. But I'm glad that I searched for one on the newsstand, because what I found was really quite spectacular. I've not been visiting the news stands much of late. Alas, it's another thing I can add to my already extensive list.