Friday, October 30, 2015

A Smidgen of News, An Earlier Story Free This Weekend, and a Ton of Peter Beagle Coming as Ebooks

     Long time no post.  During that time, I've pretty well scrapped a novel I'd been tinkering with for eons.  (May try to salvage some of it later, as there are a couple of characters in it that I'd like to find homes for one of these days.)  Having scrapped that project, I tried another novel.  It's a time-travel story and it still needs some work, but I'm hoping to have it ready some time in January.  There are a couple of new short stories in the works too.  So I might actually have a few new titles out there in the Kindle store soon.

     Of the titles that are currently out there, one will be free this Halloween weekend -- my short ghost story "They're Waiting" is free in the Amazon Kindle store Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If you haven't read it already, either as a single or in my collection THE OTHER IRON RIVER, AND OTHER STORIES, check it out this weekend while the price is right.  Find the free story at: They're Waiting-ebook

     Speaking of good Halloween reading, check out the following big collections of horror stories: Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, a classic anthology from Modern Library; The Dark Descent, edited by David Hartwell; The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, edited by Bill Pronzini, Barry Malzberg, and Martin Greenberg; The Weird, edited by Jeff and Ann VanDerMeer.  Huge collections all, each one covering  decades of work in the horror field, and there isn't nearly as much overlap between them as you might expect.  Of these, only The Weird is available as an ebook -- the others are print only, and the Arbor House Treasury is out-of-print (but well worth looking for).

     Finally, on November 1, a five-foot shelf of Peter Beagle's work will be released in ebook formats.  Included will be the novels The Last Unicorn and A Fine & Private Place, as well as a number of terrific short story collections such as Lila the Werewolf & Other Tales and We Never Talk About My Brother.  Good stuff.  Check the list at: Peter Beagle ebooks in Kindle Store

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Almost (Though Not Quite) An Essential Harlan Ellison

     In 1987, Nemo Press published a huge (huge? an understatement) volume called The Essential Ellison, a 35-year retrospective of Harlan Ellison's work.  Stories.  Essays.  A screenplay.  A later edition updated that book, covering 50 years of his writing.
     That book is now out of print, but Subterranean Press has just released The Top of the Volcano: the Award-Winning Stories of Harlan Ellison, a superb selection of Ellison's short fiction -- it's not quite an essential Ellison, but if you've never read his fiction before this is a great place to start.
     Every story in this book is an award-winner, and Ellison's won a LOT of awards -- there are 23 stories here covering most of his career.  These stories have received science fiction's Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Poll awards, the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award, the Horror Writers of America Bram Stoker award, and more.  In this book, you'll find Ellison at the top of his game, and it just doesn't get better than that (and if it does, well, as John Wayne said in Rio Bravo, "I'd hate to have to live on the difference").

     So why do I say this is almost, but not quite, an essential Ellison?  Because one of this book's strengths is also a weakness when it comes to assembling an "Essential" or "Best of" volume of a writer like Ellison, who has written in so many areas.  The fact that all these stories are prize-winners means that you're getting stories that readers and writers declared best in their class in those years; it also means that powerful work done in areas where such awards were not being given simply isn't included.  With a book as strong as this one, that's a minor quibble.  As I said, if you've never read his fiction before, this is a great place to start -- just bear in mind that you won't want to stop here.  

     Unlike most of Ellison's collections, The Top of the Volcano contains no new introduction, no notes on the selections.  The fiction stands alone.  Other reviewers have noted that this is perhaps as it should be.  While author introductions and comments are part of nearly all his books, the stories are the point.  The Top of the Volcano is straight Ellison fiction, and nothing else.

     So, what's in The Top of the Volcano?  Here's the table of contents:

‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World
A Boy and His Dog
The Region Between
The Deathbird
The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54’ N, Longitude 77° 00’ 13” W
Jeffty is Five
Count the Clock That Tells the Time
Djinn, No Chaser
Paladin of the Lost Hour
With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole
Soft Monkey
The Function of Dream Sleep
The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore
Mefisto in Onyx
Chatting with Anubis
The Human Operators with A.E. Van Vogt
How Interesting: A Tiny Man

     Now, if you know Harlan Ellison's work at all, that list is all you need to make this book an immediate purchase; if you don't, be aware that The Top of the Volcano contains stories that will chill your blood and others that will break your heart (and some that will do both), and even the oldest stories here ("Repent, Harlequin!" and "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream") remain as fresh and new and compelling as they were the day they were first published.  This is fiction made to last, by one of the great short story writers of our time.

     Speaking of made to last, Subterranean Press does a terrific job on its books, and the hardcover edition of The Top of the Volcano is a thing of beauty.  Get a description at:

     And in case you don't already have some idea of Ellison's range, check out the titles listed at:

Friday, January 23, 2015

And More Rod Serling and Gerald Kersh Reissues

     A year ago, I posted some comments on ebook reissues of titles by the late great Rod Serling; collections of his Twilight Zone and Night Gallery adaptations were available and so was his collection of novellas The Season to Be Wary.  In closing I wrote:

     "If we're lucky, these volumes will be followed by ebooks gathering some of Serling's other work for television.  In the late 50s, a collection was published that included "Patterns," "Old MacDonald Had a Curve," "The Rack," and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," and Serling's comments on each -- it would be nice to see that one available again.  Ditto some of his other scripts, such as "A Storm in Summer" and "Slow Fade to Black."  (And I for one would pop instantly for an ebook containing both the television and the feature film scripts of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" with any available notes from Serling.)  Contemporary audiences know Serling mostly through Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, but there's a lot of terrific work by Rod Serling that doesn't get as much air time these days as it should; here's hoping that we'll see some of those scripts restored to print as well."

     And that's happening.  Patterns, that collection of four plays for television, has been reissued.  So has Requiem for a Heavyweight.  The original television script for "Requiem" is included in both these volumes, but anyone interested in Serling's work will want to pick up both of these in spite of that duplication.  The ebook Requiem for a Heavyweight is a reissue of the Bantam paperback movie tie-in and it includes not only the original script but a "reading version" blending the original and the feature film scripts; Mark Olshaker notes in his introduction that the reading version is something of a hybrid between a novel and a screen treatment, and that's true.  Further, in his blending of the original teleplay and the feature film script, Serling included material that (to my knowledge) didn't make it into the final cut of the film version, and it's dynamite material.  Even if you've read the teleplay and seen the movie version often enough to be able to quote scenes from memory, you'll want to check out this reissue.
     Another nice thing about the reissues of Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight -- their Amazon listings note that these are books one and two of the early works.  Which implies that more are coming, and that is welcome news indeed.

     Valancourt Books has released two more collections of Gerald Kersh stories: On an Odd Note, and Clock Without Hands.  If you've not yet read Kersh, you're missing the work of one of the great 20th century storytellers.  Unavailable for years, a number of his books have been brought back into print (Valancourt's done some and Faber has reissued others).  The newest reissue, Clock Without Hands, contains in the title story an amazing bit of description that I first saw more than 40 years ago in Harlan Ellison's introduction to Kersh's Nightshade and Damnations (also available now from Valancourt).  Look at this:

     "A man has a shape; a crowd has no shape and no color. The massed faces of a hundred thousand men make one blank pallor; their clothes add up to a shadow; they have no words. This man might have been one hundred-thousandth part of the featureless whiteness, the dull grayness, and the toneless murmuring of a docile multitude. He was something less than non-descript —he was blurred, without identity, like a smudged fingerprint. His suit was of some dim shade between brown and gray. His shirt had gray-blue stripes, his tie was patterned with dots like confetti trodden into the dust, and his oddment of limp brownish mustache resembled a cigarette butt, disintegrating shred by shred in a tea-saucer."

     And the rest of that story is every bit as good as that description.  Trust me on this.