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Off On A Tangent: F&SF Style
by Dave Truesdale

The New Nostalgia:
The Classic Pulp Story Revival

We seem to see "new" used to describe quite a lot of resurrected types of fiction from our genre's past these days. As critic Paul Kincaid notes in a recent SF Site (March 1st) review of The New Weird, we also see the New Hard SF Renaissance and the New Space Opera1 as well as the New Weird. All hearken back to the days of the pulp magazines from the 1930s and 1940s (or in the case of The New Weird, as far back as the 1920s and Weird Tales), and each in their own way seeks to update, or reinvent these sub-genres to align themselves more with contemporary tastes and sensibilities while at the same time capturing the qualities that endeared readers to them in the first place.

The 'nostalgia' part of the title is as fitting as 'new' is. The April/May issue of Asimov's SF sports a reflective editorial by Sheila Williams on SF magazine publishing landmarks, and a recent "On the Net" column by James Patrick Kelly also waxes nostalgic on various subjects. And one of the publishers discussed below is even called Nostalgia Ventures. Thus we title this essay "The New Nostalgia" with a serious nod to nostalgia and a bit of the tongue-in-cheek toward the "new."

Since most of the pulp magazines had bitten the dust by around 1950, the year I was born (and I'm talking not just the SF pulp magazines, but the crime, western, detective, war, superhero, and romance pulps as well, though some would keep presses running even after Eisenhower left the White House), one would have to be nearly 70 to have been of sufficient reading age by the late 1940s to have caught even the tail end of their heyday. Therefore, the only recourse most of us have had to reading the stories in them is through the numerous reprint collections issued over the years. Probably the most famous compiler of stories from the '30s and '40s was the indefatigable Groff Conklin. SF owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Others along the way who have reprinted some of the best of the really older stuff but nowhere near as prolifically, have been Damon Knight and Frederik Pohl, with a few scattered others in the mix over the years. But it has been literally decades since their efforts in this direction have seen print. Thus, another generation of readers has no idea of the origins of our genre from reading the stories themselves; all they know has been gleaned from introductions to recent volumes of "new" this or "new" that. While these thoughtful capsule histories are extremely helpful and valuable, there is no substitute for having read the actual stories themselves—many of which have become classics in the field, and their author's icons.

As has often occurred at various times in our history, the small press has stepped in to rectify any number of like situations. Each in its own way, the following four publishers are providing the SF community invaluable service. In no particular order we owe thanks to Stephen Haffner of Haffner Press, Erik Mona of Planet Stories, Winston Engle of Thrilling Wonder LLC, and Anthony Tollin of Nostalgia Ventures. Each of these publishers now offers the dedicated reader, the ardent fan of any age, or the serious collector the opportunity to read, firsthand, some of these glorious stories from the pulp era, penned by a few of the most famous and beloved writers we've ever produced.

For several years now Stephen Haffner has been publishing some of the most beautiful, durable, and collectible hardcovers in the business. Focusing on the works of Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, and Jack Williamson, each title is a labor of love and easily worth the price.

Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances, his latest release (Dec., 2007), picks up where the previous Brackett volume, Martian Quest: The Early Brackett, left off. Martian Quest collects the first 20 stories of Brackett's career, the stories that earned her the title the "Queen of Space Opera." These early efforts showcase her talent in several areas: planetary romance, lost-race fantasy, modern horror, and hard-boiled mystery. Martian Quest also includes an introduction by Michael Moorcock. Lorelei offers 12 longer stories dating from 1943 to 1950, with all but one from the '40s. Seven are taken from Planet Stories (1939-1955), the remaining five from Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-1955). The title story (from Planet Stories, Summer 1946) is a classic planetary adventure yarn co-authored with Ray Bradbury. Much speculation has been made of who wrote which sections (Bradbury the poetic and Brackett the action?). To set the record straight, Brackett writes (in The Best of Planet Stories #1, Ballantine, 1975): "In late summer of 1944 I had finished about half of a 20,000 worder for Planet. Suddenly lightning struck and (no one more amazed than I) I had a job working on the screenplay of The Big Sleep, for Howard Hawks. Obviously I wasn't going to have time to finish the story, and I asked Ray if he would like to tackle it. He had nothing to go on but what I had down on paper. I never worked from an outline in those days (and often regretted it) and I had no idea where the story was going. Ray took the story and finished it, completely on his own. I never read a word of it until he handed me the manuscript, and I never changed a word after that. I'm convinced to this day that he did a better job with the second half than I would have done. Bradbury's section begins with the line, 'He saw the flock, herded by more of the golden hounds.' " Set on the hot frontier planet of Venus, "Lorelei of the Red Mist" is full of danger and intrigue, flame birds and beautiful women, and sailing ships and sea-beasts. Who could ask for more?

Other favorites from this thick collection include "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Feb., 1950), "The Lake of the Gone Forever" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Oct., 1949), and the rousing "The Veil of Astellar" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring, 1944). "Veil" has so much going on in it, you feverishly keep turning pages because you have to. There's spaceships flitting through the solar system, from Mars to the Belt to Jupiter, there's esp/telepathy, immortality, X-crystals, green-eyed Martians, and a voyage to another dimension, to the heart of Astellar itself, which Brackett describes thusly: "We walked through the halls of Astellar, like people in the heart of a many-colored jewel. Halls of amber and amethyst and cinnabar, of dragon-green and gray the color of morning mist, and colors there are no names for in this dimension." So what's not to like?

Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances Lorelei of the Red Mist: Planetary Romances offers other features as well, as if the stories themselves weren't enough. There's a touching, sad foreword by Ray Bradbury (protégé and lifelong friend to both Ed Hamilton and Leigh Brackett; they lived a mere 300 yards from each other for much of their lives), an introduction by alternate-world master Harry Turtledove, and the beautiful cover, interior illustrations, and end papers are by the beloved Frank Kelly Freas. It simply doesn't get any better than this, friends.

Pure entertainment from start to finish is the mark of all of Haffner Press's collector's editions. And if, along the way, there's a Deep Thought or Insight to be found, so much the better. As Leigh Brackett states (again from The Best of Planet Stories #1): "Getting back to the mention of Big Thinks—like Dr. Moreau's beast-men, writers of adventure stories aren't allowed to have them. Sometimes we manage to sneak one in even so, and all that saves us is that no one realizes it's there. Who looks for a statement of any Real Importance in a space opera? I won't tell you whether any such are lurking among these stories—but if you should happen to think you see one here and there, you just might be right."

I would also like to mention in passing the gorgeous Stark and the Star Kings volume that appeared in 2005 (600+ pages). It is a collaborative effort by Ed Hamilton and Leigh Brackett, featuring both of Ed's classic Star Kings novels of super-science, three of Leigh's best Eric John Stark stories, and their only formal collaboration written initially for Harlan Ellison's final Dangerous Visions anthology, and is seen here for the first time. It's titled "Stark and the Star Kings," the beauty of it being that Ed wrote the Eric John Stark sections and Leigh wrote the Star Kings sections. Words can't do justice to this beautifully crafted book, which even includes an interior dust jacket photo of Ed and Leigh, taken sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, if my guess is correct. The photo below is from my own collection, taken in April of 1976. Ed Hamilton was born in 1904 and passed away in 1977. Leigh Brackett was born in 1915 and passed away in 1978. They were two of the most beloved figures in all of science fiction.

 
Photo © 1976 Dave Truesdale
Leigh Brackett and Ed Hamilton (Minicon 11, April 1976)
Leigh Brackett and Ed Hamilton (Minicon 11, April 1976)
Along with the Ed Hamilton and Leigh Brackett volumes, Haffner Press has embarked on a massive project to reprint the complete short stories of Jack Williamson. Williamson was honored in 1975 as SFWA's second Grand Master, behind only Robert A. Heinlein. In 1994 he was awarded a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. His work spanned the pulp era and he was one of the few from that wild and woolly, formative period in SF history to survive numerous changes in the field, to adapt his writing to fit the times. As SF changed and grew, so did Jack Williamson's work. He could write with equal felicity SF, fantasy, and horror, was a staunch advocate of science and espoused unbounded faith in technology to solve many of the problems facing mankind, and above all was a gentle, soft-spoken man. Williamson held lifelong friendships with Ed Hamilton and Leigh Brackett, his friendship with Hamilton extending back to the 1930s. His first story saw print in 1928 when he was a mere lad of twenty, and he continued to write successfully until his death in November of 2006. Perhaps his most famous story is the classic "With Folded Hands," where mankind has created robot (humanoid) servants to "Serve and Obey," not realizing that these "perfect mechanicals" would soon become humanity's masters. Time has proven it to be the penultimate man vs. machine story. The Haffner collected-works series is up to volume six (with at least one volume Sold Out), with the just released Gateway to Paradise now available. And there is still another mammoth Williamson commemorative 100th anniversary volume (separate from the collected works series) which debuted in April (The Worlds of Jack Williamson, A Centennial Tribute: 1908-2008). I quickly pre-paid for my copy, as word had it they were already going fast. But don't take my word for it. Simply check out the Haffner Press website and do yourself a favor: www.haffnerpress.com

These books were created to be read and cherished by readers young and old. They are rare, definitive, lasting treasures, and can only enhance the shelves of any serious library.

Erik Mona, editor of the Planet Stories imprint from Paizo Publishing, is also doing a marvelous job resurrecting stories and novels either directly from the pulps or in the classic pulp tradition. Launched in mid-2007, Planet Stories offers a wider array of carefully selected authors who penned various types of fantasy popular in the 20s and 30s, much like the sorts found in Weird Tales. Authors such as Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, (again) Leigh Brackett, and Otis Adelbert Kline are but some of the names whose short work is collected in these more affordable trade paperback editions ($12.99 ea.).

As Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton were husband and wife, so were Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. While Brackett and Hamilton collaborated but once, the team of Kuttner and Moore did so quite often, employing numerous pseudonyms to cover their prodigious output in the pulp magazines of the time. When writing separately they produced remarkably high quality work of their own. Moore is most well known for her Northwest Smith, and Jirel of Joiry stories, Jirel known as the first female heroine of the sword and sorcery stripe, or, as Suzy McKee Charnas describes Jirel in her introduction to the collected Jirel of Joiry stories, Black God's Kiss (Oct., 2007): "From [Moore's] pages sprang this astonishing, bright figure, a sort of Rambo-esque Joan of Arc, all gleaming mail and sharp-edged, bloody blades, with flaming hair and blazing leonine eyes, boldly striding into worlds that were plainly not this world— . . . "

Black God's Kiss A female version of Robert E. Howard's immortal Conan was born when "Black God's Kiss" appeared in a 1934 issue of Weird Tales. It was soon followed that same year with "Black God's Shadow." Though the term hadn't yet been invented, "sword & sorcery" would never be the same. There were only four more Jirel stories to appear in Weird Tales, and one of them, "Quest of the Starstone" (1937) was a collaboration with Kuttner.

As a general observation, the stories are dark, involve single-minded quests of various dire import (revenge upon a man who humiliated her and stole her honor; or saving the kingdom of Joiry), and are rich with lush description. Said description depicting colorful, vivid landscapes, or inhuman monsters and twisted lands from the deepest nightmare, as suited the story. While overt eroticism was held to a minimum—unlike some of Howard's Conan stories where buxom, sultry, bare-breasted beauties slunk around palaces or temples—it nevertheless existed as symbolism or veiled imagery in Moore's. The most obvious example comes from that first and most famous Jirel story, "Black God's Kiss." Jirel has traveled to the underworld to receive a special magic from a stone god. She must carry this magic with her back to Joiry from this hellish underworld. With this magic (extracted from a kiss) she will exact murderous revenge on the one who has shamed her. It doesn't take much imagination to spot the highly erotic imagery present in the following passages, or just what "it" represents: "She stared at it in silence, feeling a curious compulsion growing within her, like a vague command from something outside herself . . . It was a semi-human figure, crouching forward with outthrust head, sexless and strange. Its one central eye was closed as if in rapture, and its mouth was pursed for a kiss . . . Helplessly she felt herself advancing. . . . With stars swirling around her she advanced across the floor and laid her hands upon the rounded shoulders of the image—and lifted her red head and laid her mouth blindly against the lips of the image." As her warm mouth meets that of the "iron-cold lips stirring under hers" and she receives the kiss deep within her, she feels "as if the weight were but an egg from which things might hatch too dreadful to put even into thoughts." Thus are sex and danger skillfully mixed, a potent recipe for any barbarian pulp tale, as Howard's Conan knew all too well. But I don't recall any Conan story with a scene like that! So here you have them, all of the wonderful Jirel of Joiry tales from Weird Tales, collected anew in this modestly priced edition.

When Robert E. Howard blew his brains out in 1936 it abruptly ended the S&S tales of Conan, Kull, and the rest of Howard's output in that vein (until L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, working from unfinished stories, outlines, and fragments would revive Howard's work many years later). To fill the immediate void, the versatile Henry Kuttner began writing his Elak of Atlantis tales (three from 1938 and one from 1941, all in WT), all now collected in Elak of Atlantis. Where Conan was big and brawny and wielded either axes or heavy swords, Elak is wiry and uses his rapier to deadly effect. Heir to the throne of Atlantis but not desiring the mantle, choosing instead to wander his ancient world with his trusty (and always drunken) friend Lycon, Elak is thrust into one deadly adventure after another. I rather liked them very much, as Kuttner's imagination is every bit as sharp as Moore's though it takes a different direction, and because his prose is much the cleaner and the stories move. As with Conan and Jirel, Elak's world is one of crumbling ruins, malignant magics, evil creatures . . . and blood and gore in appropriate measure; where Good and Evil, though sometimes masked and deceptive, are always revealed for what they inevitably are, and are suitably embraced, or utterly destroyed.

Also in this volume are the pair of Prince Raynor stories, "Cursed Be the City" and "The Citadel of Darkness." Both are taken from 1939 issues of WT. I was not familiar with either of them so was happy to get the chance to read them. I found them engaging and easily read, though not quite the equal of the Elak stories. Perhaps if there had been more of them, Kuttner might have fleshed out Raynor's world a bit more. The introduction by Joe R. Lansdale lends valuable insight into Kuttner's writing, period influences, and the characters of Elak and Prince Raynor, making this book worth every penny.

Other books in this ongoing series of Planet Stories classic reprint packages include Michael Moorcock's early Edgar Rice Burroughs homage City of the Beast (1965, written under his early pseudonym of Edward P. Bradbury and also known as Warriors of Mars, with a fine introduction by former Amazing Stories editor Kim Mohan) and a pair of Leigh Brackett's short novels featuring her most famous creation Eric John Stark in The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman (both from 1964). To the best of my knowledge this is the first time since their original Ace Double appearance (#75781) that they are once again showcased in a single volume, both having seen print (under different titles) separately, but quite some many years ago. The introduction by Michael Moorcock is fact-filled, insightful, and a loving tribute to one of his mentors. Kudos to Erik Mona for offering them to us once again. For lovers of the planetary romance, the other-world adventure, or the sword and sorcery tale rife with abominable creatures and darker magics, you can't go wrong with these classic tales of the imagination.

The entire catalog of Planet Stories classic reprints can be found at: paizo.com/store/paizo/planetStories

Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1 I am unashamedly envious of Winston Engle. He has turned his passion into a magazine of his own design, has molded and shaped it into something quite special, and I wish that one day I might be so fortunate as to have the same opportunity. The summer of 2007 saw his dream become a reality, with the debut of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1. It's as close to a perfect facsimile of this glorious pulp magazine from the 1930s, 1940s, and into the middle 1950s as you will ever find. TWS, Volume 1 (254 pp.) is chock full of the fiction and features that have today made this magazine a beloved favorite (though admittedly not one of the top tier magazines of its day—isn't if funny how time alters perspectives?). It recreates the original logo, the table of contents page is identical to one from the original magazine, and the rest of the interior is laid out in like manner. It is a time machine in magazine format. It includes original art from the legendary Frank R. Paul (illustrating a story from no less than Stanley G. Weinbaum!), as well as new interior art bringing to life the stories original to this volume.

The table of contents is a mind-blower. There are three novelettes (two original), three all-new short stories (Eric Brown, Kevin King, and Michael Kandel), and a new short-short by Ben Bova. All are enjoyable and capture the flavor, the feel, and excitement of the classic pulp tale.

On the classic reprint side things get even better. We are treated to an early novella by the great one, Jack Williamson, with his utterly charming and page-turning "The Moon Era" from the February, 1932 issue of Wonder Stories. The classic novelette is from a staple of the early pulps, Raymond F. Jones, and his "The Alien Machine" from the June, 1949 issue of TWS. Of the four short stories, those by Isaac Asimov ("The Portable Star," TWS, Winter, 1955) and Ray Bradbury ("The Irritated People," TWS, Dec., 1947) have never before appeared in a collection. Cleve Cartmill's "Salvage" (TWS, Aug., 1949) and Stanley G. Weinbaum's August, 1935 "The Worlds of If" complete the fiction. Weinbaum was instantly recognized as a genius with his first published story, "A Martian Odyssey" in the July, 1934 issue of Wonder Stories. The one here came but a year later. Four months following its appearance Weinbaum died of cancer on Dec. 14, 1935 at the age of 33. His entire career spanned all of a year and a half. Of his 23 stories, eleven were published posthumously. "The Worlds of If" is collected in The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum (Ballantine pb, April, 1974), and includes an introduction by Isaac Asimov and a special afterword by Robert Bloch. But that collection is 36 years old and long out of print, so seeing a Weinbaum story here is quite a coup.

And if all of the fiction wasn't enough, the features are worth the $14.95 price tag in themselves.

 •  "Jack Williamson, 1908-2006" by Winston Engle. In which the publisher provides a capsule introduction to Jack Williamson, prefacing a short essay by Williamson titled: "What Science Fiction Means to Me: Tremendous Contribution to Civilization" from the June, 1929 issue of Science Wonder Stories. Following are a trio of short pieces by Williamson: "Williamson on Black Holes" which is an excerpt from a 1939 story wherein the author depicts a black hole (described amazingly accurately) as "The Hole"; a short bio of himself titled "As Williamson Sees Himself" from the June, 1939 TWS; and an excerpt from his May, 1931 story "Through the Purple Cloud" from Wonder Stories, where Williamson describes what we now call a wormhole as a "pinhole."

 •  "Space Opera Revisited" by James Gunn. A thoughtful and entertaining look at the title subject. One always learns something of value from this SF scholar, historian, and SFWA 2007 Grand Master, and this is no exception. (new, 6 pp.)

 •  "Scientifacts" by James Trefil. The noted physicist relates scientific trivia from one of his books (2 pp.).

 •  "4E-Membrance of Things Past with Forrest J Ackerman." 4E is interviewed by the publisher and tells much of the early days of SF and fandom. Always interesting. 4E is also responsible for a goodly percentage of the material here, he being the executor for the estates of Cleve Cartmill, Raymond F. Jones, and Stanley G. Weinbaum.

 •  "Many Worlds in Science & Science Fiction" by Joseph D. Miller, PhD. Science article exploring concepts in biology, physics, general and special relativity, etc. in SF works. A few of the authors mentioned are Poul Anderson, Joe Haldeman, Alfred Bester, Greg Egan, and Charles Stross. Neat stuff.

 •  "The Televisualizer" (Classic Movie Reviews) by Bill Warren. Long time SF movie aficionado Warren discusses This Island Earth (1955), Forbidden Planet (1956), and H. Rider Haggard's She (1935). Erudite, full of facts, and interestingly told.

 •  Dr. Zotts (Comic Strip)

 •  The Reader Speaks (Letter column): Actual letters to the magazine from Ray Bradbury (Aug., 1939), Isaac Asimov (June, 1939), Henry Kuttner (Oct., 1931), and Fred Pohl (June, 1939). I found it amusing that these (at the time) young fans argued in the letter columns much as fans do today. Kuttner enjoyed the return of artist Frank R. Paul to the magazine; Pohl didn't like Paul (a minority opinion), but championed the artwork of Alex Schomburg (can't argue with liking Schomburg, who went on to be one of the greats).

If you can't find something to like in this beautifully conceived, well produced, literary and artistic labor of love, then I'd suggest you switch genres. Or spend your free time at barber college. This is a keeper.

I caught up with Mr. Engle via email recently, and asked him several questions, foremost among them when we might see the second volume. With permission, I quote relevant sections from his reply:

"My original plan was for TWS to come out quarterly. But between trying to get publicity for the first volume, and getting all the material for the second volume in, that's fallen by the wayside for now. The second, which is almost done, will officially come out on August 1, a year and a week since the first. I'm shooting for February 1, 2009 for #3.

"Also, I'm going to forego having the date on the cover, so that past volumes won't seem out-of-date. I'm revising the first one accordingly (The date and old-style volume/issue number will continue to appear on the contents page.)

"Volume 2 is a special 'Star Trek' volume, with all fiction (old and new) by authors who have written for the various series. There are new stories by Larry Niven and David Gerrold, among others, and reprinted authors include Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon.

"I'm hoping in the near future to bring out all the items advertised in the first volume, particularly Jack Williamson's 'The Legion of Space' and the print and audiobooks of 'Space Salvage, Inc.' Since our website is still under construction, the best way to order the first volume is through Amazon."

Which you can do by going to:

http://www.amazon.com/Thrilling-Wonder-Stories-Summer-2007/dp/0979671809/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205683454&sr=8-1

For information, write to:
Thrilling Wonder LLC
5900 Wilshire Blvd., #2613
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I hardly know how to begin this section on the pulp magazines The Shadow and Doc Savage. There is so much to tell and they are both so interconnected and intertwined with SF, SF authors, comics, and old-time radio, that their history is just as fascinating as are the stories themselves.

First a few facts. "The Shadow" began as a radio play on the CBS network on July 31, 1930. It was an attempt to introduce a new character for Street & Smith's magazine Detective Story Magazine, whose sales were lagging. But it was the eerie voice of radio veteran Frank Readick that caught and captured the audience. Soon, radio listeners were asking for the Shadow magazine when there was none. Capitalizing on this unforeseen bit of luck, The Shadow magazine saw its first issue in early 1931 and was an immediate and overwhelming success. It ran until 1949, when Street & Smith publications dropped all of its pulp titles (including Doc Savage), except for one—Astounding Stories. The Shadow magazine ran 325 novels in its 18-year run, 282 of them written by Walter B. Gibson (1897-1985) under the house name of Maxwell Grant. John L. Nanovic, who worked out of the legendary Street & Smith office complex, was editor for both The Shadow and Doc Savage magazines.

Doc Savage #1 hit the newsstands two years later on Feb. 17, 1933 with its March issue. Lester Dent (1904-1959) would write 150 of Doc's 181 adventures under the house name of Kenneth Robeson. Doc was the very first of the single-character magazines of its type, and according to Lester Dent, writing at his home in La Plata, Missouri in 1953, "Within six months, there were nineteen imitators of which I knew."— (reprinted introduction to Doc Savage #14, Nostalgia Ventures, Feb., 2008)

Walter Gibson and Lester Dent collaborated on only one of the Shadow's adventures, "The Golden Vulture." To discover how this singular dual-authorship came to be, you will have to read Shadow and Doc Savage historian Will Murray's "The Story Behind the Story" in The Shadow #1 (Nostalgia Ventures, 2006). Will Murray is the literary agent for the Estate of Lester Dent, and collaborated posthumously with him on eight Doc Savage novels.

Every issue of The Shadow and Doc Savage reprints two "themed" classic novels. Each issue is spruced up with historical essays, introductions by well known SF personalities, interesting origin stories, reminiscences in the form of essays by Gibson and Dent themselves, and much more, many of them including b&w photos of the authors, the editors, SF personalities, and even of the renowned Street & Smith building (where the godfather of golden age SF editor John W. Campbell held sway over Astounding for many years). These are priceless.

 
The Shadow Vol. 16: City of Crime / and Shadow Over Alcatraz
The Shadow Vol. 16:
City of Crime / Shadow Over Alcatraz
The Shadow, vol. 19 #3
The Shadow, vol. 19 #3
The Shadow, vol. 28 #1
The Shadow, vol. 28 #1
A few examples from each:

 •   The Shadow #1 (Sept., 2006): "Spotlight on the Shadow" by Anthony Tollin. Explaining in detail the Shadow's origins, how Gibson came to write the series for 15 years (at two novels a month and during the Depression!), the Shadow's supporting cast of characters, and the fact that Lamont Cranston was not the Shadow, but one of many identities assumed by the Shadow (the Shadow's real identity is revealed as Kent Allard in issue #15's non-fiction feature by Will Murray "Out of the Shadows"). The Shadow #1 features the novels "Crime, Insured" (July 1, 1937) and the co-authored (Dent and Gibson) "The Golden Vulture" (July 15, 1938).

 •   The Shadow #10 (Aug., 2007) features a full two-page foreword by Harlan Ellison titled "For Every Action . . . " where he recounts his love and affection for the Shadow. In so doing, he speaks of Alfred Bester's radio script "The Immortal Murderer" (included in this issue): "The radio script recycles the immortal criminal originally called Vandal Savage from an earlier comic-book script Alfie wrote for Green Lantern Comics." Harlan later recounts his first meeting with Bester (at a meeting of the legendary Hydra Club, where such greats as A. J. Budrys, Lester del Rey, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, G. Harry Stine, Judy Merril, Fred Pohl, Isaac Asimov, and Bester were in attendance), and then how later, with Bester on his death bed, he and Robert Silverberg got the news to Bester that he had been named SFWA Grand Master in 1987. There's more to whet the appetite (including an early photo of Bester included with his radio script), but you'll have to read it for yourself. Novels this issue are "The City of Doom" (May 15, 1936) and "The Fifth Face" (Aug. 15, 1940). Alfred Bester's Shadow radio play "The Immortal Murderer" was broadcast Sunday, December 10, 1944. Anthony Tollin's full-page article "The Shadow of Alfred Bester" prefaces Bester's script of an immortal Neanderthal (thought to be dead, of course) used as part of a museum display.

 •  The Shadow #16 (Mar., 2008) includes behind the scenes features on the artists (both cover and interior) whose work was invaluable in making the Shadow the eerie avenger he was (all original covers and interior illustrations are used, giving each issue a truly pulp "feel"). Of special and historical note is the foreword by the famed Edd Cartier, whose new (!) essay "The Shadows of My Life" recounts how he came to illustrate the Shadow in 1936 after graduating college. Fascinating is his account of the time he was courted by Norman Rockwell to become his assistant but declined on advice from a friend, something he regrets to this day. Novels this issue are "City of Crime" (Oct. 1, 1936) and "Shadow Over Alcatraz" (Dec. 1, 1938).

 •  Doc Savage #1 (Oct., 2006): Includes the novels "Fortress of Solitude" (Oct., 1938) and "The Devil Genghis" (Dec., 1938), with an introductory essay by Will Murray titled "Fortress of Solitude." While introducing Doc and how he and the magazine came to be, of particular interest is the revelation (at least to me) that Batman was modeled heavily on the Shadow, and Superman was modeled on Doc Savage (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in 1934, a mere year after Doc's smashing debut in 1933). The fact that Batman and Superman were lifted from the Shadow and Doc Savage is chronicled in this and other essays in various issues of both magazines. From the essay in this issue however, there is reprinted a house ad from 1934 proclaiming Doc to be a "Superman," and as Murray recounts: "But the Man of Steel did not start out as much of a direct imitation of the Man of Bronze as he later became. The man who injected extra doses of Doc Savage into Superman was not Jerry Siegel, but Superman editor Mort Weisinger." Again, there's more to this story, but pick up this issue and discover it all for yourself.

 •  Doc Savage #2 (Nov., 2006): Foreword by Peter David recounting his long love affair with Doc, and one of the major reasons for such (this would apply to the Shadow's appeal as well, though David speaks only to Doc Savage): "The stories are formulaic, the prose often purple. But there is a charm and energy in Doc's adventures. And in these difficult days where it's so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and even comic book heroes—the traditional bastion of black and white morality tales—are hopelessly mired in shades of gray, it's comforting to know that in these pages purely evil individuals are concocting purely evil schemes, and a purely incorruptible force for good is on the move to make sure that their plans are thwarted." Also in this issue is the usual "Interlude" between novels. This one, by Will Murray, is a multiple-page spread replete with six photos of Lester Dent aboard his schooner Albatross somewhere in the Caribbean on a treasure dive, and is where Dent wrote one of this issue's novels "Resurrection Day" (Nov., 1936).

 •  Doc Savage #9 (Aug., 2007): Novels include "The Majii" (Sept., 1935) and "The Golden Man" (Apr., 1941), and one of the best features (because of my SF interest) in either magazine, Will Murray's "Inside the Fiction Factory," which is an historical look inside the Street & Smith offices. Along with 8 photos from the outside to the inside and one illustration, Murray offers a rare glimpse into the (once) largest magazine publisher in the world. Personal reminiscences from those who visited the seven-story Street & Smith offices are given from Fred Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Henry Kuttner, Sam Moskowitz, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Alfred Bester. The photos include those of the bindery, the printing presses, and the grand reception room (which would belie the old brick, small offices, and dingy, cluttered, factory atmosphere comprising most of the building, with thundering presses running 24 hours a day).

As Will Murray tells us, "Thirty presses were in use. S&S ran four Hoe presses 24 hours a day, each capable of producing 12,000 magazines an hour. Some of their top sellers, such as Western Story and Love Story magazines, were published every week and sold 1,000,000 copies a month. It was said that the Fiction Factory produced 44 miles of magazines a month just in the year 1934." And this is just a snippet of what is contained in this veritable treasure of an article especially as it relates to the SF field, and most particularly Astounding/Analog, for in 1955 Street & Smith celebrated its 100th birthday, and was then subsequently sold to Condé Nast Publications in 1960. That Condé Nast continued to publish Astounding was a miracle, it being the only pulp magazine S&S kept alive after selling off all of its pulp magazines in 1949 (and the profits it garnered from them) in order to switch to the slick magazines like Mademoiselle, which Condé Nast inherited when it purchased S&S. As Ben Bova explained it to me a long time ago:

BOVA: You see, in this cruel world money makes money, and Ferman's Mercury Publications is essentially a family endeavor. UPD, which publishes Galaxy, is in considerable financial difficulties. Sol Cohen has always operated on a shoestring, less than a shoestring with Amazing and Fantastic. Whereas Condé Nast is one of the two or three top magazine publishers in the country.

TANGENT: Where does Condé Nast make its money?

BOVA: Well, they've got a wonderful captive market—all the women in America. They publish Vogue and Glamour and Mademoiselle and do wonderful articles about this year's styles of clothing, and the female sexuality, and it's all paid for by ads that are selling the same old crap that they were selling twenty years ago. The women dutifully go out and change their hemlines, and wear these rags that vary in design, and look terrible for the most part.

TANGENT: That seems strange when you think that Analog—SF in general, really—is a male dominated readership.

BOVA: No, the reason they have Analog is because Condé Nast absorbed the Street & Smith publications back in 1960, and killed off most of the S&S magazines, which were shaky. But they had this strange little science fiction magazine called Astounding, and this towering figure named John Campbell running it, and they didn't know anything about science fiction but they knew that this magazine was the number one magazine in the field—and they liked being number one.

And, for crasser reasons, Analog/Astounding consistently made a profit month after month. John Campbell used to say Analog is a gold mine—a teeny weeny gold mine because it's a very, very small profit—but it is consistent, and no publisher in his right mind will turn down a steady money-maker. Even though it's a small amount of money it helps defray the overhead expenses, it looks good on the accounting books, and with something like Vogue where they make a million dollars one month and lose two hundred thousand the next, you know . . . there's always hysterics and heart attacks.
Analog s-a-i-l-s along, gaining readers, losing a few maybe when economic times are tough, but they come back again when times are better.
—Ben Bova, Sept. 21, 1976, published in Tangent #6, Winter 1977
Doc Savage #1 My heartfelt gratitude goes to Anthony Tollin (and Will Murray), for these wonderful reissues of The Shadow and Doc Savage. I haven't spoken of any specific stories for you deserve to experience them for yourselves. No token, encapsulated review(s) of them will do them proper justice, for much of their appeal lies in the atmosphere surrounding them, the heady perfume of nostalgia for those of us of a certain age (or close enough to a certain age). I can relate this about the stories, however, in a general sense: the Shadow novels are obviously more crime, detective, and noir oriented, though some have the hint of the strange, magical, supernatural, or outré to them. Many take place in or around New York, though the Shadow/Cranston/Allard does roam at times to other locales. He has numerous affiliates working undercover for him and has an "in" with the police commissioner. Doc (Clark) Savage (the self-taught master of everything) and his intrepid crew of five (each the best at his own specialty) is comprised of Ham (a top-notch lawyer also adept with his sword cane), Monk (a whiz at chemistry), Renny (a leading engineer), Long Tom (electrical wizard), and Johnny (geologist and archaeologist). Unlike the Shadow, their exploits take them all over the globe fighting evil wherever they find it, or solving strange unsolved mysteries of high adventure that have baffled the world. Doc writer Lester Dent was especially enamored of Central America, where several of Doc's adventures take place (see the current issue with Doc's origin in "The Man of Bronze," from the April, 1933 premiere issue). In Doc's second magazine issue (May, 1933), he travels to the remote "Thunder Island" and encounters dinosaurs and other assorted menaces in "The Land of Terror." Which, coincidentally (or not) would appear just as the original King Kong movie was released, with its own "Skull Island."

In recent correspondence with Anthony Tollin, wherein we found we had a lot in common, offstage as it were, he sent the following (edited) letter I think will be of interest to not only Shadow and Doc Savage fans, but comics and SF fans as well:

"This coming Sunday (February 17) is the 75th anniversary of the publication of DOC SAVAGE #1 in 1933. DOC #14 {pictured above, dt} includes the new 75th anniversary reprint of the first two DOC novels, 'The Man of Bronze' and 'The Land of Terror.' This month's SHADOW (#15) reprint features The Shadow's origin story, 'The Shadow Unmasks,' the novel that introduced the Dark Avenger's true identity of Kent Allard (and also an article by yours truly on the 1925 disappearance of Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett, the real-life explorer who inspired Kent Allard, Indiana Jones, Lord John Roxton (in THE LOST WORLD) and several Doc Savage novels. Fawcett was also a friend of Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard.

"I too knew Alfie Bester, quite well. (He gifted me with all his original Shadow radio scripts back in the 1970s.) I worked for many years at DC Comics with his former agent, Julius Schwartz (I was colorist on GREEN LANTERN for 15 years). I also co-founded Minicon, the Minnesota Science Fiction Convention, back in 1968, and spent at least half an hour each Saturday evening for a couple years with Cliff Simak (also a friend of my dad's) as we waited for the Sunday MINNEAPOLIS TRIBUNE (with Cliff's Science section) to come off the presses. And I watched Neil Armstrong take "one small step" on TV with my Minneapolis friend, Gordy Dickson (who was president of SFWA that year).

"Walter Gibson was basically my 'surrogate grandfather' (I delivered one of the eulogies at his service) and I'm really glad to have been able to bring his Shadow novels back into print after a 22-year hiatus. (If I can continue the pace of reprinting two Shadow novels each month, I'll have reprinted all 325 Shadow novels in another 15 years. :) How Walter Gibson ever managed to write two Shadow novels a month is inhuman, especially since Walter really tried to do things a bit differently each time and truly surprise the reader, while Lester Dent (and his ghosts) seemed to want to give readers more of what they'd previously enjoyed.

"The books are selling quite well, considering . . . though certainly not like the 1960s when Bantam was publishing paperback first printings of 130,000 copies. The Doc orders from both Borders and Barnes & Noble for the next few months are very nice, as both chains order more heavily because of the upcoming INDIANA JONES film (which features Mayan pyramids). There will be another SHADOW/DOC display at Borders, and a DOC SAVAGE dump display at many Barnes & Noble stores.

"Have you visited the website yet, where you can view video interviews with Walter Gibson and even hear the opening of the 1940s Brazilian SHADOW radio series (in Portuguese)?

"If it's possible to give a website listing, please print my link. (Nostalgia Ventures and I actually run separate operations, and I'm contractually supposed to have all the fan/enthusiast sales.)

[www.shadowsanctum.com/pulps.html]

"I think the most important thing to stress is that without The Shadow and Doc Savage, we'd almost certainly have never had Batman or Superman. In fact, THE SHADOW Volume 9 reprints the novel (Theodore Tinsley's "Partners of Peril") that was blatantly adapted (actually plagiarized start to finish, every character, every plot point, same deathtrap, even a chemical syndicate in both stories.) ALTER EGO-editor Roy Thomas commented: 'With this astonishing discovery, Anthony Tollin and Will Murray have rewritten the history of Batman. We always knew that Batman was inspired by The Shadow, we just didn't know how much he was inspired by The Shadow!' Of course, Clark Savage, Jr. (the Man of Bronze) was a major influence on the creation of Clark Kent (the Man of Steel), and the influences went far beyond the Fortress of Solitude. No coincidence, of course, since Lester Dent was a close friend of Mort Weisinger, and Golden Age SUPERMAN-editors Weisinger and Jack Schiff even sold a Doc Savage plot to Dent (which was published in the October 1941 issue as "Birds of Death").

"Another important thing about The Shadow is that the 1931 debut of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE marked the return of the single-character magazine that had died out decades before with the demise of the dime novel. Since 1931, we've always had single-character magazines, first with the hero pulps and later with comics like SUPERMAN, BATMAN, SPIDER-MAN and GREEN LANTERN—that lineage continues unbroken back to 1931 and the debut of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE.

"BTW, THE SHADOW #4 featured a foreword by Gahan Wilson of PLAYBOY & F&SF fame, while THE SHADOW #16 (shipped in March) features a new foreword by legendary SF illustrator Edd Cartier (John W. Campbell's favorite artist for UNKNOWN and ASTOUNDING) who'll be celebrating his 94th birthday this summer. Speaking of Edd Cartier, DOC SAVAGE #15 (also March) publishes for the first time anywhere the illustrations Cartier did in 1948 for "In Hell, Madonna" (which finally saw print in 1978 as 'The Red Spider.'

"Our goal (Will's and mine) with these books is whenever possible to actually improve upon the original publication. That's why I've restored artwork dropped for space reasons in the original pulp publication, while a number of my reprints restore deleted text from Dent's original manuscripts, sometimes 5,000 words or more. Will and I aren't out to undo John Nanovic's 1930s editing, but in many cases wordage and even entire chapters were dropped prior to pulp publication simply due to space concerns."

There you have it, Shadow and Savage fans. Aside from owning the original pulps themselves, these reissues are as close as you are going to get to the real thing. They are lovely, handsome reissues of classic pulp adventures of two of the most popular characters in all of pulp magazine history, and with all of the special historical features in every issue they are worthwhile publications indeed, and many will no doubt become collector's items in their own right.

Super-sleuth (the Shadow) or Super-hero (Doc Savage), each is, quite simply to my mind, a blast. And just as any kid will have their favorite superhero (Batman or Superman), or any SF reader of any age will have their favorite character (Moore's Jirel of Joiry or Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis; Brackett's Eric John Stark or Hamilton's Star King John Gordon), I'll admit the kid in me prefers Doc Savage's action-packed adventures. But that's just me.

At the top of this section I mentioned how interconnected the pulps, comics, SF, The Shadow, and Doc Savage were. Now you can see why; one thing invariably leads to another. Whether it's the Shadow or Doc's influence on the comics (and the very idea of the "superhero" itself), or that pulp writers (some SF) also wrote comics (Bester, Hamilton, et al), or simply the fact that modern day SF began with the pulps (Amazing Stories, April, 1926), let's not forget that if not for Street & Smith's glorious Fiction Factory Kingdom which published both SF, Fantasy and everything in between, including The Shadow and Doc Savage, it is clear that everything discussed in this essay began with the pulp magazine experience. We should give Haffner Press, Paizo Publishing, Thrilling Wonder, and Nostalgia Ventures a rousing round of applause for giving yet another generation of youngsters (and those young at heart) the opportunity to experience a cream-of-the-crop dollop of the pulp experience. It is my hope that you will support their efforts.

For those lucky enough to have XM Radio, the Old Time Radio channel (164) runs old Shadow episodes all the time. I listen as often as I possibly can.

A final recommendation. For those wishing to read something entirely new, but which captures the romance, adventure, and excitement of say, Leigh Brackett's Stark planetary adventures but with a wholly updated set of postulates, I wholeheartedly recommend two novels by S. M. Stirling. The Sky People (Tor, hc, Nov., 2006; pb Oct., 2007, 309 pp., $6.99) and its just-released sequel In the Courts of the Crimson Kings (Tor, hc, March, 2008, 308 pp., $24.95). Both are grand homages to Burroughs, Brackett, and others, and are set in an alternate universe where the US and USSR's space programs took a different turn, as did our explorations of Venus and Mars.

In this universe Venus and Mars are both habitable, Venus and its Neandertal, homo sap, and dinosaurs coloring the landscape in admirable fashion (think a cross between Burroughs's Carson of Venus and Brackett's Eric John Stark stories). Though the Russians landed there slightly before the US and are up to no good, a select team of US explorers must help a lost Russian shuttle-type vehicle that has crashed somewhere on the planet. Via dirigible-like airship our intrepid rescuers encounter the expected foul weather, flocks of deadly pterodactyls, at least one saboteur, and the dreaded, flesh-eating Neandertals, which have been armed with AK-47s by one of the lost Russians. I know it sounds rather hokey, but Stirling tells it straight-up and pulls it off without a hitch, with all sorts of intricate world-building, up-to-date science, and otherwise plausible detail. For you see, there's more to the story than this. There is an alien intelligence at work behind it all, which would account for the geologic strata, flora and fauna, etc. being identical to that of Earth some 100 million years ago, and still another explanation for there being Neandertals and human beings co-existing with the dinosaurs. There are mysteries behind mysteries here.

And all of this is tied into the second (and final) book of the duology, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, which takes place on Mars. While the first book ends 99% self-contained, there is one character from it (a bad guy Russian) who is mysteriously transported from a cavern on Venus to a secret and ancient sanctum inside Mars (by what or whom, and why?), where he gets himself embroiled in high court intrigue with the hidden remnants of an ancient Martian civilization unknown to the current Martians who live on the surface . . . and as far as I've read he's again up to no good. But the Mars Stirling shows us! Just the opposite of Venus. Where Venus was yet in our primitive past, the Martian civilization is achingly old, and was much more advanced in many ways than we vas-Terranans (as the Martians call us) find it now. It is full of the remnants of super-science, thousands of years-old dynasties still attempt to manipulate Mars's destiny behind the scenes, and while we're still in the alternate universe from The Sky People, the characters are new and so is this wonderful story. Leigh Brackett even has an interplanetary ship named after her, and there are bits and pieces of business here and there just dripping with SF references to Brackett, Burroughs, Bradbury and others. Stirling has really thought this neat concept out well, fills both worlds with accurate, scientific detail, knows how to evoke the colorful flavors of excitement and danger we've come to love from the old pulp stories of Venus and Mars, but does it intelligently and smartly. He knows what he's doing, folks. If anyone is capturing the new New Nostalgia with that glorious Sense of Wonder from days gone by, it's S. M. Stirling.

I've still got so much of the kid in me, sometimes it's almost embarrassing.

"The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm."
—Aldous Huxley


1 This is not meant to disparage these terms. Hard SF and Space Opera have, in my opinion, been unfairly slighted over the years as certain critics of inordinate influence have sought to shape a new aesthetic in the field, giving more weight and importance to other aspects of SF literature. To counter this perceived injustice and to draw new readers to these once popular forms of SF, marketing executives and editors have had to employ a fresh strategy to shine light on these revamped, contemporized sub-genres, thus the New Space Opera and New Hard SF. The "New" Weird is something altogether different, so we offer no comment (pro or con) at this time.

March 23, 2008

*     *     *

Dave Truesdale began the short fiction review magazine Tangent in 1993. Since then, it has been honored with 4 Hugo nominations and 1 World Fantasy Award nomination. For several years in the 1990s, he was deeply involved with the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and in 1998 was a World Fantasy Award judge. He edited the Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1999-2002. Tangent Online can be found at www.tangentonline.com.


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