Tony Rabig's Blog

April 19, 2016

     Just a short fragment that came out of a couple of mornings of scribbling a while back.  One of these eons I may actually find a place for it, as is or reworked, in a longer piece.  But I don't think it reads too badly on its own, so until I find that other place for it...

     You know how it is when you find some place that is so right for you that it whispers "Home," whispers it so deep inside that you feel it rather than hear it, and maybe the place doesn't say it to anyone else, just you.
     Maybe it whispers to you but not to your wife, and eventually she leaves, and maybe you go with her but maybe you don't because here in this place you're finally home, where you were always meant to be.  Or maybe you're twelve and it whispers to you but not to your parents and they move and of course you have to move with them and you never really forget that and even if you don't talk about it later it rubs at you for years.  But it isn't only places that whisper that way.  It isn't only place that is home.  Sometimes you meet someone or just see somebody for a moment in passing and inside you is that sudden voice saying, "Home."  Or you find the work you were meant to do, something that’s so right that you can’t imagine doing anything else, something that’s more to you than just a way to pay the bills.
     You see thousands of people going by in the street every day and maybe you wonder how many of them are just marking time, listening for that whisper, how many of them will die without ever hearing it and never thinking about what they might have missed, how many of them heard it once and missed their chance at it and dream of little else other than hearing it again.

     He was nineteen and it was a warm day in mid-June, cloudless and not too windy.  He got off the bus at the corner of Michigan and Chicago on his way to Stuart Brent's book store, and he saw her for a moment as she boarded that same bus.  Tall and slim and brunette, and her eyes met his, just for an instant, and deep inside him: "Home."  But he had stepped off the bus and the doors closed and the moment passed and the bus pulled away, and he knew that he could catch it again at the next stop if he ran because he could still run when he was nineteen, but the light changed in his moment of hesitation and before it changed back the bus was two blocks ahead of him and he'd never catch it now.
     For the next three weeks, he made it a point to be at that bus stop every morning around that time, but he did not see her again.
     That year at college, he met a lovely girl, also tall and slim and brunette, who reminded him a great deal of the girl he'd seen boarding the Michigan Avenue bus, and during that year he fell in love with her and she with him, and after graduation they married and had four children, and like any married couple they had their ups and downs but for the most part they lived happily ever after, and one reason they lived happily ever after was that they were smart enough to avoid dark places.
     So when she had the feeling that there was something in him that he kept locked securely away, she left it alone and did not press him to reveal anything he did not choose to reveal.  And when he allowed himself his two-in-the-morning reflections on the state of his life, and found himself thinking of a girl getting on the Michigan Avenue bus one June morning, and remembering that voice saying, "Home," a voice he had not heard again since that morning, he kept those reflections to himself.
     For her part, she had heard that voice several times, but never in connection with another person.  For her it had been associated with places.  The summer when she was fourteen, the family had taken her mother's dream vacation and spent a month visiting England and France, renting cars or taking the trains to get around, and renting cottages or staying at local bed-and-breakfasts rather than hotels.  In a few of the cottages, she'd heard that voice and she knew that one day she'd live in rooms like these.  After she married, she didn't live in an English cottage, but she did what she could to recreate some of the feel of one in the apartments and later the house they lived in.  Sometimes in her own two-in-the-morning reflections she thought about that fourteenth summer and wondered what life might have been like if she'd chosen a course that took her out of the midwest and back to Europe, back to England, and if she might have been able to find a place where that voice was always there for her, rather than hoping to hear it in the imitation she had made.
     And so their days passed, and their months, and their years, and they told themselves that they were happy with the way things had turned out, and if sometimes they felt that they had really been meant to be with someone else or in some other place, well, who didn't feel that way now and then?
     One evening he read a magazine article that discussed the ever-more-mobile population, all the people changing jobs, moving to other cities or other states or even other countries, and he wondered how many of them were really looking for a girl they'd seen getting on the Michigan Avenue bus or getting off the elevator or passing by a restaurant window.  He wondered how many of them were really straining to hear that voice.
     One afternoon as she pulled some weeds in a corner of her garden, she wondered if trying to achieve some semblance of those wonderful fourteenth-summer places was only inviting dissatisfaction with the place she had actually made for herself.  She had a pleasant house, a husband and children she loved, and while she'd had the occasional fleeting thought of walking away from all of it and getting on a plane and finding a place where that voice might whisper to her again, she did not give serious thought to leaving.  Perfection, after all, was unattainable.
     They both lived into their eighties and they died within six months of each other, with their children close by, and neither of them said a word to the other, ever, about the idea that they had been meant to be with different people in different places.  That was something they kept locked away, well out of sight, because having that out in the open could only bring trouble, and because perfection, after all, was unattainable.

     Anyway, that's how it was for them.  How it is for you, only you can say.  As for me -- well, I'm a stranger here myself.

copyright 2016 by Anthony J. Rabig

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Published on April 19, 2016 09:57 • 24 views

February 18, 2016

   It's been said that the golden age of science fiction is twelve.  The golden age of a lot of things is probably twelve, or maybe thirteen.  Which brings me to yesterday afternoon's visit to the local library's sale table.
   Back in the late Cretaceous when I was thirteen, when you still found paperbacks priced at 35 cents and I was starting to use the deposit money from empty Pepsi bottles to buy paperback books instead of comics, one of the goodies that turned up on the racks at the local pharmacy was a wonderfully demented humor title by Jack Douglas called My Brother Was an Only Child.  A slim volume of 47 chapters, most only a page or two in length, with titles like "The Boy Who Cried Dinosaur," "Six G-Strings in Search of an Old Violin Named Charlie (a Play by Tennessee Gleckle)," "The Year the Locusts Came," "How to Train an Aardvark," and "The Private Mitty of Walter Thurber."  I laughed my kazoosis off all the way through it.
   So what should turn up on the sale table yesterday afternoon?  For a quarter?  In hardcover with dust jacket?  In very good condition?  Yep -- a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child.  And right next to it, a copy of the next book by Douglas, Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver.  Need I say I grabbed 'em both?
   The last time Douglas was prominently in print, if memory serves, was in the late 70s and early 80s, when Pocket Books reissued most of his titles within the space of a year.  The two already mentioned along with Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes, The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Grave, and a few more.  According to his Wikipedia entry, Douglas died in 1989; he'd worked in radio and television, writing for Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Jack Paar, Woody Allen, Laugh-In and others, and he took an Emmy for comedy writing in 1954.  Not a bad list of credits at all.
   Is My Brother Was an Only Child still funny?  Yep; one Amazon reviewer noted that it's probably funnier if you're thirteen, and I think that's true, but as of yesterday, more than fifty years since I was that age, the book still does it for me.  Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver, not so much -- but My Brother Was an Only Child is still a delight.
   Naturally, I had baser motives than simple pleasure in buying those two volumes -- last time I ran across a copy of My Brother Was an Only Child (in much poorer condition than yesterday's catch), I bought it for half a buck and sold it on Amazon for $10.  What did I find when I checked current availability to see what kind of obscene profit I could make?  A publisher with the unlikely handle of Pickle Partners Publishing has brought out a Kindle edition of My Brother Was an Only Child and you can snag an ebook copy of your own for $5.  Recommended for all you thirteen year old boys out there who never quite grew up.

   And here's the link: My Brother Was an Only Child

   (Pickle Partners has a lot of listings in the Kindle store, most of them military history and personal narratives (among them Robert Leckie's A Helmet for My Pillow and Heinz Guderian's Panzer Leader); their non-military offerings include Helene Hanff's Underfoot in Show Business, Manly Wade Wellman's fantasy classic Who Fears the Devil?, and more.  Worth a look.)
   Now if only somebody would do an ebook of another warped delight from my golden age, Max Rezwin's The Best of Sick Jokes.  My copy's falling apart.

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Published on February 18, 2016 13:57 • 11 views

February 2, 2016

That time travel novel I mentioned in my last post is available now for $2.99 in the Kindle store.  It's called Doorways.  Here are the links for the US and UK:
US Kindle store
UK Kindle store

And the description:

   "Time travel's possible, Dennis. I know, because I've done it from right here in this room."
   Dennis Marcher thought he was simply visiting college friends, seeing again the place he'd met the girl he married.
   What he found was a doorway into the past. A doorway that would let them revisit some of their happiest days. A doorway that could let them go back to stay. A doorway that might let them change their pasts for the better.
   Some doors shouldn't be opened.

Now, if you like your novels long, please note that this one's on the short side at 44,000 words.  (Minimum length for a novel in the Nebula award categories is 40,000 words, which if memory serves is about right for one side of the old Ace Double paperbacks.)  Check it out if you get a chance.

And if you don't get a chance, I hope it's because you're engrossed in other recently issued ebooks like these:
Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys
The Hyde Hotel, edited by James Everington & Dan Howarth
Got to Kill Them All & Other Stories, by Dennis Etchison
Can & Can'tankerous, by Harlan Ellison
All of them good reading & well worth a look.

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Published on February 02, 2016 14:45 • 11 views

October 30, 2015

     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

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Published on October 30, 2015 16:17 • 19 views

February 1, 2015

     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:

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Published on February 01, 2015 11:18 • 47 views

January 23, 2015

     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.
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Published on January 23, 2015 12:30 • 32 views

October 21, 2014

    Any reader of horror fiction probably checked out the work of Thomas Ligotti years ago.
    Any reader of horror fiction except me, that is.  I read Ligotti for the first time just a few nights ago.  I knew he was out there, of course, but he was just another one of the multitude of writers I hadn't read yet.
    Then I picked up his latest ebook release, DEATH POEMS.  It's just what it sounds like -- a collection of poems dealing with death and mortality.  It's a short book, and if you're one of those who looks at the ratio of page count to price, maybe you'd be inclined to pass it by, but you shouldn't skip this one.  The selections here are lean and mean and very dark.  One Amazon reviewer noted that it might be a good idea to avoid this book if you're given to depression.  Usually I write such comments off as hyperbole, but in this case maybe not.  There is some awfully grim work here -- I'm thinking in particular of "Writing Home," the piece that closes the book, but there are several others just as dark as the closer.
    If you're already a fan of Ligotti's fiction, you'll probably want this book even if you don't usually care for poetry -- a number of these poems read like short stories stripped down to the shortest possible length, among them "Memento," "The Note," "Voices," and "Writing Home."
    Finally, there are a number of poems here that are not only dark but almost laugh-out-loud funny as well ("Hospital" and "Birthday" for instance) -- though that depends on just how dark your sense of humor happens to be.
    In Barry Malzberg's THE ENGINES OF THE NIGHT, there's a short essay on the last days of the great noir writer Cornell Woolrich, with a quote from Woolrich near the end: "Life is death.  Death is in life.  To hold your own true love in your arms and see the skeleton she will be; to know that your love leads to death, that death is all there is, that is what I know and what I do not want to know and what I cannot bear."  Now, that's bleak.  Ligotti's DEATH POEMS approach that bleakness, and maybe even surpass it a bit in some of the poems -- Woolrich, nearing the end, recoils from that vision, but I don't get the impression that Ligotti recoils from it at all, at least not yet.
    And Ligotti's other books go to the Amazing Colossal To-Be-Read Pile.

    Speaking of noir...
    I suffer from what might be called New Management Aversion Syndrome.  Say you've been going to the same bakery for years, and the head guy retires, and the family keeps it running and it's still good but it's not quite the same.  Maybe the new management isn't even trying to be the same, but you can't get around the awareness that the bakery's different now.
    So Joe Hill's horror fiction doesn't do it for me the way Stephen King's does.  Peter Leonard's suspense novels don't do it for me the way Elmore Leonard's did.  Ditto a few others.
    Which brings me to Trent Zelazny.
    I started noticing his name out there a couple of years ago, and deliberately stayed clear.  I was and am an admirer of Roger Zelazny's science fiction and fantasy, and didn't want to find a favorite restaurant open under new management and not quite the same.  So for a long time I stayed clear.
    That was a major dumb on my part, because Trent Zelazny's not working the same street; he's writing noir.  His new novel, VOICELESS, moves like a bullet and so does the previous novel TOO LATE TO CALL TEXAS -- both are fast-paced dark delights; I'm a few chapters into his novel DESTINATION UNKNOWN and so far it looks like the same can be said for that book as well.  Shorter works such as "Shadowboxer," "People Person," and "Fractal Despondency" are just as strong.  For too long a time, I avoided his work -- he's now one of the writers whose books I'll pre-order the day I see them listed.
    Trent Zelazny has reviewed a couple of David Goodis's books on Amazon, and said in one of those reviews that if he hadn't found Goodis he wouldn't be writing the stories he's writing now.  There are echoes of Goodis in his work, I think; of Woolrich too.  And now and then it seems to me there's a faint flavor of the non-series titles of John D. MacDonald and Bill Pronzini.  That's not to say he's an imitator -- he isn't -- but he's from the same neighborhood, and it's a terrific neighborhood to be from.
    If you enjoy noir fiction, if you've been thinking that they just don't write 'em like that any more, if you've enjoyed Goodis and Woolrich and Lansdale, take a look at Trent Zelazny's work.  I don't think you'll be disappointed -- this guy's good.

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Published on October 21, 2014 13:47 • 32 views

June 18, 2014

     On July 8, four novels by the late great Stanley Ellin will be made available as ebooks in the US.  The four titles are: DREADFUL SUMMIT, THE KEY TO NICHOLAS STREET, HOUSE OF CARDS, and THE DARK FANTASTIC.  If we're fortunate, they'll soon be followed by the rest of Ellin's work.
     If you've not read Ellin, be advised that the man was a giant in mystery and suspense fiction, a three-time Edgar Award winner (for his short stories "The House Party" and "The Blessington Method" and his novel THE EIGHTH CIRCLE) whose work was frequently adapted for television (most often for ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and Roald Dahl's TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED) and also for films by Joseph Losey, Claude Chabrol, and others.
     His novel THE DARK FANTASTIC was a controversial piece of work, rejected by a number of publishers before being picked up by Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press.  If memory serves, Ellin had contracted with his publisher for a new suspense novel and the novel was going to deal with racial themes.  Ellin delivered, and the publisher rejected it, and so did nearly a dozen more before Otto Penzler picked it up for Mysterious Press.  It was reported, again if memory serves, that some of those houses that rejected the book might have been willing to take a chance on the book if it hadn't been written by a white writer.
     Why the rejections?  My guess is that Ellin's portrayal of his villain, retired professor Charles Witter Kirwan, is simply devastating -- a truly Dangerous Vision, to borrow the title of Harlan Ellison's anthology.
     I don't recall ever running across a character quite like Charles Witter Kirwan in fiction before, and I'll bet you don't either.  What makes the character of Kirwan a dangerous vision is the fact that Ellin doesn't portray him as a surly bigoted clod or as a figure of ridicule like ALL IN THE FAMILY's Archie Bunker.  Such characters were so obviously in the wrong that nothing they said could be considered for a nanosecond.
     Kirwan isn't presented in that manner.  He's a retired college professor, still living in the neighborhood he's lived in for decades.  He has his house, and he owns the apartment building next door, and he still does a lot of maintenance work in the apartments.  He has watched the decline of the college in which he taught, the deterioration of the neighborhood in which he lives and the building he must maintain, and for this he blames the almost-entirely black residents of the neighborhood.  Kirwan is terminally ill, but has no intention of waiting for the cancer -- he intends to blow up his apartment building at a time when nearly all the tenants are home.  Kirwan's chapters are made up largely of his taped confession and testament, and they are not the words of an Archie Bunker.  Kirwan is concise, articulate, and horrifyingly persuasive, and reading his sections you'll find yourself thinking, "Yeah, I can see that," and then smacking yourself in the head muttering, "What am I thinking?"  Ellin will put you inside the skin of someone moving calmly and deliberately toward a racist act of mass murder.  The description on the book's page in the Kindle store refers to his tapes as the ravings of a lunatic racist, but Kirwan isn't raving at all -- he's setting down coldly and meticulously the details of what he intends to do and explaining why he intends to do it.  It's rough reading, but like all Ellin's work it's wonderfully well done, and highly recommended.
     Some of Ellin's books have been available as ebooks in the UK for quite some time; among these is THE SPECIALTY OF THE HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES: THE COMPLETE MYSTERY TALES, 1948-1978.  If you enjoy the short stories of Poe, Shirley Jackson, John Collier, and Roald Dahl, you don't want to miss this collection; in it you will find, among other gems, a lovely little blood-freezer called "The Question" which centers on a conversation between an executioner and his son and is all by itself worth the price of the book.
     When more Ellin appears in the US Kindle store, I'll note it here -- especially the short stories.  (And if you're lucky enough to be able to buy from the UK Kindle store, grab that short story collection now -- you won't be disappointed.)
    The novels are being ebooked by Otto Penzler's and Open Road, and Penzler deserves a BIG round of applause for making Ellin's work available as ebooks here, as well as for all the other terrific work he's published over the years.

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Published on June 18, 2014 21:11 • 37 views

May 7, 2014

     If you enjoy good sf short stories, you want to read Robert Sheckley if you haven't already.  Don't take my word for it.  Among the comments on Sheckley at Amazon and Wikipedia, we find the following:

** "Science fiction’s premier gadfly." —Kingsley Amis
** “If the Marx Brothers had been literary rather than thespic fantasists, they would have been Robert Sheckley.” —Harlan Ellison
** "Let’s say you are a devoted fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, love the sardonic comeuppance stories of John Collier and Roald Dahl, own all of Edward Gorey’s little albums and enjoy watching reruns of 'The Twilight Zone.' Where else can you find similar instances of sly, macabre wit, of such black-humored, gin-and-tonic fizziness in storytelling? The answer may be unexpected: among the many masters of satirical science fiction and fantasy. Robert certainly a leading example."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
** "I had no idea the competition was so terrifyingly good." - Douglas Adams
** "Probably the best short-story writer during the 50s to the mid-1960s working in any field." -- Neil Gaiman

     Those sound like pretty good recommendations, don't they?

     On May 13, Open Road will release a dozen short story collections by the late great Robert Sheckley.  A number of these titles have been fairly hard to come by for years.  E-Reads had begun reissuing Sheckley's work prior to that publisher's acquisition by Open Road; it's nice to see Open Road continue with those releases.  The collections that will be released are:

Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?
Citizen in Space
Divine Intervention
Is That What People Do?
Notions: Unlimited
The People Trap
Pilgrimage to Earth
The Robot Who Looked Like Me
Shards of Space
Store of Infinity
Uncanny Tales
Untouched by Human Hands

     And at just over three bucks each, they're a real bargain.  You'll find a lot of great sf in these collections; don't take my word for it -- listen to those other guys I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

     (I'd like to note one of my favorite Sheckley stories -- it's not science fiction or fantasy, but it's got that nice macabre feel that Michael Dirda refers to in his comment.  The story is a lovely little blood-freezer called "Fear in the Night," and you'll find it in Is That What People Do? and also in Pilgrimage to Earth.  If you liked John Collier, Roald Dahl, and the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents tv shows, you'll like this one.  Worth the price of the book all by itself.)
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Published on May 07, 2014 08:57 • 42 views

May 3, 2014

     So.  May.  National Short Story Month.  And that's been going on for a few years now.  And if I noticed in previous years that May was National Short Story Month, I'm bleeped if I remember...
     So.  National Short Story Month.  And is there a ton of good stuff out there to load up your Kindle?  Jeez, is there ever.  For instance...

     One of the best deals out there at the moment is Irwin Shaw's SHORT STORIES: FIVE DECADES, Shaw's own selection of his best short work; Shaw is perhaps best remembered for his best-selling novels such as THE YOUNG LIONS, VOICES OF A SUMMER DAY, and RICH MAN, POOR MAN, but if memory serves Shaw's short stories were regarded more favorably than his novels.  In long form or short, Shaw was a terrific story-teller, and SHORT STORIES: FIVE DECADES is an excellent collection.  Some of the stories, like "The Eighty Yard Run" and "Girls in Their Summer Dresses," will probably be familiar already, having been standards in literature classes for some time now, but many of them will not.  There are only a couple of things wrong with this collection -- first, it's too bad it didn't include the introductions Shaw wrote for the books in which the stories were first collected, and second, it would have been nice if Open Road Media had gathered all of Shaw's short fiction for this ebook rather than sticking to the contents of the original print edition of the title.  But those are extremely minor quibbles.  This book is $2.99 this month, and believe thee me, for the amount of good reading included, it's an absolute steal.

     If you're into classic short fiction, Delphi Classics is a name to watch for -- this publisher tries to put an author's complete works into a single ebook.  In some cases, US copyright terms keep later work out of the volume (a few of the last Kipling titles, for instance), but usually it's all there.  And their prices are delightfully low, usually under $4.00.  All of Henry James, all of Dickens, all of Hawthorne, all of Chekhov, and many more.  And Delphi includes extras: for example, the Henry James collection includes not only his short fiction (as well as his novels, criticism, autobiographical writings, a selection of his letters), but also a number of short titles about James by other writers.  Finally re: James -- if you couldn't get through his novels, try his short stories.  He's one of those writers who gets better as you get older.  Some years back I went to a library conference and the schedule left me with nearly a full day at the hotel in Wichita waiting for my bus to leave late the next morning.  I settled back with a couple of collections of James' short stories -- high point of the trip.

     They're not ebooked, but a while back the Library of America put out a nice set in three volumes of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short stories.  The New England Science Fiction Association has been doing complete-stories sets of major sf and fantasy writers for years, among them Poul Anderson, William Tenn, Roger Zelazny, and C. M. Kornbluth.

     I've already mentioned some of the collections by Robert Silverberg, Jack Finney, Ray Bradbury, and Gerald Kersh in previous posts.

     To return for a moment to Open Road Media: the company recently acquired E-Reads and is reissuing E-Reads titles under its own imprint.  Included are nearly all of Fritz Leiber's titles -- Leiber was equally adept at science fiction, heroic fantasy, and horror, and if you've missed stories like "Smoke Ghost" or "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" you should stop reading this post and grab yourself a whole bunch of Leiber (if you don't snatch up everything available from Open Road, go for the Night Shade Books SELECTED STORIES volume with the Neil Gaiman intro).

     Also formerly from E-Reads and now from Open Road is the work of Harlan Ellison.  Even if you don't know his name, chances are you've noticed his work.  The best episodes of the original OUTER LIMITS, "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand," were his.  The best episode of the original STAR TREK, "City on the Edge of Forever," was his (and Ellison's original script was much stronger than the version that aired).  The best episodes of the 1980s TWILIGHT ZONE series, "Shatterday," "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty," and "Paladin of the Lost Hour," were adapted from his stories.  Novelist, essayist, screenwriter, short story writer, editor -- he's one of the writers who can do it all.  I can remember a time when finding many of his titles required a LOT of scrounging through second-hand book stores; E-Reads and now Open Road have made most of his backlist easily available.  I've started to write a post on Ellison for this space half a dozen times and trashcanned it every time -- Ellison's work has been important to me since I was in high school nearly fifty years ago and found a copy of I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM on the drug store spinner rack, and I just don't know how to do even a little bit of justice to the subject.  The title story of that book, and the even better stories that followed in other collections through the years, blew this kid away.  If you'd like a good sample of fiction from one of the absolute powerhouse short story writers of our time, try the following: DEATHBIRD STORIES, I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM, SHATTERDAY, GENTLEMAN JUNKIE, SLIPPAGE, and LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED;  ANGRY CANDY and MIND FIELDS are also must-reads, but they're not available as ebooks.  Many of his stories are fantasies, but you'll find he's a terrific writer of mainstream fiction as well -- check out "Daniel White for the Greater Good," "No Fourth Commandment," "Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine," "All the Lies That Are My Life," and "The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie."  A writer not to be missed, and if you've not read him before, what better time to discover his work than during National Short Story Month?

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Published on May 03, 2014 12:25 • 32 views