Short Reviews – I Like You, Too, by Joe Gibson

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

“I Like You, Too” by Joe Gibson appeared in the October 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

After a couple of duds which followed Brackett’s masterpiece, this issue of Thrilling rights itself with the fun and somewhat bizarre “I Like You, Too” by Joe Gibson.

Given the recent arguments here over Hard SF and Pulp, this story should add some fuel to the fire, some grist to mill, or at least a data point for reference. Over the course of its scant pages, I Like You, Too goes from rock-hard SF to full-on weird.

An expedition to Mars has nearly reached the Red Planet when something goes dreadfully wrong. A meteor is heading toward the ship, and any course that will avoid it will throw off the ship’s atmospheric entry trajectory, killing them all! They’re faced with a choice of bouncing off into the outer solar system or trying to survive a hot reentry and crash landing.

“Our nucleonic field simply cannot take a ‘head-on’ with that meteor without drastically, fatally, shoving the ship off course! We’re plunging into Mars—we’ll have to! Jennings has a reckoning on our trajectory, now. We’ll skim Mars! Smack through the atmosphere and on out into space! Looks like our only chance—velocity ten times too high for landing, and Jennings believes our nucleonic field can take that atmospheric pressure while it can’t take the meteor! But it’s going to be close and it’s going to be hot outside! Jennings says to hang onto your hats!”


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Short Reviews – That Mess Last Year, by John D. MacDonald and Galactic Heritage, by Frank Belknap Long

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

That Mess Last Year, by John D. MacDonald and Galactic Heritage, by Frank Belknap Long appeared in the October 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find complete scans of this issue. If I do, though, or if someone else posts them, I’ll update with links.

I’ve said for a while now that one of the worst fates a writer can have is to immediately follow up a Leigh Brackett story. Even if that were not the case, That Mess Last Year would probably not have grabbed my fancy. I’ve never been a fan of first person stories written in dialect, because a lot of times this is used as an excuse to throw in a lot of “Crazy, ain’t it?” and “Boyshuckshowdylemmetellya” asides. That Mess Last Year not only starts out with a first person recollective dialectic narrative, it goes into a recollection of another guy telling the actual story in first person recollective dialectic narrative!

A guy is out in the western American deserts on a job and gets to know a dorky loser scientist at a bar. The dorky loser scientist has the hots for a dame who’d never notice him in a million years. To make a short story shorter, a lab accident blows him up and he goes King Kong with her.

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Short Reviews – The Moon that Vanished, by Leigh Brackett

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Moon that Vanished by Leigh Brackett appeared in the October 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It can be read online here

“They say that Venus once had a moon. It rode in the clouds like a disc of fire and the god who dwelt within it was supreme over all the other gods. He watched the surface of the planet and all that was done upon it. But the lesser gods were jealous, and one day they were able to destroy the palace of the Moon-god.


“All the sky of Venus was lighted by that destruction. Mountains fell and seas poured out of their beds and whole nations died. The Moon-god was slain and his shining body fell like a meteor through the clouds.


“But a god cannot really die. He only sleeps and waits. The golden mist is the cloud of his breathing, and the shining of his body is the Moonfire. A man may gain divinity from the heart of the sleeping god but all the gods of Venus will curse him if he tries because man has no right to steal their powers.”

The Moon that Vanished may be one of the best of Brackett stories I’ve read yet.

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The New Woke Weird Tales

I’ll admit, I was incredibly apprehensive when I first saw that the most fabled name in pulps was yet again being resurrected for another zombie run cash-in on pulp nostalgia.

You guys know how I feel about that sort of stuff.

But to add insult to injury, Weird Tales is being relaunched with the editor explicitly condemning the original title as sexist, racist and homophobic.

New Weird Tales

If you think Weird Tales was such a bunch of regressive reprobate garbage, why did you buy it? Why are you selling it with an homage to a cover by the woman who made the magazine famous with tawdry paintings of lesbians flogging one another?

It’s because nostalgia sells.

It seems like a common modus operandi today to get ahold of a property just to crap it up.

I hate this sort of thing, because this is the sort of denigration of the pulps that actively discourages new readers from actually digging into them and seeing what they were really like. “Oh, don’t buy that old Weird Tales with its bad wrongthink stories; buy the new one, we promise we won’t offend your modern sensibilities!”

If you’re an author who would otherwise have considered submitting to Weird Tales, give us a look instead. We pay semi-pro rates for fiction [0.0125 per word] and will be opening in the October. Details are available in our submissions guidelines linked at the top of the page.

Or if you’re a reader who enjoys weird fiction and the pulps, give us a look. Our new issue will be out next month and features some great science fiction, fantasy, and classic weird horror.

2-2 Cover v 0.01 Front Only jpg

Lastly, don’t forget Wild Stars! If you want us to be able to continue doing what we’re doing, and especially want to support us in a way that will give us more funds to acquire stories in the Fall, be sure to back Wild Stars back Wild Stars!  Money we make from this project WILL be available in time for us to figure it into our acquisitions budget.

Back Covers


Review – The Adventure of the Incognita Countess

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

I received a free physical review copy of The Adventure of the Incognita Countess by Cynthia Ward from Aqueduct Press.

In the aftermath of the Anglo-Martian war, Lucy Harker, the half-vampire daughter of Mina Harker and Dracula, is an agent for the British government who has been sent on-board the Titanic to make sure that the plans for the Nautilus don’t fall into the hands of German spies; Lucy’s stepfather and CO, M, has asked his friend, the viscount of Greyborough*, to keep an eye on her, but running into the alluring Countess of Karnstein puts Lucy’s mission and heart in jeopardy!

Sounds crazy, right? It is. The Adventure of the Incognita Countess is pure and unabashed fan-fiction of the pulps and pre-pulp science fiction. By all rights, it should be a total train wreck (or shipwreck, in this case), but somehow Cynthia Ward has managed to turn all of this into a fairly enjoyable story.

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Short Reviews – Death by a Dusty Blade by Frank Johnson

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Death by a Dusty Blade by Frank Johnson appeared in the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective.

With Death by a Dusty Blade, I’ll be wrapping up on the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective.

Not counting the Beware! feature, Death by a Dusty Blade was the shortest piece in this issue of G-Men Detective, coming in at barely over two pages. Even so, I really need to read it two or three times to appreciate it.

Death by a Dusty Blade is a pulp murder mystery in its absolute simplest and most stripped down form possible. There is one murder, two suspects, and one significant clue upon which the mystery hinges. The bit of action at the end is icing on the cake. It’s really perfect, in its way.

Two men have a meeting with a third, the victim, to discuss business arrangements. The victim was only going to invest with one of the two men, so each has possible motive. The victim was the owner of an impressive collection of old swords and was murdered at some point in the evening with his own antique sword. Continue reading