Finding material eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos

The deadline for nomination to this year’s Hugo Awards is fast approaching. As well as works from 2019, people can also nominate works from 1944 for the 1945 Retro Hugos.

Much of the short fiction eligible for the Retro Hugos is available on the Internet Archive, where scans of the 1944 magazines can be read online or downloaded as PDFs. On his SF Magazines blog, Paul Fraser has posted links to a vast number of 1944 works eligible for the 1945 Retros. Cora Buhlert has been posting reviews of Retro eligible material on her Retro Science Fiction Reviews blog and has also compiled a monster spreadsheet of eligible material, with some links to where the items can be read.

One approach to nomination, if you have the time, is to browse through Internet Archive scans of magazines such as Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Planet Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales and see if anything takes your fancy. Aside from the stories themselves, that will also expose you to the bizarre products advertised to 1940s fans.

It can be difficult to see the wood for the trees when there is so much fiction eligible for the Retro Hugos. I have below posted links to material that has been frequently reprinted and anthologised, as this means people are more likely to have read it and be in a position to nominate. However, the items below are not necessarily the best science fiction and fantasy items of 1944. Trawling through the lists linked to above or through the Internet Speculative Fiction Database may well yield other undiscovered gems.

One anthology that has shaped opinion regarding the key stories of 1944 is Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 6 (1944), edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. Items appearing in this collection are flagged below.

1944 Short Stories

For Hugo Award purposes a short story must be less than 7,500 pages in length. Here are a selection of 1944 science fiction and fantasy short stories, with links to scans of the magazines they appeared in where these are available.

A. E. van Vogt produced a lot of fiction in 1944. His short story “Far Centaurus” (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology and has been extensively reprinted. Other 1944 short stories of his include “The Rulers” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944), “The Harmonizer” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944), “A Can of Paint” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944), and “Juggernaut” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944).

Fritz Leiber is particularly known for his horror and fantasy work. His short story “Sanity” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology and has been extensively reprinted. In 1944 he also published the following short stories: “Ervool” (The Acolyte, Fall 1944), “Taboo” (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1944), “Thought” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944), and “Business of Killing” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944).

John R. Pierce appears to have published just one short story in 1944, this being “Invariant” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944). It appears in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

Clifford D. Simak has two of his 1944 short stories in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology: “Huddling Place” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944) and “Desertion” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944). Both of these would subsequently be incorporated into his City novel. In the same year he also published the standalone short story “Lobby” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944).

Lester del Rey‘s short story “Kindness” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944) is another widely reprinted story that subsequently made its way into the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore were a married couple who sometimes wrote together and sometimes separately. Completely disentangling who wrote which work is not always easy, as Moore sometimes published works under her husband’s name (he commanded better page rates). They also both used an array of pseudonyms. Writing together in 1944 they published “Housing Problem” (Charm, October 1944 (online source not found)) under Kuttner’s name. Writing as Scott Morgan, Kuttner himself published “Trophy” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944) and, as Kelvin Kent, “Swing Your Lady” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944). Under his own name he also published “The Eyes of Thar” (Planet Stories, Fall 1944).

There are no stories by Isaac Asimov himself in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology, perhaps due to modesty on his part. Nevertheless, 1944 saw him publish the short story “The Wedge” (Astounding Science Fiction October 1944), which as “The Traders” found its way into his novel Foundation. Meanwhile the robot story “Catch That Rabbit” (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1944) was subsequently included in the anthologies I, Robot and The Complete Robot.

Ray Bradbury also did not make it into Asimov & Greenberg’s anthology, perhaps because his 1944 short stories are more weird than science fiction; weird is nevertheless still eligible for the Retro Hugos. He wrote a lot in 1944. His short stories “The Sea Shell” (Weird Tales, January 1944), “The Lake” (Weird Tales May 1944), “I, Rocket” (Amazing Stories, May 1944), “There Was an Old Woman” (Weird Tales, July 1944), “Bang! You’re Dead!” (Weird Tales, September 1944), “The Jar” (Weird Tales, November 1944), and “Undersea Guardians” (Amazing Stories, December 1944) have all been extensively reprinted. Less reprinted are his stories “The Monster Maker” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944), “Morgue Ship” (Planet Stories, Summer 1944), “Lazarus Come Forth” (Planet Stories, Winter 1944), “And Then—the Silence” (Super Science Stories, October 1944), and “Reunion” (Weird Tales, March 1944).

Robert Bloch is another writer of weird fiction, known today for his much later novel Psycho and his association with H.P. Lovecraft. In 1944 he had two short stories published in Weird Tales, both of which have reappeared in a good few anthologies:
“The Devil’s Ticket” (Weird Tales, September 1944) and “The Bat Is My Brother” (Weird Tales, November 1944).

Another associate of H.P. Lovecraft active in 1944 was August Derleth. His short stories “A Gentleman from Prague” (Weird Tales, November 1944) and “Pacific 421” (Weird Tales, September 1944), have also found their way into a number of anthologies.

Malcolm Jameson‘s science fiction writing drew on his experience in the US Navy. His short story “Tricky Tonnage” (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944) has been extensively reprinted in both collections of the author’s work and in anthologies of vintage science fiction. The “Hobo God” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944) has also been picked up by other anthologists.

Fredric Brown had a novelette included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology, of which more later. In 1944 he also published the three short stories “The Yehudi Principle” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944), “Nothing Sirius” (Captain Future, Spring 1944), and “And the Gods Laughed” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944), all of which have been reprinted through mostly in anthologies of Brown’s work.

Like many science fiction writers Frederik Pohl started out as a fan, one of the New York Futurians. By 1944 he was writing his own fiction. His short story “Double-Cross” (Planet Stories, Winter 1944), published under the pen name James MacCreigh, has not been widely reprinted, but it does have its admirers. The year also say his story “Darkside Destiny” printed in the June issue of the Canadian version of Super Science Stories. That issue is not available online, but the story was reprinted in the April 1949 issue of Super Science Stories.

Other pieces of 1944 short fiction that did not appear in magazines but which people may previously have encountered include Lord Dunsany‘s short stories “A Cricket Problem” & “By Command of Pharaoh” (which both appeared in the London Evening News in 1944 before later making their way into anthologies of Dunsany’s work). Elizabeth Bowen meanwhile wrote the short stories “Mysterious Kôr”, “The Inherited Clock”, “The Happy Autumn Fields”, & “Green Holly”, which appeared in various locations in 1944 before being collected in the anthology The Demon Lover and Other Stories and other collections of her work.

1944 Novelettes

For Hugo Award purposes a novelette is a science fiction or fantasy story between 7,500 and seventeen 17,500 words. 1944 was something of a bumper year for novelettes: readers should not struggle to find material worth nominating here.

Cleve Cartmill‘s novelette “Deadline” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944) appeared in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. It is famous as the story that caused the FBI to raid the offices of Astounding and investigate Cartmill and some of his associates, because the details of a city-destroying bomb were a bit too similar to what was then being developed in Los Alamos. Cartmill was however not a nuclear spy, his technical information sourced from unclassified scientific journals.

Fredric Brown‘s “Arena” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944) inspired the Star Trek episode of the same name, so much so that Brown was given a writing credit.

Leigh Brackett is now perhaps most famous for her work on the script of The Empire Strikes Back. In 1944 she was more of a crime than a science fiction author, but 1944 saw her publish the novelette “The Veil of Astellar” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944), which was subsequently included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. She also published the novelette “Terror Out of Space” (Planet Stories, Summer 1944).

Clifford D. Simak‘s novelette “City” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944) subsequently became the first full chapter in his novel City and is another story compiled by Asimov & Greenberg in their anthology. In 1944 as part of the City series he also published the novelette “Census” (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1944).

Lester del Rey‘s novelette “Though Dreamers Die” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944) was not blessed by inclusion in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology but has seen extensive reprinting, particularly in anthologies dealing with robots and thinking machines.

Lewis Padgett was a pseudonym used by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner. Their novelette “When the Bough Breaks” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944) appears somewhat reminiscent of their 1943 classic “Mimsy Were The Borogoves”, with its account of parents increasingly baffled as their child develops in untoward ways. Moore also wrote the novelette “No Woman Born” (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944), an early exploration of how someone holds onto their humanity when their brain has been transferred into a robot body. Both of these were included in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology. Henry Kuttner’s novelette “The Black Sun Rises” (Super Science Stories (Canadian version), June 1944 (reprinted in Super Science Stories, January 1949)) and their jointly written (as Lawrence O’Donnell) “The Children’s Hour” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944) are less widely reprinted.

Isaac Asimov‘s novelette “The Big and the Little” (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944) subsequently became “The Merchant Princes”, closing chapter of his novel Foundation.

Robert Bloch produced a swathe of novelettes in 1944, of which the most reprinted are “Iron Mask” (Weird Tales, May 1944) and “The Beasts of Barsac” (Weird Tales, July 1944). Less reprinted are “It’s a Small World” (Amazing Stories, March 1944) and the two 1944 novelettes Bloch published in his more lighthearted Lefty Feep series, “Lefty Feep’s Arabian Nightmare” (Fantastic Adventures, February 1944) and “Lefty Feep Does Time” (Fantastic Adventures, April 1944).

August Derleth‘s two Cthulhu Mythos themed novelettes “The Trail of Cthulhu” (Weird Tales, March 1944) and “The Dweller in Darkness” (Weird Tales, November 1944) have been extensively reprinted, with the former lending its title to several collections of Derleth’s work (and more recently a roleplaying game).

Malcolm Jameson‘s novelettes “Alien Envoy” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944), “Blind Man’s Buff” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944), and “The Bureaucrat” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) have all enjoyed a degree of anthologisation.

Writing as Dick Wylie, Frederik Pohl gave us the novelette “Highwayman of the Void” (Planet Stories, Fall 1944), which, like his 1944 short stories, has not seen much reprinting but has nevertheless received its share of praise.

Olaf Stapledon is best known for his brainy SF novels, but in 1944 he published the novelette “Old Man in New World”. It can be found in collections of Stapledon’s writing.

1944 Novellas

A Hugo eligible novella is a science fiction or fantasy story of between 17,500 and 40,000 words.

Theodore Sturgeon‘s novella “Killdozer!” (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944) tells of a bulldozer possessed by a murderous alien intelligence. It is the penultimate story in the Isaac Asimov Presents anthology.

A.E. van Vogt‘s novella “The Changeling” (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1944) appears to be another of his books about people with amazing powers. It was subsquently published as a short standalone novel.

Leigh Brackett‘s novella “The Jewel of Bas” (Planet Stories, Spring 1944) has appeared in many collections of her work.

Henry Kuttner‘s 1944 novella “A God Named Kroo” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944) has not been as widely reprinted as some of the other works by him or C.L. Moore.

The children’s writer Enid Blyton produced the novella Tales of Toyland. This story of living toys is not available online in its entirety but the Enid Blyton Society website has a summary and some illustrations. As with much of Blyton’s work, it appears to be a curious mixture of charming and magical elements combined with aspects that are extremely problematic to a modern reader.

Murray Leinster (the pen name of William Fitzgerald Jenkins) was a prolific author who wrote science fiction but also literature in other genres. In 1944 he published the novella “Trog” (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944).

Ross Rocklynne was another prolific author of science fiction’s Golden Age, who many years later made a post-retirement foray into New Wave SF for one of Harlan Ellison’s anthologies. In 1944 he published two novellas, “The Giant Runt” (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1944) and “Intruders from the Stars” (Amazing Stories, January 1944).

1944 Novels

Hugo-eligible novels must be at least 40,000 words. Here are just some of the science fiction and fantasy novels published in 1944.

Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, by Olaf Stapledon, deals with a dog who has had his intelligence raised to the level of people and his interactions with his human friends and enemies, a considerably more domestic tale than the author’s other cosmic novels.

Dorothy B. Hughes is primarily known as a crime writer, with several of her novels adapted into film noirs. Her novel The Delicate Ape strays into science fictional territory, dealing as it does with an imagined post-war future, with a sudden murder threaten to disrupt the international force overseeing the occupation of Germany.

Land of Terror is the thrill-powered title of the penultimate novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series. The novel is out of copyright in Australia and can be read on that country’s Project Gutenberg.

Writing as Kenneth Robeson, the author Lester Dent continued to produce a prodigious number of Doc Savage novels: According to Plan of a One-Eyed Mystic, Death Had Yellow Eyes, The Derelict of Skull Shoal, The Whisker of Hercules, The Three Devils, The Pharaoh’s Ghost, The Man Who Was Scared, The Shape of Terror, Weird Valley, Jiu San, Satan Black, and The Lost Giant. The summary of these stories on Wikipedia suggests they are tales of unparalleled thrill power, but perhaps also displaying some of the more problematic attitudes prevalent in the 1940s.

René Barjavel’s Le voyageur imprudent was much later translated into English as
Future Times Three. It has been claimed as the first story in which someone travels back in time to become their own ancestor.

Robert Graves is perhaps most famous as the author of I, Claudius, but in 1944 he published The Golden Fleece (subsequently reprinted as Hercules, My Shipmate), a comic retelling of the story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Aldous Huxley is most famous to science fiction fans as the author of Brave New World. 1944 saw his novel Time Must Have a Stop roll of the printing presses. It has a ghost in it so might tenuously count as fantasy literature.

David V. Reed wrote for Batman in the 1950s and 1970s. In 1944 he brought out two novels with science fiction and fantasy themes. Murder in Space deals with a murder, in space, and can be read in the pages of Amazing Stories, May 1944. The Metal Monster Murders (subsequently reprinted as I Thought I’d Die and The Thing That Made Love) deals with a strange bay dwelling monster that may or may not be preying on local women; Dan Stumpf reports that the book is curious in its use of meta-narrative devices and far less lurid than its covers suggest.

In 1944 E. Mayne Hull and A. E. van Vogt were married to each other and together they wrote The Winged Man, which was serialised in the May and June issues of Astounding Science Fiction. The novel concerns the crew of a submarine who travel 23,000 years into the future and find themselves caught up in a war between bird people and fish people.

As well as her short fiction Leigh Brackett also found time to write her first novel, Shadow Over Mars, which first saw print in Startling Stories, Fall 1944. Dealing with a Martian revolt against human agents of “the Company”, the book appears to have an anti-colonial theme and to echo the anti-corporate themes of later SF.

Renaissance, by Raymond F. Jones, has been reprinted (sometimes as Man of Two Worlds) and translated into many foreign languages. In 1944 it was published in serial form in the July, August, September, and October issues of Astounding. Opening in a computer-organised utopian society, the reader soon discovers that things are somewhat more dystopian than they initially appear.

Days of Creation appeared first in the pages of Captain Future, Spring 1944, before subsequently appearing as The Tenth Planet. Published as by Brett Sterling, it was actually written by Joseph Samachson, who usually wrote as William Morrison. This is a pulpy tale of space travel, detective work, memory loss and mistaken identity.

Eric Linklater’s The Wind on the Moon is a British children’s novel about two girls getting up to magical and fantastical scrapes while their father is away at the war. The book won the Carnegie Medal in its year of publication.

William Croft Dickinson’s Borrobil is a children’s book about some youngsters who stumble into a magical world. While it has barely been reprinted and is long out of print, it appears to have had an effect on at least some of its readers.

And that’s it. Good luck and have fun nominating! Nominations close on 13 March 2020 at 23:59 Pacific Daylight Time (02:59 Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 UTC/Irish Time, and 19:59 14 March 2020 New Zealand Daylight Time). To nominate you need to either have been a member of last year’s Worldcon in Dublin or have been a member of the CoNZealand prior to the start of this year. Eligible nominees should already have received instructions on how to go about nominating.

image source:

Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 6 (1944), cover illustration by Oliviero Berni: Wikipedia

“Tomb of the Cybermen” (1967)

This is a four episode story from the popular TV series Doctor Who. In this one the second Doctor and his pals Jamie (Scottish) and Victoria (Victorian) land on mysterious planet called Telos and fall in with some space archaeologists, who are looking for the eponymous tomb of the Cybermen. Said tomb turns out to be some class of trap laid by the rubbish cyborgs, though even after a close watching of this story I am still unclear as to what the Cybermen were hoping to accomplish that could not have been accomplished by not entombing themselves. For all the plot problem, the story just about deserves its reputation as a classic of early Doctor Who, with the episode two cliffhanger of the Cybermen waking up and bursting out of their cells being one of the programme’s most memorable. The story also features the great stock character of Doctor Who, the human villain who thinks that by doing some kind of favour to implacable aliens they will assist him (usually him, though in this case also a her) in conquering the Earth; this always ends well.

Tomb of the Cybermen follows directly after Evil of the Daleks, in which said Daleks killed (nay, exterminated) Victoria’s father. There is a quite touching scene in this story in which the Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) talks to Victoria about grief and her memory of her father, referring obliquely to his own lost loved ones. In days of yore Doctor Who was primarily aimed at children, so I cannot but think this scene was intended as a comfort to any children who might themselves have lost family members.
The story also features Cybermats, which are kind of like rats that have been turned into animal versions of the Cybermen or something. I think they are meant to be threatening, but as is the way of such things they end up looking quite cute.
These days however Tomb of the Cybermen is often noted for its problematic racial stereotyping – Middle Eastern people are shifty while Africans (or the story’s one African) are muscleheads. And Americans are all “gee golly” etc., showing yet again the downpression and negative stereotyping white Americans must endure on a daily basis. I thought maybe the stereotyping was not the worst I have ever seen, but then I am notorious for my unwoke nature.

image source (Wikipedia)

Octocon 2019

Information
My write-up of this year’s Worldcon is almost but not quite complete. Since then I also attended Titancon/Eurocon in Belfast, but rather than write about that or my last day at Worldcon I am now going to leap ahead to a discussion of this year’s Octocon, which took place a week ago. This is the Irish national science fiction convention, normally taking place over a whole weekend but this year reduced down to one day, partly because some of its big programme items had temporarily migrated to Worldcon, notably the Golden Blasters (a competition for short science fiction films) and the Vault of Horror (man with cropped hair and stick shouts at audience members while playing scenes from bad films). This year’s Octocon was pitched as a quiet post-Worldcon catch-up for Irish SF fans and also as a con for people who are averse to enormocons. As with last year it took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown, with Janet O’Sullivan and Raissa Perez co-chairing.

After the opening ceremony, the first programme it, I attended was the Sunday Service, in which Janet O’Sullivan and James Brophy presented a rofflesome recap of the year in SF. This unfortunately served to remind me of how thanks to my boring World War 1 blog and time spent doing Worldcon stuff I largely missed all the big picture films they mentioned (though frankly I was also washing my hair every night I otherwise had free to see the latest superhero film).

Next I found myself attending a panel on the Fae in popular culture. There always seems to be a fair bit of Celtic fantasy Leprechaun fairy stuff at Octocon; this year it was the overall theme of the convention, with a number of programme items touching on the fair folk. In response to a question the interesting point was made that Ireland’s greater wealth of hidden people lore exists mainly because it was extensively written down in the Middle Ages. It was also noted that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Suggestions were made that people might want to investigate Dúchas, the Irish digital folklore project, and perhaps even volunteer time to assist in the transcription of items from its manuscript collection.

A panel entitled Preserving Nature in SFF Futures looked at ecologically themed SF, something which has been on trend for a while and which I suspect we will be seeing more of in years to come. The subject can be a difficult one, with it being very easy to just fall into writing dystopian grimness. One good point from the audience was that narrative conventions tend to focus on individuals but combatting the ongoing climate crisis requires collective action, something a bit more difficult to represent in fiction. There is also the danger of pushing people into the slough of despond by painting such a convincing picture of the horrors of climate collapse that they are left feeling helpless and without agency.

A couple of fictional works were mentioned at that panel that I though might be worth investigating. Peadar Ó Guilin mentioned Stephen Baxter’s novelette ‘On the Orion Line’, where perpetual war with aliens arises from humanity’s depletion of resources and need for continuous expansion to maintain its civilisation. John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up deals with near future civilisational breakdown due to ecological collapse and resource depletion (in a manner perhaps similar to Harry Harrison’s brilliant Make Room! Make Room!). The commercially unsuccessful film Downsizing was mentioned as one that attempts to look at the personal implications of the approaching end. Even The Hunger Games was cited both for its warnings that economic and political systems can be hard to remove (but also its prescient suggestion that one girl can make a difference).

I do find myself wondering whether the fundamentally depressing nature of climate collapse fiction means that readers will tire of the subgenre. I was struck previously by Morgan Hazelwood’s write-up of a Worldcon panel on Hopepunk, another emerging subgenre, in which writers offer at least some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. There is obviously a danger of switching from helpless despondency to complacency, but I think to make action possible to avert or minimise ecological catastrophe there needs to be some sense that the situation is not completely hopeless.

A writery panel on Suspending Scientific Disbelief looked at how far SFF writers can get away with flying in the face of established scientific fact. However one interesting point for me was when the panelists were invited to bring up examples of scientific facts so bizarre that they would be hard to include in a story. My favourite one mentioned was by Edmund Schluessel, who revealed that the resonating frequency of the cable in a space elevator is related to the resonant frequency of the planet it lifts from, so by twanging the cable one could make the planet explode, or something like that. More generally the point was made by Michael Carroll that while a good plot can survive bad science, there is only so much scientific implausibility the reader can take before they go “Ah here now come on”. I was also interested by the panelists’ mention of The Martian (book and film), in terms of how it dealt with the psychology of the abandoned astronaut and not just the purely physical stuff (which sadly has been somewhat superseded by scientific discoveries since).

And then to a panel on Romance in SFF. I’ve always liked romantic plots in SF and fantasy genres, at least in theory, as they suggest that the human characters are more than just problem-solving automatons. To some extent though I thought this panel talked more about romantic fiction (a separate genre) rather than SFF with romantic elements. Several of the panellists write romantic fiction, a genre with its own set of conventions (one of which mentioned being the Happily Ever After ending). My feeling however is that the appearance of romance in SFF does not require an adherence to romantic fiction genre conventions: the romance in SFF can mirror the romance in real life, where people aren’t always looking to live happily ever after or do not always manage to, and so on.

Nevertheless, the discussion of romantic fiction was fascinating. It is not a genre with which I have much familiarity, but I was struck by Ruth Long’s discussion of the idea people keep having that they could start writing Mills & Boon novels as a way of turning a quick buck. Long does not (I think) write Mills & Boon novels herself but she noted that for a writer they present some pretty unique challenges, with a rigid house-style and required set of characters and plot elements within which a writer is meant to produce something that the book’s readers will not consider a rehash of previous novels. That came across like a form of constrained writing akin to that practiced by Georges Perec and those Oulipo people. I was also reminded of a BBC News article some time back about Roger Sanderson, the one man who has successfully written for Mills & Boon, which provided further insights into the world and its readers’ expectations.

There was some discussion of what counted as examples of good romance in SFF, with Han Solo & Princess Leia being held up as the gold standard. I’ve always found that one of the more tiresome elements of the original Star Wars films, but I’m not sure whether that is because I find it reactionary or whether it is because fundamentally I can’t identify with Han (this in particular may be a romance designed to appeal to girls). For contrast, in my notes I quickly listed the first appealing romantic SFF plots that occurred to me, and here they are:

– Tarrant and Servalan in Sand, an episode of Blake’s 7 written by Tanith Lee. Notable for being one of the few moments in which the Servalan mask slips.
– Eowyn and Faramir in Lord of the Rings. Sad people find each other.
– Laurie and Dreiberg in Watchmen. OK maybe this is a problematic fave, but it is interesting as an example of how the dorky guy getting the girl does not actually resolve his problems and instead leads them down a whole rabbit hole of deeply problematic behaviour.
– K (as played by The Human Corgi) and Joi in Bladerunner 2049. Sad love between two non-humans, at least one of which may not actually be self-aware.
– The unnamed space traveller and the girl he left behind in ‘Spirit of the Age‘, by popular band Hawkwind.
– No spoilers, but a significant part of the plot of now somewhat forgotten film Strange Days is driven by the romantic travails of the male lead.
– Buckaroo and giant pound coin in Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union. Love is real, despite Brexit.

And then to Irish Sidhe 101, a talk by Lora O’Brien on the folklore, traditions and history surrounding the fairy folk in Ireland. Lora O’Brien describes herself as a Draoí (not a Druid) and has what might be called neo-pagan beliefs, including that the fairy folk have a real existence. She was also rigorous in her reference to the history of manuscript sources of information about beliefs surrounding them. I was struck by her mention of the Saga of Fergus Mac Léti, a very early manuscript that has descriptions of a class of little person somewhat similar to kitsch modern depictions of Leprechauns, but different in that they were associated with coastal areas and the sea; to me this illustrates how cultural beliefs shift over time.

Billy Edwards update
The last full panel I went to looked at how the terrifying stories of yore find themselves transformed over time into cute bedtime stories. Disney was particularly blamed here, with that studio having so taken over fairy tales that for many people the Disney version is what they think of as the definitive version of the story (this is not always a bad thing perhaps, given how fundamentally unpleasant the original version of Sleeping Beauty is, which must surely be the case for other stories as well). When the panelists were asked about stories or monsters from other traditions that might be worth retelling or recycling things went into pretty bizarre territory. Mention was made of some monster from Swiss folklore that was a giant cow’s udder covered in eyes, which sounds like something from the worst nightmare of HP Lovecraft (sadly I can find no pictures of or references to this online).

The con ended with the closing ceremony and round-up of upcoming events, at which it was announced that after many years of chairing Janet is stepping down, with Raissa chairing alone for next year, which will be Octocon’s 30th anniversary. I then had to return home to attend to the needs of my cat, who had made a surprise appearance in The Observant Octopus. She is still basking in her new-found fame and has completely lost the run of herself.

image sources:

Woman with great hair fleeing gothic house (The Pulp Librarian, Twitter)

Pounded by the Pound (Goodreads)

Helpful Cat

An Irish Worldcon, Part 2: Friday

You can read the first part of my Worldcon write-up here.

Chuck Tingle Buckaroo
By now I had turned into one of those Worldcon weirdos who has a load of ribbons hanging off their name badge. These magic charms did not protect from the ministry of Satan, whose works meant that I failed to rock up to the Convention Centre in time for any 10.00 a.m. panels. Instead I tried to attend a panel in Point Square on The Continuing Relevance of Older SF (with the programme notes including works by Margaret Atwood as an example of what was going to be covered, which seems a bit strange as although Atwood is old she is a currently active writer whose latest SF novel is about to hit the shelves). However the room was full before I got near it, perhaps because the panel included both Robert Silverberg and Joe Haldemann, so I skipped off to another academic session (good iron law for Worldcons: you can always get into academic sessions and they are always worth attending). This saw Peter Adrian Behravesh looking at depictions of empowered women in the Persian fantastic, which was interesting but I did note that he was talking more about mythic tales than actual fantastic literature, for all that he was referring to written versions of the tales that named people had written in historical times. An interesting discussion could perhaps be had on where myth ends and fantasy literature begins.
The session also included a presentation by Katja Kontturi (the Ducktor), whom I had seen previously in Helsinki. Her thing is postmodernism in Disney comics, which are very popular in Europe generally and Finland in particular. European publishers produce their own Disney comics with minimal oversight from Disney’s central command, and some of these comics go in pretty strange directions. In Helsinki I remember her talking about a comic in which the characters start being attacked by the strip’s narration panels; here she discussed Mickey’s Craziest Adventures, which was published in 2016 but purported to be a reproduction of a tattered copy of a previously lost comic from 1965 found in car boot sale. The book sees Mickey Mouse and his pals enjoy the kind of adventure more commonly seen in the weirdo underground comix of that era. The description reminded me somewhat of Alan Moore’s 1963, while in some ways being more completely mental. I also found myself thinking of how surreal British kids comics could also be (and perhaps still are), which I think is something they could get away with because children have far less sense of the “normal” way a narrative should work.

A long stint thereafter on the Point Square information desk thereafter sapped my energy and left me unable to attend any further programme items. If you are one of the ten thousand people who came to the information desk asking where the Alhambra or Stratocaster rooms where then perhaps it was I who with a world weary sigh directed you out to the nearby Gibson Hotel. That these rooms were not in the Odeon complex but in the almost adjacent hotel was not something highlighted in the programme, so Worldcon attendees understandably found all this a bit confusing.

Unknown Pleasures
Late on Friday afternoon I was freed from the information desk and had a bit of a look at the Odeon art show, which had a lot of nice stuff. However I am not really in the market for original art and do not fully trust my own taste in that regard, so I did not put down any bids for the works, though I must admit I was tempted to throw down the five figure sum being sought for the original of the cover of one of the Gollancz SF Masterworks editions of Philip K. Dick. I then wandered back to the CCD and had my picture taken in my Unknown Pleasures t-shirt next to a poster showing the uninverted image. I was a bit surprised to not see anyone else wearing that t-shirt at the whole con. OK, I know most SF fans are not mad into post punk bands like Joy Division, but the image does show transmissions from the first pulsar known to humanity, the one discovered by guest of honour Jocelyn Bell Burnell when she was a PhD student. I was wearing the t-shirt to honour her (and because Unknown Pleasures is awesome and came out 40 years ago this year) and thought more people would do the same, but they did not.

Perhaps coincidentally, Friday evening saw me sneak away from SF fandom completely to instead hang out with music fan buds who like me are members of Frank’s APA, the amateur press association for people who like music. However sacred vows of secrecy oblige me to keep to myself the astonishing occurrences that happened during our meeting.

Keep coming back to Secret Panda for more Worldcon action real soon!

Mickey’s Craziest Adventures image source (Duck Comics Revue)

More of my Worldcon pictures, not all of which are of me

Finding the other Retro Hugo finalists online

In Dublin this August the Hugo Awards for the best science fiction and related stuff from 2018 will be awarded. Dublin will also be awarding Retro Hugos for material from 1943. In a previous post I linked to where most of Retro Hugo finalists in the novel, novella, novelette, and short story categories can be found online. But what of the other categories? Sadly here things seem to be a bit more difficult, but there is still more than nothing that can be looked at online for free.

Best Graphic Story

Readers will I think struggle to find some of the finalists in this category. Jack Cole’s Plastic Man #1: The Game of Death is available in full on the Digital Comics Museum for online reading and downloading. Steve Dowling’s Garth is downloadable from the blog British Comic Compilations (the Garth 001 download contains the material from 1943).

They seem to be the only finalists readily available in full online. The blog The Wonders You Can Do has an interesting post summarising and analysing Wonder Woman #5: Battle for Womanhood (by William Moulton Marsden and Harry G. Peter), complete with some illustrations. The Black Gate blog meanwhile has an illustrated summary of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon: Fiery Desert of Mongo. Hergé’s The Secret of the Unicorn is available in many libraries and all good bookshops; a summary with sample illustrations can be seen on Tintin.com. Your local library may also have the 1969 edition of The Collected Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which contains Philip Nowlan and Dick Calkins’ Martians Invade Jupiter

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Heaven Can Wait and Münchhausen are both available in full on YouTube. The Internet Archive meanwhile appears to have Batman, Cabin in the Sky, and Phantom of the Opera. And OK.RU has A Guy Named Joe.

Better quality versions of these films may be available from commercial streaming services.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Ape Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Der Fuehrer’s Face, and Super-Rabbit are all available on YouTube. The Seventh Victim is on Dailymotion.

That leaves I Walked With a Zombie, for which YouTube has just a trailer. It might be available from commercial streaming services.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Here are links to what the Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists the finalists as having edited in 1943. Have a look at each issue’s table of contents and see if it tickles your fancy. If you have infinite time, consider popping over to the Internet Archive to skim some of these issues.

John W. Campbell Jr.: Astounding Science Fiction & Unknown Worlds

Oscar J. Friend: Thrilling Wonder Stories

Mary Gnaedinger: Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Dorothy McIlwraith: Weird Tales

Raymond A. Palmer: Amazing Stories & Fantastic Adventures

Donald A. Wollheim: The Pocket Book of Science Fiction

Best Professional Artist

Samples of Hannes Bok‘s art can be seen here on the blog Monster Brains. Readers can also check out his illustrations to Robert W. Chambers’ “The Yellow Sign” in the September 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

While primarily famous for her saucy covers for Weird Tales, Margaret Brundage appears to have had a fairly quiet year in 1943, producing just the one somewhat tame cover then. A Google image search gives a broader look at her career.

Virgil Finlay‘s work can be seen on the covers of the March 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and the February & May 1943 issues of Super Science Stories. Finlay is also noted for his interior art, examples of which can be seen in his illustrations for C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner’s Earth’s Last Citadel (separately a finalist in the Best Novel category).

Unless you have been living under a stone you almost certainly are broadly familiar with the illustrations Antoine de Saint-Exupéry created for his own book The Little Prince, but if you need a refresher check out this post on the blog Faena Aleph.

J. Allen St. John‘s work can be seen on the covers of the January and February 1943 issues of Amazing Stories.

The art of William Timmins can be see on the covers of the February, June, and October 1943 issues of Astounding Science Fiction.

Fanzine and Fanwriter

FANAC.ORG is an amazing archive of fan stuff of yore. The people that run it created a portal page for fanzines from 1943 there, and there you will find links to scans of the finalists in both of the fan categories.

In case you can’t remember, the best fanzine finalists are:
Futurian War Digest, editor J. Michael Rosenblum
Guteto, editor Morojo (Myrtle R. Douglas)
The Phantagraph, editor Donald A. Wollheim
Voice of the Imagi-Nation, editors Jack Erman (Forrest J Ackerman) & Morojo (Myrtle Douglas)
YHOS, editor Art Widner
Le Zombie, editor Wilson “Bob” Tucker 

The Best Fan Writer finalists are:
Forrest J. Ackerman
Morojo (Myrtle Douglas)
Jack Speer
Wilson “Bob” Tucker
Art Widner
Donald A. Wollheim
 
So there you go. With voting in the Hugos and Retro Hugos closing on 31 July, this does not leave much time to research your ballot.

In the meantime, here is another picture of my cat, with SF books in background:

More cat action

edited with a link to a download of Garth and information on where Buck Rogers: Martians Invade Jupiter can be found (information provided by Ambyr), and also to correct an error in the listing of the nominees in the fanzine category.

Finding the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists online

Soon in Dublin the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards will be revealed, including the winners of the Retro Hugo Awards for science fiction published in 1943. This year unfortunately there is no voters packet for the Retro Hugos. However most of the publications in which the finalists appeared are available on the Internet Archive, where they can be read online or downloaded by Hugo Award voters. See below for links to where the various works can be found. Voting closes at midnight on 31July, so get reading.

Novels

Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, Jr. can be found in the April 1943 issue of Unknown Worlds.

Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner originally appeared in the April 1943 issue of Argosy, but it was subsequently reprinted in the July 1950 issue of Fantastic Novels.

Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber, Jr. can be found serialised in the May, June and July 1943 issues of Astounding Science-Fiction.

Das Glasperlenspiel [The Glass Bead Game] by Hermann Hesse (originally published by Fretz & Wasmuth) is readily available from bookshops and libraries.

Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (originally published by John Lane, The Bodley Head) is also readily available from bookshops and libraries.

The Weapon Makers by A.E. van Vogt was serialised in the February, March and April 1943 issues of Astounding Science-Fiction.

Novellas

“Attitude” by Hal Clement appeared in the September 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“Clash by Night” by Lawrence O’Donnell (Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore) appeared in the March 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” by H.P. Lovecraft originally appeared in the collection Beyond the Wall of Sleep from Arkham House and is now readily available from bookshops and libraries; it can also be seen here, on the H.P. Lovecraft Archive.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was originally published by Reynal & Hitchcock and is available everywhere.

The Magic Bed-Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons by Mary Norton was originally published by Hyperion Press and can possibly be sourced from bookshops and libraries.

“We Print the Truth” by Anthony Boucher appeared in the December 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

Novelette

“Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett appeared in the March 1943 issue of Planet Stories.

“The Halfling” by Leigh Brackett appeared in the February 1943 issue of Astonishing Stories.

“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) appeared in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“The Proud Robot” by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner) appeared in the October issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“Symbiotica” by Eric Frank Russell also appeared in the October issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“Thieves’ House” by Fritz Leiber, Jr appeared in the February issue of Unknown Worlds.

Short Story

“Death Sentence” by Isaac Asimov appeared in the appeared in the November 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“Doorway into Time” by C.L. Moore appeared in the September 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

“Exile” by Edmond Hamilton originally appeared in the May 1943 issue of Super Science Stories. That appears not to have been uploaded to the Internet Archive but the text of the story can be seen here and here.

“King of the Gray Spaces” (“R is for Rocket”) by Ray Bradbury appeared in the December 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.

“Q.U.R.,” by H.H. Holmes (Anthony Boucher) March 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.

“Yours Truly – Jack the Ripper” by Robert Bloch appeared in the July 1943 issue of Weird Tales.

I will do another post with links to where people can see some of the finalists in the other categories. In the meantime, Jeff Vandermeer once said that you should always include a picture of your cat in social media posts, so here is Billy Edwards.

Patrolling the mean streets of Dublin city.

more cats

A short note on “A Brilliant Void”

Yesterday I went to an event in Hodges Figgis based around A Brilliant Void, the anthology of Irish classic science fiction edited by Jack Fennell. Fennell himself was there, as were the authors Deirdre Sullivan and Ruth Frances Long and Dave Rudden (who chaired the panel). A Brilliant Void was commissioned by Tramp Press after the publication of Irish Science Fiction, Fennell’s academic study of the genre here.

If I think of Irish science fiction I think of writers like Bob Shaw or C.S. Lewis (although Lewis is best-known for his Narnia books of children’s fantasy, he did also write an odd SF trilogy involving trips to Mars and Venus and then an authoritarian takeover of Britain). More recently there are works by literary authors that dip into the SF world (e.g. Kevin Barry’s The City of Bohane, set in a technologically regressed future, or Éilís ní Dhuibhne’s The Bray House, in which a Swedish archaeologist travels to an Ireland devastated by a nuclear accident). There is also a host of young adult books which, as an old adult, I suspect are not for me. Overall though science fiction seems somewhat marginal to the Irish literary tradition, with the energy that might otherwise have gone into it instead ending up in gothic fiction or works based on Celtic mythology or Leprechaun folklore.

This book shows that bubbling under there was always a strain of Irish writing dealing with science fiction topics, albeit in stories that sometimes ended up being otherwise classified. Fennell reported that misclassification was particularly common with works by women writers. At an early stage in the book’s gestation, it was decided to gender-balance the authors but apparently this was initially a real struggle as there just did not seem to be that many science fiction works written by Irish women. However on investigating works classified in other genres he was able to find so many works that in the end A Brilliant Void boasts more stories by women than by men. The tendency to classify science fiction books by Irish women as Celtic romances or similar may reflect a biased assumption that women cannot be into all that scientific stuff.

One question from the floor drew attention to the apparent greater frequency of SF writers coming from Northern Ireland. Long’s response to this was interesting, as she suggested that post-independence the nation-building project pushed writers of non-realistic fiction towards material based on Celtic mythology. Our friends in the North faced no such strictures and could happily set their work in the future or on other planets. It may not be coincidence that Lewis and Shaw (at least in my limited exposure to his work) did not feel obliged to set their work in Ireland or to deal with Irish subjects. I also wonder though whether the greater industrialisation of the north-east might play a part here: if you live near where they built the Titanic it might be easier to imagine characters in your novel building rocket ships.

I have started reading the anthology and already in the first story I feel I have gained from attending the talk. William Maginn’s ‘The New Frankenstein’ (1837) ends with the words “Then I awoke, and found it was – A DREAM’, words which so often feel like the author has played a tiresome trick on the reader. However, Fennell had noted in the discussion that in the Irish poetic tradition of the 19th century dreams were not seen as imaginary but as portents, so the ending effectively doubles up the grimness by revealing to the narrator that he will most likely have to relive the terrible events of the story.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. The stories are mostly from the 19th and early 20th century, with only three of the fifteen from after 1922 (all three of which are translations from Irish-language originals). Apart from Fitz-James O’Brien and George William Russell the authors are all unknown to me, though the panelist bigged up Dorothy MacArdle so much that I feel embarrassed not to recognise the name.

Readers might also be interested in the Short Guide to Irish Science Fiction that Jack Fennell has made available through the website of Dublin 2019, the World Science Fiction Convention that is next year coming to our city.

image source:

A Brilliant Void (Tramp Press)