Archive for C.L. Moore

First in a Long Time…

Posted in Gene Wolfe, New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by Aaron

Happy New Year people…

Well, I haven’t been able to get enthused about reading for a long time.  Still collecting though.  I’ve picked up a several new books since that last long time ago post.  L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s The Carnelian Cube, the Northwest of Earth collection from C.L. Moore, another collection, The Menace from Earth by Mr. Heinlein and currently a signed, inscribed non-fiction work Lost Continents from L. Sprague de Camp is on the way.  I also picked up a seemingly near-new jacket for The Porcelain Magician by Frank Owen.  I say ‘seemingly’ because the thing had a rather severe crease right down the center of the spine.  So severe in fact, that it promptly fell in two when extracting it from the shipping tube.  I was very disappointed, but thankfully the vendor was great and gave me a full refund.  I’m going to send it away to a restorer to get a quote on repairing it.  I haven’t had much luck with dust jackets lately as the jacket for The Menace from Earth has some ball-point pen writing on the front.  It was invisible in the auction image and the seller never mentioned it.  The markings are faint, but obvious to any cursory examination, and unmistakeable to a collector.  I think I’ll send that away for a restoration price too.  It’s a real shame as the book and the jacket are in very good condition otherwise.  Still, the restoration route could be interesting.

Also I’ve been expanding my Gene Wolfe collection.  I succumbed and picked up PS Publishing’s limited (100 copies) and slip-cased first edition of The Very Best of Gene Wolfe, as well as the similarly limited and slip-cased first edition (250 copies) of Kerosina’s Storeys from the Old Hotel.  In addition, I picked up The Shadow of the Torturer series from Innovation Comics, based on Gene Wolfe’s legendary books.  I never knew this existed until I ran into it on eBay.  Apparently it was supposed to run to 6 issues, but only made it to three.  I wish it ran to completion.  It’s quite good.

Also, I’ve been part of a book myself!!  When I was president of the Seoul Photo Club, back in 2009 we embarked on something called The Seoul Metro Project.  The fruits of which you can find on Magcloud.  It’s one photo from every stop in the Seoul subway system (over 400!) pulled together into a beautiful coffee table photo book in which I contributed a section on Line 3.  Many thanks must go to my good friend, Seoul Photo Club stalwart and one of the finest photographers I know, Flash Parker whose brainchild the whole thing was and who put the book together.  I recently wrote an article outlining the background to the project that will be published in next (February 2012) edition of Groove Korea magazine.

I’ll get some images of those offending jackets up before I send them away.  I don’t know when that might be, as I’m in an English language immersion camp in the countryside north of Seoul at present and my books are of course not with me.  I’ll have another three weeks out here but maybe I’ll have time in my fleeting weekend visits home to snap something.  We’ll see…

So, where the Hell have I been? And doing what?

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by Aaron

It’s been a while.  I’m about to deliver a bunch of excuses, but they are reasonably valid.  First though, what’s been going on on the Gnome Press front??

I’ve been acquiring books steadily though at a slower pace than in the past.  Earthman’s Burden arrived, as did Mel Oliver and Space Rover on MarsEarthman’s Burden was a bit of a disappointment – not quite the condition I imagined, but Mel and Space Rover is great.  Very hard to get a good copy of that because it was, I suppose, a genuine juvenile title and subject to abuse by said juveniles and also popular for libraries.  I’m extremely happy with it.  I’ve also picked up some other titles since.  A reasonable copy of Northwest of Earth by C.L. Moore, a worn copy GP’s first title The Carnelian Cube by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt, an NF replacement for the my disappointing copy of Arthur K. Barnes’ Interplanetary Hunter and also an excellent copy of one of Gnome’s flagship titles (and another proud feather in my collecting cap)  Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke.  I’m very, very pleased with it.  Click through for a bigger look.

The CD of Chalker and Owing’s The Science Fantasy Publishers is fantastic.  A veritable mine of information on, well, everything in book SF really.  It came with all the supplements as well.  It has a nice large info-rich section on Gnome Press that I might deliver here sometime.  I hope no-one will mind…

A few weeks ago I did a presentation on Gnome Press and my collection to a society who’s name escapes me at present.  They have presenters each week on many and varied subjects for the interest of their members.  It was an interesting and enjoyable experience delivering my passion to an audience of Koreans (I live in Seoul for those who aren’t aware..).  I learned a lot in the process and would be keen to do it again sometime.  I put together a PowerPoint presentation and spoke for an hour regarding a brief history of SF publishing up to the Golden Age and a little beyond, as well as talking about Gnome Press and their place in SF publishing history and my collection.  I had my entire collection there and handed a few of the more interesting titles around for closer inspection.  It was a bit nerve-wracking having my precious copies of Science Fiction Terror Tales and Against the Fall of Night passed around the group…  The PowerPoint is quite large, but I’ll figure out a way to make it available here somehow.  It is light on info so will be without context and as a result perhaps a little meaningless as I like to keep presentations to brief bullet points and do a lot of talking.  But I guess it’ll be of interest.

So what exactly is going on that prevents me from keeping you up to date??

Chief among the reasons is that I am occupied with two jobs until 10:30pm, Monday to Friday – I have no free time at all during a normal week.  On top of that, my business partner and I are getting a business off the ground here in Korea and when I’m not doing my day (and night) job, we are focused on that.  Time is at a premium.  Hence I have not read at all for about 6 months.  I’m starting to feel it.  My collection sits on the bookshelf staring at me reproachfully.  Photography, my other interest, has slipped as a result also.  I’ve given away the presidency of the Seoul Photo Club and dropped off that pastime significantly.  I just have to make some time somehow as I’ve slipped into a routine that’s not conducive to hobbies.

More later…

Brief Reflections from The Dark Tower

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by Aaron

I recently finished listening to the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  This is the second time I’ve listened to it, the first being about four years ago.  It’s very good.  At least, I enjoy it immensely.  The reason I mention it here is that Mr King throughout the seven books in the series alludes to or directly mentions many, many literary figures, their books and their creations.  Just by way of example, Arthurian legend figures prominently, The Wizard of Oz and Frank L. Baum are ascendant at one point, the similarities to The Lord of the Rings are unmistakable, Dr Seuss, Harry Potter, Robert Heinlein, Richard Adams… the list goes on and on.  Movies and TV series are similarly referenced.  Check out the series’ Intertextual References section at wikipedia. The series is a bibliophile’s (especially an SF&F bibliophile’s) trainspotting paradise.

Of interest to us here are the references to works from Gnome Press.  I picked up two concrete references and one that I’m not so sure about.  The most obvious example is the name of one of the organizations that the Crimson King uses as a front and that manufactured most of the technology that is now decaying in Roland’s world – ‘Northwest Positronics’.  The obvious reference is to the kind of brain that Isaac Asimov’s robots have in I, Robot – they have positronic brains.  Just as I write this, it occurs to me that the ‘Northwest’ part could potentially be a reference to Northwest Smith – C.L. Moore’s erstwhile gunslinging spaceman from Gnome titles Shambleau & Others and Northwest of Earth.  Just now, as I wrote that, it also occurred to me that I might not be drawing such a long bow here.  Northwest Smith is indeed a gunslinger unmistakeably cut from the same cloth as Roland of Giliad.

Next, Calvin Tower, obsessive book collector and proprietor of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, calls young Jake a ‘Hyperborean wanderer’ when Jake picks up his copies of Charlie the Choo Choo and the book of riddles.  Again, this is an unambiguous reference to the Conan the Barbarian series, Hyperborea lying somewhat to the north of Conan’s homeland.  This is probably also a nod to Clark Ashton Smith who is also referenced a couple of times in the series.

The third reference I detected is less direct.  When Pere Callahan is telling his story to Roland’s ka-tet as they wait for the ‘wolves’ to descend on the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis, he calls his world-shifting wanderings across parallel versions of the United States, his journeys through ‘highways in hiding’.  Now, if this was just mentioned once, I might dismiss this as a coincidence, but it is specifically referred to in that way at least four or five times.  Too many, in my opinion, to not be a nod to George O. Smith’s 1955 book Highways in Hiding – the latest to be added to my Gnome Press collection.

There we go.  Apologies for the largely unexplained references to characters and situations in the Dark Tower series, but do yourself a favor and read (or listen to) it.  It’ll make sense then, and you’ll also have a ball trying to catch all those references.  Not to mention enjoying a wonderful story.

Close Up: Judgment Night

Posted in 1952, Close Up with tags , , on January 31, 2010 by Aaron

closeupC.L. Moore
1952

Very striking cover art by Frank Kelly Freas graces this title.  When I first say the cover for this book I immediately thought of vampires.  I haven’t finished the title story yet, so I can’t say for certain, but there doesn’t appear to be any vampire involvement in that particular tale at least, though the freaky black koala with sea anemone hands is playing a part.

It’s so difficult and usually expensive to pick up a flawless Gnome Press book, there is usually some underlying problem that is either not mentioned or that can’t be adequately seen in a photograph.  I think I have maybe two or three that I would consider to be – for all intents and purposes – mint.  This copy certainly isn’t mint, but I mention it because of the disappointment I felt when I removed the dust jacket.

So, why a little deflated?  Well, if we look at the jacket pretty much as I saw it in the auction it looks pretty good.  And indeed it is.  I have seen copies around with jackets in worse condition than this for as much as three times the price I paid.  Anyway, lets see what the deal is.
As you can see, good initial impression, and this was the basis I picked this up on.  The logic being, that if the jacket is ok, the the rest usually follows.  Remove the jacket and the issue is revealed.
Need I say more.  The spotting is quite emphasized here in the picture – it doesn’t appear as bad in person – but it’s there nonetheless.  Note the staining along the bottom edge.  This occurs consistently on enough books to suggest that there is a common cause, and I don’t mean that someone spilled something on the bookshelf.  I think that maybe this stain comes from the oil on peoples skin that gets rubbed in to the bottom edge there with repeated reading.  Try this for yourself – the next time you are reading a book, take note of which part of the book gets the most worry from your hands.  I bet it’s the left hand on the bottom edge of the front board.
Other issues with this particular book – the boards are slightly bowed and the spine has a roll.  The spotting on the block is rather typical and not too much of an problem.

Overall, it doesn’t look very flash – rather untidy.  Let’s look at the spine extremities.
The jacket is pretty good all around.  No drama there.
Looking inside we can see the theme of general poor condition continuing.  Foxing and staining you can see.
Actually photographing it does highlight it a little more, but it’s still there nonetheless.
Just a little rubbing on the rear of the jacket there, but otherwise quite clean.

Year: 1952
Paid: $38
Art: Frank Kelly Freas
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Blue boards with darker blue lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: Currey ‘B’ binding.  1st edition so stated.
Comments: This copy has obviously not been abused physically as it’s pretty intact, but just careless storage, I would image, has led to the numerous problems like the bowed and spotted boards and the foxing.  Shame.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: Mutant

Posted in 1953, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , , , , on December 29, 2009 by Aaron

Lewis Padgett
1953

This is the third of three books by the Kuttner/Moore team that Gnome Press have in their stable, and like the one other copy I have – Robots Have No Tails… – this is a collection though presented (albeit rather thinly) in novel form.

Each chapter is a short story in the ‘Baldy’ series. There is a brief intro to each that provides a linking device by which these tales are tied together. A Baldy crashes his ‘copter in some remote mountains and accesses shared memories recollecting important events in Baldy history while he waits against hope for rescue. I found this glue rather unnecessary and again, for me, it was a distraction and detraction from tales that were on the whole pretty good as stand-alone pieces – I could have quite readily inferred the progression satisfactorily myself.

Baldies are a post-apocalyptic (or post ‘Big Mistake’ as it’s called) human mutation that have telepathic powers. In actual fact, ‘mutant’ is a bit of a misnomer. The term is traditionally used to describe a one-off genetic aberration such as those sported by the various X-Men, by Johnny Alpha and his Strontium Dog colleagues or to a lesser extent the abilities of the Children of he Atom. Baldies are really a different species arising from a mutation – not ‘mutants’ per se, but a brand new species of the homo genus. This Big Mistake caused an identical genetic modification in some people so a small percentage of post-Mistake offspring exhibit dominant Baldy traits – Baldies become a permanent and growing percentage of the population.

So, I hear you ask, why were they called ‘Baldies’? Well, they are bald as you can see from Ric Binkley’s cover art, but further, have a complete lack of bodily hair. Because of this, they were able to be readily identified and most resorted to the habit of wearing hairpieces to camouflage themselves from society at large. A prudent move as Baldies often engender a certain amount of fear in most normal people due to their mind-reading abilities and as a result suffer from some discrimination. But outside of the extremist ‘Paranoid’ Baldy faction, they are generally understanding of many humans’ attitude towards them in their obviously dominant position, and seek to bring a reconciliation that will be satisfactory in the long term.

Just on the note of conflict, I just want to mention a cultural idiosyncrasy of the times – the duel. All men carry a dagger so they can engage in duels if challenged. What is it about this form of conflict resolution that so appealed to SF writers back then? It seems a bit odd and rather antiquated from the viewpoint of today, The great RAH used this device in his early work Beyond This Horizon (with firearms though, not blades). But as I so often encourage, you have to read these books with a certain amount of tolerance and with one mental foot in the 1940s or 50s. These things (the duels) go to the death, so they aren’t taken lightly and to engage with a Baldy is tantamount to suicide as they can read your mind as to what moves you’re about to pull.

As I mentioned earlier, the stories depict several key scenarios in Baldy history – they are snapshots of events leading to the inevitable confrontation between them and regular humans. This culminates in a solitary Baldy having to make the final decision as to whether to extinguish the threat to Baldy existence or let fate determine how the relationship between the two species develops.

Aside from those unnecessary linking intrusions I really enjoyed the tales. In contrast to mutant fare we have been getting in the modern sci-fi era – isolated and/or disparate mutations affecting individuals in radically different and bizarre ways – I liked the treatment here. A single mutation consistent and breeding human mutation evolution that has the potential to subsume the inferior (or at least non-telepathic) regular human version. In some ways this brings to mind John Wyndham’s story The Midwich Cuckoos, but the Baldies aren’t evil as the children in that story apparently are.

What Henry Kuttner (all subsequent editions are credited to him, see the book’s ISFDB page – I suspected as much from the style of the prose) does well here is conveying the sense of community that Baldies experience. They have a telepathic link that’s kind of analagous to the Internet – each individual is kind of server. They can all choose to partake of the resource, or ‘log out’ and resist intruding on, or intrusion from others. It’s quite skillfully handled given that it’s a tough thing to try to impart what is actually happening in the mind. Let me give you an example:

They looked at each other in silence. Their minds touched and sprang apart and then touched again, tentatively, with light thoughts that leaped from point to point as gingerly as if the ideas were ice-floes that might sink beneath the full weight of conscious focus.
I thought I loved you . . . perhaps I did . . . yes, I too . . . but now there can’t be . . . (sudden, rebellious denial) . . . no, it’s not true, there can’t ever be rightness between us . . . not as if we were ordinary people . . . we’d always remember that picture, how I looked (abrupt sheering off from the memory) . . . (agonized repudiation of it) . . . no couldn’t help that . . . always between us . . . rooted too deeply . . . and anyhow, Cas – (sudden closing off of both minds at once, before even the thought-image had time to form.)
Alexa stood up. “I’m going to town,” she said.

page 105/106

That’s a bit lengthy, but it gives you a great example of how he’s handled it. Pretty slick if you ask me. Short passages of mind communication are scattered throughout the book and really help us become part of the Baldy experience – not just a third-party to it.

To wrap this up, Mutant is an enjoyable read that presents some interesting dilemmas and makes us think about how we might handle being in such a position as they. However, you don’t need to be a telepath to work out what’s happening over the course of the stories, so if you read this collection, keep in mind they are tales separated in time and just skip the linking interludes. You will enjoy it a bit more.

New Arrival

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , on December 18, 2009 by Aaron

It’s been a while.  Got a new book today.  Judgment Night by C.L. Moore.  I think by way of a Close Up, I’ll do a side-by-side with Red Jacket Press’s  reprint.  Something different.  I’m looking forward to it.

Close Up: Mutant

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , , , on December 3, 2009 by Aaron

closeupLewis Padgett
1953

It arrived almost one year ago – the longest any book in my collection has been before before making it onto the blog.  This was listed as a Near Fine when I purchased it, but I think it’s not really up to that standard.  More like a VG or VG+.  Interesting if somewhat disturbing cover by my fave Ric Binkley, not one of his better efforts in my opinion though.  Let’s have a look see.
Very bright cover.  The jacket is in pretty good condition except for the spine.  The boards aren’t too bad either.
No staining or any other major problems except this:

It’s had a bump on the top front edge at some time.  You can see the corresponding knock on the jacket below.


The block shows no discoloration though is perhaps a little grubby around the edges.
The head of the spine is the major issue with this copy, it’s been bumped and the jacket is damaged.

The tails ok though, if a little soiled.

The back of the jacket looks nice but also a bit soiled.  Not too bad though.

Year: 1953
Paid: $75
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Turquoise blue boards with darker blue lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A little overpriced at $75 perhaps, but after all this is the Lewis Padgett team. Reasonable condition all-round except for the top of the jacket on the spine.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

One More

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 19, 2009 by Aaron

Super!!  Picked up C.L. Moore’s Judgment Night yesterday.  I expect delivery in about two to three weeks.

Review: Shambleau and Others

Posted in 1953, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , , , on August 28, 2009 by Aaron

C.L. Moore
1953

Catherine Lucille Moore is probably the better known half of the Lewis Padgett team.  Her husband Henry Kuttner – the opposite half – being more prolific but writing under numerous pseudonyms.  I use the phrase ‘opposite half’ here for good reason.  I read Padgett’s ‘Robots Have No Tails’ several months ago (see the Close Up & Review) and since discovered that it was in fact as claimed by Moore herself, penned entirely by Kuttner.  These two books provide an interesting basis for comparison and I do indeed find Ms Moore’s and Mr Kuttner’s styles to be opposite.  ‘Robots’ is light, whimsical, funny and is a breeze to read.  ‘Shambleau’ is very, very different.  Dark, heavy and serious are words I’d use to describe Ms Moore’s work here.

While we are touching on the style of prose in this book, a couple of other authors sprang to mind while I was reading.  It didn’t take long for me to identify similarities with H.P. Lovecraft.  Quite often a turn of phrase here, or a word there would remind me of the great man.  Here is an example as Northwest Smith reflects upon “fearful symmetry” as he regards Thag – the Tree of Life – for the first time.

Truly a more than human agency must have arched these subtle curves so delicately into dreadfulness, into such an awful beauty that the very sight of it made those atavistic terrors he was so sternly holding down leap in a gibbering terror.

The Tree of Life, p153/154

I’m sure you’ll agree, this could be lifted straight out of any Lovecraft story.  I’m not suggesting C.L. Moore is an H.P.L. knock off, just illustrating how similar the prose is at times, and apparently Mr Lovecraft was a fan of Ms Moore’s according to a brief biography at Red Jacket Press.  I think I would place her in a stylistic space somewhere between Lovecraft for the darkness and depth, Clark Ashton Smith for slightly less archaic expression of the same and Mervyn Peake for her descriptive use and control of color.  Color features very heavily in every tale; she uses it very well to help us enter and visualize her stories.

Well, enough observation on the style front, what about the stories themselves??

This collection consists of four Northwest Smith stories and three Jirel of Joiry tales.  Each of the seven is an excellent entertaining (if dark) read.  But first, lets get the negative out of the way.  The structure of the stories are the same.  If we look at the four Northwest Smith tales, they all go something like this:

  • Smith is hanging out somewhere on some unnamed errand/mission.
  • Some unexpected person appears or random event happens.
  • Smith gets sidetracked into some sort of alternate dimension.
  • After a cool little adventure, Smith saves the day or otherwise escapes.
  • Smith’s nefarious life gets back on track.

You could more or less throw the same blanket over the Jirel tales as well.  This gave all the stories a kind of sameness that bugged me a little.  But, Ms Moore’s aforementioned wonderful style overrode this structural similarity and allowed me to just enjoy each.

On the positive side, I keep mentioning the style as a big plus, but also we get to know these characters very well.  They are very similar in many ways despite being of opposite genders.  Hard, uncompromising, strong, practical, and at the end of each tale it isn’t Jirel’s prowess with the sword, or Smith’s speed and skill with his blaster that come through as the determining factors, it’s their mental strength that enable them to overcome the sticky situations they find themselves in.  Indeed, there is very little physical action at all throughout this collection.  This is part of the reason why for me these individuals are elevated beyond the archetypal hero of typical pulp fare, and into the realms of true literary characters.  They have so much, well… character.

Thank you C.L. Moore, you have introduced me to two people that will stay with me forever:  Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith.  Now I can’t wait to read the GP collection ‘Northwest of Earth’ for more dark adventures with these true heroes from the golden age of science fiction.

Close Up: Shambleau And Others

Posted in 1953, Close Up with tags , , on August 10, 2009 by Aaron

closeupC.L. Moore
1953

I live in South Korea as you might know, but searching the wonderful Internet, I found this copy in New Zealand a few weeks ago.  I’m a Kiwi, and I was going back to NZ for summer vacation, so I purchased this (along with a couple of other GP titles) and had it sent to my folks house to await my arrival.  I knew the significant flaw it had, but aside from that I also knew it was pretty good.  It met my expectations.

Now, I’m in a bit of a quandary as to how to grade this.  I hope someone can offer an opinion.  I think this is a solid Near Fine if not for that darned flaw.  I’m just not sure how far to downgrade it.  Have a look.
You can see it in this pic, but before we focus on it, let’s enjoy the good stuff.  The cover is just a little soiled but still nice and bright.  The art is another super Ric Binkley special.  Edges are nice as you can see.
A bit of reflection down the spine – I shot this outside in the fantastic sunshine of my hometown, Napier, not in the semi-controlled pseudo-lightbox I have back in Korea.  Sunshine isn’t exactly the best, but it’s served it’s purpose here. You can see a bit of darkening on the bottom of the front board in the center – this comes from reading the book without a dust jacket on.  Otherwise, aside from that and the ever-present bruising on the head and tail of the spine the boards are nice.
If we crack it open there is some foxing on the rear free endpaper.

Strangely enough, the rest of the book is free from such blemishes.


The block looks nice.  Very white and the spine sits nice and square.  A couple of spots on the top there and the edges of the jacket are a touch worn.  From the bottom you can see the big problem.  Lets take a closer look.
 
Big tear, not good.  It speaks for itself.
The spine extremities are reasonable though.


A small amount of general wear.  A bit of unfortunate chipping to the book at these points however.  If we flip it over and check out the back at the top there is a short closed tear.

Nothing too major though.  The back is reasonably clean and clear.

Looks good.  All in all a pretty nice copy of a sought-after book.

Year: 1953
Paid: $31
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Green boards with deep red lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: That darned tear is the big let-down. Despite this, $31 is a darned good price for a very popular and usually pricey title.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

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