The cool illustrations of Yuri Makarov [Юрий Георгиевич Макаров], featur
It was pure luck for me to pick up the classic first appearance of Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night before attending my first SF Con. That con was a very early one-off Star Trek show (which seems to have vanished from this dimension without a trace) and was held in Albuquerque around 1974 or 1975. The con featured a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, made of crude plywood and painted black, and George Takei was there, along with some other cast members whom I’ve forgotten. The reason I attended was to see A. E. Van Vogt, and to have him sign the paperbacks I’d been reading and collecting. He signed my copies of War Against the Rull and The Battle of Forever. In the first, he wrote: “Good luck, good wishes, good future!” all over the title page. I still have that on my shelf. I’m not sure what happened to Battle of Forever, but I recall that he inscribed it as: “My farthest out story!” Recently I was poking around the bookshelf looking for good alien images (to be shown at an Arisia panel in January), and I starting leafing through this copy of Startling Stories from Nov 1948. One thing I discovered was that Van Vogt also signed his story Domain, which appeared in this issue. Another thing I found out, on the editorial page, was that this was Van Vogt’s first appearance in Startling. But what most attracted my attention were the incredible black and white illustrations for Against the Fall of Night. Since I couldn’t seem to find existing scans of these images anywhere on the internet, I decided to scan them for everyone to enjoy.
The amazing works of Charles Ashford Binger will be shown in the first major exhibition of his works in 45 years! “Charles Binger: A Pulp Life“ will open at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, CA on January 7th and run through the end of the month. Binger’s interesting career spanned from movie posters and portraits, to ground-breaking science fiction covers in the 1950s, and hard-boiled detective pulps. His style has been characterized as utilizing “impeccable composition, rendered in a painterly style over roughened textures.” I would hasten to add that Binger was able to incorporate elements of cubism, realism, impressionism, and abstract expressionism into his works…often as not by combining them into a single canvas!
In June, I read the strange news of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre’s apparent suicide, and followed a link on Making Light to a presumed autobiographical sketch. It told a story of incredible suffering, poverty, and eventual escape from an orphanage in Australia and from abusive relatives. Although there has been a torrent of speculation about the strange odyssey of “Froggy” MacIntyre, as he was known to his friends, the straight depiction of those childhood details struck me as utterly true and made me curious about his other writings.
Looking over some covers for Pennant Books and Bantam Books from the 1950s, I noticed several interesting and moody paintings with a signature that reminded me of Bayre Phillips. See for example Phillips signature on the left, and the signature of Charles Binger on the right. Although they both have a downward stroke in the middle, Phillips tends to have a rounder, upslanting B, and always ends with a curving capital E with an accent mark! Once I knew that that Binger was a unique painter, I gathered up the best images I could find, and there were some excellent ones! In addition the science fiction covers that follow (below the jump), there were quite a few in mystery, adventure, romance, western and the like…all of them with a soft, fluid style, using watercolors and oils, presumably, for some terrific effects. If I had to identify a hallmark style in these paintings, I would say that Binger likes to separate areas of the composition with color shapes that are smudged, that look like edges of torn rough-fiber paper softened with water. It’s a pity that I can’t find any biographical info on Binger in any of the usual reference books or on the internet. Hopefully, someone out there will contact me and fill in the life story of this fine artist.
Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”
Great fun at this year’s Readercon 2010, which left me with plenty of food for thought! My stash was nicely replenished with a few dozens books, including some works by Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds and Tim Powers, whose backlist I’ve been catching up on recently. Speaking of Vance, our friends at StarShipSofa have conducted a fine hour-long interview with him, worthy of a listen. In the dealer’s room, I have to say that Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld and Wyrm Publishing) had a terrific rack of cheap books, for which I thank him immensely! Neil had a signed copy of the rare Fain the Sorcerer by Steve Aylett, who wrote the really strange biography of SF’s mysterious Lint, among other excursions into the bizarre. Although Neil’s price was really reasonable, it would have cost more than the entire stack of books I purchased at the con… so maybe when I get rich! Dark Hollow books, along with all their fine supernatural horror selection, had a box of 50 cent paperbacks where I scored copies of Moorcock’s Hollow Lands and Fury by Henry Kuttner. Thanks kind people! Also of interest was my conversation with Darrel Schweitzer about my good friend Harry O. Morris. Darrell said that it was Harry O., in his famous Lovecraftian zine Nyctalops, who discovered both the writer Thomas Ligotti and the artist J.K. Potter. Although Harry often mentioned various works by Ligotti and Potter in our conversations, he never once bragged about having “discovered” them, in any sense. So it was really a pleasant surprise to hear those words of recognition from a supernatural horror writer and scholar of Schweitzer’s stature. Disclosure: I suppose Harry O. “discovered” me too, since my teenage participation in various exquisite corpse poems (with Harry O.) and collages (with Leslie Hall) were published in Nyctalops here and there. Caveat: probably “discovery” doesn’t count unless I do something more significant, like publish a novel or painting elsewhere, though, alas…