Saturday, March 31, 2007

Aaron's Magazine of the Week :: Analog March 1965

Analog March 1965The Magazine of the Week is the March 1965 issue of Analog magazine. This issue contains Part III of The Prophet of Dune (really the sixth out of eight installments of the novel Dune). The stunning cover, depicting one of the giant sandworms of Arrakis, is by far the best out of the many cover images John Schoenherr did for Dune, and I am at a loss to explain why it was not used for any of the book editions.

Schoenherr was able to do a large, detailed cover image for Analog because between March 1963 and March 1965, Analog switched from digest to a glossy, oversized (8" x 11") "bedsheet" format. Bedsheet is the most common format for magazines, but is generally not used for science fiction and other literary magazines. This is because bedsheets are expensive to produce, and thus only make sense for magazines that have a large potential audience -- much larger than the small number of us geeks and weirdoes who read science fiction.

With only a few exceptions, bedsheet magazines are the largest-sized items in my collection. Next week's Book of the Week will be one of those exceptions, a book published in a format like a tabloid newspaper. This rare book is sought by collectors of both science fiction and, would you believe, punk rock paraphernalia.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Year :: Glorifying Terrorism edited by Farah Mendlesohn

Glorifying TerrorismThe Book of the Year is Glorifying Terrorism, an anthology edited by Farah Mendlesohn (with outrageous cover art by Haylee Fields and Mike Harwood).

The Book of the Year contains the first ever professional work of fiction by yours truly: "Winning Friends" by Van Aaron Hughes begins at page 205.

Glorifying Terrorism is an anthology of science fiction stories, published very recently in England as a political protest. Last year, the British Parliament included in the Terrorism Act of 2006 a provision making it a criminal offense, punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment, to publish any statements glorifying terrorism. This new offense was broadly defined to encompass any publication "indirectly encouraging the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism," including "every statement which glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts." The Act expressly states that it is irrelevant whether anyone is in fact encouraged by the statements to commit or prepare a terrorist act. The term "terrorism" is not defined in the Act (one is apparently expected to refer to the extremely broad definition of "terrorism" in the Terrorism Act of 2000), nor is any exception included for fiction or satire.

One need not be a left-wing radical to regard this as an affront to free speech. To protest this new law, respected science fiction editor Farah Mendlesohn (winner of a Hugo Award in 2005 for co-editing The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction) announced that she would edit an anthology deliberately intended to violate the law. While most of the contributors are British, Mendlesohn accepted a few submissions from writers (and at least one person posing as a writer) on this side of the Pond.

Compounding the thrill for me of actually getting something published is the fact that for at least the past decade, a great deal of the best new science fiction and fantasy has been coming from the UK. Appearing in Glorifying Terrorism are some of the very top names in the modern SF/F field, such as Hal Duncan, Gwyneth Jones, Ken MacLeod, Adam Roberts (one of my all-time favorite authors), Charles Stross, Jo Walton, and Ian Watson. The back cover of the book also features blurbs from three more great British Boom writers, China MiƩville, Karen Traviss, and Ian McDonald. The McDonald quote is the greatest cover blurb ever:

"This is a bad book. The people who have written it are bad folk. The editor is a bad person. If you buy it, you are bad too. There is only good and bad in the world."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Dune by Frank Herbert (paperback)

Dune 1965 paperbackThe Book of the Week is the first paperback printing of Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune (1965).

This original paperback edition from Ace Books is a bit uncommon -- Berkley later acquired the paperback rights and sold millions of copies, so the Berkley edition (with an orange cover) is much more frequently seen. Ace was one of the leading science fiction publishers when it printed Dune, and knew enough to stick Frank Herbert's huge glossary of terms in the appendices at the end of the book, so the paperback edition begins where it should, with the immortal line, "In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul." (But Ace marred the line with a typo: "Arrauis" instead of "Arrakis").

Oddly, however, Ace used this rather uninspired cover by John Schoenherr, instead of his superior cover for the first hardcover edition. Even more strangely, no book edition of Dune has ever used the single best cover image Schoenherr did for Dune, which you will see next week.