Sandy Ferber

SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

The Purple Sapphire: The great race

The Purple Sapphire by John Taine

In the Rare Book Room in NYC bookstore extraordinaire The Strand there has resided, for quite some time now, a volume that I have greatly wanted to acquire. The book in question is Scottish author John Taine’s very first novel, The Purple Sapphire, which was first released by E. P. Dutton & Co. as a hardcover in 1924 … the same year that Dutton released Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin’s now-classic dystopian book We. The Strand edition is this very Dutton original, made even more collectible due to its nicely preserved dust ja... Read More

An Earthman on Venus: Formian follows function

An Earthman on Venus by Ralph Milne Farley

Sometimes, it seems, a man must go through any number of occupations before hitting on the one for which he will be best remembered. Take, for example, the case of Massachusetts-born Roger Sherman Hoar, who, before he turned 37, was an assistant attorney general and state senator, taught classes in engineering and math, and wrote books about patent, tariff and Constitutional law; after moving to the Midwest, Hoar would also become a state senator in Wisconsin. An impressive enough career for any man, to be sure, but today, Hoar is undoubtedly best remembered for the science fiction novels that he somehow found the time to write, hidden behind the pen name Ralph Milne Farley.

The first novel of Farley’s to see the light of day, The Radio Man, was initially serialized in the pages of the 10-cent weekly Argosy magazine, a... Read More

SHORTS: Heller, Moore, Hamilton, Bradbury, Asimov

SHORTS: In this week's column we review several of the Hugo-nominated short fiction works, including four of the Retro Hugo nominees.

"When We Were Starless" by Simone Heller (2018, free at Clarkesworld, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2018 Hugo award nominee (novelette).

In a fallen, future version of our Earth, Mink’s tribe of nomadic, intelligent lizards wanders the land, living at a bare subsistence level and frequently threatened by physical dangers, like giant verminous creatures called rustbreed. One of the tribe’s treasures is their weavers, eight-legged technological artifacts from a prior time that can turn raw materials into useful items for the tribe, like pots and tents.

Mink is both a scout and a “ghost killer... Read More

The Silver God of the Orang Hutan: Sladangs and leeches and crocs, oh, my!

The Silver God of the Orang Hutan by David Douglas

As many of you here at FanLit may have already discerned, this reader is a huge fan of English author H. Rider Haggard, and at this point I have read 45 of the man’s 58 novels. Haggard, for good reason, has been called “The Father of the Lost Race Novel,” and his influence on that genre has been enormous, casting a very long shadow across the decades since he came out with the triple whammy of King Solomon’s Mines, its sequel Allan Quatermain, and the seminal fantasy She, all in the mid-1880s. Haggard has had many imitators, many of whom have been forgotten over the intervening decades. Happily, a new series from the Medford, Oregon-based publisher Armchair Fiction is now avail... Read More

Dreadful Sanctuary: The Norman conquest

Dreadful Sanctuary by Eric Frank Russell

As I have mentioned elsewhere, there are several writers who never seem to let me down, and in that elite group, English author Eric Frank Russell must surely be included. The Best of Eric Frank Russell (1978) was my initial exposure to this Golden Age great (reputedly, legendary editor John W. Campbell’s favorite contributor), and it was, for me, among the best of the 21 Best of… titles in the justly celebrated Ballantine series. I had also loved Men, Martians and Machines (1955), which can almost be seen as a warm-up for Star Trek; Read More

Gather, Darkness!: Hard times in Megatheopolis

Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber

By April 1943, Chicago-born author Fritz Leiber had seen around 20 of his short stories released in the various pulp magazines of the day and was ready to embark as a full-fledged novelist. Thus, his first longer work, Conjure Wife, did indeed make its debut in the 4/43 issue of Unknown, the fantasy-oriented sister magazine of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction. In it, a college professor, Norman Saylor, discovers that his wife, Tansy, is nothing less than a practicing witch, leading to increasingly dire and supernatural consequences. Leiber’s second novel, released just a month later, was Gather, Darkness!, and it, too, featured the subject of witchcraft … but in a f... Read More

SHORTS: Bolander, Kritzer, Padgett

SHORTS: Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few Hugo-nominated stories we've read recently. (Due to Mother's Day and other life events, SHORTS appears on a Wednesday this week.)

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander (2018, free at Uncanny Magazine, $3.03 Kindle magazine issue). 2019 Hugo award nominee (short story).

I was intrigued by the title of “The Tale of the Three Beau... Read More

Lands of the Earthquake and Under a Dim Blue Sun: Another winner from DMR

Lands of the Earthquake by Henry Kuttner  &  Under a Dim Blue Sun by Howie K. Bentley

The publishing company known as DMR Books had previously been a very solid 2 for 2 with this reader.

Earlier this year, I had hugely enjoyed DMR’s recent releases The Sapphire Goddess and The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories, showcasing as they did two undersung authors who had been popular with the Weird Tales audience of the 1920s and ‘30s; respectively, Nictzin Dyalhis and Clifford Ball.

So when I heard that DMR’s m... Read More

Children of The Lens: The not-so-epic conclusion to one of the greatest space operas

Children of The Lens by E.E. “Doc” Smith

Although Books 3, 4 and 5 of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s famed six-part LENSMAN series followed one another with 1 ½ to two years of time in between each, and with story lines that picked up mere seconds after their predecessors, Book 6 would eventually differ in both respects. The author’s final installment in what has been called one of the greatest of all space operas originally appeared around 5 ½ years following Book 5’s serialization. Like Books 3 - 5 (Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman and Second Stage Lensman Read More

Second Stage Lensman: Book 5 of one of the greatest space operas

Second Stage Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith

As I mentioned in my review of Gray Lensman, Book 4 of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s famed six-part LENSMAN series, that installment, although it followed its predecessor, Galactic Patrol, by mere seconds storywise, was actually released over 1½ years later; 20 months later, to be exact. Book 5 of the series, Second Stage Lensman, would follow the same scheme. Although the events therein transpire just moments after the culmination of Book 4, readers would in actuality have to wait a solid 22 months to find out where author Smith would take them next. Book 5, like its predecessors, ini... Read More

Gray Lensman: Book 4 of one of the greatest space operas

Gray Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Although the events of Book 4 in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series, Gray Lensman, pick up mere seconds after those of its predecessor, Galactic Patrol, this latest installment actually first appeared over 1 ½ years later. Whereas Galactic Patrol had initially appeared as a six-part serial in the September 1937 - February 1938 issues of Astounding magazine, Gray Lensman had its debut as a four-part serial (even though it is a longer story than that in Book 3) in Astounding’s October 1939 - January 1940 issues, the first two issues featuring beautiful cover artwork for the serial by famed illustrato... Read More

Galactic Patrol: Book 3 of one of the greatest space operas

Galactic Patrol by E. E. “Doc” Smith

After almost 500 pages of back story … after a history of the conflict between the superraces of Arisia and Eddore that stretches back 2 billion years, and includes glimpses of Earth’s lost continent of Atlantis and the Holy Roman Empire … after at least six major space battles, explorations of any number of bizarre worlds, a look at how the Galactic Patrol was formed and how the mysterious, Arisian artifact known as the Lens was obtained by the Patrol … after campaigns against drug smugglers, dirty politicos and space pirates … after all of this and much more, E. E. “Doc” Smith’s legendary LENSMAN space opera finally begins in earnest, in Book 3 of the six-part epic, Galactic Patrol.

As I mentioned in my reviews of the first two books, Read More

First Lensman: Book 2 of one of the greatest space operas

First Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Although a fairly direct sequel to Triplanetary, which is now almost universally regarded as the opening salvo in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series, Book 2, perhaps misleadingly titled First Lensman, was actually the last of the six books comprising this most famous of all Golden Age space operas to be written. As I mentioned in my review of Book 1, Smith had originally written Books 3 through 6 over the 13-year period 1934 - ’47, but then felt that something in the order of a prequel for his remarkably complex story line was needed. Thus, Triplanetary first appeared in 1948, with First Lensman eventually showing up i... Read More

Triplanetary: The opening salvo of one of the greatest space operas

Triplanetary by E.E. “Doc” Smith

In its article on the subject of “Space Opera,” my beloved Science Fiction Encyclopedia describes the genre thus: “…loosely applicable to any space adventure story, but particularly to those in which the scale of the action is extravagant…” It is as good a working definition as any, but had the authors of this scholarly tome wished to do so, they might just as easily have explained the term by showing pictures of the six book covers of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series. Written over the 16-year period 1934 - 1950, it is the crowning creation of the man who has been called “The Father of Space Opera,” and a series that has been embraced by generations of readers. The six books that comprise the LENSMAN series have been sitting unread on my bookshelf for many years now, intimidating me by di... Read More

The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories: The successor to Robert E. Howard

The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball

If I were to ask 1,000 people what the words “Clifford Ball” meant to them, those to whom it meant anything, I have a feeling, would reply that the Clifford Ball was the first weekendlong concert bash that the jam band Phish ever held, back in August ’96, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Fewer, perhaps, would know that the provenance for the name of that shindig was the aviation pioneer Clifford Ball, whose moniker the Phish folks thought would be a cool and punny handle for their event. But it is not of these two Clifford Balls that I would speak here, but rather of another: Clifford Ball the author, whose claim to fame today is his being the first writer to continue on in the sword-and-sorcery tradition after the suicide of Robert E. Howard in 1936. If you have not previously heard of Clifford Ball the w... Read More

The Sapphire Goddess: A very fine and long overdue collection

The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis by Nictzin Dyalhis

Unless you have perused the pages of the dozen or so Weird Tales anthologies that have been released over the past 50-plus years, odds are that you have not come across the name “Nictzin Dyalhis.” But during the 15-year period 1925 - 1940, Dyalhis was extraordinarily popular with the readers of that legendary pulp magazine, despite the fact that he only had eight stories published therein during that decade and a half. And of those eight, four were voted by the readers as the most popular of the issues in which they appeared, and five of them copped the front-cover illustration. This reader had previously encountered three of those tales in various anthologies, had loved them all, and was curious to read more. The only problem was, an anthology of Dyalhis’ work had never been compiled, until the fine folks at DMR released, this past summer, ... Read More

Sandy’s 2018 Film Year in Review

Anyone who knows me well could tell you that I don’t see a lot of new films. As a matter of fact, of the 80 films that I saw in 2018 (a paltry total for me … maybe I’ve been reading too much?), only eight were new, and 72 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and 5 Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2018 was eligible for either list. If the film made me laugh, or think, or tear up, or sit suspensefully on the edge of my seat, or amazed me with something that I had not seen before, it had a good shot at being considered. On the other hand, for me, boredom is the worst thing that any film can be guilty of; I don’t care if a film is cheaply made, but please do not torture me with tedium. Anyway, with no further ado, my Top 10 Best and 5 Worst Lists of 2018. The films are listed in the order that I saw them…

TOP 10 BEST:







1) Crisis... Read More

Deliver Me From Eva: A flabbergasting thrill ride

Deliver Me From Eva by Paul Bailey

Once again, I am indebted to Stephen Jones and Kim Newman’s excellent overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books for alerting me to the existence of a great read that I probably would never have run across without their assistance. In this case, the novel in question is Paul Bailey’s Deliver Me From Eva, which was chosen for inclusion in that volume by no less a figure than Forrest J. Ackerman — former editor of the beloved magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, renowned literary agent, and legendary collector of horror and sci-fi movie memorabilia — himself. The book, Ackerman tells us, was one that he first read upon its initial publication in 1946, but had never forgotten, and any reader of this absolutely flabbergasting thrill ride will surely understand why.

Paul Bailey, I should perhap... Read More

Fear: Hubbard’s classic horror thriller demands to be read at a breakneck pace

Fear by L. Ron Hubbard

The professional reputation of Nebraska-born writer L. Ron Hubbard, it seems to me, has taken a double hit since his heyday in the 1940s. Hubbard, of course, was the founder of the cultish sect known as Scientology, and ever since the release of his initial article on Dianetics in the May 1950 issue of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction, and the founding of the group two years later, his name has been unavoidably linked to this oft-maligned pseudoreligion. And then there was the notorious film version of Hubbard’s 1982 doorstop of a novel Battlefield Earth, featuring Scientologist John Travolta in a picture that most viewers seem to have found dreadful, if not laughable. (Full confession: I have never read the... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s your favorite SFF TRILOGY?

It is not so simple a question as you might at first blush think, although some decades ago, the answer may have come to mind a bit quicker.

So what IS your favorite sci-fi or fantasy trilogy?

Many years back, one might automatically have responded “Isaac Asimov's FOUNDATION trilogy" to the first and "Ursula K. LeGuin's EARTHSEA trilogy" to the second.

But those are not quite valid answers any longer.

The FOUNDATION trilogy was later expanded to include no fewer than seven books, while that EARTHSEA three-parter currently stands at five books, all told. Even Tolkien's MIDDLE EARTH trilogy was intended by its author to be ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the sam... Read More

Some Must Watch: Book vs. film

Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White

There is a word that film buffs like to use to describe a type of motion picture that, because of its tautness and high suspense quotient, almost seems as if it had been directed by the so-called “Master of Suspense” himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The word, naturally enough, is “Hitchcockian,” a term that might be fairly applied to such wonderful entertainments as Gaslight (both the 1940 and ’44 versions), Charade, The Prize and Arabesque. But of all the pictures that have been honored with the adjective “Hitchcockian” over the years, none, it seems to me, is more deserving than the 1946 RKO film The Spiral Staircase, and indeed, after 40 years’ worth of repeated watches, I have come to deem the picture the greatest horror outing of the 1940s … at least, that wasn’t a product of Universal Studios or producer Val Lewton.

Featuring impec... Read More

The Loved Dead and Other Tales: The story that saved Weird Tales

The Loved Dead and Other Tales by C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Sometimes, it seems, a little notoriety can be a good thing. Take, for example, the case of the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales. Though famously cash strapped for most of its 32-year run, during its earliest days, in 1923, things looked especially bleak for the nascent publication. On the very brink of bankruptcy, editor Edwin Baird decided to purchase, against his better judgment, a story by a Providence, Rhode Island-born writer named C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Eddy had already had a few of his weird tales released in the pages of Weird Tales, but this latest one was a real envelope pusher, dealing as it did with the highly distasteful and borderline taboo subject of necrophilia. But Baird did indeed print the story, the now-classic tale “The Loved Dead,” with the result that the Richmond, Indiana PTA tried to shut the magazine down completely! The ... Read More

Psycho: The modern horror era begins

Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

It is not every filmmaker who can manage the difficult trick of coming up with four consecutive masterpieces, but that is just what British director Alfred Hitchcock was able to do as the late 1950s segued into the '60s. His 1958 offering, Vertigo, took time to find its audience but today is recognized by the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine as the single greatest motion picture ever made; 1959's North by Northwest is surely one of the all-time great entertainments; 1960's Psycho practically jump-started the modern-day horror industry all on its own, and remains the director's most well-known film; and 1963's The Birds is still a baby-boomer favorite to this day.

But of those four films, all of which reside on my personal Top 100 Favorite Films list, it is the third, Psycho, that remains my favorite after all these years, and indeed, I person... Read More

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Pretty potent stuff

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer directed by John McNaughton

Loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to the slayings of over 600 people but who was ultimately convicted in the homicide of a "mere" 11, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer changes some of the established facts around, yet remains a very strong experience for the viewer. As revealed on a certain Wiki site, the film was shot in just four weeks in 1986, at a cost of around $110,000, but was not released until four years later. Despite its great reputation, it is a film that I had long put off watching, having a suspicion that it would be a rather unpleasant experience for me overall. But lately, I have been exposing myself to a bunch of previously dreaded films (such as Blood Sucking Freaks and 1978's Read More

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