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....

Beast of the Yellow Night: Not quite “walang kwenta,” but close

Beast of the Yellow Night directed by Eddie Romero

During the 10-year period 1968-'77, Filipino director Eddie Romero collaborated with American actor John Ashley on no less than 10 motion pictures. First up was the little-seen Manila, Open City, to be quickly followed by the so-called Blood Island trilogy (Brides of Blood, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood), and then the film in question here, Beast of the Yellow Night (AND, later on still, films with such titles as The Twilight People, The Woman Hunt, Beyond Atlantis, Savage Sisters and Sudden Death). Nowhere near as pulpy or as fun as the Blood Island trilogy, Beast of the Yellow Night is something of a labor to sit through, sports a confused and confusing story line, and never adequately an... Read More

The Frozen Dead: Elsa uses her head

The Frozen Dead directed by Herbert J. Leder

The film career of Mississippi-born Dana Andrews seemed to undergo some kind of metamorphosis as the actor entered his third decade before the cameras. During the 1940s, the characters that Andrews brought to life were in the main sympathetic and likeable, whether they were such all-American Joes as in The Ox-Bow Incident, State Fair and The Best Years of Our Lives, or troubled cops as in Laura and Where the Sidewalk Ends. He managed to maintain that sympathetic demeanor throughout the '50s (I particularly like him in the exceptionally fine 1957 horror film Night of the Demon), but come the 1960s, and as Andrews entered his 50s and his features coarsened a bit, his roles gradually segued into personages who were alarmingly less sympathetic.

In 1965, in the sci-fi thriller Crack in the World, his Dr. Sorenson character was s... Read More

The Head: Ood-les of Fun

The Head directed by Victor Trivas

No, this isn't the psychedelic Monkees movie from 1968; that one's just called Head. Rather, The Head is a West German horror production from 1959 – and a very good one, as it turns out – that tells a freaky story of a wholly different kind. As The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film so astutely reminds us, the film was released in the same year as the similarly themed American film The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and is just as way-out an experience.

In it, Michel Simon – French star of such classic '30s films as La Chienne, Boudu Saved From Drowning and L'Atalante – plays a scientist, Dr. Abel, who has devised something called Serum Z, which will allow human and animal tissue to survive independently of their donors' bodies, thus making possible organ transplants and other innovations (this, eight years ... Read More

Death Curse of Tartu: Good Grefe

Death Curse of Tartu directed by William Grefe

I see it every time I fly down to Ft. Lauderdale to visit my family: the dividing line between civilization and the primeval. As the plane banks west from over the Atlantic, one can view below the sprawling metropolis of the city and its suburbs ... until one's eye hits that dividing line. The line is drawn straight as a rule for as far as the eye can see, the line separating the habitations of Man from the greenish-gray expanse that is the Everglades. The demarcation never fails to impress, no matter how many times one makes the trip. And from my two personal experiences into the Everglades, as a casual tourist, I can tell you that I cannot imagine a more hellacious environment in which to be lost or stuck: almost 2,000 square miles of empty sawgrass prairie, freshwater marshland, mangrove swamps, pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and sloughs. But not quite empty, of course; the area just teems with all sorts of wildli... Read More

The Radio Beasts: A perfect sequel

The Radio Beasts by Ralph Milne Farley

At the tail end of my recent review of Ralph Milne Farley’s first novel, The Radio Man (later retitled An Earthman on Venus), I mentioned that I had so enjoyed this opening salvo in what soon turned out to be a series that I certainly wouldn’t have minded reading the next entries … if I could only lay my hands on some copies of these currently out-of-print books. Coming to my rescue was a reader and friend of this FanLit website, one Chuck Litka, who made me an uncommonly generous offer. He’d just moved to a new home and had discovered an old edition of The Radio Beasts, Book 2 in the series, in some packed boxes. Would I like him to send me this copy, ... Read More

Under the Andes: Rex Stout shines in his second novel

Under the Andes by Rex Stout

Because author Rex Stout is so closely associated with his most famous fictional character, housebound detective extraordinaire Nero Wolfe, fans may find it hard to believe that the Indiana-born writer ever wrote anything else. And that, I suppose, is understandable, seeing that between 1934 and 1975, Stout came out with no fewer than 33 novels and 40 or so novellas featuring one of crimedom’s most well-known sleuths. But just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in many other genres besides the one featuring Sherlock Holmes, so too did Stout: 13 non-Wolfe novels and 44 short stories in the thriller, mystery, historical adventure, lost world/lost race, and even romance genres, to be precise. And thanks to Armchair Fiction’s current 24-volume LOST WORLD/LOST RACE series, readers may now expe... Read More

The Temple of Fire: An exciting Lost World novel for younger readers

The Temple of Fire by Francis Henry Atkins (Frank Aubrey/Fred Ashley)


As I mentioned in my review of English author Francis Henry Atkins’ third novel, The King of the Dead (1903), this was a writer who chose to hide behind a number of sobriquets, all of which featured the initials “F.A.” Those pen names were Frank Aubrey (which he used for that 1903 novel), Frank Atkins, Fenton Ash and Fred Ashley. I had hugely enjoyed the third novel by this seldom-discussed author, so eagerly jumped at the chance to try my luck at another. Fortunately, Armchair Fiction’s current 24-volume Lost World/Lost Race series has now made another of this unjustly neglected writer’s works available, namely The Templ... Read More

The King of the Dead: Brazil nuts

The King of the Dead by Frank Aubrey

As I have written elsewhere, Armchair Fiction’s current 24-book Lost World/Lost Race series is a godsend for all readers who enjoy this particular subgenre of fantastic literature, as jump-started and popularized by English author H. Rider Haggard in the mid-1880s. I’ve recently written about two of these 24, David DouglasThe Silver God of the Orang Hutan and John Taine’s The Purple Sapphire, and now would like to offer some words about another of these terrifically en... Read More

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 (aka The Radio Man) 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, 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 ... 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, Moore & Kuttner

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 ... 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

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