by Don K. Barbecue
Wayback when, in another decade, another century, indeed another millenium, the fine folks at Ace Books published paperback sky-fi paperback originals which sometimes creature featured one of those covers with usually green Bug-Eyed monsters, often with Big-Thighed Earth(y) Women In Metal Maidenforms on the upside-down udder, I SAID other side. You know, to hopefully grab non-sky-fi readers and perhaps an audience with tastes that were, um, bra’ed her.
Yes, you read that right: the even more fun thing about these books was that one side of the book was side up, the other side down. Just my luck, the first such Ace in space Double I ever had was given to me as a Christmas gift by an aunt I suddenly suspected as being rather FLIPpy.
Book was beyond Terra-riffic! With a single package you got not one but two books for the price of Thrilling Wonder! And oh the fun we kids had with the art of some of those Double starlit starlet’s Double D.’s, even though such Venuses simply had to be millions and millions of space Milos away.
Of course it wasn’t all fun and Ganymedes. Especially if we got caught reading our Ace Doubles and Gramps’ old pulp sky-fi mags out in the barn while getting big bug-eyed beetles juiced.
Worse still was what happened to Gramps the one time he forgot himself and started explaining to me how much he loved sky-fi mag covers with, I think he meant to say, “Rocketships, moonmen and big bugs,” only what came out of his mouth was “Rocketships, moonmen and big JUGS.” At which point Grandma came storming into the barn and gave him a whonk on the ole haid with an empty milk pail, the whole time threatening to next time he did such a thing give him “such a clout to the what passes for your brain with the sauerkraut stomper that you’ll land on Uranus!”
Nor was it fun whenever Ace cut corners and chopped one book’s tale in half to fit the second book. As I recall even the mighty Philip K. had quite a story to tell over what happened to a “Double” of his which wound up in such trouble. Of course, we all know that in this enlightened age no editor would even think of being so Dicky.
More good news? The high-flying in far flung space folks at Wildside Press, who, by the way, publish the modern, ever tombly incarnation of WEIRD TALES quite love craftily, have released Edward M. Lerner’s COUNTDOWN TO ARMEGEDDON as backed by A STRANGER IN PARADISE, a collection of shorts, complete with the old Ace style of turn-it-over-already! story-telling. Which means older & young sky-fi fans can return to the thrilling Reys of Lester, I SAID daze of yesteryear, hence doubling their pleasure AND doubling their stunguns.
So, let’s cancel words of gravity, see what turns up:
A STRANGER contains five stories of sky-fi, fantasy and horror, hair witch --
There’s but one story I didn’t enjoy. There’s so little action and so much yakkin’ I don’t think even Austin Powers’ Basil Exposition could save it, the tech talk so nanobytes. But hey, one story out of five not working doesn’t a complete clunker cosmic make. So, let’s take another Ian’s Q. and tachyon end this.
“Night of the RFIDs” is a hoot. Student age feller working in a used down South bookstore runs afoul of Homeland SB. He calls it Homeland BS. Anyone who has ever stood in too many modern “convenience” store lines will laugh through this story ‘till they’re Wally-eyed. Discount on it. Sure the title sounds a wee bit like DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, but I’d bet Mr. Lerner planted that way… the way he knows how to take such stories and Wyndham up.
“A Stranger In Paradise” has a bittersweet touch of Sturgeon to it. Least that’s my Theo-ry. I dare anyone warm-blooded body to read it and walk away thinking they’ve simply watched an episode of LUST IN SPACE, or feel like they’ve STARLOST out.
“Two Kinds Of People” deals with a fantasy writer caught in the throes of creative draught, going through those times the words won’t come easy to the creative typist, no matter how much he drinks, Bud, or what he’s smoking and taking a Tokey On. If you ever read Asimov’s “Author, Author!” and miss the feeling, “Kinds Of People” should fix ya copywrite up! Trust me on this, I’m telling everyone up and down my loco writer’s Bloch.