Monday, April 13, 2015

Engaging the Monster

I was talking to some friends the other day about Robert E. Howard's ventures into H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and how the majority of Howard's Mythos stories differ from HPL's. For the most part that can be summed up in a single word. Action.

   If you've read a lot of Lovecraft you know that his protagonists tend to be fairly passive, more observers than participants in the plots, and that they generally come to a bad end either by going mad or by being messily devoured by some gibbering, slavering creature from the outer dark. Sometimes they go mad, THEN they get devoured.

   In Howard's Mythos fiction, things tend to go along about like they do in Lovecraft until the last part of the story, when REH's protagonists decide to fight back. Often they kill the thing that would have messily devoured one of Lovecraft's heroes.

   This is pretty much the way I approach horror fiction. Though I may write of terrible, horrible things that lurk in the darkness, Wade Griffin, Carter Decamp, Kharrn, or some other of my protagonists is generally going to engage the enemy with extreme prejudice. Like Jim Kirk, I don't believe in a no win scenario. There's a way to beat the monster. You just have to find it.

   Not that some of my secondary characters don't suffer horrible fates. I've had a few characters get messily devoured. But usually they'll be avenged.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Complete Russ Manning Tarzan Newspaper Strips

   I've talked before about how when I was a kid, I basically learned to read from my mom's collection of Gold Key Tarzan comics. I can remember looking at them before I was in school, wondering what the words in the balloons said, and making up stories to go with the pictures. As I learned to read, they were some of the first things I went back to, so that I could finally see what everybody was saying.

   In the late 1960s, the Gold Key Tarzan comics were being drawn by Russ Manning, who remains my favorite Tarzan artist. When I graduated to reading the actual Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, it was Manning's ape man I saw in my mind's eye as I read.

   When Gold Key lost the ERB rights to DC Comics in the early 1970s, Joe Kubert became the main artist on Tarzan. I loved Joe's take on Tarzan, but he wasn't Manning. What I didn't know, was that Russ Manning had moved on years earlier to drawing the Tarzan newspaper strip. I gradually became aware of this when DC began to publish reprints of some of the strip material. New Russ Manning Tarzan art that I'd never seen.

   Problem was, DC wasn't reprinting everything, and a lot of the stuff they were publishing was badly chopped up to fit the comic book format. From things I heard later, Manning was less than thrilled with DC reworking his panels. In any case, I knew that there was a lot of Manning Tarzan out there that I didn't have access to.

   Over the years, bits and pieces of the Manning strips were reprinted in different books and magazines, and I managed to collect a lot of it. Still, I longed for a better, more permanent format collecting all the Russ Manning Tarzan. Tonight, I will see that wish fulfilled, because the fourth and final volume of IDW's TARZAN: THE COMPLETE RUSS MANNING NEWSPAPER STRIPS hits the shelves. 288 pages of Manning art, finishing up his long run on the series. These are huge hardcover books on nice paper with the strips shot from stats on file at ERB Inc and they are gorgeous. I couldn't ask for a better format of better reproduction and printing.

   Cliff has already informed me that my copy of the book is awaiting me at Dr. No's. So yes, wishes really do come true. Sometimes you just have to wait for it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Guest Post by Seth Skorkowsky

   One of the great things about social media is that it has allows me to chat with fellow writers and favorite authors. When possible I like to invite them to write a guest post, usually on their influences, since that is a thing that fascinates me. Author Seth Skorkowsky was kind enough to take time from his scedule to tell us a bit about his new book, Hounacier and about some of his inspiration for writing it.

Story Inspirations: The History and Hidden Places of New Orleans
One of the most common questions that authors are asked is, "Where do you draw your Inspiration?" The answers to that are as diverse as the authors themselves. For me, the most frequent response is, "Travelling."
The most common of those places has been Italy. I've visited there three times and can easily point out its influences in Dämoren and many of my Black Raven short stories. Usually those inspirations are fairly small, restricted to something I'd seen, or a story I heard, or maybe just an emotion that I felt there. They never cause me to say, "I need to write a story about that." Its more often, "I need to add that to a story." Those ideas and feelings are merely spices or ingredients to a dish, rather than the dish itself.
That was until Hounacier. In this case, the inspirations didn't just flavor the story, they created it.
I'd already planned to write several novels in my Valducan series and after Dämoren, the first of those was going to be titled Ibenus, and follow the character Allan Havlock. I thought it might be fun to make the third book, Hounacier, and follow Malcolm, who was not the most likable character in Book 1, and show him off under a different light. But I had no idea what it would be about.
Then, a month after completing Dämoren, my wife and I visited New Orleans.
We'd been there ten years before, fresh out of college and on a shoe-string budget, and had always planned to make it back. This time we had an idea of what to expect, and had more time to do it. The other big difference is that my wife had gotten into geocaching.
For those not familiar with geocaching, it's a game where people have hidden little artifacts all over the world and using a GPS unit, players can hunt for them. These hunts led us out on foot to many areas outside the French Quarter. We were hunting for a particularly difficult one in Bywater when I looked over at a stack of graffiti-coated shipping containers and said, "There. Something important needs to happen there."
We visited the cemeteries, listened to jazz, scoured the incredible antique shops on Royal, got hustled out of $20, and soaked up the atmosphere. Every time I returned to our room, I jotted down everything that I saw, the smells, the atmosphere, everything. I filled several pages with notes and all of it was later used.
One of the biggest influences was taking a Voodoo History Walking Tour. I'd originally thought the tour would be some cheesy overdramatic touristy thing that reiterated the Hollywood myths and horror stories surrounding voodoo. Instead we were treated to a few hours of actual history and meeting with real practitioners who were very eager to dispel those myths. It was absolutely fascinating, and I knew that when I finally got around to Book 3 I'd show voodoo in a much different light than how I'd always seen it depicted.
The clincher for me was something much less dramatic. We were walking along a street past a narrow alley. I have a thing for alleys. They always seen to house some secret or hidden history and my wife has had to chase me though many over the years. At the end of the alley was a little gate that looked out into a courtyard behind a house. It was hidden garden, paved with old bricks and filled with flowers and ferns. It was beautiful.
Once my wife had finally coaxed me away from peering into some person's back yard, I was stuck in the idea of what it would be like to wake up on those moss-coated paving stones, covered in blood, having no idea where you were, and the only means to escape being to climb the walls, all crested in broken glass, or though the house of a stranger. That idea dominated my day, and very quickly, all of the other inspirations I'd had, and would have, started melding together, forming a story.
I hadn't known then that Hounacier would be my next novel, I was still focused on writing Ibenus. But every time I tried to plot what I wanted to write, I kept returning to those New Orleans streets and that secret courtyard. Finally, I was forced to admit that Hounacier had taken over my imagination and had simply muscled its way to the front.
Every author draws inspirations from different things. Sometimes those inspirations can change the course of a story. This time the inspiration forced its way into creating the story.

Told you it was fascinating. Thanks much to Seth for stopping by, And here's a bit about the author.

Raised in the swamps and pine forests of East Texas, Seth Skorkowsky gravitated to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. 

His debut novel, Dämoren, was released in 2014 by Ragnarok Publications. Its sequel, Hounacier, was published in 2015.

When not writing, Seth enjoys tabletop role-playing games, shooting sports, and traveling the world with his wife.

Find the book here!

Legenderry Red Sonja

   This week's pleasant surprise was discovering Dynamite Entertainment's Legenderry Red Sonja, a Steampunk version of the she-devil with a sword. Issue two was out this week and primarily caught may attention because Sonja appeared to be fighting Lovecraft's Deep Ones on the cover. As it turned out, not only were they not Deep Ones, but the fish-men don't even appear in that issue. Oh well. My local comic shop, Dr. No's, still had copies of the first issue available so on a whim, I picked up both issues.
   I've never been a huge fan of Sonja, who (one more time) is NOT a Robert E. Howard character, but I have occasionally enjoyed her adventures. She fits in well with the Steampunk genre. In this series she's the captain of a ship, and when she makes port at a large city, she walks right into trouble with, well...spoilers.
   Written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Aneke (just that one name) this is a fairly lightweight but fun adventure. Speaking of the art, the only things visually linking this Sonja with the original are her red hair and the upper half of her famous mail bikini. She actually gets trousers in this incarnation. But she's still got a sword and she ain't afraid to use it against man or monster. Fun stuff.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pulp Macabre:The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era

   At first glance, the art of Lee Brown Coye may seem simple, even crude or cartoonish, with its warped figures and odd shapes. But the more you look at it, the more you begin to see that Coye, like many great artists, isn't trying to reproduce what we commonly refer to as reality. No, he's creating his own reality.
   Coye is mostly known for his work illustrating horror stories and his art is genuinely creepy. I found the experience of paging through the new book, PULP MACABRE, and seeing that many of Coye's drawings back to back, was actually unsettling, like reading a good horror story, or watching a disturbing film. Not many artists can evoke that kind of reaction with pen, ink, and scratch board.
   This new book, subtitled 'The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era, covers the time when Coye was illustrating two books for Carcosa Press under the editorship of horror great Karl Edward Wagner. In some ways Wagner may have even set this 'darkest era' in motion, encouraging Coye to dig deep for his most gruesome drawings. The shadow of Wagner hangs over the book. There are photos of Wagner visiting Coye's studio and quotes from Wagner about his meetings with Coye, and of course references to the two Carcosa books, WORSE THINGS WAITING and MURGUNSTRUMM AND OTHERS, as well as an intended third book, DEATH STALKS THE NIGHT that was meant for Carcosa, but waited in limbo for almost twenty years before finally being published by Fedogan and Bremer.
   But mainly there are the drawings. Vampires and ghosts and ghouls and demons and nameless things that lurk in the dark. All portrayed in that stark, relentless style that Coye did so well. And there are the latticeworks of sticks that appeared in Coye's work after a strange encounter in the woods, described in an afterword to the story STICKS, which Karl Edward Wagner wrote based on what Coye had told him. That isn't covered in PULP MACABRE, but STICKS is probably KEW's most reprinted story, (And the probable inspiration for not only THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT but certain segments of HBO's  recent hit show, TRUE DETECTIVE.) so it should be easy to track down for those who seek after such dark secrets.
   Anyway, PULP MACABRE, which was edited by Mike Hunchback and Caleb Braatten, is a wonderfully dark and creepy look into the mind of an artist who was a true original. Just don't look at it for too long late at night.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


  I got  a ton of stuff at the comic book store last night. PULP MACABRE is a new look at the horror art of Lee Brown Coye, focusing on the latter part of his career when he was illustrating books by folks like Manly Wade Wellman and Hugh B. Cave for Karl Edward Wagner's Carcosa Press and others. Lots of art and lots of photos of KEW, Wellman, and others.
   A new Doc Savage novel by Will Murray and a pulp reprint of two original Doc novels by Lester Dent and Lawrence Donovan. The first part of a new Tarzan comic series by Mike Grell. A collection of Baltimore comics by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.  Volume 29 of the Chronicles of Conan, collecting the original marvel comics run of Conan the Barbarian. The first issue of Mike Mignola's new Frankenstein Underground series. The second issue of Legendary Red Sonja, which features a Steampunk version of the she-devil with the a sword. And she appears to be fighting some Deep Ones.
   Not shown, because it was too bloody big to fit the picture, is the jack Kirby Mr. Miracle Artist Edition, which features full size reproductions of Kirby's art. Amazing stuff.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Post by Leanna Renee Hieber

   A few posts ago I reviewed Leanna Renee Hieber's new novel THE ETERNA FILES, a book that I enjoyed tremendously. I invited Leanna to write a guest post for Singular Points, and here she is with a fascinating essay about her work, her influences, inspiration, and how her books are interconnected.

I am, as an author firmly planted in the Gothic tradition, nothing if not borne of my influences; Poe, Radcliffe, the Brontes, Shelley, Stoker, ‎Gaskill, and to deign to dip into the 20th century, du Maurier and Leroux. If I have to choose one Literary Luminary, it would be Poe. (What Would Poe Do? Is the answer to all my writer's-block prayers). I choose Poe as my north star for his facility with language, his subtle social critiques, his eye for the supernatural sublime, his succinct power, his eye for detail and psychology, and countless other ways in which I appreciate him more and more upon every deeper read. 

Much as Poe wrote in every kind of genre and did so with enviable ease and aplomb, so did I want to include varied genre elements into my seventh novel and debut with Tor Books, THE ETERNA FILES. My editor and I sat down to hammer out the kind of Gaslamp Fantasy book I wanted to write, and I was encouraged to really go "all out" on it and include as many wild and sweeping aspects as the Gaslamp Gothic can manage. ‎A circus act of spies, for example. 

The Eterna Files, which will be at least 3 novels with companion novellas, contains a large cast of quirky characters ranging from psychics to skeptics, con men to assassins, spies and Lords, mediums to chemists, theorists and magicians and more, across a range of gender, socio-economic status, talents, races, cultures and perspectives. Set in 1882, it follows two offices in New York and London, both set up to find the 'cure for death'. What lurks in the shadows of that quest is a danger none of them are prepared for; an insidious secret cabal lurking in displaced aristocracy is bent on overturning social and economic order via acts of supernatural terrorism. 

‎The Eterna Files also features cameo appearances of characters from my Magic Most Foul and Strangely Beautiful sagas. One doesn't have to have read those series to dive in on Eterna, but those familiar with the other series will smile at the return of favorite old friends. The reason for this is that my work deals heavily in Tropes, genre tradition and the kinds of stock characters that one expects in a Gothic, however I never make them cardboard or one dimensional, the trick in my work is to expand what might be considered all the stuff for a melodrama into a deeper and more complex drama, taking the Tropes and fully inhabiting them beyond each characters "stock purpose" or expected role/duty. If, in the Eterna Files, set in the same time frame and locations as my other works, needs the same kinds of characters, since I am furthering my genre vein and my conventions remain mostly the same, why invent a new character to do the same as my previous characters were already established doing? In all my works we meet characters in mid-life transitions and various crises. I don't want to be accused of writing the same characters with different names. Might as well use the exact same characters living in a new light and in a new storyline that is a part of the same broader world. 

My fascination remains the border between corporeal and incorporeal, faith and magic, light and dark, sense and sensibility, pride and hubris, gifts and curses, life and death, and all manner of paranormal phenomena.  All my characters throughout my series try to bring something uniquely their own to these aspects and antithesis, but they all struggle within the same gaslit, Gothic world where it is the 19th century reality as our modern history knows it, but gone terribly, terribly haunted.

I hope you'll come join me on my dark and stormy nights, I thank you for your time and interest. And I thank Charles, who was a delightful fellow panelist at AnachroCon on many themes of mutual interest and expertise, for the generous space here to speak to you, Dear Reader. Cheers and as I always say, happy haunting!

Leanna Renee Hieber

Buy The Eterna Files from Barnes and Noble:
Signed copies from WORD, Brooklyn:

And thank you. Leanna, for taking the time to write this post.