Sunday, September 27, 2009

And Speaking of Tarzan...


Here's my newest Lord of the Rings Online avatar, Greystokke. His character class is Warden which means spears and javelins are his primary weapons. Note that in this shot he is armed with spear and knife. I made him look as much like the Lord of the Jungle as I could. His eyes are even gray. Like Kharrn, Greystoke is actually wearing armor (and boots) but I have them hidden.

The Evil in Pemberley House


The Evil in Pemberley House, by Philip Jose Farmer and Win Scott Eckert is another one of those books where I sat down to read the first few chapters and ended up reading from cover to cover. It' that entertaining. This is a Wold Newton novel, so if you haven't read my previous posts about Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, you can jump over to the link I'm providing at the bottom of the post for further reading.
Shortly after young Patricia Wildman learns of the accidental death of her father, the world famous crime fighter and scientist Clarke Wildman (Doc Savage) she also learns that she is next in line to inherit her family's British estate, Pemberley House. Yes, this is the same Pemberley from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice. It was purchased at some point from one of Mr. Darcy's descendent's by one of Patricia's ancestors. (The Wildman's are also related to Darcy, but that's a long complicated story.)
Pat travels to England and becomes embroiled in a dark, erotic, Gothic adventure that ultimately involves or connects to other such famous Wold Newton family members as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Sexton Blake, Fu Manchu, the Shadow, etc etc. There are other minor references tossed out to everything from The Avengers TV series to Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Enough stuff to keep even Jess Nevins busy. The connection to the Greystoke family is very strong and often the book seems to have more to do with Tarzan than Doc Savage, especially in the author's notes at the end of the book. Not a bad thing for me.
Anyway, this novel was begun by Farmer and completed by Eckert. I don't know what or how much material Win had to start with but he's done a great job of finishing the novel in a way that I think would have pleased PJF. It reads very much like one of Farmer's own books.
I did wonder about the omission of any mention of Clarke Wildman's cousin, the original Patricia Wildman (Pat Savage). Since this book seems to be linked to Farmer's earlier works, Tarzan Alive, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, and Doc Savage: his Apocalyptic Life, then presumably the younger Pat's namesake must exist in the continuity.
The book takes place in the early 1970s and the sexual revolution is in full swing. If the characters aren't having sex, they're thinking about it or talking about it. This means this isn't a book for the kids, though the sex scenes aren't terribly graphic, more in line with PJF's A Barnstormer in Oz than with A Feast Unknown. Pemberley is a short book at only a little over 200 pages but there's a lot of stuff packed in there. Pat is very much Doc's daughter with her bronze skin, gold flecked eyes and a tendency to get her shirts ripped to pieces. The cover is an homage to the classic 'girl running away from house" Gothic romances from the 1960s-1970s. All and all a very sharp little book from Subterranean Press. Any fan of Doc Savage, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and/or Philip Jose Farmer will want this one in their library. Oh, and Sexton Blake fans as well, because the second half of the book contains a nifty recreation of one of Blake's Weekly Paper Adventures. Highly recommended.

Check out the Wold Newton page here:

http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. Wells

Today is H.G. Well's Birthday. Wells, as every school boy knows, is the author of The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Food of the Gods, and many many other books, including my personal favorite The Time Machine. I bet I've read the first chapter of The Time Machine fifty times. There's just something about that opening scene where the time traveler and his friends gather around the small model of the time machine prior to the model being sent whirling off into the future that fascinates me. The care with which Wells set up that scene is amazing. It's the thing that pulls the reader into the book and makes him believe that maybe time travel could be possible if one just had the proper mathematics.
If memory serves, I saw the George Pal movie The Time Machine before I read the book, but probably not by much. I read the novel fairly early on. I loved that movie as well and my cousin and I built several full size mock ups of the time machine from plywood and leftover parts from chicken brooders. (My family once raised chickens and there were quite a few big sheet metal structures left over. We tore them apart and built things with them throughout my childhood.) Oh, and Nicolas Meyer's 1979 film Time After Time, which features a time traveling H.G. Wells pursuing Jack the Ripper to present day San Francisco, is another favorite.
Along with Jules Verne, Wells was considered one of the fathers of science fiction and certainly many of the concepts he created have been used over and over through the years. War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Shape of Things to Come, The Food of the Gods. Amazing stuff.
I used Wells as a character in a story once and ended up reading a couple of Biographies for research. David C. Smith's H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal was probably my favorite. Might have to give that a re-read at some point. Anyway, Herbert George Wells remains a classic author all these years later and someone who has given the world much to think about. So Happy Birthday H.G.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It Had to Happen


Well it's official. Starbucks is everywhere, having just opened their first location in Middle Earth. This one's in Bree, though I understand they are looking for a suitable location in the Shire.

Charles Rutledge's Book of Horror

I was talking to my pal Jared about Horror short fiction the other day and it occurred to me that I have read so much of the stuff in recent years, that I could probably edit my own volume of Horror Stories. So I've decided to list the Table of Contents to that fabulous non existent tome, Charles Rutledge's Book of Horror. Now keep in mind, these aren't necessarily what I would consider to be the BEST horror stories ever. But they are some of my favorites and ones I would recommend to others, so that's what I, as editor, would include in my book. I've tried to have a nice cross section of old and relatively new. Feel free to add your own suggestions. Halloween approaches and I'm sure there will be some folks looking for creepy reading material. I've chosen 13 as the unlucky number of stories for obvious reasons.

Ralph Adams Cram/ The Dead Valley

H. P. Lovecraft/ The Dunwich Horror

Karl Edward Wagner/ Sticks

Arthur Machen/ The Great God Pan

Edgar Allan Poe/ The Tell-Tale Heart

Robert E. Howard/ The Black Stone

Joseph Payne Brennan/ The Horror at Chilton Castle

Fitz-James O'Brien/ What Was it?

Robert W. Chambers/ The Yellow Sign

Ray Bradbury/ The Dwarf

Manly Wade Wellman/ The Devil Is Not Mocked

Stephen King/ Crouch End

Ramsey Campbell/ Call First

Monday, Inevitably

Slept even worse that I usually do last night, waking up at 2:00 am and then dozing and waking until I had to get up. I'd like to take a sick day. I have plenty of them. But it's Monday and we know the Monday Rule. I must go to work on Mondays unless I have scheduled vacation or unless I am deathly ill. This doesn't count. So I have showered and shaved and now I must go forth and face the music.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Blade Itself

A few posts ago I gave a rave review to Joe Abercrombie's novel, Best Served Cold, calling it possibly the best fantasy novel of the decade. Best was his fourth book, following his First Law trilogy. So of course I had to get around to the First Law books. Last night I finished up the first volume in the trilogy, The Blade Itself.
I liked the book quite a bit, though not as much as Best Served Cold. Being the first of three, Blade has a lot of set up, and a lot of character development. Things are just getting started. However, at this point I'm not really sure where the series is going. There's no major plotline to speak of, just a group of developing subplots. Similarly there's no clear protagonist. It's an ensemble cast. I suppose if one had to pick a "hero" of the book it would be Logen Ninefingers, also known as The Bloody Nine. Logen, and his fellow Northmen barbarians are basically Vikings without ships. In fact, much like in Best Served Cold, Abercrombie's fantasy world has a very European feel to it. I like that. It reminds me of Robert E. Howard, who used a lot of names and cultures reminiscent of people and places from history. Anyway, Logen and the boys are barbarians, so you know I'm glad to have them around.
Oddly enough, the most fully realized character in the book is a crippled torturer named Glokta who works for the King's Inquisition. Glokta reminds me of the titular character in Sir Author Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Crooked Man. Glokta, a dashing handsome soldier, was captured by enemies and systematically tortured for two years, leaving him a crippled wreck of a man. Now he dishes out the one thing he is intimately familiar with, pain. He's understandably bitter. But over the course of the book, as the reader spends a lot of time in Glokta's point of view, he or she comes to see flashes of the man Glokta was. He's a brilliant character and Abercrombie uses him well.
Another thing that separates The Blade Itself from Best Served Cold is the use of magic. I mentioned that there was virtually no magic in Best, but in Blade we get several different wizards and some other examples of actual magic at work. Readers of more traditional fantasy will probably be more comfortable with The Blade Itself than with Best Served Cold. It's still a darker, edgier take on fantasy tropes but it's not quite as over the top as Best.
Abercrombie gets some comparisons to George R.R. Martin, mostly I think because his characters are very complex and because he's willing to kill off main characters without warning. I've never been able to read Martin, so I can't really comment on that. Anyway, I'll be very interested in seeing how Abercrombie's writing progresses over the next two volumes. I can tell this is his first book. His voice isn't as assured as it is in the fourth novel. But you can see him finding his way. Next up is Before They Are Hanged. The man has some great titles, eh? I had planned to read something different before starting in on book two of the trilogy, but I was taken enough with The Blade Itself to make me want to jump right into the second volume. I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Writing Report

The new improved version of Slavers of Trakor came in at 6408 words. Aside from some minor grammar tweaks which I'll probably catch on the re-read, this should be the final version.
I have to say, that in the last three stories that I've written, The Dweller in the Tower, The Silent History, and Slavers, I've done more rewriting than I've ever done on previous stories. I never used to do multiple drafts. Part of that has been learning to write effectively in the third person. But the main part, I think, has been paying more attention to the actual craft of writing. I write mostly because I enjoy it, so if something wasn't as polished as it needed to be, I usually just let it go. Lately, as I've been mulling the idea of trying a novel again, I've been trying to take the work a bit more seriously. Not TOO seriously, since the day I stop having fun is the day I stop writing, but still I am trying to make myself a better writer. It's a long process.

Monday, September 07, 2009

With a Little Help From My Friend

As you may recall, a couple of posts ago, I had consigned my sword & planet short story Slavers of Trakor to the nether realms of slightly wonky stories. Figured maybe I could come back to it in a few months and fix it, But, as fate would have it, last night I was talking to my pal Laura, a real honest to gosh novelist, and she said to send it to her. So I did and she sent it back today with a bunch of notes and suggestions about how to fix it. And she nailed the main structural problem that I couldn't quite grasp. So this afternoon I've been Mr. rewrite. I've hammered together a mostly finished version, which will still need a little editing, but for the most part it's done. And it's much much better than it was and now I'm happy with it. The end. Go Laura. You're the best.

Oh, and in case any of you were worried about the other story, A Candle for Miraj, I have decided it works better as a sword & sorcery story, which is how the idea was originally conceived. And given its origins, he said cryptically, that's hardly surprising. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Writing Report

1087 words of a projected 6000-7500 words done on A Candle for Miraj. This one strikes me as better than Slavers of Trakor from the get go but we'll see what I think when I've gotten a bit more done. Already had a nifty fight scene and coming up on a big dialog scene and I always enjoy writing dialog. The ending is a little nebulous yet but I'll burn that bridge when I get there.